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The door to her room is shut again.

The door to her room has always been shut since she met Luke.

I snapped myself out of it. Id lost count of how many times Id caught myself
staring at that door in the last few weeks, and every time I did, I felt this
strange surge of emotion I found hard to put a name on. I guess you could
say it was a mix of jealousy, guilt, and longing, although that doesnt really do
it justice either.
I looked over at my other housemate, Steph, she had been in the kitchen for
the best part of an hour, and I was thankful that she was still too preoccupied
to realise what I had been doing.

I sighed deeply and sank down further down into the worn-out leather couch
in our living room, taking a generous sip from the large glass of mediocre red
wine tightly clasped in my hand. It was getting warmer by the minute, but it
still did what it was supposed to.

I guess its kind of my fault really, they met at a barbecue we organised one
evening around a month ago, for no reason other than simply to have a
barbecue. Steph and I were always having people over for dinner and drinks
and gatherings and such, all the usual socially competent things youre
supposed to do when living in a share house. At the time though, it was just
the two of us in the flat together, although we were in the market for a third,
having had to evict our housemate for smoking too much pot, which, normally
would have been fine, but at 8am? On a Tuesday? In the kitchen? I just want
to be able to keep my weed and my morning muesli mutually exclusive you
know?

Steph and I get along great. She is a few years older than me, and is an
excellent judge of character. She has this ability to read people like an open
book, its uncanny sometimes. We would often have these long, detailed
conversations about life, or love, or sex, or drugs. Or even just cooking. For
the right people, food preparation can be an expression of emotion and a
work of exquisite art. Steph taught me that.

She knows that she can confide in me with total confidence, and I know that
when I do the same with her, I can rely on her to call me out on my bullshit.
Shes always saying Adam, you dont actually know that, Adam, thats
pretty narcissistic, or my favourite, Adam, just shut the fuck up and do
something about it. Its funny how the simplest advice is often the most
useful.

But I digress.

Several weeks ago, we had invited Luke to come over one evening for a
barbecue, as well as Michelle, our prospective third housemate, you know,
the one with the now constantly closed door?

Luke and I were sitting at the living room table, sharing a couple of beers and
just talking, we got along quite well really, and this was something like the
third or fourth time we had hung out. When we first met, we skimmed briefly
through the obligatory heterosexual male conversation about sports, and
beer, and girls, and cars, and partying, although I think each of us could tell
that the other wasnt really that interested, so instead, we got to know each
other by exchanging travel stories, discussing plans for our respective futures,
as well as surfing, art, music, and the environment.

To be fair it was mostly Luke doing the talking, he always seemed like he had
more to say, which didnt bother me, Id always figured myself to be a better
listener than speaker anyway. Whatever, the point is, I found him to be a very
friendly, easy-going and genuinely interesting guy.

Which, and this is important- made him extremely hard to hate.

I guess I should probably backtrack a bit.

This barbecue wasnt the first time Id met Michelle either.

Every Thursday evening, Steph and I go to this ballroom dancing class, weve
been going for a couple of months, and were actually getting pretty good. Of
course shes better than I am, but come on, Im a 20-something year old male,
I should get credit just for trying. A few weeks ago we were driving to the
dance studio, and somewhere between talk of cha-chas and salsa, she
mentioned she had invited a friend from work to come try out the class with
us, which of course was fine, both of us would invite friends to come down
every now and then, although a one off session was all we could ever get out
of people, for some reason they never wanted to come back.

I was drawn in instantly. As soon as she walked through the door to the
studio, I knew I had to meet her, the only question was how. She answered
that for me, her face lighting up with an immense smile and waving
enthusiastically at us, before hurrying over to where we were warming up.

For a brief moment I thought she was running over to speak to me, which
caused that special kind of insecurity to rear its head, you know the type that
only beautiful people have the ability to bring out? Of course you do. Or
maybe not, which means youre probably beautiful. Good for you.

But I neednt have worried; it became obvious soon enough that she was
Stephs friend, so I got the introduction I was after, and that anxiety settled
itself down to background noise. She was beautiful though, a classic girl-next-
door face, with soft freckles spreading from just under her eyes up onto the
bridge of her slightly pointy nose, and the kind of body that keeps you up at
night, thinking thoughts that would make your mother blush.

Theres a reason every mans head turned to watch her as she walked into
the room.

