Taylor Maguire ’24
It was April in New York. There was that weird uneasiness in the air that made your skin itch. All anyone could say was that “it is absolutely gorgeous outside,” yet the weather almost seemed too good to be true.
“I don’t know, I just have a bad feeling about today,” I explained to my friend Elijah, who stood at my door trying to pry me out of my sardine can of an apartment.
“Jules, seriously, I don’t want to hear it,” he said. “You need to get out of this cave full of unwashed sweaters.” He wasn’t wrong to critique the apartment. Usually, the curtains were never closed and natural light would drown the place. It had a big poster of Billy Joel and a What’s Up, Doc? movie poster that I bought for two dollars at a flea market. There was a big fluffy green carpet on which many of my friends had fallen asleep when the walk to their own place was too grueling of a journey to make at 3 a.m. But now it seemed like the joy had been sucked out of it, leaving the shell of what it symbolized. Even the walls that I had painted a ballerina pink seemed to have lost their sweet touch amongst the sea of navy blue wool that pooled at my ankles.
Before leaving, I changed out of the Talking Heads shirt I had been living in for the past week. I put on my mother’s old magenta skirt that went down to my ankles. It was all tattered at the bottom, despite my grandmother’s many attempts to fix it with her tailoring fingers, which were now chewed up by severe arthritis. I also had on one of those cropped shirts that read TEEN ANGST in bright red letters. It was my second year of college, and I still couldn’t escape the TEEN ANGST phase from high school that was brought upon by birth control, breakups with boyfriends, and fights with parents about not being able to cut your own curtain bangs.
We went to a bodega on the Upper West Side that sold egg sandwiches for four dollars, and got one each with a Diet Coke.
“It’s on me,” Elijah said, looking over at me while he pays.
Elijah had a pair of heterochromatic eyes that everyone in the tristate area fell in love with. The first semester of college, I convinced myself that I was in love with Elijah. We had met for the first time in film class and eventually I found myself spending time thinking about him through statistics and ceramics. However, that dreamy, idealized version of him quickly dissolved at the seams when we kissed in the Rambles of Central Park, and there was simply no spark. After pulling away he remarked, “I think it’s better that we stay friends. And I’m not saying that to get out of that complicated awkwardness, I’m saying it because I mean it.”
Elijah’s lovers came and went so quickly; you couldn’t pick them out of a lineup even if held at gunpoint. The only thing I could say about Elijah for sure is that he doesn’t like blondes. But, I mean, who really likes blondes? Anyways, we laugh about it now.
As we entered Central Park now through the 86th Street entrance, I could feel Elijah looking at me. It was that look that you receive from your parents when they deliver the news that your goldfish died. Or from your college guidance counselor, when you get rejected from a school they told you was a safety.
“What?” I said.
“I didn’t say anything,” Elijah replied.
What I admired about Elijah was how he preferred the company of a caterpillar to a butterfly, never caring about the rules and restrictions of the college status quo. He was a creature of habit, never straying from his routine. He always spent his mornings filling out crossword puzzles in my tiny kitchen, his afternoons at the skatepark, and his nights waiting tables at the restaurant around the corner. He always appeared interested in any conversation even if the topic was dull, and he always gave people the time of day even if they didn’t deserve it. What I hated about Elijah was the certain looks he whips out during times like those. They were easy to decipher after putting up with him for two years. The pitiful expression in his eyes that popped out at me then was as startling as a jack-in-the-box.
“I’ll just say this. I have never been more happy now that Jax is gone.”
“I don’t think I have ever felt more miserable in my life,” I replied.
“Think of the positive,” he said, grabbing an egg sandwich from the bag. “Me and him will no longer be in a silent life-or-death battle for your attention.” My ex, Jax, and Elijah never saw eye to eye. Part of the reason we split was because he was always accusing me of cheating on him with Elijah. Breaking up with someone after a long period of time feels like you’re flushing all those precious memories you wrote about in your diary down the toilet to join the rest of New York’s sewage. Sprinkle in the accusations of cheating and lying, and it really just leaves you with a shitty feeling in your gut.
“Falling out of love with someone takes time, I get it. I know the only thing you want to do is wear sweatpants and rewatch Girls for the hundredth time, but you can’t avoid going out to do things just to simply avoid him entirely. It’ll just damage you more, believe me. I mean if I did that, you’d never see me downtown, that’s for sure. Besides, I always said Jax was a prick. And I can say that because he wore designer clothes to Washington Square Park. And only pricks do that.”
“He did love that purple Balenciaga shirt,” I said.
Then suddenly, as if we had manifested his appearance, Jax appeared out of thin air, hand-in-hand with an unremarkable blonde girl beside the Mister Softee parked across the street from the two of us.
“He would settle for a blonde,” Elijah said, and I couldn’t help but laugh.