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Life Cycle (Defect/Bug)

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You feel…small. You wish you had a better emotional vocabulary; you actually wish you had a better grasp on your whole emotional register, period. But you absolutely don’t and so, as you sit in a ball with your knees tucked up under your skirt to your face, you’re forced to ruminate on every way in which you feel small. Tiny, infinitesimal, microscopic, insignificant. You feel like a bug that didn’t even make it to pupation before getting smashed up on a sidewalk tile and washed away into irrelevance by a light rain. You feel like…you feel like you’re wasting some perfectly good material here, frankly, but it doesn’t matter because you feel like shit.

You think you and Jane are fighting.

“Think” because, to be sure you were fighting, you would have to actually have the ability to vocalize things that bothered you, and then have her respond with things that bothered her, so you could at least all be on the same page about the fact that conflict was happening. Instead, though, you’ve opted to conclude that she is very likely mad at you for being weird about something that upset you, and you’re a jerk for not telling her, and your relationship will probably dissolve any minute now.

You should’ve known you couldn’t do this and you don’t know why you tried.

“Hey. Daria?”

Shit. You should’ve picked a better hiding spot. Huddled in the heavy shadow of an auspicious Gothic statue on Jane’s quad is, frankly, a pretty heavy-handed hiding spot choice for you. It’s downright Dariaesque.

You don’t look at her. Wait, that’s making you look like a complete asshole, you can’t adequately convey shame and total emotional constipation when you’re not even looking at someone. Your turn your head and squint at her.

She looks at you like she just opened her car door to see if you were still alive. Like she doesn’t know if she has to feel sorry or wait for you to get up and eat her. You try to resist melting onto the pavement until a park ranger scrapes you off.

“Are you…okay?” You catch her eyebrows pull back down. Like she’s trying not to spook you.

You’re spookable, you guess.

Your crystal-clear description of what was bothering you a second ago has crumbled into a mess of half-formed thoughts, whipping around the inside of your head and refusing to connect. You catch yourself grabbing a clump of grass: like it’s going to help, like you’re going to wring some meaning out of its stubbornly growing blades.

It doesn’t.

You want to say this is a good time to speak but, actually, it’s the opposite: it’s a terrible time to not speak. This is precisely the kind of situation that gets exacerbated by an inadvertant commitment to the silent treatment.

“I’m, uh,” You start.

Really got the ball rolling with that shit, Daria.

“You, uh, don’t have to do this,” you explain: slowly, so your brain can actually fucking catch up with the concepts.

“Like, with me. We don’t have to, uh, do this. I’m not, like. Made. For this. You don’t need to, uh. Waste your time worrying about me.” The squint you turn back up with is maybe not entirely about the sun this time.
 
“Are you…breaking up with me, Daria?” Eyebrows commit fully to the shocked peak in the middle of her forehead this time.

“No,” you correct, forcing yourself to focus as the sun bounces, wet, into your eyes, “I’m freeing you from a needless commitment. I’m giving you the OK to opt out of an unrewarding relationship. You don’t need to feel obligated to continue something with me that’s not going to be worth it for you.”

The top of her head drops just enough to block the sun out completely, a thin line circling the edge of her hair as she bends down in front of you. “Did I…say something? To make you think I felt that way?”

Her eyebrows still stubbornly peaked in concern, her left hand fills the space between the two of you as she leans on the statue's pedestal.

You feel like something dead being inspected. Reflected light bounces back into her cheeks and there’s a warm melt of colour sinking into the cool shadows on the rest of her face. Her lips for a crisp line of maroon as she holds them open, and it’s like she’s waiting to eat up even more dumb shit you have to say for yourself. Like every stupid thing you say is going to glide gently across her bottom lip and be trapped inside her as you become an anecdote about a crazy, emotionally draining ex she used to have.

“No,” you correct again, and you hear your throat thicker with mucous than you’d like. You don’t know why you have to get so torn up about it. It’s so obvious.

“I’m just trying to stay objective.”

