Broken and Breaking

The snow floated down from the sky like bits of cotton but I only noticed the way it slowly drifted when I looked up at the street lamp. In the darkness of the February sky all I could see were the solid yellow lines on Sally’s narrow street and the snow pelting my windshield. It was nice to take a break from the chaos and look up into the light. The difference was unreal. I suddenly felt a rush of calmness wash over me as Taylor Swift softly rang through my ears. But her lyrics quickly became poison as they brought my mind back to a time I longed to be my reality. It reminded me of how frequently my mind thinks back, and how often the opportunity is brought up for it to drift into the past.

When Gunner Minotti asked for a ride home from school earlier today I couldn’t say no, even though I barely know him. He’s too friendly to turn down and even though I’ve only maybe said all of two words to him my entire life I figured I’d say yes on a whim.

“So where do you want to go to college?” he asked from the passenger’s seat a little while after Maddy left. I searched my brain for the right combination of words to say in order to sound not as tense and awkward as I was feeling.

“Well my top choice was Virginia Commonwealth because they have the best art school and I kinda wanna go into art…” I trailed off as I tried to make the conversation casual but then realized I was rambling. I heard him chime in here and there with a “that’s cool” or “nice”, and I continued on. “If I got into JMU though I’m pretty sure that would be my top choice but I’m definitely not going to”.

“At least you’re going to college!” I took his comment the wrong way I guess because he was confused by my response.

“You didn’t get in yet?” Although I knew he did because the first half of the car ride we spent most of the time talking about Bloomsburg. Well, that and weed.

“What? Oh yeah, I got into Rider too.” He said another college but I can’t remember what it was. Ironically enough we passed Gary’s house only seconds before the words came out of his mouth. I didn’t necessarily see Gary’s house, but I knew we were on his street and we probably passed it.

“Oh nice, yeah Phoebe got into Rider too looks like you have a higher chance of going to school with her!” (The two of them often talk about Bloomsburg because they both got in). I slowly pulled into his driveway and put the car in park as he reached into the back seat and grabbed his backpack.

“Haha yeah I mean it’s Rider, anyone could get in.” I laughed but not for the reasons he thought I did.

“Yeah true,” I said through a smile as I finished laughing.

“Well, thanks so much for the ride seriously if you ever need a ride anywhere I got you.” His eyes squinted at me through his warm smile.

“Haha it’s no problem don’t worry about it,” I replied.

“Blaze sometime?” I guessed this was a joke because he said it as he was climbing out of the car and didn’t bother to wait for a response.

“Haha yeah hit me up!” I said after him. We laughed and he closed the door. I turned off the radio and plugged in my Taylor Swift as I backed out of his driveway. When I got to the end of the street to my surprise Gary’s house was directly across from me.

There were no cars coming from either direction but I didn’t pull out. I just sat there. Staring. My eyes grew watery and I thought back to what Gunner said. Why does everything have to lead me back to here?

I finally developed enough strength to close my eye lids and blinked back the water that began to build up. I took a firm grip on my steering wheel and looked both ways before pulling out of the street. Frustration built up in my chest. The same frustration that builds up whenever I think of Gary, whenever I hear his name (which is very often now that Gary Sardona is in my Psych class), or whenever I hear or see something that has to relate to him (Phoebe’s Rider pen, her acceptance folder to Rider which she keeps on display in her kitchen, every song by Matt Nathanson or Taylor Swift..the list is endless).

The snow was tranquil. It fell down with such careless ease. I wish I could be the snow. The way it floats down, light as a feather, and lands where it may on the ground. It doesn’t care where it winds up, it just goes where the wind takes it and hopes for the best- or so I like to think it does. I wish I could be as careless as the snow. I would be so much happier.

I pulled into my driveway and put the car in park. I sat there for a few minutes as I often do just to finish belting out the last few verses of whatever Taylor song I was listening to. Finally, I turned the keys and pulled them out of the ignition. I sprinted into the house clutching my wallet and phone because the cold was too painful to endure for more than two seconds. When I got inside, I hung my keys on the hook in the mudroom and walked into the kitchen where my mom was sitting at the counter reviewing her notes. She studies a lot.

“Hey hon,” she said from behind her reading glasses and cup of tea. I wasn’t in the mood for conversation.

“Hey, I’m really tired I think I’m just gonna go to bed.” She took a sip from her tea and continued to absorb herself in her text book.

“Alright, goodnight.” I walked upstairs and changed into sweats, throwing my clothes on the ground. This is something I often do because why would I bother putting them away? It’s just an inconvenient waste of my time.

