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It's Not Like We're In A Jane Austen Novel
I am a b****y film director; don't question it. I watch her rise from her rickety stool from one of those corners that are hard to miss, her lines lopsided as she sharpens her pencil. Her movements are like the teeters of a tricycle.
It's all wrong. I'll change it. I want her to march across the short distance of the room. Her chin should be more level even if others will decide for her that she is arrogant because she does not slump under their beliefs and because he observes her as I do.
"What are you looking at?"
"Nothing," I snap, an octave between grouchy and exasperated, just so.
"You're planning something," suspiciously, brow furrowing. This is not how I picture him. I will straighten that crease on his forehead with my bare, shaking fingers and untuck the corners of his lips to unravel that secret smile. Grudging admiration will wash away this disapproval if I can just take him into my internal world, the film I'm creating out of real-life characters and what-could-have-beens and what-might-be-betters. He needs to be another chair in my dollhouse, willingly pushed and adjusted to complement the decor.
Instead, I tell him, "So what if I'm planning something? You can't do anything about it." And neither can I. I don't say this but he unwittingly hears it anyway, responding in a grimace, like he is scared by me, and with that self-righteous tilt of the head that says, why are you such an idiot in approximately seventy different variations, synonyms and all.
Though he needs no vocal reply, he tells me, "Why think about changing someone when you can't?" It's not the line I would design for him to say, but I don't deny its effects nevertheless.
"That," I say, "is the difference between you and me. Or I. Or whatever."
"Really, Captain Obvious?"
I will wipe that smirk off his face when I can, though for now I take his words at face value to aggravate him. "That and the fact that you're a self-righteous a**hole and I'm not," I finish.
"It's not self-righteous when I'm actually right."
"Like you're not full of s*** if you're an a**hole." I don't even make sense anymore. It's all fallen onto improvisation, off the scriptâ€”out of my hands.
"That was terrible," he comments, blinking.
"True," I admit. I'll change that, too. Until I can, I will adjust the angle at which my notebook sits and drum my fingertips against the desk's surface. "It suffices before I can come up with something better."
"You can't adjust what you've already said in a conversation," he tells me, his eyes narrowing into crescents of mirth. His eyes are gray; it's fitting because that's the area he has always occupied.
I roll my eyes at him though I'd rather smile. "Well I should be able to."
I imagine that these classroom bulbs are not showering us with stale yellow light, that the whole classroom, now seated elsewhere, watches us with approval. They will root for one of us or the other, or both of us together. When I sneak a glance at him, he will grin at me like I'm the first person he wants to see instead of the last person to ever agree with him about anything. He will not shrink back as I inch an inch towards him. He will not let me kidnap his image from reality and steal his words and make him do things that he will scoff at as demeaning, then adjust his green shoelaces so the knots are perfect mirror images of one another. When you come and snatch him from my possession in the gentlest way possible ("Hey, you," you will say to me, like a friend, then kiss him high on his cheek where his freckles begin), I'll change that, too. I mean, the big guys in Hollywood would never go for the ending as it is.