If you wanted acceptance into the Private School Kingdom, you had to proficient in the understanding of subtext. 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: “We can do whatever tonight.”
Weston was taking Amber Sullivan on a date. Well, he called it a date, because they had been discretely sleeping with each for over a month. It was the first time they were leaving the bedroom environment. And, to intensify his nerves, it was the first time their rendezvous began before midnight. And with no alcohol.
An hour before their scheduled date, Weston called me in a panic. “I asked her what she wanted to do, you know — being the nice guy — being the one who listens and all that,” he was out of breath. “And guess what she said? She said we could do whatever tonight. What does ‘whatever’ mean?!”
According to Anne and me, Weston’s relationship with Amber was doomed. As we reasoned, ‘whatever’ could mean so many things. But in the Kingdom, it wasn’t a good sign.
“I’m actually fine to do whatever you want to do. I’m not fussy.”
It was possible that Amber was playing it cool. Possible, but not likely.
“If you choose anything besides what I want to do, I will cut your balls off, metaphorical or otherwise.”
Weston didn’t quite know what women wanted. Anne thought it was possible that she was controlling, and he needed to figure out exactly what she wanted to do.
“I don’t care to decide. I’m too lazy to decide. I just want you to come up with the idea, execute it, and I will be along for the ride. Expect little from my laziness.”
But the likelihood was that Amber didn’t care. Not about what they did; she didn’t care about Weston.
“I’m going along with your idea because it creates leverage for me to do my idea next time. Swings and roundabouts, I figure, and I now have one owing.”
“If you ask me this one more time, I will go nuts. You never listen to my answer anyway, so my non-committal response is what you will have to live with.”
We didn’t know what their ‘relationship’ was like. This might not have been the first time Weston asked this question and lost.
“I do not love your suggestion, but I’m not ready to commit to an answer. I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
Though Anne and I didn’t know Amber all that well, we could only assume she would spare his feelings. Or so we hoped.
“I won’t love your suggestion, but I don’t have a better alternative that will keep us both happy. In fact, I don’t have a suggestion at all to even suggest. But I have the emotional intelligence to recognise I can’t counter with a better idea.”
I don’t think Amber had ever been in a serious relationship. And no doubt Weston would have regaled her with his on and off affairs of the heart. If she wasn’t scared, she should have been.
“I didn’t hear you, so better agree anyway.”
Anne’s suggestion. Contrary to popular belief, we women weren’t always listening.
We didn’t gloat when we found out we were right. Anne enjoyed her usual sinister chuckle of delight. But she kept that moment between us. It didn’t take a relationship therapist to decipher that Amber’s ‘whatever’ indicated her lacking enthusiasm for Weston. Maybe not in the bedroom, but as something serious. Or as a respectable relationship in Weston’s eyes. That night they didn’t have sex, and it was the last time they saw each other.
That was until she started sleeping with one of his friends.
Only after midnight.
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.