After brushing my teeth and washing my face I crawled into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

I was sweaty. Either that or I was dripping wet from the rain that passed – but just me. I left my car at Gary’s because I stopped there earlier for some anonymous reason that had nothing to do with him. I asked Brain to pick me up and drive me there to retrieve it, but when she pulled into my driveway she was not driving her green buggy, but a dark blue jeep wrangler without the hood on – similar to the one Maddy just got. When I walked outside to get into Brain’s car I saw my silver passat sitting right in my driveway but not the spot I normally park it in. I thought to myself that I must have not seen it when I checked if it was there earlier. I got into the jeep with Brain anyways and Sally was in the back seat. As we were turning out of my driveway, Gary was passing by and slowed down with his window open to talk to us. As he continued to drive off I heard him shout to Brain: “She’s cute, her face is a little shiny though!” Upon hearing this I turned around quickly and shouted to Sally: “Who is he talking about?!” -in a voice so loud I was almost positive he heard me. She responded, “you!”. I knew he was talking about me. I looked like shit. “Ugh I look sooo bad…” I said.

Later, Gary was with his girlfriend, Shannon Sanders. We were all lounging in some room with a bunch of couches. Shannon was on a couch by herself and Gary was sitting on an arm chair right next to her with a dog on his lap. It was a small pug dog, but big for a pug. The arm chair was big enough for two, so I went right up and sat down on the edge of it. “Hi!” I said. He answered the same. The dog was him and Shannon’s. I picked it up and put it on my lap, making it stand on its hind legs. “He doesn’t like that-” Gary chimed in as he took the dog from me and showed me its reaction as he did the same. We laughed. Shannon didn’t say anything, she was just there. She wasn’t pretty like I remembered her either, she was kind of chunky and just large in general.

Even later, we were all having some sort of camp out in the backyard of someone I’ve never seen before. There was a bed/couch with a canopy over it where Shannon slept. I watched from a distance as Gary tucked her in and then continued to set up a sleeping bag for himself on the ground behind the couch. As I watched I knew that he still cared about her so much in a way he would probably never care about me. A sinking feeling came over me. I flash to the next part of my dream. Me and Gary are in his sleeping bag but we are just cuddling and talking. He was over me and I looked up at him as we talked about something I can’t remember. I knew he was about to kiss me but I didn’t lean in, unsure if I really wanted to. When he kissed me there was no tongue – it was a simple kiss, but he held it there and the whole time I wanted to cry because it wasn’t how I thought it would be. His girlfriend was right next to us sleeping. He was a jerk for doing this to her, and I was never going to be anything more than the girl he cheated with. I was unimportant. I pushed him away. “You’re a jerk,” I said.

I woke up in a daze. I was sweaty and my head was spinning. I quickly reached for my phone in it’s dock and recorded down every detail from my dream I could remember. I have never had this forward of a dream about Gary before. It made my heart race and then fall. It was all so meaningful. I watched my emotions unfold towards the end I realized that is how I have felt ever since the last time we talked, that I would never be the only one he cares about and I would never be special to him like Shannon is. It hurts.

I laughed as the rest of my dream rushed back to me through feelings and emotions I subconsciously felt. My gym teacher, Ms. Cox, was trying to kill me and I was diving in and out of swimming pools as she tried to torpedo me through the water. Then when I got out I locked myself in a bullet proof room and dropped my phone outside of it. There was no door knob on the inside and I looked at her threw the glass of the door as she banged on it with her fist then tried to shoot through it unsuccessfully. She seemed frustrated and then found a latch on the bottom of the door that she could fit her hand through like a mail slot. I was afraid she’d find that. She stuck her hand through it and began shooting sporadically. Then I was suddenly in my driveway with Ms. Lemon and Cox. Lemon was my old gym teacher, but since it’s the second semester our classes switched around. Lemon was there to consult Cox and arrest her, but I was upset because then we couldn’t do yoga anymore. I’m so weird.

After having a good laugh about that part of my dream, my mind kept going back to the other part. It’s funny how sometimes when you’re sleeping your mind knows more about yourself than when you’re awake.

I looked at the time. I’d already wasted ten minutes reflecting on my dream – I had to get a move on if I was going to pick up Maddy on time.

In the car I told her all about my crazy dreams and we laughed until there were tears in our eyes. I love retelling my dreams. It’s like a chance to share my feelings in a crazy, fictional story and watch the reactions as I tell them. They are priceless, especially when the dreams are as good as the ones from the other night, which is rare.

