shepard fairey








gustav dore

our boys

death and burial


Thursday, April 1, 2010


6. The Real Thing.

Jen went away to boarding school the summer after I met her. It was tough watching her go. I had spent virtually every minute with her that spring and summer, and I had grown accustomed to her companionship. She wrote me often though, and came home or to Quarry Hill on weekends if she could. Occasionally, I would take a bus to Albany to visit her and check out hardcore shows.

The scene in Albany was very rugged with a lot of fights at the shows and a lot of scene conflict. That’s how it felt to me, at least, being an outsider. Somehow it seemed to reflect the character of the city itself, bleak and ripe with despair. We managed to have fun though, and I made some friends there who are still friends today.

At home in Vermont I counted the days until Jen’s return. I thought of nothing but her on a daily basis. I lived only for the coming summer and the day she would come home. She was back for maybe a week before she dumped me. Within two weeks after that she had a new boyfriend. I was devastated.

I was good at being broken-hearted back then. I would sit on the street sulking for hours, just hoping she might walk by so that I could give her a hurt stare. Sometimes I would see her at a party or a show and I could do nothing but sit alone and stare at her, sulking, feeling sorry for myself. If she spoke to me I would usually say something poetically pathetic or ridiculously dramatic, and storm off in mock disgust. I tried everything to make her feel as bad as me. I wanted to know that she hurt too and that our relationship had meant something to her, at least. I wanted her to feel how barren I felt inside. Usually she seemed not to notice and I just looked foolish.

I saw less and less of Jen as the weeks went by. She slowly faded away, but her ghost remained, nagging at my soul and stabbing at my heart. I was lovesick for the first time and it was high-quality pain. Somehow I was unable to muster any anger with her though, which is unfortunate. It’s easier to be angry than it is to be hurt.

At this point I was staying at my friend Simon’s place, on College Street, in downtown Burlington. It was one room with a small kitchen and bathroom attached, and a single window that looked out onto a back porch. It was generally hot inside and in a state of disarray. Normally I would crash at Jeffrey’s house when I was in Burlington but he was too crazy to even deal with at this time. He was determined to drink himself to death and I had given up trying to stop him.

Despite the conditions of Simon’s place, it was not all bad. He was pretty good company and always had this killer hash that his friend brought down from Canada. He was also a good listener and had some good advice from time to time, although I was usually to stubborn to take it. He had a pretty high tolerance for my lovesick complaining and we would bounce stories off of each other all night long, paying little attention to what the other was actually saying. So it caught me off guard when he appeared to have some sort of revelation about my situation.

“You know what you need?” he said, with a thoughtful look. “Another girl, that’s all you need and you’ll be fine.

“Fuck you,” was my only response.

I knew that there was no way he could ever understand what I was feeling and his naivety insulted me. In fact, he understood all too well what I was going through, maybe better than I did.

“I saw this new punk chick today,” he continued, oblivious to my anger. “She was so fucking hot, and just your style.”

I didn’t care what he was saying. I knew it was all lies. I knew from my seventeen years of wisdom that I would never love again, and that no girl could ever compare to Jen. I just wanted to wallow in my own misery and experience every second of the pain in my heart. At least I could still feel.

“Shut the hell up,” I groaned at last. “You’re hurting my head.”

The next day was savagely hot. I awoke crumpled up on Simon’s couch, wrapped cocoon-style in a thin sweat-covered sheet. The breeze coming in the open window did little to cut the heat. We quickly got showered and headed out to Church Street to meet Dana. I was covered in sweat again before we had reached the bottom of the stairs.

The sun beat down unmercifully as we made our way up the street, squinting into its glare. It was nearly intolerable after the gloom of Simon’s dungeon. I felt like a vampire or some other creature of the night, caught out of its lair at the break of day, and now forced to brave the burning, stabbing rays of the sun. I was relieved to find Dana waiting for us sucking a blue slushy out of a long curly straw.

Dana was the youngest of Junior’s eight brothers and had therefore been raised on punk rock since day one. I could see his bright red Mohawk gleaming from a block away. It stood up ten inches above his skull and showed no sign of withering in the heat. He wore acid-washed jeans, braces, and fourteen hole Doc Martens in blatant defiance of the summer sun. His long face broke into a grin as he spotted us.

“What’s up boys?” he called. “Ready to make some noise?”

