I’ve been looking at college bedroom décor, brightly colored, happy little boxes, shelves and drawers stacked in tidy, airtight order. They make compartmentalizing things look so darn cute. Too bad when we compartmentalize our lives we can’t top it all off with fluorescent pink and green Tupperware lids. No, no. The closest we come to that is putting things in a box and burying it in the back yard, having it dug up, and then stashing it in a cobwebby corner. It isn’t cute… but it seems to do the trick.
I didn’t intend to develop feelings for a new boy. I just went to work every day, and he was pretty much the best of all of us at the job, and that was attractive. So, yeah, attraction led to sitting next to, sitting led to talking, talking led to flirting and eventually flirting led to dating. Dating started out rocky. I was gun-shy, overly cautious to the point of having to explain myself.
“I’m not ready to be in a steady relationship,” I told him one night, sitting under the stars at a park. I told him all about Ryan, told him that it was over and that I was bound and determined to forget about him and move on… but it would take time.
I guess if I had the cute fluorescent green lid, it was the way he comforted me about the whole thing, the way he told me that he’d be patient, and the way he reassured me that he would never hurt me that way and couldn’t believe anyone had.
Ryan was long gone, and I knew I had to forget him, and it came to a point where I didn’t have to make a conscious effort to do so anymore. There’s an old cardboard box, wrapped in silver and black, torn and tear-stained, with a bit of loose dirt caked on and a bit spilled inside. There’s also a new box, a nice, clean, clear plastic box with a stylish fluorescent green lid and in my mind, as time passes, the two have less and less to do with each other.
So I’ve become very comfortable in the box with the green lid.
I’m sitting with green lid guy in my parent’s basement. It’s my first weekend home from college and I couldn’t wait to see him. He’s resting his back against the arm of the couch and I’m resting my back against him. His arms are wrapped around me and we’re watching a movie. It’s so comfortable. It’s so closed off. There isn’t anyone else in our box with us. We have our own little world, built somewhere in the transition between high school friends and college ones, almost secret- and because it’s almost secret, it feels so safe.
Just behind the big screen TV, there is a window. It sits right below my bedroom window, the one Ryan used to toss rocks at to get my attention at night. The basement window, in our line of sight, is barely illuminated by the orange glow of the front porch light. Green lid guy and I are 35% engrossed in the movie, 60% engrossed in each other, and suddenly the peripheral 5% of our interest is peaked by a movement we see outside that window!
I see the form of someone about our age, the dark figure looks masculine. He’s standing tall at first, but then crouches down, probably noticing the changing and moving light of the TV. I see his form crouch, then pause, then look closer as though he can’t believe his eyes. These things happen so quickly, but implant themselves in my mind to be replayed over and over in rewind and slow motion.
After the figure takes that closer, stunned look at green lid guy and I, cuddling on the couch, his form straightens like it’s snapping to attention and he disappears from the window with two fleeting steps.
Green lid guy says, “Was someone just looking in your window?”
“You saw it too,” I say, stiffening. I don’t know what green lid guy says after that. I push away from him and hurry over to the window. I can’t see anything past the small area of lawn that is obscurely lit by the front light. The onlooker has made his escape into the darkness, but I don’t need to see him to know him.
“It was him,” I say, more to myself than to green lid guy, though he has come up to look through the window behind me.
“Him? Him who? Wait. You mean Ryan?” He asks.
I nod, still staring out the window.
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
I guess the reason I know is because who else would be lurking outside my window. I think he came to throw pebbles at it the way he used to. I think he came to, I don’t know, amuse himself by spending his free time seeing if he could still woo me… except that it’s been a whole summer and I’m not sure that even he could be so flippant as to think we could just casually flirt our evening away for old time’s sake.
The green lid is suddenly blown clean off of our box. I let that happen. I know that I should try to sneer, try to talk about the nerve of Ryan coming to look in my window. I should laugh it off, go back to cuddling on the couch, and tell my date that he’s the only one that does or has ever mattered. I should lie. But I can’t.