You pointedly refuse to make eye contact with her. This is bizarrely painful.

“I’m not sure objectivity really comes into play when I’m honestly not sure what you’re talking about, Daria.” It’s gentle ribbing with an undercurrent of genuine distress.

"Well, what else do you want me to say? This obviously isn't working and it's because of me." You feel your voice pitching upward and you definitely can't blame the sun for the slick line of water forming in both your eyes. You don't know what there is to explain.
It's so obvious.

She opens her mouth to reply, but you see her catch herself and look behind both shoulders instead. When she turns back to you she has that same bomb-diffusal knit to her eyebrows.

"Do you want to…talk about this at my place?”

You realize Jane crouching next to an auspicious statue to negotiate with you is probably not her idea of a comfortable conversational arrangement. Forget small. You just feel like an idiot.

“...Yeah.”


 You can feel her watching you as you slide into her apartment. Maybe shuffle is a better word. Actually you might even be slinking. You try not to notice her staring at you as you drop yourself onto her couch and bore some embarrassed holes into her wall with your eyes.

You're so fucking embarrassed.

"Are we...okay?" She ventures, and you can feel her hovering beside you. You're not gonna, look, though. You're not falling for something that easy.

"Mmh." Is all you can manage, before you finally start to adjust to being somewhere familiar. Your hand hits your hairline and you feel the soft tug on your forehead as you run your fingers backwards.

"...yeah. Sorry."

"Okay!" She throws her hands together and you can tell she's grinning. You don't know how she can muster up that much energy.

"Then I'm getting some food! You wait here and try not to think of any more reasons we're apparently doomed, okay?"

"No promises." Is all you can offer as she walks into the kitchen.

Now it's just you and the decor.

You always picture yourself from the side when you’re on this couch.

Jane’s kitchen entrance and front door both sit on the same side of the wall to the left of the couch, and you always have this image of you in front of the two doors. Jane showed you a photo, once, after a party at her house, and the image of yourself so severly profiled against the hard lines of Jane’s apartment always stuck with you. You like photos of yourself as a concept more than ones of you as an actual person. There’s something freeing about someone actually contextualizing you in a space. You don’t understand face photos. You catch yourself in Jane’s TV reflection, often, and it always zooms you back out to how nice it feels to have that third person view. You don’t like being confronted with yourself so often. Oh, god, she's already back.

Oh, jesus, her hand is on yours.

You turn and she’s making this absolutely drippy face at you. Her expressions sometimes are so, viscous. You picture that sweet syrup from cherry pie filling dripping all over your tights when she looks at you like that. Fluid and tacky and inescapable.

She kisses you.

You can’t keep up with her, you think; she’s always hot and sharp and so focused. Her hand in your hair and tilting her head into yours you don’t know how she has so much direction. How she has a clear path to follow. You try and keep up and you feel like you’re derivative.

“Too much?” She asks, a foot away from your face now,

“No,” you fumble, “why would it be?”

You watch her thumb drop onto yours and tap your index knuckle.

Your hand is floating, uncomfortable, beside your leg, contorted just enough to betray your trepidation around kissing your own girlfriend.

Narc.

"...Maybe."

"Okay! So we'll slow it down!" You feel her roll off of you and lean on the couch next to you, and before you flick your eyes to check you know she's already shifted to some totally carefree pose with her arms behind her head.

"Better?" She asks, and you can feel the squeeze of couch under you and she leans forward to look at you.

"Mm," you muster.

"...'Sfine."

You can feel her eyeballs stuck to the side of your face, so you finally concede and shift your head just enough to make eye contact. Drippy has transformed into bemused as she leans on her hand beside you, eyebrows hitting the bottom of her bangs as her lip pulls up into a smirk.

"You know you can just...tell me what your boundaries are, right, Daria? You don't have to wait until I'm almost tripping over them to say something."

"Mm." Is all you can offer this time. Smooth as always, Daria. Your comprehension of the English language is truly a sight to behold.

The couch shifts beneath you as Jane stands up.

"Here, hold on."

