I set a cup on the counter just next to the stove where the kettle is beginning to heat up. My hand slides against the edge of the cold marble counter, and raise it to grab a tea bag from its box. Continuing my path, I trail myself over to a jar of sugar cubes; grabbing two before heading back to the stove. I drop the tea bag and cubes into the cup, the porcelain cup clingking from contact from the cubes. I grab a spoon and smash the sugar back into a fine powder, the tea bag now resting in a shallow pool of sweetness. Letting the spoon rest in the cup, I hoist myself up onto the counter top, the cup dividing me and the now hot stove.
I take a long deep breath, exhaling what felt like old and outdated oxygen; the kind that still thinks the command line is needed to run a computer, and breathing in fresh oxygen that understands how the new iphone is different. In essence, a breath of air in a new place. Not a place with parents who roleplay as my wardens, or a sister who will intrude unannounced to talk about a new crush. No, it’s not that kind of place. It’s a place for someone who understands boundaries; A place where I am free to buy what I need to succeed in whatever I want to try! That is what this place is, and to treat myself to this amazing achievement I have landed, I enjoy this tea. When it’s finished, of course
When I finally hear the kettle lightly whistle I take it off the stove, pouring it into my cup until it spills slightly over the rim; which is promptly cleaned off a paper towel. As I twist my wrist in a circle motion to stir the spoon, I feel a buzzing in my back pocket. Using my free hand I pull out my phone, seeing someone calling me. It wasn’t a number I recognized, other than that it was coming from Utah. Curious, I swipe my thumb to the side and raise the phone to my ear.
“This is Alex, how can I help you?” I say in my customer service voice, hoping to avoid any scammers who might be calling. The voice on the other side had this timid masculinity behind it. Rough and deep, but soft spoken. I couldn’t actually make out what they said, and ask them to repeat themselves again. They cleared their throat again, they spoke.
“This is Rylie, that kid from preschool who you always sat with? I heard you moved out and were looking for a roommate… so I thought… because…” He started mumbling again, and I was only able to understand some words every now and then. I didn’t say anything out of pure shock, my jaw was agap and my hand stopped the spoon in place. I haven’t heard from Rylie since he left for Utah with his family, and last I checked he was financially well. So why was he calling me?
“Uh…Alex? I hope you didn’t hang up” I heard his voice pearce through my thought process, I blink myself back to reality, and continue stirring the sugar into my rapidly cooling tea.
“Sorry, I was just a little shocked hearing from you… did you say you needed a place to stay? Because I need a roommate! Which is why you're calling…” I tried to laugh off what I said, and swiftly moved on to my next thought.
“You can come over right away! I bet you're not far if you're calling right? Are you using a smartphone? Can I send you a text with my location? Can-” My rambling was interrupted by the sound of chakling, one that I was very familiar with after all this time.
“Glad to know you haven’t changed too much. I’m about an hour's drive away, so I’ll see you then.” I hear his voice is much more confident now. And as we say our goodbyes, I just grab my cup and pour the tea down the sink. I don’t quite need victor tea right now. I mean, it would taste so much sweeter when the day comes to an end. It would also be nice to share with someone as well…that’s not weird, right?
After more than an hour later, I hear my doorbell chime softly throughout the apartment. Quickly pushing myself up from the bed, I make a dead straight march towards the door. My feet moving front and back as if they are in a race, before stopping a few inches from the door. My eye peaks through the eyehole, and I see a back turned towards me. Assuming it’s Rylie, I grip the door handle and refrain from myself swinging the door outwards. The man turned around, I almost stop in my steps. His face was masked up, but you could still make out a strong chin. He has a blue, brandless cap shading his eyes from the harmful orange hallway lights, and some sunglasses hand from his neck by a strap. The only off thing about his attire would be his large brown coat that hangs down to his knees, which covered a blue shirt and jeans. In his hands, he had a small box of ginger tea, and an envelope that was bulging slightly.
“Hay, Alex”. He spoke, and my spirit had to hold up my body as his voice pieced my heart. My heart beated so hard I could feel parts of my body twitch. I mouthed the words “Hi” back, but not a sound came out. He leaned his head towards the door, and I moved myself out of the way. I closed the door when he took a few steps inside, and all I could do was hold onto the knob as if it was life support.
“I hope you know this is still your place, I’m not kicking you out”. He joked, tossing the box towards me. I catch the box with both hands, and giggle to myself. Somehow I’m even able to move back into the kitchen. A kettle waited for both of us, as well as some cups with sugar. My finger on one hand slid the top of the newly accepted tea box, and dropped the bags in both. My other hand turns the knob on the stove so the kettle can start steaming. Rylie was sitting down in front of the table, his coat hanging from the back of the seat.
“So, you finally moved out! That must be big”. He said, leaning back and twiddling with the envelope. I just nod my hand and looked at the kettle. My legs would seace otherwise.
“Yeah… though I didn’t expect you to be my first roommate”. I let out a smile, still not daring to look. “But I thought you moved away for good?”.
“I thought so too. But my company moved over to here, and since pricing on housing had gone up-”
“You actually started that business? Holy crap” I interrupted. “oh…sorry”
“Don’t be, I’m just as shocked. But I first came over to your parents, and heard you moved out. So, I figured it was a long shot to ask”. Although I didn’t see it, I knew he was grinning at me. But the room stayed quiet as I finally poured the water into the cups, and brought them over to the table. I finally met his eyes, and my breath became steady. We both enjoyed the taste of the tea together, the first sip being one that will plague a memory in my brain from here on out.
I was not only free to do what I could do, buy what I want, bring people over that I couldn’t before; I was also free with someone else. Someone who finally found their freedom too. We finally had some peace, and some tea.