She didnt notice this though, and if you told her, shed probably laugh and
point to several other girls around her she thought were more deserving of the
attention. We started chatting casually in between dances, she had been
paired with this middle-aged, Stephen Hawking look alike, for which I was
quietly thankful, and by the looks of things so was he, he couldnt keep the
grin off his face.

I couldnt quite figure her out though. Half the time she would speak to me
with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and would giggle at even the
lamest of my jokes, but then at other times she would barely acknowledge
me, giving one-word answers and a token smirk. She also came across as
somewhat nave, which in small doses can be kind of endearing, but too much
too often starts to wear thin.

But yet, she almost made it work. Sure she came across as nave, but most of
the time she was so bubbly and animated that you kind of forgave her for it,
and despite wanting to tell her that; no, thats not how it is, you also wanted to
hug and embrace her, almost like a small child But at the same time, I
found her attractive in a very adult way It was all very confusing.

I left that night with more questions than answers, and although I was pretty
certain she wasnt my type, she had definitely piqued my curiosity, and Ill
admit, I wanted to see her again.

As per usual, Steph could read me like a book. As soon as wed said goodbye
to Michelle and were in her car she called me out on it. Apparently I looked
smitten! Me, smitten! I couldnt believe it.

I have no idea what youre talking about I believe was my response

Well then I guess it wont bother you that shes coming to drinks tomorrow
night then said Steph.

Cool, I hope she brings some friends I said in reply.

Thats it Adam, play it casual.

I really didnt think I was smitten, but I had hoped against hope that I might
have been able to hide my attraction from Steph, but I guess we know each
other too well for that.

I went quiet for a moment and gazed out the passenger side window at the
rows of Karri trees passing us in a dark blue-green blur, allowing myself briefly
to fantasise about what might become on Friday, with the likely addition of
alcohol and the relaxed atmosphere that comes with the end of the working
week. Ill be honest; it was a pretty appealing scenario.

And so the dance continued.

I would be lying if I told you I didnt think about Michelle the next day. Actually
I would probably be lying if I told you I thought of anything other than Michelle
the next day. There was something about this girl I couldnt quite put my finger
on, and it frustrated the hell out of me that I was spending so much of my day
thinking about her, I didnt even think I was that interested.

I came home from work on Friday afternoon feeling really good, we lived close
enough to my work that I could cycle to and from, and this particular Friday
afternoon I decided I could definitely use the exercise to blow off some steam.
During the ride home I decided on taking a very Zen perspective on the
situation, or at least as Zen as I know how to be. To quote Chuck Palahniuk, I
decided to let the chips fall where they may, and just sit back, relax, and let
whatever happens happen.

I was feeling pretty good, Id managed to convince myself I didnt mind either
way what happened tonight with Michelle, and as I walked, dripping in sweat
through the front door to our apartment, Steph handed me what I assumed
was a banana smoothie. I took a large mouthful, thirsty from the ride home,
and was rewarded with the delectably smooth banana flavoured drink. Shortly
followed by the after-taste of rum.

It was going to be one of those nights.

We arrived at the bar later than we expected, Steph had decided that finishing
a bottle of wine between the two of us would be a great way to start the night,
and I hadnt disagreed in the slightest. Eventually we made it, and walking in
to the dimly lit room I immediately saw Michelle sitting in a small group of
people, some I knew to be Stephs friends from work, and a couple Id never
met before. Jesus, she looked adorable. She was wearing this loose fitting,
turquoise dress that clashed brilliantly with her golden brown thighs, and it
was just short enough to be sexy without being trashy.

As we walked over I noticed shed been talking to a guy next to her who had
this big goofy grin plastered all over his face, wearing a thick gold necklace.
He looked like hed just walked out of a Versace catalogue.

Turns out he was actually just a bit tipsy, and the long-term boyfriend of one
of Stephs workmates.

Whoops. Turns out I can be a bit judgemental at times; I scolded myself for
not keeping my emotions in check.

We took our seats, and from there on in the night ran pretty smoothly,
everybody drinking, and talking, the conversation getting progressively more
lowbrow, and then philosophical with each drink that was consumed. I was
sitting on the lounge directly opposite Michelle, which made it pretty difficult to
communicate beyond smiles and exchanged glances across the table, but at
least there were plenty of those.

I did however discover that Michelle and myself were the only 2 unattached
people at this gathering, with Stephs fianc, Jake, recently joining us at the
bar, and my having figured out that all the others present were paired up with
one another. I tried to ignore it, but this discovery made the little voice in my
head, the one Id been trying to keep quiet for the majority of the evening, go
from being an annoying addition to my internal monologue, to an
overwhelming desire to act on my feelings for Michelle.