Simon and I had been working on a band with Dana and his roommate, Shan, who was a fairly decent guitar player. Dana was the drummer and Simon screamed his guts out like an angry drunken pirate. His deep growl sounded unnatural coming from his scrawny form.

I was terrible on the bass. I couldn’t even tune the thing. I had another hardcore band with Nick but I was the singer and this was my first time attempting to play an instrument. We jammed out in their attic almost every day despite the sweltering heat. Our sound was a terrible and chaotic noise, but fun is fun until someone gets hurt. We called it the Champions.

We played our four, two minute songs again and again until I couldn’t feel my fingertips and Simon’s voice had decayed into a horrible raspy croak. The sun had retreated into the west, leaving a tolerable warmth to the night as we headed back to town, feeling mentally and physically drained and yet content.

Church Street was not so hectic now that darkness had fallen. The shoppers had all gone home and the shops had all closed. Soon the night crowd would be out in force trooping downtown to hit the bars, but for now it was quiet, the hour of the changing of the guard. We sat on “punk rock”, Dana, Simon and I, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, just talking and watching the people mill quietly up and down the street. Maddog showed up before long to join us in our somber meditation.

I used to enjoy the little things a lot more in those days. I guess it was because I was a kid and everything still felt new and exciting to me. Even when I felt broken-hearted, at least I felt alive. I was battered, bloodied, and beaten, but alive to savor that experience and consciously seeking strength in that hurt. My thoughts were clouded by the hatred, happily married to the misery, and yet secretly my heart clung to some shard of hope, keeping it hidden in the back of my consciousness, lest it be stomped to pieces by the despair.

“Hey, check it out,” said Simon at last, breaking the comfortable silence. “It’s that girl I told you about, and she’s showing some leg this time.”

Down the block a slender young woman stood near a phone booth, apparently waiting for her shorter, stouter friend who was making a call. She glanced our way briefly and for a second I feared she could hear us talking about her, even from all the way down the block. It was difficult to make out her features from the distance, but it was clear that she did have attractive legs.

“What’s so great about her?” I snorted derisively, still clinging desperately to the despair.

“You’ll see. And then you’ll learn not to argue with me.”

Her features became clearer as we slowly approached. Desperately, I searched for some flaw in her beauty, hoping with each step to prove Simon wrong. Her friend completed her call and they moved to a bench behind the phone booth, out of my view. I still had not gotten a good look at her but I was now fairly intrigued, although I would not have admitted it. Our plan was simply to walk by and check them out, but as we rounded the phone booth, somehow we ended up standing around their bench staring at them. She really was a sight to behold. I could no longer deny her beauty. It struck me hard, like a blow to the face, and I stood gaping unable to speak.

She wore a black mini-skirt that revealed a good portion of her tanned thighs, and an army green v-neck shirt that clung to her ample breasts and slender waist. A red bandana covered her short-cropped auburn hair. Her eyes were mesmerizing, gleaming blue and filled with warmth, and her lips were full and red. A silver dog-tag hung between her breasts reflecting the sun’s rays.

“Hi,” she said, looking me in the eyes and smiling.

Only then did I realize I was standing directly in front of her, staring and not saying a single thing. Luckily, Maddog began to speak to her friend and it snapped me out of my daze. She was listening too but her eyes were still fixed on me.

“Nice shoes.” She smiled.

At first I thought she was fucking with me or something but then I noticed her shoes. They were three hole, ox-blood, Doc Marten shoes just like mine. I quickly regained my composure.

“I like yours too,” I replied, sitting down beside her.

I felt encouraged by her warm smile and the sweet sound of her mouse-like voice. My hopelessness empowered me, after all, I had nothing to lose. I experienced a sudden surge of coolness, and before long I was acting foolishly suave and flirting shamelessly.

“Let me scope your tags,” I said snatching the shining piece from her chest and bringing it closer to my face. Her soft flesh brushed against me as she leaned towards me to give me a closer look. Her fragrance made me want to bite into her like a piece of exotic fruit. I longed to just sink my face gently into her white neck and run my hands all over her body. I dropped the tag back to her chest as I realized my hand was shaking.

“I’m Elizabeth.” Her eyes burned into mine.

“I know…..It says so on your tag.”

