“So what’s with that Ginger girl in class?” I asked Brian. Class had been over for a half an hour but Brian wanted to get papers graded that we had done in class over the week. So there I was helping him like old times.
“What do you mean?” He looked up for a moment before dropping his eyes back down to his work.
“I don’t like her, Bri. I think she’s trouble.” My eyes were on him. How funny that after everything I still worried about him.
“You don’t have to like everyone you share classes with, Elizabeth. Just because you don’t like her, that doesn’t mean she’s trouble.” The way he was defending her annoyed the hell out of me.
When I told him about our encounter before class he only shrugged as if it meant nothing. “Maybe she has a school girl crush. It’s no big deal.”
“Brian, every female in this class has a school girl crush on you, ok? None of them have ever approached me the way she did! Is she trying to intimidate me or threaten me? What the hell was the point?” This was the old kind of frustration I used to feel toward him. It was the kind that made me want to wake him up to the importance of his job and his life.
“So what do you want from me?” He asked giving me his undivided attention for the first time.
“I want you to stop acting like what happened at Berkeley can’t happen here. I want you to just consider how another incident like that could ruin your future.” What exactly was I telling him to do? I wondered helplessly.
“When you came here were you thinking of my future? Your name was mentioned to the people here, you know. Most of the teachers and the higher ups know who you are. Were you thinking of my career when you transferred here to this school and requested my class?”
“Brian, I had no idea they…” I felt sick suddenly as I stumbled through my words. “They all know about us? About everything at Berkeley?” I felt ashamed suddenly. When the reports were filed they were false but in the end we did exactly what they accused us of, didn’t we? What must they think of him? Because of me his fellow teachers probably considered him some kind of pervert…
“Hey, what are the tears for? Stop it. It’s ok.” Brian was now crouched between my legs, his hands wiping at my cheeks. I hadn’t realized I was crying. “Look at me, Liz.” I did as he said, powerless for the moment. “Yes, they know. All of them know and you know what? I had a beer with your creative writing teacher on Wednesday. He was telling me about a poem you write in class. There was no condemnation. Blackwell knows we meet after school, Ross knows we meet after school, Julie’s Art History teacher knows we meet. All of them were made aware of the reports. None of them care. I didn’t bring this shit up to upset you. I brought it up to ease your mind. We’re ok. If we were fucking, it would be ok. This isn’t Berkeley and neither of us ever has to worry about that shit again. Besides, what can they do? We’re just friends.” He smiled forcing me to smile in return.
“So you went out for a beer with Professor Ross?” I asked. “I knew you two would get along.” I said offhandedly.
“Yeah, we do.” I was thankful when he got up and walked back to his desk. “Now here is what I want to do tonight. I want to go get something to eat somewhere, maybe Chinese, and go back to your place. I’ve got some great grass that our friend Ross sold me the other night. I want us to smoke it all and listen to your records until you leave me to go to your bed alone and I pass out on your sofa. What do you say?”
“You want to stay the night with me, just the two of us, at my house?” I questioned, thinking he had lost it.
“Yep. I will be a perfect gentleman. Besides, I have stayed the night with you before and I kept my hands to myself.” He protested defensively.
“Yeah but that was before…” I let my words trail off but he got the point.
“It was just as hard for me to behave then as it will be tonight. I wanted you then the same as I want you now but we are apparently not ready for one another yet. I swear on my honor, or what is left of it, I will not try a thing.”
I had never been alone over night before and I imagined it would be lonely. Besides, dinner, dope, and music all sounded like fun. “Fine, McVie, once again you win.”
Grabbing his old leather case of graded, ungraded, and partially graded papers, he started towards the door. Picking up the pile of papers I had worked on and my notebook, I caught up with him and I threw my stuff in his bag as well. “Oh, and for dinner I want a picnic on the beach. There’s a Chinese restaurant across the sand at Venice.”
“Anything else you request for the evening?” I retorted sarcastically.
“Yeah. You’ve still got that bong I bought you, right?”
In fact, I did still have the bong but before we could put it to use I had to indulge him in a picnic on the beach. I found us ideal spots while he walked across the street to the restaurant and he got so much Chinese food that I wondered if he went in and just got one of everything. “What did you do?” I questioned as he unloaded it on the blanket he grabbed from his room when we went to get the dope.
“Oh, this? This is our dinner now and our after smoke snack later. Now eat up.” His smile was charming and boyish and the alarm bells in my head were blazing. The devil wears many faces…
“So about that bong, Elizabeth?” Brian asked, putting cartons of take out into the fridge. The hours spent on the beach had been both nice and relaxing but it was time to get down to business.
“I’m looking, Brian! I don’t think I unpacked it.” I shouted from my bedroom where three huge boxes sat in my closet full of stuff that I hadn’t gotten around to. I jumped up and saw him standing over me. Why did he have to be so damned sexy?
“It might have helped if you had turned the light on.” Brian commented with a giggle.
With my head buried in a box I saw no point in turning the damned light on and I was about to say as much when my hand came across what could have only been the lost bong. I smiled as I pulled it out, a sheet of acid still stuffed inside. Neither had been used and when I packed my things up in Berkeley I decided I would throw them in the bottom of a box and never look at them again. But that was then. Now? “I found it.”
