I was in a pretty dark place on Valentine's Day.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed. There's just nothing good in my life right now. We're between productions with the Drama club, my friends are drifting away from me (or me with them) Meg and I are working through our differences, but far from the best we've been. I'm behind on my homework. I've got cramps pretty bad. I'm rooming with a messy 11-year-old girl and suppressing the desire to scream at her to get her shit put away because it's so inconsiderate and I work pretty hard to keep my little corner of the house neat and tidy.
I don't know whether it's the weather, the lack of a social life, the pressure of school or the female hormones, but I am about to snap.
Lauren turned 18 on January 23. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about it. In the eyes of the law I am an adult, but to the world, and myself. Lauren's still a "kid." 17 and a half is just a stone's throw from 18. I don't look or feel any different, but I know in my bones, this body exists in the world differently than it did a month ago and that's weird. some kind of protective bubble of "childhood" has disappeared.
I asked for gift cards, so Lauren could get some new clothes once she came back to her body, but ended up getting a lot of clothes anyway: clothes had had to be exchanged because family members estimated my size wrong, on account of what I've done to Lauren. For the record, I don't think I did anything wrong, merely took her from emaciated to skinny. At least, what is considered very skinny in the land of Paula Deen butter-fried bacon. I joke, but I do miss biscuits and gravy.
Saturday night was Valentine's Day, of course, and it felt pretty brutal knowing that Meghan was out there rekindling Tasha's romance with Wade. I don't like admitting I can't get over her. I feel like my body is betraying me by pushing all these hormones through me. Whatever I feel for her feels pretty unhealthy, and yes a little wrong, but consider the alternative - and I know there are alternatives.
It was 3 AM that night and I couldn't sleep. I was lying up in bed, listening to Kylie wheeze, when I heard Phil stumble through the door and into his room. I waited about twenty minutes, then crept down there to see the light peeking out from beneath the door.
I stood in front of it for probably a minute or so, my lungs shaking with each breath. I knew there was a huge risk in what I was about to do. No part of me thought it was smart or sane. But I needed to do something. It was like being a smoker again and lying up thinking about getting a cigarette. At a certain point you just need it.
I knocked. He answered quickly and seemed pleasantly surprised it was me.
"Sorry," he said, "Was I loud?"
"No, no, not really," I said. "I just... I saw you were still up... and this is gonna sound really stupid, but I need a friend right now, and you're the only one around. Would you mind if we talk?"
He looked at me for a second like I'd grown a third arm straight outta the back of my head, but he let me in and shut the door behind us.
He laid down on his bed, and I sat against the wall on the far side of the room. He patted the bed next to him, but it was a pretty unappealing option.
"Come on," he beckoned, "You're the one who wants to be friendly."
"Not like that," I said.
"I know, but I can't hear you from back there."
So I went and sat on his bed, back against the headboard, knees up to my chest in a protective position.
"What's on your mind?" he asked.
"It's hard to say," I said, coming ever so close to blurting out the facts about me before realizing how insane it would sound. "How was your night?"
"Shitty," he said, "Almost hooked up, but the girl was a tease. I'm pretty drunk though."
I shrugged at that. As a guy I would have been rooting for him, but in my current position I can see her reasons.
"Do you feel bad that you're not seeing anyone on Valentine's Day?"
"Meh. It's just another day," he said as if it was insane of me to ask.
"Yeah, I used to think so too," I said, "I guess I'm becoming a real... girl." I stopped and snorted a laugh at how I must've sounded.
"Yeah you are," he said, giving me uncomprehending, narrow eyes.
I decided to try to explain. "I had a fight with my best friend. I dunno how to explain it. It was about a guy."
"She stole him from you?"
"More like he stole her from me," I muttered.
"Friend gets in a relationship, you never see friend again," he surmised. "I got it."
"Yeah, basically," I said. "It's more complicated than that... but not really."
"Well, if she's your friend, you be happy for her," he said, lying back on his bed with his eyes closed, as if in a zen trance, "And if you're her friend she'll come back."
"I guess," I said, "I really don't know why I feel so bad. I just always pictured... something different."
"With who?" he asked, clearly confused.
"I don't think he's right for her," I said. "That's all."
"Okay," he said, "I see it now. No offense, but that's weak. Like, let her decide for herself."
"You don't--" I started to say, "Whatever."
There was a silence for a while. He was still lying there, not looking at me. He reached up and put his hand on my knee.
I asked, "Do you have many female friends?"
"Sure," he said, "A couple."
"And were they all just girls you wanted to date but couldn't?"
He paused for a while then answered "Mostly."
"Any girls who wanted to date you, but you didn't want to date them?"
He looked at me with a smirk and said "That's not how guys work."
Another silence passed between us, until I broke it by asking, "Could you date somebody if it meant never having sex with them?"
"What?" he winced, "What would be the point?"
"Company," I sighed, "Companionship. Shared interests."
He sat up, "Sorry, but no. When you get a bit older you'll see that sex has to be part of a relationship."
I got really annoyed by that "When you get older" bit, but it's not the first time I've heard that. I didn't like his take on relationships, either, but as much as I wanted to believe the opposite I have a hard time doing so too.
"I don't think I'm gonna ever have sex again," I sighed.
"You'll find somebody," he said quickly, looking over at me with a smile that suggested he'd be open to being that somebody.
"You're a good dude, Phil," I begrudgingly admitted, "Sometimes you're annoying, but you mean well. You should probably know this can't happen though." I gestured between the two of us.
He scoffed, "Whatever," and rolled over on the bed. I quietly excused myself.
I went back to my room and turned my phone on. I started scrolling through the old text messages. There were several from Meg, random conversations with Lauren's friends, and Mark. There were a bunch of one-off "Happy Birthday" texts, including one from Wade, which would've been right after he and Meg were having those problems, which I found weird at the time because I didn't think he and I were that close. Still nice, though. I hate that I consider him my enemy, because he is basically a good dude.
Scrolling back a ways, I found texts with the real Lauren, and then, my sister Carrie, coordinating our return to the Inn and checking in on how she's doing with Meg's body.
And then just before that, sitting like a brick at the bottom of the list, is a conversation with "New Tyler."
But I really don't want to get into that right now.
"But I really don't want to get into that right now."
..But we can't wait until you do!
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