Bent – Avelynne Kang
July 14, 2021
All the things you think will happen when you take acid with your ex don’t actually happen until around six p.m. A quarter inch of paper gives us the anonymity we need from a year of shouting matches and temporary breakups.
Matteo took my hand around Olympic Parc, the biggest one by his house in Hochelaga. Our height makes it impossible for our palms to align without bending my elbow. But this is a peripheral problem and not worth our attention then or now.
It was early in the season, before the flood of bikers and tourists and windy enough to justify cuddling under newly green trees. We take pictures of the shapes in our shadows. Free from the psychedelic nausea preventing us from looking at our phone and at the pictures we’ve deleted off our Instagrams.
We sit on a patch of grass, half watered and half dry. Dew sticks to the hair on my legs like bits of tape. I smoke a cigarette, imagining a curtain being above my lungs so I can breathe even more air. The coarse bits of grass tickle my ass. My shorts are too short and my body both too large and too small for Matteo to sit comfortably. My arms waver trying to support my own weight. I need upper body strength. I need water. We need to move.
Inside the stadium where the bathrooms are the air is heavy and damp and smells of chlorine. Sun rays are replaced by a dull fluorescent white. I put my head down to avoid eye contacts with swimmers heading for practice. The only stall has a broken lock. Squatting, I hold the door closed, fail, then surrender to keeping it partially closed. I leave the bathroom, avoiding my reflection. Feeling new.
Back outside, eye level with the world again, we gawk at tree barks like they have directions. We wave back at the hills we conquered. Certainly no one else in this easily accessible park has the view we do.
It’s beautiful to be so fucked up a pigeon looks exotic. Their grey, white, and brown spots, distinct in their indistinctness. I wanted to ask how that can be, but for too much of this trip I’d turned Matteo into a human search engine.
I skip up to him and grab his hand for the second time. My hands still dry from winter eczema. Matteo blasts a Joey Badass album as we walk out of the park. The sober stares of old people and children embarrass me but with the acid it’s harder to ask to turn the volume down.
The presence of civilization, streetlights, skateboarders, homeless men and women, and cops cars outside Prefontaine station all threaten the end of our trip. I’m frustrated Matteo cannot see it, or if he does I was doubly upset that he isn’t saying anything.
But it’s too late, everyone sees us. They know we held hands earlier and that we aren’t now. They know this is the right thing to do, too.
I move toward an empty bench without asking Matteo to sit next to me. Then I point to the seat.
“No it’s okay,” He says spinning his arms in smaller and smaller circles. Then bigger and bigger. Then smaller and smaller again.
I say, “I feel really anxious right now and I don’t know why.” I know why.
“I can’t stop doing this.” Matteo bends his hands in a T shape, breaking off the point where his fingers meet like when a referee calls an interference. “I don’t know why this feels so good. I just feel like I need to do it.” He switches to a digging motion then back to the breaking motion. “You should try it. Actually, no. Don’t.”
Weather and time start to conspire against us.
“How are we going to get home?” I don’t hide my panic. “We can’t take the metro like this. Can you take the subway?”
He shakes his head.
Desperate for a sense of direction I pull out my phone. It takes me three tries to enter my passcode and three more to find the number of a cab.
“Need help?” Matteo asks. I shake my head. Then nod.
We’re unable to pinpoint what address we’re at and the drivers on the receiving end don’t have the patience we need. We decide to walk until we find a taxi. Parked is a line of cabs of all sizes, less than a block away the entire time.
I give my address to the driver twice. He doesn’t try to make small talk with us which is a relief until the silence grows louder by the mile. The red number on the meter inching up, up, up.
The look on Matteo’s face tells me my anxiety is contagious. After every breakup whether I’m dumped or dumpee, my conclusion is always that I’ve been a horrible person.
Too aware of the hands in my lap. Want to give one to Matteo because sitting in this car our height difference doesn’t matter.
I manage a poorly pronounced merci to the driver on the way out. It bothers me how I still butcher this rudimentary word even after two years of living in Montreal.
We decide not to go up to my apartment yet and sit on the nearest swingset. We twist in circles proclaiming what a shame it is that adults aren’t allowed on playgrounds, not realizing how this sounds as a mother redirects her child away from the empty swing beside us.
A moth lands on my sweater. It’s as dangerous as I would’ve found it a half hour ago. Improvement.
In the absence of other people I feel it’s safe to speak. “I didn’t realize how much of a language barrier affected our relationship. You were right. It wasn’t just our personalities.”
“See?” Matteo starts the breaking off motion with his hands again.
“It’s hard enough trying to articulate myself in English and it’s all I fucking speak. I shouldn’t cut you off so much when you speak. I know I do it all the time. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. I’ve been trying to tell you this. It’s like my…” he searches for the words, “my ass is in two chairs and I can’t sit on both of them.”
“It sucks though. It is the language thing but it’s also more than that, you know?”
The chain of the swings sound like bells above us. The fear of whoever gets up first signals some kind of defeat. Before I wonder too long how things could be different if we were just friends we go to my apartment.
In my room Matteo is nowhere near ready to sleep. He dances in a stream of dark blue light, shaking my table and drawer. But his once fluid movement lost all their water.
The dark in my room obscures our faces, preserving some of the false anonymity from earlier. We pick up where the thought loop began- why were we so anxious? Why did it start only after we left the park? A lack of vitamin D? The bulldogs? The motorcyclists? The cop cars? The inevitability of the real answer dawns on me like a bad hangover and I spend the rest of the night fighting the ache and explaining.
“We’ve been acting like we’re still together and we’re not. And we’re not supposed to be. And it feels bad because it should.” There is a sudden relief in the apparent certainty this has been true for the last ten months of my life. And if Matteo doesn’t understand it only makes it more true.
He responds with a frown which morphs into a goofy smile. “Wait, so…” His mind wanders somewhere I don’t want to know. His ears swallow my words before they reach the point of comprehension. He laughs like I told him a joke and he’d missed the punchline. “What were we talking about? Why did we feel anxious again?”
It went on like this until 4 a.m. I would say the same thing. He understood. Forgot, then asked again. What happened? What happened? What happened?
I remember a fight we once had about him sweating through my sheets in the night. I laughed and cried but I couldn’t hug Matteo like I used to since then. I imagine my heart like a fire in my chest. Wax dripping, melting parts of my that will harden and won’t recover.
I think about moving to the couch in the living room after he finally falls asleep, but he had a bad dream he was falling and he wakes up like how people wake up in movies.
“I thought it was real.” Matteo is five years older than me but now he seems five years old. I think about the couch as Matteo starts to dampen my sheets.
I stay up with the nothing we’ve accomplished today. The sun comes up. Dead flies spill from the window into the radiator. Like most things I think about cleaning it but I don’t move.
I want to be with Matteo. I want him out of my bed. I want to wash my sheets.
On the couch under blankets with coffees, my sister gives us a dead glare as she walks into the kitchen.
In this dimension we may or may not stay together. But we will definitely stay friends. We will probably stay friends even if we don’t talk to each other for a few weeks. After that, I don’t know.
We thank each other for the trip and agree while we don’t really regret any of our actions we both have to move on. After he leaves I pick at the short spirals of his hair off my sheets and towels. I texted a friend an apology for my absence and ask to hang out for the first time in months.