She says she reads books because it makes her look fancy. Someone forgot to tell her there's nothing cool about reading The Diary of Anne Frank. It's unimaginative. As I'm sitting there looking at her, I realize I don't know her anymore. She takes a sip of her coffee. Black. I watch her as she tries to act casual. She never really liked coffee. I've only ever seen her drink coffee twice and it involved seven big teaspoons of sugar and an even more disgusting amount of cream.
But I liked this café. I really did. This used to be my spot. Where I could relax and be myself. Now when I look around I feel like a stranger. I put my sketchbook back into my bag. She's not reacting. Too busy reading. Too busy pretending. I roll my eyes and start walking towards the exit.
I don't hear from her. I don't care. I run into her three months later outside my new favorite bar. She's drunk. Really, really drunk. She calls out my name as our eyes meet. She seems excited and comes over. She's a smoker now.
"I should've called you! Sorry. I just got really busy with everything", she says, eyes flickering. She doesn't seem sorry. I tell her it's fine. She starts yapping on about her new boyfriend. He's a musician in some small indie band. She's such a cliché. I can't help but smile. She doesn't notice.
"What about you? What have you been up to? I totally should've called you. Sorry". I feel like she said the word "sorry" in every sentence.
"Well, just the usual, you know. Uhm, I also have a boyfriend now", I answer quietly. I don't know why I lied. I haven't even been on a date since we last spoke.
"Oh", she says. She doesn't seem to believe me. I don't believe me.
"Well, that's really great! Congratulations!", she yells into my face. I thank her and look around for anyone I know. I need an escape. No one's there. I try to tell her I have to get back inside to my friends. She doesn't seem to hear me. Not letting me go. She keeps on talking about her awesome new boyfriend. He's the guitarist. He's hair is dark blond. He's got a tattoo of a pineapple on his thigh. The pineapple apparently has a face and is wearing sunglasses. At this point I feel like there would've been no shame in telling her I'm still single. I actually didn't believe the pineapple thing at first but she, of course, showed me a picture. Which led to her showing me all the pictures she had of him on her phone. A picture of him playing guitar. Him with her dog, Roxy. Him sleeping. Him eating a burger. Him eating another burger. Him doing nothing. Him drinking coffee in the sun. Them together drinking coffee in the sun. Wait, there was also a music video for what was supposed to be his band's first big hit. It was a total rip off of Come As You Are by Nirvana. I couldn't bring myself to tell her. She doesn't know who Nirvana is anyway.
"I really have to go inside now", I tell her.
"Oh right, sure. Go inside. Let's talk again soon", she says.
"Yeah, definitely", I say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. Please let me go this time.
"Hey Olive! We should go on a double date!", I hear her yell to my back. Maybe the last thing I would want to do. Ever. I keep on walking.
"Olive!", she yells again in a high pitched voice.
I hurry back inside and find my friends. "Hey guys, I'm gonna be leaving", I tell them. Before any of them can say anything, I'm walking back out through the door. She doesn't see me as I walk outside. She's showing the music video to some random guy. I walk as fast as I can until I hit the corner. There’s no way in hell I'm talking to her again.
A few days later she texts me about the double date thing. I'm surprised she even remembers asking. I don't know what to respond so I leave the message hanging for two days. I finally text her back: "Hi! No, I didn't hear you asking. My boyfriend just left town for work. Didn't I tell you? x". I feel sixteen again. Why am I even lying about this shit? And why does she suddenly want to meet up so badly? I don't care.
I should've known she would have so many more questions. Like, what does he do? Where's he going? When's he coming back? When did you meet? And where did you meet?
Jesus Christ. On with some more lies. My boyfriend's name is Jeff and he's a writer. He works in Phoenix and he's not sure when he'll be back again. He needs inspiration and you can't put a time on that, you know. By the way, I totally want this Jeff to be my boyfriend. Where the fuck is he? Jeff.
We keep on writing about my imaginary boyfriend and I'm actually starting to enjoy it. She'll tell me, "My boyfriend brought me flowers today at work. He's so cute". And I'll be all phony and text back, "That IS cute. Jeff has also been sending me flowers since he left. I really miss him".
"Aw, we have the best boyfriends. I would miss him, too".
I can't say what about the whole Jeff thing was so amusing. So satisfying. I had built up this great story about how we met, what he looked like, his favorite shirt and that he always called me "Ollie". I'm a freak. I even send her a picture of him once. Of course it was just some guy I had found on the internet when googling "guy with beard". Because I'd told her he had a beard. Jeff was really handsome. He was sitting at a café looking all in love. She said that, too. It made me happy.
Eventually I had to break it off. Too much time passed and I couldn't keep making excuses for why Jeff never visited me. I would visit him most weekends. It was hard. I would stay inside my apartment from Friday afternoon until Sunday night. I told her the breakup was a mutual decision. This was a very adult relationship, you know. The long distance thing was just too hard on us.
She invited me to come see her boyfriend's band play the following Thursday. She said it might cheer me up. I didn't really want to see her but she insisted. I didn't know how to act when I saw her. For multiple reasons. The biggest one being, I had just broken up with my imaginary boyfriend and had to act sad. But..how sad?
During the Nirvana rip off song, I realized I did feel sad. I was gonna miss Jeff. I already did. I cried silently and she took my hand.
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