―It was weird. It was at track practice I guess. In high school. This girl I thought I was in love with had had me over to her house, like, the day before, and I spent the night, but she slept with this other guy. Anyway, I was running, listening to a CD she’d burned me, and I realized I was suffering too. Like the singer, I realized I’d been depressed for many, many years. Probably since I was a small child. I’d never felt comfortable, or like, safe in the world? I wanted to make it so I was like the singer, or something. That’s what got me into art. But I was afraid there was nothing I could do that would bring me joy. I could feel the endlessness of it even then. No past, no future. And it was always going to be that way. It had always been that way. We did hook up eventually, me and that girl. But that was forever ago, and it was too late to change anything… What about you?
Esther’s legs were kind of leaning in the direction of the Tyler’s. She readjusted them. ―It was never depression so much as I felt like I would start to hallucinate and I’d, like, ground myself in drawing or something. Like I’d draw until reality started to set back in. I didn’t tell anyone about this for a really long time. This sounds stupid. I guess I still haven’t described it very well.
―In a book I was reading for, like, English class, like at the same time, there was a scene where the characters peed in a rice paddy in Vietnam and they said there were bacterias that could swim up the pee stream and give you a disease in your dick. That had a profound effect on me.
―I still can’t pee in rice paddies.
Esther understood that this required, bare minimum, a smile. She paused. ―So how exactly do you know Matt?
―Wait, how do you know I know Matt?
―He showed up as one of our mutual friends. I never meet up with someone from, like, a dating app without some mutual friend. It’s too unnerving. It’s unnerving enough.
―That seems the opposite of most people.
―Is it? I mean, I don’t know. I’m just trying to not get raped and murdered at the prospect of, like… meeting someone.
―It might be worth it, though… Like if the person is really cool… Tyler grinned.
―Did you go to college with him or something?
―Sure I did. We met living in the same apartment building though. We never had class together or anything. We both studied abroad in Berlin.
―That must have been fun.
―It was. I mean, I loved it. We lived in this weird ass Eastern Bloc style complex. It was cool. I think we both preferred New York, though. Matt kept thinking everyone was anti-Semitic and, like, too homogenous or something. He made it difficult to do stuff. I mean I have love for him. I’m sorry I’ve immediately started shittalking my friend.
―Seems like the only real way to talk about friends…
―How do you know him?
―Oh, well, I don’t really. It’s a long story. We met, like, in high school and have some mutual friends and stuff. But we’re not really, like, she made quotes with her fingers, ―friends per se.
―Do you want another drink?
―Okay, sure, Tyler said. Neither of them got up. ―So how long are you going to be in the city?
―I guess I don’t know. Classes started last week, but I haven’t felt any pressure to go back. To be honest, I’m not sure I even paid the bursar… I haven’t checked my email or anything.
―Damn… So you’re not going back?
―I probably got bumped from, like, my studio and critiques and stuff. I’m probably in trouble, I guess.
―What about… What are you majoring in again?
―I’m getting my MFA. In sculpture… And I had all this driftwood in the studio. I had, like, amassed all this driftwood. I’d gone down to the beaches for weeks looking for the perfect pieces and stuff. And, like, I have this big installation thing I’m supposed to have completed by the spring, but I don’t know what happened to it. I went just to check in like a month ago, and it was all gone, and everyone was on vacation and stuff. Nobody could track it down. Like hundreds of pounds, dozens of pieces of driftwood, and I had a bit of a breakdown and came here, and I’ve been here.
―It’s okay. I’m not sure I really wanted to do that whole thing anyway. It might be easier to just become a dog walker or something.
―I have a cat.
―What’s he like?
―She’s… just a cat… He looked at the table, then up, and directly at Esther, ―Where are you staying?
―My friend was out of town for Christmas, and I’ve got a key to her place so that’s where I went after that whole RISD thing. She came back and hasn’t told me to leave. We’re sharing her bed.
―Oh where’s she live at?
―Not far from here.
―Can you tell me more about the thing where you have a break from reality and you’d draw?
―I don’t think so…
―Do you want another drink? They remained seated, grinning.
