A little love story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

it's a little love story

Ann and I were hanging on my porch playing a game of Sorry while the bright summer sun was painting everything in yellow: the street, the planks on the floor,  Ann's face and making Ann's brown eyes golden with small brown dots in them. As usually I was winning but Ann was a good sport and wasn't fussy about it. We had a nice conversation making the game and the time spent together interesting. We didn't have to talk of complicated things to have a good time. Sometimes the small talk can be interesting and engaging when done with someone who you can connect to. After I won the game game Ann said:
“I don't know how you always win these. If I knew better I would say that you are cheating somehow. “
“Don't complain that I always kick your butt. It has nothing to do with cheating or luck. I am just good at it.”
“Hmm you were probably in jail and you are not telling me about it. They play Sorry in jail all the time, don't they?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I smiled at her. “Maybe you were in jail?”
Ann smiled back at me. Her brown hair was blown by the slight breeze and she couldn't manage to keep it out of her face. I thought it was funny how she had to constantly brush it off of her face. Long hair can be a nuisance sometimes although it makes women - and men - prettier most of the time.
“What do you want to do tonight?“ Ann asked.
“Probably going to the Cyber West Cafe. A nice band plays there tonight.”
“Do you know which band?”
“I forgot their name. Something about “Adam and the apple”
“Oh you mean “Adam ate the Apple”?”
“Yes, that's the one.”
“Haha – you have the best memory”  
“It is not that bad. I remember you on good days.”
“Oh. This is at least something.”she looked at the street where a ford Mustang with its windows open and music blasting out was passing by and then looked at me again:
“He was playing that song by Beastie Boys” and she sang it: ”You have to fight for your fight to party.”
Both of us laughed.
“It must mean something. Like as if the universe is telling us to go party tonight” said I.
We looked after the mustang getting smaller in the distance, the music fading away with it. Ann said:
“So have you written something good lately?”
“Yes. I wrote a sad story about a guy who can cure pain but is too big and people fear him because he is “slow”.”
“Oh. You should write a love story. You never write love stories.”
“No. Nothing happens in love stories. They are kind of boring. I mean what interesting things can happen in a love story?”
“I don't know,” said Ann. “Not every story should have a twist if that is what you mean. As long as it is real it would be fine. I would like to read a real love story.”
“I think that for a love story to have a twist and to be entertaining it must be a fantasy. A real one wouldn’t be interesting.”
“So you always like to write about real things -  like a big retarded man who can cure pain?”
“Well, you have a point.”
I thought for a second.
“Well maybe I will write a love story some day.” I said and looked deliberately at Ann. I would want to write about her. The sun was setting down somewhere behind he hills. It was painting the sky in pink casting a tender hue with the same color on the ground, on her face. She was beautiful.
 “Are you hungry” Ann changed the topic.
“Aham. Do you want to eat somewhere?”
“There is no need to spend money. Would you like to cook something here instead.”
“Sounds good. Can you cook for me?” I asked her.
“Uuuuhhhuuu, wow you have a good imagination. But we can both cook. What do you want to make?
“We can bake chicken and make a salad. I have lettuce in the fridge.”
We went to the kitchen and there in the confined space, often touching each other we cooked ourselves a meal. After we had dinner Ann leaned back on her chair and said:
“You over-baked the chicken.”
““Why me? We both cooked it.”
“Not true. I put the spices on. You were supposed to  bake it”
“Well  in this case it is not over-baked. I like it with crispy skin. I see that you finished your serving. It must have been good”
“I was hungry, but it was also good.
I became silent. I liked her. I hoped she liked me too. I guess I must have known by then, but I didn’t. I am bad at judging such things and never ask directly. One can say I am timid and probably immature for these things for my age. I mean a man in his thirties should know if a woman, friend of his, has more than friendly feelings for him, right? But I seemed to not have gotten that skill - at least in that particular case.
We sat in silence for a while and at last I offered,
“Do you want to go to Cyber West Cafe”. I checked my watch. It was 8 o'clock.
“Yes, why not. But let me help you with the dishes.”
“Oh you don't have to.”
“Come one let’s do them.” said she and started washing the plates. I was drying them. In no time we were done.
Five minutes later we were at the Cyber West Cafe. The place was well lit and smelled of scented candles. We ordered a beer and sat at the couch in the small lounge area. There were more people sitting around. Ann and I talked to each other until a guy who looked a bit like Ben Stiller introduced himself and the rest of the people sitting on coaches around the table. He was John - a coder, net to him was sitting Phil - a philosopher, Lisa, a budding actress, Rebecca, a worker in a cafe on the university campus, Zoey - a sociology student and her boyfriend Jim, a student too, and two other guys I didn’t remember what were they doing nor their names.
“So what do you think about bangs Ann?” John asked out of the blue.
