A/N: I had a legitimate dream about a scene like this. Woke up, felt inspired. Did the dumbest thing I could do in that moment, which was to write a fictional story out of it.
Disclaimer: None of the names are real?!?! Duh
“Have you heard? Soo has a girlfriend!”
I slammed my Economics textbook shut a little too loudly (“Whoops, I’m sorry, definitely did not mean to slam it that loudly. Sorry, sorry”) and looked up at the messenger of this particular piece of uninteresting and unappealing news. Aimee looked ever so enthusiastic, more than she should be over a discovery like this, but her excitement was encouraged even more by a fairly well response in the form of gasps and exclaims from everyone else at the table. Everyone else except me.
God, don’t encourage her. Whatever you do, don’t give her reason to talk. This tiny girl could go on for hours. Especially about stuff that I couldn’t care less about.
Reluctantly, I opened up my textbook again and tried to tune Aimee out over the passage of “Fiscal Policies and Monetary Policies as Macroeconomic Policies to Correct Economic Problems in an Economy”. See, if I were anywhere else at the table except here where I was currently, right in front of Aimee and her neverending loudness, I would’ve succeeded. I would’ve mastered the full functionalities and consequences of a fiscal policy and/or a monetary policy. I would’ve been able to recite how these policies were determined by changes in tax rates and interest rates off the top of my head right there and then. At that table. Just not in front of Aimee.
“I heard they’ve been together for almost three months…yes, yes, no, she’s not from here…not this college, I mean…I know right! I would never have guessed…” I sighed, running my fingers through my hair in obvious frustration and started to make a move packing my bags, mentally searching for a place in this college that was free of relationship gossip topics and Aimees.
“Hey, Emmy! Where are you going? You’re in the same class as Soo, right? Go on, tell us more about him. Tell…tell Hannah! She’s never met him before,” I froze, my bag already halfway strapped across one shoulder. Seven pairs of eyes were trained on me now, thanks to Aimee. Now I couldn’t possibly form any escape plan without looking and sounding like an asshole. I couldn’t even genuinely go to the toilet even if my bladder was at 99% full capacity without looking and sounding like an asshole. I was trapped in this crossfire I didn’t even contribute to in the first place.
Thank you, Aimee. Why are we friends.
“Uh…” I sat down slowly, my hand still gripping my bag strap in case an emergency happened and I really had to get out of there. And by emergency I meant the continuation of this round of interrogation. “Well. He’s…tall. I guess, that’s the first thing you think of when you think of him. He’s also really super smart and…and uh…” I wasn’t kidding when I said I really couldn’t care less about relationship gossip. Particularly if it was gossip that involved Soo. I didn’t even know what his full name was, or if Soo was a nickname or acronym for something smart-ass. It definitely seemed like something Soo would do.
“Doesn’t he hate you or something?” Aimee, ever the master of subtlety. Her words sparked another round of fervent whispers and hushed exclaims around the table. Oh, my God! Soo and Emmy?! Are they fighting? What over? Why would a boy fight with a girl? No, why would a girl fight with a boy?
“Hey, HEY! Okay, first off, what the hell does being a girl or being a boy even have to do with any of this?” I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Why am I here. Why am I friends with all of you. “Second of all, I don’t hate him. We’re not fighting. It’s 2014, not 1000 BC. Thirdly…” You’re all assholes and if you could only see how idiotic you look right now, you’d understand why I had to do what I did. “…My bladder is at 99% full capacity and I genuinely have to go to the toilet right now. Goodbye.”
It’s been a year since I entered college, which means that Soo and I have been classmates for almost a year too. It might be hard to believe but we didn’t start out with as much hostility between us as we do now. In fact, we started off pretty well. He is super smart, and we used to spend a whole lot of time between classes and even during classes exchanging different ideas and opinions. It was refreshing and interesting to meet someone new with totally different thought processes in a whole new environment. Even back then, we were both aware of the polarity of our personality differences – I am mostly quiet and only speak up when prompted, while Soo is loud and expressive, especially about topics he is most passionate about. Despite that, the brand new nature of our friendship kept us going on as steady friends. In fact, amidst everyone else who were all strangers to one another, the both of us almost seemed like best friends.
However, things came to an abrupt standstill four months into entering college. And our friendship more or less ended the same way a lot of other friendships ended.
Soo announced -in front of the entire class- his romantic feelings for me. Caught unexpectedly in that moment of panic, I could only blurt out the truth: I’m gay.
“I’m sorry, Soo. I’m gay, and I don’t feel the same way.”
Soo’s ego suffered a huge pummelling –it happened in front of the whole class, after all- and I couldn’t help but feel awkward and guilty around him. In place of an initial strong mutual attraction towards each other, there was now only a strong mutual repulsion between us, up to this day.
One week later
It was Saturday night. It was a weekend and I was in my room binge watching Orphan Black. I hate to be a stereotype but here I am.
To be fair, I did have plans. Farrah and I were supposed to have dinner together…somewhere. We didn’t even go into that much detail because both of us knew how much we’d rather stay in our own rooms, and we were just agreeing to a plan that we were bound to cancel anyway. At 6.30PM I texted Farrah saying I had a last minute assignment to deal with right at the same time she texted me saying she had a stomachache and that was our silent concurrence to just scrape dinner and continue watching 1080p TV shows on our laptops (I was about 98% sure she was on Season Two of Breaking Bad right now).
I started to groan when my phone vibrated loudly against the wooden table top. I was in the middle of what was probably the most suspenseful moment of the entire Orphan Black series and who even calls anymore these days?
All thoughts instantaneously vanished when I saw the flashing name on my phone screen.
“H-hey! Par!” I cleared my throat awkwardly, a million thoughts running through my mind at once. Why is Parvithra calling me? What does she want? What have I done? “Um, wow, it has been a seriously long time…how, uh, how are you?” I have not spoken to Parvithra for almost two years. The last time I did was in the deserted high school parking lot at night. When we broke up. Needless to say, we didn’t exactly end it on good terms. Nor bad terms. No terms, really. We just stopped talking to each other at all.
Which was why this phone call caught me by total surprise. So much surprise that I wished I hadn’t picked up in the first place. That break-up still left a sour taste in my mouth. Being labelled an ‘experimental phase subject’ by someone I’d strongly invested my emotions in for a number of months was not something I was happy to be reminded of.
My brain automatically ran a scan to pick up on Reasons Why Parvithra Might Be Calling Me and its results turned up zero. If it could turn up with a negative integral, believe me, it would.
“Emmy! Hi! How are you!” For as long as I’ve known Parvithra, she was always the one with manners, ever so polite and courteous towards everyone about everything. But even beneath those five words of exclamation, I could sense how strained her voice was. She was clearly enjoying this just as much as I was.
“I’m, I’m good! Yes, definitely…a really long time,” she added a weak laugh. Her weak laugh elicited an equally weak laugh out of me. This went on for about three seconds, followed by a silence so deafening I almost hung up and threw my phone across the room.
“Listen…I know this is really weird and stuff me calling you but I…need a favour. Of sorts,” Parvithra said all of this really fast in one breath that it took me a while to process what she said, particularly the word ‘favour’.
I was starting to sweat nervously without realising it. “Okay…what kind of favour?”
“Um…okay this is really…really weird and stuff okay…but…” I heard static through the phone as Parvithra distinguishably exhaled really loudly. “I’m in a relationship. With, with a guy. We’ve been together for three months now, and I don’t know why, but he wants to personally meet all my exes. And by ‘all my exes’ I mean you, of course ” her weak laugh again. “Yeah, I know, it’s really weird. Probably thinks he’s Scott Pilgrim or something. Anyway, I, uh, I couldn’t say no. I mean, it’s awkward and everything but I didn’t want to have anything to hide…I mean, I have nothing to hide and…so…yeah…” her voice petered out.
My heart was stuck in my throat. My throat was stuck in my throat. What is this, some kind of sick joke? Some moron’s insane idea of spending his free time? Who the hell even does this? Was I on some kind of reality TV show? Because something as ridiculous as this couldn’t possibly be real.
“Are you serious?” My eyes scanned my room, looking for possible locations to hide a secret camera.
“Yes, yes I am. Listen, Emmy, I know…things have been pretty weird between us even without the weirdness of what I’m asking you to do and I’m really, really sorry, but…I guess…I really like this guy and-“
I heaved an inaudible sigh. Oh, God. It’s true. This is all the proof I need. My life is a joke. If it was anyone else, I would’ve hung up in a heartbeat. But I’d loved Parvithra, and old habits die hard, I guess. “Par. Fine. Yes. Okay. What do you need me to do?”
“It’s just going to be a harmless dinner, just the three of us. He just wants to…I don’t know, get to know you. Even as a friend! He’s great, he’s a great, great person and you won’t- I mean, I hope you won’t regret it and –oh! He likes Vampire Weekend too and-“
“Okay. Yeah. Sure. Of course.” I deadpanned, already knowing I would probably regret this for the rest of my life. There was probably nothing else in the world that was more unappealing than this arrangement. Me agreeing to this made all the bad choices everyone in the world has ever done look like the correct answers to a Chemistry test. But I knew there was no way I could’ve said no to Parvithra. And listening to her trying to convince me to say yes by going on endlessly about her perfect boyfriend made me want to grab the nearest stationery and stab my eyeballs repeatedly with it. There was no other way out of this except to go through with it as quickly as possible and hope I survive the meeting without murdering someone. Or myself. Whichever was more convenient at the moment.
“Just one thing…does he know…well, does he know I’m a girl?”
There was silence on the other end. And then-
“No. No, he doesn’t.”
There was already a line forming at the entrance to Nando’s by the time I arrived. I was relatively early –by 10 minutes- so I decided to wait for Parvithra and her great, great boyfriend to turn up first before joining the queue.
I leaned against the wall of the restaurant, reaching into my sling bag to retrieve a cig when I turned to my left and saw-
Of all places. Of all people. Of all times.
“Emmy,” his face was contorted in obvious displeasure and annoyance as my name rolled off his tongue covered in mild venom. For all I knew, I probably permanently looked like a dried up prune to him. He was also leaning against the wall but at the sight of me, he straightened up and it almost looked like he was ready to leap up and sprint from the place. Glad to have that effect on you, Soo. “What are you doing here?”
I shrugged. “Oh, you know, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on a Sunday night, indulging in the fragrance of human sweat wafting out from this line of flesh and bones, and being graced by your divine presence. I dunno, I just get a kick out of this, you know?”
“I could say the same about you, and by the same I mean I wish I was the one giving you your kick. In the face. With my foot.”
“Oh, Soo, ever so funny. My life would be incomplete without your topnotch jokes. Monochromatic, even. Meaningless. Hopeless. What ever would I do without you, Soo?”
I expected another round of insults -Soo never failed to deliver, he was as good at this game as I was- but instead, all that ensued was silence. I took a drag, exhaling cigarette smoke in what I hoped was my best imitation of looking cool and triumphant at having won an insult-off. I turned to look at Soo again. His arms were folded over his long-sleeved collared shirt –what was his deal with that, anyway? He was at Nando’s, not the Royal Palace- and at first I thought he was indignantly ignoring me but his facial expression suggested otherwise. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he looked almost…pained. But since I did know better, he was probably constipated or something.
Where was Parvithra and her golden boy anyway? I was about to call Parvithra when Soo’s voice interrupted my train of throught. “You know, Emmy, I thought I could keep on going at this. It sure beat the alternative, which was to apologise to you. You hurt my pride, and I was too proud to see the bigger picture after that. But pretending to hate your guts was not as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It’s only fun when it’s real. I don’t actually hate you. Not really.”
I almost dropped my cigarette as I tried to process the words that were coming out of Soo’s mouth. The line into the restaurant was getting shorter and shorter, where the hell was Parvithra? I wasn’t expecting this. I wasn’t expecting a full-fledged confrontation of feelings when I agreed to meet Parvithra at West End Nando’s at 7PM. And what was Soo doing here anyway? Why wasn’t he queuing up to go in? Why did it seem like he was also waiting for someone…
“Soo!” A shrill voice echoed from across the street.
My heart dropped so low that I had to look down to check if it hadn’t really fallen out of my body and onto the cement floor below. That voice…belonged to someone I knew.
It belonged to Parvithra.
Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god oh god.
Parvithra appeared, walking towards us in red stilettos that made loud clicking sounds on the pavement. Clicking sounds that echoed in pace with my racing heartbeats. This couldn’t be real. It wasn’t possible.
I gaped in horror as Parvithra ran up to Soo and embraced him, and then I spent the next two minutes trying to keep my lunch in my stomach as the two gave each other welcome kisses right in front of me.
Parvithra and her great, great boyfriend. Her golden boy. Her ‘I-really-like-this-guy’ guy.
They broke apart after what seemed like five hundred panic attacks and that was when Parvithra noticed me, mouth opened wide, cigarette dangling from my right hand fingers. “Emmy! You’re here too! I’m really sorry for being late-“
“You. And Soo.” I sounded like I was suffocating and maybe I was.
“Emmy? You know Par? But how-“ I watched the light leave Soo’s eyes as the same realisation dawned upon him too. I wondered if he would still remember his previous apology after what just happened. I wouldn’t have.
Parvithra frowned at us. “You two…know each other? Wow, talk about a small world, huh?”
“Or…probably not. In any case, a short round of introductions never hurt anyone,” Parvithra beamed cheerfully. “Emmy, this is my boyfriend, Soo. Soo, this is my ex-girlfriend, Emmy.”