Part of me is saying that I should wait until tomorrow to post this. I don’t want it to be taken the wrong way. But screw that, y’all are smarter than I; I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Here goes…
Whenever You Need Somebody
She pulled her finger away from the buzzer. She was having second thoughts again. Could they even be called second thoughts if she’d had them every five minutes for the last hour? Regardless, she found herself glancing back down the steps, toward the street.
Cold and uninviting as it seemed, the street was quiet, and empty; there was some level of comfort in that. Oh how she wished for things to be normal, uneventful. Instead, she hopped from drama to drama, break-up to break-up. Could she expect any different here? But here she stood, in the dark, in the damp. Restlessly shifting from one foot to the other, she waited for a response, and hoped she’d get none. She’d been screwed over too many times to have any optimism left.
Pushing back a lock of hair, she reached in her purse and pulled out her little mirror case. She wasn’t happy with what she saw, but it did at least confirm that she’d wiped away the tear-driven mascara trails; another reminder of what had made her come here in the first place. But would this guy be any different? Would he live up to what she’d heard about him? Or would he just be another regret to add to her list?
She jumped at the sound as the crude door unlocked loudly. After a moment of hesitation, she opened it and stepped inside. The lobby was bland and sparsely decorated, but somehow more welcoming than its features would normally permit. She hoped the inviting atmosphere wasn’t just her mind grasping at straws, trying to convince her to continue. Surely this time would be different, right?
The door slamming behind her spurred her onward. She glanced down at the crumpled paper in her hand, checked the address, and punched a button in the elevator. With a rumble, it began to move. She shuddered along with the car as they ascended, though her unease had nothing to do with the movement or elevation.
She knew she’d eventually have to tell him about herself; she knew she’d have to tell him, just like she’d told all the others. It never went well; and that was the reason for her being here. But they said it would work out this time, that he was legit. She could share her deepest secret with him, she hoped. They had told her good things about him, that he wouldn’t be another one her past regrets. The mention of diapers was the only thing that brought her here, otherwise this would just be another story of lies. But here she was. Part of her was certain that this was just another trap, but another part of her was trying to believe it wasn’t. Since no evidence had so far, supported either theory, she forged on to see this through.
“Just go,” they’d said, “this is the guy for you.” She’d even believed them the first few times. Hell, it was actually enjoyable the first time. When she’d first met Rick, he’d been wonderful. He had sung her a song and she had fallen for it. But it had ended quickly with Rick, he had sung his song and that was it. The next guy was the same, and the guy after that, and the guy after that; and so on. Every single time, even if they looked totally different at first, they always wound up as just another Rick.
Nineteenth floor; she stepped from the elevator and started down the hallway, room eighty-seven would probably be near the end. She wasn’t excited about the delay. Surely, it would only serve to further her hesitation; not something she could combat forever. She needed to do this, to see it through; to know for sure whether it was all she wanted it to be, or just another farce to mock her.
“Whenever you need somebody,” she’d been promised. At the time, she hadn’t understood. But now it made sense. Now, she did need somebody.
“Eighty-three, eighty-five…” she stopped in front of the next door, “eighty-seven.”
This was it, the moment of truth. She raised her hand to knock, but hesitated. For a moment, she relished the suspense, the possibility. If she was wrong, if this didn’t work out, she’d know all too soon. What was two more seconds of wishful thinking? Surely she’d be granted that at least.
Hell, she could stand here forever, eternally pretending that this would turn out fine; that her pessimism would finally be proven wrong. She thought back to what she’d heard about him. Staring at the number on the door, she recalled the only four words she’d been told about this place and wondered if there was any connection.
“Whenever you need somebody.”
She could almost imagine him—the man behind this door—standing there, smiling, with those words as a banner declaring what she wanted most to hear. But she didn’t even know what he looked like, so how could she imagine him? No, she needed to know for sure.
There, that was it. Save for sprinting down the hallway, she no longer had the option of backing out.
She heard movement from within; it was coming closer. In a moment, the pace would increase in her little tale of mystery. The truth would be revealed. She took in breath as the door swung away from her.
There he was.
He looked younger than she expected. He had smooth skin and was clean-shaven, which gave him a bit of a baby-face. His pompadour hairstyle urged her to remind him that the ‘80s were forty years ago. But the corners of his mouth hinted at a smile; welcoming her, inviting her inside.
Actually, that was exactly what he was doing. Standing to the side, he gestured silently for her to enter.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper.
He closed the door behind them and they proceeded to the living room. The fairly traditional design of the room was hardly worth mentioning; instead a layer of clutter seemed to coat every available surface. It wasn’t dirty by any means, but there were trinkets of every description. Any feature of the room, or piece of furniture was almost wholly buried, as if he was trying to hide what lay beneath.
She stopped in the middle of the room and turned to face him as he approached. She felt urged by his continued silence, to blurt out all she wished him to know. There was no more point in hesitation, she needed to know how he would respond.
He walked toward her; stopping nonchalantly and assuming an equally relaxed stance.
Restraint failed her. “So listen,” she blurted, “I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I really need to get this out of the way—”
“We’re no strangers,” he said.
What did he mean by that? Had he already heard about her? Did he know? Nothing about him appeared to change, but she felt a difference. Now he seemed to prodding her, as if she needed to speak before he could respond. She felt emboldened, but couldn’t explain why.
“So if you know me, are you okay with…” her boldness faltered mid-sentence. “I mean, what is your intention here?”
“To love,” he said simply.
How could he be so blunt? Perhaps he didn’t fully grasp the situation.
