“Hold on to me
’Cause I’m a little unsteady”
The pier was cold at night, frozen waves lapping at the dock, curling up the rough wood until it tickled her ankles with its salty breath. Delilah shivered and tucked her coat around her neck like a vise. The cold was invigorating and welcome. The biting wind was always a good thing, a reminder that she was alive and she could feel.
I’m like a werewolf, she thought as she tucked her hands under her thighs and swung her legs above the ocean. I come alive at night.
She had always been a teensy bit afraid of the dark, but old fashioned lamps lined the trails that wound through the market. The sporadic bursts of light drew enough dark out of the shadows that she felt safer than she should have.
Delilah was tiny, thanks to a stunted growth spurt and the genes of two four-foot-eight French grandparents flowing through her veins. She was perpetually cold; however sitting two feet above the Elliot Bay in late September, just as the water was turning into a slushy ice, was almost unbearably so.
It was fantastic.
She breathed in, and the cold burned her nose. Her phone buzzed deep within her pocket. Eyes watering, she fumbled and tried to make out the words on the screen.
“Why hello there, sweet Lilah,” her best friend laughed. Even a hundred miles away, Kenz still sounded like she was sitting next to her in English, laughing silently at the funny gifs and stickers they passed back and forth.
“I’ve missed you like crazy.” She felt a lump rising in her throat. “It’s only been a few months but it feels like an eternity.”
“You’re the one who moved to Seattle,” Kenz said, teasing. “I’m still stuck here.”
Delilah swallows past the lump. She always managed to screw up their infrequent phone calls by getting too nostalgic and crying. It was rough, being reminded of just how lonely she was. I got myself into this mess. It’s not even a big mess. It’s life. Oh, just shut up, you stupid, stupid brain.
“You’d like it here, Kenz. There’s a lot of lights and signs, like Times Square with more casinos. The mountains are huge and have snow caps. There is actual green, lush, beautiful grass and they say that it will be snowing soon. Actual snow. Like, not-ice-cubes snow. Fluffy, white, from-the clouds snow.”
“Dorothy, you aren’t in Texas anymore.”
“I feel like I’m in another world. Even the people here are different.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” she said. “You always said that you feel like you didn’t fit in here. Do you feel better about Seattle humans?”
Delilah shrugged. “Myeh. I need more time to decide.”
“You have at least tried to be social...right?”
Delilah laughed, swinging her legs over the Bay’s icy waves. “I have a roommate, a job, and I go to class four times a week. That’s more than enough socializing.”
“Hmm.” Kenz clicked her tongue. “That’s not bad, for you.”
“At the end of the day, I’m socially drained. The nerve endings in my brain can’t handle putting up with any more people.”
“What does your roommate think? Has she ever met someone with such a fear of her fellow human beings?”
She snorted a lungful of cold air, nearly choking on it. “I’m not afraid of people. I’m just overly aware of how awkward I am, so I try to spare everyone else from my lack of social graces. So far she just thinks I’m quiet.”
There was a crackle of static followed by a burst of manic cackling so abrupt and violent that Delilah had to put the phone down until the insanity had died down a bit.
“You good?” she asked when all that remained was muffled chortling.
“Dandy. It just cracks me up whenever people think that you’re quiet, I can’t ever get you to shut up!--especially when it comes to fangirling over fictional boys.”
“It’s because I’m an introvert,” Delilah said matter-of-factly. “I took a test, According to some psychologists, I am the most unsociable of the introverts.”
It was true. According to Briggs-Myers, Delilah was a Mediator, INFP-T, a true idealist, the most misunderstood personality type with only four percent of the population sharing her quiet passion. Briggs-Myer saw straight into her soul; every single thing was exactly how she felt, how she was, and how she had always been. Driven to isolation, led by the purity of her intent, a fountain of joy when in harmony--it fit her to a T.
“You know, that’s just a quiz that some bored college student made to make themselves feel better about being shy.”
“It doesn’t make me feel better,” she said. “It’s just nice to know that I’m not the only one--even if only four percent of the world understands me. Everyone acts like it’s such a bad thing to like the quiet.”
