skipping beats, blushing cheeks, i am struggling, daydreaming bed scenes in the corner cafe and i'm left in bits, recovering, tectonic, trembling. you get me every time. why'd you have to be so cute? it's impossible to ignore you. must you make me laugh so much? it's bad enough we get along so well. why is it always goodnight and go?
bookstore au: when she asks if his purchase is for him, he rolls his eyes and says i don't read, which is frankly the most obnoxious thing any of her customers have ever said to her and he does it without shame, as if he's not standing in the middle of a bookstore, buying one of the rare first edition collector's pieces, as if she should have known better than accuse him of reading novels. it makes her laugh, mostly out of surprise that a grown man this handsome could be so brattish, and the sound of it startles him to look up, notice her face, the small gesture she makes tucking her hair behind an ear. he looks stricken, like no one has ever laughed at him before, and he doesn't know what to make of it, but the ghost of a smile at the corner of his lips says he doesn't completely hate it. oh is the coffee not for you either, she asks, handing him the paper cup from the barista behind her, and watches this man work very hard to twist a laugh of his own into a frown, what a strange habit. he says don't flirt with me, i'm already late for a meeting, and she wants to say she wasn't, she was just being funny, but he's looking away with so much intent as he takes his coffee, his book, she knows he's got to be watching her from the corner of his eye so maybe she was flirting, maybe he'll be back.
girl of your dreams, you know what i mean. there's something about her stare that makes you nervous and you say things that you don't mean. she said maybe i would like you better if you took off your clothes, i wanna see and stop thinking, if you're too shy then let me know.
bartender au: he's at the bar to pay for the next round and as she hands it to him she adds your friends are being fucking obnoxious, see if you can get them to knock it off. she's right, they're drunk and harassing waitresses, laughing loudly as they do, but all the same he corrects her, those aren't my friends, i'm here for work. she wants to know, your job is getting drunk at ten pm? he could answer that but it's boring so he just says you're rude, and for your information i just got out of rehab last week. he's settling onto a barstool, he's taking a sip of one of the drinks, he's actually showing her a sobriety chip branded with the name of a clinic as he does so. she's ignoring all the other customers now to stare at him for this audacity. what are you doing here? she almost hisses at him even though there's no reason for her to care, but all he says is i'm talking to you, and it's a reply that tells her absolutely nothing but his eyes on hers as he says it almost makes her flush. what about work? she asks, and he's been laughing this whole conversation but for the first time he actually grins as he says fuck them.
do you feel your days dripping down like raindrops, do you feel it weighing on your heart like a breezeblock? i can't find a reason why you wanna be what you're not. every little word that your mama said, you're waiting on too long, gotta speak what's on your mind. looking for a better way to break the waves, to find your pace in love and leave it all behind.
college au: tom goes to yale, not without a fight. he spends the first semester dodging her calls and messages, but he can't hold out on her for long. ana goes to the university of connecticut. tom comes up to see her during her first week, swearing he's not skipping class to do it, as if she believes that for a second. he kicks the risers under her bed and helps her hang some posters, she makes fun of him for being hungover (it's Wednesday, Thompson), and when her roommate comes back and Ana's making introductions she just says, This is Tom, and leaves it at that. He's still infuriating, disappears sometimes for weeks on end, shows up outside her building without warning like he is just as surprised to see himself there as she is. He's failing all his classes, doesn't seem to care, and won't let her help him study. They have one knock down, drag out fight in a parking lot, screaming at each other, because Tom was drunk when he'd gotten there and she knew he'd driven. they end up at the same stupid frat party once but they don't speak, not as the party spills out over the porch and onto the lawn, not when he stumbles, drunk, around a corner and finds her on the side of the house alone, and certainly not when he kisses her, nothing chaste and nothing shameful about it. In fact, they never say anything about that night at all.
he gets up late, and he gets upset. i watch the whole thing happen, from the foot of the bed. when she gets home, it ain't hard to wait outside when she was gone. if that's a problem, it's anybody's guess. he's not impressed.
