Ms. Rossiter is energetically explaining aesthetic ethics. She swings her arms left and right, her hands open wide, palms facing us as though she’s a mime living on tips in New York City.
Where aesthetic ethics fits into anything to do with our work I’ll figure out when I finally start studying for exams and don’t have a headache from the worst wine to ever exist.
I contemplate how much I miss my bed. My eyes feeling heavy. I just want to- “Mr. Daydreamer, what do you have to say?” Ms. Rossiter shouts while pointing at me, her red nails shining under the fluorescent lighting.
I look at her tilting my head and narrowing my eyes with a “really now?” expression.
I take a deep breath and widen my eyes in hopes to bring everything into focus.
“What I’ve gathered between my daydreaming is that aesthetic ethics refers to the idea that human conduct and behavior ought to be governed by what is beautiful and attractive,” I say blinking several times to try and wake up.
She smiles and I take a sigh of relief.
She turns to the other side of the classroom and takes two slow steps in that direction before swinging around back to me, pointing at me once again.
Her eyes are as wild as always and are further magnified by her glasses. Her blush is overdone.
“Uhm” I mumble caught off-guard.
“Misunderstood Tumblr Girls’ Instagram feeds?” I reply with the first thing that came to mind.
“Excellent!” She practically shouts, rubbing her hands together as though she is trying to warm them at a fire.
I am often concerned about the state of her mental health. What level of crazy do you need to be to be considered psychotic? My guess is somewhere between evil-clown and batshit-crazy English teacher.
I go back into my world as she picks on someone else on the other end of the classroom.
It’s amazing to me how the meaning of aesthetic has changed over time.
Aesthetic in the most recent sense is essentially the appreciation of what is beautiful, but with the Greeks - Socrates saw beauty only as a means to an end, essentially what is useful.
We’ve somehow managed to overlook that and romanticize the term over time. We now see something of aesthetic value purely for the indulgence of what something beautiful offers in observation and examination – not for its use.
The school week comes to an end with the bell singing the song of freedom.
The Posy make our way out of class and I’m barely out the door when Autumn pulls me to the left, dragging me in the direction of our usual lunch spot.
As she pulls on my arm she looks back with a grin, her eyes communicating something mischievous.
She sits us down on the bench, her thigh tightly against mine - my heart beating.
There is silence.
I look up to take in the setting, looking at the tree above us as it soars into the cyan-coloured sky. From this angle it looks like the trunk of the tree has no end, it just reaches up into the sky until there isn’t any sky left.
“What are you thinking about?” Autumn asks, her voice almost as hushed as the sound of the wind blowing the leaves around us.
I keep staring at the sky and answer.
A cold breeze blows over us, lifting the leaves and sending them spinning like a tiny tornado.
I look into her eyes. It’s like I can see the sky I was looking at earlier in them.
She places her hand on my thigh, a little too close to my inner thigh for me to not feel something.
“Thank you for being my pillar of support when I need you,” she says smiling but without showing teeth.
“You make me smile you know that?” I say looking away but smiling.
“You make me smile too,” she admits looking down and then up at me.
“I’m glad I make you smile. You deserve to always be smiling because the world deserves to see your smile even if it hasn’t earned it like I have.”
The wind blows again.
“It’s cold,” she says looking at me, moving her hand on my thigh a little up.
“Jacob’s?” We both say at the same time.
Jacob’s Coffee is walking distance from school and is always the go-to hangout.
Autumn and I enter with the familiar “ding” noise of the door as it shuts behind us. It’s warm in here – not just temperature wise.
The place has open ceilings with exposed trusses that not only support the roof but the whole look and feel of the place.
All the wood is stained an almost orange shade of brown that offers pure comfort to the eyes and soul.
Daniel comes forward offering a pearly white sheepish grin.
Daniel is Jacob’s son who’s around a year or two younger than us, but he doesn’t go to our school so I’m not certain. He used to be a lot shyer, but since he started helping out his dad as a waiter he’s come out of his shell, well that and some serious gyming. He’s now a total hunk.
He directs us, menus in hand to where we usually sit at the far wall that has a large wall-length window that overlooks the stream.
We don’t bother opening the menus because we both know exactly what we want – I’ve been dreaming about a café mocha and cake all day.
He opens his mouth with his lovely full lips, words escaping them as they part which I don’t hear as I zone out.
Autumn snaps me out of it. “Uhm yeah, yes please” I mutter. They both look at me squinting. Maybe I should not have assumed Jacob asked if we wanted the usual.
“You feel like going?” Autumn asks, her eyebrows raised.
“Going where?” I ask confused, mouth gaped.
“To the poetry night Sunday.”
I take a moment to process.
“Yes, I love literature” I announce in a British accent.
“Do tell me more,” I mock.
“No seriously,” Daniel looks at me sternly.
“Here’s the deal, we are attempting to host a couple of events now and then, starting with a Poetry night this Sunday” Daniel explains.
“I’ll let you have free entrance, but only if one of you read us something,” Daniel says with a smirk.
Autumn and Daniel both look at me expectantly.
