It’s one of those nights where I’m in charge of my friend’s phone. We’re waiting for the guy she likes to text her back, and I’ve taken her phone away to keep her from checking it every 15 seconds. Every time it vibrates, she dives behind the nearest piece of furniture. I summarize his messages for her and take dictation when she finally feels well enough to respond. “A big part of having a crush,” she tells me, “is feeling like you’re about to die all the time”.
I wish he would tell me to shut up. We’re sitting close enough to touch, or at least we would be if I could stay still for one fucking second. I’m squirmy and squirrely and nervously chattering about nothing in particular. I’m desperately hoping that he finds my nervous babbling endearing. I’m increasingly worried that he doesn’t. I wish I could read the answer in his expression, but we’re facing the same direction and there is not a force on earth strong enough to make me turn my head to look at him. If I look at him, we might make eye contact. If we make eye contact, I might die. On the upside, if I die, I might finally stop talking.
I wish he would tell me to shut up, though if he did I would probably yell at him for being rude. I wish I could shut up, though I’m worried that if I ever stop talking about inane bullshit we might actually have to talk about something real. If I stop chattering, we might have to talk about how I feel like I’ll die if he doesn’t kiss me, though I also worry I might die if he does. I hope he thinks I’m being cute. I hope he tells me to shut up. I’m worried he might never kiss me. I’m worried he might. I wish someone would say something to fill the silence. Then I remember that there is no silence and I’m still talking.
He and I have this unspoken agreement where he drives me around when I need to escape campus and in exchange I buy him cigarettes. I’m not sure who’s getting the better deal. Gas near school is wildly expensive, but so are cigarettes. One time when I asked him if I could have one, he told me that smoking is a filthy habit and I should never pick it up. “You’re too pretty to smoke,” he says. I’m not sure if it’s sweet or sexist. I decide not to think about it too much.
Sometimes we go to a shitty Chinese restaurant and order plate after plate of scallion pancakes until we feel bloated and oily and sick. We split the bill. Sometimes we sit on the hood of his car in the gym parking lot and marvel at what incredible fucking cliches we are. We talk about how recognizing yourself as a cliche is just a second level of cliche. Sometimes I lie on the couch in his dorm room like the patient in a New Yorker cartoon about a psychiatrist. I complain about my parents and about exaggerated crushes on other guys I don’t actually like that much. Afterwards, I worry that everything I’ve said is a turnoff. I worry he thinks I’m crazy. I’m worried he thinks I don’t like him. I’m worried he knows I do.
When I finally stop talking, I can’t start again. He is worried by my sudden uncharacteristic silence and asks if I’m okay. I don’t tell him that I feel the overwhelming need to hide behind the couch or under a table. I don’t say anything. I don’t move. For once, I stay still.