Chapter 34: Sober - P!NK
After rounds of fertility treatments, my parents were finally able to conceive. Born a minute apart, my brother and I were regarded as miracles. The problem was, each of our milestones was compared and our birthday parties were shared. I quickly grew tired of it. I craved something that was solely mine.
I was put into a ballet class when I was five because it was just something mothers in suburbia had their daughters do. It was the same reason my father insisted that Andrew play little league baseball. While he struggled to catch fly balls, I was the star of all of my recitals. I received trophies, ribbons, and applause and Andy was forced to watch from the audience. The praise I earned with my talent was the primary reason I kept up with dance. My love of it was originally forced, but it didn’t make it any less genuine. I left Florida early to pursue both a career as a professional dancer and a high school diploma. He was still at home; that made me special.
It was never hard for me to make friends in school. I had the looks to attract people and the manipulation skills to make them stay or feel guilty for leaving. People that had fallen into my trap surrounded me. I thought their attention and my power over them would be enough to sustain me. Elle leaving my side hurt me far more than I let on; she was the best friend I could have asked for and I didn’t realize it until she was gone. She wasn’t afraid of me; she knew her worth and spoke her mind. She knew that high school wouldn’t last forever, that she needed to stand on her own two feet in order to survive out there in the world alone. I wish I had listened to her. I wish I had taken a step back and reevaluated my life and my friends. Maybe then senior year wouldn’t have felt like a party that had been long over and I was too afraid of what lied on the outside to leave.
I pushed the remaining portion of my dinner around with my fork, my hand propping my head up. The mindless chatter produced by my friends did not interest me. I closed my eyes when laughter ensued at Elle’s table.
“She’s not even pretty.” Kimber bit the cucumber on her fork.
“What does he even see in her?” Layla sat back in her seat, crossing her arms. She started staring at Isabella as if she were genuinely trying to figure it out.
“She can dance. I’ll give her that.” Heather stirred the ice in her glass of water with her straw. “Not as good as you though, Ann.” She added quickly, looking in my direction as if she was afraid of me.
“She’s better than me.”My voice was flat.
“No, are you crazy?—“
“—You’re the best here.”
I exhaled sharply and looked up from my plate. “Rhythm comes easy to her. I have to work at it. That is how she barely surpasses me.”
“She’s still not pretty.” Kimber insisted, unable to argue with what we all knew to be the case.
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be petty. It’s not a good look on you – none of you. ”I lifted my tray and walked away.
It was a Friday night. I followed my usual ritual – shower, blow dry, dress, and make up. As I was examining myself in the mirror, Milo’s face appeared in my mind. Closing my eyes did not make it go away; it only made his final words to me echo.
You’re the one that slept with Alex while we were still together. I took care of you the countless times you were drunk or strung out while we were together. I was hardly the sole problem.
I crouched down beside my bed and pulled out the box I stored beneath it. I picked it up and rushed to the bathroom to ensure I would not change my mind. I lifted the lid and seat of the toilet. I unscrewed the cap of my flask and poured its contents into the commode. I flushed and fought through the remorse. I repeated the process with my bottle of vodka and collection of pills. I rinsed out my flask and filled it with water. I put it in my purse upon returning to my room. I walked out with dead eyes and apathy.
“Do shots with us!” Heather was in the kitchen with my suitemates, Rose, Brook, and Farrah. Layla, Heather, and Kimber were there too.
I walked in without a word.
“You look hot as always.” Rose handed me one of our shot glasses.
“Vodka or rum?” Brook stood beside the bottles.
“I’ve got my own.” I lifted the flap of my bag. I unscrewed the cap of my flask and poured water in the glass.
My friends chanted; I was silent, but drank along side them. All the while, none of them noticed that something was wrong with me. Sober, I was forced to see the depth of our relationship. I had never felt more alone.
It was dark outside, street lamps lighting the paths. They walked down the brick walkways with linked arms and laughter. I stayed behind, my arms wrapped around myself to combat the cool air of early autumn.
“We’re going to bake cookies, make popcorn, and watch movies. We do it every Friday night. It’s your turn to pick.” I heard Izzie’s voice.
