Part 3: Get a Life

March 2018

I think I’m going to wear the grey cardigan you got me for Christmas, she said. With jeans and a black tank. And the black wedges too.

Babe, please – no, I replied.  It’s way too big.  You should’ve returned it.  It’s not even a cardigan on you; it’s more like a robe.  You look like a goddamn Jedi knight in it.  Like Obi Wan Kenobi.

Who’s Obi Wan Kenobi?

Jesus chr… Never mind, I muttered while shaking my head and staring at my computer screen.  Just wear something else.

But it’s comfy and I think it’s cute and you it reminds me of you.  Plus, you’re not even here, so I have no one to impress. 

Exactly, I’m not even there, so you don’t have to wear it to prove to me that you like it. How about the white Velvet Underground tee shirt?  The one with the red lips. 

Ugh, fine. I just picked up some new red lipstick I can wear to match it, she said. That might be cute.

Yeah, okay, now we’re talking. Do that and send me a picture so I can see how good you look. It’s been too damn long.

I know, babe. But just think – two more weeks of studying hard until you’ll be done with this exam. Then we’ve got all weekend to celebrate. You’re gonna have me, Michael, Cory, Dante, and Anthony coming down to visit ya. But most importantly, me, the love of your life.

I can’t wait, I replied.

Alright, well I’m going to finish getting ready because I think the girls are about ready to head out. Why don’t you call it quits early tonight? It’s Saturday. You’ve been studying all day, all weekend actually, and you need a break. Maybe see what some of the guys are up to? Or find yourself a good movie to watch.

Yeah, maybe. I want to study for a little bit longer then I’ll pick out a movie, I replied.

That sounds good. You know how proud I am of you don’t you?

Yeah, I just… I want to get more done today.  It never ends.  I want out of this world.

Jordan, seriously. Stop saying shit like that. You’re so smart. You have over three months until your boards and you stay in and study nonstop and you don’t even go out. You’re gonna do great. I just know it.

Thanks, Iz. 

Okay. Well, just know that I love you. The most. I’ll keep you updated on the night.

I love you too. Have fun tonight for me, and take a shot for me while you’re at it, alright?

Hm, I might just have to do that.  Alright, I’ll talk to you later.

Wait – Iz, can you do me a favor?  Send me snapchats while you’re out.  The more the better.  

Jordan, that sounds kind of cruel. Like it’d just make you sad that you’re not here and with everyone.

Yeah, but I miss everyone.  And I miss you.  Please, just do it.  So I can live vicariously through you. 

Alright, she sighed.  I love you.

Love you too, have fun. Bye.

Ex-oh-ex-oh. Bye.

I hung up the phone and felt a pang of emptiness in my belly. Checked the time – nine o’clock. Realizing I hadn’t eaten since I had a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and a clementine at one, I grabbed my Portwine-colored bomber jacket from my kitchen chair and snatched my keys from the table.

I played the eerie, dystopian “Pink Ocean” through my car speakers and shifted the manual transmission clutch into reverse.  Cruising towards campus, subtly bobbing my head to the beat, whispering the lyrics to myself.  

Alexander Library was empty, few cars remained at Powell Recreation and Wellness Center, and not a soul was pictured strolling through Jackson Memorial campus green. Campus was dead.  But Main Street was alive; the thumping of bass drums coming from every which direction like a tachycardic heart.  

Slowly drifting down main street, I eyed the droves of twenty-somethings traversing the sidewalks. A row of girls in formal dresses and heels wearing blazers to shield themselves from the cold while holding hands with their jacketless dates. Behind them, six dudes laughing and shouting and chanting. Walking the in opposite direction, a dozen or so boys wearing backpacks, signifying their freshman status, made their way to the campus house parties. Across the street, two girls posing for a picture while holding a slice of floppy pizza to their mouths outside of a bar. Next door, a haphazard line of dozens of drunk kids waiting to get inside a popular bar, bottlenecked at the bouncer’s gatekeeping. The window advertised: “Come get our shot of the night! $3 well cocktails & $2 domestic bottles ‘til 10”. A drunk guy Frogger’d his way across the street.

A car-length opening appeared on the side of the street without a Handicap or No Parking sign or a fire hydrant. It was a few blocks up from the burrito shop, meaning I’d have to walk past the herds of inebriated youth on my path. But that was the point. I pushed the caution signal on my car’s dashboard and parallel parked my small sized vehicle with careful precision. Maneuverability: pass.

I strolled down main street, studying the faces and affects of each person I walked past through the corner of my eye. Subtly observing their smiles and laughs. Wishing that somehow I could bottle up their carefree energy and swallow it. Each bar I walked past had a different song calling out into the night like I was flipping through radio stations. Absorbing the scents of fresh pizza and gyros and various street meats slicing through the air. Quickly paced past the med-student hang-out bar with my head tucked. Didn’t need anyone seeing me and inviting me inside. Or asking why I wasn’t doing anything on a non-exam week Saturday night — would have to explain my reclusiveness — the horror. Had to stay focused.

I stood in line, sandwiched between intoxicated college kids. Their conversations about “bro we gotta hit Alex’s house party later” and “dude Becky looked gooood today” drowned my internal dialogue, so I listened while flipping through my phone.

A notification appeared at the top of my screen, a snapchat from her. Hopefully the first of many, I thought. Another came seconds after. I opened them. The first, a picture of her with Joe and Cory sitting on barstools, captioned: look who I found. The second, a picture of her alone brandishing a sultry frown, captioned: missing you. She was wearing the Velvet Underground shirt I liked. Her red lipstick matched those of the illustrated red lips on the shirt. She had no idea how incredibly beautiful she looked.

Acutely aware that I was the only person in line without friends surrounding me, I messaged her: miss you too.