My day was long and strange. By the time fifth period came along I was exhausted and had no interest in changing for gym, especially because Cox was apparently out to kill me with guns and torpedos… Sally is in my gym class now, and so is my other friend Addie. I haven’t seen Addie in so long I was so glad she transferred into our gym class. Maya is in our gym class too, she’s good friends with Gary. Maya Confetti is one of those girls who is exotic and bubbly with big boobs and a tiny waste. I used to go to church with her when I was younger, but we never really became good friends although there were many opportunities for us to be. We were always just different I guess, she was funny and loud and I was quiet and shy. Although I’ve come out of my shell since then, Maya has come out of her shell too (if she even had a shell to come out of). She has sex a lot. Not that I mind or judge, everyone’s opinions are different about sex. Even though I know she’s had sex with Gary I don’t resent her for it or hold it against her – or even care really, and I can’t seem to put my finger on why this is. I guess she’s just too friendly to hate. She’s not a very hate-able person.

We walked into the warm, sweaty wrestling gym, took off our sneakers, grabbed a mat and found a spot in the back. Cox takes yoga very seriously. She takes everything she does very seriously. She is probably the most up tight and in shape person I know, but although everyone hates her I kind of like that about her. I wish I could be as confident as she is. She’s one of the few teachers at my school who radiate confidence and youth, enough for guys to drool over her yet respect her at the same time. She’s vicious. She likes me though because I have always done exceedingly well in pushing myself at lacrosse (which she was a prior coach for) and in her gym class (so far).

“Imagine your spine is a wet cloth. Ring out that wet cloth,” her voice is soft yet stern as she instructs the class. Although my eyes are closed I could feel Sally smiling next to me. Who relates spines to wet cloths? She is awesome. I feel her walking around the room as her voice moves from one corner to the next. I am on my stomach with my knees spread out to the side and my hands outstretched in front of me. My forehead is on the mat and I can feel the stretch in my groin.

“Really try and push down on your hips, you want to release all of that stress and tension. A lot of that tension can build into your hips. Feel it all melt away into the mat.” Her voice gets closer and closer until I feel her hands on my butt. I was confused and slightly freaked out. “Push your hips into the mat,” she said again. Okay like I heard her the first time, but that was as far down as my hips would push and her hands were on my ass. This is weird. I thought to myself, especially because she was previously trying to murder me in an alternate universe known as my imagination.

After yoga, I rushed to Psych. Cox always lets us out so late so I’m forced to sprint to the upper five hundred wing to a class I dread going to. Ted’s in that class. So is Mike Zingarelli.. and yes… he is still gorgeous and I still can’t help staring every now and then. Awkward because Ted stares at me. Cock block… Thank God Phoebe’s in that class too because I would have zero friends without her and be forced to sit through forty five minutes of listening to Mr. Munari’s stupid jokes that are both awkward and uncomfortable.

The first day I walked into that class Phoebe and I were late (it became a usual thing). Immediately the class exploded with laughter as Ted’s friends Mike and Brendan shouted “Bakerrr”. Boys are so immature. Ted and I can have the most casual conversations outside of that class and act like civil friends. But in Psych, we don’t know each other. Brendan Mangino is the nicest kid ever but even he stoops to the immaturity of his kind around Ted and I. That first day, the only one who didn’t make some sort of immature outburst out of the guys in my grade who are in that class was Camden.

“Camden Templer?” Munari said as he peered up from his attendance sheet and squinted through his glasses.

“Here,” a voice said from three rows back.

Camden Templer is absolutely gorgeous, even though people nowadays rarely admit it. When he moved to our school district in middle school he was all everyone talked about – he had Justin Bieber hair before anyone even knew who Justin Bieber was! But his crystal blue eyes and dreamy blonde hair quickly faded as he got into high school. He was over rated and started hanging out with his older brother’s friends which lead him down the wrong path. Now I’m not really sure who he hangs out with, but he talks to younger girls. His social status may be confusing, but one thing I know for sure is he is still gorgeous to me even though he cut his hair and is no longer in the spotlight. Now, he is ironically underrated and despite how every girl would probably shrug their shoulders and say “he’s alright” if asked about him, they probably have a secret crush on him along with everyone else in the school.

Judging by his name, Mr. Munari is not at all how one would picture him. He is a young, somewhat scrawny, white man presumably in his late twenties or early thirties. He’s young, that’s all I know. He also tries too hard to be young even when his jokes may come off as offensive. He is kind of an ass hole; one of those guys you can tell was weird in high school and now tries to redeem himself. When he makes jokes and no one laughs he will call himself out and say something that only makes it more awkward such as, “that’s just me trying to be funny, you don’t have to laugh, I’ll laugh for you”. He’s said that at least five times since I’ve started taking that class.

