Art School

It’s hard to ignore that there’s garbage, surrounding me, enveloping me, as I walk deeper into her apartment. She tells me that it’s clean, the garbage, but it’s been cold this week, and with the heat on high, all of her clean garbage has been cooking all day. I can’t quite identify the odor that is everywhere, but it kinda reminds me of her, the faint odor in her hair. A kind of illusive aroma, which is oddly pleasant when properly diluted, but at full concentration I can feel it on my skin; all of my pores are engaged in battle. I want to go home and shower so badly. I can see the clean warm water, in my mind, washing a layer of slime from my body like a Miyazaki swamp demon.

This is the first time I’ve been to her place, and I want it to be the last, except, I know this is the where she calls home, where she feels most comfortable. I hate myself for thinking, maybe I should stop taking out my trash and she’ll come to my place more often. I hate myself for thinking, if we stay here, maybe I can finally get her to…

She offers me some tea, some weird herbal blend I’ve never heard of. I tell her no thanks, but she pushes; I acquiesce, not that I’ll drink it. I hope I’m not even here long enough for the water to boil, but she takes off her shoes and puts on the TV. Some religious show comes on, and I make a note to keep an eye on that. She asks me questions as she flips channels. I know she’s hoping that I’ll ask her the same questions in return, so she can open up some dark corner of her mind to me. I know I’m supposed to interpret this as spontaneous intimacy, but it just seems so calculated, so safe.

I try to delve deeper instead of redirecting her formulaic questions, but she squirms and tells me she needs to check on the tea. With her gone, my attention returns to the stacks of boxes topped with dirty dishes, and the pile of laundry in the corner. There’s no visible underwear so I assume that she hidden them inside the pile. I wonder if that’s her idea of cleaning up for me, or if maybe she didn’t have dirty underwear(?)

She returns with the tea in two distinctly different glasses. I ask for the smaller of the two and plan to dump a small amount of my tea into her glass when she’s not looking. Looking around, there are dozens of places I could dump some unwanted liquid, but it seems, somehow, disrespectful.

She avoids steering the conversation back in the previous, safe deep zone, and I assume that the verbal intimacy portion of the evening has passed. I try to direct the topic towards sex, but she keeps going on about some TV show she’s into. I listen politely, but I have no idea what she’s talking about. When neither of us can think of anything else to say, we lay down. Her pillow is comfortable and smells like her perfume, to my pleasant surprise. She pushes into me in a non sexual, gay friend sort of way. I start kissing her neck but she’s unresponsive. Her eyes are shut and her breathing has slowed: I know that she’ll be asleep soon. I can’t decide if I should stay ’till she falls asleep, or leave immediately. I dim the lights, help her out of her clothes, and pull the blanket over her. I put on my shoes and look for my coat. After a minute of dark, quiet, scanning, I give up and head for the door.

“I can see ghosts,” I hear as I undue the lock.

With my hand on the knob I pause, wondering what etiquette dictated at the moment. Is she dreaming, can I pretend I didn’t hear her, I wonder. Out of curiosity, not propriety, I say, “Oh?”

“Yeah, all the time,” she says, without moving. I try to remember if I ever said such a thing when I was her age.

“Well that’s, yeah(?)” I say/ask, still trying to figure how awake she is.

“They’re so sad.”

“…yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“…I uh, yeah, I heard that somewhere. Something about unresolved issues.”

“…” Her bangs fall on her face, the same few strands of amber that she brushes behind her ears a few dozen times a day.

The bangs were unchallenged. “Well uh, I’m gonna go…”

“…”

I think of adding, we can talk about this more tomorrow, if you want, but I don’t say it.

She rolls over, gracefully, and the blanket slides a little out of place, exposing half of her Violin D’Ingress tattoo. I smile and let myself out.

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