Friday, September 9, 2011

Looking Glass.

 

Janine was sick of looking for love. Instead of trying to find it, this homecoming week she'd promised the only "Hearts" she'd be walking into was a popular club downtown Philly. She wasn't really a party person, but after a breakup and a bad junior midterm report she needed to let loose. James, her ex, was responsible for the F's and the permanent frown stuck to her lips. It was all she seemed to think about lately.

"Girl! Are you just going to sit in the booth all night? Come party!"

Adina, her too loud best friend, stood with her hands on her hips above her. The rest of their flock eyed the prey nearby. They’d come to flirt and made it clear by parting ways to hunt for men the minute they crossed the threshold of sobriety and drunken stupor.

Janine sighed, “I thought I could, but I’m just annoyed and tired.”

“Alright, have it your way! Sit here and pout.” Adina sashayed back through the crowd in her black and too-small mini dress.

After slurping on the last of her drink, Janine headed to the bar for another. The mass of sweaty arms reaching for the bartender’s attention was enough to abandon her quest. Halfway back to her beloved booth, she noticed a slender young man standing in the corner near a speaker. He was a butterscotch tone with a goatee and a pretty smile that seemed to be pointing in her direction.

She quickly looked over both of her shoulders. No one behind her seemed to be returning his grin. She looked back towards the stereo. He was gone.

Janine made her way back to booth and played with the sugar on the rim of her drink. Who was he? Why was he smiling at her? Was he smiling at her? Did he….

There was a tap on her shoulder. She turned around ready to let Adina have it, when her mystery man smiled down on her once more.

His name was Giovanni. He wore brown cheek-length dreads that seemed as though they’d been dipped in gold at the ends, a Raven’s fitted hat on top of them, plaid shirt rolled to the elbows and ripped jeans. He wasn’t Janine’s type at all. Usually, she was into the extremely clean cut guy: fresh caesar, polo and asshole written all over. Perhaps, eclectic is what she needed.

Eclectic he was. Giovanni was half Irish and half Nigerian. He was raised in Seattle, but going to school at Ohio State and visiting a cousin. He studied Urban Planning and had a concentration in Fine and Performing Arts, Costume Designing to be exact.

In return, Janine told him about her breakup with James. She told him she was ready to leave Penn State and start her PR company in California. She even told him a few stories of all the crazy people she’d met in her lifetime.

He laughed hysterically as they walked through a neighborhood park after hours. She held his hand, which was incredibly soft for a guy’s, something she hadn’t done in a long time. She ignored the vibration of her phone, knowing her friends had started to stumble home without her. They abandoned the club scene, embraced the night sky and shared until the sun rose. Janine found herself in front of her University gate entrance telling him good night and watched him walk back into the darkness.

That night, she’d failed at her mission of not looking for love.

________________________________________________________________

Giovanni visited a lot. Within the next month, he popped up every weekend to see his cousin, or so he said, and of course, Janine. He’d pull up in his red BMW and they’d paint the town the same hue. They spent an entire semester deep in conversation: Dining at cheesesteak spots, lounging at Jazz café’s and exchanging their innermost thoughts. He was perfect.

Or was he? The fact that Giovanni refused to add her on any social networking sites and didn’t seem to exist on any—was a tad weird. Janine soon remembered that it was those very same sites that ruined her last relationship. She shuddered and put it past her. Maybe it was good that he wasn’t into the net.

Janine was also perplexed that in almost a month, Giovanni hadn’t made a move. During the first two weeks she’d come to the conclusion that he was a gentleman. Now that they were approaching the second month, she began to worry. Either he was gay, not interested or took the friendship stage too seriously. She hoped it was the latter.

One night, while he was getting ready to sleep on her sofa, she came out from her room and asked him outright, “You don’t want me, do you?”

He looked at her perplexed, “What do you mean? I’m crazy attracted to you.”

“So why haven’t you made a move?”

“I guess I’m not ready yet. I want to take things slow. Let’s become real good friends before anything else.”

He kissed her on the cheek and Janine headed back to her bed. In her slumber, she tossed and turned. Her restlessness was not caused by nightmares, it was because she wasn’t convinced.

________________________________________________________________

Halfway through the second month of their “union” the two finally fought. Janine didn’t know what to call their relationship, or lack there of, and Giovanni was still using the I’m-not-ready excuse.

There was a heavy silence in the room. Words were thrown, voices were raised and accusations were heard; but there was nothing but breathing now. The sound of a phone rung through the air. Janine snatched her blackberry from the couch that a hurt Giovanni sat and sunk in.

“Hello?”

An older woman’s voice spoke, “Hello. Hi I’m looking for my daughter Melissa. It seems she’s been calling this number, I can tell by the bill.”

Janine interrupted, “Melissa? I don’t know a Melissa, you must have the wrong number.”

“Listen I know she’s been calling…”

Suddenly Giovanni placed his hand on hers and pulled the phone away from her ear. Janine could no longer hear the woman yelling at her. He hung it up and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Janine smiled, “I understand. I’ll wait until you’re ready.”

All was silent again.

________________________________________________________________

Janine was frustrated by Giovanni’s behavior. She sat in the computer lab of her department and pondered. Only girls wanted to take their time with these things. Perhaps she was being too hard on him. Perhaps he was truly waiting on the right one. Her friend Silah sat next to her and noticed Janine’s look of concern.

