2014 Short Story Winner: Clueless by Yaju Tuladhar (an excerpt)

She’s mad at me.

I don’t know why. I don’t even remember how. It’s just one of those fights, you know? Where you fight over something so stupid and small but your pride and ego gets in the way and suddenly it’s tug-of-war with your feelings until one of you breaks and apologizes? Yeah, I’d say that’s what’s happening. Love is complicated, I guess.

Marissa sits as far as she can from me on the couch. Her face is solemn and she is watching the television—I don’t know what she’s staring so intently at, it’s on a damn commercial.  She hasn’t spoke to me since forever.

“Hey,” I say, looking at her. She barely looks at me. “Hey, I’m sorry, okay? I love you. I don’t even know what we were fighting about.”

I must’ve said the wrong thing because she doesn’t even nod or give me any sign that she isn’t mad anymore. No “it’s okay, babe!” or “I’m sorry too, Leon”. I sigh. I’m getting tired of this. I wish back in college I just went out like my friends and got unattached to girls and just partied, but no, I had to decide to go get coffee and do my term paper that specific day. I had to sit by the window and have this cute girl reading her thick book sitting a table away. I just had to fall in love with her, didn’t I?

“Okay, I get it. You’re mad. I’m sorry that you’re mad and I’m an idiot. Please let me off now,” I try again. She barely blinks. And suddenly she stands and shuts off the television, eyes starting to water and all, and she goes off into our bedroom. Okay, let me correct that. Her bedroom since I can’t find my clothes or things anywhere in there anymore. She’s officially kicked me out of there.

Girls are so damn complicated. They want you to say you’re an idiot and when you do, they just ignore you. But it’s okay. We’ve had worse fights.

I sleep on the couch that night.

Surprisingly the next day, I have no back pains, which is pretty surprising because I always do on the couch. Marissa continues to ignore me. She walks by me and acts like I’m not even there. I know I should do something—buy her flowers, get her chocolate—but I’m angry now too.

At night, I hear her crying in bed. It’s loud and I know she’s doing it on purpose. I feel bad. I really do. But, I don’t want to go in there and have her yell at me for coming in and then get more mad at me. I don’t know what to do anymore. We keep going in circles.

On Sunday, the home phone rings and before I can get it, Marissa jogs over to it—completely ignoring me, by the way—and picks it up. “Hello?” she says. “Hey, Kelly.”

She sounds sad and depressed even if her best friend is calling. I know she’s trying to make me feel bad. She wants me to know it’s my doing that is making her so unhappy. She wants me to get on my knees and beg my life for her to forgive me. Well, not happening. I always apologize. It’s always me. She gets to be angry and throw objects at me but I can’t be angry at her?

Kelly and Marissa talk for a while and eventually I stop listening.  I do hear bits and pieces like how Kelly will be over tomorrow with food and rented movies to cheer Marissa up. They’re ganging up on me, I swear.

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