“Listen,” she began, almost certain that this would be the end of their encounter. “I don’t think you understand. I need to tell you something before you go and make promises like that; I need to make it clear that—”
He held up his hand, silencing her. His expression didn’t change, but he turned to leave the room. He didn’t motion for her to follow, instead, retreating silently into one of the bedrooms.
“Wait! Where are you going?” she called after him. Did what she was going to say simply not matter? Was she blowing it out of proportion? It certainly mattered to all the ones before him, and that was why she felt it necessary to tell him right away. Maybe he was different, maybe he simply did not care. She could only hope for the best.
“You know the rules,” he said sternly, stopping in the doorway to turn and point a steady finger. He lowered his hand as he turned away again. His shoulders drooped momentarily, “and so do I.”
She stood silent after he disappeared. Something about this seemed all too familiar. But she’d come this far, and things had not yet turned sour; why not see it through? “Yeah,” she said to herself, “I know the rules.” But as she stood there, saying those words aloud, she found it very hard to believe them. The truth was that she had very little idea of what he meant. In fact, her utterance came more as a reluctant acceptance to the fact that whatever he had gone to retrieve, was probably too much for her. What hypocrisy! That she would come here and expect anything from him, when she herself held such a dirty and unwanted interest; all the while remaining wary and judgmental of someone she didn’t even know. “No,” she said to herself. She would try to remain as open as possible, to whatever he was like.
He was smiling when he emerged. Both his hands were behind his back, and he appeared to be holding something. His smiled seemed to enjoy her look of confusion as he crossed the room, and yet, he also looked eager to reveal his surprise.
She said nothing, but eyed him warily. She didn’t dare to guess what he was about to show her. She didn’t want to be disappointed because she was too optimistic; nor did she want to run away from fear of the unknown. Fortunately, she only had to wait for a few seconds.
Slowly, almost too slow for her building impatience to handle, he pulled out his right hand and brought it up between them. In his palm was a small, black velvet case, the kind which would normally contain an engagement ring.
But surely there wasn’t actually a ring inside, was there? She looked down at the closed case, then up to him.
He remained silent, only smiling.
She grabbed the case and opened it. Inside, a small silver band was nestled in the center. She had only been here all of five minutes, how could he be so hasty? She knew this must be some sort of trick. Maybe there was a pie in his other hand, and he would smash her in the face with it, like something out of a cartoon. “Is this an engagement ring? Are you serious?”
“A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of, you wouldn’t get this…” he said, drawing out his other hand with a crinkle from the item it held, “…from any other guy.”
“Are…” Her mind scrambled as she tried desperately to find the words to finish her sentence. Instead, she found herself staring at what he held. It was plain white all over, and it was thick, very thick, thicker than she’d ever seen before. It’s plastic exterior crinkled noisily from even the slightest movement.
She couldn’t imagine where he would even be able to find such a thing. She had been to pharmacies and medical supply stores all over the place, but never once had she seen something so big. On top of that, she didn’t know how he’d found out she was into these. Maybe it didn’t matter. He certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
It was too good to be true, there must be a group of her coworkers or someone in another room, who would momentarily come in to laugh at her. She felt tears well up in her eyes. Why? Why did it have to be like this? How come the only thing inside her mind was suspicion and distrust?
“You…you’re mocking me, aren’t you?” she said, choking on her sobs. “You’re just gonna laugh at me when I say yes! You don’t really like…these!” She swatted the item from his hand.
His face softened, his smile faded as if he had just been hurt.
She knew right away that she was wrong. He had been sincere, and she’d thrown it right back in his face. More tears came. How could she explain that? She found herself staring at her feet, but through her teary eyes they was only a blur of colors.
A light thump caught her attention and she looked up.
With hands empty and arms outstretched, he welcomed her with a hug into which she immediately fell. Pulling her close, he began to stroke back her hair with one hand.
For a minute, she stayed in his embrace. “Sorry,” she said at length, after she had calmed down and blinked away the tears. “It’s just too much to take in all at once.”
“I just want to tell you how I’m feeling,” he said softly, stepping back but keeping his hands on her shoulders. “Gotta make you understand.”
She blinked several more times and sniffled. “What do you mean?”
“We’ve known each other for so long,” he said as his smile returned. “Your heart’s been aching but you’re too shy to say it.”
“But—” she stopped, unsure what to make of this. She didn’t want to say anything too hastily, but it still seemed very strange. Did she know him from somewhere? She couldn’t place it, but he did seem a little familiar, now that she thought about it. But where had she seen him, and why did he seem to know her secret? “What’s going on?”
“Inside, we both know what’s been going on,” he said, leaning closer.
Was he psychic? Could he really see the turmoil and uncertainty inside her? That would explain a lot of his actions. But she still wasn’t convinced. Once again, she found herself questioning exactly how many ‘second thoughts’ she had been through. “I don’t know…” she said hesitantly.
He sighed with a tone of slight impatience. Reaching down stiffly, he grabbed the item she had swatted. This time, he was a little more forceful as he held it out, as if he really didn’t feel like explaining this for a second time. “We know the game and we’re gonna play it.”
Suddenly, she realized what game he was talking about. “Okay, I get it. We’ll play the game,” she said. With a smirk, she took the crinkling item from his hand. “So tell me,” she said, stepping closer and waving her hand with a crinkle, “what are you going to do with me, once you get me into one of these?”
He leaned down as she looked up into his eyes. His smiled widened and he put an arm around her. “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down,” he said in a low voice, almost whispering, “never gonna run around and desert you.”
Now where had she heard that line before?