Our crowd eventually migrated from the grouping of couches, to a space on
the small dance floor that had formed over by the DJ, mixing together
whatever musical atrocities adorned the top 40 at the time. We had drunk
enough that our dancing was pretty uninhibited, but at the same time, hand-
eye co-ordination was significantly more challenging than it would otherwise
have been.

I decided it was the perfect time to go play pool.

There was a table on the other side of the room; the fabric was well and truly
faded from years of cigarette smoke and beer spillage, and I think it may have
been missing a ball. That hardly mattered though, the point wasnt really to
play pool.

I whispered in Michelles ear for her to come play me, although with the music
as loud as it was, it was probably more of a yell. She smiled her adorable
smile and jumped at the opportunity, saying something about how she was
taught how to play by her brothers when she was younger, and that I should
watch out.

Youre damn right I should watch out.

It didnt take long, I think maybe 4 balls had been sunk, 3 of which were hers,
before we found ourselves standing very close, facing each other. We
stopped for a second, our eyes resting on one anothers under the weak
barroom lighting. She briefly lowered her gaze and looked down at my mouth,
pausing for a moment, before coming back up to look me in the eye. I figured
that was about as clear a sign as I was going to get, so I leant slowly in and
kissed her.

Barely a second had passed and I realised it was a mistake. She was so
passive. Not kissing me back, but not pulling away either, she was just
standing there, letting me do whatever I felt like. Id kissed enough girls to
know that this wasnt what its supposed to be like the first time you kiss
somebody, and to be completely honest, I was disappointed and confused, so
I broke away.

I looked at her, her deep brown eyes still refused to give anything away. I was
even more mystified than I was before; I could have sworn she was in to me.
She smirked, and the smirk grew in to a smile, which grew in a quiet laugh,
almost as if she knew exactly what I was thinking, and that she was attracted
to me, she just didnt want me to know it yet.

Then she kissed me.

This time, not quite so passively. It started off innocently enough, our lips
gently exploring the others, dancing tentatively back and forth, each of us
wanting more, but at the same time unsure of how the other would react. I
slowly moved one hand up to the back of her neck, feeling the softness of her
hair on the back of my hand. The noise and lights from the bar had faded into
insignificance; I could have spent the rest of my life in that moment.

And then she bit me.

Not in a malicious way, but hard enough and deliberate enough for me to
know it wasnt an accident. Suddenly she broke away, leaving her arms over
my neck for only a moment, before smiling that adorable smile and saying we
should go find the others.

And that was that. 20 minutes later she had called a cab without anything
more than a polite goodbye, and 20 minutes after that, Steph, Jake and I had
gone back to our apartment, where I went to bed, alone and completely
bewildered by what had just happened.

I didnt see Michelle for several weeks after that, but I found it very difficult to
keep her from my mind for any length of time before she would come
bouncing her way back in. We did exchange a number of texts over the
course of several weeks, nothing of any real significance though. What really
got to me was that any time we exchanged more than 2 texts, her third
response would be very definite and final, clearly not wanting the conversation
to continue. This would happen without fail, and after a while, I stopped
bothering to text at all.

As much as I wanted to, I couldnt stop thinking about her, but I was too
stubborn, and if Im being honest, afraid to directly ask her out, I had taken her
non-committal responses as a lack of interest in me, and instead of asking her
on a date and knowing for sure one way or the other, I chose to play it safe
and do nothing, which left me conflicted, and lamenting over what could have
been.

I had often considered talking to Steph about how I was feeling, although for
reasons unbeknownst to me, I didnt, choosing to keep the whirlpool of
conflicting emotion to myself, which meant that she didnt think twice about
inviting Michelle over for a barbecue.

You two seemed to get along really well I remember her saying

I couldnt respond with more than an indifferent yeah.

Somebody had just hit the emergency exit button inside my head, and I
immediately began thinking of how I could already have plans that night, but
at the same time wanting to see her again for curiositys sake.

Clearly I chose the latter, and so there I was, sitting in our living room, only
half-listening to what Luke was saying, when our doorbell rang, and Michelles
voice came on over the intercom, sounding through the house as bubbly and
full of life as ever.

When she entered our living room, I saw Luke do the same double take I did
when I saw her for the first time at the dance studio. I wondered for a moment
if he felt the same fleeting anxiety that I did. Probably not, I realised. He was
one of the beautiful people.

