That stupid chinese gadget that didn't even have a guarantee.
Nick paid for our coffee and brought them over to the table, the only one unoccupied which I'd been standing next to as to reserve it for the two of us.
I frowned at the cups. I always wanted to be that independent, self-sufficient girl who would accept no solidarity from anyone, especially a man. Only, that was before I found my ass in Mikey's apartment, and a broke ass at that, and poverty kind of excluded some of your previous principals. There wasn't much room for obstinacy, or false dignity, when your pockets were empty.
I tried to convince myself that every true successor started out like me, I was simply a late bloomer and when my time came, I'd prove to be just as successful. And rich. And pretty.
At the moment I didn't exactly have a talent to pursue. I was great at lots of things, none of which generated income..
Nick had no problem with paying for everything, for an all-american gentleman as which he considered himself it was only natural. Still, when he placed the steaming cup in front of me, as always I felt a little like a sell-out and muttered a defiant thanks and reminded him that I was fully capable for paying my own coffee and he shouldn't bring me down like that just cause I was a girl. I also threatened to go all feminist on his ass, or call one up to come teach him a thing or two about equality.
Of course I didn't really have any money that would qualify me as 'a person capable of paying' and of course I never acted on any of my threats but it made me feel a bit better about myself. Lying to yourself was a beautiful thing, and what made it even more beautiful was that I was pretty sure Nick really had no idea about the true state of my personal finance.
He ignored my peeved words that I usually served with a fine set of scowls and simply smiled and said "You're welcome".
"So you wanted to talk about something" He mused "I got the feeling it was something serious cause otherwise you could've just said it on the phone. Is there something wrong?" He appeared very calm, as he spoke the words that could've been meant for a dissatisfied client of some fancy marketing company.
He was always so formal, so polite and well-mannered that I didn't always know if I would spontaneously combust or just fucking asphyxiate due to it. His sense of humour was suitable and convenient, but above everything else is was well-practised. It lacked any dark tones or sarcastic features in all it's decency, as well as any true feeling of amusement.
My shameless and sometimes inappropriate remarks and laughing fits merely made him uncomfortable.
His behavior, sense of humour, preferences of movies or food and basically all his general interests were safe and normal. They were what everyone wanted them to be and the best part was that he didn't even fake it, he really was as perfect as he appeared. He always said and did the right things, and I found it more aversive every single day. The lack of personality was the most dominant part of his personality.
He had dark, short hair and a small, pointy nose that balanced out his otherwise strong and somehow excessive features. He had thin lips that somtimes made him look cunning, which he in all his perfection of course wasn't, and large eyes of some unidentifiable colour, a strange mixture of gray, brown and gold, if that made any sense. He had some Italian blood in him, which was more of a rule than an exception in the area we all came from.
He was undeniably good-looking, but there had never been any spark to it. His good looks I stated as a fact, not an admiration.
He was the same age as Gerard, two years older than me, making them both 23. Recently I had got the feeling that they were in fact quite good friends. I had never noticed it before though, maybe because I was always too busy with my own life. He always suggested barbeque nights and get-togethers with his friends but I was fast in making up some false story about a full schedule for that precise day.
I'd only met a few of his friends and not even bothered to say hello before disappearing somwhere more important. I found it curious that Nick still wanted me around, but of course he did. He didn't get angry. He wouldn't be caught dead acting immature. He was composed. His natural perfection used to be funny but now almost made me want to throw up.
He had the way of making people feel an urge to check the bottom of their feet in case there was a flat space with "Made in China" printed on it like on cheap replicas or toys that broke the next week.
"About us, yeah" I mumbled and then after taking a deep breath I launched into the monologue I'd planned out in my head before. "Nick, remember when we started seeing each other and it wasn't working out? Well it's still not working out.. I'm sorry it's gone this far, I just keep finding myself in this situation that I'm really not comfortable with"
"What situation?" he demanded
"Well y'know.. The one where we're still together even though it was never even meant to happen. We just sort of drifted into this and I've been too ignorant to step away and I'm sorry" I explained eyes lowered.
"Oh Em, not again" He shook his head "This 'I don't wanna be together' thing is kind of starting to get old. You never really mean it" he sighed and thumped his palms on the table.
"Actually I mean it every time, I've just slipped right back cause it's familiar and effortless" I corrected quickly, blurting it out before I stopped to think about my words.
His mouth fell open "Is that really all it is to you?" He half whispered, half spat.
I knew it, this was the moment where I was supposed to nod and tell him I was sorry again and then walk out of the coffee shop, waving one last goodbye through the thick glass window, but instead... Instead the very essence of me surfaced and took no advice about subtleness.
"Well yeah" I shrugged "So maybe I'm a conformist, sue me"
"You're a pain, that's what you are" He replied with a frown "A pain in my chest"
I wasn't feeling very giddy but it took all I had in me to not burst out laughing - It was the saddest yet funniest thing I'd heard in a long while, sure it would've worked in a heartbreaking romantic drama with people like Nicole Kidman and fucking Hugh Grant in it, but not in real life. Not with me.
I stiffled another giggle and covered my face with a napkin, only to realize far too late that my shaking body and my hidden face propably gave a pretty good impression of a crying person to anyone looking. Nick was looking, and I felt his hand on my arm as he said things like let's work this out and we can't give up on each other - it only made the matter worse.
