You, Me, and Charlotte

I can’t help myself from staring at the half empty Sprite bottle in your hand. It seems odd that I drank out of it and then you did and I held it and now you are too. The kiss that should have been, but isn’t, handhold that could have been, but never will be. It’s all there, in that stupid bottle you turn up and down and up and down, watching the bubbles rise and fall, swishing against the cap, and I wonder how the simple methodical twist of your absentminded wrist can be so beautiful. Everything about you makes me wonder, actually. You are an enigma. I pride myself on being able to read people. I can tell when Charlotte is mad at me – she squints her eyes up and smiles a bit too much, its easy to catch – but I can never tell anything with you. Heck, we’re sitting alone in a darkened gym and I’m not sure if I should be feeling the easy camaraderie of friendship or that awkward, anticipatory giddiness of something more. I can usually figure out what role to play in these kinds of situations. But your face remains smooth, your body calm, and your voice even. It’s frustrating that I don’t know if I need to hide my feelings for you.

I guess I’m just worried, really. I run my fingers through my loosely curled hair but I wish I could run them through yours. I’ve made you a living sculpture in my mind. Beautiful, yes, but unchangeable. And I know that will only lead to disappointment, because everybody changes and nobody stays the same. People change us and words change us and life changes us and we can’t get attached to the way things are because they won’t be that way forever. Maybe that’s what heartbreak is, really. Refusal to accept change. What would you do if I put my head on your shoulder? Would that change anything for you? Would it have to?

I continue with our mindless conversation as I shift against the hard bleachers. We talk about nothing, yet we talk about everything. That’s the way it always is. You would think the soft semidarkness surrounding us would create at least some feeling of anonymity, enough at least to be different people for the time it would take to fill the negative space between our hands, or our lips. Guess not. Maybe I’m asking too much of you. People shouldn’t have to worry about befriending others lest they fall madly in love with them. Maybe you’re clueless. Maybe your doesn’t understand. Or maybe, all of those glances held for a second too long and the fact that our knees have been touching for the past three minutes and Monday morning when you confessed that you went to a party over the weekend and did things that scared me just by their description does mean something. I think what happened scared you too, that night. We walk a thin line here and you crossed into that terrible darkness for a heartbeat and it could have been your last. I can’t really control what you do; all I can manage is to pray that it doesn’t get too out of hand. Maybe that’s why we are sitting here tonight, instead of rushing out to meet Charlotte in some rich kids house like planned.
Charlotte is what I should really be worrying about. Your twin. My best friend. When I look at you I still see her, and at first I though it would be disturbing but I’ve come to terms with the fact that you both have the same dark eyes and wavy blonde hair but your laugh is louder and you are taller and you don’t like pickles. Maybe that’s how I know I love you, because I know what to order you at Whataburger – a number one with cheese, no pickles, and a Dr. Pepper. You bought the Sprite today because you knew it was my favorite. Is that what love is? An order from a menu screen? A button on a Coke machine? Somehow I want it to be more meaningful than that. And Charlotte hates Whataburger. I know this because she is my best friend. And I also know that she wouldn’t say anything if the next time we saw her, your arm was around my shoulder and I was wearing your jacket. It would bother her, I’m sure, but I am her best friend and she would put my happiness above her own. You know that too, and I know you would never do anything to hurt her. Truthfully, you would do anything not to hurt her. I know she’s out partying right now, and I know we were supposed to meet her about twenty minutes ago, but I just don’t think either of us is up for putting on the mask tonight. It’s become almost a grimace, jokerish and ghoul-like when seen through the pulse of flashing strobe lights. So when your basketball practice ended and I finished tutoring we sat in the gym instead of heading out to the car. We shared from the plastic bottle in your hand and I’m in the tight black party dress I changed into for a night of dancing and refusing drinks. I guess you’re the only person who can get away with giving me one. I think back over all the memories we’ve shared these last four years of high school and how we don’t have that much time left before us until the day when we meet again in caps and gowns. And it makes me sad, but in the resigned way because I cannot change the hand that has been dealt to me and I can’t turn back the clock but even if I could, what could I do to make this easier?

Finally I notice we haven’t been speaking. I turn to you and you let out a deep sigh and I see the look in your eyes and I think I finally get a second’s glimpse of what you’re thinking for the first time. And we’re on the same page.

I knock my high heel against your red converse sneaker. You knock back and I can taste your slight smile in the air around me. And suddenly all the inspirational speakers and motivational talks and quotes telling the supposed meaning of life begin ringing in my ears and they are punctuated by the short phrase, “Carpe diem!” over and over again and I realize its your voice saying it in my mind although I cannot for the life of me remember when you’ve ever spoken those words but it seems right. And it builds and builds until it seems physically impossible for me not to touch you. I’m reaching forward with out meaning, my wrist curved and outstretched but I’m not looking where my hand is going and suddenly it meets yours. You pull it towards you and my fingers don’t feel like part of my body until they close around the hard plastic neck of the Sprite bottle that you are placing in my palm.

My smile falters. The moment is over. You stand up. I do too. We head out to the party, where we will arrive and leave as just friends, like always. Charlotte will never know –neither of us will ever tell her. And if not for the bottle in my hand, I would swear it didn’t even happen.





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