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Next Door

Next Door

The first time you meet him, you are bent over a bucket, with your sweatpants rolled up to your lower thighs, a satin scarf tied around your head in the same way your grandmother ties hers and your fingers wrinkling. It is Saturday and you are washing two weeks’ worth of laundry—bedsheets and towels included. He is your next-door neighbor in the apartment you just moved into with your brother. Laundry always puts you in a bad mood and so you meet his ‘Hi’ with a hostile nod and a smile so forced it feels like your eyes are cracking. Your brother has been going on about this your neighbor since you moved here. Too bad he catches you on a bad day; you were kind of looking forward to meeting him.

The second time you meet him is on the road to your apartment block. You are both coming home after a long day; you are both tired and you both mention how much you can’t wait to get into your respective beds and sleep. Still, you stand on the side of that same road till the shops around begin to close, talking, laughing, as though both your houses aren’t a few metres away. When you get into bed finally, after he escorted you to your door and even spent a few minutes talking guy stuff with your brother, after your brother has made fun of you and the future children you are going to have with Davie From Next Door…you lie, awake as ever, for ages, smiling and trying to keep yourself from smiling.

You spend the next two weeks in some sort of haze; a happy sort of haze. For the first time in your life you are eager to go home for reasons other than taking off your bra and getting into your bed. You are constantly on your phone, texting Davie From Next Door and telling him not to call you because you detest phone calls. People should just text, you say. He calls you every day and every day you watch your phone ring, smiling at his caller ID, getting warm in places, just so you can text him immediately after to remind him that you will never pick his calls. Your brother does not hide his amusement, and laments that he needs to start looking for a new roommate because soon you will be moving next door. You swat him and tell him to shut up but you too are amused by the thought of living Next Door.

You are enchanted by Davie From Next Door because of the way he thinks. You take pride in considering yourself a sapiosexual. Because a nice face and big strong arms are just not enough for people like you; people who look to the higher things; people who store their riches in heaven. Davie From Next Door respects you. He admires your intelligence. ‘Him he likes intelligent mamiz.’ Hell, he even likes the way you put on a cold front so that people don’t get close to you. Or so that you don’t get close to people. Davie From Next Door is different because he never touches you unless you say that you would like to be touched. He has theories about everything, he is constantly thinking, constantly looking for loopholes, constantly saying things that would scandalize your mother, and you love it. He believes music can change world and he goes swimming at night and he insists in a very Augustus Waters-esque way that he is on a roller coaster that only goes up. Nothing can stop him, if he believes it then he can achieve it. He was the person they talk about in motivational speeches. Chicks dig that kind of ambition and you are in your hole neck-deep.

Two months and nothing. Davie From Next Door has not shown that he wants anything more from you other than your time. And you are beginning to feel that your time is being wasted. He attends gigs with you—the artsy kind you both like. Si you are both sapiosexuals? He spends almost all his evenings with you. He texts you consistently every day. He tells you that you are beautiful and that you are intelligent, and all those things men like him know women like you love to hear. But nothing. You are still friends.

The first time you ask Davie From Next Door what you mean to him he laughs and writes you a poem that is beautiful but that ends up meaning nothing. He does not answer your question and you want so desperately to hate the poem, but it is lovely, so you keep it in the box in your drawer where you keep every little thing to which you are sentimentally attached. You keep it next to that dried Bougainvillea petal on which you wrote “Jesus is getting my man ready” that time after a talk on sexual purity in Form Two. Two more weeks pass and you begin to convince yourself that he is so amazing a person that you would have him any way he chose to come, whether as a friend or as something more. Better not to jeopardize this special thing with this your need for something more than brilliance and attention.

You spend weeks trying to push out of your mind the possible future you had built in your head for you and Davie From Next Door. You are trying to go back to being just friends with him, to forget the demands and needs you know you have but which he does not seem willing to meet: a defined relationship, an openness about the feelings you have for each other, commitment, exclusivity, a title. You try to see him less. You come home later. You go straight to bed. You try to delay your responses to his texts. It is futile. Somehow, you keep finding yourself texting him long after you were supposed to have slept. You find yourself knocking on his door. You find yourself listening to him playing his guitar, singing love songs in his boyishly husky voice. You find yourself being escorted back to your door at odd hours of the night, because even at those hours he will not touch you unless you ask, and you cannot bring yourself to ask because you want it to mean something to him too. You find yourself meeting your brother’s gaze and finding silent questions in his eyes. He no longer makes jokes about Next Door. You find yourself crying in your bedroom, shoving things off your desk, kneeling on the cold tile floor.

The last time you cry over Davie From Next Door is when he calls you and you pick his call. You are at the office. A part of you feels that perhaps if you did this one thing for him he would let you in. Perhaps you are the problem. You are the one putting up barriers between you. So you watch the phone ring for a few seconds and then pick his call with a chirpy ‘Hello?’. He is shocked and doesn’t say anything for a while. It had become a game between you two—a bet on who would give up first. He can’t believe he finally wore you down and as he speaks you realize that Davie From Next Door has won. Your defenses against him, against the world, they are down. And he has won. It dawns on you that there is nothing left to lose.

“Davie, I am your girlfriend in every sense of the word. What is stopping you from officially giving me that title?”

Davie From Next Door is silent. He murmurs a few words and is silent once again. Your heart is thudding so violently you are afraid he can hear it over the phone. You think he is going to say something but the call is cut short. You put your phone down and stare at it until you feel the sting of tears on your eyelids. Your feelings demanding to be felt for what they are. You rush to the Ladies’ and for half an hour you heave. You feel many things, but mostly you feel dumb. Embarrassed. You don’t know how for three and a half months you have let a man dangle you off a cliff. You were better than this, your mother raised you better than this. Or so you had thought. This is where sapiosexuality leads: You are sobbing in a washroom because the man was brilliant as shit and made you feel like a queen but wouldn’t give you a crown.

You get back to your desk and your phone shows a text from Davie From Next Door. He is sorry, he ran out of airtime, could you talk in the evening? You consider his words and resist the urge to hurl your phone against the wall. It is not enough to bank on hope; on the hope that perhaps you really can have Davie From Next Door any way he chose to come, as a friend or as something more. It is not enough because when hope is pitted against resentment, hope will be knocked out before two rounds are done. Hope is that thing that stands on the shoulders of something stronger so that it can seem taller. When the punches begin to roll around you don’t bank on hope because hope will have you royally screwed. Before you put your phone away you text your brother that you found better apartments on another side of town.

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