“Sometimes I don’t know what you want,” he said. He was still awake after all. I thought about continuing my pretense.
“I know you are awake,” he said. I stayed silent a while longer and then I sighed.
“I don’t know what I want,” I said.
“You have got to figure it out sometime, you know,” he said.
I sat up in bed. The covers slipped but I didn’t care. In the past, I would have pulled the covers up to my chin to cover my almost non-existent breasts. But in Andre’s eyes, nakedness was natural. He resented clothing. These days, I sometimes went without a bra. It was strangely liberating.
“I used to know,” I said. “I used to know what I wanted. I had a plan… get good grades in high school. Do sports. Do clubs and societies. Get a good testimonial. Get a scholarship. Become something… someone. I wanted to be a doctor.”
I shrugged. I rested my elbow on my knees, my forehead on my palm. It was surprising how much it hurt, even now, after all these years.
I hadn’t stuck to the plan. People had expected things of me, from me. Anything less than a PhD was a failure. I was meant for a life in academia. That’s what they told me anyway. I was too other-worldly to live in the real world. Let your brother take care of all those things, everyone said.
By “all those things”, they meant “money” and “power”. My brother was the golden boy. He would make it big in the world.
He, unlike me, had always known what he wanted. When we were six, he had said, “I am going to be a business man.” And then he had started breeding and selling fishes.
At six, I spent an abnormal amount of time staring out of windows and daydreaming.
“What happened?” Andre said. He rubbed his palm against my thigh. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I got lost,” I said. And I realized that it was true.
“Mmm,” he grinned. “A little lost girl.” I wondered if I should get angry. I carried on the joke instead. Because laughing was easier.
“Mmhmm,” I said. “I’m waiting for Peter Pan to come and lick me into shape.”
“Lick?” he said and lifted an eyebrow. Then he dropped back onto his pillow and sighed. “Peter Pan is just as lost as the rest of the lost boys.”
I snuggled back into bed and leaned my head on his chest. His arm wrapped around my shoulders. It was an unconscious gesture. Muscle memory.
“Maybe that is what Wendy is for,” he said. He rolled his chin around on the top of my head. I moved my head away and tilted to look at his face. It was serious.
“Wendy,” I huffed. “She’s lost as well.”
“So just like that. Everyone is lost. Damn it all and be done with it.”
“Perhaps,” I said. I bit my lip. “Maybe it isn’t about finding our way. Maybe we’re just meant to find each other.”
“And huddle up for comfort?” he said.
“And huddle up for comfort,” I said.
About this piece:
I wrote this in 2009 as part of a personal project The Man Beside Me. It was an exercise in improving my dialogue in fiction.
It’s been almost 10 years and the editor in me cringes at so many parts. But I’m leaving it (mostly) unedited as a way to remember where I was as a writer.