―It’s not going to work I guess, Tyler said, sitting up, then lying back down, looking at the wall. Then sitting back up and looking at Esther. The whole gesture taking about a thirty seconds.
―It’s because I like you too much, I think. I’m nervous. Sometimes it happens that my hands, like, get numb. And then I can’t focus because I want to be happy or something, but I know that’s not actually it. I’m just nervous.
―What are you…
―You should see me with women I don’t care about. I’m very good with them. Like a real performer.
―I said it’s okay.
―It’s just that I think you’re cool. We have a lot in common. Maybe I’m afraid of what you’ll say to Matt.
―I don’t really foresee myself saying anything to Matt. I don’t really, like. We don’t talk. He doesn’t even know I’m in the city.
―I recently got out of a relationship and I’m very, like, chopped and screwed from it, you know?
―I did too.
―She told me she thought that I was crazy and that she didn’t want to get involved with me because she thought I was mentally ill or something.
―If she didn’t want to get involved with you then how was it a relationship?
―Never mind. I shouldn’t have brought it up. You wouldn’t get it. I feel so horrible. I feel like I shouldn’t say anything right now.
―It’s okay. It really is, I’m not kidding. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel like I liked you too.
―I’m in a real place, you know?
―I know. Esther made a movement toward a glass of water, and Tyler got up, drank from it, went to the bathroom and came back with the glass, which he handed to her.
―What happened with your boyfriend?
―He didn’t really make an effort. It’s like he was just there, but he wasn’t really present.
―I looked up your art and stuff online. I saw your website. I really liked everything. It was exciting. Like, really raw and physical and stuff, not like how a lot of things are just, like, photo printed things onto panels and stuff right now.
―How’d you know my last name?
―I just figured it out… I… The way things are and stuff now… Nothing is that hard to figure out.
―Did your boyfriend ever, like, was he ever like this? I feel like I can’t see anything right now. My hands are like tingling.
―I really don’t want to talk about that, if that’s okay… They sat in silence. ―Are you okay?
―You seem like you’re thinking you want me to leave.
―You should probably leave.
―Are you serious?
―I’m not going to be able to sleep or talk or anything. I have problems, mental illness or whatever, I feel like. I’m, like, bipolar. I’m shutting down right now and will not be able to communicate.
―I can’t believe this.
―You can spend the night if you want… She looked at him. ―You should probably leave though.
―This is ridiculous, you know, because I really liked hanging out with you. Esther stood up and put on her underwear. She put on her shirt. ―You’re very candid and opened up a lot and I’m sorry if we got too drunk or whatever, but it really doesn’t bother me, like. I knew we shouldn’t have had sex.
―Well. Oh well.
―Are you always like this?
―Yes… I really like you. Maybe you shouldn’t go.
―Well which is it?
―Well I just… I did this exact same thing once but it was with a girl I didn’t like so it was very natural for me to just do it again, since I’d already successfully had someone leave this way. And when I told her I was fucked up or whatever, that seemed to make her like me more, but I really do like you, so I don’t know if I make you leave, like if we won’t talk anymore.
―So you want me to stay?
―I think you should do whatever you want to do in this situation. I’m sorry.
―Are you going to really be mad at me no matter what I do? Because I kind of want to leave now… I’m sorry.
―So you’re never going to talk to me again.
―But I do like you. And I do want to talk to you again, and hang out with you again.
―But maybe I should go. I mean, this is really weird. I don’t know you.
―Fine. Tyler looked at the wall. ―I feel like I know you.
―No you don’t. Don’t just say stuff to manipulate me.
―Esther, no. Listen… Listen, Esther. I feel like even just your name. It’s so easy just to even say your name. I feel like my whole life has been leading up to just saying Esther.
―You’re being dramatic.
―Please just stay.
―I’m not going to stay over. We can sit, though, if you put your clothes on. We can talk or watch TV or something.
―I feel like I can, like. I feel okay now though.
―I don’t want that anymore.
She sat down while he looked for a t-shirt. ―What TV do you like to watch?
―You know what, you’re really nice.
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