The Lobster and The Elephant

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A month in, and I know how lobsters feel when they are boiled without noticing. I'm standing in the Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue, with a shiny new Xbox staring right at me. It comes with Battlefield, and a hefty price tag. It's one of the games Bryan played, before. I barely even hesitate.

I know he can use the controllers, just like he can use the TV remote, or my Surface when I'm not working. He's made himself a reddit account. None of those people know they're taking advice from an actual, honest to god ghost. I can barely wrap my head around it, but it's hilarious watching him calling fake on every video on r/paranormal.

Today is a good day - I got paid for the wine label. In the end it was a modern, periwinkle blue, and now, like that fucking lobster, I know why. I know why the metaphorical water has been growing warmer. I know why my skin, metaphorically (and yes, literally too, on occasion), has been getting redder. I know why the air in the apartment is no longer stale, and why I haven't been to the bar in two weeks. I know, because Bryan's eyes are a periwinkle blue, and I've always had an excellent eye for colour. They are the same - I'd argue, to the hex code - as the label. I slam my card on the counter with some resentment, although the poor guy serving me has done nothing to deserve it. Immediately, I feel guilty and send him a smile. The poor butterflies in my stomach wage war.

I feel nervous, taking it back home, and angry at myself for the anxiety. For allowing this. So stupid. I'm a stupid, boiled lobster. Now I'm just going to get eaten.

No. Not like that. My face reddens at the direction my thoughts have suddenly taken. Eaten like a lobster. Cracked open and devoured.

Damn, that really doesn't sound any better.

It's a grey, rainy day in New York, and it only adds to my misery. Isn't this meant to be a joyous occasion? Something to be happy about? Of course not. This is complicated enough. Not even taking into account the elephant in the room – one which can't leave.

I can't even touch him.

I don't know how that works. Electronics, he can touch. The cheap shitty towels too; but not the nicer ones I bought at Frontgate. Couch – yes, kitchen table – yes. The wooden coffee table in front of the tv he walks through like it's not there. There seems no rhyme or reason to it.

When I get home, Bryan's watching a movie. He lights up when he sees me. This is ok, I think. I can ignore the boiling water and continue as normal.

"This movie's so weird, you're gonna love it," he says, as I dispose of the bags and sit myself by him. "Colin Farrell's tryna be a lobster."

The groan escapes my lips before I can help it, and Bryan looks at me quizzically. "Don't like him," I shrug, partially honest. We watch the movie in silence, baffled at it more than anything else. It's a strange, strange movie. Not bad, or anything, just weird. Bryan talks a bit about the virtues of Rachel Weisz, and the butterflies turn into angry wasps.

I show him the Xbox afterwards, and the look on his face makes the boiling water harder to ignore. He doesn't protest, which I'm glad for – don't want to explain to him why I bought it. Don't think he'd buy it. I'm a bad liar. The sounds of shooting continue late into the night. They make a strange lullaby – but I'm not kidding myself. It's not them that stop me from sleeping.

***

Morning comes too quick, and only coffee can salvage the day. I reach for the milk and smell it, but it's gone bad. It sours my mood. I've neglected my apartment. Bad Clara.

I grimace at the first sip of coffee. It's too strong black, but it will have to do. It warms me from the inside. As every morning, Bryan knows not to talk to me until the cup is empty, but today I take my time. It must be half an hour before I put it down. It tasted like tar.

"Mornin," he chirps at me, waving the controller in a greeting. "Wan' to play with me?"

He's in the exact same spot as I left him the night before.

"I don't know how to."

"'s alright, I'll teach you."

He passes me the controller and starts a new game. I stare at the buttons dumbly.

"This shoots, this moves, you'll figure out the rest." he sounds confident, and I feel petrified. I play pc games, not this. This is black magic. The shooting starts all around me and I squeal and start pressing buttons at random. The man on the screen shoots at a building.

Bryan laughs and jabs his finger at the controller, showing me what I should be doing. Each time he touches my skin a jolt of electricity passes through me, but there is no sensation other than that. He might as well be an oncoming storm.

My team loses the game by an impressive amount and Bryan pushes me to try again. It doesn't go much better, but it's getting significantly more fun.

Finally, I decide it's enough of embarrassing myself and opt for watching instead. Bryan is completely engrossed in it.

"This one, see, this's an M97 Trench. The Germans got it banned, 'cause it really hurt people," he explained animatedly, and I found myself interested. "See, the shells of it, they explode on impact and they're a bitch to remove."

He goes on like that about all the different guns, and the sites of battles, too, in great detail. It reminds me of museum tours.

"How do you know all that?"

He looks at me funny, stops the game. There is something in his eyes I've not seen before, but the humour is gone. He is serious now, and it doesn't suit him.

"I majored in history. Before. Was gonna be a teacher."

***

A/N: Quick note! I've changed the titles of each part to be actual titles now, rather than "part x". I guess this is more a bug report than an author's note? 

Have a lovely week, and see you soon!

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