Since the argument I had with Nath, we haven’t really spoken much to each other. We would text each other vague things from time to time, then whatever conversation started would be lost in about three or so back and forth sentences. I wondered if he was angry with me, or if he just thought I needed space the think. The worry made me a little dysfunctional. I kept zoning out of consciousness, and people would have to touch or yell at me to grab my attention in crowds or during meetings.
Sam and Olivia’s worried gazes had returned. Olivia had even pulled me aside and asked me to talk to her, but I had just shaken my head and slipped past her before she could pull me back. I didn’t have time for anyone or anything.
I was in my room writing an email to my mother when I heard my phone vibrate from a call coming in. I looked around, hoping that Sam was nowhere in sight, and when I confirmed that, I checked my phone to find that it was Nathaniel calling me like I had expected. A lump formed in my throat. It’s been a few days since things became weird between us, and I wasn’t sure if a phone call would change that. I answered the call anyway, staying silent on my end.
“Hello?” he finally asked after a while of me just breathing into the line.
“Hi.” My response was low and unenthusiastic, but my heart was racing. I had missed his voice. So much.
“How have you been?” he asked me, and I bit my bottom lip. I could hear some of the background noise from his end. It sounded like he was in the kitchen because I could hear the sound of cutlery clicking, as well as the sound of something sizzling.
“I’ve been doing fine,” I answered, running my tongue over my dry lips. “You?” I added, desperate for the conversation not to evaporate into thin air.
“I’ve been busy,” he simply said, and I muttered a small ‘oh.’ Busy. Yes, I should have expected that. He did work back to back and across two towns.
“I went over to the next town the day before yesterday and spent some time at a friend’s place.” A friend. I repeated in my head as my lips drew into a thin line on my face. I shouldn’t be getting jealous. I knew that. It’s not like we were dating, and said friend could actually be just a friend, but my thoughts loved being illogical and making me worry for no reason. It’s just that I’ve seen him flirt around, and it hurt.
You’re not dating. A voice said in my head and my felt my face warm up. Yes, we weren’t. I shouldn’t feel this way at all. All we’ve done is kiss and talk, and at the end of the day, I might not even have the courage to come out.
“He helped me get out from my brooding state.” Nathaniel laughed after that, but I wasn’t amused. I just played with my fingers, looking down at them as I waited for the conversation to change. If he was seeing someone I didn’t really want to hear about it but butting in to tell him not to talk about it would be rude.
“I’m really sorry for bringing up what I did that day.” My eyes widened as his words reached me. I didn’t know what to say to that, so I didn’t say anything. I stayed still on my chair, and both ends of the call were silent until Nath continued talking. “I don’t know. Maybe I just assumed you would understand things from my perspective, but you’re right. We’re not the same person. We don’t have the same exact experiences, and I don’t understand what you’re going through as much as I think I do.” For some reason, I felt a bit distressed by his words. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s because I felt like I should be apologizing too, but I didn’t really have anything to say.
“Math?” I blinked at the sound of my name, realizing that I had zoned out for a bit and probably missed a bit of what Nathaniel had said.
“Sorry, I — sorry,” I muttered, not really knowing how to explain myself. I heard Nath chuckle from the other end.
“It’s okay,” he said, and an awkward silence followed.
“I said the friend I’m talking about invited me to come over again. I was thinking this weekend. Do you want to come?” he asked me.
A frown made its way to my face as I hummed. Why? So that you can rub it in my face? Of course, I didn’t say this out loud. It was jealously speaking, and I was embarrassed about thinking like that. It’s not like I could even tell Nath about how I felt because it was petty and illogical. Being around Nath had made me realize I had a potential for jealously I had never even known. I didn’t care about most people, but for some reason, I was irritated whenever t involved Nath. I don’t like feeling like this.
“I’m sorry. I keep zoning out,” I apologized, sighing before sitting up in my chair.
“So, do you want to come?” Nathaniel asked me again, and I bit my bottom lip.
“Where exactly are you going, and when?” I asked, and he laughed.
“You really weren’t listening to me, were you?” he asked. I could almost see him rolling his eyes. A small smile made its way to my lips as I chuckled. It was my first sincere laugh in a while.
