Cheater

February 14, 2010
By , Houston, TX
I sit in your car, this rusty, dented, red-chipped-paint thing that I love. You put so much work into this big truck, washing it, replacing its broken parts, shining it, but will just never be the same as the gleaming new Camaros and Maseratis that litter our school parking lot, the parking lot where we sit right now. I love your car more than any of the other ones though. Probably because it belongs to you.
Curling up against the soft leather bench seat that smells like your cologne, I try to peer into your eyes, but they are masked by your mop of thick brown hair. I don’t really understand you the way I used to. You became an enigma, a puzzle to me four months ago.
Four months ago, we were best friends, and always had been since we were little. Four months ago you joined the football team and got popular. Four months ago you started hanging out with Britney, the head cheerleader, and four months ago you started dating her. Any of that would have been fine, but four months ago I started to feel something more for you than friendship. And the worst part was, four months ago, I thought you felt something more too.
But we have stayed best friends since all of that, although you have a little less time for me since you stated going through the motions of being a boyfriend and football superstar. I can tell that you and Britney are both just props to each other. You don’t care about her, and she certainly doesn’t care about you, judging by the many times I have seen her hanging on to other guys after school. But I guess you stay together for the social status. For the popularity.
You found me out here this afternoon taking pictures for the school paper. I was supposed to be getting shots of the variety of cars teens drive to this prison of a place. Taking pictures of bland cookie-cutter showings of extravagance bored me quickly, so I gravitated toward your truck, catching the way the light hit the wide fender, trying to capture its old-school charm.
Then you walked up after football practice and asked me what I was doing with your truck and I said just taking some pictures for the paper and you asked to see them and I tried to turn the camera on but my fingers were numb from the fall chill so I dropped it and you picked it up for me and felt my hands and told me that I needed to sit down inside your truck and warm up.
So I did.
So here we sit, and I don’t know what to do with myself. This just seems too intimate, too wrong; now that I know everything I want and can’t have. But another part of me knows that this is where I belong, here, with you.
You flip through your CD collection as we sit in comfortable silence, and I slide closer to show you the shots after you finally choose one that plays the piano music you know I love. You murmur appreciatively at one picture in particular, my favorite, where the trees near the field frame this glorious rust-red vehicle, their fiery leaves complementing its color. The newspaper will be in black-and-white so it won’t matter, but I don’t tell you. I don’t want to ruin this moment.
I’m closer to you now than I have been in four months. You talk to me about meaningless things, and I give equally meaningless answers, as Debussy swells in the background. I stare absentmindedly on the mid-afternoon scene of the parking lot, not a student in sight. In the blank space between the first and second songs on the disk, I feel your arm tentatively wrap around my shoulder.
The half a second it takes the music to start up again feels like the longest I have ever lived. My heart beats wildly out of control and my mind spins in a thousand directions, but looking up into your face, the face of my best friend who is suddenly much more makes it all fall into place. I lose all my thoughts as I give you a tiny smile and lean against your chest, and you place both arms around me, holding me close, warm.
I stay there; perfectly fitting in your arms, for the time it takes Clare de Lune to play all the way through. I couldn’t think of anything more right than this, and the steady beat of your heart tells me you agree.
But as the song fades away, something like a switch flips in my head, and I remember who we are. What we are doing here. The lives we live. The past four months flash back in my mind and my head spins with the sickening guilt and grief and confusion of a liar and a fraud. Britney. Oh, Britney.
I lean my head against your body for one last conscience-stricken heartbeat, and then I slowly look up into your face. Your arms, tight around me, tell me to stay, where I’m meant to be, and see where we will go. But I can see your eyes now, no longer obscured by your hair. And they mirror the conflict present in mine.
I stay transfixed, frozen in the moment, staring into your face. One move of a muscle either way will not be able to be reversed. I ache to melt into you, let you kiss me like I know you will. But I am a smart girl, a strong girl, and with a deep breath, I lean away.
You untangle your arms and the decision is made. We don’t speak as I gather my camera and open the door, and the unspoken words between us weigh like lead on my heart. I face the bitter cold with a deep breath, step slowly out of the truck I love so much and the boy inside, and shut its heavy door, piano music muted in the background. Maybe someday we can be together. But that someday is not today. The tears for things lost come as I focus on the fiery trees in the distance, resolutely refusing to turn around.
I am not that girl. Britney may kiss other boys on Thursday afternoons in their cars in the parking lot and go back to play the part of your girlfriend the next morning, but that is not me. I am not a cheater.





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