Wrote this for an assignment in my Creative Writing class during my second year at York University. I submitted it as a piece of fiction but it was actually more just a journal about my life living in residence at Tatham Hall. I used the name "Michael" in place of my own. I find it quite embarrassing, as I consider myself to have been quite childish when I wrote it, but I consider it to be an important milestone in my literary development. Roughly a year after writing it, the story was published by Tightrope Books in the anthology, GULCH, and I sent a copy to Samantha, who summed it up best as an "honest depiction of infatuation."
DISCLAIMER: Now in hindsight, I realize the flaws of my own perspective, or at least some of them, and wish no offence to any of the people described within this story. I was merely trying to record the events of that year honestly, based on my own experiences and what I gathered from others.
Her name is Samantha. Samantha is a painter that lives in the same residence building as Michael, on the same floor, but in a slightly different social group. Sometimes when Samantha talks she slurs her words together and Michael doesn't smile because it would be too obvious.
There is a guy named Steve. Steve and Michael aren't really friends, more like friendly acquaintances that occasionally stop and chat when they pass in the halls. Steve's a really nice guy and Michael likes him a bit, but not a lot, and this makes Steve think Michael doesn't like him. According to Joshua, Steve is really sensitive, so sensitive that last year he smashed his head on the floor several times because he was drunk and Sarah left him.
Sometimes when Samantha thinks she bites her lip for just a second, just a sweet passing moment, and Michael sees and then he thinks but does not move because to move would be too obvious.
There is a guy named Nick and Nick is friends with Steve and Steve is a really nice guy but not as nice as Nick because Nick is nothing if not nice. There has never been a better word to describe Nick than nice and there probably won't ever be one. Nice is a good word but not the best word, not the best thing to be, but it's good enough for Nick because that's all he has to be: Nice.
There is a guy named Dan. The lowest mark Dan ever got in a science class is A+. Dan isn't as nice as Nick, or even Steve, or even Sam; or maybe he is and they just don't see it. Maybe telling someone they're wrong when they're wrong is nice but we're all just too proud to see that. Maybe one day Dan will want to be "nice" so he'll stop telling us when we're wrong, and science will take its rightful place below politeness and the world will burn up because who is Dan to tell us not to drive our fucking hulking SUVs.
Sometimes when Samantha smiles her eyes light up and Michael just happens to be in her doorway when she does and for once he smiles too.
"Why are you smiling?"
She's standing right in front of him now, her sparkling eyes must be magic because they make him tell the truth:
"I- I don't know," he laughs.
Sure, the sentence was a lie, but the message was the truth: "I love you." Of course it's not love, mere infatuation, mere potential, but it's something more than nothing and that's more than he normally would do.
Shortly thereafter he leaves, he has to go to his room and think about what just happened while Samantha wonders if anything really happened or if she just imagined it.
For the next few days, Michael will visit Aria's double room frequently but Sam will never be there.
- - -
Sometime during the year, most of the girls of the floor got together and decided to buy a house for next year's living arrangements. Unfamiliar with the prospect of being left out, Sam addressed the topic with a tad too much faux-confidence.
"So when're we seeing the house?" she asked her roommate.
Aria looked at her oddly.
"What?" Sam replied.
"Oh, uh, I didn't know you wanted to live with us."
"Well yeah," Sam laughed, "what else am I going to do? I was like talking to Erika and Emma about this since the start of the year."
"Like Frosh Week"
"Did you talk about it since then?"
"No... I just thought we were all good."
"Oh, okay well I'll ask Chelle I guess."
- - -
"Sorry Sam, but there's no room," Chelle told her, standing rather close. Chelle is a girl that had her kickboxing career ruined when she was trampled by her favourite horse in the years before her parents' divorce. One time at a party, Sam made a sarcastic remark about Nickelback's music while Chelle was singing it and Chelle heard her.
"Why am I being shafted?" Sam asked.
"Why did you think you could live with us? You don't even hang out with us!"
"Uh, I'm Aria's roommate..."
"No," Chelle cocked her head to the side, "you're Steve's roommate!"
Shortly thereafter Chelle was in an elevator with Sam and Steve and James, who violently ignored her, and Chelle was offended but should not have been surprised. Chelle complained to Michael, who tolerates Chelle's overly confrontational personality out of fascination, but offers no support.
- - -
Aria is a dancer that doesn't drink so much but twice she did and twice regretted it. The second night she drank she sucked a ring off Michael's middle finger. Shortly thereafter Michael was regretting kissing her. Shortly thereafter Michael was kissing her again but not as drunk as the first night and somewhat turned off by her overly abundant breasts. A week later and Michael was drunk again, sitting under a lamp in Aria's room watching the smoke rise slowly from an incense stick and thinking about the poem it would inspire. Aria was probing him for questions, intrigued by his mystery, delighted at his drunken vulnerability, and slightly frustrated by his still figurative responses.
"What am I to you?"
"No what am I really?"
One time Michael was standing with Aria in the middle of a forest and it was snowing and he was thinking that here she looked truly at home.
"Air," he replied, after fifty seconds of thought.
- - -
"He wouldn't tell me what it means, said it'd be more interesting for me to wonder about it to myself," Aria explained.
"Maybe he means it in like that he can't live without you." Sam replied, not looking up from her painting on the floor.
- - -
"She thought it meant I can't live without her," Michael told Josh, who was busy playing Mike's acoustic guitar. "I wouldn't give a metaphor with only one reason behind it. There'd have to be like eight." Michael toys with the capo from his guitar. "Did you see my new Facebook status?"
"It says I'm an ocean. I just came up with that on the spot the other day. You know how many ways I'm like an ocean? Like eight."
Sometimes Joshua and Michael go on walks to Tim Horton's at three in the morning because the food courts are closed and the walls are too thin to talk.
