They were a beautiful disaster. The number of times they broke apart; only to fall back together was countless. It was like a fickle rainstorm that couldn’t make up it’s mind whether it wanted to fight with the sun that day. More often than not the rain came. But it would only last for days. And then the sun would be back out, shining like nothing had happened. And everyone could go back to living. I was one of those. I lived for their drama. I lived to see their relationship die. And be reborn. And die again. It was a vicious cycle. A vicious, beautiful, heartbreaking cycle.
But then one day, they broke. And they stayed that way. Broken. Jagged. Apart. For good. For weeks after, they were all anyone could talk about. Only in hushed whispers and silent gestures. Rumors spread. She cheated. He cheated. It was a Romeo and Juliet situation and they were forbidden from seeing each other. That was the most popular theory. How tragic. How exquisitely tragic.
In those weeks no one bothered to ask either of them what really happened. They were just a bedtime story. It was almost as if they didn’t really exist. And pretty soon people stopped talking. At least about them. They moved on to the latest break ups and make ups. After a while I forgot too. And they may as well have been a tall tale.
Until she materialized next to me.
She only said one word. It was quiet. So quiet I almost missed it.
Her voice was so shattered. So broken. What else could I do.
How could I help. She told me she didn’t know what to do. She loved him. Or did she? She didn’t know anymore. When she found him in bed with her sister everything changed. And as soon as she said that, everything changed for me too. She was no longer a mystery; their love wasn’t an enigma. They were just two teenagers trying to find love in this crazy world. The spell was broken.
Her name was Emma. His name; Clarence. For so long they had hid their romance from prying parents and siblings. But finally they let the secret out. It was a truly beautiful story. Until Emma had gone away to some far away paradise after an especially bitter fight. And the night she had a change of heart and came home early to say she was sorry was the night she found her Clarence wrapped in another girl’s arms. To be more specific, her sister Julie. Emma was furious. She immediately called it quits. And after that, the level headed, clear thinking Emma took a golf club to his precious Audi. It was one of her finest moments.
She tells me all this in between sobs and shudders. It’s agitating. I hate Clarence and I don’t even know him. She tells me he was once the very best lover. That’s the word she uses, but somehow it doesn’t seem too intimate a word. Just sad. She tells me she just needs a friend. All I can wonder is why she chose me. Don’t you remember? she asks. Remember what? I for the life of me can’t figure out what she’s talking about. When we talked last. At the party, silly. You don’t remember? I don’t. And then I do. Years ago. It must have been middle school. Before Emma became a word always followed by and Clarence. When we were
Friends. We used to be friends. She used to be the new girl. The new, quiet, extremely shy girl. Who attached herself to me. And for years we were inseparable. Until she found someone else to be attached to. I never resented her for it. I understood. I’m an extremely understanding person. At the party. When he asked her to dance. And she looked at me first, questioningly. And I nodded. Knowing my prince charming would be right behind hers. Except he wasn’t. But I was never bitter about it. Maybe a little miffed. Hurt. But never bitter. It just wasn’t my time.
And ever since the dance, they became joined at the hip. And I faded into the background. So much so I eventually forgot about her. Until their love became the literal talk of the town. And then I became invested in their every break and their inevitable make up. But I forgot why I was so invested. I forgot why I cared. Because I was just like everyone else. I didn’t have drama of my own, so why not follow all of theirs. There was no personal connection for me. Until there was.
And just like that we are friends again. She becomes very much a non-mystery. We talk, we laugh, we jok, we cry. Clarence becomes the C-word. It’s a silent agreement that his name can never come up. I don’t ask, she doesn’t tell. And that’s fine. There has been more than one occasion on which her face would crumple and her spirit would be crushed. Just for a few minutes. But much like her on-again-off-again romance, it always passes. And she is once again the happy Emma I remember from middle school.
Eventually it becomes a year since the C-word had broken her heart. Since then there had been other boys. One or two had even shown interest in me. Although I suspect it was to get to Emma. None of them had made it to the final round. She tried to break them gently. It always hurt her to watch them be hurt. I told her it’s not her fault. She shouldn’t feel guilty about feelings she doesn’t have.
By now the C-word has moved on to his newest conquest. Since Emma he has been quite the whore. Whenever she walks by him in the halls, he yells at her; calls her names. The best insult he’s come up with is virgin. Which doesn’t even make sense. The first time he called her that, I expected her to crumple on the spot. But she did nothing. There was no response. Not even a flinch. At that exact moment I wanted to take that golf club she used to smash his car and bash in his head with it. It’s not like there’s a brain to worry about in there. Yes, he’s beautiful. But only physically. A beautiful mind he is not.