I was trapped in a situation in which a heartbroken person thought I was crying, crying for the mutual sadness, the shared heartbreak, when in fact I was about to crack up in uncontrollable laughter. This was just... Awesome.
I couldn't think of anything else to do as I felt the hysterics coming, so I jumped up, muttered something incoherent about not wanting him to follow me or call me or try to contact me in any way, though I was quite sure it all went unheard by him since I was still holding the napkin tightly before my mouth. I felt that the best thing for me and my napkin-covered, smirking face was to leave, fast, so I sprinted out the door as quickly as I was able to without falling down or running against a door or getting my foot caught in something.
When I reached the front door of the building we lived in, I let go of the napkin and laughed until my body ached. Only after memorizing his broken face and the corny, cliché words for the 53967th time and not getting another round of a merciless laughing fit, I sat down on the pavement and, unexpectedly, started getting less amused and more annoyed by the minute.
I hated that Nick always made me look bad, he didn't do it intentionally, not by words or action, but by his plain presence. I looked like a complete bastard, an emotionless bitch with an asshole where her heart should've been (oh, the mental picture) and despite my occasional tactlessness, I really did not consider myself as one.
Atleast I'd finally done what I'd been trying to do for the past- well, as long as we'd been together to begin with. I might've been more tactful, perhaps a touch of compassion would've been called for, but atleast it had been done, which was quite an accomplished from someone like me, someone so prone to running away from things that were out of her comfort zone.
I just really hoped that the supposed crying incident didn't in Nick's mind indicate indecision, or regret. I wouldn't want to fall into that rabbit hole again, the one that only took one bad night, a need for a shoulder to cry on and a well-timed call from goody-two-shoes Nicholas and yeah, we all know how that always ended up - the next thing I know I'm being dragged out of all the parties, then disapproved at for being so reckless and the next morning pressured into moving in with him or something equally ridiculous. I was out, and I was staying out.
When I finally walked inside and managed to get up the staircase and unlock the door I was happy to notice that Mikey was still home.
"Hey Mikes" I called, getting an incoherent grunt in response. I was fairly sure it came from the living room, so I walked in and found Mikey sprawled across the sofa bed watching re-runs of the 70's Show.
"Hey" I repeated.
This time I received a vague smile before he turned his gaze back to the TV screen. I threw myself next to him and snuggled real close, ignoring the protesting sounds he made.
"I need you to not let me hook up with Nicholas again. I don't want to date him anymore. I don't even want to, y'know, him anymore" I announced, my face buried somewhere near his armpit, which surprisingly didn't smell all that bad.
"Then don't. Whaddoya need me for?"
"I need you to look after me. Sometimes I don't sdo a very good job at it myself" I stated with a distant smile.
"I've noticed" he sighed and let me come closer. "I'll try to stop you from y'knowing him again" He laughed a little. Mikey hated snuggling, but he was one of my best friends and my roommate so he would just have to suck it up.
"Ma called" he announced after the show was put on commercial break. I lifted my head and waited for him to go on.
"She wants us to come over for dinner tomorrow night. She wants to know allll about your first school day" His smirk grew wider as he mimicked his mother's enthusiasm.
Mrs. Way had always been nice to me back in high school when I hung out at Mikey's every now and then and she was nice still, when we occasionally talked on the phone when she asked Mikey how I was doing and the guy was too lazy to repeat my words to her and instead put me on the phone with her myself. Or when we paid the rare visit to our parents and I was half forced to come in for some coffee before walking on to my mother's house.
She was caring and fussy and supportive, and so very lovable because of it. She was very different from my own mother, who was caring in her own way, too, but her love and acceptance was never as unconditional as mrs.Way's was. As any mother's love should be, I thought.
My mother was... Nice. She was nice, but that was pretty much all I had to say about her. She was nice and friendly in a social way, in the general person-defining way where you had to put someone in one of the following categories; nice or prison material. Therefore, my mother was nice.
She lived a few blocks further down the same road the Ways lived on. We had barely spoken after I moved out, a result of one too many fights about my drinking and "off-road course in life" as she liked to put it. She called sometimes, and our conversations were short but civil.
A couple times I'd paid a visit- those, too, short and civil.
"Is the jackass invited?" I inquired
"Well the jackass is her son, Em." He reasoned in that fatherly tone I disliked so much.
"We'll take the train like before?" I made sure. The train ride from NY to New Jersey was short and quite affordable.
Mikey's expression was pained, as if he knew he'd regret his response the moment he'd said it "Gerard has the van, he'll drive. I know your wallet approves.." His voice trailed off.
I made a face, and returned to my previous position under Mikey's arm. "Fine" I muttered, half hoping my reply would be muted and go unheard but when Mikey patted me on my shoulder and whispered "We'll have fun" I just knew tomorrow was going to be that much more dreadful.
Maybe I'd stop by my mother's house and ask her if I really was made in China. I was exactly like that toy you got, the cheap one that wasn't as classy looking as the original one but similar enough. Yeah, that toy that gave the wrong sounds or actions to the buttons you pressed. That stupid chinese gadget that didn't even have a guarantee so you could return it, claiming it didn't do the things that were promised in the package.
And when it turned out to be what people seemed to know them to be, you just had to put it away and promise to yourself that you were never gonna get one of these again.
I never didn't seem to work properly compared to people like Nicholas.