Porcelain Skin

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You're Different

Well, Tuesday came and went, and my plan died. I had it all decided, and then I wimped out. For some reason, I just feel like I don’t quite know him well enough to go through with it. So, my backup plan is going into action. Mission: get to know Trevor.

And so here I am, lying on his bed while he spins circles in his squeaky, old office chair. I’m staring at my computer screen while Trevor stares at the ceiling with his head resting against the back of his chair. I don’t know how he hasn’t thrown up everywhere yet with the amount of spinning he’s done.

The assignment was to write a one paragraph paper on our emotions. I’m finished, but Trevor doesn’t appear to have even started. Typical guy; incapable of converting his thoughts into feelings. As I wait I’m surfing the internet, and I’m reaching that point of wanting to pull my hair from my skull in boredom. My patience is running low. I begin tapping my pen against the edge of my computer. I see his head snap up out of my peripheral vision and he watches me for a few seconds as I continue to tap away without acknowledging him.

“Do you mind?” he finally grumbles.

I glance up at him with a smirk, my pen frozen mid-tap. “Is there a problem?”

“Yes,” he blurts with an exasperated sigh, “I’m trying to concentrate here, and your incessant tapping is not helping speed things up.”

“I don’t get why it’s so hard,” I say while changing from lying on my stomach to sitting Indian style. “If you’re having so much trouble with it then maybe it’s because you’re not that much of an emotional person. You don’t really let things get to you. You’re easygoing, patient, even-tempered... I don’t know. Just write about that stuff.”

“What makes you think I’m any of those things?” It’s a rhetorical question, and I watch as he rubs his hands down his face, leaning forward in his chair. “Just because I choose not to share my feelings with the entire world doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I may not be as calm, cool, and collected as you think.” I’m watching him closely as he explains, and I smile when he appears to be finished.

“Sounds to me like that would make a pretty good paragraph,” I tell him.

His brows crease in thought, apparently not fully registering what I mean.

“Go at it with a different angle,” I tell him as he puts his hands on his face, clearly irritated by this entire assignment. “Instead of listing who you are, maybe list who you’re not.”

He’s got his hands covering his face, but he parts his fingers to peek over at me before sitting up straight and pointing a finger at me. “Nice,” he says, as he swivels around in his chair and starts scribbling away on his blank sheet of paper.

I hum softly to myself as I wait for him to finish.

He suddenly throws down his pencil on his desk and stands with a yawn, stretching his arms above his head. My gaze is instantly pulled to the bare skin that is on display as his shirt pulls away from the waistband of his jeans. Heat blossoms in my chest, radiating up to my face.

I quickly divert my attention, swinging my gaze up to his face before he can catch me ogling him, but I’m too late. Unlike most guys who would be flaunting the fact that they caught someone staring at them, he just watches me as he slowly brings his arms back down to his sides. I’m mortified, so I do the only natural thing that I can think of. I bury my face behind my computer, attempting to get his mind off of what he’s just seen by changing the subject.

“Uh, well, we could...” My voice cracks and I’m instantly aware that I have not improved the situation. Instead, I’ve probably just made it that much more obvious that I’m utterly flustered. He has returned to his seat, but he’s still watching me, and he’s far too intense with his keen gaze.

I’m tempted to start screaming at him to look away, but he breaks the silence first. “What’s next?”

Oh, the relief! I nearly wilt as all my strength leaves me with a sigh. Pulling myself together I peer at our homework assignment. We’re supposed to complete an online quiz, which I already have ready and waiting on the computer screen.

“Okay.” I run my fingers through my hair as I pull all of it over to one shoulder. “Uh, we just have this quiz to do and then we’re done.” I scroll through the questions, skimming over them quickly, and then return to question number one. “Just rate these questions one to five. One is often, and five is never.”

Trevor nods his understanding and I proceed. “When going through hard times you’re more prone to abusive behavior. Drinking, drugs, excessive eating, worry.”

“Yes. Uh... maybe a two,” he answered quickly.