I tried my best to look straight ahead at the board even though I was inconveniently placed at the first desk all the way in the right corner so I have to turn my head to the left to see anything on the board. The problem is I can always catch Ted staring out of the corner of my eye when I look to the left. Sometimes I just look down at my hands and pick my nails to avoid glancing over at him to check if he’s staring, only to find out he usually is. I leaned down into my backpack and checked my phone. A text from Andrew Barker.

Barker: Can u give me a ride home

He bothers me. The last time I asked for a ride home he said – quote – “I could”. Like oh… can you? He was lucky I was in a good mood that day. Besides, I never really thought Barker was into me for real until I talked to Maggie McAdams upon running into her at the gym. She’s good friends with Barker and the first thing she said when she saw me after that day (because she was in the car when he drove me home) was “sooo, you and Barker huh?”. She gave me a look with a smile and I was kind of confused. I wasn’t sure what she knew or where she was coming from, but she said that Barker was a really lovable guy. Before then I was convinced he was just using me so I didn’t really care about him, nor did I want to hook up with him again. But afterwards I got kind of confused. She said he didn’t talk to any other girls but I wasn’t sure if she knew that for a fact, so I didn’t know how to take it. Nonetheless I decided to give him a chance. I accepted his offer even though I was second guessing where it might lead to.

Me: Surely!

See how easy that was??

Barker: What?

Me: Saying yes right away instead of “I could”

Barker: Hahahahaha true

I didn’t feel the need to respond. Instead, I looked up at the board and tried my best to tunnel vision my gaze at its blankness. There were things written up there from different classes so I just distracted myself by reading that. There were names listed on the board for some reason, and as I read them I saw Andrew Barker. I looked up at Phoebe until I made eye contact with her. Ted sits next to her on her left so it was hard to mouth the words “ANDREW BARKER” and motion towards the board without him seeing. Plus, mouthing and understanding words from far distances is not really Phoebe’s forté. Strangely enough I was able to complete this transaction as Phoebe and I laughed to ourselves from our seats.

“Something funny?” Munari called us out as he was mid-pace in front of the class. I just shook my head. Dammit – I try so hard to stay under the radar in that class but he always manages to call me out.

After seventh period, my day was over. I walked out of the school and approached my car as I waited for Barker to text me. He didn’t, so I was debating on just ditching and assuming he didn’t need one. But that felt mean of me, and I’m not a mean person.

Me: Do u still need a ride?

I got to my car and unlocked the door. No answer. I threw my stuff in the back seat and sat down at the wheel. Still no answer. I texted him again.

Me: I’ll take that as a no…..

After checking my appearance in the rearview mirror, I plugged my phone into the speakers and put on some John Mayer as I backed out of my spot. My phone went off.

Barker: No I do wait for me!!!

Me: Fineee hurry up

I started driving out of the parking lot until I saw him. It was a nice day so I had my windows open and I heard him shout at me as I passed him.

“Hey, hey! Wait!” I stopped my car and watched him run over.

“Well hurryyy!” I responded. I clicked the rest of the doors unlocked and he opened the back door to throw his stuff in, then he got in the passenger seat. My heart was racing but not because I was nervous in an excited way, more because I was nervous in a nervous way.. as in I did not want to go over his house and hook up with him but the other day he said I could come in if his dad wasn’t home. I don’t really know how I feel about Barker, but there was a part of me that wanted him and another part that didn’t. That day I was feeling more towards the part of me that didn’t.

“Sorry if you don’t enjoy my choice of music,” I suddenly felt self-conscious that John Mayer’s Heartbreak Warfare was playing. I can never find the right songs to put on when I have boys in the car. It’s one of my many awkward flaws.

“Yeahh.. I don’t…” he said sarcastically serious as always. I told him he could unplug my phone and put his in because I didn’t feel like searching through playlists of Taylor Swift and One Direction only to put on another disappointment. At this point I embrace my weird music taste.

“Not anything too ghetto please,” I said. He put on Daylight by Maroon5. This bothered me because I have that song on my phone and why I didn’t think to put that on was a mystery considering it was one of my favorite songs. I sang along as I turned up the volume to drown out my voice. We held up a casual conversation for most of the ride and then I brought up how I was visiting Rutgers that night.

“I’m just so torn I don’t know what slutty top to bring!” I whined sarcastically (but yet completely serious). His sense of humor rubs off on me when we’re together I suppose.

“Why don’t you just go naked? It would solve all your problems,” he said with a straight face as I glanced over at him and laughed.

“That’s what I told Sally but Jared would kill her!” Sally and I were planning on visiting Rutgers so she could visit Jared and I would stay over my mom’s boyfriend’s daughter’s dorm, Alexandria.

“Like tell Jared I say hi..” he said. I laughed.