She walks down the hall and into her room, and a series of clunks and screeches bounce their way down the hall from her doorway. They get successively louder until you finally watch her back out of her room, dragging a jumble of metal and sealing the deal on her damage deposit as it scrapes the finish off her floors. She finally finishes dragging it into the living room before turning around, showing off her welding mask loosely strapped to her head.

"Ta-da! Vintage Daria and Jane quality time! Who could ever be stressed around an open fire and the mysterious bodily effects of these metal fumes! What do you think?"

"Mm," you have to answer again, but you're hiding a smirk behind your leg this time.

"Right on, Daria. Never lost for words!" And she flicks down the visor on her mask.

"That's got to be cheating," you shoot from behind your leg,

"any quip sounds good if it's the last one you get to make before an exit. That thing's got all the exiting capabilities of any door. I call foul."

"Hey," you can make out from behind the metal sheet,

"it's gotta be a good enough quip to end on! Give me some credit!"

"It's a sure-fire way to rescue a bad punchline. You just leaned on it because you're out of material."

You lean on your arms as you watch the colours from the flame bouncing around on the outside of her mask, and you hate to admit she's somewhat right. It is hard to be stressed. There's something calming about those fumes after all.

You sit in silence for a while, but this time it's at least a comfortable one, and you watch her hands as she checks the same area over, and over, and over before welding the next one. You don't tell her this, but you love to watch her work.

Maybe you should tell her, but you're not gonna handle that kind of emotional commitment well when you can't even sit on a couch alone with her for more than five minutes.

There we go. Uncomfortabled your own silence.

The flame cuts out a few minutes later, and Jane looks up, perching the mask back on top of her head.

"Everything okay, Daria?"

You're boring a hole into your own hand this time instead of the wall. The twitch and curl of your own fingers isn't providing you nearly the amount of escape you'd hoped.

Your watch as your hand makes a fist.

"...Why do you...put up with me? If I'm that much work?"

"Daria..." She's got that big, blue-eyed, open-mouth look on her face again, and you can't help but flinch away from it. You don't need to be pitied.

"It's not like that," you frown as you tell her. The air stagnates in the room as you struggle to pull the concepts up that keep escaping you,

"It's just...how can you date me if I can't even handle the most fundamental parts of dating someone? If I can't even...be normal for two seconds, how are you going to be able to get anything worthwhile out of this?"

"Daria," she smirks this time, and you're not sure if that's better or worse than the pity. You don't know what you said that's so funny.

"You know I already know you're a pain in the ass, right?"

What?

She's grinning now,

"It's not like I don't know you well enough to know what I'm getting into here."

This isn't explaining anything.

"But if I'm such a pain in this ass, why do you even want to do this? Why do you even want to hang out with me?" You're trying not to get choked up but the frustration of not understanding what the fuck Jane's talking about isn't exactly helping.

"Daria, you...know I'm just kidding when I say stuff like that right?"

You've decided: the pitying look is definitely worse than the smirk.

You don't say anything.

Jane is the first to break eye contact for once, looking down at the pile of twisted metal on the floor as she runs a hand through the hair not trapped under her welding mask.

She sits like that for a while, your own breathing becoming more and more audible in your ears before she finally raises her head back up to look at you.

"Because I like you, Daria." Her eyes drift off you after she says it, and you watch as they study the orange wall to the right of your head.

"You're...smart, Daria, and not in a way you can necessarily even learn. And it's not in a way that's exciting but just superficial, you're not doing it to impress anyone or try and prove something to yourself, it's just...the way you look at things and approach things is so fucking cool and I like to be around it and I like to be...in on the secret. Because I like the way you look at things and even when you’re critical of things I can’t understand I can at least understand where it comes from and why it’s important to you. And making the cut beyond all that, like you spent all that time with me and got to know me and still felt like I was a worthwhile person to hang around...Because I don't think the things that piss you off are stupid and I don't think the things that make you upset aren't important, so the fact that I've never done something to make you hightail it out of this friendship makes me, uh. It means a lot to me."

