REAL ART

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Going Back to Kelowna

Christmas and New Year’s passed fast and so did the rest of my meditation sessions. Soon, I was heading back to Kelowna. The sessions had helped calm my mind, but Alice hadn’t exactly left my thoughts. I realized that in order to get my mind off one girl, I had to focus on another. So I was trying to focus on Rachel, but I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to date Rachel or if Rachel even wanted to date me.

On January second, I announced my departure from BEING.

“Art, it’s a shame to see you go. I hope it’s not because closing your eyes and listening to a man’s voice in the darkness is just too creepy,” Earkle told me on the day of my departure. I didn’t laugh. Earkle noticed this and continued. “But I understand you only paid for the December courses so at least you weren’t cheated out of any money.”

Since the nineteenth of December, I had only attended one other meeting because our meditation group only met on Fridays and after the second Friday, the next session would be after the fifth of January and I had to be in school by then.

“I know you were only here for two sessions, but you can always start the courses again in the summer. We start around mid-June.”

I nodded. Even though I had only been here for two days, I felt I would miss the little meditation class.

“But I would strongly advise you to do some meditation while you’re away; maybe even before you begin your studies. It will relax you and therefore prepare you for the monogamous exercises.”

“Yes, I think I will,” I told Earkle. I wasn’t actually sure if I would, but I knew that it would help if I did.

“Also, if you have any questions about meditation or how you’re doing it, just shoot me an email.” Earkle handed me his business card, which I gladly accepted and stuffed into my blue jeans pocket.

“Thanks, man. Maybe I’ll see you in the summer.”

Earkle nodded as he clasped his hands together. “Well, that’s today’s lesson. I might as well hand all of you my business cards just in case you have questions as well.”

He preceded to hand George a pile of cards, which George then passed around so each member of the group had one.

“Besides Art, see you all next Friday.”

Chairs were pushed back against the grey carpet and we all stood up to make our exit. I shook Earkle’s hand before leaving. “It was a pleasure, Art. And thanks for choosing meditation.”

I nodded to him and smiled.

I opened the door and found everything the way I had left it. Both beds were made and the place looked lived in. There was dust all over the chest of drawers and my nightstand. I wheeled my MEC bag back into my dorm, unzipped it, and began unpacking.

I should dust, I thought to myself as I opened the bottom drawer of my nightstand and stuffed my rolled up boxershorts and socks into it. But as I thought about dusting, the door opened and Joe walked in.

“Man, you must have missed this place, you’re already unpacking.”

“I like getting everything out of the way,” I told him. “This bag is quite bulky.”

“Fair enough,” Joe said as he threw his green duffle bag on top of his bed. “Look man, last year we kind of ended on a shitty note so I was thinking we start this year fresh. Whatdya say? As long as you don’t sleep with my girl, we’ll be O.K.”

He laughed at his own joke and I tried to smile without showing how fake my happiness was. I almost closed my eyes and breathed in and out, but didn’t. Joe’s comment had just made everything worse.

He stretched out his hand towards me and I shook it. What else could I do? I still hated the guy, but it was better to pretend I didn’t just so I could get through the year.

“How was your Christmas and New Year’s?” I asked him.

“Great, man. I got drunk on Christmas Eve and New Year’s with a bunch of friends. My buds throw great parties.”

“That’s awesome,” I said trying to be in the same scene as him.

“What about you? Did you kiss a girl on New Year’s or at least get laid?

I shook my head at him. “No. I had a quiet New Year’s. It was just me and Netflix.”

“Please don’t tell me you masturbated.”

I sighed. Only with Joe would my welcome back conversation be something like this. “No. I didn’t. They don’t have porn on Netflix.”

“You could’ve gotten off to American Pie or other movies that show tits.”

“Well, I didn’t. And Christmas I spent with my family like the regular tradition.”

“Man, your life sounds boring.”

Joe almost looked disappointed at how uneventful my life was.

“I wouldn’t say that exactly,” I tried to defend.

“Come on, you’re nineteen. These are the golden years: the twenties. You need to have fun, get drunk, make bad decisions.”

“Like you?” I said trying not to sound too insulting.

“Yeah, man, like me. Tell you what, this summer we should hang out and I’ll show you what Toronto’s really like.”

“O.K.,” I agreed. I couldn’t say “no”. I really did want Joe to leave me alone and since I was living with the guy for another term, I was trying to avoid all confrontations if necessary. But after the school year, I hoped to never see him again. I was still unsure if I was coming back to Kelowna after that year and I knew my parents (mostly my mom though) would be relieved if I decided to go to a school in my own city.

“So how’s Alice?” I asked as Joe started unpacking, but I regretted the question. Did I really care about her? I thought I was moving on. But I knew her name would be mentioned again anyway so it couldn’t have been avoided.

“She’s good. We didn’t talk much over the break, but she’s good.”

I nodded. That was the end of my questions.

There was a knock on the door and I opened it to find Alice standing on the other side of the doorframe. She was beautiful. Her brown hair gave off a sparkling gold tinge from the lights overhead and she had sparkles on her cheeks along with red lipstick on her lips. I could already smell the strawberries. She looked absolutely stunning even if she was just wearing a buttoned down plaid green shirt and jeans. But the makeup was questionable.

“Hey, babe,” Joe said as he wrapped an arm around Alice and kissed her gently on the lips.

