Knowing You

Premrudee Mepremwattana
You would not let your father in. It was pouring rain, the slapping, stinging rain. There were flashes of light glinting against the window. It was dark.
Your father was outside. He was banging on the door, eyes pleading, hands brought together– in a futile attempt. After making sure the door was locked, for one more time, you turned away, with your back to the door. I watched him, from behind the window, behind the welcome mat, behind the picture frame that hung right beside the front door. I watched, as his mouth took the shape of a strangled cry– drowned out by the outside howls.
By the time I turned my head around, you were gone.
You didn’t like your father. You never have. Or at least, that’s what you told me in those few times you actually ever mention him. So I never asked.
But I remember.
One of the times I came over to your house, we were upstairs, in your room, when I heard the yelling. Your mother yelling. At your father. You rushed downstairs, and I followed, standing a little distance behind you. Your face hardened, I remember, and your voice didn’t falter as you told him to leave. He took half a step forward, voice breaking as he said your name. I said get the fuck out, you looked him the eye, finger pointing at the door.
So he did.
Then you started crying. Properly crying. That was the first time I saw you cry.
I asked if you wanted to talk about your father. You turned to me, and that was when I saw your eyes were small beads of black, perfectly round, and perfectly blank. You told me you did not know who the fuck that was. You told me to get the fuck out.
So I did.
When I think about it now, I let out a peculiar laugh, one so high-pitched, and one that brings out so many more that I always almost choke, because was all of it not so fucking funny?
I went home that evening. I hauled myself up the stairs, and pulled the covers over my head. I stared upwards, and I saw the faint traces of the swollen arch of the quilt. The air that hung above me tasted like metal. Your face would gnaw at the edges of the dark, and I would tell it to go away the way you told me to. I stayed like that, until my eyelids burned and the first oranges of daybreak invaded, and my thoughts drifted away.
I dreamed I was crying.
We did not talk for the next few days. It was only until Monday morning, when I was woken up with my mother yelling for whoever it was knocking our door down to stop and for me to go tell whoever it was to stop: she deserves to sleep in on her one day off.
I rolled my eyes, forcing myself down the stairs. The knocks were not very loud, I noted, quick and short thumps of skin and bone grazing the wood. Timid, almost, I decided, just before opening the door to find you.
I found you with your curled fist frozen midair, hastily forcing your arm by your side, thumb and pinky still squeezed together the way I’ve seen you do sometimes. The other arm hung limp.
You must realize that the door is actually open, and that I was standing in it, because it was then your eyes lit up, as you told me it was about time you opened that damned door, I hate knocking, and that we were going to be late. I stood, lips pursed, eyelids flitting, and brows half-raised.
Oh, come on, get your sorry ass over here already, you said. Fine, I’m sorry I was being a little shit, are we good now? I grinned as you pulled my hand and made us run all the way to school.
I felt you letting go of my hand upon reaching the school gates, and that day, I learned that it was what it was, and we would never speak of it again.
I also learned, only within the first few weeks of knowing you, that you were never you when you were around other people, or at least not the you I knew. And as I came to realize later, maybe I never knew you at all.
People adored you at school, you had the coolest headphones, the greatest music taste, the best roles in musicals. You would tell me though, that most of the time, you weren’t actually listening to music– you were just tired of the real world and its people that never seemed to want to stop talking. You liked telling me that humans liked making their own rules and creating their own boxes to neatly put things in. You liked telling me that we made everything up to make sense of suffering, otherwise, we would all go mad. You liked telling me, with a giggle, that actually, all of us were mad. You liked telling me that actually, nothing was real. You did not tell me that I would be thinking about what real meant in the many years to come.
Hey, I’d nudge one day, standing by our lockers, Boy 7.0 approaching. It was a game we liked to play, counting from one at the start of each day. You always lost because you never cared to keep count, and I always won because I did. Because I always knew I was doomed, from the very beginning.
