Be lonely. Be very lonely. Have your heart broken by your ex-ex-boyfriend. Try to convince yourself you are over it, until James (that’s your ex-ex) gets a new haircut that’s shorter on the sides and longer on the top and looks so much better than when the brunette mess was all shaggy and messy. Realize you aren’t over it. Invite your best friend Chris over for some bonding time because you haven’t gotten to see each other outside of your group of friends for a few weeks now. You both try to have these so called “friendship dates” weekly, but midterms got in the way this time so it’s been a while. Let him sit on your multi-colored floral bed in your dorm room as your fold your laundry and vent about how James screwed you over. Tell him all about how you two went on a three-hour hike in The Cascades last weekend. A hike that turned into two hours of deep thoughtful conversation while sitting on a boulder in a clearing. Tell Chris all about the deep philosophical discourse—how you both pondered your existence and your insignificance and how you vented about all the hardships in your privileged lives and how annoying your parents are when it comes to your futures.
Groan in frustration because you can’t find the match for the sock that says “Weirdo.” The other sock says “Love you.” But now since there is only one, your feet will just say “Weirdo” when you wear the one. James got the socks for you in Newport at a funky little shop he said you would have loved when he was home last spring break. You are not a sock enthusiast, but he is. Decide this missing sock is a sort of poetic metaphor for your dwindling relationship with James. Except you are kind of sad you lost the sock because they were really funny but you wouldn’t really be too sad if James got stuck in a college dryer machine—you might laugh if that happened. Imagine him, all 5 feet 11 inches and 150 pounds of him, curled up in a tiny dryer machine, his face smushed up against the glass so he has a pig nose. It would be some weird sort of twisted revenge for what he did. Laugh out loud, but snap back into reality when Chris asks you what you are laughing about, but it is too crazy to explain this joke that entered your head so don’t try.
Tell Chris how all the talking amongst the trees lead to you kissing James and James kissing you back until suddenly you were making out on a big rock in the woods. Promise him it was more romantic and less kinky than it sounds. Tell him about the butterflies you had right before you kissed James and how you did that eyes-lips-eyes thing before finally thinking “Fuck it” and locking lips. Tell Chris about how right it all felt. That is, until James told you it was a “lapse in his judgment” and that it was a “mistake to kiss you.” Tell him how your heart felt like it was being ripped out when you heard that. Except you didn’t feel like a person with a heart because you felt more like an object—like a table or a dish or a back scratcher-something that’s useful when you need it or want it but not given much thought to later. Remember that objects don’t have feelings.
By now, you’ll have finished folding your laundry, except for your underwear but you don’t want to fold that in front of Chris so you throw it on the ground next to your bed for now. He’ll ask why you didn’t bother to fold it. Shrug and sit down next to him, so you’re both squished on your tiny college twin XL with your backs against the headboard. Grab your fuzzy magenta throw blanket and drape it over only you. Let Chris steal some when he claims he’s cold too. Laugh when he brings up how a lot of your friends think you two will end up dating someday. Reminisce about the time you pretended to be in a relationship to spite a girl you didn’t like when she thought you were dating because she saw you hugging. Joke about the chemistry that you both believe isn’t there. Adamantly proclaim and agree that you will never date, because you are just friends and that’s that. Jokingly bring up that one time you kissed at that cast party when you were both drunk on a crazy concoction college kids call jungle juice. Laugh at this until your stomachs hurt and your faces end up so close you could kiss again, but then look away because now he has a girlfriend. Reposition yourself in a more upright position, but don’t protest when he leans his head on your shoulder while you watch The Office. Glance down at his flowy red hair and notice how it just barely brushes the rim of his oversized hipster glasses. Hesitate, then run your fingers through the fiery hairs anyways. He’ll look up at you. Ask him if this is weird. When he says no, this is strictly platonic, look away again.
