I have noticed of late that when I’m not doing short stories about…poop and death…they tend to feature a male protagonist and his platonic/not-so-platonic female friend.
Like, I’ve got three or so (this being one of them) ALL like that. Why? I don’t even have any female friends, really. Hell, I barely have friends full stop. Subconscious yearning? Laziness?
I was right, too. About tomorrow being worse. From the moment I opened my eyes I could tell immediately that nothing would go right and there was nothing I could about it.
There was a headache, too. Not even a proper hangover. I hadn’t drunk anywhere near enough – I may not have been accurately keeping track of actually how many beers did come my way before we left – to be properly hungover, but even the low-grade headache I woke up to was insulting me by its mere presence. I groaned, and this made everything worse. Leaving the bed was another step downhill and with my eyes squeezed shut it was hard making my way around the room, but the alternative – opening them – was much worse than a few bumps here and there.
The whole house was deathly quiet, and there was no sign of Tillie even as I made my way out after a deeply unsatisfying breakfast of toast that was both – somehow! – soggy and dry at the same time. A paradox of bad food, and something that actually left me hungrier than I had been before, as though my body demanded payment for having to ensure such a thing.
The continuing silence was deeply unnerving. I moved slowly towards the front door maybe hoping Tillie was just a little slower than usual but it was no use. Her door remained resolutely closed and I left with my head hanging down for my walk up to campus. I had got so used to seeing her – or rather, her seeing more off – that having it not happen was like having a rug pulled out from under me. And I’d actually had that happen to me once. They were both bad for different reasons.
It was actually quite a nice morning, which didn’t make me feel much better. The bright, crisp sunshine made my eyes water and the morning traffic that thundered past smothered me in a fug of exhaust. The hill seemed steeper than it normally did and every road I had to cross was the road that everyone wanted to drive down at that particular moment, leading me to stand around like a sinking pudding for minutes on end. At least the smiling girl in the Student Bus-Pass ad on – appropriately enough – the side of the bus that went past didn’t get cross with me suddenly. She was cute too, which was nice. Cheered me up no end, it did.
It was a good sign of the depths to which I had sunk to on that morning that the sight of a ‘cute’ and slightly sun-faded girl plastered on the side of a bus could be considered the best thing that happened to me since I woke up. She was very cute though – what a smile! Could see why they’d put her in the ad. Unlike myself, who had a face for radio and a voice for being quiet and not saying anything. Such is the hand life had dealt me.
Eventually I got to uni and somehow magically things did not get better. They didn’t get worse, which was something, but them staying where they were was pretty bad. Things were terrible. Awful. I sat in my lectures and nothing went into my head. I was barely even aware of anything a foot away from me and the person stood up talking at the end of the room – the lecturer? Presumably, I wasn’t paying attention – might as well have been in France for all the good they doing for my learning.
I just sat and I stared down at the useless little lap table in front of me and I thought about what had happened last night. I thought about what Tillie had said to me, and more specifically I thought about how she’d said it. She’d been so upset and I desperately tried to pick up on why and when it had happened and what I had done to cause it and what I could to fix it.
I came up with nothing though, nothing at all. I just felt worse, and by the time the lectures of the morning were over I was less walking than dragging my carcass from one point to another. I wanted to go back to bed and, being a student with nothing else on, I could do just that.
I saw Michelle. She saw me. We did not say hello. I felt worse. Again. Theme of that day: feeling worse.
It wasn’t until I was about halfway back home that I noticed I was even going in that direction, and I didn’t really care either way. I wanted to hide, and that was about as far as my plans for the day went once I got back inside. I would be quiet in doing so as well. Stealthy, sneaky like. Like an unhappy ghost but without the rattling chains or vision-quests.
Before, back in the early morning, I’d rather wanted to see Tillie. I’d wanted it to have been as if nothing had happened. Hugs, kind words, off I would go and that would be that and we wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I had worked out that wasn’t going to happen, which meant something unpleasant had to happen instead, and I didn’t want that. So I would be covert. In the time I’d lived in the house I had learnt its various creaks and groans. I knew which bits of the floor to avoid, how slow I had to be with the front door so as not to make a sound. You picked these things up. I would be as unto a shadow.
Or I would have been, had Tillie not been just standing in the front hall and waiting for me. I had been so confident of my silent entry that I jumped almost a foot in the air when I actually noticed her.
“Ah! I mean, uh, hello,” I said, not able to really look at her and instead admiring the carpet she was standing on. Finer carpet I had never seen and no mistake.
“Hi,” she said. We then stood apart, unmoving and in perfect quiet. I closed the front door behind me because up until that point I hadn’t, and things got even more muffled.
She then said those three words that have never, ever proceeded anything relaxing or fun any time they have been used:
“We should talk.”
To which I could only think to myself:
‘I should hide.’
But I actually said:
Tillie’s lights went the colour of low, simmering irritation. Things were off to a great start.