My last normal day was March 12th, 2020; it was a marred matrix of fear, fake love, and roleplay (not like that, gross), a day I can recollect without hesitation. Although normal in the context of CDC guidelines, its abnormality came from life’s seemingly sadistic motives for my fate.
This work will remain anonymous, not for my own privacy, but because I know it will not be seen by anyone who could care that it is mine. I share exciting news, that I’ve published a website full of my own poetry, that my name will be listed on the back end of a research paper, or that I’ve released art prints for charity. The people in my life don masks of enthusiasm in group texts, congratulating me for impressing them once again, but I know they don’t so much as glance at the links I send. They say that they’ll read every word on the page, but I know that it’s just a casual refrain. No one that “loves” me will care to look, so they haven’t earned the knowledge of my identity. This is my space to debrief, not another piece of my labor to ignore.
Thursday. Early morning. Maybe 1 or 2. I couldn’t sleep. I always felt my roommate’s eyes on me, as if she were a bat hanging from the ceiling, waiting for me to fall asleep so that she could strike me down. Maybe it was just my budding hypervigilance. Eyes wide, I texted him, asking for time alone together the next day. My screen lit up with a yes, exactly what I had come to expect. I thought he still loved me. Our November breakup had trickled into our friendship; he had been tempted to cross the red line before, we both had been. I thought he’d kiss me again, call me beautiful one more time, take back the premature I love you’s and replace them with the real thing. I had finally convinced myself that I was in love. And hell, school was shut down. What could stop me? Rejection, rejection could stop me, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. The only rejection I had faced was the perpetual high school crush that proved to me that the third, fourth, and fifth times are not the charm. This was different. I was surely the love of his life.
He took me to lunch at a Mediterranean place; I pass that bad omen of an establishment every time I leave my apartment. No, I’m never going back there, and yes, they have excellent falafel. There were no other customers, so we had the entire laminate palace to ourselves. There is a sterility to that store, the white chairs, the white benches attached to the slightly discolored walls, the white trash cans and the white countertops. I have worn white one time since that day.
We were served our lunches, three to be exact. The cook made my salad with chicken at first, and to overcompensate, brought out the chicken plate as well as the correct order with falafel. I gave him my second lunch, which he readily accepted. He held his fork caveman style, engulfing the end with his entire fist. He always ate like that and I always yelled at him for it. I spilled some dressing on my black jeans and prayed to the universe that he wouldn’t notice.
As we ate, the state of reality began to weigh as heavily as his mega-lunch. This would be the end of our first year of college. We pledged to stay on campus for as long as possible, a pact I would’ve sealed with my own blood if it wouldn’t stain the table. It was an attempt at a tragic romance, a final day spent together, us against invisible demons. Much to my chagrin, he paid for our food and we headed downtown. He needed to visit the post office, and any time I could spend vying for his attention was worth it.
This was my chance to be the edgy-but-not-too-edgy rebellious girl he craved. He could pull away the viscous honey of sexual tension that had enveloped him since I called us off. All I had to do was bat my eyelashes and pretend to be a good potential girlfriend. He didn’t seem to care, though. He was headed towards the door with far too much enthusiasm to be entering a post office. He walked in and… stood there. He stared for a minute or two while I stood behind him, looking away at the mailboxes so as to not make him uncomfortable. A few moments passed and he turned around. Teal sequins seemed to replace his eyes as he gleefully returned to the door, ushering me to exit. He always found the beauty in the strangest things. I’ll never get that; maybe it’s why we’re not together. I followed him out and we returned to campus. If he was going to play coy, then I was going to have to become the pursuer. I asked to meet once more after our evening plans and he agreed, though likely fearful of the outcome.
My friends and I had planned to hold a session of Dungeons and Dragons (I told you it wasn’t like that) knowing that it would be the last session before an indeterminate hiatus of in-person interactions. In a daze of paranoia and intoxicating social interaction, I regretfully remember little from the session, except for the photograph of my hallmate on a stretcher surrounded by hazmat-equipped EMTs sent to my entire hall. We paused the session so people could make phone calls home. He and I were still resigned to stay together, no matter what any friend, family member, or housing staffer would suggest. We would be the Veronica Sawyer and J.D. of the budding pandemic. Session ended and uncertainty settled like dust on our skin.
I arrived in the doorway of his room, ready to start the next chapter of our benign rebellion. The sequins in his eyes were replaced with the bloodshot redness of understanding. Turns out that I was wrong, but not fully. He did love me, but not enough to stop loving our friendship. He wanted to kiss me, but couldn’t bring himself close enough to my face. He only wanted my body and I only wanted his attention; we were the positive sides of magnets, millimeters apart but unable to connect. I learned that day that Hail Marys may only work for believers and that withholding is a viable option to consider. Unable to look him in the eye, I took a full minute to tie my Doc Martens in his doorway. The red thunderstorm in his eyes grew stronger as he watched, and, when he asked for a hug, I exited his dorm for the last time in deafening silence.
He broke the implied rules of our apocalypse plans; we were supposed to be in love. The pact was null and void and I began packing for departure the next morning. Standing silently in the doorway of my dorm room as friends cycled through to say their goodbyes, he became a termite drilling holes into my brain, implanting memories of my shame. I became repulsed by myself, for I could only be a body, one that was unable to be loved by even the most eclectic of people. I was attractive to him, just not attractive enough. I was miles above my failure by the next evening, already embracing the cold cavern of isolationism, a controlled and comfortable loneliness that I can’t seem to leave.
Behind the writing: This was a word-vomit like piece that I was able to edit into a cohesive story. I needed someone to explain the series of events to so that I could obtain some sort of pseudo-closure, and when I saw that Last Normal Day submissions were being accepted, I quickly reformatted what was essentially a journal entry into a submittable work.