After winning three games, Benny and I handed the red cups and ping-pong balls over to others waiting. Kyle and Matty were sufficiently drunk, so they also handed it off to someone else. The four of us were standing out on the small back deck of Pike’s house, all feeling overheated. The usual crowd seemed to have thinned out, but everyone that was still there was rowdy, making the room still seem packed. The closer to graduation we all got, the crazy the parties got. I wasn’t alone with my future anxiety. I was in a sea of similar sailors.
“Is that a park?” Kyle asked Matty.
“Is what a park?” Matty puffed on the joint he has just lit up.
“That,” Kyle pointed at a large patch grass on the other side of a small line of juvenile maple apple trees.
“Yes,” I said. “That’s Sherry Park; it touches the street my apartment building is on,” I looked at Benny, who nodded, “and Stevie’s backyard, and the library.”
“So you can walk through the park to the library?” Benny asked me.
“Yep. It’s awesome,” I smiled to myself before I put my head in my hands. The last round was one whole round too much. I wasn’t feeling well, but I was also not obsessing about everything I don’t control.
“Do you feel all right?” Benny asked. He had been standing too close to me, smelling too good since we got outside. I can’t help but look at him and feel like I’m being tested in some way.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I said taking a push from the joint Matty just had handed me. My head spun, and my mother’s voice crept into my head.
“Where did you move from?” I asked Benny as I looked up at the sky. The stars were visible.
“Another apartment,” he shrugged. “My Uncle and Aunt aren’t the best at keeping their jobs.”
“We all have our strengths,” I shrugged.
“We are gonna find Jen and Julia,” Kyle said.
“I don’t know why you’d want to do that,” I said keeping my eyes on the starless sky, imaging I could see them. I traced my finger on the railing. I slowly wrote the invisible words; nothing is forever.
“Have you lived in that unit long?” Benny asked not acknowledging the guys walking off.
“Too long,” I said now looking at Benny, who was looking at me, “This isn’t going to be a party hook-up. I have a boyfriend, and you live across from me, which would add an award layer on everything, which isn’t something I need in my life.”
“I was just making conversation…ya know, being neighborly.” He shrugged. “We seem to be hanging out tonight.”
“Yeah, we do. Sorry, that was bitchy. I’m thinking about it too much.”
“A little,” he laughed. “And, yeah I get that. It seems to be in the air right now.”
“It, sure does.” I pushed off the rail. “I’m gonna go inside. I haven’t seen my better half in awhile. I want to check in. It feels like it’s late.”
“No. He’s not here. I meant Stevie.”
He smiled, “Yeah, ya know come to think of it most times I remember seeing you, you’re with her.”
“All the times you remembered seeing me? Are you trying to hook up with me again?”
He shook his head, “I don’t know about you.”
“I don’t know about me either.” We both started walking to the back door.
He laughed as he open the gate for me. Now, I attempted to cool walk past him, looking un-phased by him but instead I tripped over his foot. All the beer wasn’t helping me look cool and collected. We were both laughing as I tripped over his foot and toppled over him I the doorway. He held out his hand, and I grabbed onto it. As he helped me stand up, that’s when I saw Jared wearing his designer jeans, standing there frowning at me.
“You came,” I said not sounding excited even though I would have been, probably, under normal circumstances.
“Not sure why,” Jared said crossing his arms.
I looked at Benny and then back at Jared.
“This looks like something it’s not,” Benny said.
Jared’s glared at him, “I’m not talking to you, don’t speak to me.” Then he looked back at me, “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for hours.”
“I left my phone at home.”
“You send that ridicules text message and then allow no way for me to contact you. God, Samantha. I just don’t get the shit you pull. Now you’re drunk and flirty with some random guy,” Jared’s tone was sharp.
Tears from both hurt feelings and embarrassment stung the edge of my eyes. I glanced at Benny, who was taking in all of this. Then I focused back on Jared, keeping my voice soft; I said, “Can we go somewhere else and talk about this?”
