Justin Lo 7331
“Do you think we could pretend we were still in love, just for today?”
That’s what he asked me, with a cold – no, almost disembodied – expression on his face. He was looking at anyone but me, talking for everyone but me to hear. But there’s something about dating a boy for awhile, something that plants a little tracking bug of sorts in the poor girl’s ear so that somehow it still tunes into him long after affection forsakes his voice.
That’s how I replied, equally distant, but with a hint of anticipation and desire. From the way my heart’s pulse quickened, I knew it was something I wanted, maybe something I wanted even more badly than to be out of this dismal relationship once and for all.
“Just because. Just because we’re going to break up tonight … just because we used to love each other.”
There was no way to deny what he said. Tonight was the night, and we both knew it. Come midnight, we would never hug each other again, maybe even completely cease to greet each other. There was a quality of the narrow strip of air between us that notified us of the inevitability of the event, just as an elderly elephant senses its impending death. Like the elephant trudging wearily towards its own graveyard, we would both walk in the cold, rainy night to the special place where we first met, below the oak tree next to the football field. And we’d combust inside, ready to fight to the death, but instead remain silent, then turn our backs on one another. And that’d be it.
“Well, what are you waiting for? The bus is leaving, isn’t it?”
But before that, we would try something new. We would first hop onto the bus, taking us downtown, hand in hand, whispering in each other’s ears, sneaking in some naughty kisses when no one else was looking. Nobody would protest when we took turns suggesting what venue to next grace with our presence – none of it would matter, none of it would stick; we were promised the oft-coveted blank slate at the stroke of midnight.
He would invite me into a dilapitated arcade-bookshop and I would pay for the tokens to play those games with him that usually frustrated me to no end, just to see him smile like an excited child again – and to audibly take note of how cute that smile could be, just to make him blush while his heart fluttered a little, deep down. I would even buy a naughty magazine featuring girls better endowed than me and slip it into his jacket pocket when he wasn’t looking, just so that he would still have something to satisfy his needs after his real-life girl was irrevocably gone.
After being thoroughly beaten by his lover “solely due to beginner’s luck,” he would treat me to lunch and a dozen fresh-cut roses; he would even yell at the flower merchant for trying to sell him a rose that was less than perfect. We would eat American even though he could not stand the flavor – I would protest, of course, but there’s no changing a bull’s mind once it has reared its head and begun barreling forward blindly.
“Oh, this is so delicious! It reminds me of the neighborhood restaurants I used to go to with my family when I was a little girl.”
He doesn’t have a good family, yet he smiles anyway and talks happily about children and their parents, and all the memories and good times. I would sense his sadness and approach him and embrace him, reminding him that I would always be family, even if there were no one else in this world worthy of that title. He would know that I was lying through my teeth and love me all the more for it, replying that I was everything he’d ever need for his stint of life on this planet. Sure, just the other day, I had caught him cheating on me with the hot blonde girl on the track team, and he learned that I had leaked his secrets out to my friends, but none of that mattered to us anymore. The compounding lies would fill us with youthful joy, letting us finally forget about everything else and savor the sweet nectar of those thick, juicy promises.
“I will never fall in love with anyone else, just you, over and over and over yet again falling in love with you, only you, only you.”
Those words would be irresistable, and I would kiss him fiercely on the lips, our tongues greeting one other affectionately, our bodies pressed together insistently and sensually, sending shivers down our backs. After being kicked out of the café for our impromptu make-out session, clearly a coup rooted in the ripe green envy of those singles around us, we would commence our pilgrimage, although our organic bodies would try to retard the cascades of destiny by stopping here and there to do this and that and such, all of no consequence to the Fates.
In the changing room of a small but organized outlet, we would hide together, wearing swimming suits that we were trying on and exchanging silly words much like pillowtalk, about as profound as possible given that we seemed to have the misconception that ears were located on the chest or that band of arousing flesh just below the hips that good boys and girls didn’t bare to the world. The conversation would eventually degenerate into a tickling match, and we would be rolling all over the unkempt floor, carefree and oblivious to the numerous pairs of shoes that could be seen from under the fitting room door indicating a possible public interest in the affair.
Strolling outside now in our bathing suits under pairs of matching jeans that we just bought for each other, we would salsa-dance over to the community pool, swaying our hips and cocking our eyebrows in mock-seduction, my bare skin nibbling at the cool breezy air as I twirled around and around. In those moments of true bliss, should I pirouette into the street, he would snatch me back onto the sidewalk with the deliberate grace of Fred Astaire, catching me in his dashing arms, flinging my heart into high gear and keeping it there as we scaled the wire-mesh gate instead of rationally attempting to unlatch it.
Diving into the pool, we would race and splash, compete to see who could stay underwater the longest, try to jump off the diving board into each other’s open arms. We would talk about the new movie opening on Friday that we certainly, undoubtedly, absolutely had to see together, even if it meant ditching our other friends. All the while, we would realize that the sun was nearly set and the clouds were rolling in like Abrams tanks; in fear, we would clutch each other for dear life, wishing, wishing, wishing, but abandoning the pool as the rain begins to pitter-patter.
We would stand in the shade of the building, shivering as we changed, then quickly switching configurations to huddle together. I would feel his warmth – oh so generous and manly – conducting into my body, and I would bury my face in his towel-clad chest, wondering at the subtle scent that brought me a sense of perfect comfort. At this moment, we would be the only silhouettes in the entire landscape painting, the hazy black figures on the backdrop of gray and the foreground of wispy white.
In other words, we were lovers more than ever, lovers in every sense of the term, those two bodies that stood out as one, as the central focus of the work - no, the only focus of the work. Forgiving each other for all those unforgivable wrongs; kissing each other for all those times when we were too afraid to lock lips; holding each other for all those ill-advised years of the rest of our lives when we would abstain from each other for our own good – that’s what we would be doing, that’s what we would be feeling as time strode onwards, bringing heavier rains and deeper puddles that reflected our crimson-blush cheeks.
Jogging through the rain, holding plastic bags over each others’ heads to maintain the semblance of civilization, we would look at each other with warm smiles, pretending that this was the first day we had ever met, that we were strangers seeking refuge from the storm. We would, one by one, forget each argument we had ever had, leave behind the times when we tried to hurt each other, repair all the love that had turned to hate, swallow all the pride that preceded the fall.
Under the oak tree, we would sit down, side-by-side just like on that first day, wordless but beaming despite the abominable weather. An hour would pass as the sounds of the city grew more and more distant until a car would only pass be every twenty minutes. And then we would have to say something just because we were human beings.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I would stare into my sweetheart’s eyes, searching for all the days gone by, but by now our memories would be completely drained into the waves of water sliding down the hills into the sewage grates. We would know absolutely nothing about each other except for this one date together, but it would be enough to convince us that true love had visited us on some day when perhaps we were too occupied with one another to pay attention.
Just like that, holding hands, we would talk about love and happiness, just like that.
Then midnight would strike, catching us partway through a farewell kiss that would never be finished – once our lips part momentarily, there suddenly would be an infinite chasm opening between us. Without looking back even once at me, he would walk away in one direction and I, in the other.
And in the infinite expanse of this world, I would wander ahead with my clean slate, breathing, hoping, surveying the horizon.
But there would be nothing left there for me.