If you wanted acceptance into the Private School Kingdom, you had to proficient in the understanding of subtext. The cryptic, inconceivable coded subtext that concealed a person’s true intentions. You had to know it and speak it. If you planned on survival, that is.
The problem with this ‘language’ was the meaning. There were always so many interpretations of the same words. Depending on who you spoke to, the meaning would change. The speculations would become twisted between ex-lovers, former friends, and bitter enemies.
I found myself on the phone to Anne most nights of the week. We decoded these flippant comments and obscure one-liners our friends flung around. Our analysis became ritualistic, addictive, something we struggled to quit.
We decrypted without bias; men, women, lovers, friends, parents, ex-neighbours, we analysed everyone.
Together we tried to solve the Kingdom’s problems. The following was Anne’s and my interpretation. This was what we thought they were really saying.
Today’s line: “I just need some space”
Lila (one of The Girls) was standing in front of the university library. She was face to face with her long-term fling turned short-lived boyfriend. Seen walking away from him, she was overhead squawking, ‘I just need some space.’
The guy, Colin, remained transfixed to the spot, still clutching his pile of books. He always had a dumbfounded expression, which was no different at this moment.
Some say that Lila broke up with him that day. Others assumed the stress of her impending exams exploded, and their fight was a temporary hitch.
According to Anne and me, Lila could have meant much more.
“I think it’s time you left my life. And immediately.”
This was my initial theory. There was a running theory that Colin would not last long. After she caught him telling strangers that he was ‘Lila’s boyfriend’, his days in her bed were dwindling. She didn’t want a boyfriend. And if she did, it wouldn’t be Colin.
“I am seriously going through it. My life sucks.
My study sucks even harder. I haven’t washed my hair in two weeks. I haven’t washed my clothes in three. I have four exams within two days. I am not coping. I am hardly surviving.
You being all up in my life is not working for me. And I don’t care if that doesn’t work for you.”
Anne had been sitting next to Lila during a breakdown on the bus. It was undeniable that her exam schedule was torturous, and any person would feel like this. Anne couldn’t help remark about Lila’s hygiene, too. It surprised her Colin was still hanging around, as the smell was becoming ‘an issue’.
“I am politely breaking up with you.”
Lila’s never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. She couldn’t say a bad thing about anyone. It was unsettling how nice she was. If she was breaking up with Colin, this would have been her true intention. I was certain of her politeness. Her squeaky clean reputation would live to see another day.
“I am politely breaking up with you, but I’m not committing to the break-up. With ‘space’, I mean I can bring you back into my life when I feel like I’m ready. Yes, I’m acting like an indecisive asshole about it, but hey, what are you going? Nothing, because I’m now in control of the situation between us.”
But a flippant attitude was as possible, Anne reasoned. Lila entertained the option of rekindling their romance should her stress subside. Or only rekindling the physical aspect of their romance. The latter was more likely.
“I can smell your breath from here. Back it up, mister, and show-me-the-space.”
If you had met Colin, you would have thought the same. Though Lila was in no position to complain. We begged her to wash her hair, but she didn’t listen.
“Don’t you know what social distancing means? It means I want to be socially distanced from you, and only you.”
If the concept had of been around, Lila probably would have used this as her excuse.
“You and I have been growing apart for ages. And now you’ve pushed us apart, and space is the only hope we have left for relationship survival.
I’m asking for space because I love/like/tolerate you. But I need to be away from you to appreciate that.”
Anne had seen Colin having a drink with another girl two days before the incident. She didn’t know if it was a friend, relative or otherwise. Though Lila wasn’t one hundred percent committed to Colin, a cheater being would be far worse.
Conceivably, Lila had found out. But if she didn’t know, Anne would not be the one to tell her.
Lila never told us what she meant. But it didn’t take a genius to figure out that she and Colin were over. Two weeks later, after the event and exams, Lila was dating Audrey Smithson. She was the lecturer’s assistant from French course. Their relationship lasted as long as Colin did.
And she washed her hair. Her unwashed clothes? She threw them out. They smelt of Colin.
That Time They Thought We Were In Love
Sometimes sex is best left to those who can emotionally handle it
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. My want is for a better opportunity for writers, especially fictional, in an increasingly technology dominant world. I write the stories that have formed my life and comment on the experience along the way.