Never an Us
Parties are just awkward for me. Always have. Always will be. Especially this one.
I sighed loudly as I sunk into the corner of the room, near the cheese and crackers table. The wall I was leaning on was cool enough compared to the temperature of the rest of the room; I don’t want to leave here. I don’t want to risk leaving this spot and swim into the sea of dancing, writhing, bodies. I’d stay here until the party’s over. Sure, I like the music, The Chainsmokers are quite popular these days and everyone’s dancing to their songs, hah! I’ve been a fan of them since before ROZES got mainstream. I just don’t want to leave this corner and its cool, cold wall. I sighed again.
“Hey, why the long face, beautiful?” Alex found me. Not that I was hiding from him or anything, but if given a choice, I’d rather not see his too familiar face that’s so much like-- He placed the frigid onesie cup on my cheek. It surprised me, and it sure was effective on making me not ignore him. I gave him a small smile and took the cup from him. I sipped the brown liquid in it; it was root beer. He did not want me to drink any alcoholic drinks, that much I can tell. I grabbed his own onesie cup. Just as I suspected, his had beer in it. I lightly punched his shoulder. “You get me this pseudo-beer while you got the real thing, how unfair!”
He chuckled. “A gentleman does not put women in harm’s way. Put in the moment’s context, I don’t want you to get drunk. You’ll be easy prey for other men out there if you’re intoxicated.”
“So you mean that I’ll be safer when I’m with you then?”
“I am the safest person for you to be with right now.”
“Bull,” I laughed. “For all I know you’re singling me out to prey on for yourself.”
I know he knows that I meant that as a joke, but Alex suddenly took on a serious tone. Not angry, just serious, like he’s going to tell me one of the truths of the world. “I will never take advantage of you.” We stared at each other awkwardly for a moment there, waiting for the other to speak. But I could not think of words for an appropriate response, except for… “Riiiiiiiight…”
I broke off from the stare and so did he. Things that Alex says next sometimes don’t match the initial mood he had at one moment. He does that quite often. I don’t know if he does it consciously or not, but I have a feeling that he’s got more pent up feelings in there, unlike his--
I took a sip from the cup again, slowly. I notice at the corner of my eye that Alex was doing the same. There it was again. Almost thinking about him, comparing and finding him in other people. How many times has it been that my thoughts went to him tonight? No matter how hard I try I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about him. I have to cut myself some slack though. After all, it is hard to forget that Alex --the one who dragged me here tonight--is Paul’s brother.
The resemblance is very uncanny. They have the same blonde hair-blue eyes ensemble; only that Paul had softer features, whereas Alex had a strong, very masculine appeal to him. I don’t mean that Paul is not masculine at all but he’s… He’s…
“Hey,” Alex has positioned himself in front of me, his demeanor was as if he wasn’t awkward before. This is what I like about Alex, he can deal with the situations he happens to be in quite okay. His aura is infectious.
“Wanna dance?” He offered his hand with a flourish. I nodded and let him take me to the dance floor.
Within that moment, I forgot that Alex was even related to Paul. I even forgot Paul himself. I let myself plunge in this happiness of the now; the happiness of being with friends, of meeting them in the dance floor. I did not even mind the dancing, writhing bodies. It sure was chaotic, but I was at peace. Was that weird? I feel like it is because now my voice is hoarse from all of the laughing and the shouting, and I don’t think that’s how peace feels.
Someone tapped my shoulder. I turned to look, it was Alex. “Want to rest for a while?” he asked with a smile. He was slightly out of breath.
I nodded and said, “I need a drink.”
We got out of the dance floor and went to the kitchen-turned-bar. I did not get an alcoholic drink. Instead, I opened a box of apple juice and poured some in a glass, so did Alex. I was not one to drink alcohol really. I wanted to try getting drunk tonight but Alex won’t let me. So I’ll stick to this apple juice for now. I also took out a bag of potato chips from the host’s cupboard; I’m sure Des won’t mind.
