"i never once heard you say "i need you" in all of that jiving around"
Every time you look at him these days, you see the countdown. It's lingering right there in the open air above his head lit up like the Broadway district and sometimes you're afraid that everyone else can see it too. They can see it in your thin smiles and the way you grip his arm a little too desperately and laugh a bit too loudly at the jokes he has condescended to share with you. You still refer to them as your "inside jokes", but it stings a little every time.
You don't know how it got to this point, honestly, and lately you've been bitterly back-tracking the course of this whole stupid relationship at 3AM when he's asleep a million miles away from you (on the next pillow under that godawful afghan your grandmother crocheted for you that he thought was so hilarious you keep it on the bed).
See, the kicker here is that in the beginning he was the novelty. Oh yeah, you met the queerest boy today. The strangest boy, all shoulders and elbows and weird hobbies. You took him out for fair trade organic coffee and he told you "Just so you know I only date Libras." and then he took you back to his apartment and showed you his collection of pickled dead things. After he took the most beautiful goddamn Polaroid picture of you (seriously, you'd never thought yourself even a little pretty before you saw it, belongs in the fucking Lourve) you tackled him on his dingy mattress and made out for something like two hours.
"But oh, Dave isn't actually relationship material," you told your friends over lunch, "And he doesn't mind me saying that. We've sort of got an open relationship."
Except the one time you thought you caught him cheating on you it turned out: "Come on, babe, seriously? Rose is my sister." He's faithful, if not attentive. You tried very hard to maintain a distance that comes effortlessly to him when he says things like: "My first kiss was an alien chick and that's why my skills are so out of this world." and "Rose and I have a Luke and Leia thing going on, not Donny and Marie and babe, are we seriously having a discussion about whether or not I've had sex with my own sister?"
You've known a lot of strange boys in your life, but these are the cultivated personalities of twenty-something hipsters and you know it'll fade by the time they're twenty-six. Dave Strider's strangeness runs bone deep, right to the marrow and the world he sees when he tips the shades on a dark afternoon is not the same one you inhabit. This whole thing was doomed from the start but sometimes sometimes sometimes you catch him still in the dust-specked light, holding a cracked record in both hands with vulnerability quaking through him so beautifully you really hope you're not in love with it.
You've spent a year chasing that moment again but the timer's about to hit zero. Time's up, girl.
You decide to kick him out in the morning.
You know you won't.
"and something in me yearned to win such a cold and lonesome heroine."
"You paid for the dish soap last so please do not neglect to pack it."
"That shirt is mine, I do believe, but it's been some time since I've seen it on my side of the closet."
"I hope you have enough boxes for all your things. I told you it would be difficult to move next time if you kept amassing stuff at the rate you do."
"Yes, Rose," you grit your teeth and finally rise to the bait, "You told me a whole lot of things. You, in fact, never stop telling me things. Not even when I've made it clear that I am not talking to you."
"I'm just trying to be helpful," she waves disdainfully with her chopsticks, a california roll halfway towards her daintily pursed mouth as she gestures. She's reading Virginia Wolf with her other hand except that you know Rose Lalonde well enough to know that she's not actually reading it- she's just looking at it blearily, her entire being funneled into an impeccable and melodramatic pantomime of really not caring at all, darling, "Perhaps some of your things would be better off going to the Salvation Army. You can't expect your father to ferry all of that in two trips."
"That's fine," you say in clipped tones, "He's really not going to mind."
"Oh, of course not," she replies arily, the sharp smirk of a predetor swooping in for the kill inching across her pale face, "After all, you were always Daddy's Little Girl."
And you stop.
You just shut down like the synapses in your brain have stopped sending electrical signals. Because yeah, okay. That's true. That is so true. Rose Lalonde has your number, she's always had it. You used to be really good friends with her before the sex and the candles and the romance and she'd kindly mediate your turbulent relationship with your father for you. That's what she does. She calls it "auspisticizing" and it's a fine art she learned a long time ago from a person in a time and a place that she will never, ever tell you about.
"Rose, that's uh." you grimace and you're half grinning while you do it. She always used to make fun of you fondly for that, "That's unnecessary, okay?" tears are collecting right where your eyes crinkle.
You used to ask her all the time how she got so smart, so savvy, so classy, "I was lonely," she said a little wistfully, "My mother too often indulged my solitude and so I became... precocious." she flashed you a secretive little smile that made you think, 'oh, oh I just learnt something important. This is a hidden thing that I have uncovered, gold on a sandy beach, oil from the city street. I am collecting keycards and eventually I will be able to open the safe.'
That was when you thought that Rose Lalonde was anything that could be solved. You know better now; Rose is all smoke and mirrors, endless refractions of light with no point of origin. She flashes you a look that is for a moment guilty, but it's so fleeting as to be all but imagined.
"You're right," she amends, "And I apologize. Of course it's no trouble for your father at all." she unfolds like origami and places her unread book on the end table, rising with practiced grace to smooth her skirt and coiff her hair, "I'll pack up the kitchen."
You take a moment longer to pick up the pieces.
"i swear it happened just like this: a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss. the gates of love they budged and inch (i can't say much has happened since)"
You meet the most Amazing Girl.
You meet the most Amazing Girl and you capitalize it when you tell everyone.
You meet the most Amazing Girl in a park where she's strumming her bass carelessly, eyes shut and cute little buck teeth kneading at her lip as she tilts her head back and forth to an imagined beat. You've got your guitar with you so you muster up all the courage your friends joke is stored in your poorly trimmed goatee and you start up an impromptu Jam session. She doesn't even miss a beat and knows all of the Jazz scales and when you reach the last straining notes of your improv act, she finally opens her eyes and they are the most startling shade of green.
"I'm Jade," she chirps brightly, "Let's do this again sometime!"
