And then she kissed him
Charlene said “It’s so unbelievably hard explaining it to people sometimes, that I have all these thoughts and I just can’t STOP THEM. And the way they always react, the thing I ALWAYS, ALWAYS hear, is that it’s ‘normal’, everyone is like that- or that I’m exaggerating, it’s like what I say isn’t even plausible and yet I have to take these fucking pills for it.” and moving her hand away from her face Lee could see that her palm was red from being pressed against the abrasive carpet, the same red as her eroded eyes. Lee withheld a sigh as he lay his head back against the paint, his lower back aching from sitting there, on the floor, with her, outside the class they’d just taken. The pain distracted him from caring, bringing on thoughts of his age, and how different he was as a mature student, how young Charlene was in comparison, then the pain, without warning, became something positive- a penance suffered willingly so he could help, if only by being around. Lee said: “You sound bitter about being lonely.” He didn’t know if it was the right thing to say, he did not have whatever condition she did, but it was what he thought, and he said it, mouth shutting so hard he thought his head shook.
He waited, worried she would go or want him to leave.
Instead Charlene said “Yes. Exactly.” Which was enough to remove the final hesitation that had kept Lee from telling his story.
He said “You know, before, something happened to me. I used to be terribly lonely. Really, awfully lonely all the time. I’d stare at couples who held hands and wish that were me and think I’m so pathetic for caring so much. During my second job I shared a house with some girls, and I used to get a lot of jokes from my guy-friends about it, they used to tell me I was such a player. Which made me feel worse, as I was practically an asexual dwarf to those girls- I mean I’d make us all dinner every weekend and we’d watch chick flicks, and they’d joke about how they were all my ‘fag-hags'”.
Charlene said: “But you aren’t that short.”
“Anyway. I had this secret thing I’d do, that I’d done all my life. I walked up the stairs on all fours. Really- like a dog. I love it. I still do it. I managed to never do it in front of any of them though- it was my secret, and I did it when no one was home, sometimes multiple times in a row just to get it out of my system. One day, I’m at home right, and I decide to do the reverse- which was rare, maybe one in ten times I do the reverse, and walk down the stairs on all fours, but BACKWARDS. That’s scary, it’s kind of like a thrill. I must not have heard Asha- who uh, was one of the girls, and she was home, and well, on my way down we bumped into each other. Her nose, smack into my ass. Then we fell down the stairs together. She’d been walking up on all fours you see. Swear to God. So I’d broken my arm- yep, and she had to take me to the hospital. On the way there I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d broken my arm after meeting the only other person I’d ever known to walk up the stairs on all fours. So in the hospital, she sits with me and I ask her out, then and there, I actually say really honestly that I’d never met anyone that did that and that my arm was broken so she owed me at least dinner. We started going out and I was convinced it was fate. I was sure of it. And it wasn’t. We didn’t work out. Not at all. I mean, we were together for quite awhile but in the end- it all went to hell.”
Lee paused to breathe. Charlene wanted to ask: So? Well is that it?
Then he started again. “So, after that my life went kind of haywire. I was unemployed for awhile and realized that I really was passionate about something else entirely, something I’d only ever done for fun, in all the free time I ever had.”
“Which is why you’re here?”
“Yes. And then the Internet. I didn’t grow up with it you know- like you have. I mean it was sort of there later, but anyway the thing is, that one day I just looked it up and of course I found out that I wasn’t the only one.”
“Looked up what?”
“Walking up the stairs on all fours. Shitloads of people do that. Seriously- I mean a whole frickin’ city of them, spread out of course, not together at all, and rare enough that they all think that’s there thing, and they are a bit nutty for doing it. I wasn’t alone either when I decided that I loved cooking, even though I was a man- I know, you probably think it’s silly, but the people I grew up with, they thought it was weird. Online I found entire communities- I guess this isn’t that shocking to you, this is your time I guess, or I don’t know, I mean, I grew up when their was just one way you know? One way of living, one thing you’re supposed to like, or ten maybe, but not like now, not the millions and million of communities now. It was only then when I saw online how many people crawl up the stairs on their hands and knees that I believed I was never alone, not even a little bit. Not really. Sort of like you are, honestly- even if all the people you are incidentally placed next to aren’t the same at all.”
Charlene just stared at him, realizing that he accepted her entirely, despite her moods, and despite the pills.