Yet another story continuation. Trigger warnings for relationship abuse and self harm.
I want to say we didn’t ignore it. And technically, we didn’t.
The first time we talked in person again, after that class, I said, “One good reason.”
He said, “There aren’t any.”
“Damn straight,” I replied.
But after that, in terms of ignoring it, we really did.
I want to say that we didn’t avoid talking about it. We didn’t pretend it never happened. We just didn’t dwell on it. But I know now that would be lying to myself.
I thought we could get past it. He was horrified when he did it, I thought — that he could keep himself in check for a while, that I could learn to see it coming. He didn’t; I did. Briefly, of course, we returned to a passing for normal, a place where we were both trying to hear and make ourselves heard.
We met for studying a lot because it was purposeful, platonic, safe. We had something neutral to talk about again where, even if we disagreed, we at least knew those disagreements were academic rather than personal. It’s a little safer to argue over whether Willy Loman is the most sympathetic character in Death of a Salesman because at some point, we felt silly arguing over imaginary people anyway.
Except talking about Death of a Salesman lends itself to talking about the concept of the American Dream, which leads to us dangerously discussing our own futures.
We were in a park, our first meeting without the pretense of schoolwork, though not the first meeting where we’d abandoned the pretense. My head rested on his chest, our bodies at right angles on the grass. For a long time, we just lay there in the sun and breeze, enjoying that the day was too dry for mosquitoes and too cool for flies. Cool snaps in summer are not unappreciated.
“It’s nice to be able to get out and actually be in a day that looks beautiful, you know?” he asked. “Like in summer sometimes it looks beautiful, especially, like, at the beach. Only it’s way too hot to actually enjoy spending much time there.”
“Or in the winter,” I agreed, “when you see the sun sparkling on some clean snow, and it looks like it would be a fabulous idea to go for a walk or have a snowball fight. Then you get there and remember that snow is both cold and wet. Even if you go back inside right away — which, sometimes, you have to be out shoveling snow or whatever — it takes forever to get warm and dry again, especially if your socks get stuck inside your boots while you’re taking them off.”
“I like the cold,” he protested, laughing. “You can always put on more clothes to get over being cold, but you can’t get less dressed than naked. And a lot of places even frown on going that far.”
I turned over to face him, propping myself on my elbows. “Though there’s sometimes a limit to the amount of clothes you have with you. And when it’s happening, I hate being cold way more than being hot.”
“I’d like to move north of here someday, I think.”
“Greenland, here you come!” I joked.
He rolled his eyes. “A little extreme, but somewhere that doesn’t get hot-hot and that’s farther away from big cities. Buy a bunch of land, plop a house in the middle of it, not have to deal with so many damn people all the time.”
“Far away from everyone in the cold?” I smiled. “That sounds like lots of snow to shovel, icy socks, and not my idea of a good time.”
He closed his eyes. “You’d get used it it.”
“Who says I’d be there?” I bristled and drew back a little.
He opened one eye. “Let’s not start this again.”
“Start what?” I felt myself slipping. I may have sighed. “I’m just not into it when people make assumptions about what I will or won’t like or where I’m going to be one day.”
“Which is fine, but maybe you could tell me without being a bitch about it.”
For me, there has always been something about name calling. “You know what? I’m pretty sure I have to be anywhere else right now.” I stood up. “We can talk about this later.”
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me back down. My arm grated inside my shoulder socket. “We can talk about this now.”
“That hurt,” I said.
He blinked, confused.
“We can talk about this later.”