Cut, and Cut Again
The basement was cold. Loud. Lit by the fluorescent lights that highlighted her pink cheeks and drunk eyes. She hadn’t wanted to come, hadn’t planned to stay. She had told him she’d be back in an hour, she’d be over after.
Hey. I’m probably going to stay awhile. I’ll call you after.
She sent the text. She didn’t wait for his response, shoved her phone back into her bag. She tried to push the guilt away. She hadn’t done anything wrong. They weren’t dating.
She still felt guilty.
She wondered, though, why she felt guilty. Was it that she had ditched him? Or was it that she was glad to do so? Though she hated to think of hurting him, at the very same time, she felt empowered. Let him wonder what she was doing. Who she was talking to. Let him feel that way. For the first time in a while, she didn’t.
Anna brought her back to the present, to the cold basement and fluorescent lights.
“Did he text you back?” her roommate asked. She didn’t need to say the name.
“Not y—” she was interrupted by the arrival of more red cups, filled and foamy. She tossed her head back, taking in the last few drops of the cup in her hand, and put the new red plastic inside the old.
She liked the tingle of her nose and the heat that radiated from her cheeks.
“Smile!” Someone came around with a camera, and she leaned her head into her roommate’s and smiled. She hoped she didn’t have drunk eyes. But she was pretty sure she did.
The party twirled on.
She met him well into her third cup. He had blue eyes, they were pretty, and he was smart.
“It’s a collection of stories about these American soldiers…” he was telling her. He was an English major.
“I’m Will, by the way,” he interrupted his own thought, holding out a hand to shake.
She laughed, well past awkward, and offered her own hand, overly formal. “How nice to meet you, Will. I’m Sam.”
“I’m just messing with you,” he laughed, talking fast. At least, it sounded fast to her. “I’m actually Jack.”
She blinked, a little confused.
He pulled over a guy behind him, a very tall guy with a pointy nose and light brown hair.
“Dan, isn’t my name Jack?”
Without missing a beat, the new boy, Dan, nodded, “Yah, why?”
“They don’t believe me,” the blue-eyed boy indicated the two girls, who had yet to respond. Sam’s eyes met Anna’s, and they both smiled, confused and very aware of it. But through drunk eyes, that was OK.
“Why not?” Dan turned to the girls. “This is Will Broker.”
Anna caught on first. “I thought you said his name was Jack?”
“But you just said it was Will,” she was laughing now. Sam smiled stupidly.
“It is—Will Broker.” Will, or Jack, or whoever, replied.
Sam wasn’t quite sure how to respond, not quite sure what to believe. She’d always been a bit gullible.
After all, someone had once convinced her that the word gullible wasn’t in the dictionary. (She had checked it out. And it was.)
Will (or Jack or whoever) laughed abruptly and then confessed, “I’m just messing with you. I’m Will.”
Sam turned her head, presently incapable of separating fact from fiction.
“Seriously, I’m Will,” he smiled, somewhat more genuinely now. “I’m done, I promise.”
“Promise?” Sam was skeptical—yet also willing to believe. Gullible.
“Scout’s honor,” he held up his hand.
She took a sip from her foamy red cup and watched him over its rim. He grinned, cheeky.
She turned to Anna for a second opinion—only to find her gone. She scanned the room, spotting her at the keg with the new boy, Dan.
“You have a nice smile,” Will offered abruptly, catching her attention.
“Thanks,” she laughed self-consciously. She didn’t know what to say, so she took another sip.
“And very straight teeth.”
“Braces,” she admitted. And another sip.
“They did well.”
“Thanks,” she laughed again.
They talked through the rest of her third beer. She liked his blue eyes and the freckles that ran across the bridge of his nose. He liked her teeth and the way she smelled.
She filled the silences with sips.
“Hey, come here,” he suddenly grabbed her hand and dragged her through the basement. She followed willingly and giggled.
They ended up in a bathroom, and then he was kissing her. He bit her lip. Not like Logan, she couldn’t help the thought. Where Logan had been full and soft, Will was thin and nippy. It was different. But she wanted different.
They were interrupted by pounding on the door.
“Let’s go back to your room,” he suggested, ignoring the knocks and kissing her neck.
She shook her head, laughing. “I can’t.”