Our friends had all gone and nearly three hours had passed and still we sat and talked, Elizabeth and I, utterly absorbed in each other it seemed. Our conversations flowed naturally and continuously, and I became unaware of anything but her. I was surprised when she told me that she was only sixteen. I was only seventeen but somehow she seemed so much cooler and so much more down to earth then other girls that I had known, and it made her seem more mature. At any rate, I was completely in awe of her. If there was any doubt it disintegrated when she told me that her favorite band was The Clash. My heart was set, I had to have her.

When we finally parted it was reluctantly and I had promised to call her the next night. I felt like I was glowing on my way back to Simon’s place. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was and how into me she seemed to be. I felt recharged by her brilliance. My friends laughed at me and busted my balls about it but I could tell that they were relieved that I had someone to snap me out of my depression. It was cool because no matter how much shit we gave each other and no matter how much we enjoyed torturing each other, at that moment I could see that they really cared about me. That, or they were just dreadfully sick of my whining.

I awoke before eight AM the next morning, anticipating the fated call. I could not stop thinking about Elizabeth and I was way too excited to sleep. I over-analyzed the situation from every angle until I had whipped up a cloud of doubt in the back of my head. What would I say to her? What if the connection we had made was only in my head? What if I had only imagined the fire that I had seen behind her eyes? She probably had a hundred guys a day asking her out. What made me different?

It was mid-afternoon before I finally got the guts to call her. There was no answer. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. Ridiculous doubts began to nag at my heart. I started to wonder if she had caller ID and was avoiding my calls. Perhaps I had come on too strong and frightened her off. Maybe she even had a boyfriend. Finally on the third call she answered.

Upon hearing her voice all of my fears of that moment were put to rest. Once again her warmth and sweet musical voice put me at ease, and I felt like I could tell her anything, regardless of the fact that I had only known her for one day. I felt foolish for having doubted our connection. She told me that she would like to see me but that her parents would not let her go out that night. The uncertainty nagged at me again and my heart began to sink. My insecurities strove for domination of that part of me that is confident, strong and fearless, and the conflict left me speechless, at least momentarily. I quickly regained my confidence.

“Sneak out the window,” I joked. But that was exactly what she did.

Elizabeth’s parents owned a small piece of land in Colchester on Lake Champlain. They had recently separated and her dad now lived in a small cottage no more than a stone’s throw from where Elizabeth and her mother lived. Across the street was a long stretch of beach. They owned a small portion of it, she explained. Summer cabins, all with decks and docks, lined its expanse. Elizabeth instructed me to wait for her on that stretch of beach. Conveniently, Maddog had hit it off with Elizabeth’s friend, Nicole. I arranged for him to deliver us to Colchester. Elizabeth promised to deliver herself and Nicole.

The cabins were all dark as we pulled off the twisted, battered main road and into a small parking area that was little more then a dirt turnoff. The moon was nearly full and was casting gray shadows that leapt and flailed in a primal dance with the thrashing windblown trees. The breeze was wild and warm coming off of the lake, bringing with it a feeling of excitement, yet also a hint of the sorrow that comes with the changing of the seasons, especially from summer to autumn.

A female voice rose in laughter as I stepped onto the sandy beach. Momentarily, it was drowned by the roar of the wind. A branch snapped and I turned just in time to be tackled by Elizabeth and Nicole who struggled fiercely to knock me to the ground.

“Boo!” they screamed with little conviction, and drifted into a fit of giggling that trailed off into silence.

“Um..Hi!” said Elizabeth, sounding shy despite the fierce attack of only a moment before.

“Hi!” I replied unwillingly grinning, and looking her from head to toe with a greedy eye.

We walked up the sandy beach for some time, the four of us, talking and joking, and just gazing at the stars. Elizabeth removed her shoes and walked barefoot through the sand, stepping and hopping lightly to avoid patches of washed-up seaweed and piles of broken timber. She moved slowly but with the grace of a cat, swaying along in the wind and the moon. I reached out to wrap my arm around her as we walked, but she squirmed free and sprinted ahead of us, tramping through the now open sand. I longed to chase her down and capture her in my arms.

But then she had halted, and without warning, unleashed a shrill cry of terror, and came tearing back down the beach at us. I braced myself for whatever horror pursued her, ready to jump between her and an enraged grizzly bear, without a moment’s hesitation, if need called.

