The Unrequited(3)

By: Saffron A. Kent

I don’t think I’ve heard his name spoken out loud since I moved here six months ago. It sounds so exotic in Kara’s voice. On my tongue, his name sounds loud, shrill, wrong somehow. I shouldn’t be saying it, but hey, I’ve got no impulse control, so I say it anyway.

I hate her for bringing him up. I hate that she’s going there in a roundabout way.

“I didn’t act up. I just…got drunk…every now and then.” I clear my throat, pushing my anger away when all I want to do is storm out of here.

“I know, and then every now and then, you went shoplifting, crashed your mom’s parties, and got behind the wheel.”

Should therapists be judgy like this? I don’t think so. And why are we talking about these things, all of a sudden? Mostly, we stick to neutral topics like school and my teachers, and when things get a little personal, I evade and make jokes.

This one time when she tried talking about the days leading up to Caleb’s departure, I took my top halfway off and showed her my newly acquired belly button ring, and maybe even the underside of my bra-less boobs.

“I didn’t kill anyone, did I?” I say, referring to her earlier comment about drinking and driving. “Besides, they took away my license, so the people of Connecticut are safe from the terror that is me. Why are we talking about this?”

“Because I think you can channel all of your emotions into something good, something constructive. Maybe you’ll end up liking it. Maybe you’ll end up liking college.” She lowers her voice then. “Layla, I know you hate college. You hate seeing me every week. You hate being here, but I think you should give it a chance. Do something new. Make new friends.”

I want to say I do have friends—I do, they are just not visible to the naked eye—but I don’t, because what’s the point of lying when she knows everything anyway?

“Fine.”

Kara looks at the clock on the wall to her right. “Tell me you’ll think about it, really think about it. The semester starts in a couple days so you’ve got a week to think about the courses, okay?”

I spring up from my seat and gather my winter gear. “Okay.”

“Good.”

It takes me a couple of minutes to get ready to go out in the snow. I snap my white gloves on and pull down the white beanie to cover my ears.

Winter is a cruel bitch. You gotta pile on or you’ll get burned by the stinging wind, and no matter how much I pile on, I’m never warm enough, not even inside the heated buildings. So, I’ve got it all: hat, scarves, gloves, thermal tights, leg warmers, fur boots.

I’m at the door, turning the knob, but something stops me.

“Do you think…he’s doing okay up there? I mean, do you think he misses me?” I don’t know why I ask this question. It simply comes out.

“Yes. I do think he misses you. You guys grew up together, right? I’m sure he misses his best friend.”

Then why doesn’t he call? “Boston is cold,” I blurt out stupidly, my throat feeling scraped. A chill runs through my body at the thought of all that snow up there.

“But I’m sure he’s fine,” she reassures me, with a smile.

“Yeah,” I whisper. I’m sure Harvard is taking good care of their genius.

“You know, Layla, falling in love isn’t bad or wrong or even hard. It’s actually really simple, even if there’s no reciprocation. It’s the falling out that’s hard, but no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise, reciprocation is important. It’s what keeps the love going. Without it, love just dies out, and then it’s up to you. Do you bury it, or do you carry the dead body around? It’s a hard decision to make, but you have to do it.”

I know what she’s saying: move on, forget him, don’t think about him—but how can you forget a love of thirteen years? How can you forget the endless nights of wanting, needing, dreaming? I love you. That’s all I ever wanted to hear. How can I let go of that?

With a jerky nod, I walk out of her room. Outside the building, the air is cold and dry. It hurts to breathe. My heart is still fluttering with residual anxiety when I take my phone out, and stare at the last picture I have of him. He’s smiling in it. His green, green eyes are shining and his plump, kissable lips are stretched wide. It’s fucking beautiful. I don’t think I can ever delete it. Not in this lifetime.

I put the phone away when I see a couple. They are up ahead of me on the cobblestone pathway, and they are wrapped around each other. The girl is cold, her cheeks red, and the guy is rubbing his hands over hers, trying to warm her up. They are smiling goofy smiles, reminding me of a smile from long ago.