Monday, July 27th, 2020 through Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
Slowly, I pushed Derek away from me and slid down the wall beside him. I felt calmer now, less throbbing, less excited but I could still feel my heart pounding against my chest, like it was breaking out to escape. I wondered how that will be, to have no heart. To not care. But I did and that was one of my many fatal flaws.
Derek turned to me, trying to control his breathing with a smile that covered his slim pale face. He sat beside me now, still staring. I liked it but still it made me feel uncomfortable. Made me think there were more than a pair of eyes on me.
“Are you okay?”
He asked, head cocking to the side and like it will bring any enthralling effect, ran his hand through his wavy brown hair
And truly I was. But it couldn't change the conversation that resident had a few moments ago. It also couldn't change the Twitter saga, and the frat boys being homophobic. Most of all, I didn't seem to understand what that resident meant by acting like “everything was about me.” Because I didn't agree to help Romeo's case. Did she know?
I was uncomfortable with the idea of my residents finding out the truth, even though I knew they would never mind. But telling one person is setting a path for everyone to know too, and not everyone will be as understanding as my residents.
For a while, Derek and I did nothing but sit in silence and bask in the calmness of each other's presence. Derek though, didn't seem to be calm so much and took an interest in his fingers, twisting it so hard, I thought it might have hurt a bit. But he turned to me — eyes wide with his lips stretched to a smile that didn't make his eyes wrinkle at the sides. He stopped twisting his fingers now, instead he placed them on my arm and licked the bottom of his lips.
“Want to come to my house tomorrow?”
New to the question, my brows raised as I regarded him, trying to figure out what bold spirit has generated in him. He looked calm but still fidgety. Very fidgety.
“To see you of course.”
“Are you getting uncomfortable with our arrangements?”
I asked in which he hurriedly replied no.
“I just felt you should come, you know. Get to know more about each other.”
I nodded, wondering why he wanted to know more about me since this is all we could give each other.
When I first met Derek it was at this same library. But instead of being outside of it, we were inside — reading, as we should and somehow we began to not read the books in front of us but we both became more important things to read. It was like the perfect guide to meeting your significant other in a very cliché place as the library. And even when we weren't reading, we talked like we were in the library — in hushed tones, pleasantries and nothing more than the basics. We didn't need to know much about each other than our bodies. That's what I thought until that afternoon sitting with Derek and for some reason, I was excited. Very excited.
I grinned. He smiled too but again, his eyes didn't seem to smile too.
“But I’d meet with Jenna concerning the resident assistant job, so after that?”
He nodded, agreeing with the idea.
“I thought Veronica was the resident assistant though?’
“There's still another opening.”
“Actually, Jenna is recommending me.”
“ She's the director of the Latinx culture center.”
I explained. He nodded like he understood and continued to twist his fingers.
It wasn't until the sun began to set below the horizon that Derek and I said our goodbyes and I began to make my way to the frat house, where I lived. Leaving the alleyway felt like a rush of clean air into my lungs. Until that afternoon, I have always felt different with Derek, much more reserved but different nonetheless and it was a good feeling. But right there, I knew something wrong somewhere and what it was, I had no idea until the events of the following day, when my tongue was filled with bitterness.
Called someone behind me. Turning, I was met with Veronica jogging towards me with a huge smile that covered her face. When she stopped in front of me, her smile grew bigger and I wondered if it hurt to smile that wide and hard.
I greeted, hoping my energy marched hers. I knew Veronica and I knew her well. She was a member of the flowersuns sorority, and a very dedicated one too. As a friend to some women in the sorority, I've seen Veronica a few times. What can I say about her? A bright easy going fun lover that never really seemed to show any interest in speaking with me even though I have tried to strike a conversation with her on a few occasions.
She replied, still not dropping her smile which now seemed frozen on her face,
“How are you? Where are you going?”
“Well, rumor has it you are going to get the ra job, so I'm just looking after a co-ra.”
And yes, at the time she was also the current resident assistant.
"Ah. Yes. I spoke to Jenna actually. Been trying to shoot my shot at it since freshman year.”
I explained, smiling back at her,
“Turns out she's been wanting to recommend me to Miss Marilyn for the job.”