“I stepped on a slimy dead fish,” she screamed, kicking up sand as she ran halfway into my arms only to quickly break free.

“Kill it!” she shrieked, seizing a long stick from the ground and thrusting it into my arms.

“I thought you said it was already dead.” I was trying my best not to laugh.

“Ah, quick,” she snarled. Before I could locate my enemy, she had reclaimed her weapon and ran up the beach, impaling a dark, unmoving shape and pushing it off into the lake along with her spear.

Maddog, Nicole, and I could only watch in wonder, struggling not to be overcome by laughter. All of us were thoroughly amazed by her ferocity, even Nicole who was most familiar with her antics. Now, as she turned back to us, smiling with a look of innocence, I could see her embarrassment, red even in the hollow moonlight.

“I hate those things,” she said quietly and we continued to walk.

We came to a weather-worn stone wall, and rested on its cool bricks for a time. It cradled a blackened scar that could have once been a beach cottage, long ago swallowed by the earth or washed out to sea by the rising tide. We sat and talked in the darkness, laughing without care, and ignorant of any worry or hurt. In silence, we simply reveled in the perfect summer night.

At last, Nicole and the Dog resigned themselves to walking up the beach in advance of us, as scout for our imminent adventures. The moon, too, abandoned its vigil and retreated to the clouds, leaving us alone at last, with only the stars as our witness. Before long her hand was in my hand and our lips met, kissing gently, silently, and passionately.

Elizabeth murmured something unintelligible and yet sweet to my ears as she bit my neck softly, sending a shudder down my spine and into my feet. Her moist lips brushed over me gently and her breath was hot on my skin. I could feel her heart beating through her chest as she pressed against me, and her hands shook as they caressed. The scent of her perfume made my head spin, as I kissed her again just to keep myself from gnawing on her shoulder.

Too soon Maddog returned arm and arm with Nicole, emerging from the darkness to spoil our moment. Still the connection had been made. Now there was no denying that she felt that same spark that had ignited a raging fire in my soul. I wanted to fan that spark into a flame and drown it in gasoline until it burnt the whole town into a blackened cinder.

We sat together in the back seat of Maddog’s car as we were chauffeured back into Burlington, arms locked firmly around each other, eyes shining in the darkness. We barged into Simon’s dungeon to find nearly a dozen kids drinking and joking, and sucking down hash knives out of a long plastic tube. They shouted rowdy greetings as we entered, and thrust their wares into our faces, demanding that we join their debauchery. I introduced Elizabeth to the room, then sucked down the best hash hit of my life and sank into the couch.

The dungeon was unbearable with that many people packed into it, and so we were forced to move out onto the back deck. It overlooked two dark alleys that met in the form of an L. Two other buildings with back decks were adjacent. One was short, its peak being level with our deck and directly across from it. Old looking wooden stairs that also served as a fire escape for the entire building, led up and down to the decks of the above and below apartments. I wondered briefly how their occupants felt about our evening’s revelry.

Elizabeth had me utterly charmed. I felt as though I could listen to her voice all night long and only crave more of that sweet sound. She seemed at once very social and outgoing in her conversations, warm and excited, not at all shy or reserved. Her wit shined, rivaling her dazzling smile, and she seemed to dominate everyone’s attention. She definitely had mine.

Now I wanted her more than ever, and again doubt raised its ugly head. I wondered if I could truly make her mine, or if the connection I felt meant less to her than it did to me. After all we had only kissed a few times, and it had been hours since I had even touched her hand. Her conversation had not been centered on me at all for the last hour or so, and she seemed engaged by the rants of one guy in particular who was clearly engaged by her appearance. I still remembered the taste of her lips and the feel of her body pressed against me, the beating of her heart. I wanted to steal her away and gather her in my arms again. I wanted to scream to the world that she was mine.

Still, I didn’t think she wanted me touching her in front of so many people that she didn’t even know. We had only known each other for one day and I was pretty sure that she didn’t want me acting like she was my trophy or something. I could only watch and admire her work.

She moved quickly to squash my doubt. Had she heard my thoughts, or was it written on my face? Regardless, she moved to me, still in conversation with her admirer, and leaned her back against my chest, her hand grasping mine firmly. My arm encircled her waist and we locked together like two pieces of a puzzle. It was hard to believe how perfect it felt. Still, something gnawed at the back of my mind telling me that it was all too good to be true.