I’m shocked by his immediate response but I hide it by continuing on. “What is your abusive behavior?” I ask tentatively.

He is completely unaware that this isn’t actually one of the questions. I’m just curious, and since getting to know each other is part of our project I feel I have a right to dig just a little bit. He looks at me strangely, and I’m wondering if he knows that it’s not part of the quiz since it can’t be answered with a number one through five, but he doesn’t say anything about it.

“Sleep,” he finally says. “I don’t sleep.”

I nod, relieved, before going on. “You present yourself in ways that are not true to who you are,” I say.

He thinks for a moment before shaking his head. “Nah, I think I’m pretty sure of who I am. I’ll give that one a four.”

“You break promises.” I can’t help but look up to gauge his reaction when I ask this.

His eyes narrow at me slightly before he answers. “Five.” His gaze is so intense that I can’t manage to pull mine away. “Never.”

I can’t figure out why he keeps looking at me so fiercely. I feel like his hard eyes are burning a hole into my head and reading every stray and confused thought floating haphazardly around in there. The fact that I can’t even figure out what’s going on in my own head makes me feel even more uneasy about the way he seems to be reading me like a book. I blink several times before tearing my eyes from his.

“You need encouragement from others to feel good about your work,” I read.

“Wait, you said one is often right?” he asks and I nod. “Okay, I give that one a four.”

“When you’re sad or down you seek the company of others,” I ask.

I’m already expecting him to agree with that statement since most confident, outgoing people feel energized and upbeat when around others, or maybe he’s one of those guys that seeks out women to perk him up. But once again, I’m surprised when he gives me a four. I don’t want him to know I’m shocked but I can’t help but peek at him. He’s back to twirling around in his seat completely unashamed of admitting to sulking in solitude. My heart warms at his admission.

We complete the entire thirty question quiz, and I’m surprised to see that Trevor scored fifty-six percent extrovert.

“This has got to be false,” I say, while I stare at his score.

“What? Why?” He’s already out of his seat and coming towards me.

He plops down on the bed and turns the computer screen to face him. He’s so close to me; I don’t think we’ve ever been this close on purpose. His arm lightly brushes my knee as he reaches over to scan through the description of his score.

“Hmm, makes sense to me,” he says, turning the computer back to face me, but he doesn’t move from his position on the bed.

“Really?” I can’t help but ask.

“I dunno,” he says while rubbing a hand through his hair, suddenly looking a bit uncomfortable. “I love being with people, but usually it’s just a way of getting out of the house. A lot of the time I prefer my solitude.” He pauses. “I haven’t always been this way. I used to love being with people. I used to thrive off of interaction with my friends, but I kind of gave that up awhile back.”

“What caused such a huge change?” He looks up at me when I ask this.

My curiosity is piqued when he doesn’t answer right away; instead, allowing a heavy pause to hang in the air between us. The breath is knocked out of me with the one simple word that finally escapes his mouth,

“You.”


Trevor’s response could appear to be romantic. Maybe he’s become a better person and given up his party-obsessed ways because of me and the impact I’ve had in his life, but this is in fact the opposite of romantic. He’s telling me that I changed him, but not in a positive way. I’ve stolen the light from his life. The desire to be himself around his friends. The need to enjoy life and live on the edge. I stole something from him that was so special that he’s lost a part of himself.

I glance down at my hands where I’m picking at a hangnail. I don’t know what to say to this. I know I should apologize for the past, but it feels too forced. It needs to happen in my own time so that he doesn’t feel like he pulled an apology out of me. No matter how sorry I am, I need to prove it to him, not just tell him casually. The tension grows between us, and I’m about to just give in and admit all my sins to him, but he speaks up first.

“Listen,” he says while moving to stand up. “I’m getting tired, so I think we should call it quits for today.”

“Right,” I whisper. The knot in my throat preventing me from speaking much louder. I try to clear my throat. “Yeah. Sure.”

I scramble off his bed, and go on a desperate search to find my missing left shoe after finding just one. Tears are on the very tip of my eyelids, and with just one blink I know it could send them over the edge. I’m nearly in a panic to leave because the last thing I want is for Trevor to see me cry.

