My doorbell just kept ringing without pause. When I opened the door, Isaac ran right away into the bathroom like a dog being chased and said ‘heyyy’ very prolonged, door to door.
“My scientific research proves that if seven seconds after entering the apartment door, you pee already while still having your coat and backpack on, you’ve been only about five to ten seconds from the event horizon.” He said while he took off his coat.
“I’m really glad you made it.” I nod appreciatively and turn on the PlayStation, passing him a beer, like every Thursday night.
“Dude, why is your flat reminding me of Pluto’s surface,” he asks casually and I must look puzzled because he explains with rolled eyes. “Like Pluto, it’s extremely cold, I would have thought it’s unlikely that life could exist here.”
“Come on now, don’t be overdramatic, it’s not that bad. Also, it helps to sleep better. Although…” I gently massage my nape, “I haven't been able to sleep very much recently. Since Liyana and I got assigned to work together on this solar eruption research…”
“Hey – no work stuff! Oliver, respect the rule…”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help myself. You saw how she looked at me when I was mentioned in Monday's meeting, right? And she complimented my new glasses!”
“Yes, I saw it…” Isaac sighs. “She looked at you in her usual crazy person way.”
“Did she really?” disappointment arises in my voice.
“You know what everyone says about her… She’s completely erratic.”
“She has her moments, I guess, but she can be very kind and interested.”
“But she’s unpredictable. You never know how she will react. One moment she shows honest interest in your steakhouse experience, and then, when one’s asking about if she ever tried the broth that’s on the canteen’s daily menu, she goes nuts and lectures you that she’s a vegetarian. I bet these constant mood swings was the reason Edgar broke up with her.”
“Edgar?” I snort. “The astronaut dude with a dog name? That’s quite a guy... Always changing his partners like other people their bed sheets… but I admit Liyana can be too much sometimes, so… he probably just needed some… space.”
“Who knows? It happened many moons ago.”
We both laugh out loud and I secretly confess myself that I’m happy he was sent away on a long training as a preparation for a space mission, so he’s really out of the picture, for my luck. As we play Battlefront with full devotion and in silence, all I can think of is Liyana. Even her name is so beautiful. Alluring to pronounce, at the beginning the tongue playfully moves with the ‘lih’, followed by the mouth with the ‘yana’, it has such a nice melody.
“I even turned to the internet for some advice, you know.”
“What do you mean?” Isaac frowns but doesn’t look away from the screen for a second. He’s totally in the zone.
“For signs of attraction… I even googled horoscopes and Zodiac compatibility.” my voice thins by the end of sentence. I know how ridiculous this sounds. I can feel my cheeks go crimson.
“Dude, you’re an astrophysicist at freakin’ NASA and you look up horoscopes???” He pauses the game and laughs at me with a desperate look. “If you're into her this much, then you are officially screwed, my friend.” he shakes his head resignedly and sinks back to the couch, continuing to play.
I must have looked miserable because when he went for another beer to the fridge, he told me to just ask her out for lunch or something. After about forty minutes, when my own agony of not reconciling mixed signals ate me up from the inside and let me slaughter tons of stormtroopers, I opened my notebook to send her a message. Well, at least I want to but my service provider doesn’t seem to stand on my side.
No network?! I angrily rub my forehead. Astronomers are able to detect radio signals from the same source billions of light years away, yet I can’t get the goddamn WiFi connection in this room.
Oh God, lunch time is impending. I arrived at the office canteen fifteen minutes prior. And now there she is, waving, and she’s on her way to sit with me.
Okay, don’t worry, you did your best, I keep saying to myself. It’s just lunch, not rocket science.
I really did my best. I shaved and then went to the hairdresser this morning. Now I’ll just need to make sure I don’t swear and that I’ll nod politely, no matter how digressive she is.
Wow, she is digressive… And yet I find myself in her gravitational attraction. But the more she talks, somehow the less I can keep up my attention span and actively listen to her.
She talks about dull things and happenings. Exponential interest: strictly monotonic decreasing – gives my brain the verdict and yet, for some inexplicable reason I’m still very much attracted to her. I wonder what kind of time dilation this is, where I wait for both to sit with her my whole life and to quickly come to an end of this boring talking. It’s clear that we’re very different people. But according to time dilation the relative differences should only become significant, if they are subjected to the gravitational pull of a massive celestial body. And in the current situation her body is what is definitely… celestial… oh my, just look at her curves!
