I woke up, startled; as if my body knew this bed wasn’t my own. I looked around the room for a second while my eyes got adjusted to the sunlight. Yea, this was not my room. The gray walls held up carefully painted canvases and the silence in the room was almost scary. Someone unfamiliar was next to me, sound asleep. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d guess it was his bed.
I tried to get myself up but I was scared I’d wake the random guy.
I was naked, no surprise. These days I’d been shamelessly seeing guys I picked up at bars. The guy from last week had a bed the size of Rome, I slept like a baby. But this guy seemed like some kind of artist, I could tell by the fact that the bed was on the floor, artsy guys always do dumb shit like that.
I got up as carefully as I could and searched for my clothes but only found my purse. When I realized, I was out of luck on clothes, I opted out for something borrowed. I wore sweatpants that were way too big and a sweatshirt with drips of dry paint around the stomach.
When I got outside his door, I realized I wasn’t far from home, at all. I was on the third floor of my building.
“Where have you been, Ash?” I heard a voice call as I made my way down the stairs.
“Hey Carl, I was upstairs with a friend.”
Carl peeks at his watch, “At eight in the morning? “
I ignored him and proceeded to unlock my door.
“What friend? You don’t have friends.”
“For your information, I have plenty of friends. You just don’t know them.”
“And why are you wearing that? Are those guys’ clothes?”
“Because it’s early Carl. Anymore questions?”
I think he suspected I was sleeping around but admitting it to himself would crush him so he tried to avoid it. If he’d mention it he knew I’d tell him the ‘We’re not official’ excuse even though we both knew we might as well had been since we spent most of our time together.
“You should really change your attitude Ashley, it’s not as cute as you think.”
“Are you going to come in or not? You’re wasting my time.”
Carl was a guy I’d met at a party one night. He was some douche frat guy who’d come down to the city from Vermont. Apparently, he was going to some fancy school up there where his parents basically paid to not have him kicked out. After the party, we somehow kept in touch and suddenly he wanted to like marry me or some shit. He would follow me around like a lost puppy and when I would tell him to fuck off he’d offer to buy me nice things. Of course, I would accept – it never stopped. His constant nagging for commitment was excruciating but his money was nice so I sucked it up.
Truth is I was growing more and more tired of him – his submissive ways, his neediness, but he kept me company and company is good. My mom always told me to try to not end up alone and Carl was my safety net. A guarantee that I wouldn’t live in loneliness.
“Why’d you take a purse?” Carl asked.
I made my way through my small apartment and into my living room. We sat on the couch together as Carl shuffled through my mail.
“Carl, why are you forwarding your mail here?”
“Um… Why not?”
“Oh I have a good answer for that question: Because you don’t live here!”
“I spend a lot of time here and I pay the rent so why not?”
“Here you go throwing shit in my face again. Do I ask you for any of this? Ever?”
“No. I’m sorry… You took it the wrong way I didn’t mean it like that.” He leans closer to me “You know how I feel about you. I just think we should go to the next step.”
“No thank you, Carl. Can you just stop?”
He leaned over and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away.
I was physically attracted to Carl. He was a cute guy – in terms of looks. He had pretty caramel skin and eyes so chinky they’d close when he smiled. But sometimes, he was just too much and his looks were out the window.
Carl annoyed me now, he was overly opinionated and would always show up announced to lay on my bed and guard me all night, as if to make sure I wouldn’t sneak out and find someone better. He had no substance, he would speak about nothing important and relied on his trust fund for approval of others. He didn’t have friends, he’d buy them; just like he’d bought me.
I was over his guarding dog ways by this point and would kick him out at night to go to the bar.
“Can you please go? I want to sleep alone for once.” I’d say
“Come on Ash… Why do you want to be alone all the time?”
“Because I never am Carl, you’re always here.”
“Isn’t that what couples do?”
“Jesus Carl, give me some space!”
Like a puppy, he’d leave. Only to show up the next morning, questioning me about my whereabouts.
His name was Fisher, the guy from the third floor. I saw him around more often, now. He had curly blonde hair that would sit on the sides of his face like big puppy ears. He was handsome in a weird way. He wore clothes that were a bit too big and his hands were usually covered in paint.
“Hey fisher, what’re you up to tonight?”
“Nothing, you should come hang out tonight” he said as he continued to walk up the stairs.
“Okay,” I yelled out behind him
“If I have time” I quickly added, as if that would make me look less desperate.
As I got ready for the night, I thought about Carl and how he’d feel if he figured me out. I felt no remorse. I didn’t feel bad for him and this made me feel bad for myself. I didn’t get what was wrong with me or why I had grown to be so annoyed and distant with Carl. He’d become weird and controlling and I was over it.
But I couldn’t break up with him until I was sure about Fisher.
“Safety net” I whispered.
Upstairs, Fisher decided to show me around his place. The layout of his apartment was different; his space was divided. It looked different than it had before, maybe because last time I left in a rush and I couldn’t even remember ever arriving. He showed me his art and his collection of peculiar shaped paint brushes. He was super laid back, careless almost.
“So what do you do, Ashley”
“I… uh… I haven’t decided yet, I’m still figuring myself out.”
“That’s interesting. So, you don’t work?”
“Umm, no… Not right now. So, what’s this painting? Is it yours?” I said, pointing at the paintings over his couch, attempting to deviate his attention.
“No actually, my friend painted this one. He’s super into watercolors.”
I examined the image of splatters and odd shapes, all in random colors that did not match. What even are water colors?
I continued to sound intrigued in hopes that he wouldn’t bring the conversation back to me and my life. It wasn’t too hard, Fisher seemed to love talking about himself more than anything in the world.
After a while, I stopped listening and stuck to nodding and a simple “Oh wow,” every so often.
“so, do you?”
“Shit, sorry. What?” I said snapping back to reality.
I had been looking around at his apartment and thinking about how I might have gotten there the night I woke up in his bed. I couldn’t remember and maybe that was why I ended up here. I’m not sure sober me likes him as much as the inebriated me.
“Well, aren’t you distracted?” he said, looking at me as if he couldn’t believe I didn’t find his conversation intriguing.
“Sorry… So, where’d you say you work again?”
“I didn’t. But, uh, I’m a bartender.”
He didn’t even have money to make up for the fact that he was boring? Terrible.
“No way, where?” I said trying to sound interested.
“At a hotel in the city. It just pays the bills. I’m more focused on my art, you know?” He said, looking around the room as if I hadn’t already seen all his artwork.
“Yea, I bet.” as if that was a big shock.
“Ok, come look at this one Ash… I painted this last year. I was inspired by the idea of life and how one day you’re just born and then you grow up and die. That’s why I chose pink and blue and then splashed black through the center, you see? So clever. This won me an award at my school. It’s my pride and joy. But this one? This one is runner up” He added, holding out another canvas with colors on it “I’m still not done, I need to buy more watercolors and you know, they’re a little expensive. But I’ve been inspired by the galaxy this time and each star will represent something from earth, you know?”
He looked at the canvas again and sighed; full of pride in his work.
“Listen, Fisher, I have to go. I just have something to do in the morning. See you around?”
“You sure you have to go? I had some more stuff to show you.”
“Yea, sorry. Maybe another time.”
I slipped out of the apartment door and let out a sigh of relief.
What a nightmare. I thought he would never shut up.
I was headed down to my apartment when I heard a familiar voice,
“Where have you been?”
I had never been so happy to see him.