I know sometimes I push too far. I get too excited and maybe a little obsessed. I go over the edge and I throw myself at things that aren’t quite ready to catch me. That’s how I’ve always been. Maeve has always been there to soften that initial fall. For years, when grief tried to capture me in her uncomfortable grasp, I just flung myself into the warmth of alcohol and forgetfulness. The landing from that wasn’t so nice. When I told Maeve we’d be a fine line, I wanted to make sure she wasn’t at the bottom. I didn’t want us to crash in a blaze of fire and tears. I didn’t want to crush her with the feeling of me in my mess. I knew I had to clean up. To figure myself out. And I wouldn’t have done that for myself. I didn’t care too much for him at the time. I did it for her... and later for myself. I wanted to be who she thought I was. The soft intellectual. The keeper of a beautiful garden of thoughts and feelings, ready to pluck them and hand them out like flowers. Every rose has it thorn and I had plenty- I was far from perfect. My thorns were things that distracted me from reality. In high school, it was alcohol but now I found myself waist deep in the need to be someone. I’m someone to her and that’s all that should matter, but something in me strives to want to make a dent in this world. To be remembered. To matter.
One of the many beautiful things about Maeve was her sense of identity that had been present since I met her. She knew who she was and she didn’t need anyone else to validate her in that. One of the reasons she didn’t have as many friends in high school was because she didn’t want to waste her time on people that she couldn’t be herself with. Something about the falsehood of that made her skin crawl. She had her people and she kept them close. I counted my stars every day, thankful to be one of them.
Senior year of high school, college loomed ahead, but Maeve and I were drunk on each other and ignoring the future. One of our fine line agreements was not building our futures around each other. Our individual dreams came first. But, what if she was my dream. We were so young and those decisions were forever. If we were meant to be, and I knew we were, things would work out. I wanted her to reach her goals. I wanted to reach mine, but something told me that being close to her was one of them. That year, I’d stopped drinking completely and bean to go to therapy. I learned a lot about myself and how to deal with my own emotions. Before Maeve, I didn’t really think I had any potential to go to college or do anything with myself or my writing, but she and my mother told me I could reach for the stars and take as many as I wanted.
“I finished my application to Brown,” Maeve had her feet crossed in my lap as we sat on my grandma’s couch watching The Twilight Zone one afternoon. The words made my heart leap a little.
“That’s good,” I remarked, staring at the swirling black and white screen.
“How are your applications coming along?” she asked.
I looked over at her. She wore a cream colored turtleneck under a brown sweater, a small rose necklace I gave her for her birthday draping delicately onto her chest. Her bangs fell lightly onto her forehead and she twirled the end of her ponytail between her fingers. She didn’t have to try to be a vision, she just was through her existence.
Even when she was troubling me about my college applications, I felt lucky she was speaking to me. I loved her. I loved her immeasurably.
“I have a list, but I haven’t applied anywhere yet,” I said with shame.
“You know what Amy would say about that?” Amy was my therapist.
“The only reason I’m not putting myself out there and working on my future is because I’m scared of failure and rejection,” I sighed.
“Harvey, you’re the most intelligent person I know and you don’t need a stupid institution to tell you that.”
“Says the girl who’s going to Brown,” I rolled my eyes.
“I haven’t got accepted yet and even if I do, I bet you could too if you’d just apply,” she poked me in the stomach with her foot and I shook my head.
“You and I both know that’s a fantasy, baby.”
The way she believed in me made me feel like I could do anything. I wanted so many things out of life. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to play music. I wanted to create, but most of all, I wanted to be hers.
I began to apply to a few different places, but my eyes kept wondering to Brown. I knew I didn’t stand a chance. My grades were good, but they weren’t impeccable. After looking over the application a few times, I decided I might as well give it a shot. I didn’t put too much weight into it because I didn’t think I’d get in. I didn’t even tell Maeve I was applying because I didn’t want her to feel bad when she got accepted and I didn’t. I stayed up three nights in a row working tirelessly on my essay for Brown. It was the one thing I could confidently give them. The one thing that gave me even a tiny chance of acceptance. The chance that I would actually get in was so small, but at least I could visit Maeve there.
