I Can't

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It takes me a
long time to fall asleep
after I hang up with Addie.
For a while, I just
stare up at the ceiling,
the streetlamps out the window
casting alternating light
and shadows across
the walls around me.
Euni still hasn't
come upstairs, despite
the fact that it's going
on ten o'clock now,
but I barely even think
about my sister
as I lay here;
my mind is too
preoccupied with other things.

Do you think it's
possible that you might
be in love with Natalia?
Addie had asked me -
and I don't know.
I just don't know
what it is that I'm feeling,
and that realization is what
scares me most right now.
I shouldn't be in love
with my best friend -
with another girl.
It's not right, and part
of me is mad at my cousin
for even suggesting
such a possibility.
But part of me wonders
at the same time if
maybe it's the only
explanation for how I feel.

That's scary.
Really scary.
Okay, so say that I am
in love with Nat -
what am I supposed to
tell my family, or
the people I go to
school with?
What am I supposed to
tell anyone without
being labeled as a freak?
After that scare a
few years back, the one
with the rumors of
Thias being gay, it's kind of
been ingrained into me that
being anything but heterosexual
is unnatural, inappropriate -
maybe even a sin or something,
and no one I know thinks
any differently.
You're supposed to fall
in love with the opposite sex,
because that's just how
God made it or whatever.
Not that I believe in God, but I
think everyone knows that.
That's just how it is.

More than that, I
don't want to be...
gay, or a lesbian, or
whatever it's called.
All my life, I've just wanted
to live a happy life
with my parents and siblings,
maybe marry a cute boy
and raise a family that
emulates the one I grew up in,
the perfect little world
that has been my childhood.
Of course, now that I
am being forced to realize
that maybe a boy won't
be in that picture after all,
it all seems to be
crumbling apart.
What was it that
my mom always says?
That I'm a late bloomer?
Is this what she meant?

No, it can't be true.
For a while, I try
to convince myself that no,
I'm not in love with my
best friend, and I'm
not even remotely gay -
but it seems like now that
the possibility has been
brought up, I can't
push it away and
forget about it.
No matter how hard I
try to tell myself that
how I feel about Nat
is completely platonic,
everything else gets in the way,
from the ache that forms in
my chest at just the
thought of her to
the way her name sounds
as I say it under my breath,
repeated in a muffled whisper
into my pillow:
“I don't love Natalia.
I don't love Natalia -
I can't love her.”

It doesn't work, though.
That strange feeling returns,
the wrongness I'd felt
on Wednesday night after
going to the mall with Nat -
but now, I think
I have a name to
put to it.
Of course, it's not
the name I want this
feeling to be called, but
that probably doesn't matter.
It's inescapable, isn't it?
I think I've heard someone
say that about love once:
it will find you and won't
ever let you go,
no matter what.

Either way, it doesn't matter.
I'm still dating Seth, so
even if for some bizarre reason,
I really am in love
with Natalia Davis of all people,
it wouldn't be fair to Seth
to have feelings for
someone who isn't him.
That's morally wrong, isn't it?
It would be like I'd
lied to him when he'd
first asked me to
be his girlfriend officially.
And after how nice
he's been to me, even
with that hiccup in
our relationship tonight,
he doesn't deserve to have
me stab him in the back like that.

Still, I can't deny that
there's something going on
with my feelings for Natalia,
something that shouldn't
be happening at all.
I think I'd be lying
if I said otherwise,
but I still don't want to
admit it to myself.
Saying it out loud
makes it real, after all.

Just as I roll over
to try and put that thought
to rest and go to sleep,
my phone vibrates from
the other side of the bed.
I would ignore it -
but then it vibrates again,
and another time, as if
aware of how reluctant
I am to pick it up.
Maybe it's Addie,
I reason after a stretch
before I finally sit up
to claw at where it rests
in the dark on top
of my coverlet.
Maybe she's going to
take back her question
and apologize because
it's not actually possible
that I'm in love with Nat.
Though somehow, I don't
think that's possible now.

But it's not Addie, I find -
it's Seth.
His name is displayed
neatly on the screen,
all in the short, crisp letters
of my cell phone's font.
Seth Hunter.
I hesitate for a long moment
before finally tapping the
answer button, wondering if
maybe there is a God, and
he's going to strike me dead
with this phone call for
thinking about anyone other
than my boyfriend.
But at last, I give in:

he breathes into the other end,
reminding me of Addie earlier.
“Thank god -
I couldn't get ahold
of you before.
I thought something
happened to you…”

“I was talking to my cousin.”
I'm not really sure
what to think -
he'd been so mad
at me earlier…
“Is something wrong-”

“I just wanted
to apologize,”
he butts in, barely
letting me finish my question.
“For earlier.
That was uncalled for,
I realize that now.
I shouldn't have
said what I did, so
I'm really sorry.”
And then it's silent
for a few moments.
I can hear him breathing
into the other end
of the phone, like he's
anxious or nervous or something.
But why should he be?
He's not the one who
just realized something as
devastating as what I had.

But no, I have to
stop thinking about that...

he continues after a moment,
breaking me from my thoughts.

I'd almost forgotten
about our conversation
for a moment,
embarrassingly enough.

“Do you forgive me?”

“Yeah, yeah,
of course I do…”
While he breathes out
a sigh of relief, I shove
every last thought of
tonight to the very
back of my mind -
the conversation with Addie,
my thoughts of Natalia, and
above all, the feelings that
I've apparently developed for her.
I won't let any of it
get in the way of
my relationship with Seth.
I just can't afford it.

“Hey, Matty,”
he says again
after a moment.
“Is something wrong?
You sound like
you've been crying.”

I'm about to tell him
that that's nowhere
near the truth -
but then as I reach up
to brush hair out
of my face, my hand
brushes against the trail
of already drying moisture
leading from my eyes
down my cheeks.


Yeah, okay, this chapter isn't as good as it could be. But that's what revision is for, right? I've barely been able to write recently with all the homework I've had so this is about as good as it's gonna get, whoops. Anyway, here is the big realization that y'all have been waiting for. Took long enough...

If you guys liked this chapter, I'd very much appreciate if you would vote and leave me some feedback!! <3

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