“What do you mean?”
“Just give me your opinion.” insisted John
“I think that they can completely change the appearance of a person.” Ann said thoughtfully.
“Exactly. Well put.. Such a small thing – cut them off and boom - a complete change!”
“Yes I know what you mean. I think it's not only about an outer appearance. Things you don’t know about someone can surprise you. Like a small thing, you know, that you’ve missed about a person.” Anne added.
“That is right. You might know someone for years and just learn something striking for them suddenly.” said John.” I have been married to my wife for five years and yesterday, she started kicking the ball around with our daughter. Then I joined and the real game started. I never knew that my wife can be so competitive.
“Ann is very competitive,” I joined the conversation.
“No I am not!”
“When a man feels threatened by a woman he says she is very competitive. It is a double standard.” Zoey said.
“What do you mean?” I asked surprisedly.
“It's a good thing to be competitive if you are a guy, but it is not if you are a woman.” Zoey added.
“I didn't mean to say anything bad.”I said
“But both of you and John said that the women you were talking abo were competitive as some bad thing.”
“This is not true,” I and John said in one voice.
We continued talking for a while. I was sitting in the corner of the table, on the outside, towards the middle of the room and when the live band started playing I could barely understand anyone talking anymore. The guys next to me who I didn't remember the names of were absorbed in a conversation about ATVs and I couldn’t join because I didn’t know anything about those. Ann was talking to John and Zoey.  Gradually I dropped out of the conversation which was fine. I felt a little tired and enjoyed just listening to the music. I could also observe our little group better. The philosopher was definitely hitting on Lisa - the actress. He was explaining to her that his field of study was human emotions. I thought that he was trying to impress her. Lisa was very beautiful, about twenty-five-years-old and he was in his forties. Soon it seemed that she got bored of him as she didn't seem impressed by his philosophy of the emotions and their conversation slowly died out. I wanted to ask him about the psychology of eating, maybe he knew more about it but I didn't because I thought that Ann might get upset. Then I heard someone calling her. A guy was standing by my seat and was smiling at her. Ann smiled back at him, said something to John and then stood up and went aside to talk to the guy. He was a pretty fellow with black hair and dark eyes, well dressed. I watched them hugging and then they started a  conversation, obviously feeling quite comfortable, touching each other on the arms. I turned around and moved to Ann’s place. John asked me if I played chess and we talked about it a little.I find it hard to talk about chess without actually playing it. I was always distracted, peaking at Ann and her friend. Rebecca, who had gotten up to get a beer returned and sat next to John. They knew each other well and soon started a conversation about their acquaintances I didn't know of. So I stood up, and walked towards the “Back” room where the stage was with the band playing.  Ann who was still talking with her friend. She waved at me. I smiled and passed them by on my way towards the back. I found a seat somewhat in front of the stage and sat, listening to Adam Ate the Apple for a while. They turned out to be a pretty good rock band. I thought that all the members of it were playing quite good – I especially liked that there was a saxophone and two singers who complemented each other very well– a guy, who was also playing an acoustic guitar and a woman, who had a great voice. The room was full - there were maybe thirty people. I listened to several songs and maybe would’ve stayed the whole time but it was a bit too loud so I went back to the front room. At the back, in the dark of the “Back” room I saw Ann swinging to the music and her friend was standing next to her. They looked as a couple. They looked more like one, when the guy leaned and kissed Ann. She respond to the kiss. A bomb exploded in my stomach. I needed some fresh air. Needed to get out of the room.
At the “Front” room I saw that some of the members of group we were talking to was still there – the two guys whose names I didn't know, now were talking about motorcycles. John and Rebecca were also there. I sat in the armchair in the opposite corner next to the big couch, which was empty.
“Right there where you are, you are away from all conversations. There is the quiet zone.” John remarked.
“It is all right. I need some quiet time. Also in the other corner where I was sitting before I couldn't hear anything because of the band.”
On the couch next to me sat Lisa closer to my end of the couch from where she had been sitting before. I had seen her in the back room.
“Hi,” I said, engaging her in conversation. “What was your name? I didn't catch it?”
“It's Lisa. You are Robert, right”?
“Yes. So, Lisa, how are you?”
“Miserable. That city creeps on me. And you?”
“You have no idea. You know, once you realize that you can’t get out, delve further in. Someone said it. So that is what I am doing - delving in the misery.”
“Well I am leaving in one month. Leaving this place behind”
“How come?”
“There are no jobs here. At least for me. Are you working in the defense industry?”
“No. I am working in retail and am taking classes online for nursing. I have another job too - data entry.”
