Playing Stories — Chapter 11: Sugar, Sugar

(Okay, I couldn’t come up with a good original because this song is forking hard to write a story for. So I pulled out an old monologue I did for creative writing back in Melbs. Two years ago, so still honing my craft, then as now. Works anyway, and now I have no further reserves to draw on…)

Chapter 11: Sugar, Sugar
from the 1969 album “Everything’s Archie” by the Archies
posted 23:49, 12 February 2019

I just can’t believe the loveliness of loving you
(I just can’t believe it’s true)

Judy was sitting on the floor in the corner of the Central Library when Oliver rushed in, still panting from his run up the stairs.

“Hey Judy, how’re things? Sorry I’m late, traffic was horrid down Chester Road… and I had to buy stuff for Mom before I left. You must have been waiting so long…”

Judy flicked her head toward the space beside her. Oliver sat down, wondering where to start. How DID you start with a topic like…

“How’s the papers going?”

She shrugged. Judy never said anything more than was really necessary. Oliver sometimes wondered whether her vocal cords had rusted away from disuse, but then again she devastated almost every time she said something. After a while, he decided that small talk wasn’t getting anywhere.

“Listen, I didn’t want to call you out at such short notice, you’ve got enough on your plate with your essays and stuff. I’m not sure if it’s even worth your time… I don’t want to bother people with my existential crises and everything. But… I need to talk to somebody about this problem. I don’t know what to do, Judy… and I was thinking that maybe you’d know? I mean… you’ve gone through your own share of relationships…”

She glared at him. He looked elsewhere immediately.

“… yeah, okay, no more mentions of Carl, right. But… but you have to promise me one thing: you’re not gonna tell anyone about this, okay? EVER.”

A short pause.

“Please.”

She nodded. Thank God, thought Oliver.

“Thanks… well, it’s about Audrey. I was WhatsApping her last night about going to Ocean Park together, and we’re talking about what rides we’ll get on and what food we’ll get, and then she goes ‘oh my God stop flirting with me’. Just like that. And I… I don’t know why I did it, but that was it. I just dropped the phone and sat there. She sent me a ton of messages after that, but I still haven’t gotten a chance to look at them. How COULD she think that I was flirting with her? I mean, sure, I’m a bit chattier with her but I don’t think anything I wrote is ‘flirty’ or anything. But now she says that, and… argh, what do you even SAY to that kind of thing…”

As he spoke, he lay back on the couch and gazed through the ceiling. From that little corner, they could see people milling about, minding their own business. The late afternoon sunshine was beaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Judy cleared her throat, her eyes keen, inquisitive.

“What on Earth did I say last night? I don’t know, just the usual friendly stuff. Stuff you say to a good friend, topics like Ocean Park and books and her struggles to write a good short story. Just stuff we can share and understand about each other. Stuff we’ve talked about since the day we met, because we get those topics and we can, like talk to each other and we see each other so often… how many times have we seen each other in the past week? School, of course, and church, and those hiking trips… wow, I see her so much nowadays. Honestly, it’s unhealthy how much time we spend with… each other… anyway, that’s just one thing. Point is, we do get along and I do like talking to her. She’s funny as heck and such a ray of sunshine. Oh sure, she’s a little insecure at times, and a bit reluctant to try new things, but she’s always ready to help people face their own problems confidently rather than wallow in her own. I like that about her. And she’s kind and everything and… wait…”

Oliver swallowed. He had suddenly, finally, turned the corner.

“Judy. I haven’t got a crush on Audrey, have I?”

She simply nodded. Oliver felt as if the floor had suddenly opened up wide beneath him.

“You sure? But… but it’s not possible. I… I don’t even know that much about her. And I don’t really find her… you know, that attractive. And there’s lots of stuff that I don’t find attractive in her, like… like her don’t-give-a-damn attitude to things that obviously matter. And her indecision: you know her, she takes so long to respond to people’s messages just because she can’t decide what to say to people. Like she read my text on restaurant choice that one time and she took like two whole hours to tell me that she couldn’t find time to go far. Of course, we ended up having fun that night because she’s like an awesome cook, and knows how to melt people with her patience — she never minds when you gaffe repeatedly, you know — and that look in her eye she has when she’s trying not to laugh, and damn it, why am I still bothering with all of this? Obviously I have a crush on Audrey.”

He stood up and began to pace. People did this a lot in books and movies when they were agitated. Perhaps it helped.

“Gosh, this… and I thought I was ace for awhile. Not because I couldn’t get a girlfriend — or boyfriend, of course — but because I could get along just fine. No entanglements, nobody I needed to care for. Just going it alone all my life and not needing to give a damn about others. I really hated the idea of having responsibilities to others, it’s like having something on your back that pushes down on you and you suffocate under all the expectations people have toward you. It’s not that I hated you all, but… I don’t know. I just didn’t getting too involved with people that weren’t me.

“But it’s hard rejecting all human life and being an asshole forever. Not when there are people around me who care for me. Yes, you, Judy, and Teresa and Liam and Isabelle and all those people, but Audrey… now that I think about it, her care for me has taught me how to care for others. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t care about you guys before, I’m not that much of a dick to forget that you guys are precious and everything, but now that I think about it, she’s changed the way I do it. I’d just offer up my own feeble encouragement after everyone else had, cause the thought of me looking like an insensitive git… but Audrey made me actually care for people, to ask after them and to see to their needs. You told me just a few days ago that I’d somehow become more tolerable than before… I think we’ve found the reason.”

He came back down to Earth all of a sudden. He was pacing up and down a public library, his friend sitting next to him. The chess players next door were looking at him amusedly. He hastily turned back and sat beside Judy.

A long silence reigned between them. Oliver counted the seconds, anything to get the turmoil out of his mind.

“Judy. Just say something… slap me round the face or leave. Anything.”

Without warning, Judy leant over and gave him a hug. Oliver suddenly felt a sharp sting in his nose and in his eyes. He wiped both, trying to not make it look obvious.

“Oh, dear God… is this what it feels like then?”

He sighed. His hands were rubbing together like crazy, and he sat on them.

“I mean, what am I gonna do now? Should I tell her straight up that I’m in love with her? But what’s she gonna say about that? Liam told me the other day that Sophie had rejected him because she “just wanted to remain friends”… I don’t want to be friendzoned, she’s too nice to be lost like that. I’m scared that she’ll laugh at me and then we won’t even be friends anymore. I… really don’t think I can do it… and yet if I don’t tell her I feel like I’m letting a great opportunity go to waste…”

He looked despairingly at Judy. “Tell her,” she said. Two words. That was it.

“What? Now?”

She nodded. Oliver wrenched his hands free from underneath his legs — the jittering was becoming unbearable.

“You sure?”

She only folded her arms.

“But… how?”

She raised her eyebrows, as if to say, “work that out yourself”.

“Well, I… you’re right. I should. It’s now or never isn’t it? Let’s hope that… anyway. Thanks, Judy. Wish me luck.”

It was always best to leave Judy alone after you’d finished. She never liked you hanging around. So Oliver left, his head still riddled with a thousand questions that refused to go away, even as he disappeared through the door and into the night.


Yeah sure… shall I come over Thursday night? You’re on duty and I don’t want to get in the way of your work…

And BTW… it’s not your fault, okay? I screwed up too that night, I thought that you needed to socialize a bit and I didn’t know you weren’t in the mood for it. Maybe you can slip me a note next time you actually want to come?

Don’t worry about the stories. They’re the only thing keeping me sane here too. 😊

Q

 

 

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