“No, I came her to…I do not know because you asked me to, and I’m really sorry I did. Let’s talk after I’m not mad,” Jared’s eyes got so dark when he got angry. It made to feel impossible to reach him when he was mad. I hated it. Jared turned his back to me and started to walked away.
“No,” he shook his head, not turning around.” I stood there, not sure what to do. Benny looked at me with apologetic eyes, like he was staying there a part of that somehow. I shrugged and went after Jared. I reached and grabbed his arm as he was walking through the front door.
“Jared. Pl…just wait for me,” I said making eye contact with him. “That was innocent,” I said motioning my head at the back door.
Jared pushed out a sigh and stepped onto the front porch. I followed, closing the door behind me.
“That didn’t look innocent,” Jared said. He crossed his arms standing with space between us.
“Well, it was.” I want to reach out to him, but I know we weren’t doing that at the moment. He wasn’t pleased..again.
“It makes me crazy when you ditch your phone,” he wasn’t standing any closer.
“This isn’t what I like to do,” Jared gestured at the house behind me, “I’m not a big partier, I wish that was the case with you, but it isn’t. Maybe we are, just too different,” Jared crossed his arms in a way that If let the wall he was building between us.
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth,” He held his hands up for a moment, then let them drop to his sides, “I’m gonna take off.” He flattened his lips in a straight line.
“I’ll come with you.” I felt pathetic.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, Samantha,” Jared waved, turn around, and walked to his car. I wasn’t going to say anything more or go after him again. I sat down on the front porch steps. The cold rain water soaked in my pants bring a welcomed distraction. The rain drops started to soak through my button-down shirt. But, I stayed there and watched him as he got into his car and drove away, and for a while after he left. Going inside wasn’t something I was ready to do. I was embarrassed and drunk—and not in the fun, good way. My stomach was queasy, and my head hurt. I was aware that I wasn’t thinking clearly, but I was still, not thinking clearly.
The front door open and closed. Based on the fact that I didn’t hear any footsteps, I knew it was Stevie before she said anything to me. She could quite possibly be the softest footed person ever. “Hey, I’ve been looking for you,” Stevie said.
“Me? Where have you been all night?” I asked.
Stevie took off her hoodie, laid it down on the air next to me, and sat down on top of it. “Pike and I have been trying to hash some stuff out.”
“Change is in the air, “ I said, then sighed. The drunk feeling was starting to turn to just being tired.
“You could say that the extreme distance that will be between us is starting to get hard to ignore.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I stared at the empty spot where Jared’s car just was.
“Your new neighbor said you were out here fighting with your boyfriend.”
I sighed, “Great.”
Stevie continued, “I was thinking he was mistaking your boyfriend from someone else, but when Benny mentioned the jerk expression on the guys face I had second thoughts. I’m surprised he even showed up to one these parties.”
“I was texting him about it earlier; then I left my phone behind.”
“Ah, you mean he annoyed you and purposefully ditched your phone.”
“Yep,” I replied.
“I heard that Jared came in to see you falling all the boy-next-door, that is according to Julia anyway,” Stevie flipped her hand back smiling.
“Oh god,” I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t falling all over him. I was tripping over him while we were coming inside.”
“You guys were outside together?”
“Well, yeah, with Kyle and Matty. Benny took over for you as my beer pong partner after you left. We played rounds against them, and we all felt overheated and sick so we went outside.”
“Oh, I see, so you were hanging out all night with neighbor-boy and your boyfriend walked in and got pissed for no reason and was his usual jerky self….and, knowing him gave you a lecture about your partying ways?”
“Yep, that pretty much covers it.”
“Oh good, I’m all caught up,” Stevie smiled.
“So where did you and Pike leave it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Nowhere for now I guess. We see it differently. Pike seems to think a long distance relationship is the way go.”
“I would be afraid of taking something special and warping into something it isn’t.”
“Maybe, Pike is just supposed to be my high school boyfriend, ya know?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. We sat there in silence watching the road a while longer before heading home. Our shared world was seeming even more temporary than it did earlier that day.