“Oh yeah I forgot you’re like good friends with him because of Carl.”

“Yeah I’m the third son, quoted straight from Mrs. Cabrera,” he said and I glanced across at him for a split second.

“Haha that’s like me and Sally!” I changed the subject when we got closer to his dad’s and he put on Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble.

“I got tickets to see her!!!!” I said with a huge smile. He didn’t respond so I looked over at him. I reached over and patted my hand on his thigh. “Be excited for me!” I laughed and he looked over at me and pretended to be over excited until I approached the driveway in the small complex area. He sighed in frustration.

“Ughhh my dad’s home,” he said and my hands loosened their grip around my steering wheel.

“Aw man…” I responded with a little bit of false emotion but I hoped he wouldn’t sense it.

“Thanks Laceyyy,” he said with a squinty smile that was super adorable. I confuse my emotions a lot. He took his stuff out of the back and we said our goodbyes. As I turned around in a parking spot he made his way to the front door. I looked over at him as I was pulling out and he was trying to say something to me that I couldn’t necessarily understand so I just smiled and waved. When I as pulling out of the complex and passing him on the street, he was still struggling to communicate something to me.

“HE’S NOT HOME!” I realized he was trying to say. I slowed down my car but I already passed his house. I wasn’t about to turn around, so I just continued driving home. I tried calling him but he was calling me so it went straight to voicemail. I tried again. Same thing. I put my phone down in the cup holder and just waited for him to calm down so I could call again. When we finally got on the phone I had a good excuse for why I couldn’t go over.

“What if your dad comes home while I’m there!” I said. I was genuinely concerned and glad I thought about this concern so I could use it to keep myself home. I wasn’t really in the mood. I told him I’d text him and hung up the phone.

I felt bad. I said he could come over if he wanted to because my mom was at work and my brother and sister don’t usually get home until 2:40. Part of me wanted him to, another part didn’t but a part of me thought about what Maggie said and I was kind of curious about how it would go.

Barker: kk coming

I was sitting on my couch in the family room watching the Amanda Show when he walked in through my garage. He didn’t even knock, he just walked in which I found kind of funny.

“…Hello?” I shouted as I waited for a response.

“Shit I wanted to scare you!” I laughed and he came over and sat next to me on the couch. I was suddenly embarrassed I was watching the Amanda Show. Soon enough he got up and made his way over to the kitchen.

“I’m thirsty,” he said. He opened my fridge and took out the pitcher of iced tea. “Iced tea?” I got up and walked into the kitchen, confused. I nodded. He really wasn’t afraid to make himself at home and I kind of liked it. He didn’t even bother asking where the cups were he just started opening up my cupboards.

“They’re not in there,” I said as he opened up the cupboard above the toaster oven. He took out this cup that was supposed to be a part of a mini blender.

“Found one!” He poured himself some iced tea and took a sip as I laughed. He started walking around my house and observing everything. He walked into my dining room and saw the giant painting I finished for Mrs. Kirchner, Maddy’s mom. It was a modern piece so all it was, was a giant canvas filled with random squares of color. Not my usual choice of painting, but it looked pretty simple to execute.

He took a clean paintbrush and dipped it in a bowl of something I had out and threatened to paint it.

“Nooo!” I screamed playfully as I ran over and grabbed his hand.

“Hahaha I’m just kidding,” he put the brush down and wrapped his arms around me from behind. He squeezed me and lifted me up off my feet as I laughed. He put me down and then walked into my piano room and pressed a few keys attempting to play.

“Give me a tour of your house,” he said as he walked around and then leapt up the stairs. Shit. My room was so messy. He walked into my sister’s room and saw posters of Justin Bieber littered all over the walls. “This is definitely your room,” he said as he walked in.

“HA- no, nice try. And that’s not my room either,” I said when I saw him walking into Sammy’s room across the hall. I stood in front of my door and barricaded it.

“Come on, let me in!” he said as he approached me.

“It’s soo messy..” but that didn’t stop him. He opened the door and immediately pointed out the box of tampons laying on my floor as he whipped them around in this fishing net I have as decoration. I thought it was cool at the time I bought it at Home Goods, but now I realize it was probably the biggest waste of ten bucks. “STOP!” I demanded as I made my way over to him. Mid-step I stopped as my eyes locked on a piece of paper I had stuck up on my vanity mirror. Thank God he didn’t see it or question me when I took it down. It said:

Reasons Why You Should Look HOT (with a doodle of flames coming up from underneath the word HOT).