“Why not?” he mumbled into her ear.
She thought of Logan. “I made plans to meet a friend.”
She didn’t correct him. Just shook her head.
“Come to McKinley’s with us,” she said instead.
He shrugged. “Text me.” And he put his name in her phone.
“Go,” he swung the door open.
She experienced something along the lines of a walk of shame as she hurried through the crowded hallway. She quickly found Anna.
She texted him as they left the frat house. She was still rather tingly, and she pranced down North Main. They all laughed loudly, and it echoed in the cold winter air.
She was starting to sober up.
Hey. Still want me to come over? She texted.
Ten minutes. Her phone remained silent.
Fifteen minutes. No beep or buzz.
Twenty minutes. The french fries were gone.
“I’m going back with Dan,” Anna told her when she excused herself.
Maybe he had fallen asleep. She decided she would stop in, see if she could wake him up. He had been waiting, after all.
He didn’t answer when she banged on his door. She tried calling him again and again. The door itself was locked, or she would have just walked in.
She called again. Still no answer.
Finally, she headed back to her dorm.
Hey. My friend bailed. Do you want to come over?
Will was still in her bed when her phone buzzed. She looked at the bright blue screen: Logan calling…
She answered the phone from the hallway.
“Sam,” he sobbed, clearly drunk. She understood little besides her name.
“I’m coming over,” she told him. Her head hurt.
She told Will a friend had called her, really upset, and she had to go. It wasn’t a lie.
She still felt a little guilty.
He hugged her when she walked in the door. He buried his face into her neck.
She was glad it was dark, glad he wouldn’t see the marks.
“You didn’t come over,” his words were slurred sobs. A little of her heart broke.
“I called you a bazillion times,” she told him, trying not to think how she had spent the night. “I pounded on your door.”
Logan mumbled about Nick and his girlfriend, being alone, getting drunk, passing out. He looked pitiful. And she had done this.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He kissed her, and she let him. And she liked it. And she didn’t.
Once upon a time, a girl met a boy. He was cute and funny and smart, and she liked him. And eventually she loved him, and he loved her. They were not just lovers but the closest of friends, and they were happy. They were also young, and stupid, and selfish.
One day, the girl woke up to discover the part of her heart that had once loved him had grown thick and hard, the muscle callused where it had been too often bruised. She didn’t know what to do.
She waited, hoping her heart would soften.
After a time, she realized some action was necessary. Yet there was a problem. You see, he was not just in that one part of her heart, but in all parts of it. His friendship had wormed its way into every crevice of her life. She did not want to be his lover, but she did not know how to stop being his friend.
More time passed, and it was clear something had to be done. Her heart hadn’t changed of its own accord. Clearly, she had to fix it.
So she did the only thing she could think of. She took a steak knife and sawed away that ugly piece of heart. Then, she went digging in his. The pain was overwhelming, and she feared she had made a mistake. This clearly was not the solution she sought.
Quickly, she pulled out a needle and thread and sewed the pieces back together. Both hearts ached and continued to bleed, but nothing like the tide that had come before. The boy and the girl sighed, relieved.
But time passed again, and it was not so much time at all, before she noticed again how hard that part of her heart was. Those moments when it should have felt soft, it just felt uncomfortable. She had been right the first time.
Again, she took up her knife. She cut along the stitches, trying not to tear the flesh attached too roughly. Some places had begun to heal, but she ripped that mending in two. And afterward, she went to work on his. But then the pain came…
This pattern continued, and each time, they were left with their bloody mess of muscle. Until the day he stopped her.
Needle in hand, she had begun to stitch. The pieces were frayed and uneven, and she had had to dig her stitches deeper into the tissue to keep them from slipping. She was on her third stitch when he said it.
No. He had told her. Stop.
So she did. They each had half a heart and another bloody piece of pulpy muscle (the place where they had kept each other), but they weren’t sure what to do with either. Though she had tried to be thorough, to get out all the affection, she kept finding it in places, in places she hadn’t expected. Though hard and thick and callused, deep beneath the surface was soft tissue and something like love.
Even though she tried to let go, to move forward, she continued to hold on—sometimes to the friendship, and other times, to whatever was left of what had once been love. In the process, she ripped his heart to shreds. And when all was said and done, hers wasn’t much better.