“Since we got back to school, you’ve changed.”
I adjust in the chair. I lean too far back and flinch over my fear of tipping.
She continues, “You just stopped talking to me. I mean, about anything important. And you don’t sit next to me at dinner.” Her hands are on her hips with legs apart, her natural Superman pose.
I stare over her head at our matching plywood dressers. Both sets open, our clothes mingle in a dirty heap with shoes jutting out like lost children in the water. My sighing is internal.
“I thought maybe you were going through a rough patch, you know? During the first few weeks? I mean, I know we fought a lot when we were traveling, but that was just the stress.”
To her right is the window. In front of it is a big ugly fern that’s slowly dying. I hate how it blocks the view of the parking lot. It looks tacky from the outside. I checked last week when we argued about it again. The leaves are limp and colorless. Simply because the thing is ten years old doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put down. I bet ten in fern years is about seventy-five in human years.
“Maybe moving in together right now was too soon. But you knew that we’d get the best apartment on campus if we did. I mean, I figured we’d just get over the summer and start fresh, you know?”
She doesn’t move very often. I noticed it on the trains from Italy to France to Luxemburg to The Black Forest. The woman doesn’t wiggle her fingers or bend her knees or even lean against doorframes. The way she can perfectly balance herself in the middle of a rocking city bus and not falter is unnatural.
“I just think you’re being mean.”
I suck my bottom lip through my teeth, pinching the thin skin until it bubbles between the gaps. My tongue prods, digging for blood. My chin juts a little.
“And, you know, I know you’ve been hanging out with Beth a lot. While I’m in class.”
Behind me, in her perfect line of vision, is where we sleep. Pillows and blankets spill over the edge; there are too many coverlets and sheets with clashing patterns.
Her eyes are hot, “I don’t care. I just wish you’d tell me.”
There’s a pause. I count to thirteen when she says, “It’s not that I don’t like Beth. I just don’t know why you think you can’t hang out with us both, you know?” Her right foot lifts to scratch the opposite calf.
Rubbing my arms, I lean forward until my vision falls to the ground. I stare at her pink and white sneakers. I sigh at their ugliness.
“I hear she used to be engaged until the guy broke it off. That’s why she transferred.”
I look at her. Not allowing myself to count the freckles on her nose or determine if she’s due for another highlighting, I focus on her eyes. These two huge blue orbs that glimmer when wet. It can be an odd vanity for a woman—to know she looks beautiful when she cries. It can be dangerous.
We stare off like this for too long. An intermission when we rehash the first acts points, character subtleties, and contemplate what will happen when the stage lights dim again.
As she breaks down, I get up. I move behind the chair and push it toward her. She sits down. With my body facing her back, her crying quiet but obvious, I offer her my moment.
“I can move out, if you want. It’s obvious that the summer can’t be forgotten. It was too much. I’m sure if it didn’t happen then, it’d happen like it is now. We just can’t do this anymore. I think we’ve moved beyond each other.”
We are both looking at the dressers. To their left, I see the door out of the bedroom and into the main room where Beth and a few others are studying.
“I’m not replacing you with Beth. With anyone. I think maybe we just aren’t good roommates. It can happen to friends, even best friends. Maybe, over time, we can start hanging out again. Right now, though, I just need some time.” I walk out. I don’t touch her shoulder as I pass. I don’t pause at the door, turning and giving her a calm, sad smile. I just walk out, she quietly crying in the chair. I shut the door.