The brunette medical student sat down at a table in the restaurant, it was one of those odd rustic places that desired to look like a hole in the wall, but you knew that everything in it could only be bought by someone who worked in finance or medical administration. A desire of the elite to be vaguely accessible in a way they were not. She hated to admit that in the past few months she had become accustomed to this place, not by her own paycheck, but by that of a friend. The waitress walked over to the table, looked at the familiar patron, and handed her a menu. Alison draws her eyes to the drinks and cheapest possible food options. She had begrudgingly agreed to come here in hopes of reconciliation, in desire for a lover that was doomed to leave. An abrupt screech of a chair on the floor grabs her attention as it is followed by a familiar brash and crackling voice.
“Are you mad at me?” Alison could feel her skin twitch at the comment. She simultaneously felt drawn to him and agitated by him. His adoration of her and the way his voice felt like nails on a chalkboard only exacerbated the tension inside of her. The push and pull between them were as balanced and incohesive as the cycle of the tides. Max had a way of making Alison’s day both pleasant and atrocious. His teasing and attention were accompanied by playful laughs and emotional highs, but the rumors of his reputation were served with a side of vile insecurity and shame.
She sighs and sets the menu down on the table. Alison felt the anger in the pit of her gut and the fire in her heart, but it was tempered with goodwill for him. The tenant of love and judgment walked hand-in-hand how she wished that Max and she would. Still, at this time, it was evident that it was oceans away. The tranquility and tandem the two could exist in outside of work would cease due to vicious rumors and miscommunication.
“Not mad, I don’t know how to say this,” as her mouth gapes slightly she trails off. His eyes are dark and intense like hers, it always feels as though she is meeting her match when looking at him. A pretty boy with a brain and a tragic back story had easily become her Achilles heel.
“What?” he reaches his hand out and slips his fingers into hers, the two sit closely as they had become accustomed to over the past several months.” Tell me,” he smiled at her, and she can feel the need to be vulnerable and be consoled in battle with the internal rage she has kept contained for the past several weeks.
“You’re contradictory in your behavior,” her heart thuds as the vague words exit her lips, pulling her hands out of his and sitting them on her lap attempting to maintain dignity. She was scared of telling him the full truth. They pittered somewhere between friends and lovers. Otherwise, her true feelings would be naked and on display; something she desired to avoid at work. It felt like she was giving him a puzzle to solve rather than a proper answer, but some border, some barrier, would not allow total and complete honesty between the two.
“....How so?” Max’s shaggy hair fell on his face. His eyebrows scrunched in interest, and Alison felt a burning in her chest at him doing this. The two should absolutely not have been near one another, everything about them seemed volatile, a catastrophe waiting to happen.
A part of her always melted with him, she had a very apparent softness for him even in their most convoluted moments. It was a never-ceasing reminder of her poor judgment and the way her buried feelings caressed her as she tried to escape over and over. “With me, you seem very compassionate, I’d even go as far as to tell you that you’re a good person at heart,”
“You think I’m good? I don’t want people to know that” his voice jumps slightly at the end, though it contrasted with the other voices that had captured her it still held her attention. It was distinct to him, even when he was a memory she would remember how his voice would sound in her mind.
“I do,” Alison pauses as reality smacks her back to attention like cast iron beating a skull. “It’s just I think I’m the only one who sees you that way.”
Her heart always broke as she said this. To ignore his dark side would be foolish; a wealthy skirt-chaser with family issues had brought to mind the warnings she had received growing up about men like him. The fact that he seemingly pursued and desired her attention while simultaneously having done the same to multiple people would leave scorch marks for a time, ones that would heal, but exist nonetheless. It burned a bit when she thought about it, that she was not the only one. At these thoughts, she could feel herself withdrawing in fear of the intimidation of his experience and her lack of it. Her naivety apparent only to her as a gleaming penny.
“Allie, tell me what happened.” As he asked this she felt cornered. Truthfully if she said all the things she wanted to say he would probably have a very battered ego and also she would run the chance of entirely pushing him away. It seemed like her emotions even when under lock and key ran amuck and carried a plague for themselves.
Alison looked up interrupting herself. The way he was looking at her left her frozen. If she could have taken a picture of him at that moment she would have. She wondered to herself how the most beautiful and electric person she ever met would look at her that way, she felt so lucky to have it at least in that brief moment. Though he did not touch her, his eyes made her feel as though she was being embraced. She was a fool for desiring this, desiring something she knew she would lose from the start.
“ Listen, you’ll be gone next week and I’ll be out of your mind the week after. I don’t think it does us any good to have this conversation.” She said this wanting him to stay, wanting to know he would contact her, but all natural inclination in her wanted to run from him, to leave the knife in his back as he had so unknowingly done to her. If she had felt less passionate about him this may have been an easier door to close, but here she was feeling the tug of a small piece of twine they had silently attached to one another, the tension of that small chord about to break under the pressure.
“No, finish what you were saying.”
“.... I don’t know what happened with you and the one nurse but-”
“Alison, what did you hear?” His eyes are wide as he interrupts and his jaw drops a bit. He looked frightened at the minuscule amount of information she knew, but this was the reassurance of its truth.
“Please tell me.”
“Tell me what your intention is with me,” it felt abrupt asking this. It probably should have been a question two months ago.
“Why do you want my company? Why do you complain about me being stressed and want me to call you when I’m sad?”
“Because I care about you! It’s not rocket science!”
“Max, this is hard for me!”
“I know it !” Max buries his face in his hand, ridden with pangs of guilt equivalent to the pains of jealousy and disillusionment she felt.
“I don’t need an answer, I may not even want one. I just thought you should know how it comes off,” Alison stood up and turned around, hoping he would follow. If this was a story he would follow, but it was not. They were two very flawed people, who both were begging the other for some form of vulnerability. Alison stepped outside, she felt the cold and biting rain as she walked back to her apartment.