Seen (a short story)
S E E N
A short story written by Aphrodite Delaguiado
‘Im here. Where r u?’ he WhatsApped her from the pub on the corner of Goulburn and Pitt street where they always meet up.
‘Omw. Be there soon :smiley face:’ she quickly typed while walking, her eyes glued to her phone watching him… Typing…
‘C u soon :face blowing a kiss:’ he replied. Her heart smiled and she felt hot in her cheeks as she picked up the pace to get to the pub sooner.
They’ve been doing this dance for years since they met at uni five years ago. They’ve gotten on with their lives since graduation, met other people and moved on to different paths but they’ve kept in touch on WhatsApp. They bond over memes in between rants and raves about work, people and life in general. They speak in their own language of 9gag lingo, song lyrics, gifs and inside jokes punctuated by emoji codes that only make sense to the both of them. He’d send her Youtube links to music videos that match his current mood and she’d reply with a picture of whatever book she is reading that reflects her state of mind. No words needed. They’d have random philosophical debates late at night followed by existential paralysis the next day that they’d both need to chuck a sickie at work.
‘Do you ever think about killing yourself?’
‘Do you believe in aliens?’
‘Have you ever been in love?’
The answer is YES.
YES. They both contemplate suicide, sometimes.
YES. They both fantasise about getting abducted by UFOs.
YES. They have both been in love. But never with each other.
That’s what he thinks.
It was the first day of uni back in 2009 when she saw him for the very first time. He was stoic, sitting quietly in the corner at the back of the lecture room all by himself with a pen sticking out of his mouth like a cigarette. In a room full of strangers, he felt familiar and she was drawn to him like a magnet.
She watched him as he wedged the black ball point pen in between two fingers then pretended to take a drag and blow smoke through his thin lips. He did this repeatedly, oblivious that he was being watched. She studied him from across the room as if he was an actor on stage in a one man play and there was no one else in the audience but her. She couldn’t help but giggle when he chewed on his pen and it broke and bled inside his mouth. He licked his lips with his blackened tongue and ink trickled down from his mouth to his chest. He gazed at the black stains on his white shirt as if taking a Rorschach test and retched after swallowing a mouthful of ink.
Her heart melted as she watched him lick his palms to get the ink off his tongue and then use the same hands to wipe his slobbering mouth painting his face black. It was a comedy of errors. His cheeks went bright red underneath his ink beard when he realised eyes were on him, so he drew his wavy locks like a curtain to hide his face. She worked up the courage to get up from her seat and walk across the room towards him. She smiled and he looked at her then drooped his head like a helpless puppy at a rescue shelter and all she wanted to do was take him home. He had stolen her heart. Without uttering a single word to each other, she sat beside him and wiped his face clean with the sleeves of her red jumper. They walked out of the lecture room in stitches and they’ve been friends ever since.
They’ve been friends for five years but she has always loved him more than she can ever show. She never dared to say or do anything that might ruin their friendship. She knew her place. She knew that there are more important things in his life. She knew that he is busy seizing the day, kicking goals, and chasing girls who are more worthy of his time than she will ever be. She is just a friend who would never stand in the way of his happiness. She is perfectly content having a drink with him occasionally, whenever their stars align.
He sees the world through the lens of logic and reason. To him, everything is a mind game and he always plays to win. When it comes to love and relationships, the stakes are higher but the rules are the same. He never lets his guard down that’s why he has never lost whereas she wears her heart on her sleeve. She is a hopeless romantic who surrenders herself to the mysterious ways of the universe like the characters in the books she loves to read. The tragedy in both reality and fiction is that it’s always people like her who gets their hearts broken in the end.
‘Where r u :worried face:?’ he WhatsApped her again. Typing… ‘Got us a table outside so we can smoke. :smiling face with sunglasses:’ Typing…
‘Let’s do this! :winking face::winking face::clinking beer mugs:’ Typing…
‘:bottle with popping cork::clinking glasses:’
‘:wineglass::cocktail glass::tropical drink::tumbler glass:’
‘Tonight’s gonna be :fire:’
‘:raising hands::woman dancing::pile of poo::zany face::ambulance:’
Her phone buzzed and vibrated. Every line coming from him sent waves of electric shock to her heart, she could hear it beating. Her face was stoned, pupils dilated, with a stupid smile from ear to ear. She was high as fuck and he was the drug.
She stopped at the traffic light right across the pub and pressed the crosswalk button three times before replying.
‘Pls stahp! :rolling on the floor laughing:’ she typed while waiting for the little green man to walk. ‘Im 5 secs away Istg! I can literally see u rn :smiling face with heart eyes:’
She watched him read her messages on his phone from where she stood. He looked up and saw her standing there across the road so near yet so far. She waved at him and he waved back. She smiled and he smiled back as the memory of their first meeting five years ago played in front of his mind.
They’ve been doing this dance for years – coming in and out of each other’s lives, disappearing and then reconnecting on WhatsApp, catching up for a drink and having an amazing night together then not seeing each other again for several months.
He watched her as she stood at the traffic light making derp faces to make him laugh. She watched him as he sat awkwardly outside the pub all by himself. She knew that if she doesn’t get there soon, he’d get anxious and light a cigarette to build a wall of smoke around him to hide behind. They knew each other that well. They knew each other’s quirks and insecurities. It’s all in their WhatsApp chat history.
But there was something different about that moment. They locked eyes as if they’ve never seen each other before. It was a bright and sunny Friday afternoon with clear blue skies but they were both hit by a magical lightning bolt. The spark between them was palpable. It felt like the beginning of something new and unfamiliar and they both felt excited by it.
Her heart skipped a beat when she heard the button go beepbeepbeepbeepbeep and the little green man started walking signalling her to cross the road. She felt the universe conspiring around her to bring her closer to her soulmate. The world around them faded away and all he could see was her face. He started to hear a guitar playing in his mind as he watched her walk back into his life. The future flashed in front of his eyes like a nostalgic music video and they were in it, together. That was the moment he realised he was in love with her and right there and then he decided he will never let her go. They both fantasised about the inevitable first kiss they are about to share in just a few seconds…
5, 4, 3, 2…
It all happened so fast…
The bus came out of nowhere and screeched violently before it took her away. Blood splattered on his face as the bus dragged her body across the asphalt before it crashed into the pub on the corner of Goulburn and Pitt Street, destroying everything in its path except him. Paralysed in his seat, his whole body trembled from shock. He dropped his mobile phone on the ground next to a puddle of blood and human debris. He licked the blood off his lips, it was bittersweet like the ghost of the kiss he will never taste. He felt a sharp pain on the left side of his chest before he vomited all over himself.