I don’t deserve pity from him, and if he saw me cry he might be inclined to feel just a tiny bit bad for his brutal honesty. I pinch the bridge of my nose, hoping to keep my emotions at bay. I scan the room and finally see my shoe peeking out from under the bed. I quickly slip it on and hurry to the door. I give him a small wave and a “good-bye” before swinging back around and exiting his room. I don’t miss the look on his face though. A look of confusion and... regret?

I can’t figure out what went so wrong today because just a day ago Trevor and I had met up at his dorm room as planned and it had gone so smoothly. I’d been so nervous and a bit more quiet than normal. I’d sat in the same spot on his bed, and he had been in the same twirling chair.

To say that it was awkward would have been a major understatement, but it was also not tense. We both seemed relaxed in an uncomfortable sort of way. I was leaning back against the headboard of his bed as we worked. We had been asked to name three observations that we’d made of the other person.

“You rarely smile, you tap your pen when you’re nervous or irritated, and you watch people.” He seems surprised by my last observation.

“I watch people?” He sounds mildly amused. “Please explain.”

I giggle nervously before continuing. Gross! I hate that he makes me giggle. And I hate the word ‘giggle’, which just makes me more embarrassed when I do it. “Uh, I’m not sure,” I say hesitantly. “I’ve just noticed that you tend to watch people closely. You study their reactions or lack of reaction. It’s not judgmental, just curious.”

I’m wondering why I’m telling him this because, in all honesty, I’ve only ever noticed this observation when directed at me. He seems to watch me closely, as if trying to read whether or not I’m being genuine or if I’m just trying to weasel my way into his life in order to cause more damage. It’s like he’s skeptical of me and my character, which he has every right to be.

He ponders my words for a moment before seeming to accept it. I’m relieved when he doesn’t question me further.

“You play with your fingers when you’re nervous,” he begins. “Tapping them or picking at them. You also overly smile. By this I don’t mean that you smile all the time, but when you do you tend to go above and beyond a normal smile. Like you’re trying to outdo everyone else.”

He pauses briefly and I’m stunned that he’s noticed so much about me. “Lastly....” He hesitates. Several seconds pass and he begins tapping his pen on the desk.

“Are you nervous or irritated?” I risk joking with him.

He looks at me strangely. “Neither. Why?”

Was he even listening when I listed off my three observations? I sigh. “You tap your pen when you’re nervous or irritated?” It comes out more like a question, as if I’m asking ‘remember?’.

He glances at the pen in his hand where it hovers just above the table. He glances back at me with a smirk as he finally realizes what he’s done. I can’t help but laugh. He doesn’t join me, but he also doesn’t appear annoyed, so I allow myself to enjoy the moment.

“Okay, what’s the last one,” I ask him, feeling much more at ease.

“You’re different,” he answers, and I’m confused because that doesn’t actually seem to be an observation. The smile drops off my face.

Could he be any more cryptic?

He sees the dramatic change in my expression, so he goes on to explain. “That’s not actually a bad thing. More just confusing than anything.” He rubs the back of his neck. “I’ve had a very fixed idea of who you are, but I guess you’ve surprised me a bit...” There’s a pause and I smile at him. “I still don’t like you,” he adds quickly, as if he needs to clarify, which makes me laugh.

We weren’t able to complete our entire assignment so we’d agreed to meet back up again today so we could complete it before class on Thursday. And now as I escape from his room while fighting back tears, I’m wondering what I did wrong.

I wouldn’t say that we had formed the beginnings of a friendship, but we had emerged from being near enemies to somehow being able to tolerate each other. Apparently, I was very wrong in my assumption. He still harbored extreme negative feelings for me. Of course he would; we’ve avoided the topic of his sister like the plague, and I was beginning to think that maybe it was time to address that giant elephant of a topic. You can’t just sweep an elephant under the rug and hope it disappears. Hiding it doesn’t make it smaller.