“What?” I ask.
“Let’s not pretend you don’t have enough poems already written to bring out a book. Just one. Please for me?” Autumn asks flipping her ‘twinkle’ switch as her eyes go bluer and ultra-sparkly.
“Fine” I grumble.
We place our order, he pens the details on his notepad as a flick of his getting-too-long black hair lands in his face.
Once Daniel leaves Autumn places her hands on the table, her eyes looking at me, slightly narrowed. Her palms are curved over the edge of the table so that her thumbs are pushed against the side of the wood.
I can see her knuckles turn white.
“How are we both nearly 18 and so single?” Autumn asks as she lets go of the table and lies back. Her tone leaving me uncertain if she’s being generally contemplative or just depresso and in need of espresso. I try not to think she’s hinting at anything, I don’t want to get my hopes up.
“I don’t even know,” I say, leaning against the backrest mimicking her movement.
“You don’t even deserve to be single” I mutter.
I will admit that was a loaded question.
Daniel brings our cake and I lift the little strawberry off my slice of cake and eat it, looking at Autumn.
“Really?” She asks, reaching for her own strawberry.
“I think if anyone could pull off being in a relationship it’d be you…” she says whilst chewing.
She swallows and then opens her mouth to speak only to close it again and bite her lip.
“You’re just not the type of person who can be single,” Autumn says with a shrug.
I smile as though I am about to laugh but no laugh escapes me. I contemplate her words to form a reply.
“That’s odd seeing as I’ve never been in a relationship before.”
“I want to be in a relationship. Trust me, I do. But I’m scared.”
Autumn nearly chokes hearing that.
“You? Scared?” she chuckles a little and tries not to choke.
“We know I’m not a fearless warrior or reckless with my heart even if I try to make it seem that way” I defend.
“I don’t know. I still think you’re the relationship type” Autumn says as Daniel brings our drinks.
“I’m scared because it’s unexplored territory and it’s frightening and out of my comfort zone – I just don’t know and I don’t like not knowing what I’m doing. I’ll rather leave it then” I say, rushing off the last bit of my sentence awkwardly. Opening up isn’t easy for me.
“And be single forever?” she asks knowing I’ll rebut.
I think carefully, eyeing her as she prods her cake with her fork.
“I think that’s what keeps a lot of people lonely. Being scared of entering into something and being vulnerable. Opening up your heart and soul to someone takes a lot. It’s scary thinking we might brush off someone and that someone could be the one.”
As I speak I can see her formulating her words in her beautiful mind.
“Well, you have too much love to not give someone the opportunity to earn. I’m too hard headed for anything.”
I think about what she’s saying. I do have a lot of love to give, but so does she. She just doesn’t see it.
At least she sees that she’s hard-headed because damn it she is.
My mission in life is to get Autumn to see herself the way other people see her.
The way I see her.
When in a relationship, does one earn love or deserve it? I consider.
“You’d be a hell of a challenge to date. You’re hard headed and exceptionally independent” I agree.
“The thing is, as much as it shouldn’t be - relationships rely on some interdependency. It’s beautiful and mesmerizing to me that you can function on your own, but doesn’t it get lonely?” I ask her.
She takes a sip of coffee.
“It does. It gets extremely lonely, but I’m just not willing to change myself for someone, not to mention that relationships are a lot of work. I struggle to look after myself, now imagine it’s double that.”
“Yeah, it does seem draining” I agree again and then consider.
“But, if it’s the right person do you need to change yourself for them? How do you even know who is right and who isn’t? Trial and error?” I ask, not really expecting an answer.
“It’s all about risk” Autumn replies. I wonder how she can be so wise about this if she’s never been in a relationship.
“Risking your heart and everything else? Your entire being? That makes me uncomfortable,” I state.
I lean back into my chair looking at Autumn who already formulated her response.
“You can’t think of it as a calculated risk. There aren’t assets or pros and cons. It’s literally putting it all on the line for love,” she says with a degree of finality, but I have a prepared response myself.
“With relationships, you either end up breaking up with them or marrying them.”
She nods once.
“And if that gives you hope instead of dismay, if you do end up marrying them you’re also either going to divorce them or one of you will die. Isn’t that just great?”
I smile at her sarcasm as she looks at me with confidence.
“That’s the beauty of it.”
We both reach for our drinks and look each other in the eye as we take a sip and place it back down.
I clear my throat before speaking.
“Someone once told me that it doesn’t matter how you look or what you do – what matters is who you are. All that really matters in this world is being able to give love and receive love.”
She takes a sip and then speaks.
“I think your problem is you give love but you’re never willing to receive it.”
“It’s not that no one wants to give it to you – it’s that you don’t let anyone.”
As she says it her words strike a chord with me.
When I look at her she makes me feel like I’m willing to receive love again without the fear of getting hurt. That scares me.
“My fear is that I don’t want to get used to getting this influx of love from someone and then one day it just stops” I confess to her.
I lean forward, my elbows on the desk, my hands in fists as my head rests upon them.
I lift my head to speak.
“Love is complex. Love is challenging. Love is demanding.”