“Oh, that's sweet. An extra hand is needed actually.”
“Yeah! Being an assistant is no easy job.”
Laughing, I agreed with her. She did too but I didn't like the sound of it.
“Your interview is tomorrow, yeah?”
“Okay, sounds great.”
She nodded and then clapped her hand, so loud and hard like she got an idea about something,
“Okay! I'll see you tomorrow. Don't fret it. I'm sure you'll do great.”
She smiled again and left. As I watched her walk to her sorority house, which wasn't far from where I lived, I thought of how burdensome the work of a resident assistant could be that Veronica seemed too comfortable and happy on the idea of having a partner to share the work with her. And I was thankful that things seemed to go great. She didn't bring up Romeo's case and didn't seem to care and that was another thing to be grateful for.
I tried to call that resident again when I got to the frat house, lying on my bed in the dark, but like the other six times I tried, it went straight to voicemail. I thought of how I have frustrated her this much to make her ignore me. I thought of how she seemed so desperate. Too desperate. I thought of the cuts on her arms. I thought of the flowersuns.
Seeing Veronica that evening, with her bright smile and huge eyes, I had restricted myself from grabbing her arm and forcing the truth out of her. If she had a hand in that resident hurting herself. But as my hands stretched to do the said action, it became ridiculous. The entire concept. The entire idea.
Technically, I have never seen that resident being bullied in any way by the flowersuns. Except, the few times when that resident— who is the loudest, most outgoing girl I know — seemed to be very silent and reserved anytime girls from the flowersuns stepped into the scene. Or how someone who never belittles herself, seems to think of herself as nothing next to the flowersuns. The only thing that links to a good evidence or excuse was in Junior year when Veronica and some girls from the sorority had played a prank on a resident.
At that time, she was as desperate as ever to be part of the sisterhood. Rumor has it she broke into the house with no invitation and begged to be called their 'sister’ visibly very desperate to feel and be among them. And then, they had invited her to their yearly bonfire night, where they met up with aspiring members. The venue was an undisclosed location, because apparently it was a confidential meeting/ party and was only for a privileged selected few. That resident was told to go to a Lodge outdoor area at the outskirts of campus. On getting there, she met no one. The party, according to the information given to her, was to start by ten o'clock but there was that resident, alone, cold, confused. No one came for the party. Turns out the bonfire never existed, and there was no party. She was just a play thing for their little trick. And somehow, sometimes, I have some thoughts that the flowersuns were responsible for that resident running to me that night, with her hands bleeding from harming herself. And tomorrow, there might be a possibility of me working so close with the mastermind of it all.
That night, I got three messages from three different people and each one made my heart race with different emotions. Hope. Desire. Fear.
My phone beeped beside me with a message. The little light that flowed from the screen of my phone, spread itself to light up the darkness of my room as I read the text. I had to blink a bit for my eyes to settle with the adjustment. Reading the message, there was a bit of confusion and the feeling of being grateful.
"I hope you nail tomorrow's meeting. Can't wait to work with you, partner. Here's a little something, get some peaches for Miss Marilyn, she really loves them. Thank me later. "
At the end of the message, Veronica stared at me. Wondering how she got my number, I texted her back, asking the question and of course, thanking her for the little information that could most definitely earn me a few points in Marilyn book.
Two minutes after sending the message, my phone buzzed again with another text from Veronica, stating that she got my number from Jenna and the information “was no biggie” and I could thank her by getting the job. Satisfied, I laid my head on the pillow beneath my head, ready to say goodbye to the night. But for the third time that night, my phone flashed with a message. This time it was from someone I expected, which didn't take me by surprise and then I was filled with longing of expectations and that feeling of longing and desire.
"You're still coming tomorrow, right? I'll be waiting for you."
Derek's message stared at me with its bright light and precise directness. It wasn't new to receive messages from Derek. Actually, quite often, I receive texts from Derek but mostly about when and where we will meet. The shortness of his message was just the same as most conversation that we have, if you exclude the tempting words during sex. He was straight and always to the point and even when we don't let our body and lips do the talking, we sit side by side or in each other's hand, doing absolutely nothing. So to say, silence with Derek was in a way a most comforting feeling. A close best to tranquility, made me feel sometimes I could let my heart do the leading and not my body or urges.