They would always try to invite you to the next football game, the next birthday party, the next exam-week sleepovers. They would always try to charm you, a suggestive hand here, sweet-talk there. You would always laugh the high-falsetto laugh, and I’d always snort in the other direction from a distance away, because they would never know what they were being forever robbed of. And just as Boy 7.0 retreated, Boy 8.0 would take his place.
They never learn, I said, as the last one vanished from our sight.
No, they never do. The corners of your mouth curled upwards, breaking into a smile.
We never did talk about it, but I always knew. We both did.
Tell me what you’re thinking about, you liked to say. We were sprawling on the floor of your room, my school bag and unfinished homework a few feet away. We were on our backs, and I was staring up at your pink-paint-splattered ceiling. It was one inadvertent stroke of your masterful creation, you said, and that your seven-year-old-self thought the ceiling looked sad without color anyway.
Hey, you repeated, what are you thinking about? I bit back a smile because we were about to start it again, life, I answered. And your expectant reply, elaborate. I prided myself in knowing what you were about to say before the words spilled from your lips. 
Fate, I said, are things consequences of actions? Or were they set in stone? 
We would think about it for a while, we always did.
Some things, you said, probably would’ve happened either way. 
I hummed, maybe.
You inched closer to me, and your head bumped mine. I could feel the soft shapes of your whispers as you said, I do think so. Like meeting you. We probably would’ve met either way. On a metro, on a plane, on a trip to Asia, I don’t know. A fleeting second, maybe, but I think I would’ve met you.
I think about having already met you, and I think about not having to beseech fate for Her pity for a glimpse of what I could never hold onto. I do not think about the relocation order my father's command officer issued, and I do not think about moving away. I reached for your hand instead, tracing the rough lines of your palm in the dark, and I wondered how they would feel against my lips. 
Tell me something no one knows, I turned my head over to you. We were lying on the floor again, but at my house this time. You always kept forgetting to take your shoes off, and I always had to look you down, disapproving frown and all, until you remembered, with a laugh. I still hadn’t told you I was moving.
Let me think, you said, and I did. I turned to my side, you had a silver hoop clipped to one ear. Whenever you moved out of the house, you would always tell me, you’d get all the piercings you wanted. Three on the left, two on the right, one helix– I always did remember. 
Oh, I’ve got it, you said, eyes gleaming in a way I knew whatever was next would be good, I’m dead scared of doors.
I laughed, you’re so full of shit.
You laughed too, hitting my arm, knocking doors is terrifying, no? Your mouth would hang open, feigning shock. Then looking down at our entwined legs, you said, people, probably. I’m dead scared of people. And how they leave.
I spoke very little for the rest of the night.
The next morning, my mother woke us up, threatening to take away our sleepover privileges because how late did you two stay up to if y’all are still asleep? She glanced around my room, with a tsk, her voice bouncing off the walls as she walked out, or maybe I’ll be kinder because after a few weeks, y’all won’t see each other again. You’ve got to start packing though.
I turned to you, fervently, fervently wishing you’d still be sleeping.
You were not.
I did not meet your eyes. Hey, I started to say, I’m so sorry-
Don’t, your eyes stared forward, glassy and deadpan, a dim glow behind them that I did not like. You climbed off the bed, gathering your things from the night before.
Stop, I reached for your hand, and I felt you flinch, I was going to tell you, but-
Don’t. Your words burned like bile at the back of my throat.
I looked at you, and I grieved for the fragility that held the thread between night and day, between then and now, Can you just-
I fucking said don’t.
I watched as you walked out the door.
Your friend didn’t stay for breakfast? My mother asked with a little frown.
No, I told her. I told her you had to go.
I called you that night, until my battery died. I fell asleep holding the phone in one hand, and I woke up with the dial ringing in my ears. I had called you thirty-two times.
I left paragraphs of text and you left me on sent.
I figured I’d see you at school anyways.