“What’s been going on with you J? You’ve been a little unfocused lately.”

Janine was shocked, “Really? Is it that noticable? I thought I was doing well with keeping up with everything despite all of it.”

Silah was a city girl from Seattle but a country dame deep down. She’d lived in Texas for three years before coming to Philly. Unlike Janine’s other friends, she was only into graduating and nothing else. Even though she was incredibly beautiful, green eyes that accentuated her short curly dirty blonde hair, she had no time for men or games. This was the type of girl that Janine liked to have on her side during class and study time.

“Despite what?” Silah questioned.

Janine started to tell Silah about what was going on between her and Giovanni. She explained that she thought she was through with men for good and was astonished when he’d come along.

At the end of her story Silah sat stunned. “Wow, I didn’t even know you’d moved on from James. Who is this guy, can I see him?”

Janine pulled up her Facebook albums to show her pictures that the “couple” had taken on their various outings. Silah had a curious face on.

“He’s cute. He looks ridiculously familiar.”

Janine said, “Really? You guys are originally from the same place. It’s possible you could know him.”

Silah leaned over to Janine’s computer and went back to the thumbnails of the album. She clicked on a picture of Giovanni sitting on some steps alone. She turned her face in a weird direction and peered at the image.

After what seemed like a long time, Silah uttered, “Does he drive a red BMW?”

Janine looked confused, “Yes…”

“Is he a performing arts major or minor?”

“Yeah, how did you..”

“Does he go to Ohio State or University or something like that?”

“Yeah! You do know him! Did you guys go to high school or…”

Silah interrupted her, “Janine, I don’t know how to tell you this…”

During Silah’s hesitation, Janine braced herself for the next words. Silah had probably encountered Giovanni romantically or knew someone who had. Perhaps she had really horrible information about him. Perhaps he was long lost family. Whatever it was, she decided she didn’t want to know.

“Wait Silah! Just forget it. I don’t want to learn anything bad about him. Just stop…” Janine grabbed her things and started to leave the computer room. It was in this moment that she realized how deep her emotions were for Giovanni. She didn’t want to hear anything about his past that didn’t come from his own mouth.

Janine looked over at Silah as she was leaving. She was wearing a worried look on her face.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Silah.”

As Janine began to exit Silah jumped up and said in the quickest way she could, “You should know Janine.…your boyfriend……is a girl.”

________________________________________________________________

Janine walked back into her front door in awe. Everything Silah said made perfect sense. After telling Silah she was crazy and needed to seek medical attention, she’d explained everything to her. The puzzle pieces slowly started to come together.

Silah said she went to a Performing Arts High School with Giovanni and he/she made costumes for all the plays. On Halloween he’d/she’d done a great job at concealing himself to look like a guy and he’d/she’d fool everybody at the parties. His real name was Melissa Williams and most importantly Melissa was all girl. Silah said she recognized her face immediately and didn’t know how to break it to Janine. They put the name into a search engine, where pictures of a girl who could’ve been Giovanni’s twin sister popped up in several cast photos.

Janine suddenly remembered his soft hand in the park, the woman who mysteriously called in the middle of the night and most importantly his lack of affection.

She reached for her phone, now infuriated, and started to dial Giovanni/Melissa’s number. Suddenly she realized that she had the perfect way of confirming it all.

Since there was no NAME caller ID on cellphones, she’d never seen his/her name pop up. She text Giovanni: “Call my house phone.”

The house phone rang and it read: MELISSA WILLIAMS 555-0293

Janine answered, “Hello Melissa.”

_______________________________________________________________

Giovanni was Melissa. Melissa ran away from home a year before college started and never called her mother again. When they found out she was a lesbian, they immediately outcast her. When they wanted to apologize for what they’d done—she wouldn’t let them.

Traumatized by her family’s reaction, she formulated a way to keep anyone—including classmates, friends and loved ones—from knowing about her secret. She’d visit straight clubs, just enjoying the view of beautiful women, hoping no one would recognize her. She didn’t mean for what happened with Janine to take place.

Janine sat on the other end of the line as Melissa told her story. She almost felt sorry for her. Still, she was hurt, betrayed and most definitely pissed.

She finally spoke, “Your life story is crazy. I’m sorry that’s happened to you, but you lied to me. I’m sorry, I can’t forgive you.” She hung up.

________________________________________________________________

Janine spent the rest of her night writing her racing thoughts in a journal. How could she have been so stupid? How didn’t she know? How many other girls had she swindled? Was she the first? Did it matter?

She fell asleep with the notebook and pen in her hand and soon the sun rose on her heavy heart.

Janine woke up to a knock on the door. She looked at the clock, it was 8am. She was sure it was Silah coming to check on her.

She opened the door to find an unfamiliar and beautiful girl her age adorned in a pink Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie, skinny jeans and sneakers. Her butterscotch face gleamed in the sun and her teeth glistened as she spoke, “I drove all night…”

Suddenly the unfamiliar girl’s face, adorned in golden tipped dreads, registered. It was Giovanni….Melissa.

She spoke again, “I just want to talk.”

To be continued…

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1 comment:

Christina said...

OMG it killed me when it said to be continued...this is so good!