To be Tendered by Love
While everyone is dressed in skin-tight tops, accentuating every line of their body, there you were. Standing in baggy camos and a Guns N’ Roses hoodie too large for your slender figure.
“Does she even like Guns N’ Roses?” I thought I motioned the bartender for another drink. He shook his head — what did this kid think he was, an actual bartender? Just hand me the damn drink. I waved at my friend to come over. Martin — an imposing individual at 6’6 who I befriended while working out — came lumbering over with a smirk on his face. I called him Marty— not after McFly from Back to the Future but the zebra from Madagascar.
“What I tell you Chad, Julien’s my dude. Hand him another drink and piss off,” said Marty while patting Chad on the back who was sweating nervous beadlets. I guess I forgot to mention Marty was a senior brother at this frat: Appa kappa nabba. I never did have a knack for those fraternity names.
“Hey you know that girl?”
“Who the brunette chick?”
“C’mon don’t call her that— but yes, I mean the girl in that Guns hoodie.”
“My bad. Nah I don’t know her, looks like a fresh daisy. Guns basic as hell anyway.”
The girl was a fresh daisy. But not like what Marty meant. She seemed pristine, unbothered by the plethora of juuls being passed around. She had a red cup in her hand but it didn’t seem like she was drinking this disgusting concoction of vodka and orange juice that I was. She was sipping too heavily for that.
Wait… Guns N’ Roses is basic? I turned to stare at Marty, who knew nothing about music. He knew Guns N’ Roses was my band.
“Marty, what type of music do you even listen to? Guns N’ Roses is by no means basic.”
“Ey chill Julien, maybe Trippie Redd or Ski Mask the Slump God.”
“God Marty, what are we, fucking naming vodka shots for a hipster bar?” I gulped the disgusting orange vodka “You frat tool, you going to become a business major with daddy’s trust fund next?”
“You good? You’re drunk man, you should go home. I’ll call an Uber.”
“Call me cultured, not drunk.”
Marty sighed off to the music booth. I shifted my attention to the Guns N’ Roses girl. Who was gone. Not in the beer pong table or the dance floor. Not even upstairs.
I don't have plans and schemes
And I don't have hopes and dreams
I don't have anything
Since I don't have you~
I turned my head to the DJ booth only to see a grinning Marty with his arms wide.
“It’s SINCE I—”
“Since I don’t have you. Yes, I know.” I couldn’t help but sing along and let a grin peak out of my cheek.
Marty grinned like a thirteen year old kid: a naughty grin, knowing he was back in the good. Also hopefully knowing a better song to put in his Spotify. As for me, screw it, plenty more fish in the Appa Kappa Beta sea.
As my eyes are tendered by the face sleeping in my arms, I think back on our picnic, if a bag of jalapeno chips and gummy worms counts. I gaze upon your rosy cheeks, the sun’s blessings clearly imprinted.
“Looks like your girl is wearing a Queen hoodie today. Bandwagon much?” Marty motioned with a fist bump. Bumping with reluctance, I yawn. I found out after the party that she was in Poetry Club. Well, Marty found out through his sorority sister that her name was Annie and she was an English major. We figured she’d be at one of the ten writing clubs on campus. Took us six tries, but it was worth it. Annie the Guns N’ Roses girl sitting in the front row, analyzing a Denise Levertov poem while Marty and I staked out in the back.
“Finally talking to her today? Ask her if she watched the new Queen movie bro, she’ll love it.” Marty nudged. Ha... dak-chyo saekkiyah.
“You say something?”
“Nah, it’s nothing.” Shit, thought I internally voiced that.
“That’s that Korean swear word saekkiyah! You told me it meant—”
“Asshole yes, congratulations, really great job. Such a culturally cognizant person you are.” I patted Marty on the back.
“Don’t pull that American Psycho shit on me, just ask her to the movies today bro. I’m tired of these meetings. Last poem I read was Shel Silverstein.”
Yeah I’m sure it was Marty, I thought. This girl Annie though was different. Her love of Levertov, I respected that. I personally liked The Dog of Art. C’mon think quick, what’s a good line I could use. Class was over now. I anxiously flip through Instagram on my phone while I wait for Annie to pack her books into her bag. Hopefully she wouldn’t catch me looking at her, I wouldn’t want to seem like a simp. As she stands up, readying to go, I approach her.
“Everyone likes Bohemian Rhapsody, but I’m more of a Radio Ga Ga kinda guy. Care to find Somebody to Love with me?” Shit that was terrible, Marty’s going to think I have no game.
Annie doesn’t even look up, “I’m sorry, this is just my friend’s hoodie. Plus I don’t watch historically incorrect films. See you next week.”
I paused. Looked behind to see a paused Marty.
“Is the new Queen film really historically incorrect?”
“Yeah apparently Rami Malek’s Egyptian, not Parsi-Indian.”
As my body is tendered by your drunk self, I think back on our spontaneous road trip. Sitting in a van with our friends driving, you lean on my shoulder. We arrive and step out. We kiss with the kindling sunset, which magically waited just for us.
Should I say may I be your boyfriend? Is it even the right time? I turn on About Time on Netflix, hoping it would inspire me to conjure some magical romantic diction. One of my favorite movies, although Marty will never know about it. To him, I am Patrick Bateman: an all-star genius with a pretentious attitude to boast. But I knew deep inside, I wanted to be nothing more than Ryan Gosling in those romantic comedies: a simpleminded lover. I nap to Tim asking Mary out.
I wake to the door opening.
“Annie said you weren’t answering her phone so I brought her here.” Marty headed off into his room. I nodded thanks and spread my arms out for a hug. Annie squished into my arms.
“I missed you.”
“I saw you at lunch and you already miss me Sully?”
“So if I’m Sully, you’re obviously Boo. Does that make Marty Mike Wazowski?” Annie adorably smiled, her dimples deepening. Her right dimple deeper than the left, an imperfect perfection.
I feel a sudden urge to look around me. My room is fairly big for a single, enough space for my material desires. Next to my closet are my shoes, a messy array of Jordans. On the ground are my new MacBook and Airpods Max. And within all these material sins, lies Annie, someone I truly, soulfully desire.
“Annie, I fell for you the moment I first saw you. And I’ve never felt so right about something until now. Please, will you be my girlfriend?”
As my heart is tendered, I think back when it all went wrong. No longer do I take you to class, no longer do you ask. The hoodies you borrowed from me, they all re-appear magically. The shampoo, make-up wipes you stored in my room, they disappear. I ask to talk with you. We meet in your dorm room lounge. I ask how that math midterm went. You nod. You sigh. I breathe it in and spit it right back. Silence. In the silence of the moment, you break it.
“I don’t love you anymore.”
My eyes start to brim with tears. Fuck, my dad told me a man only cries only three times in his life: going off to the Korean army, getting married, and burying your parents. The tears fall down my cheeks, a burning sensation. I nod.
“Is that it? After a year together?”
A year. That went by so quick. The parties, drugs, music, friends… I could’ve been Patrick fucking Bateman. But no. I loved you. I threw away my pride just for you. Because I loved your dimples, glitter eye make-up, and how you always stole my hoodies. Because I thought you were the one for me. The one who would never leave me.
“We were never in love Annie. It only felt like it.”
I wish I could say this. I only nod and turn away. For the memories of our love may tender me for the time being, but this heartbreak will scar me forever. Because love is nothing but a cruel sentiment.