“This weekend, over at the town I work at sometimes. Do you want to come?” he asked, and I thought about it.
“Well, I’m not allowed to be out—”
“I know that. I could sneak you out,” he cut it and I rose a brow. “It’s not going to be hard.”
“Really?” I asked in a teasing tone. Was I teasing Nath? Was I doing that? It seemed like that.
“Yes, really,” he said, mimicking my tone. “So, do you want to come?” he asked, and I looked down at my desk. I had brought out my journal sometime before I started writing the mail back home. It was open to a page I had been scribbling on with green ink. The words ‘Does Nathaniel hate me now?’ stared right at me in bold letters. My computer had gone to sleep, and it was just me in the quiet room.
“Sure,” I answered reaching out to close my journal. I heard Nathaniel mutter a ‘great’ from the other end. After giving him a positive answer, I started to feel a bit nervous. How exactly would he sneak me out? Would anyone notice if I was gone for a whole night — possibly the whole weekend? I started to worry, but the sound of Nath’s voice from the other end pulled me out of my thoughts.
“You’ve been zoning out a lot lately,” he commented, and I shrugged, feeling my baby hairs at my hairline with my fingers.
“I know.” A breath left my lips and I rested my head on my desk, still holding my phone to my ear as I stared at Sam’s corner of the room. It was neat and tidy, and of course he had a bunch of books and pamphlets sitting at the foot of his bed.
“That means you’ve been thinking a lot about something, right?” Nath asked, but I didn’t respond to him. The other end also went silent soon, and I was just holding my phone to my ear, not saying anything. I didn’t have anything to say, and it seemed neither did Nath.
“Are you still angry with me?” he suddenly asked, and I sat up on my chair with wide eyes.
“No,” I said firmly, and I heard him sigh from the other end.
“I don’t know. It just seems like it, and I feel like I’m bothering you, and you don’t really want to talk to me—”
“You’re not bothering me,” I cut in. At that moment I wished I was with him so that I could see his expression. Nath had a very walk around way when it came to him talking about how he felt, and you could only ever tell how he was really feeling from his expression. He sighed, and his end went quiet for a while.
“Okay. I’m glad. I’ll talk to you later,” he said, and I smiled. “I’ll come get you on Friday evening, then I’ll bring you back before eight in the morning. Does that sound okay?” he asked, and I muttered a small ‘yes.’ The idea of meeting up with Nathaniel again made my stomach churn with a feeling of happiness. Things would be awkward, but at least I would get to see him.
“I hope you’re ready for a road trip,” he said, and I chuckled.
“Yeah...” I trailed.
“Okay then, I’ll talk to you later.” And with that he hung up, leaving me to listen to the string of the beeps that followed. I put my phone away soon after and went ahead to continue writing my email to my mother. I wasn’t sure what more to say in it. There was a lot to talk about, but they weren’t things I could disclose to them.
Subject: I’ve been learning a lot recently.
It’s been a handful of months since I left home. I thought I was going to be homesick and a little bored here, but things are interesting. Apart from spreading the word and having a closer communion with my brothers and sisters, I’ve gotten to see life outside a small town. I’m not sure how to describe my experiences. I’ll just say it has taught me a lot.
How’s everyone doing? I hope the girls don’t miss me too much. Ask them to pray for me and tell them I’m doing alright.
I stared at the email for a while before pressing send. It felt empty — It looked empty, but there was nothing I could really do about it. I couldn’t really tell them what was going on. A wave of sadness hit me, and I suddenly understood how it must feel for people to hold on to such secrets. It felt like living a lie. No, more like living two lives. The person I was around friends and church members had become a shell of myself due to the things I had to hide from them. I was only a few months into this secret, but it was exhausting.
After saying a short prayer under my breath, I got up from my seat before heading over to sit on the edge of my bed. I didn’t want to think about it too much. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone. I was still confused. I tried to think of happy things, like having my first real conversation with Nath since our fight, and the fact that I would get to see him this weekend. It worked. I was soon smiling and humming along to one of my favorite hymns; Have I Done Any Good?