Sometimes one of us would stop for a second and ask the other if they loved us and they’d always respond by just kissing back harder, and we’d kiss back with a desolate fury because we knew the answer, and the question was stupid anyway, wasn’t it?
When I say it like that the whole thing sounds really depressing.
It wasn’t always like this. The first time she’d spent the night I’d woken up to see her sitting up in bed smiling at me, cinnamon curls falling over slight shoulders. She’d opened the blinds, and glowing dust glittered in the morning sunlight that streamed across the room and painted glowing white bars on her thighs. She held up a mug of steaming chai and took a sip.
“I made one for you too”, she’d said. “I’ll just have to pour in the water. I didn’t know when you’d wake up, you know.”
“I love you, Nadia.”
“You growl in your sleep sometimes. Very quietly. Rrrrr.” She laughed. “Like a little tiger.”
She’d held her breath the night before as I’d undone her buttons, one by one, and we’d been really happy then, we’d been in love, or thought we’d been, I guess. I don’t know. We’re definitely not in love now, and she undoes her own buttons.
We’re always hard and violent and her heels dig into the small of my back. We’re supposed to still be friends so it’s the only time we get to hurt each other, I guess, so we always do. We were civil to each other; we just didn’t talk pretty much at all, and then sometimes when one or the other of us was lonely we’d decide to meet, just to hang out, we’d say, because we were feeling so lonely, and she’d come over to my place and we’d watch Bollywood movies until some little scene, the way they looked at each other or an encapsulatory line from a song, would crystallize whatever it was that hung in the air between us. And then the room would tense, then blanch, and we’d coldly press pause and stumble to my bedroom to dissolve into the amorphous dark.
At the end of the night she always kicked on her jeans and jerked her top down over her frame facing away from me, and we never talked to each other at all. I’d sit at the side of my bed as she walked out and listen for the click of the apartment door as it swung shut, then amble out to lock up and watch the rest of the film. I always felt sobered afterward. Hollow. Like if you knocked on me I’d make a sound.
But tonight was a Friday night, and over in Hindley right in our backyard someone was belting out tired guitar classics, and at a familiar chord starting off a song she sat back down on the bed and began to laugh.
“Oh my god, it’s that fucking song. Oh my god. Do they play it every fucking Friday?”
She looked at me with pity. “Dear God.”
“It’s not a bad song-“
“Every fucking weekend!”
“It is a bit overplayed, isn’t it?”
“You tell me. Even I’m sick of it and I haven’t spent a weekend here since-“
“Yeah. For a while.”
She stood up. “I should probably-“
“No. I mean, stay. A little while.”
“I don’t know. To hang out, I guess. We’re friends, aren’t we, we haven’t hung out in like-“
“I was here Monday.”
“No, not like that. I mean. Hang out. Actual hang out.”
“We hang out-“
“Do we really?“
She sat down. “No, I guess.” The room was uncomfortably warm, the air thick, and in the dark it felt like everything swam and shimmered, forms swirling at their edges, purples and blues and greys all seeping into the hollow blackness of the spaces in between, a heavy dark, a blackness that pressed down on us. The music that wafted over us was muted, and it felt like a scene in a movie where the camera sharpens focus on the protagonists and the music fades out into vague background that colours the exchange. It imparted an awkward gravity onto proceedings, where we sat, in a silence that seemed to stretch at the seams, silence that seemed to ask for a clean cut, to be allowed to bleed.
“Adelaide’s just the right size”, she said, finally. “It’s just small enough for the cover bands to be just shitty enough to work.”
“You know it’s true!”
I laughed. “Well.”
“I kinda missed talking”, she said.
“Yeah. I did too.”
“We can talk, right?”
“Yeah. I don’t see why not.”
“Things have been really shit.”
“Yeah. I noticed.”
“I thought it’d be too dark to-“
“I could feel them on your arms, you know.”
She moved up into the bed and I sat cross-legged opposite her.
“The past few months have been shit but it’s getting a bit better”, she said.
“Good to know.”
“We had kind of a shitty breakup, didn’t we? Actually?”
“Let’s stop pretending it wasn’t shitty. And that we weren’t just lonely.”
“I could do that.”
“That sounds good.”
“We’ve kinda been taking our shit out on each other, haven’t we?”
“I think we have been, yeah.”
“It’s nice to talk. I get so lonely but I feel too shit to do anything about it. Too shit about myself. And about you. And I don’t have any other friends yet and I dunno, I thought I’d make lots of friends, you know, but first year is almost over and I haven’t managed shit and it’s really… shit.”
“Yeah. I don’t know. I’m hoping second year will be a bit better in that department. I don’t know.”
“I feel like I’d be a lot healthier if I had friends”, she said. “I don’t know. Lack of contact. Drives me crazy. Kinda.”
“We haven’t really been friends. Not really.”
“No. Yeah, we haven’t.”
“Do you, you know, want to go back to being friends? Try like before, like before we dated or anything in the first place?”
“… No. Not yet.”
“But we could be civil to each other. I mean, we used to be close, you know? We used to be fond of each other and we’re still the same people, sort of, we could have a little actual intimacy instead of just playing at it? Just be actual nice to each other? Talk?”
“I would like that.”
“Yeah”, she said. “So would I. I mean, we could just be nicer to each other.”
“Good talk, yeah.”
And then the moment overstretched itself and the spaces between us felt uncomfortable, the silence practically screaming.
“Do you want to watch the rest of the film, maybe?”, I offered at last.
She stood up. “I should be going.”
She walked out, and I sat on the bed and listened for the click of the apartment door swinging shut before walking out to lock up, stick some pizza in the microwave, and finish the film.