More Harm Than Good
He told me how much fun he was having when we were at the 23 St station but I didn’t process what he had said until we got to Bleecker.
I realize now that the delayed understanding was because it ran through my head like something a person says in passing — something that means very little and is said with the hope that it doesn’t actually elicit a proper response. You usually just toss them a soft smile and nod so everyone can carry on. Statements like these prompt non-enthusiastic participation between both parties that never result in any groundbreaking conversation. Still, people insist on saying them.
To me, “I like being around you” had sounded similar in subtle apathy as “I wish this area was less busy tonight.” Sure. I guess. Both were statements that attempted to fill the empty air but to no avail. Still, he insisted on saying them.
We started walking and it was the kind of weather that wasn’t particularly cold but had the occasional gust of wind that smacked your cheeks. I didn’t feel the need to say anything about it. He did, though.
“Why do you never wear a real fucking coat?”
I shrugged and kept moving, but he reluctantly took his off and put it over my shoulders. I had on my jean jacket and one of my pins secured to the right front pocket went flying. A small red rose with a faulty backing that was overpriced for what it was, but I still loved it.
It was the same one that always found a way to detach and had done just that on a different night at his friend’s get-together. The same friend he laughed along with when claiming to dislike Jimmy Eat World, even though I heard him humming “Sweetness” a few days before. They went on to discuss topics that didn’t quite involve me. I wasn’t exactly inspired to interject with my opinions on the construction near Penn Station or the unreliability of the G train. Even if I was, I’m not sure anyone would’ve listened.
My fingers found my way to the pin and I methodically spun it around. My thumb on the end of the stem, my index finger on the largest petal. Turn it halfway, then another twist to push it back into place. Casually and slowly, but over and over. I smoothed my thumb over the surface of it and squeezed. I wanted to reassert my attention on something other than the personalities I had been absorbing. I can be a nervous person. Everyone who knows me knows that.
“Can you stop fidgeting? It’s so weird.”
It fell shortly thereafter and clanked onto the table. I took a sip of the drink in front of me to try and hide my self-consciousness.
Heat rose to my upper body and I was starting to flush red; a dead giveaway that I was uncomfortable. I tread solo to the bathroom and was met with a moment of peace before staring blankly into the dirty mirror. I thought about how ugly I looked and how tired I was and how I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to go home. I knew he’d get mad at me if I did, so I walked back out and didn’t speak until I was spoken to for the rest of our time spent there.
My brain felt flooded from recounting that memory as I stared at my pin on some street in Manhattan. I scrambled to grab it off the ground after telling myself it was worth it despite its consistent let-downs.
For a moment, it was like when you rest a credit card on a flat surface and your fingers can’t get ahold of it. Maybe it was because I was mildly drunk. Maybe it was because I bite my nails so I couldn’t get a good grip. Maybe it was because my body didn’t want to rise back up and face him again.
He stood there impatiently with one hand in his pocket and the other holding a lit cigarette.
I staggered to my feet and balled up my fist. I pressed the pointed side of the rose into my palm, wincing in the process.
“This thing has a mind of its own, huh?”
I laughed quietly and insincerely enough for him to see the disappointment on my face. I saw the condescension on his. He rolled his eyes and said,
“Katie, you need to learn how to give things up when all they do is cause you more harm than good.”
I paused for a moment, wrapping my head around what that statement meant. It was just another thing said in passing, but this time it carried more weight. It echoed in my ears and prompted a response.
So, I turned in the opposite direction of him and started walking away, tossing the red rose pin onto the sidewalk in the process.
I was going home.