The months of waiting passed by slowly and was filled with disappointing walks back from the mailbox. After a while, I just wanted to know one way or the other because it had me on edge. I could tell Maeve was nervous too, but I still didn’t tell her I even applied. I just kept reassuring her she would get in and I wasn’t just telling her that to make her feel better. It simply wasn’t a question.
One freezing February morning, I sat with grandma in the kitchen eating breakfast. It was Saturday and I was on driveway shoveling duty. When I got up to put the dishes away, my phone rang in my back pocket. Maeve.
“This is early for a Saturday, Peterson,” I chuckled.
“I got in!” she squealed on the other line. My stomach dropped.
“Oh my god, Maeve. That’s incredible. I knew you would,” I said. My excitement for her and worry for myself began to mix in my head and make me feel a little nauseous.
“I really didn’t think I would. Harvey, I’m going to cry. I can’t believe it. I’m going to Brown,” I could feel her warm smile through the phone.
“I feel like a celebration dinner is in order,” I remarked, pulling on my jacket before stepping out in the cold air.
“I would love that. I’m gonna call Sam. I’ll text you.”
“Okay, baby. I love you,” I almost slipped on ice in the driveway, finally standing in front of the mailbox.
“I love you too,” she replied, beginning to hang up.
“Hey, wait,” I saw my breath appear in the cold air and float away.
“I’m proud of you, Maeve.”
“Thank you,” she said shyly. She was always weird about taking compliments, but I couldn’t be around her and not say them. “I’m proud of you too.”
“For how far you’ve come. For being you,” she replied. I stood there in the cold, staring at the mailbox. “I’ll talk to you later, Harvey.”
The line clicked and it was just me and this stupid metal thing that held my future. I said I wouldn’t put much weight in this. It would be okay if I didn’t get in. I could be just as successful somewhere else. I didn’t have to have a top-notch college to tell me I’m worth something. I pulled the latch open and saw a regal looking envelope sitting between coupon books and bills. I carefully reached for it and held the white paper in my hands. The freezing air made my fingers throb as I tore it open. My heart rose in my throat as I continued to tell myself it didn’t matter. My body just didn’t agree with the sentiment. I pulled the paper out of the envelope. It was pretty small and normal looking to hold something so important inside. The little red logo on the corner taunted me as my eyes flickered down the paper.
I dropped the paper on the ground and slapped a hand over my mouth. There was no way. They sent this to the wrong person. I stood there in shock for a few seconds before bending back down to make sure it wasn’t sent to the wrong address. It was right. It was for me. I ran back into the house, almost busting my ass on the icy sidewalk on the way in. I was still in a state of astonishment when I told grandma. She was so excited, she spilled her orange juice on the floor. I hadn’t told a soul I’d even thought about applying. I couldn’t wait to tell Maeve, but I wanted it to be special. We’d never put a label on us because we weren’t ready too, but I felt like we were now. Everything was falling into place. It just felt like now was the right time. I sent her a text, making plans later.
7:00 at Manetta’s? i’ll make the reservation and pick you up x
It was a fancy Italian restaurant that I saved up money to take her to for a special occasion and this was definitely special enough. I thought all day on what I wanted to do. I wanted it to be something she wouldn’t forget. I wanted to celebrate her. I pulled out something I’d written a few weeks ago and got out my guitar, practicing to make sure it was perfect.
Around 6:30, I changed into something nice. I donned the usual black button down and black jeans, but threw on a blazer my mom had given me years ago.
I went by the store to pick up flowers before driving to Maeve’s house. Just like usual, she was sitting by the kitchen window pretending to read something when I arrived. My heart was beating so hard I swear I could see it. This time though, it was from excitement. I got out of the car to meet her as she walked down the driveway. She was beautiful as usual, wearing black boots and a and tights, her red and navy dress swaying at her kneecaps.
“Good evening, miss Brown University,” I greeted her, holding out a bouquet of sweet peas and roses.
