You always thought that the main problem in most heterosexual relationships – you can’t judge for gay – is that men and women have this absolutely different way their brains are wired. Say, a bloke fancies you. He’s still the same person. They have this small part of them that is barmy about you, but then again he can shove it down and just go and do his work, like signing contracts, testing medical equipment, and eating sushi off a naked stomach of a gorgeous geisha. Hypothetical example, of course. While men sort of go about their day, turn it on and off, we are having relationships with them even when they aren’t present. As if we are having this silent conversation with them, and they are not even bloody here. You had a lot going on with John in these four days.
Right now you’re having a dialogue with Phil, twenty minutes into Perkins’ lecture. You’re the only one who isn’t paying attention in the auditorium. Also, it’s probably the first time you are not pissing from fear in his class.
“Miss Leary, you seem rather distracted today.” His screechy voice makes everyone in the room jerk. “Is it your fame of a new star of biochem making your head so swollen after becoming Dr. Yamazaki’s new protege? Or is it the fact that you think you are under the protection of the almighty Dr John Crispin Thorington these days, after the chummy weekend in the Rivendell?”
Congrats, Wren, did your actually forget what a bloody small community it is?
You lift your eyes and realize the whole audience is staring at you. You look at Perkins, his lips contorted in a venomous smirk. OK, you are obviously not passing this class.
A quite unexpected blow, but in the context of the last few days sort of not that painful.
“Both I suppose, sir.” The room gasps, and you slowly get up. He wanted to see the new star of biochem – Thorington’s doxy status aside – he will get the new fucking star of biochem! Your eyes are narrowed, and the head is held high. “I apologise for my lack of attention. Perhaps, I should just leave and go to the library. Some self-education is probably due, since the manuscripts from the sixteenth century in aisle two there seem to be more up to date than this lecture.” You pick up your stuff and walk by him. You might be an itchy nothing, but you’re fucking on fire! “Have a good day… sir.”
The fire is put out as soon as you slam the door behind you. You walk through the halls, eyes glossy, and heart throbbing in your throat. You just insulted a professor. not just a professor, Perkins out of all people, and what are you going to do now?
You go up the stairs and sit on a bench of the Japanese roof garden. You are staring at the elegant board ‘Donated by Dr John Crispin Thorington’ on a plaque on the nearest lamp post. Let’s face it, Wren, you had better days.
Three hours pass, and you’re still sitting at the same spot. Maybe, if you don’t leave this place, the world outside will disappear. You desperately want a fag, yet another forgotten habit, but it feels wrong to smoke in a pristine Japanese garden.
Someone sits near you, and you screw your eyes. Phil’s blue eyes are warm, gleaming with smile.
“Thought I’d find you here, love.”
You two used to come here together. In those two weeks, you seemed to form so many mutual habits. Maybe, because there were years of knowing each other to base it all on.
You feel tears running down your cheeks. You suddenly remember how easy it was with him. When you were not wrecked with doubts about John, and those were very short moments of pain, the rest was like one big fifth birthday party. Laughter, warmth, happiness… The first time in bed – easy, light, comfortable – first morning, first breakfast, every night together, every morning in his arms, his endless flirty texts, his calls, his lips on your cheek before classes…
He pulls you into his side and wraps his arm around your shoulders.
“C’mon, love, nothing to cry about. You should be elated. You just did what people have been dreaming of for the last fifteen years.” You sniff. “Wren Leary, the mighty hero, sticking it up to Perkins.” You choke out a shaky laugh. He gives you a lopsided grin.
“C’mon, Wren, I’ll treat you to your favourite tacos.”
You nod, get up, and grab your handbag. And only then remember that you are not together anymore. You are not his girlfriend. He should not be treating you to your favourite tacos, or holding your hand like he is right now, or rubbing your knuckles with his thumb. You jerk your hand out of his grip.
“Phil…” He turns around and hikes up his eyebrows. “I can’t, I shouldn’t… If you want to talk, can we just talk here?” You’re mumbling and probably look like a stubborn child.
“I just want to have lunch.” He lifts his hands in a mock defense.
“No, you don’t. We haven’t talked for seven months. We are not friends to have a chummy lunch together. What is it that you want, Phil?”
Good, your sanity seems to coming back.
For a second there you lost it. He enveloped you in his strength and warmth, and you started dissolving, but that is what started it last time, and you learnt your lesson. How come you never realized before how this warm presence of his is like a quicksand? As far away as John seems right now, and as lonely and miserable as you are, you are not going to make the same mistake twice. It’s just been four days. You’re still together – whatever it is you are together in. You can’ t have lunch with Phil now. Anybody else but Phil.
You sit back on the bench and press your lips sternly. He hesitates for a second, but then flops near you.
“Wren, you are right, we are not friends, but… I want to fix it. Blimey, Wren, it all got so arsed up, and I acted like dimshit, but I want to fix it.”
He grabs your hands, and you want to pull them back. He presses his fingers harder, and suddenly you remember how he tricked you into talking. That morning in bed, when you had nowhere to hide and nowhere to run… Exposed, vulnerable, broken. You jerk you hands back and frown.
“I don’t think we can be friends again, Phil… We hurt each other and it can’t be ‘fixed.'” You emphasize his choice of words. “We cocked it up, and…”
“Wren, I’m not talking about being friends again. I mean getting back together. We can be open with each other this time around…”
What the fuck?!
“Are you fucking mental?”
“Wren, I get it, you had a thing for my uncle, but now that it’s over, I want to try…” You jump at your feet and stare at him.
“What about your uncle?” Phil leans back on the bench.
“Listen, Wren, I get it. You had feelings for him, but I bet they are gone after the Rivendell. He is known for efficiently chucking a girl so she never comes back. You got it out of your system, great. And we can start slow, I mean, we were great friends…” Your mind is racing so much that it’s actually painful.
“Does everyone know about the Rivendell?”
“That you shagged him there? Of course. Do I care, though? No. Wren, I get it, I had these shagfests myself, and those older professor-y types… But what we have is different, we can make it work…”
You’re still staring at him. He seems to go on talking, but you really don’t hear anything anymore. Fuck, you will agonize about the rumours later, but what the fuck is going on in Phil’s head?! He is fine with it, is that what he just said?! ‘We have something special’?! And then it clicks.
“Did your mom suggest you talk to me?” He looks at you as if in confusion, but you’ve known him for too long. You can see he is lying.
“What does my mom have to do with it, Wren? Do you even hear what I’m saying?”
“I hear you, Phil, and I’m telling you, you really need help. You know, in the noggin department! Are you actually OK with dating a girl who just fucked your uncle for like two days in a row?”
“I am not a monk myself, Wren. Didn’t know you were the type who cares about this kind of thing, but OK…” He shrugs. “And it’s not about sex…”
Fuck! You grab handfuls of your hair and look at him in disbelief. And then you hear John’s voice in your head. ‘My sister is a fucking copy of our mother.’
“Wren…” He stretches his hand to you, a powerful intrusive gesture that he is so fond of. “We were happy together. We can do it.” Each sentence is separate, the tone is just right to convince and force a listener to hear and to believe. Except you’re so fucking tired and might actually be learning something these days. “All cards on the table, clean slate. Exclusive and honest this time.”
You’re considering telling him you are in love with John, yelling it into his face, shaking him out of the twisted sick mess he is in, but then you think it’s just not going to work. He is who he is. And today is just one of those days when you have no patience for the sick and twisted.
“No, Phil, it’s not going to happen. Just no.”
You think he’s still talking, but you just leave.