REAL ART

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Feeling for Rachel

Chapter 30: Feelings for Rachel

My bike was mangled and I hadn’t gone back to look at the damage I had caused. In fact, I kept running down Dundas until I was out of breath. Then, I took north side streets until I ended up on Carlton Street. Once at Carlton, I traced back westward until I was standing outside College Station. Then I subwayed home.

When my parents asked about my bike, I told them it was stolen. This did not please them and I just shrugged my shoulders as I headed upstairs to my room. The old me was back.

There was nothing really wrong with York and I was passing my courses as I had begun at U.O.K. But something else was happening to me and it had to do with Rachel.

Rachel and I had always seemed too close, especially on the first day. In November, I was beginning to doubt Alice more and more. There were no more notes and I hardly saw red cars. It was like everything had just stopped. Or maybe it had never really begun. And as this happened I got lonelier and lonelier so whom did I look up towards? Rachel and Greg. And I wasn’t gay. Though I was concerned if Greg was. But he seemed like a cool dude and sometimes we would eat lunch in the cafeteria if I wasn’t eating lunch with Rachel in York Lanes.

Then there was one night when I came home from work. It might have been a Friday and I was tired and wanted to sleep. But, call it intuition, something told me I should press ►on iTunes. I was curious to see if Alice was still trying to convince me of her presence, but she didn’t. Instead, I was convinced of something else because “Green Eyes” by Coldplay was the first song I heard once I opened up my iTunes. Suddenly, thoughts of Alice were gone but thoughts of Rachel were becoming strong. Maybe Alice had never been sending me on a journey; maybe it had been God all along. And this was a sign, a sign that I should ask Rachel out. So I did.

Our next meeting was Monday and it was the middle of November. We were eating at some Indian restaurant that I can’t think of the name of, but it doesn’t matter. The point is I was going to ask out Rachel: my first girl and my first actual attempt at trying to date someone. And I researched how it should go too. Well, here’s how it went: “You are the Jessie to my Buzz,” I told her.

Rachel nearly choked on her samosa. “What does that mean? Are you saying I buzz your penis?” She gave me inquisitive eyes and I knew I had made a mistake.

“No, no. It’s a Toy Story expression.”

“Like Jessie the cowgirl which also has sexual connotations?”

“Well, I guess if you put it that way—”

“Art, I think it’s sweet that you like me. I just don’t like you in that way. We’re best friends.”

“But don’t you think the woman I date and eventually marry should be my best friend?”

“Yes, I do. But she’s not me. You’re going to find that girl but coming on to your friends is not going to help you.”

I bit my lip. I had been so certain Rachel liked me. I guess you could never really tell with girls. “Are we still friends?”

“Yes, Art, we’re still friends.” She said as if it was the dumbest question in the world. “Every friendship goes through hiccups but that’s our only hiccup, O.K.?”

She playfully nudged me in the shoulder as I solemnly nodded. “O.K.”

But it wasn’t O.K. It was the exact opposite of O.K. I couldn’t get a break. I really thought Rachel liked me or that we could’ve become an item. I know, stupid cliché but that’s what I was thinking. I was miserable. Everyone in my family thought I was a mental case especially when they drilled the fact that I wasn’t taking Seroquel out of me. I wanted to throw a chair or make some noise so someone recognized that I wasn’t O.K. But then they would go over and comfort me, not leave me in the dark. Even Kaylee was no help since she had lost trust in me when I had lied about Alice.

I was home now. Rachel and I had hugged as if nothing had happened, but everything changed. I didn’t need to hear that I would find someone some day; I wanted that person here now! I was angry. I wanted this part of my life to end and the next part to begin. But we don’t control the future. But it seemed Alice controlled mine.

I needed to take action and Alice didn’t seem to be doing it for me. My psychiatrist had told me that even if Alice seemed to be controlling my life (I could tell he was just humouring me at this point), I still needed to take charge. It was my life, not hers. So that’s what I did. I called up Rachel because I needed to tell her about Alice and I needed to tell her about everything and not leave anything out. The phone rang three times before she picked up.

“Hey, Art. What’s up?”

“Rachel, I know that what I did was stu—”

“It’s O.K., Art. I had a feeling that you liked me so I was sort of expecting it.”

“Oh.”

“Hey man, don’t worry about it. O.K.? Is that why you called?”

“No. I haven’t told you the whole truth.”

“About what?”

“Alice.”

Who?

“That’s the girl I fell in love with but made a mistake with.”

“Oh.”

“Are you busy right now?”

“No. I’m just at home about to write that stupid English essay we have due. You know it’s due this Wednesday, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I haven’t even started.”

“Listen, well, I...uh...need to tell you something.”

“Art, are you O.K.?”

“No.” It was the first truth I seemed to have told in a while.

“Oh. O.K. Where do you want to meet?”

“St. Clair.”

“There’s a library there, right?”

“Yeah. It’s not that far away from the subway station.”

To this day, I have no idea why I chose that library. There were much closer libraries to me. Maybe I just wanted to be far away from all I really knew.

“O.K. Let’s meet at the entrance there.” Then she hung up.

I grabbed my green coat and put on my black boots for the new snow and headed out the door. When I got to the Deer Park Library, Rachel was already standing outside. Her black hood shielded her face, but I could see her red hair poking out and no one had red hair like Rachel. “Hey,” she hugged me. “Where do you wanna go?”

“I don’t know. Are there chairs in the fiction section?”

“I think so. But don’t you want to go to nonfiction?” I didn’t laugh. “Sorry, too soon I guess.”

“Kinda.”

We went to the fiction section and when we were sitting down, I told her everything. Alice’s artistic journey, everything. When I was finished, Rachel looked like she would never speak again.

“So...” she started.

“Rache, I’ve been quite lonely. I think that may have been part of the reason I came on to you. But I still like you and did then. I just…shit.

“Art,” she said, placing her red-nailed hand on top of my arm. “It’s O.K. I get it.”

“O.K.,” I said. It seemed to be my new statement.

“So, you think this is still going on?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes it seems to just disappear and reappear again.”

“But you know this isn’t healthy.”

“Yes, I’m fully aware.”

“Don’t be snarky with me.”

“Sorry.”
“It’s O.K.”

“Can you stop saying that word?”

“What word?”

O.K. It’s just, well, I don’t like that word.”

“Because of U.O.K.?”

“Sort of, yeah.”

“O—Sure. Sorry, it’s a word I say a lot.”

“I understand,” Rachel smiled at me. And at that moment I really loved her and if I couldn’t love her like a lover, then I loved her as a friend. Her smile showed me comfort and the fact that she hadn’t walked away from me meant that I had a true friend beside me right now. “I don’t think you should still think about Alice and her journey. Alice is gone. And even if she is channelling your life, she should be here with your right now like I am with you. But don’t take that the wrong way.” I nodded to show her I understood. “True friends are ones who stick by you through all the rough times and this is one of those rough times. Alice is not a true friend. Do you get that?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I get it’s not easy to just get over Alice and I can understand that if I had said ‘yes’ to you, you would have thought you were finally free. Finally you could move on. But life doesn’t work like that and I just don’t think of you in that way. You have to channel your own life, Art. And you need to move on without any help from anyone else.”

“O.K.”

“I thought we weren’t saying that word,” Rachel said gently punching me in the shoulder.

“It just seemed to be the right word.”

“I get it,” she laughed.

“Thanks, Rachel.”

“Anytime, man.”

And then we hugged. I wanted to remember this day forever.

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