Three weeks before the end of the year. You never responded when I said hi in the passing periods, pushed between bodies of people and windows of time. Two weeks before the end of the year. I realized we never did have any classes together. One week before the end of the year. You walked away when I approached you. The last day. You did not come to school at all.
It was a week before we moved away. You still would not pick up. 
The night before we left, I had hoped you would. Other people knew I was moving; other people knew what date I’d be gone by. I was sure you would know.
It was almost eight, I think. Even in the summer, night had already fallen.
I found my way to your house, climbing up the steps to your front door.
My fingers fumbled for the doorbell, and I found that it had never been repaired, lever stuck in concrete. I found that this was my first time ringing the bell. I found this was my first time knocking on your door.
In the years to come, I find myself remembering the thumps of my curled fists to be sharp and quick at first, still blissed in the face of ignorance. Then they became bruised thrashes into the wood, acid forming at the tip of my tongue. Then as the skin between my knuckles stretched and split, the knocks became slow and soft. I find myself remembering how, under the bright white lights– this I remember– of your front porch, I looked from behind the window, the welcome mat, and the picture frame that hung right beside the front door. I find myself remembering I sat down, back against your front door, as my eyes watered from gazing up at tiny stars and their protoplasmic kisses.
We flew away the next morning, and I slept through the whole flight, and the whole car ride to an address I’d be leaving in a matter of time anyway.
I would come to find my phone broken, having cracked it open upon a terrible fall in a public bathroom. I would come to find my number changed. I would come to find the existence of other people. And eventually, I would come to find a time when I stopped seeing your face in every stranger I came across.
I dated a girl. In college. We fucked, sometimes. But sometimes, I wouldn't show up. Sometimes, I would go back to my own room afterwards. And then she left.
I thought I saw you. One day. At the metro station. I could've sworn it was you. I could've. Your hair, your shoulders, your style. Fuck, the water bottle you had from high school. I walked up to you, staring at the back of your head, just as another woman walked towards you from the right. From where I stood, always a distance away, I saw your eyes brighten the way they used to, and you took her hand. Then just as you and the woman walked past, you turned your head ever so slightly, and I saw that it was not you. I see enough dissimilarity that I can tell myself I was right.
I can tell myself that it was not you.
It had probably been a few years later, I dated another girl. We met at work, she was cute, I asked her out. But it’d only been a few months. Then we stopped. And then I quit work.
It was on a plane, this time. I flew back to your hometown for Christmas. When the plane landed, and people started standing up, I saw you. One row in front of me. It had to be you. Your hair was dyed to the shade you said you always wanted to. Your piercings were exactly how I remembered and exactly how you said you wanted them– three on the left, two on the right, and one helix. The frame of your shoulders, the tilt of your head, the way you’d always squeeze your thumb and pinky together, and the headphones that hang at the pool of your neck.
I said your name.
You turned around. And I finally saw you. I saw the dried tears bleeding into my pillow. I saw the muted red of missed calls. I saw past the window, past the welcome mat, and past the picture frame that hung right beside the front door. 
I saw you, again, and again, and yet all over again.
I see you now.
And as your lips parted, I embraced the sweet caress of the thought of hearing the gentle shapes your words carved again.
And as your brows furrowed, eyes crinkled the way they always did, in your perfectly curious, perfectly soft voice:
“Do I know you?”

Premrudee Mepremwattana is a seventeen-year-old writer from Bangkok, Thailand. Having been recognized by the Alliance for Young Writers and Artists, she serves as founder and co-editor-in-chief for the Alexandrian Review and edits for other magazines. “Knowing You” serves as the last promise to dedicate her writing to "you." As the co-president of Fifty Squared, an UN-recognized nonprofit feminist organization, she is dedicated to amplifying voices among marginalized and underrepresented communities. When not reading, writing, or getting too emotionally invested in fictional characters, she spends her time drinking too much bubble tea. Check out her Instagram writer’s page: @premmys_pages!

"Lockers" by 20'cents is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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