Jenna Lempesis

Graying

“I am bleak,” she thought. Under the mat of gray above her, it wasn’t hard to think that way. It was one of those days, the kind of humid and temperatureless stretches that always gave her a headache. She said it was because of how piercing the sky looked and her mother said it was the drop in the barometer doing its work on her sinuses. The day moved for a second. An American flag, standing there for someone’s boy overseas, flapped in the wind. At least it was the flag gesturing to her, and not the guy.

Being cynical was a new quality she had developed. She knew, with her good grades and bright smile that she used to display, she had been a “good kid.” With a jolt, she realized this had gone a few months into him. At the beginning, it had been so fun, just so good. She had coquettishly brushed against him every chance she got, and he didn’t seem to mind. He had tried to pay for everything, until they created Helpless Male and Helpless Female nights, where they’d switch off forking over the cash for whatever movie or restaurant. And now it was screwed up. A gray was creeping up behind them, souring everything. She knew that there was an idea of him, and then there was actually him. Did she dislike the real one, but couldn’t let go of the idea? “No,” she decided, avoiding that thought. “I am empty.”

He wanted to see her, for some reason. He had always known that she liked him far more than he liked her. He couldn’t help but be annoyed, really, at how after she made a joke she’d peek expectantly at him, hoping for him to laugh. Probably the only reason that they were still together was that she was so secretive. Not secretive in the typical sense - the silent pleasure in hiding where you’re going or what you’re doing - but something deeper that he really couldn’t explain. He’d knew that there were parts of herself that she hid, and he wanted to find them.

The pebble he kicked rolled and bounced along the pavement before dropping down a grate. Amidst the mixed anticipation of seeing her were thoughts that lingered with him from that last, depressing history class: Notes, then a video clip, and then discussion on the French Revolution. At first, he’d supported the peasants, rising up against crappy authority for liberty, fraternity, whatever. But then they’d screwed it all up. Maybe their intentions were good, but, “Hey, we’re oppressed, let’s go guillotine the s*** out of everyone” didn’t really make them saviors. It made them tyrants.

So, thinking those thoughts, he was scuffing along the black pavement under the washed-out sky. Strange, that it hadn’t rained by now. A line of a song from nowhere popped into his head: “Grey sky/I think I changed my mind/I feel no need to pretend.” He’d sit with her, she’d need him, and he’d find out more.

Her stomach always jumped when she saw him, like now, watching from behind the fading flower printed curtains as he strode up the driveway.

Once inside, she offered him Cheez-Its. With her dark eyes flirty, she was trying to be cute. To him, it was just irritating.

She felt it. There were long silences in between her attempting to make jokes, or lapse into deep conversation, or connect to him somehow. But he was so cold. First a bland, standard answer to one question, then a cold, sharp answer to some carefully chosen and seemingly harmless words she would say.

The TV blared to no one in the room behind them as she finally let the silence expand. If he cared, she knew it was barely. Attached to her by only a thread, really. “A thousand soldiers dead as of today, as well as tens of thousands Iraqi troops and civilians. Still no answer from Bush on when the American troops will be returning home.” Headachy, drained, and tired, she wondered again as they sat across the table from each other, so far away. Out of the window, the clouds were growing darker, a threatening charcoal instead of the glaring white-gray. How did it go this wrong?

 



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