“I’ve grasped that part. I have my selections pre-prepared. What I do not understand is why you are riding on his back.” The foreign exchange student responded to her.
“For old time’s sake.” She replied immediately.
Milo chuckled. “Morgan told you to stop trying to understand us.”
“It’s easier to recall her warnings when she is around to repeat them. We should’ve invited her over.”
“It is no trouble to turn back.”
“Says the person whom is not walking. Stairs are not easy with extra weight on your back.”
“Shhh, don’t think about it. Just go for it.” Her loud whisper was an auditory joke.
I subtly looked over my shoulder.
“We’re going back.” Milo turned around.
She held out her hand and Milo’s friend low-fived it. She was visibly holding her own weight up as she hugged Milo’s body; there was no reason for him to put his hands on her legs other than the fact that he wanted to touch her.
I returned my attention to the front. Their conjoined retreating figure of happiness was too much to bear.
My friends arrived at Astaire Hall shortly there after. Robbie was manning the door of his suite. He allowed my friends inside. When it was my turn to walk in, he filled the empty space of the doorway with his arm.
“Yes?” I walked up to him, both hands on my clutch.
“You look beautiful.”
“Nothing. I just wanted to let you know.” He lowered his arm, maintaining eye contact with me.
“That’s the best you can do?” I walked past, swishing my hips to get more attention.
I played with my hair to mask my discomfort when I walked into the crowded main room.
Whenever I walked into a party, my first priority was always seeing what Elle was doing. I had a pathological need to see if she was fairing well without me.
She was in the kitchen talking to Arthur Dioguardi. He appeared to be indisputably interested in her, looking into her eyes as she spoke, smiling and laughing at the appropriate times.
Art was by no means a stud. He was tall, but lanky; he had 90s grunge hair and exclusively wore flannel and jean shirts. However, he had stubble and the Johnny Depp-esque mystic and method actor thing going for him. He spent junior year filming a movie. The maturity he garnered while away was noticeable. He was a mystery to us all before he left, but Elle spoke to him back then; she spoke to everyone. She deserved to be the first one to have a follow up conversation with him. As her former best friend, I knew what she saw in him. And from where I was standing, it looked like she was right, as always.
I turned away and looked down at my heels when she caught me watching.
“Want a drink?” Alex tapped on my shoulder and moved down to speak into my ear.
“Not beer.” I eyed his red solo cup.
“I think they have those wine cooler things you like.”
I turned my head, touched that he remembered. He pressed his lips to mine and we started kissing.
You’re the one that slept with Alex while we were still together, Milo returned.
I stepped out of Lex’s grasp. “Making out can’t possibly be good for your nose.” I folded down the collar of his polo shirt.
“You’ve been acting weird lately.”
He shrugged and drank more of his beer. “You just are.” I caught him checking out a junior as she walked by.
I rolled my eyes and pushed past him. My friends were on the floor dancing to pop anthems. I put my purse on the coffee table and joined them. The welcomed me into the center of their circle. I just danced, temporarily feeling something other than sadness. The loud laughter that ensued after Rose tripped was real as well.But it didn’t last long. I looked up at the wrong time. I watched as Alex walked out the girl he was ogling while we were together.
He said and did just want he needed to do in order to get what he wanted; I could not blame him. I did the same. That’s what hurt the most; I wasn’t special and untouchable, I simply deluded myself and others into believing I was and we always numbed ourselves before the truth came out.
I wormed my way through my friends and the people around them. I picked up my purse and walked out the front door without bothering with a goodbye. The crisp night was welcomed when I hit the pavement. It allowed me to feel as though I could breathe again. My platforms clip clopped on the brick path as I rushed back to Hepburn Hall. I sat down on the wooden bench outside of it. I pulled my phone out of my purse, clicked on the contact I wanted and hoped for the best.
“Hi, Andy, it’s Anna –“
“I know who you are. The question is why are you calling me?”
My lower lip shook and my eyes stung. “I need my brother.”
“Did someone hurt you?! Give me his name, I’ll--”
I smiled at his anger and willingness to help me. “No, I just – I’ve made such of mess of it – everything. I just want someone to love me.” I wiped away my rapidly falling tears.