“Nursing is a good, stable job. You can work it anywhere. My major is neither so profitable nor so much in demand.”
“What is it?”
“Musical Theater.”
“Oh so you want to be an actress? The true artist has a hundred faces they say. And sometimes she loses herself in the constant transformations.” I noted, trying to amuse her.
“Oh I have come to know what my real face is. I don’t lose it that easily.” I fell silent. Then picked the conversation again,
“Have you been in any plays I would know off?”
“I have been in several musicals. Some local, small plays.
“So where are you going to move to?” I asked, not really interested in her work.
“To New York City.There are going to be more jobs there for me.”
I was silent for a while, looking at her. She was smiling. I interpreted it as some form of flirtation.
“Do you want to go upstairs? It’s very noisy here.” I asked her.
“Ok.”
We both got up. The philosopher had sat next to Lisa but he couldn't join the  conversation. We went to the stairs that led to the second floor and we started climbing up. In the middle of the stairs I leaned on and tried to kiss her. She stepped back.
“What's the matter?” she asked me.
“Nothing. I, I…thought you would like to kiss me.”
“Well, I have a boyfriend. Why did you assume that I would want to kiss you?
“I don’t know.”
“Are you trying to pay it back to your girlfriend downstairs?”
I fell silent, then shrugged shoulders and tried to sound nonchalant,
“Maybe.”
“It’s silly. She wouldn't even know about it. You just try to make yourself feel good by making out with someone else instead of her. I guess it feels bad for you  - to see them together.”
“It feels like someone kicked me in the stomach…
“I am sorry. I can’t help you though. It was nice talking to you.” She turned and descended the stairs.
“It was nice to meet you.” I said and after watching her turning behind the corner I climbed up to the second floor. There, in one of the rooms I sat on a couch. I still could hear the music although it was a bit muffled. I could also think for a while. I thought about Ann and her boyfriend – where she knew him from and why she hadn’t told me about him. I was feeling too tired and emotionally drained to get downstairs and to pretend to be all right and introduce myself to the guy. What I mostly wanted to do was to go home and go to bed. On the wall in front of me there was an electric light  - a mosquito and moth trap. The insects get attracted by the light and when they touch the lamp a small spark of electricity kills them. I don’t know why, but the sight of that trap made me very sad. Poor moths flying towards the light just so they can die. It wasn’t fair. At that moment I felt like a moth who had got shocked, flickering helplessly at the base of the stupid moth trap. For what? For just falling head-over-heels for a girl who hadn’t told me she was dating someone.  
In order to distract myself I picked an issue of a local newspaper called The Carousel and started skipping through it. The music kept seeping through the floor from below.
Half an hour later I heard steps coming up the stairs. I didn't have to turn to guess that it was Ann – I knew the sound of her heels.
“What are you doing here all alone?”
“I have been catching up on the local news. How's the show going?”
“They are having a break.” I haven’t noticed that the music had stopped. “I was wondering where you are. People told me that you went upstairs.”
“Who told you?” I asked her.
“Phil – the philosopher.”
“I felt tired from all the conversations and the loud music.” I thought for a second. “I apologize that I didn't introduce myself to your friend. I just didn't feel very social tonight. Who is he?”
“It's all right. I take classes with Jake. He was supposed to study for an exam tonight. We’re kind of seeing each other...”
“Yes, I noticed.” I tried to hide my bitterness but couldn’t. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked,
“Are you all right? What’s the matter?”
“Everything is fine. It’s the damn moth trap. Gets me all upset. Isn’t it sad - for the poor moths I mean?
She looked at the moth trap and then turned back at me,
“I guess. I am sorry it makes you sad, but life is such. We are leaving. I didn’t want to go without asking if you would want us to drop you to your house. Jake is driving.”
“Yes life sucks for moths sometimes. I will stay here for a minute. I will go home after I read some more of the newspaper and drink another beer.”
“All right Robbie. As you wish. See you sometimes this week?”
“Of course.”
She left. I stared at the moth trap for a few more minutes then got up off the couch and slowly crossed the room and descended the stairs. The happy hubbub of the cafe was so much at odds with my emotional state that I felt nauseous. I needed to get out.
Out it was a warm, windy night. I liked being in the dark. The Cafe behind me was cheerfully lit up. A fucking moth trap, I thought. I preferred to dwell in the darkness, far away of the hubbub and light, away from what caused me pain.
Later, while lying in my bed, drifting away, quiet, unintrusive thoughts entered my head like light feathers flowing in the wind. I thought of the night and I could not explain to myself some things. People came and went in my little world. I wondered about their roles and what they meant for me. The sleep started overwhelming me. My last thought was that my experience that evening was like what Ann had asked me to write about. After all it was a little love story, wasn’t it?

 


Submitted: May 22, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Robert Ratman. All rights reserved.

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