A light vibration from the phone gripped in my hand forced my attention away from the window and back into my palm. I didn't need to check the ID; I was expecting this call from someone. Readying the phone to my ear, I shot a quick, obligatory “Hello?” into the receiver as if I had no clue how a phone worked.
“Hey,” a voice chimed back, “I'll be over in a couple minutes.” The voice was sweet and playful. It could only be her's.
“I'll be waiting!”
“Good!” We hung up simultaneously. No need to say bye, I'd see her soon. And that thought lingered in my mind. I'd see her soon. There was something refreshingly scandalous about it, hovering around my tongue and tempting me to say it aloud. Say it. Say it! No, later.
The music kicked up from the stereo speakers and I swung my foot up onto the lip of the wooden drawer jutting from the dresser. Phone still in hand, I brought it to my mouth and wailed a few notes over it. Though I was stage dancing while facing my window, the blinds were pulled shut so that my neighbors wouldn't think me too crazy. After all, I was jamming to Woe, Is Me's metalcore cover of “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry. Remember, there's only so many levels of “weird” neighbors can take in an apartment before they complain to the landlord. For the record's sake, I've learned from personal experience that screaming and loud guitar rank pretty high on the “weird” ladder. Unless your neighbor's weird. In that case, befriend him; he'll have some funny stories to tell you.
However, I don't consider myself weird. In fact, if my neighbors met me they probably wouldn't say I am either. It's just funny how we judge people without knowing them. If I heard the overtures of Bach wafting up through the open windows of a neighbor's apartment, I'd probably appreciate their taste in music. Maybe I'd even go over and say a few words to them. Maybe.
And here come the footsteps. One by one by one, I focused in to the sound of her climbing the three flights of stairs to reach my front door. Swiftly, too, might I add. Maybe she was excited! To see me? No, I know how she feels. She's just excitable. Always running here and there, shouting and laughing down the hallways at school, whispering at yelling volume during tests...that's just how she is. And I liked that. I guess because I'm like that too sometimes. Yeah, that's why we get along so well. Wait! She's coming!
I turned heel and sprinted for the bathroom to fuss with my cleanliness. A little gel for the cowlick, spray some Axe on my chest...I'll ask if she has gum. The phone vibrated again. I sprinted back to my dresser—dear God, I'm all over the place tonight—and slapped the phone next to my ear.
“Yo kid! Stop jamming out and come answer the door.”
I smiled, nesting the phone in my pocket and jogged through the kitchen. There she was: leg turned out, hand on her hip, barefoot as usual and standing just out of reach beyond the tempered glass in my door. I was tempted to ask why she always showed up without shoes on, but I figured I should know the answer to that and held it back. Her head was cocked forward at an angle so that she could look up at me irascibly, but the smile she was biting down on betrayed her eyes and I rolled off a chuckle. Immediately following the creak of the wooden frame, she paraded her way through the screen door, the kitchen, and into my room where she dropped cross-legged onto the carpet. Incredulously, I shouted at her,
“Yo kid! That's my room, not yours!” I wondered if she appreciated the fact that I openly stole her catchphrases.
“Well I'm DJ'ing in here so I guess it's my room now.” She got up, rested her elbows on my dresser, bent over the iPod stereo, and began sifting through my amassed collection of “weird” music to find the few gems she actually enjoyed and didn't just pretend to for my comfort in company. I stumbled in behind her, forcibly averting my eyes from her hips which were turned towards me, and crashed down on my bed. From the opposite wall, to the ceiling, to the hair on her shoulders and finally to her elegant profile, my eyes fluttered around the room like a newly-introduced child. I watched her nose for a couple seconds, I couldn't tell you why. It was just there, so I looked at it.
The previous song ended abruptly and a soft melody lulled through the padding of the speakers. She smiled brightly as we both instantly reveled in the music.
“Craig Owens,” we muttered together dreamily. I had introduced his angelic voice to her via a CD I had made her during one of her slump moods. You know, a CD with the melancholy yet feel-good music that just hits the spot on a bad night. This song was admittedly her favorite of the ones I had selected: “Lindsay Quit Lollygagging” by Chiodos performed acoustically. It featured a simple, cheerful piano melody and two wonderfully harmonizing voices, the lead of which was, of course, Craig Owens. I'll admit, he's dreamy. Young, tall, dirty-blond hair, artful tattoos and a voice to die for...I can see why she fawns over him. Even the mention of his name possesses her to throw her head back and force out an exasperated, longing sigh.
There was something special about this song though. In a way it was “our song.” Whenever it came on, we would both begin to sing along to every word, she hitting every note and passing tone of Craig's flawlessly, and I shakily attempting to follow the harmony beneath it. In fact, I transposed the song to guitar in preparation for the one moment I could reveal it to her, after which we would perform a small rendition of our own. Truthfully, I just wanted to hear her sing. I was envious of her voice. It was, in a word, beautiful. I felt no shame in attending her choir concerts alone solely because I knew I would be able to sneak a smile at her singing without being kidded by my friends. “You like her, you love her...” I swear they feign maturity. What hell if I do? Whatever, they're the ones missing out if they can't appreciate her voice.
