We often ran late at the library. We were law students, it’s what we did. I confess I might’ve asked you to explain more than one concept to me that I actually had no problem grasping – I just wanted to prolong our time together. You probably did the same thing; no one’s judging. After we decided to call it a night, we’d stop for a drink or two. We were law students, it’s what we did.
You gave me a ride home more often than not. We were neighbors, it only made sense to carpool. On the ride home (in those moments that seem to last both not long enough and forever), I’d feel your hand’s gravity pulling mine. We never talked about it, despite its inevitable occurrence over the course of several years. Together, we held hands: in the car, under the table at a bar with friends, behind our backs when tail-gating or at a house party. Surely someone must have noticed, but with a single exception that was quickly written off, it was never mentioned. It was just what we did.
There were rumors, sure. Assumptions, assuredly. Sometimes it felt as though we spoke our own language – I could read more in your eyes from one glance than I could learn from anyone else if they talked to me for an hour. We even had a song, but again, it wasn’t anything we ever spoke of. It just happened that this song came on and we locked eyes and both of us said “Why can’t I?” We never answered that question.
But there was that song, and its inherent propensity to start make-out sessions. We always had that, and the mid-afternoon nap that resulted from one such occurrence, the afternoon after a morning exam was celebrated with two too many pitchers. The soft comfort of my face embedded in your armpit when all we did was sleep. When your lips on my forehead were my alarm clock and for a brief moment it all felt natural and normal – something I was already used to even though it had never happened before.
And there was your hand on the small of my back, possessory but not, a friendly cock-block to dudes who might try to hit on me while we were shooting pool with friends at our regular bar. We never talked about that, either, but the conspiratorial winks we exchanged told me we were on the same page. Until we weren’t.
I can’t say I didn’t feel slighted when you acquired someone you called your “boyfriend,” a man to whom you acquiesced in public, for whom you readily discarded pieces of your identity like dirty clothes to become someone who’d make him happy – someone you weren’t. You’d complain about him to me, later, and I feigned shock when you told me some of the things he insisted of you on his behalf. All the same, I liked him. I respected him and wouldn’t disregard his presence, for the fleeting moment he was in your life. You pretended to be happy in anyone else’s presence, while your eyes told me a different story. We never really talked about it, though.
You kept coming back to me, though. We had private looks, and lived in our own private moments where we told each other things we never actually said. It’s what we did. When he drifted for whatever reason, we remained in this purgatory – more than friends, but less than lovers, if only by happenstance as the result of the intercession and interruption of others. Purgatory got tiring and we both moved on, and that was probably for the best. But we had an opportunity at something good, something golden, and we disregarded it. We were young, it’s what we did.
© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller