I stepped off the stage, forehead sweating and heart racing from the adrenaline. I felt claps on my back and muffled voices that sounded like congratulations, but it all felt distant. I did it, and I felt proud. Everyone congregated in the downstairs bar for well-earned post show drinks. All evening people had come up to me, congratulating me on a job well done.
In a sea of brilliant, talented, witty, funny women, I was drowning.
In my eyes, everyone had something that made them unique, and I had nothing.
I tried to emulate the styles of my social media crushes, to no avail. That style was reserved, already being done, hence why mine felt like a watered down version. Better to be a first-rate version on yourself than a second-rate version of someone else, and all that.
I have been so fixated on others and their uniqueness, that mine wasn’t shining through. Or it was, but I didn’t deem it good enough.
They saw one another from across the park. Their eyes met briefly before she looked away again, happily chattering on the phone. A sudden shriek of laughter erupted from her lips, and he could have sworn that a flock of nearby birds took off into the grey sky as she did. Her cackle was almost as loud as her natural register as she spoke, and he wondered how someone could be so unaware of her volume control.
Miles and Erin crouched over the hatch, staring at it in bewilderment. They never expected to find something like this when they were sent up to clean out the attic.
“It’s unlike anything I ever imagined,” Miles coughed. Dust particles were still dancing in the stale air from when they pried open the door of this mystery opening. A whole set of radio broadcasting equipment, right up here in Erin’s grandpa’s attic.
To read part one, click here.
I sat across from him in the small, crowded, hole in the wall pub that had become our regular. Cupping my hands over the tiny tea light that was placed on the centre of our rickety table, I listened as the rain hammered rhythmically on the windows, and watched the ambient lighting of the pub illuminating his face, casting a golden halo around his hair. We fell into a companionable silence, as we often did, never feeling the pressure to fill the empty spaces with meaningless small talk.
No, whenever we spoke, it had purpose. It meant something.
I always had trouble describing what we were. Not that we even needed a label. We were two people, not ‘seeing each other’, but not really friends either. Friends didn’t cuddle under big fluffy blankets while watching films, or discreetly hold hands under tables, or delicately fiddle with the frayed edges of jeans that were ripped at the knee, just desperate to find a way to feel their skin against yours.
We didn’t have sex, but god, were we intimate. We shared a level of intimacy like I hadn’t known before. We found ways to crawl into each other’s subconscious and unravel all of our deep-seated issues and insecurities; and the best part of it was that we didn’t need comforting or assurance. I didn’t need him to stroke my hair and half heartedly tell me that everything was going to be okay, how strong I was, or how I was going to get through this. Just like he didn’t need me to tell him that he was way better off without that emotionally manipulative ex who cheated on him. Though I’m sure he could read between the lines.
We relished in the physicalities of our closeness, but took solace in the fact that we didn’t have to put a label on this thing we didn’t know we were.
I saw a sense of anticipation lingering on his face as he bit at the corner of his lip.
“Dating is weird, isn’t it?” he posited.
“Oh?” I furrowed my brow, not quite knowing what I was about to chase into the mysterious conversational rabbit hole.
“Just people, getting together, meeting up for the purposes of making a romantic connection. All the rituals that goes into it; the swiping, the pick up lines, the pandering. Of course, it’s all pretty new to me after coming out of a four-year relationship. I’ve never had to worry about that sort of thing before.”
I nodded at him, not encouragingly, but not discouraging either. I sipped my pint, and waited for him to get to his point.
“Also, and forgive me if I start to get a bit too philosophical about this,” he pre-empted, “but what exactly constitutes as a date? How is it any different to just two people, who happen to like each other, going out for a drink?”
He gestures between the two of us, “Like, is this a date?”
My breath stopped as I felt my heart rising up to my throat, my whole body freezing. It was hard to gage his tone; I couldn’t really tell if he was saying all of this in jest, or with a quite curiosity of someone who really wanted to know.
And I wondered, why was I not over the moon that I was sitting opposite a smart, funny, charming and breathtakingly handsome man, who was adamant to know whether or not we were dating?
I swallowed down my anxiety hard, “This can be whatever you want it to be.” It was meant to come out aloof, nonchalant, and cool. But I’m not even sure if I managed to say it above a nervous whisper.
The subject was swiftly changed, and but I couldn’t quieten down the part of my mind that insisted that whatever we had was ruined. Why, I thought, did he have to break our unspoken agreement to put a label on a thing that wasn’t meant to be labelled?
This is part of my creative writing series, Shorts. To read others in the series, click here. Stay tuned for the third and final part soon…