I wrote this back in 2005 or 2006. I stole characters from a series of novels I had written before, ones I couldn’t quite let go of and wrote many little side pieces. This is one of those side pieces I just stumbled upon on Monday. Also, it’s in the POV of a guy, and I probably suck at that. So you should know in advance.
It was a reunion of the four of us, all clean of our outside lives and huddled up in my Los Angeles apartment wandering from room to room drinking beer from cheap plastic cups like it was some big high school party. We were listening to loud music, the kind that doesn’t get radio play but sounds better anyway, and dancing at each other more buzzed than anything.
Marianna sat with her SLR camera perched on her lap like she was awaiting a photographic moment at any time. But in reality she was slowly falling asleep, her eyelids curtaining her irises until they touched and she opened them again quickly as if she were in class. Her cup of beer sat on the coffee table in front of her, but I was pretty sure it was entirely full of the same fermented liquid that was originally poured into it.
Tanner sat across the room, his head close to the speakers as he mouthed along to every single word. He was the DJ of the night drinking Dr. Pepper out of his “beer” cup. Three months and he was completely substance free. I walked up to him and sat on the arm of the recliner, singing along and stealing a sip of his soda. “Hey,” he finally said, his clear green eyes staring at me.
“Hey,” I responded. His eyes were just like his twin sister’s, my girlfriend, the girl on the couch – it was all the same. “Where’s Kyrah?” I should have said something else, and been the kind of friend who made conversation and asked if he wanted anything to eat.
“Are you two okay?” Kyrah, my best friend, his girlfriend, and the missing girl all the same, seemed spacey all night. She lost count of the beers she drank after eight when she started to dance longer and sing louder her purple hair swinging in the dim lighting. I hadn’t seen her in the better part of an hour.
“Yeah. I think we’re all lonely tonight.”
I didn’t think so at first, while we were all together laughing at each other and sharing cups but since the voices died down, the music got louder. We were separated in my apartment, four best friends just barely acknowledging each other while the beats played on just like we were mingling in a party full of people.
I glanced from him to his sister whose eyes had finally completely closed and stayed like that. There would be no more photographs tonight. I could feel the condensation around my fingers where I held my half filled cup, and the way my toes felt against the carpet. “We are,” I agreed quietly.
I stood up and walked over to my girlfriend, tempted to throw a blanket over her shoulders and leave her to sleep. I was too lonely, I decided, so I sat beside her, craving her skin against mine. I slipped the camera from her hands, careful to untangle her fingers from the strap, and held it to my eye. The lenses tinted all that was in my view in such a way that she, though sleeping, looked more alive. I contemplated on taking the picture, weary to wake her with bright light. I held my hand over the flash and took the picture anyway, mentally noting that I should name the picture “a sort of loneliness” in the morning.
I put the camera beside me and slowly slid my arm around her shoulders. Her body softened to my touch and she wearily opened her eyes. “Was I asleep?” She asked, eyes blinking, lips pouting.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I promised, blindly finding her fingers with my hand.
“No, it’s all right.” She raised her head until our lips met and thought it tasted like love the loneliness of the evening wasn’t filled by her existence. “I should probably move to our bed anyway.”
I nodded in agreement and we stood up, guiding our feet along the carpet, past Tanner who saluted, and down the hallway. I saw Kyrah sitting on the bed in the spare room, her back toward the slightly cracked door. I noticed the pictures that lined the hallway. They were mostly of my family and our friends smiling faces, pictures that Marianna took over the years. They stared at me with mocking grins as if they knew that I was feeling disconnected and lonely, they knew and their happiness couldn’t be spared.
Marianna’s eyes didn’t leave the bedroom door while she walked on, our arms around each other, her head leaning against my shoulder. “Are you coming to bed too?” she asked when we finally walked in through the door that was solely our own. In there the pictures weren’t mocking, and music wasn’t as haunting. We faced each other pressed and touching in a way that wasn’t lonely.
