by Elle Rosenberg
“I don’t like them,” she told me when we met. “I’m not one of those girls.”
“Okay,” I said. She seemed to want to continue, to tell me she only listened to punk rock and Mozart. I cut her off. “It’s chill. It’d be chill even if you did like them.”
“But I don’t.”
“Okay.” I said.
“I’m Sara,” she said.
“Talia.” We shook hands.
Sara and I were waiting in line when she brought them up yet again.
“I just like the way their music makes me feel,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “Why not see them play, then?” She’d said the other day that some of their songs were okay, but she wouldn’t see them play.
“I’m not one of those girls,” she repeated. I winced. She didn’t notice.
“What’s wrong with ‘those girls’?”
“Well, they’re just -- they’re so -- girly, I guess. They’re loud and they’re all in love with Matt Healy -- they’re so needy. I don’t want to associate with that kind of person. And the songs are so stupid -- I don’t want to be one of those girls that thinks she’s pretentious when she’s really just stupid.”
I had no response.
“Ugh,” she said. “You’re a GenSex major. This must sound horrible to you.”
It did. I cleared my throat. “You said you like the way their music makes you feel.”
“Yeah, it makes me feel -- I don’t know. Light, I guess. Feminine, but sad. It’s like an ache.”
“Maybe the other girls feel that, too?”
She shook her head. “That’s not a feeling you’re supposed to share.”
“Femininity’s not meant for sharing?”
I thought about this while Sara ordered our coffee. Sara said, “I really dislike Matt Healy.”
I said nothing.
“I mean, he’s so annoying. And so many of his songs are about cheating on his girlfriend, which I hate. But, ‘It’s Not Living’ is about heroin and I just… There’s something so raw there. You’ve gotta respect that.”
I thought about honesty.
“I mean, all he does is sit and think about heroin. All he does. All. It’s so -- something,” she finished.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s very something.”
“I mean, I know what you mean.”
I liked the way Sara went everywhere with her earphones in, and somehow didn’t realize she was mouthing the words to her music. I liked her frenetic energy, even her nervousness. I wasn’t sure why we hung out: I was never able to say the right thing, always a little too focused on myself, a little too obsessed with her. But she kept me around anyway.
We sat in the library, whispering. “The thing is,” she said, taking a deep breath. “All I do is sit and drink without you. And I’d rather drink with you.”
If this’d been in my head, it would’ve been a grand love confession. At the very least we’d’ve have laughed that she’d compared me to heroin.
Instead, I said, “Uh.”
She turned pink. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “I just, I … could use a friend like you.”
The greatest friendships are love stories, I thought. “Okay,” I said.
She smirked. “Chill.”
“I might be gay, you know, if that explains anything.” she told me, looking into her coffee. The desperate overthinking that I had learned to read in her face was silent.
I wanted to tell her that it didn’t, actually, explain anything. I had no idea why she was telling me this. I was a GenSex major and I had never felt less equipped for anything.
So I just looked at her, the way I’d been trying not to from the day I met her. And I saw that I didn’t want her to be quiet.
“Okay,” I said. That was my great wisdom. Then, because I’m me: “What would that explain?”
She didn’t look up. “I don’t know. Everything is scary and I have no idea what I’m doing but this is the first time I’ve felt right.”
“Okay,” I said. I flicked a piece of paper at her. She looked up. I smiled. “It’s chill,” I said. “It’s all chill.”
If this’d been in my head, that would’ve been my grand love confession. Sara just laughed and drank her coffee.
I let myself think about her more, after that. She’d shared something with me; I knew I should share something back. Perhaps something as simple as admitting I liked her smile, liked her constant attempts at perfection, liked that despite her desperation to be normal, she always went to the weirdest cafe on campus. Maybe I could get away with just telling her that if she was truthful with her coffee, things couldn’t be so bad. You’re honest, I could say. And I know that’s what you want to be.
Meet me outside our cafe? she texted me. Sure, I texted back.
She was standing outside the building. She didn’t say hello, just held out a pair of tickets and blurted, “Go with me? To see them play?”
And somehow, for the first time in our entire friendship, I managed to say the right thing.
“Yeah,” I said. “Okay.”
She took my hand. “Cool,” she said.
There was no great symphony. Our hands were sweaty, but they were ours, and my chest constricted. I realized, looking down to see the way they fit together, that I never actually thought I would get this.
It was around then that I started listening to music while I walked, to see why she did it. It was like being in a movie set -- like every tree was orchestrated to the theme of the sound. That was what it felt like, to hold her hand: like the world was created for us.
Silly, but true.
“They make me sad,” she said to me, head on my chest.
“Then why listen to them?” I said.
“Because they make me ache.”
And later, after she left me, I came to understand that, too.
Elle Rosenberg is an aspiring author.