If only that were the end of the story. Unfortunately, there’s more. Emma has changed. It’s been a month since I told her not to feel guilty and she has taken that very much to heart. It was a one hundred and eighty degree affair. She’s begun to change so much I hardly recognize her. I think the right adjective is slutty. It’s fishnet stockings and short skirts and lots of black. And broken hearts. Even though she knows how it feels, it seems she doesn’t care.
Now we’ve graduated. Clarence’s insult of virgin has been greatly disproved. Many, many times. Honestly, I’m struggling to remain friends. I once would have described her as tortured. Now it's more like torturer. It’s hard to watch. So I don’t.
One day, while I’m waiting for Emma to come out of the bathroom with whoever she took in there, Clarence appears by my side. It’s bad, isn’t it. Extremely. He wants to talk to her. She won’t listen I mumble. If she doesn’t listen to me she certainly won’t pay attention to Clarence. I look up at him. His eyes say don’t.
Here’s something no one knows. Especially Emma. Clarence and I… fell together.
One afternoon, after he finished yelling a string of swear words at her and his voice was hoarse, I followed him home. And I told him he can’t do that. How could he even stand to hurt her more than he already had. He was a terrible person. A little piece of s*** who didn’t deserve her or anyone else’s love. I only stop to take a breath. He interrupts with: Neither does she. It stopped me cold. What could he possibly mean. You know every fight we ever had? The public ones at school? When you’d see her come out of the bathroom later, her mascara streaming down her face? It was always about him. The first fight we ever had was because of her. She fooled around with someone. I loved her enough to let it go. Again and again. Suddenly he was crying. I didn’t know what to do. I LOVED HER! I loved her. She didn’t know how to deal with it. I was too good to her. Too good for her. So I stopped being good. And I feel terrible. But I loved her. And she started it. And then he grabbed me and kissed me. And I let him. And that was another silent agreement I had. That we wouldn’t tell Emma.
Now his hand is on my shoulder. I’m willing Emma to come out. It’s been long enough. Long enough keeping this secret; long enough that she’s been whoring around. Not to be mean but that's the accurate way to describe what she’s been doing. Well, semi-accurate. They don’t pay her. He leans over me. I feel his breath in my ear. We’ll tell her when she comes out. His hand is on my back now. I haven’t felt this needed- this wanted- this safe, since forever. She’s coming out. I hear her before I see her. She’s laughing. His hand on my shoulder stops her cold. Now the only thing I hear is the boy racing out from behind her, sobbing. After that all I hear is my own heartbeat. I’ve crossed a line. But it’s not fair. I’ve been there for her through everything. She never told me she started it. It’s not my fault we kissed and just kept kissing. I’ve been understanding this whole time. And now it’s too much for her? I’m furious. All she’s done is looked, her mouth hanging open. But that’s enough. Rage fills me. Silent, furious rage. Deep deep purple rage. I imagine myself foaming at the mouth. I imagine running to her and strangling that stupid look off her very face. How dare she not understand after everything I’ve done for her? After everything I’ve told her to get her through? After all the lies she’s let me believe?
All I hear is that damn heartbeat. My own damn heartbeat. And the blood rushing. Clarence is pulling me off… Emma. And now I hear her screams. Her sobs. I see her eyes; her terrified, broken, sad, tear filled yet empty eyes. And I go limp. The purple goes away, the heartbeat stops, the blood isn’t rushing. Clarence hugs me. Tight. Emma doesn’t move. I can’t do anything. I’m stuck. Like I’ve become a painting; stuck forever in this position. I’m not mad anymore, but I’m not sad, or sorry. Because she started it. And I almost ended it. But she started it.
The bruises on her chest don’t go away for weeks. The cuts on my knuckles stay there for what seems like forever. The shock of what I did has long since worn off. Now I cry off and on for no reason. You never know with me. Now I’m the broken one. The one who was understanding. But I no longer understand.
Clarence and I are nothing like Emma and Clarence. We never break. It’s a very steady love. It’s real love. I haven’t seen Emma really, since… the incident. Last I heard she’s planning to move far far away. Maybe to that far away paradise she once went to to get away from Clarence. Now it’s to get away from me. And herself.
They were once a beautiful disaster. But disasters never last.
Our love though? Our love will never end.