Amanda was fast asleep on the floor of Noah’s room, when he and I came in. She was in a makeshift bed of sheets and blankets and throw pillows. She was stripped down to a black pair of underwear and a matching bra. She was passed out above the sheets. Amanda wouldn’t even condescend to sleep on the bed with me, the bed Noah had once again given up for us. Then Noah laughed nervously, and we both shrugged at our predicament. The couch downstairs was taken. Drunken hipsters were using the other rooms. Tons of them were crashing here for the night. I looked at Amanda again. She was calm and off in dreamland. Noah chuckled a second time. Then he and I undressed to our boxer shorts and fell into the rickety waste of the small bed. It would’ve been a riot had it happened to someone else. At least no one was sleeping on a sliver of sheet in all of their clothing.
The air in the room was stagnant. It was humid. The room reeked of body odor and used alcohol. The old beat-up fan whirled from a window nearest Amanda. The damn thing blew nothing but small waves of hot air. I could barely feel it. Within minutes my body became pasted with sweat without even moving a muscle. Eventually I must’ve fallen asleep. Sometime near dawn I felt a subtle movement on the bed, and then the soft strands of Amanda’s hair as she nestled into my arms. She immediately began snoring again. As I turned to face her, I heard Noah snicker quietly. When I looked, he grinned at me. I turned away, unable to witness the spectacle of us. Three sorry people clad in our underwear.
Soon Noah’s snores mingled with Amanda’s. I was left alone with myself. My heart felt heavy at the idea of going through another day like yesterday. I could already picture it. There’d be arguments with Amanda, and there’d be more issues with guilt and parents and friends. My parents? I checked my cellphone. I didn’t even want to see what was printed on it, and I didn’t even bother to check my messages. I was screwed the whole way around. I closed my eyes tightly. I wanted to fall asleep and dream forever.
But the day came. There was a huge mess on the front porch. I decided I’d be a nice guy, so I set about cleaning it. The water in the coolers was still cold, so I took out a beer and had a sip every so many sweeps. I thought that cleaning the porch would get me in even better with Noah and his roommates. Then the room would absolutely be mine.
Amanda woke up. She was hungover. She came out onto the porch, rocking herself into a sickly calm on the rocking chair. I spent over an hour cleaning the carnage, as Amanda cuddled into herself. She kept groaning and cursing. We made no mention of the stuff that had been said. In fact, Amanda’s sick feeling actually brought out a kindness in her that I hadn’t seen since we’d first started seeing each other. She laughed at my jokes. She called me kind when I got her some aspirin and water. But the day was young, and I doubted such niceties were going to last.
The city worked itself into another scorching frenzy of a summer day. I called in sick from work, and Amanda and I drove back up to my house. We laid in bed a short while, fumbling around each other’s bodies. We made awkward attempts at passion, until we gave up entirely. For a time we rested in vain, nursing our booze sicknesses, hoping the sweat from our failed copulation would cool us off. It didn’t. And I wasn’t about to turn on the AC because my old man checked the electric bill like a scientist examining the newest species. He was all over it.
So we fled to a suburban mall. I hated the mall. All day, as we walked along I tried to re-ignite our feelings. I took a hold of Amanda’s hand and gave it a playful swing. But she always let go a short time later. I tried to kiss her, but she balked. I offered lunch, but she wouldn’t eat it. I offered the movies, but nothing was playing. It was no good. In the end, Amanda strutted through the mall as if I were non-existent. I didn’t care. Sadly, this had been our first real date.
Back at my house, Amanda pulled a 180. She undressed completely. She got on my futon and began touching herself. Then she drew me closer. I fell for it. In an instant our lips met roughly, and our teeth clanked together from violent necking. Saliva hung in strings between us. My breathing got harder, and my brain forgot everything bad that had passed. I got hard. Amanda groaned loudly. She pushed my head down her naked body, until I was between her legs. But I couldn’t get into it. My mind awoke. I felt raw and terrible. But it wasn’t guilt this time. This was a different feeling. It was ominous. Still, I couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?” she moaned.
“I don’t get you,” I answered. I raised my head up. “All last night you criticized me. You made it a point to hang all over Karl, and to accuse Noah of some pretty crazy stuff. Then you insulted me. You basically accused me of stabbing Calvin in the back, when you know how that makes me feel. You told me that you were tired of me, and you stormed off into the cottage, leaving me no choice but to get in bed with Noah, only to come cuddling in between us later on.”
“I was drunk and upset.”
“You weren’t that drunk, or that upset.”
“Hey!” Amanda snapped. She nudged my head away from her, and closed her legs.
“This morning you were the picture of love, sitting on the porch and spouting out kind words. And then at the mall you treated me like I was a leper. Now you’re naked on my bed again, and here I am with...with...listen, I might live in a world full of confusion, but I’m not really a fan of it. Plain and simple, I don’t understand you, Amanda Evarts.”
“Fuck you!” Amanda shouted. She kicked me away. Then she rolled off of the futon and quickly began to get dressed.
“What are you doing now?” I asked. “Playing hard to get?”
“I’m getting dressed and getting the hell out of here.”
“You don’t want to talk about this?”
“They say that talking is therapeutic.”
No answer again.
“Come on, Amanda, open up.”
“You mean you don’t have a reason for any of the behavior?” I said. “No explanation? There’s nothing in your life causing a mental imbalance of some sort? You’re just going to throw your clothes on and split without anything? You’re just going to let me go crazy wondering what went wrong for me this time!”
Still no answer. I looked at her. Her face was pale and content. There was no anger there. There was no passion. Amanda looked devoid of any emotion whatsoever. She was placid in an eerie way.
I laughed. “Well Christ, Amanda,” I said. I sat on the futon and lit a cigarette. “Thanks for nothing.”
She finished dressing. She checked herself quickly in the window, and then stormed out of my room. She slammed the door so hard it popped back open. I felt so purged and sinisterly liberated. I felt absolutely uncompelled to chase after Amanda and straighten anything out. But I did it anyway. I did it out of guilt.
Outside, Amanda stomped down the porch steps and marched to her waiting car. She got in and turned the key. Music blasted from the interior. But she waited. “You really want to end it like this?” I asked, when I reached her. “You don’t want to talk?”
Amanda glared at me. Then she smiled. It was a sly smile. I’d seen it so many ways, so many times. “You just don’t get it, do you Alex?”
“Me. Maybe why Sarah dumped you...”
“Don’t bring up Sarah,” I said.
“No, I wouldn’t want to bring up precious Sarah. I wouldn’t want to bring up your other failures, would I?”
“She wasn’t my failure.”
“We were just different.”
“Keep thinking that.”
“Go to hell,” I said.
Amanda laughed sadly. “You know, I might be the younger one here, but you’re about as naive as they come.”
“What do you mean?”
“Goodbye, Alex.” Amanda rolled up her window, and was gone. She was probably gone for good.
I stood on Phillips Avenue. I couldn’t say that I was in shock. Shock would have necessitated me thinking that this moment in time was never going to happen. But watching Amanda Evarts drive away that last time was inevitable; she’d been driving away from me for weeks. True, our fight and nasty tit for tat wasn’t the conclusion that I wanted. At least not in terms of its execution: I was much more a fan of peaceable dissolution. And I was hurt a little by her quick, brutal exit. But for some reason the finality of Amanda and me seemed the most normal thing we’d had during the course of our relationship. It seemed right.