It’s 10:53 on a Saturday night and I’m sitting by myself in a corner booth at the Olympia Diner, working on my second cup of hot chocolate and drawing spirals on the paper placemat. There’s a mini jukebox attached to the wall, and it doesn’t look like the songs have been changed in maybe 30 years. I flip through the selections and notice that there are a lot of Alabama songs. Alabama seems to be the biggest band on the rarely-updated diner-wall mini-circuit. I finally find something I want—Bobby Vinton’s “Blue on Blue,” because I’m feeling sorry for myself, and if I’m going to sulk in a diner at night, I’m going to do it properly, thank you very much.
I don’t know how the fight started. Sometimes Wyatt and I go from “fine” to “fight” in a matter of seconds. We pick each other apart over tiny things, because the bigger thing—the fact that maybe we aren’t going to be together much longer, and we can feel it coming but aren’t sure how to stop it—is too much to handle. It’s almost as if we’re too close, too connected—I’m starting to think the fights we have are our own dumb way of pulling apart, like we’re trying to find a legitimate reason that goes beyond, I need to go down this path right now, and you can’t come with me.
Wyatt and I have been inseparable for the past eight months, but right now he is at the party, and I am here, and that’s the way it goes sometimes. The waitress hasn’t checked on me in a while, and I want her to, not only because I want more cocoa, but because I want to be checked on by someone. I want her to call me “Hon,” and ask me if I’m all right and I want to say, “Yes, I’m fine, thank you,” like I really mean it, like I’m not all broken up and feeling like I want to crawl out of my own skin.
I want to be taken care of for, like, one second. That’s it. And then I can go back to being tough as nails. Gel manicure. Not a scratch on me for two weeks or more! I stir whipped cream into my cocoa, thinking of how things escalate, how one second life is one way, and then suddenly you’re in like, a totally different universe, and you have no idea how to navigate through it. I take out my phone and write a note to myself: It is exhausting to try to justify the beauty of one world by allowing yourself to be constantly thrown into the chaos of another.
“That’s deep,” a voice snorts. I look up from my phone and notice that a girl with exceptionally heavy black eye liner is sitting across from me, building a house out of jelly packets. She smirks at me and I recognize her as my 13-year-old self. I’m 17 now, and I’m taken aback by the difference between us. 13-year-old me is dressed in black and has a planet drawn in black pen on her left hand. Her sneakers are covered in inky stars, too. She’s quite possibly the most bored person who has ever lived. Ennui drips off of her—and part of me wants to roll my eyes and tell her to stop reading Sylvia Plath and like, go outside—but mostly I just want to give her a hug, to tell her that she won’t always be so sad, or so mad, or so sick of everything all the time.
“It’s a little much,” I admit. “But I just meant, like, you can’t cling to an idea of ‘happy’ if it requires constant side-trips into unhappiness, I guess.”
She groans. “Oh, gawd,” she says. “You are such a dork. I can’t believe we finally got a boyfriend.”
“Yep.” I show her a picture of Wyatt on my phone. She thinks he’s totally dreamy, and I am not surprised. He IS dreamy. He is a lovely person on the outside and the goodness in him radiates even through pixilated images. “He’s a nice dude,” I say. I know this to be true: He is a good person, and I am a good person, but maybe we aren’t so great for one another. Thirteen-year-old me glares at me, and I know I’m not making any sense to her. He’s hot! He’s nice! That’s all I wanted at 13, too. She calls me out immediately.
“Yeah, well, if this guy is so great, then why are you in a diner playing sad grandpa songs by yourself on Saturday night?” She knocks down her jelly house and starts making a heart out of sugar packets.
“I don’t know. I mean, having a boyfriend isn’t all you think it’s going to be sometimes?”
“Oh,” she says. Her voice softens. “Is he a creep?” She stares at me and looks genuinely concerned beneath her 70 layers of eyeliner.
I tell her no, because Wyatt isn’t a creep, and I am also not a creep, but lately, when we are together, we are both creeps, and we can’t help but get into fights about things that are small and unimportant. Last week we fought about the music we were playing in the car. I was flipping around the radio and landed on a song I like.
“I hate this,” Wyatt said. Which, you know, fine. Not everyone is into everything. But it was the way he said it—or the way I perceived him saying it—“I hate this,” sounded a lot like, “I hate you and the stuff you like is stupid.” This works both ways of course: when Wyatt started growing out his facial hair and I told him, innocently enough—that it scratched my face when we kissed, he got upset and asked me why I couldn’t just let him be himself, which totally caught me off guard. There is always something deeper to the little things—lately I’ve felt like love is maybe standing in the way of both of us moving forward, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that our trajectories don’t necessarily include each other.