Looking forward to my time with Derek, I replied with a simple, “sure.” Smiling to myself as I laid my head on my pillow, preparing to sleep. But I thought of Derek again and tomorrow and how he never wanted me into his house, because he was trying to make things as discreet as possible and not too personal. But now things are changing, and have been changing for a while. I have noticed him staring a little too long too, does this mean he wants something more?
And a few minutes after I received Derek's message, while I tried to force myself to sleep and not feel too giddy inside, I received another message. The third person that night, only that I didn't know from whom. It wasn't the shortest, it wasn't the most direct and it most definitely wasn't the most expected, but it was the only one that made my blood freeze and my heart to halt its pumping. It only contained six words. six ugly words but it was enough.
"We know you suck dick, princess."
For a moment, I sat with my head buzzing with no words, no thoughts, no specific emotions. I could only hear my slow breathing, the wind singing outside, the trees moving and at the same time nothing at all.
When the day finally broke, and it was sensible enough to pay a visit to a friend, I walked to where that resident lived in the school's dormitory. It was a few blocks away from the frat house, but felt like hours as I quickened my pace under the cloudless sky. I called that resident but like yesterday, she didn't answer. Then I knocked, she also didn't answer and then I banged it with my fist. I heard a loud,
“I’m sorry, hold on“
on the other side of the door and I was met with a wet resident. It appeared like she just took a shower. Her dyed red hair was curled and fell to the towel that was wrapped around her body. Her eyes grew wide as she saw me, preparing herself to close the door but before she could do anything, I stormed into the room.
“What the hell are you doing, Vera?”
She asked, but closed the door and stood by it. She repeated her question once more, folding her arms below her chest and glared at me. But I didn't care. Not now.
“What are you trying to do?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You are the only one who knows, why are you trying to threaten me with it? Is this because I didn't agree to help Romeo?”
She scoffed and ran her hands through her hair. I didn't know why I was there, why I was blaming her because it wasn't exactly proven she knew the truth. But coming to confront her, all the while, I prayed she was.
“Okay. First of all, I think I’ve made myself clear on Romeo's case and secondly, what the hell are you even talking about?”
Reaching to the pockets on my sweat pants trouser, I retrieved my phone, scrolled to the message I received the night before, the last one and handed it over to her, bringing the screen of the phone so close to her face.
She read it and in seconds I watched as her mood moved from anger to impatience to confusion to realization and then shock. My heart sank.
“You think I'll send this to you?”
“Well, who else would it be. You're the only one who knows.”
“What do you even mean? You never told me. You never mentioned it.”
“Then yesterday what did you mean I was acting like everything was about me?”
I asked and I felt with every word spoken, every step taken, I was getting farther from the truth. The one I had so impulsively concluded.
“Didn’t you mean I was being selfish by not helping a fruity man because I was also fruity?”
Her brows furrowed as a small chuckle escaped her lips and then she stared at me like I had said the most alien thing,
“No. I only said that to get on your nerves — because I thought you didn't want to help because of your frat guys.”
I did nothing as she spoke but watch and feel my heart skip beats and my blood like frozen water rushing through my veins. I felt cold at that instant, scared.
“Isn't that what you meant by not agreeing?”
She asked, like she has repeated the question previously,
“Vera — “
“You didn't send that message?”
“No, I — “
“I have to go. “
I heard her as she called my name, but made my way to the door. I felt it when she grabbed my shirt to pull me back but I removed it forcefully. I wasn't sure what to feel, how to feel. Someone out there knew I was fruity and was scaring me with it and quite possibly might blackmail me with it.
But when I stood in the shower and let the tiny drops of cold water splash on my bare skin, I began to think that's exactly what it was, a scare. Nothing but a scare. A vile wicked reckless scare by someone who will not have anything to their advantage. At least, I'll make sure of that.
With that, there was a new swell on my chest. No one will find out, no one has any reason to. With everything thing I did, with every partner I had, I have always been discreet and careful about it. It was impossible for me to get caught. I button my shirt as I thought of this, sealing the sudden surge of confidence and protectiveness and made myself presentable enough to meet Marilyn and Jenner.