1. Gary

2. Summer

3. College

4. Prom House

5. Gary (yes, I said Gary twice).

Then at the bottom in smaller print…

*If you don’t diet then you will be really fat and look like Julia Goldberg and Mike Z. will never get with you*

Throughout the entire page in colorful bubbles it had little notes like “you can do it!” and animated arrows that pointed at Gary’s name that said “so worth it ;)”. I am so pathetic.

He moved along my room after picking through my things and then jumped onto my unmade bed.

“You’re bed is so bouncy,” he said, bouncing up and down as he sat. I laughed and joined on the bed next to him.

“I know right it’s soo comfy!” He laid down on his back, put his head on my pillow and looked up at my ceiling.

“What are those…” he pointed up at my ceiling quotes. SHIT.

“Uhh..inspirational quotes?” I am officially the biggest loser.

“HAHA – what do they say?” He read them intently as he craned his neck to see them. They were all about moving on and I am pretty sure he caught on.

“What the fuck these are all about Ted!” he said and laughed. Little did he know my heart is stuck way before Ted.

“No they’re not?!” If it’s Ted he wanted to try and tell me I wasn’t over, I could honestly convince him I was no longer interested. Gary? Not so much. In a way he kind of looked like Gary. Maybe not his body, or his adorable cheeks or eye lashes, but his features are kind of similar. Then again I think fifty-year-old men at the gym look like Gary too.

We laid on my bed for a while, just talking and laughing. He turned me over so I was on my back and put his hands on my shoulders, then he told me he wanted to try something on my bouncy bed. I was confused and slightly excited. Then he started pushing me up and down and I was laughing so hard. I tried telling him to stop but he wouldn’t. I sounded like an idiot because whenever I bounced back up my laugh got louder and softer and I couldn’t control it. He was laughing so hard at me but finally stopped. All I kept thinking was that he was definitely about to kiss me. Finally he leaned down and did it, really soft and slow. For a really short time too. Then we went back to talking.

I never saw this side of him. After everything I talked about with Maggie I was kind of convinced maybe he actually wasn’t as big of an ass hole as I thought he was.

My phone started ringing. Sally. I shushed Barker and picked up.

“Hello?” I said as Barker started going up my shirt. She started asking me questions about later and what time we would leave for Rutgers. She said something funny and was being weird, thankfully at a convenient time because Barker started going under my bra and tickling me. I laughed and tried to kick him off of me and Sally laughed on the other line too. Then she caught on.

“Are you at Barker’s?” she asked. I looked at him and he smiled.

“No..” I answered truthfully.

“Is Barker at your house?” I smiled really wide.

“Maaaybe…” and I laughed and he said loudly so she could hear him: “Sally is so annoying! Give me the phone.” It was weird for me to see him like this because usually he hated when people knew we were together. It was even weirder when he started calling Carl on the end of my bed.

“What are you doing…” I said as I heard a ring back tone playing on the other line.

“I’m calling Carl, I missed his call,” he said as Carl picked up. “Hello?” Barker said into the phone. Then he started cracking up – literally dying laughing. I had never seen him laugh so hard but it was kind of funny and made me laugh too even though I had no idea why he was laughing. His eyes got so squinty and he stood up from my bed and laughed into the phone and was like “dude what the fuck are you saying slow down!” Then I heard Carl ask what he was doing. Ugh, the dreaded question. He would probably just say nothing and change the subject like he always did.

“I’m at-” he almost finished the sentence but got interrupted by Carl again on the other line. I heard him start to say Baker’s, but it was faint and at the end of the sentence after he got cut off. I wasn’t sure if he even said it, but it sounded like he tried. I can’t believe he would say that especially to Carl of all people.

Before we knew it, it was almost time for him to go because my sister was going to be home from school. Then he asked the annoying question right when I thought everything was going so well.

“We have five minutes, bj?” It was kind of sarcastic, but at the same time not at all. The usual comment by Andrew Barker, what else was new? I played it off as sarcasm, but then felt bad. All we really did was kiss, he went under my shirt once and even kissed me there but it wasn’t really for that long. I liked it though, it was simple and I didn’t feel pressured to do anything I didn’t want to do even once. Until that moment he just had to ruin it and ask.

I told him it was time for him to go because my sister was going to be home any minute so we made our way downstairs and I stood in my kitchen as he went to get his shoes by my couch. I stood there with my arms crossed and he pretended to just walk out and pass right by me but then he smiled and made his way back over to me.

“Byeee,” he said with a smile on his face. He leaned in and kissed me gently. I smiled with satisfaction and he walked out of the door and then opened it again and screamed “THANKS FOR NOTHING” then closed it again.

“FUCK OFF!” I screamed after him. I stood there smiling for a little and then walked back over to my couch and sat down. It was all of five seconds until I heard the door open and slam shut again as he raced back into my house.