She ran to me, throwing her arms around my neck before bringing my lips to her own. The familiar taste of her strawberry lip balm danced across my taste buds. I couldn’t stop my mouth from curling into as a smile as I held her there. She pulled back and lightly brought her finger to the dimple in my cheek.
“What’s got you so happy, Davis?” She looked up at me, light brown eyes sparkling in the streetlights.
“Oh, just the usual,” I spun on my heel and opened the passenger door for her.
“And what’s that?” she asked, stepping into the car.
“You, Peterson,” I shut the door behind her and whispered to myself, “it’s always you.”
We listened to music and laughed on the way to the restaurant. Her excitement and presence in general lighting up my whole world. When we got there, they sat us in a spot that looked out over the lights of our small, but bright, city. I let Maeve tell me all about her experience getting her letter and I couldn’t tell her enough how proud I was of her. She was just telling me everything that Sam had said when the waiter came to get our order.
“I’ll have the spinach manicotti,” she said to the mustached waiter.
“I’ll have the chicken parm stuffed with ham,” I read off the menu before closing it and handing it off. “Thanks,” I remarked before turning my attention back to Maeve.
“Well, enough about me. Have you heard back from anyone yet?” she asked, taking a sip of her sparkling water.
There wasn’t a better time to tell her than now. I carefully took out the folded letter from my jacket pocket and handed it to her. Her face filled with bewilderment as she took it from me and opened it. I watched her hand move over her mouth as she looked back and forth between me and the letter.
“Harvey... I...” she reached across the table, finding my hand in hers. “I’m speechless,” she shook her head in disbelief.
“I didn’t think I could do it. I wouldn’t have even tried to if it weren’t for you,” I felt my eyes get warm. Why am I always such an emotional fuck.
“I knew you could,” she squeezed my hand and we sat there, staring at each other for a few minutes. “Well, mister Brown University, how does it feel?” she giggled.
“Pretty damn good,” I laughed.
We spent the rest of the time talking about our plans and working in the occasional “I can’t believe this.” I listened to her happily talk about wanting to join Brown’s poetry association and already thinking of how she wanted to decorate her dorm room. She had no clue that I had more plans for later.
We left the restaurant and I drove us back to my place. Grandma was out playing poker with her friends until later, so I knew we’d have some time alone.
“So, are we finishing Twilight Zone or what?” Maeve asked, taking off her boots at the door.
“I actually have other plans,” I said, leading her up to my bedroom.
“What is it?”
“You’ll see,” I opened my door and sat her down on the bed before reaching for my guitar.
“What are-” she began to say something, but I stopped her, sitting down next to her on the bed.
“I have something to ask you,” I started.
“Okay,” she placed her hands in her lap and bit her lip.
“I wrote this a while ago. Maeve, I know we said we wouldn’t put pressure on ourselves and that we wouldn’t be official until we were ready, but I feel like everything is happening the way it’s supposed to. I want to be able to call you mine without worrying about it. I want to be the person you call when you get exciting news. I want to catch you when you fall. I want to love you, knowing that I’m the person you think of when you think of forever.”
“Well, you’ve gotta let me at least play my song first,” I joked. She nodded with a smile, a small tear falling onto her cheek. I began to strum my guitar and watched her as I sang.
I wanna take you everywhere I go
Have you by my side
Take a walk ’round in every town
Drive across state lines
Like the sun sends a golden stream
In to our front room
I could be the same old light
Like the morning is always new
I’ll give it back to you
Like the rain, it just passes through
For all you give
I’ll give it back to you
I think about it like a man in need
Every time I’m gone
Wait to see you like a mile long train
Is passing by your door
And my life is set around you now
Tangled up the same
And I will be
The one who calls your name
Like the night comes black and blue
I’ll give it back to you
Like a road runs straight and true
For all you give
I’ll give it back to you
I placed my guitar on the bed and looked at her expectantly through blurry eyes. We had both cried a little and she sat there, out of every word in the English language but this one...
“Yes,” she responded.