“Well, what the hell are you waiting for? Come on!”
Already at home in my place after only five minutes, he walked into the living room and made himself comfortable on my sofa. There was something in the familiarity of it all that made me angry for a moment. Who did he think he was? To invite himself over for the night was bad enough but to sit in my living room and look like he belonged among my things? Unforgivable! “Wow, you’ve still got the acid, too? And not one tab touched.”
“We’re not doing that shit. Just get the bong going and come on.” I demanded, sitting down beside of him. When he laughed at me, my annoyance heightened. “What’s so funny, McVie?”
“You’ve never used a bong, have you? You have no idea what you are doing.”
“So what? I never used it. Julie and I either buy it rolled or she rolls it. There was never a reason to use the damned bong!” I spat out angrily. Why was I mad suddenly? He hadn’t done anything to deserve it. So why?
“I’ve got two joints rolled if that’s more your style and if you have papers I can roll up the rest. We can break in the bong on another night. Maybe when Julie comes home, you know?”
I looked at him. There was no sarcasm in his tone, no amusement at my naivety lurking in his eyes. There was only Brian waiting in his impatient way for me to say something. “Fine, whatever you want. Just light it up!”
One joint smoked and the second half gone and there I sat feeling like I would never be able to move again. Where ever Professor Ross had scored his weed, he should go back because I had never had weed that was so good… “Liz, smoke it or hand it to me. Don’t fucking look at it all damned night!”
Hitting it three times in a row as he and Julie taught me to, I handed it back to him. “I have a damned paper due on Monday that Blackwell assigned us today.”
I could barely keep my mind straight and I could only pray that my words were intelligible. “What’s it about?” Brian asked through a cloud of smoke. When I only looked at him, he barked out, “The assignment, lightweight!”
“Oh, yeah. I have to interview someone, see what I can get them to tell me about themselves.” I hit the joint like a pro, holding the smoke in until my lungs burned. Exhaling, I shouted (or it felt like a shout), “You! I could do it on you!”
“Me? Why?” I wanted to giggle when he burned his finger taking the joint.
“Why? Because I’m only going to be around you and Jack and I have no desire to probe him about his life. He’s a freak. So what do you say? Will you let me interview you? Please, Mr. Professor?” I asked, trying to plead. Really I wanted to laugh. I could feel it. A fit of the giggles was about to erupt at any moment.
“You are fucking with my high, Elizabeth! Now what are we going to listen to? I want music and you are about to start laughing, Think quick!” When I only shrugged in indifference, still trying to keep from surrendering to hysterical laughter, he got up and moved to my box of records. I watched him drop to the floor and I wondered how he managed to stand at all. I couldn’t have done it. I knew what album he had on as soon as the music to She Belongs to Me came through the speakers of my record player. It was ‘Bringing it all Back Home’. It was the album that I hadn’t been able to listen to after he left because of all Dylan’s records it had been Brian’s favorite. And now here he sat singing this song to me like we were lovers and he had a right. And there I sat just high enough to wish that were true.
When the song went off Brian turned the volume down and grinned in a way that made me wonder if it had more to do with what had been than what was before us now. “All summer I couldn’t listen to that album or that song. It reminded me too much of you and when we were together.”
“We were together?” I asked, confused.
“Well, weren’t we?” Brian seemed defensive now. That was plain to me. What wasn’t clear was the reason why.
“Were we? I don’t remember us ever being an official couple. I remember months spent hiding to hang out and fighting to keep both our friendship and your job. I remember it all ending in a week of fucking and bullshit promises. I remember lies and I remember my heart breaking. But as for you and me being together? No, I don’t remember that.” I reached for my cigarettes on the table in front of me and I lit one up without looking at him. I was too stoned, too tired to argue but I had started it, hadn’t I? And what had I expected?
“You have a talent, you know that?” I wouldn’t lower my eyes, I wouldn’t ask questions. Let Brian ask for my attention if he wanted it. “Goddamn it, look at me!” He shouted. I heard him loud and clear through the fog in my mind. For a moment I would give him what he wanted. With his eyes now locked on mine, he went on, saying, “You have this amazing talent for saying just the thing it takes to bring a man to his knees. With a sentence you can turn a confident guy into an apologetic fool. But I want you to realize that I am not the only one who’s lied. You haven’t been honest with me lately, have you?”
“What was I dishonest about, McVie?” I asked. My words had no feeling, no emotion, because I couldn’t decide how I felt. Was it anger or sorrow driving my thoughts?
“You said that you forgave me. You didn’t. It breaks my heart to realize that there is a chance you never will.” His eyes made his words seem completely honest. The sorrow in them made me sorry for a minute.
“Why? What does it matter to you if I stay mad forever?”
“Because I still love you and I will never be more than a ghost from your past if you can’t let that bitterness go.” He replied.
Brian’s words sent a shockwave through my body. He still loved me…he still loved me…he still… “You can crash in Julie’s bed when you are ready. I’m so tired. That was some great weed, though. Thanks. And you are welcomed to do whatever you want if you’re not sleepy. Listen to music, talk on the phone…whatever. I’ll see you in the morning.” Just like that I got up and walked away as if his words hadn’t meant a thing.