“Hahahaha oh my God that was so awkward!” He was all flustered and didn’t know what to do with himself. I was confused.

“What are you doing?!” I asked as he walked over to me on the couch.

“Your sister was walking up the driveway and I heard her singing and I didn’t know what to do so I just ran back inside!” I started hysterically laughing at him. He sat down on the couch next to me as my sister Jamie walked in. I’ve never seen him so flustered I was just giggling to myself as she walked in and looked over at us.

“Hey Jamie.. this is Barker..” Jamie knows about Barker because I always talk shit about him to her and about how annoying he is when he asks me for rides when he’s drunk. It was sufficiently awkward that she saw us together on the couch, but she didn’t know what to say so she just took out her headphones slowly and was like, “hi…”.

Barker looked up. “I’m Andrew, actually – my name’s Andrew”. I wasn’t sure if this was more sarcastic-serious attitude but I suddenly felt embarrassed I had just introduced him by his last name. That’s all I called him, maybe I should’ve called him Andrew? That would’ve just been weird though. I pondered on this for a second as Barker went on to try and make awkward conversation. “I heard you singing, it was nice”. Jamie looked confused and slightly freaked out.

“Um.. Thanks,” she said with a slight smile. We both wanted to laugh pretty hard but I could tell she was containing it, I wasn’t as good at that though. She walked upstairs to her room and I looked over at Barker.

“Well uh, thanks for helping me with my homework..?” Barker laughed when Jamie was out of sight. I didn’t know why he had to be so weird, he just fucked everything up and made it awkward for all of us. After he was out the door I spent a good five minutes laughing.

He texted me after that but he was annoying as shit.

Barker: So awk hahahaha

Me: Hahahahaha I was laughing for a solid 5 minutes after u left

Barker: Lol

Me: LOLOL

Classic

No response. He usually always responds. I would text him an emoji face and he would respond. I was confused. I tried to shake it off.

The next day I was at work. It was around six when I texted him because I was bored and wanted to see what was up because he was being weird. I texted him “Hi”. He didn’t answer at all.

By the time I got home from work I was so exhausted from being up at Rutgers until four in the morning and still slightly hungover that I passed out on my couch. When I woke up at three AM I checked my phone. Barker. I slid my thumb across the screen and typed in my password half asleep but still happy he finally texted me.

Barker: Take me to cluck please!!!

I stared at the text for a good minute just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I blinked rapidly. Was he fucking kidding me? I slammed my phone into the couch. Then I realized I wanted to go up to bed so I grabbed it again angrily and stomped up to my room. I didn’t even bother brushing my teeth, I just climbed into bed and fell back asleep.

I should’ve known he would’ve been a disappointment. I shouldn’t have even tried.

Gut Feelings

I was mid-run on the treadmill.  My face was dripping sweat at twenty-two minutes in.  Halfway there.  I focussed my gaze on a barren branch in the distance; one of the many in the thin strip of woods that separate the YMCA from the highway behind it.  My music was blasting through my headphones as I steadied my breathing, focusing in and out on Gary and how whatever song I was listening to related to something, anything, that somehow had to do with him.  This was a daily routine of mine; thinking about Gary as I ran to keep me motivated to push through my dripping sweat and collapsing lungs.  But this time what motivated me was not my yearning for the past to become a reality, but rather the change that I said I wanted to come of the New Year.

Almost instantly my mood switched to anger and frustration.  I didn’t want to miss Gary anymore.  I didn’t want to wonder what he thought about me, if he even thinks about me at all.  I wanted to know.  I wanted to know if he does or doesn’t – and more than that, I needed to know if I ever wanted to move on.  I needed to let go of this dead weight that’s been nothing but a pathetic, unrealistic idea of the reality that would never be true.

A bead of sweat dripped off my nose and I frantically wiped the back of my hand across my face to get rid of it although I knew it would be back in five seconds.  Regardless, I found my hand reaching for the trigger to increase the speed.  I picked up the pace by .2 miles per hour, then another, and another.  Before I knew it I was running 7.5 miles per hour and I still had another twenty minutes to go.  If I finish out these twenty minutes on this speed, I am texting Gary and asking him how he feels about me.

A promise is a promise.  Not only had I proven to myself that I have enough endurance to make a step towards my new years resolution, but I had proven myself to be a stronger runner than I expected.  I finished my forty-five minute run at eight miles an hour and ran a total of 5.36 miles.

The treadmill slowed down and I ran for an additional couple minutes to cool myself.  I did it, it’s done.  I felt better already.  At that point there was no doubt in my mind that my promise was going to be fulfilled.  There was no going back and by some amazing stroke of luck or fate or whatever it may have been, I was completely at peace knowing that his answer could potentially put me out of my Gary days forever.  Yet at the same time I knew in my heart this would not be the case.  I knew he still thought about me.

