I see you staring at me from across the room, leaning against the fireplace with a drink in your hand and your lips stretched thinly, as if you can’t decide whether to smile at me or frown. We are separated by a few yards and crowds of people, laughter and loud voices half-drowned by music that pulses against sweaty bodies. Boom, boom, boom. Why do the same three songs play at every party I attend?
Do I walk towards you and say hi? Is it worth it for me to bother? Should I be polite or realistic? Before I have time to make up my mind, you head my way, elbowing a path towards me. Someone you knocked into glares at you; you don’t apologize.
“Hi,” you say, flatly, right in front of me all of a sudden.
“How are you this night?”
You slur, but even under normal circumstances, you talk with a strange syntax that makes me think you spend too much time making music and not enough time talking to other people. That’s why I used to like you, I guess. My friends always comment that I have a taste for pretentious guys.
Pause. “Why are you talking to me?” I ask.
You shrug. You take a sip from your drink and wipe your mouth with the back of your hand. “What do you mean?”
“You, like, refuse to talk to me.”
Maybe it’s just the night.
It’s been two years, to the day, since we broke up. At this very same party — thrown once a year by the very same club — in this very same house. You have said a handful of words to me since then — looking away whenever we pass each other in the street or walking out of the room when we find ourselves in the same place or at the same gathering. I have tried to be nice. I have tried. I have felt guilty and upset and frustrated — how can you be so close to someone at one point in your life and completely shut them out at another? How can you tell someone everything in one moment and refuse to say anything to them at all in the next? I have felt sorry for hurting you.
At any rate, I am honest. Or I am trying to be honest. Or I am trying to test you — to see how far I can push you, to see what you have to say to me. I cross my arms and stare at you, willing myself to look defiant.
“Do you hate me or something?” I sound childish. I don’t care. It’s been too long for you to have any feelings towards me — positive or negative. I wonder where my friends are, if they’re around and watching us have this conversation, and if so, what they’ll have to say about it.
“You act like it whenever you see me.”
Again, you shrug. You put your hand on my shoulder, and I flinch — taking a step backwards. Your fingers are warm and clammy and kind of sticky. “I ignore you because I’m trying to diminish your self-worth,” you say, coolly and calmly — as if you’re telling me where I can go to fill up my cup or what the weather is like outside.
“What?” You are the only person in the world who could think to say something so unabashedly frank like that. Mostly because you don’t care, partially because you are trying to hurt me. I can’t blame you for trying to hurt me.
You remove your hand and smile — widely, a real “shit-eating grin,” as my friend Larissa says. Larissa says you’re great at those, but that you were never really good at being nice to me. She was the second person I called when I broke up with you and the first person that told me that I had the right idea.
Smile growing wider, you say, “Don’t worry, I still think you’re hot, though.”
And with that, you walk away. We probably won’t talk again for a long time.