The Way It Should Be
You think you may be in love with her, but you’re not sure. What you’re sure of is that it doesn’t matter, because no matter how often you try not to stare at her, no matter how many times you remind yourself of her situation—of your situation—of his situation, you know that nothing can change.
Yeah, you know you shouldn’t go around as much, but he invites you, and how can you say no?
You don’t have class or work and you stopped painting months ago. You get food from bins outside of bakeries and tell people that you’re a freegan when really you’re just poor, though you guess it could be worse. At least she seems to think it’s cool and she asks you if you’ve ever found anything of value and you tell her that one time you found someone’s old family photos, but it’s not true, and he knows it’s not true, but he seems to think it’s funny, he seems to think you’re playing some sort of joke on her. It’s good, he shouldn’t know that you’re trying to impress her, that all you ever do is try to impress her.
You go to their flat and you eat their food and you smoke their weed and you listen to him talk about his new song and you listen to her talk about what she’s reading and they smile at each other and by the time you have to leave, because they’re starting to yawn and she says she’s going to go to bed, you feel a bit sick and you’re not sure if you can find your way home even though you only live about three streets away and you’ve walked that path hundreds, thousands of times.
You step in the shower when you get home. It’s grimy and it needs to be cleaned and your parents would be so disappointed to know how much money you are wasting and you’re not even able to clean your own goddamn bathroom like the functioning adult you’re supposed to be. You get out your cleaning supplies but then you go on Tinder and swipe right, swipe right, swipe right without even looking at the pictures, because anyone would be better than no one, even if they’re psychos, even if they’re fat, at least they’re warm and they’re something and you’re not thinking about her when you’re inside of them, well, you are, but not right before, which you suppose is what matters.
You go back to their flat and take their cups of tea with milk and sugar and would you like some biscuits as well? And you say yes but only because you want to watch her get off the settee and walk away into the kitchen, your eyes glued to her ass until you hear him coming back from work or out of the toilet or wherever it is that he was just a second ago.
And then you watch her sit down next to him, wearing this long, thin, sheer tunic that drapes over her leggings and you can see the outline of her bra and you’re trying your very best to stare at him, to look at his hands on the fretboard of the bass, his ring blinding you.
You walk home again, your feet dragging along the pavement, sticking to what’s left of the snow. Every time you visit, the path seems to get windier, like the gap between your house and her — their — house is getting wider and wider, and when you get home you’re faced with an empty bed and your hands are reaching into your trousers before you even close the door.
You go back to their flat when he asks you if you want to jam, except you don’t have your own instrument, so he lets you borrow this shitty guitar that he keeps in the cupboard under the stairs and he has to tune it first and she asks you if you can help her with something, and you say yes even though you’re not sure what she’s asking, because she’s mumbling, because she’s always mumbling and you wish she would just speak up, but you can’t say anything so you just follow her to the kitchen, trying to listen to what she’s saying but finding yourself unable to, and only grabbing what she wants when she points up at it. You look at her and see the way her top clings to her skin, the way it exposes her collarbone, a little black cross hanging between her breasts. She asks if you’re okay when you forget to hand her what she’s asking for and you laugh and say yeah there’s just a lot going on and she asks you if you want to talk about it but you say it’s nothing she can help with and then you go home and get on Tinder and try not to contemplate all the choices you’ve made that led you here.
You try to clean your flat but your hands hurt and your nails get dirty and you can’t help but wonder why your flatmate never cleans up, why he never seems to be around, and the whole thing just doesn’t seem fair so you put the cleaning supplies down next to the sink and hope that he will see them whenever he gets home, if he ever gets home.
You go back to their flat and your phone dies so you ask to borrow her laptop for a minute to look something up and they both happen to leave the room at the same time and you try to stop yourself but you wonder what she’s into and you look at her history and it’s some weird, kinky shit, that you never thought you liked but you were wrong, because you’re rubbed raw the next day and you’re fairly sure that you’re starting to get muscles on your forearms.
You go back to their flat and they hold hands and you wonder what she looks like with his dick in her mouth and then you’re picturing the curvature of his dick, which is weird, so you stop that and try to focus on whatever they’re saying but it seems so mundane and unimportant and you don’t understand why he’s always talking about things he wants when she’s right there, right next to him. And you feel like you’re going to choke so you excuse yourself to go smoke a cigarette even though they don’t care that you smoke inside.
He invites you again but you say no, you say you’re busy, but he knows you’re lying so he asks if you’re okay and you say you’re okay you’re just having girl trouble and he asks if it’s anyone he knows and you want to tell him it’s his wife but instead you say no and you just need some time to sort yourself out and you’ll call him back when you’re ready. So they go over to your house and bring you food and weed and wine and they don’t talk about how dirty it is. You sit around and listen to jazz and try to stop your eyes from watering whenever he reaches out and squeezes her shoulder so you suppose you must be in love with her but it’s okay because nothing can, nothing should, change.
You go back to their flat but you don’t really talk because you don’t want to give yourself away and they exchange looks and you feel bad that she feels sorry for you but at least she feels something and you can’t even strum a tune and he asks you if you sorted out your issues with the girl and you shrug and ask him if he has any coffee because you’re so tired and then you go home and cry for the first time you can remember in years but it doesn’t make you feel any better.
He doesn’t invite you over as much anymore but it’s okay, you tell yourself, as you wave at them from the street and smile at her when she asks you how you’re doing and reply to her messages asking when they’ll see you again — we, she always uses we, she never says I miss you, she never says I am worried about you, it’s always we miss you, we are worried about you — and you tell her you just need some time to sort your head out and you suppose that’s okay since it’s not like you’ve done anything wrong.
©L. M. Langley