It is undeniable that I was still very much scared and alert even as I stepped out of the frat house, somehow it seemed to have intensified. I watched everyone closely, noticed everything, every movement, every person as I walked, like some infant vampire In a paranormal movie. It was a very alien feeling of insecurity. I felt someone was following me, watching me, taking note of all my movement like the exact same feeling when I was with Derek in the alleyway.
But I shook the thoughts off as I made my way to Jenna and Marilyn's office. It was absurd to think that way. Crazy to think that anyone will want to have dirt on me or hate on me even for that time, I had so well believed I was most loved by everyone and everyone around me.
The meeting with Jenna was as short and direct as I expected and hoped it will be. Apparently, Jenna kept saying good things about me to Marilyn, the Latinx floor manager. I must confess, my mind wasn't in the position at the moment and if the two women caught on with it, they never mentioned it. Marilyn though had politely declined the peaches which I brought for her, saying she didn't want them or eat them, In fact she was allergic to them. I was confused for a while because veronica mentioned in her message that Marilyn would appreciate it, or was she mistaken?
Leaving the building, I saw the said girl speaking to a man that carried a basket of flowers, she seemed to be on duty. She turned and noticed me then that wide smile of hers was back again and she waved, beckoning on me to go to her. So with my bag filled with peaches, I made my way to her with a smile or my own, suppressing whatever fear that swam inside me. Forgetting the message I received, it was just a scare, I told myself.
“I got the job.”
I said to her. I watched as her smile grew big then she drew me close and squeezed me in a hug, laughing.
“It was meant for no one else but you anyways. Jenna did well by recommending you.”
She laughed and when she finally noticed the bag still filled with peaches and not on Marilyn's table where it was meant to be, her brows squeezed with a frown that now took over her face,
“she didn't like the mangoes?”
“Yeah. I told you to get mangoes for Miss Marilyn. She loves them.”
“No,” I replied confused, “you said peaches.”
Before the argument could go further, she reached out to her back pocket to get her phone and scrolled to the message she sent me. Her face fell as she read then she sucked in air and looked up to me with these very sad, sorry ocean blue eyes.
“God I’m so stupid,”
“I’m sorry, so sorry. I meant mangoes, not peaches. I wasn't really paying attention when I sent this.”
“Oh no it's fine!
I comforted her and because she did look really sad and sorry, I rubbed her shoulders hoping that's enough to tell her not to worry.
After a moment of us going back and forth on who’s meant to be sorry and all, Veronica released me and I was back in my room, on my bed, and the day breezed passed me like it was nothing, like it was seconds and then I was in front of Derek's apartment, at his door. Knocking and swearing and trying to calm my heart from beating too fast, I couldn't explain why this seemed like a huge deal to me.
After a few seconds of waiting, someone finally opened the door and Derek stood in front of me. He greeted me with a smile, one that made my heart skip ten beats. When he invited me to come in, I made sure to compliment the black shirt that clung to his slim brown skin, even though it was technically nothing special. But that night, I did want him to feel special.
“Your space is nice.”
I complimented, taking account of the modern suburban vibe of the room.
“Thanks. I got some help redecorating it.”
And we watched, sat in silence which was expected because we both understood what this night meant for us. Derek though, was the one that broke ice. After he had brought a beer for me and watched as I took the first sip of it, he stood up from his seat, took slow steps to me, while biting his lips once. It was enough for me to start feeling everything all at once, everything I had tried to suppress because right now, Derek mattered more. I liked him, a lot and wanted more from him, more than he was already given, more than we could give ourselves.
When I brought him close, I felt him tense, looking over his shoulder but it was normal, so I went further, drawing his lips to mine, taking it to mine. And while I kissed him and we took a break to catch a breath, I let him know how I felt without meaning too. It escaped my lips that I liked him, “more than I thought I would.” He got tense again and didn't say anything. I knew he was scared, I just broke a barrier between us. Nevertheless, I leaned in to kiss him again and that's when I heard a burst of laughter behind us followed by a series of people clapping.