“I was wondering if you guys wanted to go to Kelly O’s? It’s Sunday and tomorrow school starts again so I thought we could end the year with a bang,” Alice said with Joe’s arm still wrapped around her.

“Sure thing,” I agreed.

I was a bit shocked to find Alice arranging anything, as Joe seemed to be, excuse my language, “the man of the house” in the relationship. But it seemed Alice was taking more initiative than last year and that made me think that maybe Joe and Alice’s relationship was not as one-sided as I thought.

“When did ya wanna go?” Joe asked. “You look like you’re ready now with your hair done up and wearing makeup.”

“I always look good,” Alice teased her boyfriend.

“That’s true,” Joe said as he kissed her cheek.

I just stood there uncomfortable. If I had a girlfriend or at least was seeing someone, I knew me standing there alone wouldn’t be so awkward.

“Well, we can go now,” I told the couple. “I’m done unpacking.”

“Great!” Alice squealed. Something was up, as Alice seemed to be a bit too excited.

“Alright,” agreed Joe. He was already wearing his coat. “Get your coat, honey, and we’ll meet you outside Abbot.”

“Alright,” said Alice. And soon she was gone.

“Man, that girl needs to give me space,” Joe told me as we stood outside our residence building. A few snowflakes had begun to fall on top of us.

“Doesn’t she have other friends?” I asked. I really was trying to be on Joe’s level even if it went against everything I believed.

“That’s the thing, she doesn’t seem to. It’s like me being her boyfriend made me her only friend. And it doesn’t make any sense, ya know? She’s hot. And hot girls always have hot friends. But not Alice. I don’t know it’s fucking weird, man. And it’s not like she’s crazy or anything. I can’t explain why I seem to be the only person in her life that matters.”

“Maybe she doesn’t make friends easily,” I offered.

“Hot girls don’t need to. They just walk into a room and make friends.”

I nodded. Joe was so stupid that I wanted to slap him. It doesn’t matter how pretty you are, some girls are shy. And though their attractiveness may be prevalent, the fact that they’re not really trying to make friends doesn’t really get them noticed. But I was sure Alice had friends in Peachland, just not in Kelowna. I knew that after you left your hometown, making friends was not so easy. Joe had sort of been forced into my life and I guess in a way so had Alice. I didn’t really have anyone else either, though I wasn’t trying. Maybe I was acting just like Alice.

“Hey, sorry. I couldn’t find my keys,” Alice said coming up behind us. I could smell the strawberries even in the cold.

“No worries, babe,” said Joe putting an arm around his girl. “Kelly O’s we go.”

Joe got belligerently drunk and so Alice and I had to carry him home. We were there for about an hour before we left. Joe just kept pounding back beers as if they were glasses of water and Alice’s joyful face just pained me. By the end of the night, I knew this was an act.

“Alice, why have you changed?”

“What do you mean?” she asked me as she twirled her brown hair around her finger as we both sat on my bed. Joe was sprawled on his so even if Alice wanted to sit anywhere on his bed, she couldn’t.

“Alice, you’ve been acting strangely all day; all excited and bubbly. What’s up?”

“I’m the same way I’ve always been.” But I knew she was lying. “I guess I just discovered how great Joe is.”

Joe!” I cried, but soon regretted it. Thankfully, Joe only stirred a bit and kept snoring. “Joe is an idiot. Seriously, what do you see in this guy?”

Alice didn’t even flinch after I insulted her boyfriend. “Art, when you’re in love, not everyone sees the love the way you do. Sure, they may see the things they believe to be good. But to everyone in love, everything about their lover is good.”

I couldn’t believe that. Couldn’t you be so brainwashed by love that the man you love doesn’t love you, just thinks he does? Therefore, he has brainwashed you into an abusive relationship without your knowledge of the seriousness of it.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Art, you’ve never been in love so you really can’t form an opinion.”

I’m in love with you. “Do you really find Joe attractive?”

I was about to tell Alice what Joe had said to me outside Abbot, but then knew I would probably regret that statement.

“Yes, Art. I know you find it hard to believe, but I do.”

I wanted to shake her. How was a man that got so drunk he could barely stand up attractive? And this was Joe. This was what Joe did. Drunkenness was a part of his D.N.A.

I glared at Joe as spittle leaked out of his mouth and onto his pillow. “You’re right Alice, I don’t understand love.”

“It’s O.K.,” said Alice placing an arm around me. “You’ll find that one that just makes you never want to leave them.”

I think I have.

“He beats her up emotionally!”

I turned around, but whoever the speaker was had disappeared.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Alice, but she just stared at me with a question on her face.

“Joe’s snoring?”

“No, the voice.”

“What voice? I didn’t hear anything.”

“I see. I must be going crazy.”

But I knew what I heard and the statement was something I already believed. But maybe I was hearing things. I felt that my love for Alice (if that’s what this was) was really beginning to mess me up. The worst part was I couldn’t tell her. I had already tried that and had failed.

“Well, Art. I know it’s only seven, but I should get some sleep. I have a class at eight in the morning and an essay to write due Wednesday.”

“See you later,” I said as I stood up and hugged her.

I waited until Alice had left before shutting the door and sitting down on my bed. I was staring at the same old white ceiling but with a different thought on my mind: What did I just hear?

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