“Freeze!” a loud voice called out, stunning us all momentarily.

On the deck of one of the adjacent buildings stood a man, cloaked in shadows, and brandishing what appeared to be gun, waving it in our direction.

“Freeze, Police!” he yelled again. “Stay right where you are.”

The darkness kept him well disguised but he didn’t seem like a cop to me. But we did as ordered and sat in place drinking our beers, until his backup arrived. There were three of them and they came up our building by way of the back steps. They had guns drawn but quickly brought them to bear on our captor, when they spotted him. They shouted orders and moved to apprehend him as we watched, still sipping on our beverages. He protested loudly, cursing as they threw him to the ground and cuff-locked his hands behind his back.

It turned out he had not been a cop at all but only an over zealous security guard from the neighboring building. Somehow he had mistaken us for burglars or vagrants or something, I’m not quite sure how, and had called the police before going vigilante on us. We explained our situation to the real cops, and “rent-a-cop” did his best to explain his. He had a rough time of it and also got a sound verbal thrashing from us on his way out. We heard later that he ended up jobless, with charges of impersonating an officer against him.

Though it was amusing and mildly exciting, that incident kind of broke up the party, and the girls decided that they needed to get home. Elizabeth was quiet on the ride back to her house. In fact, she said almost nothing to me, but still her hand grasped mine with her tightest grip. It was hard to watch her go as we dropped her and Nicole off in her driveway. She kissed me goodnight and disappeared into the darkness as we drove away.

We talked excitedly on our way home, Maddog and I, unleashing all the thoughts that we couldn’t in their presence. It seemed like Maddog and Nicole had actually become a couple now, and he was quite pleased about it. It was slightly amusing because she weighed more then him and was larger than him. She was not abnormally large either; it was just that he was abnormally small. Whatever, I was happy for him. I wished the same was true of Elizabeth and I.

I had been hoping to see her again the next night but when I asked she informed me that she would be busy. She didn’t specify what she would be busy with, and I managed to control the urge to ask, not wanting to seem like I was nosing into her business after only 48 hours in her life.

Again my mind roamed in circles of doubt, running through a multitude of possible reasons why she could not see me the next day. The most horrifying of course, was the one where she would be busy with another guy, perhaps a boyfriend. Yeah, speculation is a bitch.

I only needed to know if I could see her again, and yet she refused to, or was unable to, offer me that contentment, choosing instead to leave me desperately, though secretly, yearning for more. The next day passed without word from Elizabeth and her face lingered in my dreams as I slept that night.

The next morning I awoke to a liquid trickling sound like that of water splashing steadily onto a tile floor. Perhaps the sink was overflowing, I thought with dismay. Perhaps a pipe had frozen and burst and we would soon be wading through six inches of freezing water. I remembered then that it was summer and unlikely that anything would be frozen beyond the barren, empty, wasteland of Simon’s refrigerator. I wiped the grog from my eyes and dragged myself to a sitting position to peer into the kitchen. At first it was hard for my sleep-clouded brain to process the strange sight in front of me.

On the floor in front of the apartment door was an ever-widening pool of yellow liquid. It spilled from what appeared to be a penis poking through the mail slot.
“Arg…Bastard,” growled Simon leaping from his bed to confront the defiler.

We charged for the door and flung it open just in time to see “rent-a-cop” disappear around the corner, heading for the stairs. We pursued him in nothing but our boxer shorts, shouting insults and demanding that he return with a mop. I seized a large bag of bottles and trash that was sitting in the hallway and hurled it down the stairs as he fled.

“Yes, guy! Nice shot!” Simon screamed as it struck the defiler in the back, breaking all over him and sending him sprawling out the door and onto his knees on the sidewalk.

We were then overcome by fit of laughter that nearly brought us down to our knees, mulling over what had just happened. Only then did we notice that all of the apartments on Simon’s floor had emptied into the hall to witness the action.
“Oh. Hello,” Simon called politely to Mr. Davis, an older man who lived next store, and who now stood eying us suspiciously. His two 10-ish daughters peered carefully from behind his back. “How are you?”

“You have stupid underwear,” the smaller girl challenged from behind her old man’s guard.

“Settle down, kid.” Simon barked back in a deep, bellowing voice. “Don’t make me come over there.”

“I don’t want you to come over here,” she snapped back.