Similar to celestial bodies she also has sufficient mass for her self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces (a.k.a me, I’m her rigid mass of body). I grin at my own analogy. I’m naturally gravitating around and towards her, whatever she does or says. And when the day is over and we leave the office, everything freezes back to its solid state, just like Pluto’s surface when it travels away from the Sun.
If she really is my planet, I wonder what my orbital period is… How many days I will walk around her, orbiting her beauty. How many years…? I feel as if I were a living, walking example for Kepler's laws of planetary motion.
“Oliver? Hello? I asked if you would agree? Were you listening?” she asks, frowning.
“So?” She waits for some kind of validation.
I really have no idea what she was talking about so I do what I always do in such cases - repeat her last words my brain comprehended and hope for the best that it actually helps.
She just shrugs and finishes up her food. Phew, I guess I dodged the bullet. But maybe it’s time for me to actually say something and not just nod the whole time, like an idiot.
“Did you finish up our course work that was due today?”
“Regarding synodic period, you mean? Ehm…,” she thinks for a bit and then she continues, but hesitating, “It’s the time between successive recurrences of the same phase, right?”
I confirm with another nod yet again. I really should stop nodding, it must be annoying to her. Also, I can feel she doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe because she’s a new hire and still not confident enough. I adjust my glasses on my nose and the moment of awkward silence triggers my restless leg anxiety. I wonder what our synodic period would be for our bodies to return to the same or approximately the same calm position we had when we began our lunch time.
“I was happy to see you waving at me when you saw me,” my last desperate attempt to break the awkwardness, but I’m really struggling here.
“Seeing your arm made me realize we’re definitely on the same wave-length…”
She doesn’t seem to appreciate my wordplay, instead measuring our arms lengths with her eyes. Well, I can’t really blame her for that.
I keep looking at my last chat message to her.
>You know, the universe starts with “U” “N” “I”
Okay, I admit it was lame to send her this cheesy pickup line I’ve found online, but she told me over lunch how much she loves cheesy things…
And the moment of consciousness strucks me hard.
Oh my, what if she meant it literally? That she likes to eat food with lots of cheese?! We had lunch, for crying out loud! Of course she meant it literally! I switched to full panic mode faster than lightspeed. What have I done? It’s no wonder there’s no response!
I feel numb all of a sudden.
Idiot, idiot, IDIOT! Undo it! UNDO IT! My inner voice is nagging me like an inverse Palpatine. But there’s really not much to do, according to the chat she’s already seen the message.
Here comes the nervous leg kicking again.
There goes my self-esteem again.
I want to curl into a fetal pose and silently cry in the corner.
Long minutes pass by agonizing when my chat pops up.
Finally! I sigh relieved but my face turns as white as a sheet. To my surprise it’s still not her, just Isaac sent over a meme. His creative way to tell me I should stop staring so hard at Liyana. ‘It’s so obvious, dude’, his caption reads below the picture.
Another fifteen minutes or so go by and my chat window pops up again. My stomach instantly twitches. When I open the chat window the name shows Danny - my boss.
>Can you come to my office? We need to talk about something self-explanetary.
My heart is racing at rabbit speed. What if she reported me? If my message was over the line? Whenever Danny wants something out of the blue, I never know what to expect. Is he going to praise me for I just learned to walk on water or to rebuke while cutting out my kidneys with a butter knife?
Morituri te salutant. I perform the slowest possible walk in history, even slower than the walk on the Moon as I’m sure I’m walking into my death sentence. Last time he wrote something like this, it ended up with a fight between us about my latest publication on Pluto. That was the time I realized, just like Pluto is the largest known dwarf planet, he is the largest known dwarf of the office. That sneaky little man… But I will hold my nerve.
Just when I took three or four steps, I saw my chat popping up once again and the corner of my eye catched Liyana’s name on the screen. But it would have been awkward to turn back at this point in front of everyone. Her reply surely can wait. I’m doomed, anyway.