She meets your eyes again as her mouth pulls back into one of her signature smirks.

"And you're cute as hell, which doesn't hurt either," she laughs. You open your mouth to say something, but so does she.

"And I’ve had more fun with you than I've ever had with anyone else in my life. And that’s important! It’s important to be around people who can just...who can just keep making you happy all the time, especially when you spend so much time being pissed off. You have a lot of shit to give when people aren’t pissing you off, and I like that I get to be around to get it because it’s worth it, Daria."

The lump in your throat slides up and leaves your mouth as a timid, "Oh."

Oh.

You make another lump to swallow.

"But I kind of can't, do, anything. Normal. I, uh,"

You try and maintain eye contact like a reasonable adult, as hard as that is,

"I like being around you, too. A lot. And you're, uh, smart too?"

"Daria, you flatter me."

"You know I'm not good at this. I just, uh. I don't want to keep you waiting. For a normal relationship where I don't freak out about physical intimacy every time we start trying to be, uh. Normal."

You almost shit your pants when Jane jumps up on the table beside you.

"So we'll figure it out!!"

She throws her arms to either side as she looks down at you, and you can feel your mouth begin to fall open as you stare back. The energy radiating off of her is electric as she tries to balance on her shitty wooden table, her feet tensing as they keep up with its wobbling well enough for her to continue her speech,

"There's no rules, Daria! I'm not in some big hurry! It's Daria and Jane! Dating! Never before seen on the planet earth, who have we got to prove things to?! I don't care!"

Steadying herself, she looks you dead in the eye and, before you can even register it, kicks the cup of paintbrushes by her foot across the room.

"Um--"

"Ta-da!! See?! Who's gonna get me in trouble for that, Daria--you??

"We're two grown women! We can do whatever the fuck we want, and it's just you and me here, Daria! Do you think I spent 5 years of friendship sitting around telling myself it would all be worth it when we finally consummate the relationship? I don't care! That's just a bonus to the most fulfilling relationship I've had in my life."

The wobbling calms down as she and her table settle down from the cup-kicking; your mouth is still an open invite for flies as you gape at her; you make an effort to close it.

"I'm not...going anywhere, Daria and I'm not on some invisible timeline you can't see. We're in this together, okay? We can figure it out."

She finally sits back down, still perched on the table as her legs dangle off the side. She finally throws you a somewhat normal smile, although the drippy eyeballs are still threatening a comeback.

"Um. Okay." Is all you can muster, embarrassed to feel how hot your face is from watching her kick shit around her house on behalf of the health of your relationship.

"As long as you're not going to be disappointed when I fail every average sexual developmental hurdle in this relationship, I promise we're fine."

Jane laughs. You shiver.

"Then we're fine, Daria! Sex doesn't have to be so linear and concrete, okay? We'll figure it out!"

She taps her chin as she glances down the hallway.

"Like...I'm going to go into my room, and get naked, and cut my toenails! Because it's my place and that's how I like to do it. And if you wanna come hang out while I do it, that's a new girlfriend perk! Totally legitimate, never before seen in the friendship adventures of Jane and Daria!"

You're hiding a smirk now, behind your hand, as her infectious energy is finally threatening to become terminal. You might even laugh a little, but that's nobody's business.

"Mm." Is all you'll give her, although this time it's more for the sake of being obnoxiously coy than anything. Can you do coy? Maybe it's more for the sake of being a dickhead.

"Okay! I'll be in here if you need me!" She calls as she disappears down the hallway and into her room.

Alright, well, this is a trap, because you're going to go in there and Jane's going to catch you being invested in her sexually, and more into nude toenail-trimming than normal adult sexual activity, and she's going to catch you h

You stand up into the haze of your ideas, trying to disrupt the spectre of neurosis with your body for once instead of your brain.

If the relationship is a trap, you tell it, then she's going to be trapped in there with you.  

You try to knead that idea, morph it into something more productive.

You and her are in it. Together.

You walk down the hall into her room.