"I didn't wash it off," he turned to me.
"You didn't wash what off?"
"Your lips," I looked away as he spoke, "I couldn't do it this morning. It was all too good. So, I didn't wash it off." I didn't know what to say, as I sat close to him, rejected and wanted simultaneously. It was a contradiction, one that I'd taken part in creating. One that made me furious and hopeful at the same time.
"Oh," I swallowed. He smiled a smug smile, absent of insecurity and dimples. I hated him for lacking both of those things. "Well, I did." His face went dull.
"Yeah. Last night. Just after you left, actually." I shifted my weight to the uncomfortable side of the sofa. He twisted his hands together. Even I could feel the weight of what I'd said, though I refused to feel guilt. He snuck his sweet poison under my skin and I had to actively remind myself that I was the victim, here.
"I really like you." My bones shrank a little as he spoke to me.
"Yeah, I know," I breathed deep without catching an ample supply of air. My lungs felt as though they'd been punctured with a ten inch needle.
"You have a pretty pair of lips. And I like to kiss them."
"Please stop," the control had slipped away long ago, and I knew what would happen if I sat there, drinking in those charming words.
"I'm just so on the fence, Court. You have to understand that," he placed a hand on my knee and for a minute, I let it stay there.
"You've got two choices. I told you how you could have me. Right now. How I would be there, how it would be just you and me. I told you all about how deeply I cared for you, and it didn't take more than a minute for you to make your decision," I shook him off like a mosquito, "so, please stop. You hopped the fence and ran."
"You don't get it, though," I paid no attention to his cry for sympathy.
"You should have left. You should have stood up, zipped your coat, and walked out the door. That would've been the right thing to do." I rose to my feet, feeling feverish. "I don't care what your excuse is, you should have been honest with me. You should have told me how you felt, or, didn't feel, as it were, and you should have walked away from me," I placed both hands on my hips, holding in the tears, "and if you were a decent human being, you would've left out the forehead thing. And you wouldn't have kissed me goodbye like you'd been doing it for years. You should have stood up, like the man I thought you were, pulled yourself together, and left."
"After I left last night, I felt the worst I'd felt in a long time," he ran his fingers through his hair and I couldn't help but think about how that was my job. "I don't know why you don't understand. You're not easy to walk away from."
"Oh. Well, that's great. I'm honored to have been the main event of your horrible night," I felt a tear collect in my eye, but refused to let it fall. "And don't tell me I'm hard to walk away from when you're in the process of doing it."
"I didn't mean it like that and you know it," he pointed with his index finger. It was harsh and accusatory. "Will you be quiet for one minute while I explain myself?" I said nothing, but lifted my wrist to dab my eye. He got close and I felt stupidly safe. "You are the greatest thing that has happened to me in a long time. One of my best friends. As I walked to my car last night, I was angry with myself, thinking of how I had to hurt you. It literally almost made me sick. And today--"
"Do you think I'm going to feel sorry for--" his right hand covered my lips, paralyzing me. It felt pathetic and wonderful.
"I'm not done yet. Please, may I finish?" I waved my hand giving permission to proceed. I actually did want to hear what he had to say. "Thank you. Today, I thought I was making the worst decision of my life, telling you how I felt," it was a bit dramatic, but he's all fireworks and stunt shows, anyway, so I didn't feel like it was necessary to call him out, "but I knew that you deserved more than me. And after our conversation this afternoon, I felt even worse. Every word I said went through my head over and over. And every time you spoke back, those words ran through twice. Like knives. I didn't think you ever wanted to see me again after it all unfolded."
"It scared me to death." He went solemn, putting his hand over his forehead, beginning to lose color in his face. "I can't lose you, you know." I tried not to show the roll in my eyes. Mostly it was mental. And if I could've done it without letting him see, I would have. "I cannot lose you. It's too hard to think about."
"Well, like I said. I gave you a choice."
"...and, like I said, I am on the fence about it." As the words rolled from his tongue, I felt tense. It was in my legs. Joints that weren't supposed to stiffen did.
"You do not get to be 'on the fence' anymore." My fists balled up and got cold. "What does that even mean, anyway? Does it mean that I hang around, letting you experiment with me for a while? Do you want to test me out? Is that what that means? Because I'm not interested. I know plenty of eighteen year olds that might be, though, and you've got ten years on them. You can use your experienced, 'sophisticated' witty banter as bait. I bet they won't even fight back." It was harsh and a little mean. But it was real, honest, and put him in his place faster than any other words I'd said before.
"I've always liked the way you fight back. You've got a backbone. Did I ever tell you how much I liked it when you kissed me?"
"Seriously. I am, in no way, cavalier with my kissing kudos."
"Maybe that's true, but you're clearly cavalier with your kissing."
"Well, I'm just saying. I like the way you kiss me."
"I can't do this. I've got to go. Please leave."
"What are you going to say after I've said something like that? You're seriously going to just kick me out?"
"I'm going to tell you that I'll miss you, that I've never met anyone who makes me so angry before. I'm going to look at you, for the last time, and tell you that I hate that I'm not what you want," I was breathing regularly and pretending not to ache. "With regards to your last comment, I hope you've got a good memory. Because that's never going to happen again."
"What about the way I'm on the fence?"
"It's not really any of my business where you're sitting if I'm not waiting on either side, is it?" My eyes were angry and heavy on his. It was what I wanted to say, though not how I wanted to feel afterword. With that, he stood up, zipped his coat, and reached for the door handle, which is also something I thought I wanted. Before leaving, he leaned into me, routinely. I barricaded myself behind the door like a survival tactic. Wasn't that what I was trying to do? Survive this blow?
"Okay," he nodded. The smile was gone now. "Well, for what it's worth, you're so wonderful." It was sincere and left me catching swallows in my throat. He ducked his head and went out into the snow. I said nothing, but closed the door and tried not to remember him leaving, which is both literal and a metaphor. One sentence shouldn't be both of those things.
It has been nearly three weeks since I've seen him. I'm beginning to forget the sound of his voice, the blue in his eyes, and the laugh lines on his face: all things I have at one point found endearing. Occasionally, I catch myself thinking about the science of it all. One poison injection causes disease, and often, a person doesn't come back from that. Even more often, though, it just takes a while to do so. Science is certain and experimental, which, unfortunately, means it is a terrifying game of poking, prodding, and fighting to rehabilitate. The point of it all is that it teaches lab rats about the danger. But it also teaches them about safe zones, and that's useful.
This song has never meant much to me before, but I think now, it means a little more.