Taylor took the box over to the small television sitting on top of a two-shelf table. He sat the VCR on the bottom shelf and then began unraveling the wires. “Yeah, I like that one.”
“I saw Sixteen Candles in there. I figured you’d pick that.” He plugged a cable into the back of the VCR and then reached around the back of the television.
“Clearly, you don’t know me at all.”
“I can’t decide if you’re trying to hate me or trying to make me hate you.”
Taylor made a face but only because he had to reach further to screw the cable into the proper connection. “So, I don’t.”
Taylor achieved whatever it was he had been trying to do and sat upright before stretching out his legs and crossing them, leaning his back against the wall beside the TV. “I think you hate yourself enough for the both of us.”
I felt my cheeks turn red. He didn’t know how close he’d come to the truth.
“Is that a rage coming on?” Taylor said, mistaking my embarrassment for anger.
My arm pressed against the side of the chair as I leaned forward. “You don’t have that kind of effect on me.”
He blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I’d have to give a shit about you to get angry.”
“Oh, are you analyzing now, Ivy League? I thought you said you weren’t a psych major.”
“Saying you’re shit at conversation and that I have a feeling you’re a judgmental bitch is rude, but I wasn’t going to take it that far. But you are … and you are.”
He shook his head, confused. “One minute, you’re reactive, and the next, I can’t get a reaction. You’re all over the place. I cannot figure you out—like, at all. And I minored in women.”
“That must get you so much ass and so many high fives from your friends. But that doesn’t impress me.”
He paused for a moment. “Do you want me to leave?”
“I don’t think so. But you can if you want.”
“I don’t want. And that’s weird for me that I have an opinion, one way or the other.”
“First of all, I like that you’re awkward as fuck and that you’re a raging bitch. Girls tend to giggle and run their hands through their hair a lot when I’m around. You’ve all but told me to fuck off.”
“Maybe I don’t want you to like me.”
“I know. And I don’t, not like that. And I think that’s what surprises me the most.”
His revelation caught me off guard, but the twinge in the pit of my stomach surprised me even more.
“Listen, Ivy League, I’m here until October. I work my ass off all day. If I’m lucky, I work first shift, so I can eat lunch at the café. You and your hateful-ass mouth have been the highlight of this job. I think you’re just being hostile because you think I’m trying to bag you, and clearly, I’m not capable of taming the shrew in this story. So, let’s turn the volume up on Aliens, so we can’t hear that piece-of-shit washer of yours and hang out.”
He shrugged. “I don’t care about whatever problem you have with your parents. I don’t care that you have some sort of fucked-up issue with men. I don’t want within five feet of your pussy, and you’ve gotta know that now because I’d never use the P word if I’m looking to get laid. Girls hate that. I just want to be around someone cool who also owns a washer and dryer and the best collection of VHS tapes I’ve seen since the nineties.”
“Five feet, huh?” I said. I crawled off my chair, across the scratchy carpet, and over to where Taylor was sitting.
He stiffened as I planted my hands on each side of his legs and leaned in, stopping inches from his lips.
He swallowed and then opened his mouth, speaking quietly, “Get the fuck away from me. I know full well that touching you would be like putting my finger on a loaded gun.”
“Then don’t pull the trigger,” I dared him, my lips almost grazing his.
He didn’t move forward, but he didn’t retreat. His body was relaxed, comfortable, with being that close to mine. “I won’t.”
I sat back on my heels and rested my hands on my knees, thinking about what he’d said. “You sound awfully confident for a guy who keeps coming to see me day after day.”
“You’re fucking weird—like, weirder than I thought. Did I pass the test?”
“I might like being around you, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fucking fool. And that’s a ridiculous test. Any guy is going to go for it if a girl is begging for it like that.”
“I keep telling you, I’m not an idiot. I know what you’re trying to do. I just don’t know why.”
I narrowed my eyes. “You say we can be friends, but you don’t keep your word.”
“Okay then. I promise to make relentless attempts to bag your ass. How’s that?”
I tilted my head, seeing beyond the hint of his smile, his dimple, and his late-night stubble splashed across his defined jawline. I wouldn’t find what I was looking for in his words or even in his eyes. Taylor’s truth was just out of reach, like my own, so I knew where to look and how to find it. The only way to see into someone’s soul was with your own.
“Are you scared of me?” I asked, only half-joking.
Taylor didn’t hesitate. “Not even a little. I know exactly what to expect from you.”
“Because I’m fairly certain that we’re the same person.”
My eyebrows shot up, unable to hide my surprise at his conclusion, and I offered a single nod. “Aliens it is.”
“You going to quit busting my balls?” he asked, crossing his arms.
I crawled back over to the chair and sat down, hooking my legs over the arm. “Probably not, but it’ll just be run-of-the-mill Falyn bitchery, and it won’t be because I’m trying to get rid of you.”
Taylor sat on his knees in front of the television, pulled on the knob to turn it on, and then twisted the dial to channel three. “You forgot the movie.”
I went to the closet and pulled it from a stack before tossing it to him. He pulled the tape out of its cover and fed it into the VCR’s front slot. Once the tape settled in, the movie began to play. For a few seconds, the picture along with the somber violins playing during the opening credits became fuzzy, and then it all cleared up just as Ripley’s spaceship appeared in the distance, a tiny speck of white among the darkness.
Taylor walked on his knees to the sofa before crawling up and stretching out.
As I returned to my chair, a tiny part of me wanted to be polite and explain why I was being so hard on him, but I squashed it down to where I kept the old me. Explanations and apologies were a waste for someone like me. Facing forward and remembering to forget were the only things I had, and under no conditions would I ever allow myself to feel—for anyone—and risk any other similar feelings to come to the surface.