I walk the few steps back to the couch and sink down on the edge of it. I sit there with my hands folded in my lap, staring into empty space. Green lid guy comes over to me. He’s asking me questions, but it’s honestly like he’s trying to communicate with me from a thousand miles away. Instinctively, he knows not to pull me close. He sinks onto the floor at my feet. We have a quiet conversation, though I’m not sure how I’m even forming sentences. All of the contents from the cardboard box with the black and silver stripes are being emptied into this box that I’m in now. All of the old, crumpled notes, the pictures, mixed with dirt from my backyard.
Finally, my date tells me that he thinks he should leave for the night. Can we go out tomorrow, after I’ve had some time to think? He’ll plan a date. He’ll come and pick me up in the early afternoon. I pull myself together enough to agree.
If we hadn’t bonded, if we didn’t have memories and moments of our own, I know green lid guy would probably never call me again. He’d think, “So long, crazy chick that has uncanny premonitions about ex-boyfriends who hang around outside her window at night!” He’d run, not walk, to his vehicle and speed away… and it would be no less than I deserve.
That night I do something I haven’t done for months. I look out my bedroom window and down the street to Ryan’s. His window is dark, but it doesn’t stop me from staring out at nothing, waiting for more nothing to happen. Somehow, I finally fall asleep.
With the light of a new morning, I’m thinking a little clearer, but I’m still determined to find out what Ryan came for last night. I wait until nine o’clock to call, and then I sit on my bed with the phone to my ear, staring at myself in the mirror on my wall. Phone calls are terrifying, and this one might just top all. What in the world do I think I’m going to say to him?
“Hey. I’ve got a random question for you. Did you happen to creep over to my house late last night and look in my window? Did you happen to see me on the couch with another guy, a tough to decipher tangle of intermingled arms and legs? Did you care? Do I care if you care?”
“Is Ryan there? …Thanks.” I take a deep breath. I’m stronger than that silly, heartbroken, insecure girl I was a year ago. I need to remember that.
“Hey Ry. It’s Amie.”
“So you are in town.”
“Did you happen to come by house last night?”
“I thought I saw someone outside my basement window.”
He exhales; like he’s forgotten to since I asked that last question. “Yeah,” he admits, sounding like he wishes there were some way around it. “Yeah, I did. I’m sorry. I came over to talk. I didn’t know you’d… be… busy.”
He sounds hurt. Angry-hurt. He’s too confident and strong to sound sad-hurt, and he knows he doesn’t have a right to be angry, but his voice has a growling, clipped quality to it.
“So… what did you want to talk about?” I ask.
“I don’t know if it matters anymore.”
It’s all I can do not to gasp. He has something real to talk about, something specific at least.
“Well, let’s find out if it matters,” I say, “What is it?”
“I don’t want to talk to you about it over the phone,” he says.
“Okay, let’s get together today.”
There’s another wary pause.
“I could see you this afternoon,” he says.
Now I’m the one pausing, still watching my own reactions in the mirror. My reflection and I share a half apologetic, half amused smile. I already have a date this afternoon. The humor of Ryan, the player, getting a little bit played isn’t lost on me.
“Actually,” I say, confiding a silent giggle and guilty look at my reflection, “I already have plans for this afternoon.” I shrug. “I could get together tonight though.”
“Oh just forget it,” Ryan says.
“No! No, if you really have something to talk to me about, let’s talk! I do want to hear. You’re not above waiting until I’m free are you?”
My reflection bites on her lip, and looks at me with wide, conspiratorial eyes.
“Oh fine. Come over to my house whenever you’re… free, I guess.”
“I’ll meet you at six o’clock,” I say. “You’ll be there? You swear?”
“Whether I’ll be here or not doesn’t seem to be the thing in question,” he answers.
I giggle just a bit. “I’ll see you at six.”