“You got that right, missy.” And with that we retreated to the apartment while Mr. Davis’ sense of humor still held and before the little hellion could retaliate.

The day had started out pretty bad but I had the feeling it would get worse. I badly wanted to call Elizabeth, but again the uncertainty was twisting a hole in my gut and withering away my confidence. More so, because I had not spoken to her in more then a day, and because she had not told me to call her or anything. I really didn’t have any idea where I stood with her. Finally I gave in and called her, and my worst fears were realized. She informed me that she was hanging out with her friend Erik that day and could not see me and that she would be really busy all week long. I presented her with many openings in which to offer an alternative plan but she avoided them with casual skill, and I didn’t press the issue.

Dread began to set in as she dropped me further into the ground with every sentence. Erik was obviously a male friend, perhaps her boyfriend. Perhaps he just wanted to be. I had only known Elizabeth for a few days but still the jealousy welled up inside me, turning my thoughts and words as purple as my heart. I pretended not to care and told her to call me sometime if she ever wanted to hang out. I felt utterly defeated and I hoped she could tell that I was bruised.

A couple of tortured days passed where I thought of her nonstop, twisting myself into a dismal mess with thoughts of her lips, and her eyes, and of her breasts. I realized with a shock that she had obliterated every thought of Jen, whom I had dated for over a year, in only a matter of days. I longed to hear her voice again but I was too proud to call her. Sometimes I would focus all my thought on the phone, thinking that I could somehow make her call me by force of will alone. She never did.

One day I ran into Nicole downtown and she seemed surprised that I had not been hanging out with Elizabeth. She assured me that Elizabeth was indeed interested in me and encouraged me to call her as soon as possible. When I finally did it was a brutal disappointment.

She told me that she had a guy at her school who she “sort of” had a thing with. She claimed that he was not her boyfriend but that they hung out a lot, and liked each other a lot, and had known each other for awhile. I imagined that I could hear regret in her voice as she explained that she could not see me anymore because of what was happening between the two of them. Again my heart was crushed under her heel. My fragile hopes shattered against the wall she had raised between us. All along it had seemed too good to be true. Now I could see that it was.

I was hurt and deeply disappointed then, but more than that, I was simply angry. Not so much angry with Elizabeth, but mad at the world, and angry with the way things were. I was literally fuming over the way I had lost her. In a way though, it felt righteous to give in to the anger, rather than fall victim to the hurt. I didn’t give a shit about anything anymore and the hopelessness empowered me in some ways, although it made me reckless as well.

The next few days were littered with drinking, shit-talking, a lot of near fights, and some generally unruly, occasionally criminal behavior. I gave up trying to reason with the rednecks and jocks on the street, and I gave up reasoning with my friends who wanted to murder them. I didn’t give a damn about right or wrong anymore and, with that care abandoned, there was no end to the trouble you could find. I tried everything to get Elizabeth out of my head, but all to no avail. She had infected me with her poison and I was lovesick again, this time for a girl I barely knew.

One week had passed since I had last spoken to her and I was out on the street, carousing with Dana, Simon and a few others, looking to stir up some kind of trouble. We walked downtown as a unit, not quite sure of our destination, but discontent with what was laid out before us.

We turned down College Street towards Simon’s building, thinking to maybe make a pit stop for hot knives but the idea lost all appeal as I spotted Elizabeth walking towards us. I could tell it was her from way down the block and my heart began to pound in my head. I feared it might leap from my chest and run away at any second, if only to avoid the beating it was surely about to receive. She was with another guy, chatting happily as they walked towards us. The jealousy tumbled inside me again, threatening to consume me, and uninvited visions trampled into my head, visions of The Grudge and of his Shining Knuckles, and of broken teeth on the sidewalk.

“Settle down, guy,” Simon pleaded, although I had said nothing.

Her lips curled into a smile and her face lit up as Elizabeth saw us coming towards her, but it only deepened the frown which was already wearing a track into my face.

“Hey,” she called, smiling at me. Her friend was smiling too, with large rows of big, white, perfectly unscathed teeth.

“Hi,” I replied in a dry tone, with a brief glance, and continued past her without looking back.