- - -
Michael is staring at a picture of Sam and Steve on her Facebook account. It's a Halloween picture. With the Cleopatra-esque makeup on he thinks she looks like Marissa from The OC, though it doesn't seem to make much sense why. It's one of those pictures that is compositionally near perfect by fluke. He decides to leave their paradise undisturbed.
Dreaming now, Michael lays with Sam in a field, feeling like a bee, as he sips her flower's nectar.
Awake now and confident, Michael hits the send button after typing the perfect message:
Hey Sam, I'd like to know you. Come visit me sometime and we can talk."
Brief, subtlety suggestive, but still arguably innocent; the note should prove sufficient in furthering their relationship.
"...i would like to know you too??.."
she replies, a day later.
Michael considers dropping the pursuit altogether. He resists a negative response:
"I'm just saying that we hardly know each other at all, and the best remedy for that is talking. I mean I've spoken like twenty words to you all year. You seem like someone that might be worth getting to know, but every time I see you, you're with a crowd (or I'm drunk). I prefer to talk to people one on one, I find you can actually get to know them better, skip the small talk and get to something worthwhile. But if you're not up for that then I guess I'll see you in the halls..."
A couple days later Michael sees her in the co-ed public washroom and she chirps a friendly "Hi" in passing. A few hours later Michael knocks on her door. To his surprise, Samantha opens the door, but her room is full of friends, Steve included. The windows are open and the incense candles lit. A towel blocks the crack under the door. He considers joining them but decides there's too many people, he'll just end up quiet and paranoid.
"Hey, uh," he peers in, "do you know where Aria is?"
"Yeah, I think she's in Chelle's room."
"See ya," she starts to close the door.
"Thanks. Bye." Door closes.
Michael takes a couple steps down the hall to Chelle's room, he can hear them both inside talking. As he is reaching for the handle he realizes that he doesn't really want to talk to them and stands there for a moment, thinking. He looks back at Sam's closed door before wandering back to his room. He checks his homepages again, nothing has changed. He lays on his bed to read, but a moment in is interrupted by a knock at the door.
Sam opens the door.
"Sam, hi," he smiles.
"Hey, I was just wondering if you found Aria?" she asks.
"Oh okay," she starts to close the door.
"Sam," he interrupts, "I hope I didn't like scare you off with that note-"
"Oh no, no," she opens the door and stands in the frame.
"I tend to do that sometimes, not so great with first impressions."
"No it was cool, I get it." She opens the door a bit more and steps out of the hall into his room, but still holding the door open. "Steve was there when I read it, he was like, ‘If this was anyone besides Mike I'd be like what the fuck' but no, it was fine. He knows it wasn't like that." She laughs it off. Michael permits a short awkward silence before speaking again.
"I like your getup there, got the whole one suspender thing going on."
"Ha, yeah, bringing back the overalls baby," she smiles at the floor.
"You have an interesting sense of style Sam," he smiles, admiring her bare feet in the dead of winter. She's still standing in the frame, holding the door open with one hand, as if being in a closed room together at night is too intimate. He wishes she would let it close and after a few more minutes of conversation she does. She wanders in and takes a seat across from his bed. Behind a veil of casual friendliness, he studies her intensely, relishing her every move, the flick of her wrist, her posture on the chair. He notes that despite her lively face, slender figure, and daring fashion style, her mannerisms are probably her most attractive feature.
"--depending on the crowd, right? I mean I think we all do to an extent, notwithstanding certain obvious circumstances," she continued. Michael missed the next couple sentences, instead thinking about her surprisingly sophisticated vocabulary. Days earlier he had confessed his feelings about her to Nick, Steve's friend, in a moment of drunken foolishness.
"Mike I think you've got to get to know her better," Nick told him.
"Yeah? What's she like?" Mike asked as he bumped his head off the book shelf, too drunk to feel it, "What don't I know?"
"She's kinda like Steve," he shrugged. Mike didn't move so Nick continued, "...she's smart."
"Yeah, really smart."
Fuck. That was the end of that, now hehad
to go after her. Mike looked back up at Nick, who was staring at him. It was probably a longer gap in the conversation than he realized.
"Heard she... I heard she broke up with Steve but, but took him back cause he like begged her," Michael continued, "figured that was a bad sign."
"Yeah basically. She doesn't really like him like she used to."
Michael fidgeted with his silver ring, moving it from his left to right hand.
"Alright Nick, Nick."
"Nick tomorrow you gotta remind me, of what, whatever we're talking about... When I'm sober."
- - -
"I should probably go back, they're waiting for me," Sam announces, standing up off the folding chair.
"Yeah but hey come by anytime or something," she says as she opens the door and leaves. Michael returns her invite as the door closes. He lays back on his bed and listens to Steve's voice from down the hall:
"Hey I was looking for you," Steve complains anxiously.
"Oh sorry I was just talking to Mike, are we-"
"Okay but like, we're waiting for you-" Steve continues, closing the door.
- - -
The next day Michael hears Samantha in the hallway, he turns his music up louder so she can hear. It's Devotchka, her favourite band, according to Facebook. A cheap trick, probably futile. The bass kicks in and he turns it up a tad more, overcome by it. The song reminds him of Little Miss Sunshine, one of her favourite movies. She's standing outside now, she definitely recognizes the music. Someone snaps their fingers in the hallway, is it her? Michael stands up to check, the music swells, just a coincidence. He steps towards the door and places his hands by the peephole. The song enters its chorus, the drums dictate his heartbeat. A tulip blossoms in time lapse photography. He peers out the peephole - the hallway is empty. The flower withers, the violins fade, and the chorus repeats the same lines over and over:
"And you already know,
Yeah you already know,
How this will End..."