Alex and I sat silently on the counter, side by side. There’s one suppressed chuckle after the next, but eventually it exploded into laughter. We laughed about the funny things drunk people did that we saw on the dance floor, and how much fun we were having. Until…
“Hey there bro!”
I froze. My thoughts, my blood, my heart, Alex--even Alex, froze in that moment. There was a delay in me turning to look at him. It was as if I had a mechanical neck with gears that were having a hard time moving because they were rusty. Alex jumped down from the counter with a loud thud, his expression was...serious. I couldn’t tell what he was feeling…anger, sadness…? No. His expression changed at a blink of an eye, from that poker face to a grinning one. I doubt he even had that expression; it could have been my imagination.
“Hey lil’ bro!” He gave Paul a noogie. They did this every time they meet. Alex would noogie him and Paul would protest, then they’d bump fists. It’s how I first met Alex went. It’s how it would begin every time these two would meet in public. I did not have that with Paul though; that meeting ritual. We would just start talking as if we’re picking up from where we left off a few moments ago or yesterday; as if we never even separated at all. It was nice. And now it’s…
“Hi Nate,” he was slightly shocked to see me with his brother, I can tell. I just waved at him, I was trying to smile but I think it seemed strained.
Why now? When I was having fun and was forgetting about him… he shows up!
“Babe, aren’t you going to introduce me?”
“Oh! Alex, Nate… this is my girlfriend, Zen. Zen, this is my brother Alex.”
Zen shook Alex’s hand.
“And that’s,” he cleared his throat, then continued, “that’s Nathalie, a friend of ours.”
The Zen girl actually ignored me and went on to talk to the Summers bros only. I was fine with that though. I did not feel like talking in the first place, plus I feel like I might say something I’ll regret. Alex was trying to include me in the conversation. Paul was glancing back and forth from me and the people who were talking. I can sense that he wanted me to talk too but he isn’t trying to include me in the conversation. Must be because of his new girlfriend’s attitude towards me. In the middle of it all (which I was not sure what they were talking about at this point because I was mildly paying attention, I distracted myself with Instagram on my phone), she kissed Paul in the cheek. I don’t know if the expression on his face was that of alarm or of surprise. I tried to hide my shock by scrolling through Instagram again but my mind was racing and that my thoughts lingered on Paul. I feel like porcelain being pounded by a hammer into fine powder.
But why should I be affected? There was never an us to begin with. We were just friends anyway…
I really thought we were going to end up together. But I guess all the care and attention he was investing in me was because we were friends. And I guess the fact that we told each other we were each other’s crushes was nothing to him. I guess it was a lie.
They left when the conversation finally waned down. There was nothing more to talk about and Zen was itching to go to the dance floor. She was clinging to him, and I was thinking that her boobs were too close that it might merge with his arm.
“I’ll see you at home then, Paul.”
“Take care, Alex.”
He just smiled and mouthed a ‘bye’ to me.
They’re gone now. The calm is here again and it is very welcome. I reached in the bag of potato chips but it seems I finished it all by now. I reached for another bag in the cupboard. Alex must have noticed that I was having difficulty so he opened it for me. And we we’re stuffing our faces with chips. A few minutes of silence passed before Alex finally spoke. “We’re leaving,” he took on that serious tone again.
I didn’t ask as to why he wanted to leave, because I wanted to get out of here too. I feel like I’m suffocating.
“Yeah, we really need to get out of here,” I grabbed his arm and dragged him to the door. When we got to Des’ lawn he fiddles with his car keys for a moment and turned his car engine on as we were walking there.
I did not know what came over me but I looked back. Maybe I was hoping he would chase after us to at least see us go. But he wasn’t there on the doorway. He could be inside that house still dancing, or he could be making out with his new girlfriend for all I know. As I was walking to Alex’s car, I had a weird thought: I may not be religious, but I know of this story from the bible where God warned the people fleeing from a city he had punished from turning back. If that house was Sodom or Gomora…
“...I would’ve turned to salt.”
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