Loudness is communication. Communication allows for understanding and change. What bothers me about MH, and now HJ is that they are quiet. They do not yell, or protest, or retaliate; they recoil. But this is far, far worse: in their quietness, they are resolute. Their judgements are set, their conclusions wrapped about you and your flaws. I would much rather they criticize openly.
JS is sitting on the steps outside my dorm when I walk out. I see him out of the corner of my eye: a solid pink sweatshirt and a penny board. We throw each other an obligatory wave and head nod.
Vignettes of the weddings I would have had with each of my past somethings:
At JKm and I’s wedding, I would have fake-fought to wear something bright — a sunshine yellow sundress. He would protest enough over me embarrassing him in front of his family that I would pick out something white. Something innocent. I would have struggled to mingle with charming, docile small talk — or who knows? Maybe I would have been good at it by then. I would have hovered with his grandparents in the corner, clutching to some conversation about contemporary art.
Barefoot, wearing some sort of wildly appropriated sari for JS. It would have been in India, or Puerto Rico, or Africa — anywhere but here. His friends would be hugging and kissing and my friends from back home would be uncomfortable. We would smoke weed. We would sit cross-legged on the floor.
WB and I would be back home, on the beach, with everyone from high school, or come to think of it, maybe no one from high school. I don’t know who I would be. I was in such a transition period during the period of us: I realize that now. Perhaps he was also, or perhaps I dragged him into mine. Maybe I would watch him joke around with his white, wholesome, cool church community, or maybe not at all. We were so different than we were two years ago; was the feeling the same? This I know, from the start until now: at the end of the day, we would have sat in silence, watching the sunset.
I can’t yet tell what HJ and I will be, except that I think I feel very much myself. I wonder how the legions of radical feminists can each individually choose to make that nod to gender roles and still make grand statements about the collective push against them. I couldn’t wear a white dress now, I think, that low bow to tradition.
I’d be down for a brightly color-blocked skirt, I think.
On the walk here, there were pink flowers covering the floor. They look better there, I think, than they do in the tree: a soft sea in grey light below leaves.
I didn’t think much of it in the moment. I’d spent the afternoon reeling in two distinct housing crises as he watched and offered sympathies. We were about to leave; he’d just finished changing.
This is the video: it opens up sideways. It fumbles until it’s right side up, trained on HJ, still a little lop-sided, or perhaps that is just HJ’s inherent slight lop-sidedness. It’s grainy from the low lighting, which somehow makes it look more like a vintage polaroid than just a shitty video. He is smiling easily, a little awkward before the camera. “Sup,” he says, raising a hand in a geeky greeting.
“It’s really nothing…” you hear me say from behind the camera.
“Cool,” he nods. It’s such a statement, devoid of judgement or anything really but simple affirmation.
And his smile: it is unchanging; it is unconditional good-naturedness. He looks at the camera the entire time — and his look. It’s soft, kind, easy. I watched that video ten times just to feel that look trained on me. I watched it ten more times out of pure affection for his essence, beaming so strongly in that three second clip.
I’m beginning to miss him when we’re apart.
Wait so…but…that first movie was platonic, right?
Oh, yeah, that was totally platonic.
And then what about the second one? Was that platonic?
That was absolutely not platonic.
Ha! I had no idea.
Really? Do you do that with tons of people?
I have guy friends, you know.
I was so nervous, you know that? During that second movie. I had such a big crush on you.
Yes! You made me nervous. You make me nervous.
I make you nervous? Still?
Oh wait, that’s right. I could totally tell. That’s how I knew, after that second movie, that things weren’t platonic.
Yeah! I sensed that you were nervous, and I was so confused. Like, why is he nervous? And then it made so much sense.
Why are you smiling like that?
Oh, just every time you look up at me it’s hilarious.
But you also just smile when your eyes are closed. You smile in your sleep.
Well, with my freshman year crush next to me, how could I not?
Wait, what? I was your freshman year crush?
But so —
That makes so much sense.
So…did you know I was in a relationship?
You told me.
I did? Why would I do that?
Oh, no, it just came up on conversation. Like you mentioned something you were doing with your boyfriend, and I was like, oh.
Did you ever meet him?
Maybe? I don’t know. I saw you with him once, though.
I don’t know — but I saw you with a guy once, and it looked like you were, you know, together.
When was this?
Like, freshman year.
Oh, yeah. That would be JKm, then.
So…how did you know we’d broken up?
I kinda just hoped that it’d been a long enough time that — yeah.
Oh, I see.
If I may ask —
— what happened there? Or, like —
I mean, only if you’re comfortable.
No, I am. It’s fine.
We, ah, dated for a year. And then I just kind of realized we weren’t compatible — like, in terms of long-term compatibility — and so I broke up with him. And he, ah…he didn’t take it well, and, ah, well…now he doesn’t talk to me.
But it’s fine! I mean, nothing really happened.
Yeah! I see.
nothing artistic or reflective this time, which, I will say, means this is something right. the best relationships are the ones that you don’t need to constantly reflect on and think through (hence, the general down mood of all the posts on here).
but! a somewhat significant event, and so, I compel myself to write this:
HJ! where to begin! a wonderful fellow. a sweet fellow, if not a ravishingly fuckable one, he makes up bountifully with earnest and ease.
not to mechanize the process, but shall we check off the boxes? a bookworm! a shockingly matching spotify discover playlist (no small feat for an experimental electronic – bluegrass – funk – afrobeat – folk-lovin’ individual like myself)! a love for the outdoors! a frisbee fellow! a meditator! a movie buff! a twee bit of adorable nervousness!
I’ve done this far too many times now; shall we see this familiar format:
the quintessential romantically-interested texts in which both parties talk about nothing and that is quite alright;
the subtle but not so subtle asking of plans for the night and leaving said plans open for a potential meet up;
a casual oh so casual brushing of the hand on an arm to break that wee little bubble of personal space segueing into a casual oh so casual hand placed on a leg or a back or a hand and a deliberate ignoring of that elephant;
charming conversation floating like a balloon that I keep bopping up and up again until I tire of the exercise and allow it to happen;
it being the lull, the break, the opening, so to speak, the eyes dropped, nonchalantly peaceful quiet that the music and conversation has casually oh so casually mellowed down to in which the more deliberate of the two, the individual who was not playing around, seizes the quiet that was withheld and casually oh so casually says something along the lines of:
I think you’re cool and pretty, and —
and the individual who is playing around bops the balloon up just for kicks with a:
I think you’re cool and pretty too!
but the individual who is not playing around forges on ahead, strong and determined, and throws out this zinger:
Can I kiss you?
and the individual who is always playing around has enough socialization such that they realize that bopping the balloon this time might result in a deflated balloon, and so the individual decides, finally, to play along.
one more thing:
the individual knows it’s going well when the other individual
jumps on opportunities to make plans
intertwines fingers, easily, naturally, casually actually casually
references future events for when the weather is warm enough to walk around outside in the dead of winter
if I am specifically romantically attracted to ease, does that explain all my past stumbling? I think I require a deliberate show of intentional affection. And does the type of ease I am attracted to show that in a way I am uncomfortable with?
WB and our tumultuous, uncertain friendship. JS now and my questioning of his true interest.
And then do I find myself falling back on people like JKm, who I am not nervous around because I am not instantly attracted to them, and whom with in contrast I feel that I am perceived with ease relative to them, and therefore have the upper hand?