You glib, handsome motherfucker.

It killed me to see somebody look at her the same way I did.

Of course I didnt make my opinion known, and succumbed to the polite but
menial dinner conversation about weekend plans, or a movie somebody had
seen or some other mundane bullshit.

Id stopped paying attention to the words themselves and started to become
more aware of their body language and how they were holding themselves, in
fact, it probably would have been more difficult not to notice. Steph and I had
all but stopped talking, and the other 2 had formed their own little bubble and
promptly filled it with hair twirling, smiles, and playful hitting.

I gathered up the dishes and started washing up in the kitchen. I couldnt wait
for this dinner to be over, each giggle and smile from Michelle made my
stomach tie itself tighter in a knot, and the only way it was being undone was
by getting her out of the house.

Then Steph asked her if she wanted to move in to the spare bedroom.

It dawned on me now that this was the whole point of the evening.

Id love to she beamed, Only if its OK with Adam obviously

All the heads in the room turned at looked at me.

Of course it is I said, and forced my mouth into what I hoped looked like a
sincere smile.

That was it then. This is my life now.

I wanted to run. I wanted to open the apartment door, jump down the flights of
stairs until I was at street level and just run, as fast as I could until my lungs
were on fire and my feet were red raw, and never look back.

I went back to drying the dishes.

Somewhere through the thick cloud of fog that had formed in my head I heard
Steph and Michelle discussing plans to move in, and after that, Luke asking
her for her number, apparently he was going to take her kite-surfing this
weekend.

I rolled my eyes. Of course he can fucking kite-surf.

I should have been nominated for an academy award for the way I acted as
they finally got up to leave, and in an exchange of handshakes and hugs we
said our cheerful goodbyes.

Just as they were about to walk through the door, Luke checked with me to
make sure him and I were still playing golf next week, and it took all my
willpower to remember that I still liked and enjoyed spending time with the
guy. He was oblivious to how I was feeling, and couldnt be blamed for asking
Michelle out on a date, I could only blame myself for not beating him to it.

Of course we are, I replied

And with a smile from each of them, they were gone.

I threw myself down on my favourite leather couch and sprawled out over it, I
was exhausted, I couldnt believe how this situation had managed to manifest
itself, and I nearly burst out laughing at how ridiculous the whole situation
was. I didnt though, and instead, I just lay there, staring at the ceiling,
transfixed on a small area where a layer of paint was starting to peel away, I
didnt have the motivation to do anything more.

Steph came and sat down opposite me, asking what was wrong. She had
been watching me all night, and although she said the other 2 wouldnt have
noticed anything, she could tell something was bothering me.

Why does she have to be so damn perceptive?

I didnt have the energy, nor was I ready to have this discussion with her. I
doubted Id ever be ready to have this particular discussion, so I denied
everything, saying I was just tired and a bit tipsy.

Although I could tell she didnt believe me, she said goodnight and went
upstairs to bed, leaving me to lie there collapsed over my favourite leather
couch, falling asleep the instant I closed my eyes.


Michelle took up residence as our new housemate the following week, and
considering how Id felt the night she and Luke came over for dinner, I was
relatively sanguine about the whole thing. Steph and I helped her bring her
things up the stairs to our apartment, although she barely needed us, she only
had the one sports bag for all her clothes, and a couple of other smaller bags,
filled with whatever it is that girls fill bags with. The hardest part was Steph
and I bringing her double mattress up the flights of stairs, thankfully without
the frame though, she was planning to just sleep with it on the floor.

We were all in such a great mood, with music playing in the background as
we gave Michelle the proper tour and finished moving everything into her
room. I wanted to keep the momentum going, I think deep down I knew I was
being nave, but at the time, I thought the longer we all stayed in a good
mood, the easier it would be for me to forget what happened a week ago.

We should have drinks tonight, just the three of us, like a mini-
housewarming. I suggested

Well I can have one or two now, but Jakes in town tonight, so I will most
definitely be spending the night at his said Steph

Thats OK, me and Adam can continue the party without you Michelle said,
Look, I even bought wine! as she pulled out two bottles of merlot.

Shit. That wasnt supposed to happen.

The three of us migrated out onto our balcony, which, considering what we
paid for rent, afforded us a very nice view over a nearby park. It was that time
of the day where the sun sits really low in the sky, without having quite set yet,
and bathes everything with a warm, golden light. It made the entire scene look
like an old, weathered photograph, the kind that your grandparents would
show you of pictures from when they were young.