“I will in a little while, Mari,” I told her, my fingers tracing up and down her back. The image of Kyrah sitting in her own isolation haunted me so that I had to talk to her. This couldn’t wait until morning, but my loneliness I could hold off. “Don’t wait up for me, okay?”
Her eyes had already begun to close. “I won’t,” she promised and leaned toward me once again, our lips together tasting of love and beer and a little less loneliness.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” I tucked her in; her legs folded beneath jersey cotton sheets, and brushed her tousled hair from her cheeks. One last kiss, I told myself, otherwise the fluttering in my alcohol filled stomach and the filling of love droplets in my heart would take over and I wouldn’t move from that bed.
I forced myself away and walked toward the door. “I love you,” she said faintly, her eyes already closed. “I love you too,” I responded, clicking the light switch off. It had been more than a few years and those words still felt the same.
Outside the music still blared but it was of a mellower genre, one that reminded me of a sadness in the air. I entered the room where Kyrah sat, the same as she had been just a few minutes before. I could see the plastic cup in her hand and watched her take a sip before I announced myself saying quietly, “You shouldn’t be drinking alone.”
She didn’t turn to see me, but she responded, “Hi Zac,” so quietly I wasn’t sure if I had really heard her.
I walked around the bed stepping over the suit case she was living out of, kicking an abandoned pair of Chuck Taylors out of the way, and sat beside her. She took another sip of her beer then turned so I could see her. Her cheeks were glossy and streaked with purple and black from the full dark eyes that stared right back at me.
I knew she was crying before I saw her, but the watery proof made my heart sink. “What’s wrong?” I asked in a voice that didn’t sound like my own.
“He’s so distant.”
“We’re all distant tonight,” I said slowly, acknowledging the ‘he’ was Tanner.
“Not just tonight. Every night. Every day.” She paused then glanced away, taking a gulp of the beer. Was she intoxicated yet? I wondered. Was that the source of her tears?
“Talk to him.”
“He doesn’t listen.”
“Then let him talk to you.”
“He has nothing to say.”
“You know more than I do that isn’t true.” It had been months since I’d seen him smile for anything except her. I couldn’t say those words out loud.
“I want to go home.” She moved on like our last conversation hadn’t started.
“Away from California?” I reached forward and took the cup out of her hands.
There was barely a sip left swishing around in the bottom.
“I don’t have a home,” she sniffled, using her free hands to smudge bruise coloured eye make up across her face. “I want us to buy a place and move in and be home.”
“He doesn’t say that.”
“But does he say you won’t?” I put the cup on the nightstand and turned back to her just as she was leaning into me.
“He doesn’t say anything,” she reminded me, speaking into my armpit, her voice muffled by my T-shirt.
“He’s going through a hard time,” I reminded her. “Remember?” She nodded against my shirt. I tightened my arms around her. “Just let him talk to you okay?”
She pulled her head up and looked right at me, her arms relaxing until they moved around my waist. “Zac?”
“I’m really attracted to you right now.”
I didn’t expect that kind of comment, and I didn’t have the time to suppress a laugh before it escaped through my lips.
“Can I kiss you?”
“Of course you can’t kiss me,” I pulled her toward me and patted her head. “You’re over tired and drunk and you have a boyfriend to kiss.”
At that same moment the music stopped and we paused around each other. It was quiet enough for me to hear our hearts and our breaths and in that moment of time with such a heavy thumping against my chest and my best friend in my arms I realized that feeling of loneliness had washed away sometime after I entered that room.
I saw Tanner in the doorway, watching and thinking nothing probably; unaware that she wanted to kiss me just seconds before, unaware that she wanted a place to call a home with no one else but him. I whispered good night and slipped from her arms, pausing in the doorway to recognize my friend there.
I was tempted to hug him too, but that wasn’t what we did so I kept my foot distance while he asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, glancing back at Kyrah who had curled up onto the bed, her streaks of salt water make up smudged into the shoulder of my t-shirt. “We’re all just a little lonely tonight,” I added then padded my way back into my bedroom to slip between the sheets of comfort where I would remember nights like this as some sort of downfall that never ended in disaster.