I made my way off the treadmill and over to my cubby where I left my things.  I unscrewed the top of my water bottle and took a long, much-needed chug.  As I put on my jacket and walked out, I whipped out my phone.  I opened up a new message to Brain.

Me: Hayooo can I have Gary’s number?  I’m ending my obsession.

Hours passed without an answer.  I tried not to think about it.  I didn’t even tell any of my friends what my plan was – other than Phoebe because we got smoothies that day – and that was mainly because I didn’t even know what the plan was myself.  Then finally, after three long hours, Brain finally responded.

Brain: OOPS just saw this

Hold on

Me: Ok thanks

My heart was racing but my head was steady.  I knew exactly what I was doing and I was full of the perfect balance of confidence and fearlessness needed in order to pull it off.  As soon as she sent me the number, I opened up a text and didn’t waste any more time.

Me: Hey Gary it’s Lacy Baker!  I just needed to let u know that idk why but I can’t stop thinking about you and I know this is totally unfair to say to you bc u have had a gf for forever, but I needed to let u know so I can get over u if that’s how it has to be.  Am I crazy or is there hope that we will ever be the way we used to be?

(Holy novel)

It took all of thirty seconds to develop that text.  Everything I needed to say had been building up in my head for months- all I needed to do was get my fingers to write it out.  As soon as I had it typed in my phone, I pressed send.  I then proceeded to lock my phone and place it on the table next to me.  Then, I casually continued to do my homework.  I knew that no matter what his answer was going to be it would make me feel better than I had before; better than longing and wondering what he was thinking.  I would finally know.

My phone vibrated and I quickly looked down at it.  Gary Fitzgerald.  God it’s been a while since I’d seen that name flash on my screen.

Gary: Hey Lacy you’re not crazy I think about you too sometimes!  You have a boyfriend too right?  But ya for now things are pretty good with my girlfriend but I would never say never.  And I know that’s not necessarily what you wanna hear but it’s better than me saying never right?  Maybe you wanted to hear no it’s never going to happen though so you can move on?

My head was spinning.  It felt like the Fourth of July in my stomach.  I couldn’t hold back the smile that spread across my face.  I knew he thought about me too, I knew it.

Me: Hahaha yeah sorta.. But me and my boyfriend broke up back in September!  I hate to say all this to you because of your girlfriend haha.  I’m glad things are going well though 🙂

(Naahhhht)..jk

Gary: Yeah I understand its okay.  I hate to talk about it too because I feel guilty but don’t rule it out.  I think you’re really attractive still haha

Good to know all of those times at Brain and Sally’s parties weren’t all in my head; I guess he really was staring.  And his girlfriend would totally kill me if she knew about this convo.  It made me smile.

Me:  Hahaha fuck well the feeling is mutual.  I’m just glad I could get that off my chest

Gary:  Yeah well we should keep in touch.  Where are you going to college

He sent that last message at around 5:45 and we continued a solid conversation until he had to shower (was he trying to kill me?) at around 7:00.  It was a really good feeling coming out of that conversation knowing that my gut was right.  He did think about me, he did sometimes wonder about how I was doing just like I wondered about him (although maybe not quite as often), and he did still think I was attractive!  Amongst all the butterflies and exploding firecrackers in my stomach, reality began to sink in.

He has a girlfriend, he goes to college, I’m going to be going to college (most likely in Virginia or some other far away state), and – it’s Gary Fitzgerald!  Aka biggest flirt, aka guy who built me up and dropped me down, aka guy who will most likely do it again.  Aka…I can’t go back.  Not again.  I know I shouldn’t.  But it’s not simply a matter of knowing, it’s a matter of wanting; a combination of knowing what’s good for me and wanting what’s best at the same time.  The only problem is I don’t want what’s good for me.  If I did I would have never ended things with Ted.

My internal struggle continues to fester as time goes on.  The longer it’s been since we’ve had that conversation, the more I know that he won’t keep in touch even though he said we should.  But then again, what did I expect?  We live different lives and he has never been one to keep a promise anyway.  He is notorious for letting me down whether it be unintentional or simply a lack of caring.

I wish I didn’t care.  I wish I wanted to get over him.  Until then I will pray to God when this summer comes around and the opportunity arises, I pray that I won’t give in.  I pray that I develop enough love and respect for myself to turn him down; to shoot down his expectations just like he has done to me ever since I’ve met him.

Until then I will dream of the day I meet another guy who will make me feel the way he did.