In Our Cars
Mark William Lindberg
In her car, after we dropped him off at his house.
“So, I have to tell you something.”
I expect her to say they hooked up finally because that’s what we’ve both been hoping for and pushing him towards.
“Turns out there is indeed a reason he hasn’t hooked up with me yet.”
Oh no. I feel it already. Cassandra-like, I see it all coming. I have one final delicious moment where I get to be naive, oblivious, young.
“What is it?”
Now all of that is over. She doesn’t know it yet. But I do. It’s all over now.
“I’m the first person he’s ever told. I told him to talk to you. You’ll talk to him, right? He was really scared to tell me.”
I’ll talk to him. I know I will. I know everything that will happen.
In his car, after he picked me up to just go somewhere and talk.
“So she told me.”
“Do you wanna talk about it? I don’t know, ask me questions or anything?”
“I’ve known for a long time, just never told anyone.”
Did he know she had fallen for him? Did he know she thought he was into her? Did he know she and I had been planning their wedding already?
“But I just told my sister, and it went fine, and she thinks my parents will actually be ok with it.”
“Wow. That’s great.”
I was supposed to give him advice, now I feel like I should be asking him for some.
“I’ll probably tell them soon, I don’t know, maybe tonight!”
“Really? That’s so… fast.”
“I just feel so good telling people! It’s really freeing!”
He’s so damn cute.
“Well if you’re on a roll, go for it!”
He puts his hand on my hand.
“And since I’m feeling in the mood to tell people things…”
Cassandra prepares herself.
I should look in his eyes, not at his hand on my hand.
“I like you.”
There it is. I honestly had no idea. I honestly had no idea about any of this. But now I know everything.
“I like you, too.”
In her car, later that night, after I got out of his car, after we made out and never actually went anywhere to talk and I called her and told her we should go for a drive.
“He told his sister already.”
I can’t say the real news.
“Wow, that’s great!”
“And he thinks he’s gonna tell his parents tonight.”
I can’t say the real news.
“Oh my god! That’s so… fast.”
I can’t say the real news.
“What else did you talk about?”
I can’t. I have to.
“He… told me he likes me.”
“I thought so.”
“Yeah, I mean, as soon as he told me, I figured it must have been you and not me that he liked.”
“I had no idea.”
She had no idea either. Did she?
That just came out.
“Is that ok? Is this weird? If it doesn’t feel ok to you, I can stop, I don’t have to.”
Can I stop? Don’t I have to?
“It’s ok. I’m ok with it.”
“You two will be super cute together.”
Cassandra shouts at me, but I can’t hear her.
In his car. The back seat. Slightly later in the summer.
“I don’t know what love is supposed to feel like, and I feel like this is too fast, but I can’t imagine feeling more strongly for someone.”
“What are you saying?”
I know exactly what he’s saying, but I want him to say it.
“I love you. I think I love you.”
“I think I love you, too, and I also don’t know how or if it’s right or too soon or-”
I’ve been stopped with a kiss. I’ve been stopped with a kiss and with hands and with a body on top of me.
In her car, the next night, driving toward the ocean.
“I’m not ok with it.”
“What do you mean?”
I know what she means, but I want her to say it.
“I’m not ok with you seeing him.”
She won’t want to say why.
“I’m just not. And I don’t think it’s right, he’s too new, you know, he’s too, like, young.”
“He’s two years younger than me.”
“I don’t mean age.”
“He is not that young. He’s more mature about it than I am.”
“I think you should stop seeing him, ok?”
Her car pulls over and stops.
“Look, it’s really uncomfortable for me. It’s kind of a big deal to me.”
“That we’re together?”
“You said you would stop if it was weird for me.”
I said that what feels like a lifetime ago.
“So you’ll stop?”
I’ll try to. For her.
In his car.
“How’s she doing?”
I can’t even try to.
In her car.
“I just don’t understand. I know you’re in a terrible situation, but, like… this is me, I thought…”
“I know, I just… I’m like…”
I’m like not saying that I love him.
“It’s not that hard.”
She thinks it’s just fooling around. I can’t even speak up for myself. Not to her. Not to her, who has spoken up for me in my life more than anyone. Not to her who I literally owe my life to after my own traumatic coming out process.
“It is hard. But…”
But why can’t I have both? I shove my anger into the closet. She starts to cry.
“It’s me. I thought we were together in everything.”
I can’t blame her for her feelings. She’s losing two friends.
In his car.
“She doesn’t want me to keep seeing you.”
“That’s none of her business, right?”
“We’ve been through a lot together.”
“I love you.”
His anger is out and marching. Again, I sit in awe and feel like he’s the veteran here. I adore him.
In my own car, alone, parked at the ocean, I cry and cry.
In her car, parked in my driveway, after a lot of silence.
“How will you make it work when you go back to school and he’s across the country?”
It’s a good question.
“I don’t know.”
I’m so damn confused.
“Well, I wish you the best.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s ok. I do. I hope you can make it work, you both deserve to be happy.”
I can’t let her go. So she’s letting me go. I get out of the car.
In his car, parked in my driveway, after a lot of silence.
“I just don’t understand.”
“I know, I just… It’s how it has to be.”
How can I be saying this?
I get out of the car.
In my car, driving back to school, I roll down the window and breathe as deeply as I can while sobbing. Cassandra sits in the passenger seat and takes my hand. She tells me what will happen. It will take a few years, but friendship will win out. It will never be what it was, but my best friend and I will ride in cars together again. We will forgive. We will move on. In three years, I’ll ride in a car with him one more time. I’ll apologize because after some distance and perspective I’ll realize that he was the one who really lost out here, who got caught up in the existing drama between she and I, in stuff we were already trying to work out between us. I’ll throw myself at him pathetically one last time, and he’ll politely refuse because he’ll already have someone. I’ll know I never could have held on to him anyway. He’d have been too free, evolving too fast for me to keep up. There were signs if I had known to look for them. If I could have seen anything at the time.
In my car, driving back to school, breathing as deeply as we can, Cassandra and I look ahead. And I ask her, just for the rest of this car ride, to stop speaking.
Mark William Lindberg is a queer author, theater-maker, and educator, living with a man and a dog in Queens, NY. His novels 81 Nightmares, Forest Station, and Queer On A Bench are available on Amazon. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, posting tiny poems on Ello and fiction fragments on Tumblr, and interviewing other humans who write things at www.markwilliamlindberg.com.