It wasnt only me that noticed either; Michelle had been staring out at the
horizon for the best part of a minute.
Most of the time everybody just ignores nature, and the beauty thats around
us during every hour of every day. But at this specific time of the day, Mother
Nature forces your hand and makes it impossible for you to ignore her she
said,
Even after everything humans have achieved, were still unable to match that
which was here millions of years before us

I was speechless. I couldnt have agreed more, but I had no idea what to say
to her. Thankfully Steph chimed in with a light-hearted comment about us
having allowed a hippie into our home, before saying she was about to head
out to catch a movie with Jake.

Steph got up from the table, grabbed her bag, and headed downstairs, leaving
the apartment door to slam behind her, and the two of us alone on the
balcony as the last rays of light vanished, marking the end of another day.

I poured the two of us another generous glass of merlot, and Michelle asked
me what my plans were for the rest of the year.
I honestly didnt have any real plans at that point, Keep working to save up
enough money to go travelling I guess was the best I could come up with.

She smiled and was polite enough to ask me all the token questions about
where I would go, whom I was going to go with, and where had I been before.
But then she started asking me why. Why did this particular country interest
me? Why did I want to go alone and not with a friend? Why did I begin
travelling in the first place?

I did my best to answer, but I had been bowled over by the interest she was
showing in me and didnt have much else to say. I guess I had never really
thought about what my motivation was for doing what I was doing with my life.

She noticed this and began to fill the void with her own ambitions and desires,
expressing them to me with a fire and ferocity that contrasted quite stunningly
with her petite stature. After several minutes, pausing only to answer my trivial
attempts at follow-up questions, she started to giggle, before conceding that
despite how determined and self-assured she sounds, she realises that its
probably not going to work out like that for her at all.

I was silent, totally in awe of the girl who sat next to me. She was so wide-
eyed and ready to take on the world, though she admitted she hadnt the
faintest clue how, her enthusiasm was so endearing and infectious, and my
spirits were lifted from spending just this evening with her.

Just then she got a call from Luke and her face lit up. She checked with me
before she answered it, and took the call inside.

I had all but conceded I couldnt be with this girl, I found her incredibly
attractive both physically and spiritually, but she was so overwhelmingly
passionate and wholehearted about everything, I knew I couldnt be with
somebody like that.

She popped her head through the door out on to the balcony and asked me if
I minded if Luke came over.

Of course I did, but how could I say no to that smile?

Grabbing our wine glasses and leaving them in the sink to be dealt with the
next day, I said goodnight to Michelle, and went to bed. Not that I was tired, I
just didnt particularly want to be around when Luke and her formed their own
little bubble again.

Ten minutes later I heard him arrive and be greeted excitedly by Michelle, and
shortly after that, the sound of her bedroom door closing. I was lying on my
bed trying to read, not that I was having much success, I felt like my thoughts
and emotions had been put through a blender, and now I was left to pick
through and make sense of what was left.

Unfortunately Michelle and I shared a bedroom wall, and through it I could
hear the muffled sounds of laughter and giggling. Then silence. Then I
realised I didnt want to hear what was coming next, so I took my book out into
the living room and collapsed down on to my favourite leather couch.

I sighed deeply and rubbed my eyes, I dont know why I was even trying to
read.

I put the book down on the floor next to the couch, and as I looked over at her
closed bedroom door I realised I was in love with her. But not in the way the
movies told me I should be. I loved her in a way that could never end with us
being together. She was so enthusiastic and alive, and although I ached to be
able to say the same for myself, living my life like that exhausted me, it felt so
fake, and I was too plagued by my insecurities and indifference to truly do
anything about it.

If I lied, and put up a faade of passion and energy, maybe I could have made
it work for a while, but it never would have lasted, and I would have achieved
nothing other than needlessly damaging a rare, beautiful soul. Like somebody
leaving an immaculate oil painting out to bake in the sun until the colour had
faded and paint begun to crack.

This girl had so much to offer the world, and I couldnt be the one to hold her
back. So I chose to stay away, and let my disappointment and longing destroy
me, but at least its only destroying me. Maybe one day shell roll over in bed
and be embraced my the warm arms of a man as lively and as whole-hearted
as she, one willing to truly accept her in all her raw beauty. Something I
desperately hope for her, as then, and only then, will my isolation not have
been in vain.