With this realization my tears are forgotten, only to be replaced with a deep sense of determination. I need to get over being such a wimp, and make some changes.

Tomorrow after class some things are about to change.


“Hey, Mercy,” I greet my roommate later that day.

“’Sup,” she replies, without turning to acknowledge me.

She’s busy hanging strings of paper butterflies above her bed. I had already gotten used to her weird ways. It only took me walking in on her eating potato chips while laying nude on her bed to learn that about her. Nothing surprises me anymore. What makes her even stranger is the fact that she is a hippie, but she’s got this rough, gritty side to her. She doesn’t take crap from people, which completely goes against the whole ‘peace’ thing.

I fling myself over my bed with a loud groan.

“What?” she asks while hopping down from the chair she’s on to grab another string of butterflies.

“Boys.”

“Ah... ” She grabs a piece of tape from her arm where she’s placed a few sections for easy retrieval. “Spill.”

I’m a little shocked that she even cares. She tends to stay out of my business. We get along great, but we’re completely different people. She’s got her group of friends, and I’ve got, well... Lindsey.

“Just this guy,” I pause, not really knowing how to tell her without having to go into too much detail. “I’ve liked him for awhile, but he’s not really into me, at all! More the opposite really.”

“Are we talking dislike? Hate? Or he just likes you as a friend and nothing more?” she asks turning to face me. She actually seems a little interested in my drama.

“Hate,” I hesitate to say because it makes me cringe every time I do.

“Wow,” she chuckles lightly. “What’d you do?”

I proceed to go into light detail about what happened in high school to cause his negative feelings towards me. She listens while she finishes up her decorating and then she steps down from the chair and plops herself down on her bed across from me.

“So, what, you’re trying to make him fall in love with you?”

Well, when you put it like that... yes! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do! I don’t actually say this aloud, but it’s what my heart is screaming.

“If it comes to that, then sure. Great!” I tell her instead. “But if not, then friendship would still be a huge success.”

“What have you tried so far?” she asks, and I watch as she leans over to her bedside table for her lotion. She squeezes a tiny dollop into the palm of her hand and begins rubbing it into her hair. She glances at me, and I know I’m wearing a look of pure disgust on my face. “What? It keeps the frizzies away.”

“Um... I haven’t really tried anything yet,” I answer, “I’m just working on making him see that I’m not who I used to be, and that I’m actually for real about being his friend.”

“How’d he react when you apologized?”

I wince at her question, hating that she now knows that I am one hundred percent coward. Apologizing should have been my number one priority in this.

“I’ve kind of hinted about it,” I say. “But in all honestly, I haven’t actually apologized yet.” I’m an idiot. No wonder he can’t forgive me. I haven’t given him a reason to, or even asked for it yet.

Mercy doesn’t respond right away, but I watch as she grabs a pair of Sperry’s from under her bed and slips them on her bare feet. I hate that she’s not wearing socks. Standing up she turns to me while slinging her leather satchel over her shoulder.

“Well, as my friend Isaac Friedmann would say, ’forgiveness is the sweetest revenge.’” She actually wears a look of pride as she says this, and I can’t help but just stare at her. “Okay, I guess in your case ‘sorry’ is the sweetest revenge.”

She seems disappointed when I don’t jump up and down in agreement.

“I’m just saying,” she goes on to explain, with a trace of irritation in her words. “Say you’re sorry and then he has no reason to be ticked with you. He’ll just be making himself feel worse by treating you badly.”

She makes her way to the door but pauses with her hand on the doorknob, “but in all honesty, it’s not so much about the apology. Words are just words, and those are important words, but what’s more important are your actions. You need to prove that you are sorry. Show him. Once he realizes you really mean it, I have no doubt you’ll win him over.” She smiles proudly and sends me a peace sign before leaving the room.

Who would have thought that my hippie/gangster roommate would hold such words of wisdom? It looks like I’ve got a lot more planning to do if I can somehow reassure myself that this boy is worth the effort of doing more than just offering a wimpy sorry to.

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