2 – Know Your Enemy

(Christian)

They (the therapists, that is) always told me to ‘know my enemy’.

Totally fucking lame advice, from my experiments involving it. My enemy? Everyone and everything except for me. Who else can I trust?

Of course, all that’s probably just my insane paranoia and/or being completely and utterly stoned most of the time. But still. I’m the only person who isn’t my enemy.

Well, Gloria wasn’t an enemy, as far as I could tell about her. She was nice and warm and funny. Though, for all I knew, that was just a mask that she hid behind and she was gonna betray me eventually. Though I wasn’t sure if anyone would sink that low just for me.

Okay, I admit it — I’m totally fucking insane. I’m crazy, batty, loony, effed-up, et cetera, et cetera. At least I’m honest about it.

Anyway, I never really knew a time when there wasn’t an enemy. When I was young, the enemy was my father. In elementary school, my cruel classmates. Middle school, the kids, teachers, and the school counselors. High school was pretty much exactly the same as middle school.

I hate people so fucking much. Well, most people anyway.

Gloria was one of the rare people that I decided I liked just by having a pretty damn shallow conversation with her. She has that mischievous glitter in her eye, different from that look of attention she got in History, but it was definitely good enough.

My thoughts of her only got better and better after that first date. True to her word, she’d texted me a time that night and I basically could not sleep till Saturday. Well, mostly because we stayed up talking all night on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And then, exhausted but exhilarated, I walked into the Starbucks at nine AM, all ready to see her.

Gloria was already there, idly stirring a steaming mug of cover. She was staring at the ceiling, her dark green eyes half-closed in thought. I grinned as I slid into the seat across from her.

“Hey, Gloria,” I said at last, snapping her out of her reverie. She smiled at me.

“Hiya, Christian,” she replied, taking a sip of the pure black coffee in front of her. She looked just about as tired as I felt. I smiled back.

After exchanging the formalities (like how are yous, you look good todays, and all that stuff) she asked me if I wanted to order some coffee. “Of course,” I said, “two creams, two sugars.”

Gloria flagged her friend Peg down and ordered my drink. “Half-price,” she explained, “since I work here and all.”

We made more small talk before and after my coffee arrived, culminating with me admitting: “Well, I’m not that great at talking, ‘specially small talk, so… um… yeah. Sorry.”

“Aw, no need to apologize,” she said, “I’m not that great at that kinda stuff either. I kinda sorta fail at it. Epically.”

I smiled. Maybe we had a lot more in common than just being the weird-ass social outcasts? For a moment, I wondered if she was into Opal. Or maybe even something else, like Novacaine? But, just as quickly as I’d started to wonder about it, I gave it up.

Gloria didn’t have the personality of an addict. She was just a normal girl scraping through life and getting good grades on the way.

“Christian?” she asked after I’d been silent for a while. “You okay?”

I looked up from my coffee, meeting her eyes. “Yeah. I’m fine, don’t worry. Just thinking.”

“‘Bout what?” she asked, smiling. Gloria had this nice, pretty smile. I liked that smile.

So I took the opportunity to get some points with her: “Just how much I like your smile.” It’ll probably help later on, I thought.

Gloria seemed taken aback by this, suddenly rendered awkward and speechless. She blushed and took a moment to compose herself. “Really?”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said.

“Wow… thanks. My old boyfriend used to tell me that, too, but you probably don’t wanna hear about him…”

“Actually… I do wonder,” I replied, “what happened to him?”

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “The love… it just… it didn’t work out in the end, y’know?”

“Yeah.” I dropped the subject like a hot potato — she clearly didn’t want to talk about it, and who was I to question that? I never met this guy. For all I knew, he’d died in a car accident and she’d never gotten over it. For all I knew, that car accident was the one my dad got sent to jail for three years prior…

“So, um, what do you do in your spare time?” Gloria was just as willing to change the topic as I was.

And of course, she changed it onto a topic that was very awkward for me. Shit. She wasn’t into drugs… what if she was straight edge or something crazy like that?! Cue the panic and thinking about an appropriate lie.

“I play video games. Well, y’know, those beta-VR computer games,” I half-lied. Sure, I did game a little on the side. It was funner when you and your internet buddy were both totally high or drunk. Or sleep-deprived. Or, best of all, all three. Now those were some good VR games…

Gloria nodded. “Cool. I used to play some of the old console games, y’know, like on the PS2? Hell, I remember playing this game about a rapping dog or something on the original PlayStation… those were the days, when video games were just as trippy as current TV shows.”

I grinned. “You know what, I think I may or may not be in love with you already.”

She grinned in reply. “You’re too sweet… and the feeling’s mutual, by the way.”

To be completely honest, it was just like in all the books and movies and shit. It was like… my heart lifted up and stopped beating at the same time. Hell, the world stopped moving and it was just me and Gloria, Gloria and me… just us, all alone in that goddamned crowded coffeeshop…

Gloria just shrugged it off though, smiling enigmatically and standing up. “I have an appointment. This has been great Christian. I’ll text you tonight.”

I sat, stunned, as she walked away. Then I blinked and stood up as well, following her. I caught her outside the store, half down the street. Before she could get any further ahead of me, I caught her arm and turned her around.

“Yeah, today was great,” I whispered, kissing her chastely on the lips.

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