"Let's do this again all the time." you say, words tumbling dumbly out of your mouth before you can examine them for blatant, creepy stupidity. She laughs charmingly into her curved knuckles and replies.
Jade Harley is the most Amazing Girl. She lives in a loft that's all brick and sunroof and her entire apartment is plants and flowers and homegrown tomatoes. She sleeps amongst them, vines crawling up the foot of the bed where her snarly, over-protective dog sleeps. His name is Bequerel like the radioactive element because Jade is Eccentric and she has Diverse Interests.
She takes you to the firing range and scores perfect- her accuracy is frightening, especially since she's next to blind even with her glasses on sometimes. You text your best friend frantically: THIS GIRL IS AMAZING SHES AMAZING SHE CAN SHOOT A GUN & IS AMAZING
Your best friend is a smart ass and replies: dood better not brek her <3 then.
You don't think you have to worry about breaking Jade Harley's heart. You're learning a lot from her- she dances through life with an unexamined lightness and every day you wake up tangled in her sheets and her legs and her hair you feel the distance between you and the earth shift perceptibly.
It's enough that at first you can ignore the weird stuff. Her penchant for taxidermy is less endearing than her other hobbies, but its part of the package. And yeah, it's kind of charming how she yells at news broadcasts like she actually expects them to listen but...
The problem is Prospit.
It's all very 'i have a castle in the cloud' Cosette from Les Mis. Kind of sweet and twee and that odd sort of immaturity so typical of Jade but the longer you're together the more freely she speaks. Prospit becomes real and from its golden towers is spun a whole mess of fragmented and- if you are honest with yourself- disturbed fantasy. Your throat goes dry when she talks about her weird alien friends and the day she casually mentions how the whole Earth was destroyed ten years back but no one remembers you get this terrible pit in the base of your stomach that says: 'dude you have mistaken severe mental illness for eccentricity.' You're less eager to bring her "around" just in case she starts sprouting that shit off at a party. Your friends notice and you hide it desperately. No, really, Jade's the greatest girl I've ever met. She's just
she's so shy.
Really? She didn't seem shy at all last time we met her.
The first and last argument you have is the one where she pulls her anti-psychs out of the top shelf in the kitchen and beams them at your face with her perfect aim. "I'M NOT A FUCKING SCHIZO YOU FUCKASS!" she screams, "IT'S ALL TRUE. I... I trusted you enough to tell you. Fuck." she leaves her own apartment first, Becquerel at her heels.
The next day you meet for coffee because you've decided to break up with her. You just don't have it in you to take care of a crazy girl and she probably deserves better. Really. It's not because you're exhausted or anything selfish like that. It's... it's for her own good.
She's all smiles and sunshine and feeding her dog table scraps and looking at her in the light like this you can't get the words out. Jade Harley is the most Amazing Girl and you don't know what you're going to do if you have to tell people that you let her go.
"Are we breaking up?" she asks brightly.
"Yes," you say, the world falling apart right then and there. You're going to write like fifteen songs about this.
"Oh, that sucks. I'm sorry." she pouts and touches your face tenderly, "But at least we had fun."
You feel light. The lightness of having left no impact at all.
"there is a crack in everything. that's how the light gets in."
You meet John Egbert in University.
He's taking "about a zillion courses" because he "can't really decide what he wants to do" but it's okay because he has "plenty of irons in the fire."
"All of the irons, actually." he specifies with a chuckle.
"That's a weird phrase."
"Yeah, I picked it up from an old friend. I guess she was, uh, sort of my first girlfriend? I don't know. Something like that."
You ask about her and he doesn't answer. Instead he kisses you and changes the subject. Two weeks later he's dropped out of University and booked a flight for South America.
You meet John Egbert in Bolivia because you're the only two Americans on the project. He's got a kind smile and strong arms and he makes you laugh with his impossibly bad jokes. You start as friends and move quickly to the benefits and you never really thought you were dating until it hurt a lot when he told you that he was boarding a plane to Africa "oh tomorrow. Y'know how it is- gotta keep moving just like Nic Cage in Drive Angry 3, hee hee."
You've never even seen the first Drive Angry. You watch it when you go home to America, bitter taste in your mouth.
You meet John Egbert in Italy. "My friend Rose says this place is um, exquisite, but I liked Africa better." he holds his hands up to the sky like a picture frame, "I liked the people there and you could see every single star in the sky. Almost like you could see into another universe."
You laugh and tell John in thickly accented English that, "You have such a good imagination. Such strange ideas."
He looks at you so profoundly, so sadly. So profoundly sad in that moment that you know its over before it's even begun.
You meet John Egbert in Prague and he is so drunk.
"Well," he laughs giddily, "I never did think that I was a homosexual, but I mean... sexuality is a sliding scale, not a dichotomy right? Rose apparently took this course on culture or whatever and that's what she keeps saying but I mean-" you face is between his hands and you wonder when he's just going to kiss you already.
He does, in between the fray of music and light and bodies moving around you. Later that night he stares at the ceiling, rubbing the bedsheet between thumb and forefinger anxiously.
"Do you think that it counts as lying if you do it by accident."
"Probably not," you answer, taking a lazy drag off your cigarette.
"Hmm," John turns away from you in the bed and you can't read his body language, "I just have a lot of regrets I guess."
You meet John Egbert again in Maple Valley. Finally, he's come home.
"Where have you been?"
"Oh, around," he shoves his hand in his pockets and smiles so sweetly. He really didn't meant it when he broke your heart. It's impossible to be angry.
"Still have a lot of irons in the fire?" you wonder airily, trying not to sound too interested.
"Oh yeah. I mean, not as many as I used to. But some."
This time you make sure to go in feet first, eyes open. You'll never be one of those irons, but that's okay.
Really. It is.