After fifteen minutes I ordered my burrito and paid for my food. The girl working the register was the only human I had spoken to in physical form in 42 hours. With my food in hand, I journeyed through the boisterous terrain back to my car. And I drove back to my apartment.

I did this on most Saturdays.  

*****

After popping a bag of microwavable popcorn, I selected “Mulholland Drive” from my DVD collection and put the disc in the DVD player and turned my television on.  I liked having physical DVDs and records and books because I thought they gave the apartment character. 

The phone rang at 2:24 AM.

Heyyyy hunyyyy, she said.

Hey, how was your night?

It was good me and Meg and Tara went out for some drinks then we went to Barley and we saw Sam and Joe and Cory and Sam’s friend what’s his name?  And we drank there for a long time, babe, I had the best Moscow mule, you’ll have to try it sometime.

You’re cute, I laughed, smiling by myself in my dark apartment at her drunken blabbering. From the sound of your voice it seems like you had a good night. Are you home now?

Yes babe I just brushed my teeth and took off my makeup and put on your big Pink Floyd tee shirt and now I’m all clean and cozy and snuggled up into bed. Wish you were here babe I really do. How about you love why are you still up did you watch a good movie?

Holding the phone to my ear, I glanced at my television screen, still displaying the main menu with the cursor hovering over the “play movie” option.  

Um, no… I didn’t, I said.

Why not love.

I don’t know, I was going to, I put in Mulholland Drive but I just kept studying. I wanted to get more done.

What. You’ve been studying this entire time?

I mean, kind of. I wasted like an hour reading about other peoples’ study plans online, haha you know? But other than that yeah.

Why Jordan. It’s a freaking Saturday.  You said you were going to take it easy tonight and put on a movie and relax.  

I wasn’t doing questions or anything too hard.  I just watched Boards and Beyond videos.  I only had two hours left until I completed the Immunology chapter, so I figured I’d do that.  I was in the mood to study so that’s what I did.  Plus I wanted to wait up and hear your voice.  

That sounds so boring. Like. All you do is study.

Well, yeah. I’m sorry I’m not in college anymore taking stupid, blow-off classes.

What’s that supposed to mean.

Nothing. Forget it.

Um, okay. I’ll “forget it”. 

Cool.

Why are you being like this? Why do you do this to yourself?

Because I have to.

No you don’t. Seriously. All you do is study. You’re so smart Jordan and you work so incredibly hard. But it’s a Saturday. You should be having fun or relaxing or hanging out with, you know, other people.

You don’t get it.

Explain to me then.  How don’t I “get it”. 

You know why. How many times do I have to explain this. This test determines my entire life. Everything.

But you already work so hard. 

You’ve seen my First Aid book. I’ve showed it to you. I have to memorize every single fact in that book. It’s what, over 600 pages, each densely packed with information. Oh, and I have to not only understand all of that info, but I also have to apply it to tricky situations and questions. You just don’t get it.

You can take breaks, you know. You said this is what dedicated would be like, but we still have months before that even comes. What are you going to be like then? Is it even possible to be more miserable…?

You don’t understand. I have to kill it. I don’t want to be talking to you in July complaining about how I could’ve tried harder or I could’ve given it more. This is IT. It’s not the SAT or the ACT. Or even the MCAT. You don’t get another shot. You don’t get another chance. You get ONE – one chance at this. And it determines everything.

But that’s not it, Jordan.  

What do you mean.

It’s your ego. You can’t take not being the best. You’re so driven and I love you for that, but this isn’t right. Can you at least admit that’s part of it? Because it is. Or maybe it’s because your high school crush Annie got into a better school than you.

What the— Stop talking to me like that. I like studying and I love what I learn. I like seeing my progress. Why, why are you coming at me like this right now?

Because it’s – all – you – do. It’s the only thing you care about anymore. You refuse to even talk to your friends. You said Neil texted you four times this week and you were gonna get back to him this weekend. Did you even text him back? Bet you didn’t. Actually I know you didn’t. You said you were gonna be a better communicator and a better friend after Ryan died. But you never call or text your friends. You don’t even answer them when they reach out to you. They do reach out to you and you just ignore them. You ignore everyone.

Do not go there. Just don’t.

No, Jordan. Let’s have this talk. You don’t do anything fun anymore. You sit inside your apartment and study every day and every night. You could at least go to a coffee shop and see other people. Other freaking human beings. When was the last time you even picked up your guitar? You used to play like every night before bed last year. You’d send me videos. You used it to be annoying with music. You don’t even listen to music anymore. You just listen to the doctors on your study videos or podcasts. You don’t write anymore either. When was the last time you wrote something that wasn’t depressing or about your Anki study thing? Like I know you and thats not you. You’re losing weight. You hardly ever work out. You never even leave. All you do is sit inside and study.

Are you done? Anything else you need to get off your chest?

You don’t have a life, Jordan.

What.

You don’t – have – a – life.

Do you even know how rude you sound right now?  Do you know how mean you sound?  Don’t you think I wish I could’ve been there with you at our favorite bars with our friends tonight?  Hopefully, and I mean that – hopefully, you’re just drunk.  Yeah… you’re just drunk and you don’t know what you’re saying. 

I don’t know, Jordan.  You just need to get a life. 

I waited for the right words to come. I think I was waiting for an apology. Something. All I could hear was her breathing through the phone. Then I continued.

I waited up for you. All night. Just so I could hear your voice. It was all I was looking forward to all night. Thanks for making me feel like shit. Just – I don’t even know. Just go to bed. I’m done. Goodnight.

Jord –

I said goodnight.

Part 1: Missed Calls

Part 2: Black Lagoon

Part 4: Rorschach Test

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