The hurt of my brutish dismissal was evident in her dazzling, blue eyes as I passed. A dark cloud had come over them, and somehow they had lost their brilliant shine, if only for a moment. With one brutish word, spoken in anger, I had stolen a piece of her innocence, and bruised her fearless spirit. I regretted it immediately. I wanted to turn around and tell her that I was sorry and that I hadn’t meant to hurt her, that I loved her, and wanted to be with her, something…..anything. Instead I kept walking.

Simon hung back and talked to her for a minute as I stalked off. I couldn’t hear what was said, but the distress was evident on her face as I glanced back once, unable to resist one final look. I was glad. I hoped it meant that I at least did mean something to her and that the bond we shared was not wholly in my head. At this point I had forgotten every other girl I had ever known and I needed her to feel for me in some way or I would go mad.

Apparently, she didn’t. She turned from Simon and walked off down the street, before I could think of how to stop her, fading away, perhaps forever. I wondered if I would ever see her again or if she would disappear as Jen had, and become another “what if?” kicking around in the hollows of my mind, forever nagging at my soul.

The next few hours were torture. I followed my friends blindly not caring where they went. I had finally abandoned that last shard of hope and given myself over to the despair. I knew that eventually I would forget her and continue on with my lonely existence, but I didn’t want to forget her. I wanted to know everything there was to know of her and to find out who she really was at the core of her being. I needed to see her again, even if I could not have her.

Again we were on College Street. Heading back to Simon’s now, we passed the same place where I had seen Elizabeth earlier. The moment replayed, uncomfortably, in my head. I could see her smiling face as she approached. And then the hurt in her eyes as they scanned over me, searching for the warmth she had previously found in mine, only to find cold and defensive orbs avoiding her wanting gaze. I wished that I could do it over again. I wished that I could take it back and make it right. I wished that she would be there as she had been, walking up the lonely, deserted street, talking and smiling, free from the burden of the pain that I had passed to her. And then she was.

At first I thought it was my imagination. A mirage, like the hallucinations of a man lost in the desert and dying of thirst, who sees a plush oasis dripping with moisture just ahead, where there is only sand and dust. I rubbed my eyes to dispel the illusion, but still she remained, walking slowly towards me, alone this time. The hurt in her heart was still apparent on her elfish face. She ignored my friends this time and walked straight up to me.

“Hi,” she said quietly, looking more at the ground than at me. “Can I talk to you?”

“Of course.” I motioned for the others to go on without me. “What’s up, Elizabeth?” I imagined that I sounded neutral.

She didn’t answer immediately but paused for a second as if searching for the proper words. “I miss you.” Her eyes still focused on the ground beneath her feet, as if it were some great puzzle to be organized.

“I miss you too,” I said, lifting her chin until her eyes met mine. They were moist and shiny, as if tears might spill from their brim.

“I’m sorry,” she said, with undoubtable sincerity.

“Why?” I knew why.

“Because I hurt you.”

“I was asking for it,” I replied, finally committing to a brief, half smile.
Elizabeth was hard to stay mad at. She was so real and so beautiful inside and out, that it made me want to melt. To see her hurting this way was almost too much to bear. But my heart hardened at the memory of the jealousy that I had felt upon seeing her with another man. I remembered the emptiness that I had felt in the pit of my stomach, and the teeth, and again my thoughts turned to murder.

“So where is your friend?”

“He went home.” Again she looked down.

“Is he your boyfriend?” I asked at last, dreading to hear the answer.

“No.” A smile flicked across her face momentarily as if she found some amusement in that thought.

“Where is your boyfriend?” It had sounded ruder than I had intended.

“I told him I couldn’t see him anymore.” She sounded sure.


She looked up at me then and a tear rolled down her cheek. “Because, I can’t stop thinking about you.”

I was frowning still but inside I wanted to jump and scream.

“I was confused before.” She started to cry. Her slender body trembled as I pulled her close, wrapping her in my arms. She smelled sweet and her skin was cool, my neck damp from her tears.

“I can’t stop thinking about you either.” It felt good to drop my guard at last.

“It’s been driving me crazy these past few days.”

“I know.” She was smiling through her tears now. “It’s terrible. I miss you so much.”

“So what are we gonna do about it?” I asked, smiling back at her.

She didn’t reply. Instead she lunged into my arms again kissing me passionately and repeatedly. I held her tight to my chest and was lost to the smell of her hair, and the softness of her skin, and the taste of her lips. All of a sudden, things didn’t seem so bad anymore.

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