We ran into each other at Safeway last week. I was holding a red pepper in my hand and he had a case of bud light in his cart. I blew air out of my nose in a silent laugh at what a mess he seemed. His hair was exactly the same as 4 years ago, shaved on the sides and longer on top because in middle school a kid told him his head looked like a lightbulb. He was in sweatpants and a flannel he had bought years ago when he tried to dress like me. We said hello and exchanged the necessary “how are you?” “I’m good” that comes along with running into anyone at the grocery store. We stood there for a bit in silence before I slowly walked in the direction of the milk with a smile and a wave.
He texted me the next day. I was surprised he still had my number, it had been over a year since he had last drunk texted me. He wanted to get coffee for some reason. I agreed for some reason. So here we are, sitting across from each other at a Starbucks full of the tourist who were smart enough to not wait in line a block down the road just to get the same coffee at what isn’t really the original Starbucks. I paid for my own drink because he used to always complain about spending money on me, even though he was the one who asked me here.
“So how is school?” I ask, knowing that he is on his fourth year but not close to graduating yet.
“It’s going well, how’s life out of school?” he asks.
“It’s fine, I have a job with a salary and benefits which is all anyone could hope for these days.” I say, bragging in a sad sort of way that only an English major can about their 9-5.
We talk like this for an hour or so until he tells me that he wants me to come over to his house. I don’t say anything for a bit, pretending to take the world's longest sip of coffee from my empty cup. I end up saying sure because no is still a word I’m getting used to using.
Which is how I end up in my ex boyfriend's childhood bedroom because when he said house he meant his moms. I want to leave but his mom is downstairs and I get the feeling that after all these years she still hates me. He has changed his sheets from blue plaid to unoriginal red, but it’s still a twin sized bed. He points out that his xbox is gone because he lent it to one of his loser frat brothers who got drunk and broke it. I added the loser part, he actually likes frat life.
“Remember when I asked you to prom in here?” he says, referring to either the time he laid out condoms on his bed to spell out the word ‘prom’ or the time he played a music video for me that he had made to my favorite Vance Joy song with a slide saying ‘will you go to prom with me?’ at the end. I assume it is the former instead of the latter, his friends thought that one was cooler.
“Um, yeah I remember” I reply, hoping to avoid memory lane.
“We were really good together back then” he says as I look into his mirrored closet doors.
“Yeah, for a bit” I reply as I shift my glance to the small window on the opposite wall, thinking about jumping.
“You’re even prettier now than you were back then.” He looks the same, average.
His room was almost an exact replica of what it was in high school. I snort, now standing in front of the window.
“Remember when we told my mom that we were going out to get ice cream and instead drove to that elementary school parking lot to-” he starts to asks.
“Yeah, I remember. You told your mom that you wouldn’t bring her back any and I was mad that you were about to blow our cover,” I try to hide my smile.
He puts his hand on my shoulder, “I’m glad you’re happy” he says.
I take a step back. He’s acting as if nothing has changed since we were teenagers making out on that tiny ass bed of his. As if I’m still immature enough to think his jokes are funny or naive enough to not see his superiority complex just because he does math and I like books. He’s acting like I’m still 18 and in love for the first time. He’s acting like he’s 18 and still popular enough to be nominated for homecoming court. I sit on his bed and he joins me, too close.
“Look, dude, I moved on a long time ago and if I was to hook up with an ex in his mom's house, it wouldn’t be you.” I tell him.
“I didn’t...I mean….I moved on too.” he said, he was much better at lying when we dated.
His walls were still empty, the only thing missing is the sticky notes I used to write to him and stick in the books I let him borrow. They would say lame things like ‘I miss you’ or ‘you’re the best thing to ever happen to me’. I always thought it was sad to have a room with no personality but maybe this is just his own way to express who he truly is.
“I should probably go”
“Oh, are you sure?”
I stand up and walk down his white staircase, slipping out the door before his mom turns away from the fridge and sees me. I’m sure she’ll spend the rest of the night telling him what a bad influence my tattoos are. My car is in the same spot I would park when I would pick him up and we’d sneak out to the park in the summer to look at the stars that were always hiding behind the suburban lights.