She shifted her weight, collapsing back to the floor and staring up at me with wide, blue eyes. I met her stare, turned to the ceiling, turned back to her, she looked away. As awkward as it sounds, it wasn't at all.
“So what's up?” I broke in above the quiet backdrop of sound. She let out an intentionally infantile whine and giggled behind it. “I'll take that as everything?” Now I laughed.
“Shit's hit the fan.”
“Sounds like story time to me.”
She avoided. “It's a long story.”
“I've got time.” She snickered, but I knew she didn't think it was funny. I say it too much for it to be funny. If I had to guess, she's just warming to the fact that I always seemed to have time for her. I watched her eyes dance up the wall, or rather, away from mine, and her fingers wrestled each other in her lap. Sensing her discomfort (it wasn't hard) I did what I normally did...try to weasel her into a comfortable enough spot to tell me. “Hey, let's go for a walk.” Her head snapped at attention and she shot me a look.
“To where?” she inquired dubiously.
“I don't know. The beach?” The music persisted for a second, but she shrugged and started to get up as I did the same. While she collected her bearings, I arranged my usual travel kit: iPod, phone, wallet, key. In that order. I hurried passed her in the kitchen to grab the door and fold my arm under my breast as if escorting her into an elegant foyer. Shaking her head at my nonsensical endeavors, she pushed through the door and started down the steps. My eyes followed her down, but my body remained to turn the lock. She was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, again with that playfully impatient look in her eyes. I smiled at her. She smiled back.
* * *
The moon wrapped its fingers in her hair, gilding each strand with a glint of grand light. The brisk, burning air of a winter night stretched out over our backs while the wind played circles around our legs. She folded her arms, and I tucked my hands in my pockets. Quiet stalked us as a third companion and we both felt it between us. I tossed my head over my right shoulder to look at her, but she was turned towards the ocean. I watched her tuck her chin into the collar of her jacket so I bumped her with my shoulder. In a few stuttered steps her mind returned to the walk and she glanced to smile at me before looking away again. She was faking it.
We reached the corner of the block and I made a vague gesture with my elbow, saying “Turn here,” into the air. We crossed up onto the boardwalk and down again onto the beach. Walking as far out as we could into the sand, we stopped just short of the tide. I leaned back and stretched my legs out on the ground. She hesitated but soon joined my side. We looked at each other before looking back out at the sea.
I brandished my iPod and drew two earbuds from my pocket, offering one to her. She grabbed it slowly and placed it in her ear, and this began a period of joy. As she came to, we sang, danced, pushed, pulled to all of the songs we both knew. When the mood was light, I told her I had just added a new album to my library, and I wanted to show her a song. As the sound came to life again, she recognized the chords.
“Is this 'You Belong With Me'? I never pegged you as a T-Swift fan.”
I laughed, “just give it a second.” The chords broke into another metalcore cover by For All Those Sleeping, in which I relished and she laughed at me dancing idiotically while honestly enjoying the change of pace. Knowing all the lyrics from the original, we sang at each other, trading lines. I made sure to correct her on the new lyrics in this particular version, as they had been rearranged to fit a male point-of-view. We picked up our voices at the second verse and she attempted to sing over me while I cracked into a nasally falsetto for the high parts:
Walking the streets with you in your worn out jeans
I can't help thinking this is how it ought to be
I'm laughing on a park bench thinking to myself
Hey, isn't this easy?
And you've got a smile that could light up this whole town
I haven't seen it in a while since he brought you down
You say you're fine I know you better than that
Hey, whatcha doin' with a dick like that?
It had just started to rise, the moon. It's reflection lay broken in pieces, swimming to shore on the chop. The unobstructed wind had picked up since we had reached the beach. Now that I noticed, the environment had become rather unforgiving in its nature, yet somehow remained elegant in its appearance. A blur crept into my peripheral vision, and I saw her shivering in the cold. In a moment I held my breath and slid over beside her. Casting an arm around her shoulder, she effortlessly glided into its crest and tucked her head beneath my chin. We sat.
“Are you alright?” My question was unmistakeably forced. I knew the answer.
“No.” A simple one.
“Talk to me.”
“It's not that easy.”
“Why not?” Again, forced. And again, I knew why.
“There's too much I want to say.”
“One thing at a time... That's what you tell me, isn't it?” I imagined she smirked.
“Sean...” She wrestled her head from my chest and pulled her weight back under her. Adjusting to sit on her heels, she looked at me. Any trace of a smile was gone. “There's so much going on right now. And you know what I want to say, and you know why I want to say it.”
I paused. “I do.”
“And I really just want to kiss you right now but I didn't know if that would be weird,” she blurted out.
“Not at all,” was all that I could manage to stammer. She put her hands on my cheeks and pressed her lips onto mine. She pulled away, and the world kept spinning. Silence joined us again. She pushed her way into my arms and we both sat in the mercy of the wind.
She got up first, and I followed her. She walked towards the street, and I followed her. She walked to her car, and I followed her. That's all I ever did anyway. She opened her car door before turning around to look up at me. A friendly hug was exchanged, and then she left. I climbed the stairs, unlocked the door and walked into my room. “I'll see her soon,” I said to the walls. I relieved my pockets of their weight, and went to bed with Silence.
© Copyright 2016 Kean Flynn. All rights reserved.