"Oliver, you’re not yourself, man… How did you miss that target?” Isaac says while he leans forward on my couch, not even looking at me.
“Sorry… I guess I’m bored.” I shrug.
“Well, it’s not only you, that’s for sure.“' The game suddenly paused and Isaac’s eyes bore into me as if he was waiting for something, but I couldn’t hold his stare. And honestly don’t want to, either.
“What?” I grumble, still not looking at him, but pretending to overly enjoy my beer. Why on Earth does he only have a cola zero? Last time I checked that was pretty out of the concept of our infamous Thursday Beer and Video game night. And he says I'm the weirdo…
We sit in silence for a couple of minutes, it’s so obvious we’re both miserable but for different reasons. He sighs while tapping his knees twice and his fingers start to dance.
“Do you think what I think? I mean it's getting obvious what’s the problem.”
“I know…” my voice is full of disappointment. I weakly kick the coffee table. What’s with this kicking lately?
“Let’s say it out loud at three and then we can let it go, all right?” He sounds inpatient but also thrilled by this idea. “One… Two… Threee–”
“Edgar’s coming back–”
“We should play different–”
“...games, too…” His voice weakens by the end of his sentence. He seems surprised, which I honestly don’t understand, because I really thought my broken heart was so self-evident that even a preschool kid would figure out which way the wind blows. Or how I like to say and hence transformed the phrase, which way The Great Red Spot’s anticyclonic storms blow.
“Buddy, I don’t mean to make things worse, but he’s arriving back home tomorrow already,” he must be pitying me because he quickly adds frowning, “so what then? What does Edgar have to do with it? Is that really what’s bothering you?”
“Of course it is. The program he was assigned on has been shut down. And every time his name comes up, Liyana transforms into some weird teenage girl I don’t recognize.”
I keep complaining about her strange behavior – well, stranger than usual anyway, even though with Liyana we still didn’t put any label on what we’re doing exactly. Isaac is a real friend, rooting for me despite he clearly doesn’t get any tiny bit of it, of what I really like about this woman… Female… Lady…? Co-worker. Eh, I can’t explain but somehow none of it sounds right in my head.
It’s been a month now that we’re having this odd mating dance of ours, but I don’t seem to get anything good out of it. One time at a bar she even told me to keep this on a low profile. Can you believe it? To keep a low profile? Really? I mean, what is she, a detective from some film noir drama? And how could she say something like this, especially after four drinks?! It happened right before I tried to kiss her when I was already tipsy and therefore horny. And also impatient because of the mind games she’s playing with me every single day.
Hah, single day. It’s sad and funny at the same time how even in my own thoughts I’m associated with the word single. But maybe I just really want to be in a relationship at last... Anyway, I wanted to kiss her in the hope of some clarification, to show my honest intentions, because in my experience women like to hide behind the widely popular trumped-up excuse: ‘misinterpreted things’. What’s with them to say this over and over as if it was some mandatory requirement before anything serious let about to happen?
Liyana doesn’t seem to be different either, as I originally hoped.
And I don’t want to cry a river to Isaac, that’s not how we deal with emotions. We just sit in silence, drinking beer – coke? – and although it seems boring, yet somehow it perfectly speaks to itself and makes sense. I instantly feel better just hanging out with my best dude.
To change the subject I ask about his love life when he proudly tells he’s off to go on a date tonight. Ah, it immediately explains why he skipped the beer tonight. At least our Thursday night tradition is still not in danger if everything else in my life appears to fall apart. What a relief.
So about fifteen minutes later I find myself alone at home, lying in my bed lifeless, face down in the pillow. I’m a waste of space.
My phone glows up, its light illuminates my red phone case. It reminds me of the taxi driver from that night I tried to kiss Liyana, because his cigarette’s end glowed just this red in the semidark taxi.
>Sorry, can’t make it tomorrow, something came up. xx
Or someone, more like! I go to the fridge for another beer, cursing all my way. I guess it’s time to accept my fate and the fact that Edgar is the only guy about whom she's really over the moon.
Eh, this reminds me to put on a brave face tomorrow and ask Danny to reassign me to that Moon project instead of my current one with Liyana. What a shame.
I guess I can thank my unlucky stars.