Tom's earliest memory -- the earliest one that comes without strain, the one that just appears behind his eyes every time he shuts them -- is eleanor. not the maternal kindness of her running a hand through his hair, not her urging him out into the yard with ana. it's eleanor, gazing at william, putting a hand to his neck, stopping a terror before it begins.
the quiet kid has come to stay -- what did he say? he says i'm lonely, i'm lonely. i'll tell you everything i know -- what do you know? he says i'm hopeless, i'm hopeless. i'll tell you everything i saw -- what did you see? it's alright, i know what i've done.
in early childhood, tom was never able to explain to ana what it was like before she arrived, he only hoped she could tell what it was like to have her here now. a friend, a companion, a hand within easy grasp and a set of eyes to make direct contact with in immature defiance when william berated them for being out after dark, for returning home covered in dirt and tree leaves, for being more wild and open than could be allowed.
i see you and yours, who was i calling? i've practiced lying since i was fourteen. i met their shoulders but didn't touch a face, i watch for hours but of course i'll wait. you're so tall, so beautiful, and not mine.
there's a moment it all changes. no -- it had changed before, this is just the first time tom notices. he'd grabbed her on an impulse, out of survival instict, and dragged her into the pantry, but there was nothing that made him crowd in close, no reason to get one arm around her waist and another in her hair, she's trembling and he can feel it, william is outside the door smashing glasses and screaming, just screaming, tom could kiss her now and she wouldn't stop him. with her eyes on his and her lips parted like this he can almost belive she wants him to. she wouldn't stop him, she wouldn't be able to stop him.
well i have been happy the past couple days, just thinking of the women who've taken your place. and every night i think i certainly won't ever sleep sober or alone -- and then suddenly, it occurs to me, i slept alone before you.
it's too easy to drink himself to sleep his first night in los angeles, declining her phone calls, deleting her text messages before they're even read. it's easy that whole first week, always another party, always another event to black himself out at. it becomes harder after the first month, harder still after that, as the other students drop the parties in favor of studying for midterms, for finals. tom finds a way. he always finds a way to be too drunk, too high, to answer ana's calls, until one night in mid october he dries out only on accident, only because he can't get a hold of something, anything, to lose his mind in, and the insistent ringtone is starting to sound like an emergency siren. he picks up long enough to shout stop calling me into the receiver, and after that he doesn't need to drink, doesn't need to get high. the panic attack carries him away, all on it's own.
alright, i'm ready now, i ain't gonna fall back down now. alright, i'll take it on me. all i ever ask is do you want to see my fire? what if i left and it made no sense.
they don't speak again for over ten years, but tom thinks about her every day.
should've stopped my father, but love came over me. dear, if you love war, then you've got war with me. well i was brought up being told things never to tell. bit of beaten down -- stop, they don't know, kick 'em down. they thought i have no way out of heaven, not now. i'll get you out.
in dc tom gets good at hearing william's name without flinching. in questions his law school peers ask him, in shouts from paparazzi as he walks through town, in job interviews after he graduates. he gets good at it, he doesn't even flinch when they ask, he gives a bland answer about legacy and striking out on his own. it's a blessing they never ask about ana, because he would never learn to speak about her with the same straight face.
i've asked about you and they told me things, but my mind didn't change and i still feel the same. i'll be there for you, i will care for you, i keep thinking you just don't know. you won't ever have to worry, you won't ever have to hide. you've seen all my mistakes, so look me in my eyes. if you let me, here's what i'll do, i'll take care of you.
he falls asleep that first night back in the house with his hand in hers, their fingers linked and their palms pressed as tight as tom ever dared to get. and after that, no matter what the day brings, no matter how she looks at him with sympathy, no matter how she yells at him in ire, no matter how she rocks back against him after the dam finally breaks at tom has to confess to it, to everything, to the way he's spent years of his life thinking about her, no matter what, he goes to sleep and then wakes with an arm braced around her, his face in her hair, against her neck, because it's only ever been in unconsciousness that tom can act on what he wants.
whatever it is, don't say it. i don't want to hear it anymore. but if i could say just two things in truth, the first would be about love. the second, my desire to crucify you.
tom sees in double vision, one eye on the dark shadows of the past moving in familiar patterns set by habit, by survival, and one eye almost whiting out on the present, on the bright light of camera flashes and the uncanny feeling like he's been here before. he has been here before -- but never like this. how many times will he look at ana and see the swing of her long hair laid over with the sharp cut that ends at her neck, and realize he'd been so wrong about both versions of her? how long has it been since tom knew something true?
i should have heard your fear, so it's on me. i should have heard your needs, so it's on me. we've thrown apart these pieces, so i don't go home. tell me, love. you're my favorite, but we're phasing.
Do we trust each other? later, tom would never be able to remember if he was the one who asked that question first or if it had been ana. does it matter? the answer was no. the answer was maybe they never had. the answer was maybe tom, just like his father, had been underestimating her from the beginning. but eventually one day it will matter more than anything to know whether or not it was ana who saw that flaw in his thinking, or if it was tom himself.