Ask Chris about Mia. Ask him if he thinks she would care. All he does is shrug and look back at Michael Scott on TV accusing his employee of cheating on his wife. Topical. Imagine if you had a boyfriend again and you knew he was lying in bed with some other girl you only knew from one double date to Shake Shack (James screwed up the reservation for the nicer pizzeria called Volturno). Imagine being so angry that you spontaneously combust and bits of you fly everywhere. Imagine your fictitious boyfriend losing your trust like you lost that stupid sock. Imagine not believing the un-real boyfriend when he tells you all they did was cuddle. You might even wish Mr. Pretend Boyfriend had just slept with the random girl because that probably means less than hours of fingertips brushing arms and feet touching and eyes gazing.
Let the silence settle in again and focus on the show. He’ll get up to go to the bathroom and he’ll leave his phone on your bedside table. Open the drawer to grab a tissue to blow your nose and chuckle at all of the unused birth control and condoms that you no longer need since James is gone. Peek down at Chris’s phone when you see it light up with a text from Mia. His background is a picture of the two of them at the the Busy Bean Café. You went to the Busy Bean Café with Chris a couple weeks ago, just the two of you, and played an open mic together after you ate avocado toast and brussel sprouts drizzled with honey and sprinkled with goat cheese. The barista with the gauges and the septum piercing and shocking blue hair assumed you two were dating when he asked what he could get for the lovely couple. Feel a little guilty when you remember this. Readjust yourself so you’re sitting more upright again.
When Chris comes back, he’ll sit next to you again and somehow his hand ends up on top of your hand which is on top of your thigh which is under the fuzzy blanket. Remind yourself this is strictly platonic. Laugh because Michael Scott just jumped out a window with hopes of landing on a refrigerator in a box, but it was really just an empty refrigerator box, so instead he fell onto the hard concrete. Decide this is also a great metaphor for love in general. You think you know how things will work out but then you’re surprised and suddenly you’re bleeding on concrete as your friends look down from above and say they told you so. Well, maybe in real life you aren’t bleeding on concrete (unless you are) but you are alone and hurt, and your friends always told you so. Laugh at this ridiculous metaphor you’ve just come up with. Ask yourself if you’re crazy or just creative. Settle on both. Laugh so hard you snort and Chris laughs at you for it. Have another laugh attack for five minutes straight until you have a six-pack and you end up face to face again. Stare into his bright blue eyes for what seems like twenty-seven days, until he makes a noise of distress. Ughhhh. Ask him what’s wrong. Nothing. Ask him again. Nothing. And again. He’ll tell you he just really wants to kiss you right now but that that would be bad. Ask yourself who it would be bad for, because maybe you want to kiss him too. Or maybe you just want to kiss anyone but he is someone and he wants to kiss you so why can’t you kiss him? Think of Mia as he stands up from your bed and puts his beat up black Vans on. Realize how she would feel if you’d kissed him as he shrugs his distressed army green jacket on over his oversized flannel and runs his fingers through his flowy red hair a couple times to make it only a little less messy than it was.
Remember your place as Chris hugs you goodbye and tells you you’re a good friend. Pretend not to feel the little baby kiss he places atop your head since he is a whole head taller when you hug. Look at the clock and notice it is already 11:30 PM. Crawl into bed and cuddle with your body pillow. Decide this orange pillow is a less risky cuddle buddy than the ginger boy as you fall asleep and realize you feel like you just enabled a man to cheat, except not really. Sleep fitfully and wake up three times because you dream Chris is still on the bed with you. Realize it is still just a fluffy orange pillow you are sort of spooning with. Tell your conscience to shut the hell up so you can get some rest. Tell yourself you didn’t technically do anything wrong.
Add this cuddling mishap to your list of bad choices you’ve made that you can now write about. Write about it. Show Chris, but change his name and combine him with two other people in your life to make one cohesive “Chris.” When he asks, stubbornly deny that it’s about him even though you’re pretty sure he knows. Show James too and laugh when he thinks it’s weird you pictured him inside a dryer machine. Tell him you thought it was weird when he kissed you for three hours last weekend and then claimed it was a mistake. Throw your head back laughing when both boys accuse you of being crazy and having too many emotions. Maybe you are. Maybe you do. Insist that you aren’t. That you don’t.