“That isn’t what bother me, Lilah. What bothers me is how sad you look--heck, even over the phone you sound sad. I never asked you to be outgoing or go outside of your comfort zone; I’ve always only wanted you to be happy. That’s what you should want for the people that you love, and I love you, sweet Lilah.”
She had to pinch the inside of her forearm, beneath all the layers of coats and sweaters, hard, to keep from bawling.
“McKenzi Watson, you are a wonderful, beautiful human being.”
“The same to you, weirdo. Now get inside. I can hear your teeth chattering.”
Delilah stood up on wobbly, frozen legs. She could just barely feel her toes, but that was due to poor circulation, not the cold.
“It’s alright,” she said. “My first week, I calculated how long it takes to walk back to the dorms from various late-night hot-spots so that I can get back just as my roommate is falling into the deep, non-wakeable sleep.
“I don’t know whether to be impressed or depressed.”
“Would it make you feel better if I told you that I don’t want to wake her because I am concerned for her well-being?”
“No, because you’re a liar, you little chicken.”
Breath turned a frosty white in front of her mouth when she huffed out a laugh. “I’m working on doing better. Have faith in me, boo. I’ll prove Briggs-Myer wrong, just you wait.”
McKenzi’s gentle, ever so soft and kind voice rang through the speaker. Delilah closed her eyes and made believe that her best friend was right beside her, eyes all shiny with affection and teasing in her smile.
“It doesn’t matter one iota how much faith I have in you, Lils. You have to believe in yourself, cheesy as it sounds. And like I said, I don’t care how many friends you have or how social you are or if you spend your nights hiding from your roommate, just so long as you can look me in the eyes and say with total honesty that you are immeasurably happy with your life. The day you can do that, and not be a lying little turd, is the day that I will finally, blessedly leave you alone about your weird introverted personality tests.”
Delilah sighed, opening her eyes. Kenzi wasn’t with her, but there was always the bay. Waves lunging and curling over each other like the ocean was hugging itself. The neon Public Market sign was battling the moon in the contest for who could shine brighter, lighting up the beautiful Elliott Bay. Delilah could have just cried at its winter beauty. She had never been one for flowers or pastels, even bold rainbow solids. Rather, she favored the soft grey of the light under lampposts, the shadows between buildings, and the pure, pitch black of the night sky.
What could she say, she appreciated beauty, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
She gulped. “I miss you so much.”
“Come home for Christmas, Lilah.”
“I’m not sure if I can,” she whispered. “It hurts.”
“I know. But they miss you.”
She wished she could say the same. But the universe doesn’t work that way. “I’m getting over it,” she said. “I need to be away a little longer.”
She sighed. “Anything for you, dear.”
“Go take your teeth out, dear, it’s past your bedtime.”
Delilah grinned at the moon like she was the Cheshire cat. “Goodnight.”
“...See you at Christmas.”
She could hear Kenzi’s smile, deafening.
Delilah tiptoed into her dorm, dropping her keys on the desk without being as gentle as she normally was. Her roommate, Kate, was sound asleep Why is it that people in real life are so unattractive when they’re sleeping, she asked herself. They always look so cute in the movies.
Kate was nice. She was bubbly and bouncing (everything Delilah was not) and she was an ugly sleeper, Delilah had discovered. She liked fairy lights, the color orange, and collected cute little ballerina figures from her grandma and other various family members. Being friends with Kate would have been much too easy. All she had to do was smile once in a while, contribute some friendly chatter. But she was nothing compared to Kenzi, and that was what caused her to sneak in late at night.
It was one AM. Class started in six hours, but along with being perpetually cold, Lilah was also an insomniac, used to being dead tired every morning for as long as she could remember. It was alright. Coffee solved that problem most days.
She slept in her jeans and sweater, even in her North Face jacket, which was damp with the cold spray. She snuggled deep into a bird’s nest of three blankets and five pillows, closed her eyes, and Delilah dreamed.