“Does your big brother count?”
“You hate me.”
“No, I hate what you do to people. Not you as a person.” He corrected. “What made you decide to call me?”
I looked down at my lap. “You look down on me because of what I tell you, but you know everything about me.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Listen and respond. I have too many one sided conversations.” I sniffled.
“I can talk to you, I guess.” He pretended to be inconvenienced.
“I did love him, you know.” I croaked as more tears fell.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Since you know everything, what do you call missing someone everyday?”
“In your case, remorse, loneliness, misguidance, delusion, and a thousand other words, none of which are ‘ love’.”
“You don’t have to be so harsh!”
“You asked for my honest opinion. Have you changed your mind?”
“I was about to sneak out and go to Tamera’s; her mom’s gone for the weekend. I’m sitting in my room, talking to you, instead of spending the night with my girlfriend. I’m going to make my sacrifice worth it by speaking to you as I please.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’m that desperate.”
“You cheated on him. People in love don’t willingly do that.”
“You are afraid to be alone. You always have been -- mom, dad, me, friends, boyfriends. You have never spent a moment alone in your entire life.”
I sighed. “I’m not trying to get him back. I know he loves her, who he’s with now. You know the saying, ‘if it’s hard to say goodbye, it really meant something’. That’s how I know it was real. I gave up the only real element of my life.”
“Ann, he’s a guy, not your ability to read. I love Tam, I really do, but I know she’s not my future. He couldn’t have been yours.”
“But if you love her, --“
“A person can’t be a future. They can be a part of it. You’ve got to have something that you can do when everyone goes away.”
“So you’re saying I need to be all alone?” My heart clenched at that prospect.
“I’m saying don’t spend all your time with people whose sole purpose is to tell you you’re great and wonder why you feel nothing when they do it.”
“What am I supposed to do about my friends and –” I whispered as I rubbed my eyes, further smearing my make up.
“Eight months and you’ll never see them again.”
“That’s even worse.”
“Is it? You’re not at all attached. You’ve never cared about anyone.”
“They’re better than nothing. And you don’t know that.” I unbuckled the straps of my heels.
“I do. You’ve never put anyone before yourself. If I had been the one to call and you had plans, what would you have done?”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Let it go to voicemail. I would’ve called you back the next day though.”
“I shouldn’t have to point out how selfish that is.”
“But you did.” I resumed crying.
He sighed. “Don’t do that. I’m just saying no one will put up with that behavior. You can’t act like that and expect someone reputable to stick around and want to cater to you.”
“But you do.”
“Because I’m your twin. If anything were to happen to you, I don’t know what I’d do. Your recreational activities bother me. That’s why I always answer when you call.”
“I got rid of all of it – the pills and booze.”
“Good. Your body’s not built to handle all that stuff, especially together.”
“I know I’m a mess.” I hiccuped.
“A hot one, but you’re mine.”
I cleared my throat.“I know I don’t act like I do all the time, but I’m really glad I have you.”
“What you’re really trying to say is ‘I love you, Andy’.”
I cracked a smile. “I do. You’re always taking care of me, even though I don’t deserve it.”
“It’s my job. You’ve always been the wild child.”
“And you, the sweet and agreeable one. We came as a well rounded set. You still have time to get over to Tamera’s.”
“I’ll be there as soon as you’re done needing me.”
“I’m good. I’m going to head off to bed.”
“I love you, Ann.”
“I know. I love you all the more for it.”
“Farewell, Cootie Cat.”
I emitted a raspy giggle. “Goodbye, Dopey Dog.”
Our parents always said that we fought like a cat and dog. We created insults involving them, still fighting.
I swung my shoes in my hand as I walked up to my dorm. I swiped myself inside the building and hiked up the stairs barefoot. I went inside the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror just to look at myself. The florescent lighting hid nothing from view. Streaks of black mascara stained my cheeks. My eyes were puffy and red. My eyeliner and shadow was smudged so badly that I looked like a raccoon. I looked as out of control and disheveled as I felt. There was an odd satisfaction in it, beauty amidst the breakdown.