Ghost

She checked her phone, again, belly sucked inwards, breath holding – her pink tongued dog smiled – 4:37pm, Thursday. No messages.

Pathetic, she was. She slipped the phone under her papers as if hiding it from view would make it easier to forget. She looked around the classroom at her male peers; Thomas, sitting beside her, picked at his nose. Brendon, with his legs wide open, had come up on her dating app last month: Hi, I’m 25, self-employed, here’s my gym selfie with my reflection showing in mirror behind. She shuffled the papers back, snatched the phone up and pressed the home button – her phone was on silent, maybe he had sent something, maybe he would – 4:41pm. Thursday. No messages. She should go wild. Screaming, she should run to the other side of the classroom and chuck that phone out of the fifth story window, and watch fall and smash, and let all of her last hopes shatter, too.

On the Smartboard, a smartly dressed bearded man told the camera, automation is, after all, the future. Fucking need to buy a vibrator.

Vibrators don’t love you back.

5:20pm. Thursday. No messages.

Beyond the scratched glass of the tram window, dark clouds brewed. She imagined the conversation she would have with him if he was sitting on the stained green seat opposite. “Still at that job? How’s it going?” He would probably smile a little, showing those tiny dimples where she once kissed him. In real life, a large woman nearly ran over her toes with a traveling wheeler bag.

It would be important here that she wasn’t sucked in by those blue eyes or breezy chatter. She would regret it always. She already did. “Hey, if you weren’t keen anymore, you could have just said so.”

She waited for the words to register, like waiting for the soft scent of perfume you’ve just sprayed – or a terrible silent fart – to enter the other human’s nostrils. When soft lines crinkled his forehead, she knew he had inhaled the gist of her sentence. I liked you, and you fucked me over.

This is casual, right? He’d said it in the most serious of voices. This is casual, so I’m going to message you everyday for three weeks, and then not for eight days, but I can do that. This is casual. Right? I took you out for dinner last weekend and introduced to my dog and showed you pictures of my family on their holiday. I asked you to stay the night, I made you breakfast, I saw you most days. This? Nah, nah, it’s casual. You messaged me like we normally do in the mornings, but I don’t have to reply, I never have to reply, and you’re not allowed to be annoyed or hurt. Heartbroken? Jesus. I told you. This is casual.

The tram doors remained open for a second too long and sideways rain spat through the opening. She looked into his eyes, searching for what she’d done wrong, searching for why.

She hadn’t seen him randomly on the shittiest tram in Melbourne. She would never see him again for the rest of her life, maybe.

You’re not meant to feel things this deeply. Get on Tinder and have a swipe. Fish in the sea. Don’t catch feels, don’t overthink it, don’t have sex in a way that is too loving. On top of his sheets, they’d looked at each other in the eyes. ‘That’s very intense,’ a friend had warned. There’s relationship sex and dating sex. She studied the difference and never looked into his eyes again.

You know, sometimes she could still hear his voice in her ear. Like he was right there in front of her. Right there in front of her, she would hate him so much, so much, and kiss him right on the mouth.

She was pathetic. She couldn’t help herself. She pressed her phone’s home button, chest heavy, knowing there would be nothing and still needing to see it for real –

5:33pm. Thursday. No messages.

She was the only one on the tram.

Pathetic, she was. She slipped the phone into her pocket, as if hiding it from view would make it easier to forget, and pressed the red button.

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