If you’re anything like me, you know nothing about relationshipes beyond the spelling. You wouldn’t know romance if it got on one knee and proposed in front of friends and family after a candle-lit dinner. Your two cents on the matter is, appropriately, “Relationships are expensive, man, save your money”. The only thing you believe should be cradled affectionately in your arms at night is a laptop as you binge-watch House of Cards.
It happens that one evening, you find yourself in a classroom, sans “le bae”, of course, engaged in conversation with one of your schoolmates. Classes are up for the day, and you’re practically by yourselves. You don’t know how much time has passed, you don’t even know what you’ve been talking about. All you remember is that she started by asking why you’re always so quiet. Now you’re talking about school, she says she enjoys what she does and she seems to have everything figured out. Meanwhile, you had to put your dreams on hold for a while because somebody saw it fit to send you to law school despite the fact that you are the very antithesis of everything law. Your contributions to the legal process consist of spray-painting the words “snitches get stitches” on the walls of police stations and courthouses. The only way you see yourself in court is if you’re standing trial or yelling “Free my innocent peoples!” at the judge even though your “peoples” are one traffic offense away from being guiltier than Osama Bin Laden circa 2001. You make an excuse to leave before she sees any more of how disordered your life is. She makes you promise to see each other again. Probably just a formality. Maybe she’s just as bad at good-byes as you are.
The next time you meet, you’re inside the same near-empty classroom in the evening. She seems more relaxed. She’s making remarks concerning the length of your hair as she repeatedly pokes you with a pen. This time, you don’t make an excuse to leave because she asks you to walk her out. Before she leaves the building, she says she’d like to see you in a place where you’re not distracted by Wi-Fi and you agree, because you think nothing of the request. Must be another formality.
Another evening finds the two of you out watching a movie together. Despite her protests, you attended the earlier screenings because you still have a curfew in effect. You would rebel, but you’re neither dramatic enough to run away nor buff enough to take your father in a fight. You find the movie entertaining and your reactions are lively. Too lively. You find you’ve shot your arm towards her, and someone without all the facts (such as her and every other person who isn’t you) might think you gently caressed her cheek. Your arm retracts faster than an army that just found out their opponents have machine gun-totting dragons fighting for them. You grip and squeeze the arm-rest, imagining how she’ll call you out afterwards.
“What is wrong with you? Why couldn’t you just ‘accidentally’ throw your arm around me like a normal person? I wouldn’t appreciate it, but at least I’d know how to react”, she’d say with a red face and a frothing mouth.
But your image of steam coming out of her ears is interrupted by her slight chuckle.
Is she laughing at what’s on screen? But nobody’s said anything funny. It’s just a Lamborghini and a Jeep. Those aren’t funny.
She places her hand on top of yours and begins drumming her fingers. Now you’re flustered.
Why do summer blockbusters have to be so long?
A few nights later, you’re in a nightclub. Her idea, your venue. You’re seated at a table talking underneath a blue light. The speakers are playing a song about a “stop sign inna di road” whose message you ponder over for a while.
They clearly take road safety very seriously in Jamaica, you think.
There’s screens all over broadcasting some sports match. You pay no attention to them because you don’t understand excitement that stems from watching grown men chase other grown men and balls in a field of grass like a group of homosexual kittens. There’s not much in the way of distractions here. Maybe she planned it so you’d listen to her talking. You sip your drink slowly because you’re self-conscious – the short bartender, the one you don’t like, is watching you. Maybe he recognizes you and is wondering why you’re not in a rowdy crowd as usual.
You’re deliberately avoiding people you know on this night, which is why you picked this place; they usually come here for special occasions and you’re not currently celebrating any birthdays/ acquittals. Tonight, you don’t feel like answering any questions asking if you “hit that”, because your answer won’t be “Did I hit that? I hit that, quit that, changed my number on that, passport, flew out the country, new identity, Witness Protection Program on that”, and they’ll disown you for anything less.
Maybe they’d let it go if we were dating, you think.
But that would never happen. She’d never go for you. Her refined speech and polished demeanor would never find a place in your unapologetic world. Besides, you’ve seen some of the other people she’s friends with. None of them is anything like you. Birds of a feather, no?
You dispel your wishful thoughts and focus on what’s real. Like the good time she seems to be having right then. Your gaze moves downwards from her face to what is either genetic braggadocio or the most effective push-up bra ever fashioned. Such blatant objectification, you dog, you. She catches you staring and lets out a slight chortle before she asks you to dance with her.
Days later, an afternoon finds you accompanying her to the maaall to meet her giiirlfriends. After they’re finished squealing at each other (women), she introduces you.
“This is the one I’ve been telling you about”, she says.
“The boyfriend? Finally, we get to meet him”, one of them says.
“He’s tall”, chimes another.
“He is”, she says, as she wraps her arms around you.
You put away your phone and want to let out a baffled “Boyfriend? Is there a memo I missed?”, but you don’t.
“I’m not tall”, you say, as you drape your arm around her shoulders.