Excerpt: In the Wake of Wanting – “Duct Tape”

Hey, everyone… I’ve got a little something-something for y’all: a little dialogue between Trey, now a sophomore at Columbia, and a freshman writer that he works with on the school paper. I’m also thinking of a release date around October 27th-ish? I’ll pick an official date really soon, I promise.

Downstairs, I see my partner walking toward the doors to leave.

“Coley!” I call after her. She turns back around and waits for me. “Where are you off to?”

“Just going back to my dorm.”

“Can I walk with you?”

“Sure,” she says.

“Listen… you were right. In your poem. There are two distinct versions of me. There’s this one that’s had this beautiful girlfriend since high school, and there’s this other asshole that shared this intense moment with you in the coffee shop the other day.

“But those two guys are really one person. And that one person is someone who will always remain faithful to that beautiful girlfriend, and that’s the guy that you’re going to be a partner with in this class, and hopefully friends with outside of class.”

She smiles up at me.

“Do you think we can make that work?”

“Maybe,” she says.

“Come on…” I nudge her with my shoulder, having to lean down to reach her.

“I’m thinking about it.”

I know she’s teasing me, but I get serious again. “I just met you four days ago, Coley. It’s easy to get swept up in something new–someone new–especially when that person readily admits that they like you. Of course I’m going to have some reaction to that. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t, but it’s not something I would ever act on. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know you at all.

“And, I mean, I’ll be honest, you were pretty spot on in your initial assessment of me, and you’ve had years to learn about me in the media, but there’s a lot more to me than that.” She should know me better than that. I want so badly to make that proposition to her, but it’s so wrong, what I’m suggesting. “I hope you can learn more about me as a person, too.” I decide to make it seem like a joke. “Then maybe you won’t like me so much.”

“Oh, get over yourself already,” she says with a lilt in her voice. “Friendship is fine.”

“Friendship is fine,” I repeat her. She stops in front of a large dormitory hall.

“Have a good weekend, Trey,” she says.

“You, too. Oh! I almost forgot.” I reach into my bag and pull out two rolls of red Duct tape. “I wasn’t sure which color matched your purse, so I just bought both.”

“That is so sweet, but I’m not putting Duct tape on my handbag.”

I compare the colors in the sun with her bag, seeing her keys hanging out over the side. I easily snatch them out of her purse playfully to make a point. “Wouldn’t you rather the thing shut so people couldn’t steal things from you?” I toss her keys high up into the air and catch them without even looking, my eyes still on the red tape. “Seriously, no one will ever know. This one here.”

She takes the darker roll from me, but shakes her head.

“I’m just trying to help stop the spills… I mean, what happens when, like, a lady product falls out?”

“Are you afraid of a little tampon, Trey?” She watches as my face turns the color of the tape I’m still holding. “Oh, you are! That’s so cute!”

“Shut up,” I warn her, embarrassed.

“You make it very difficult not to crush on you,” she says. “Blushing over a ‘lady product.’ Who calls it that, anyway?” She laughs harder.

“Okay, I’m leaving. Go write a sonnet about it,” I tell her.

“Don’t think I won’t!” she calls after me.

“Don’t make me edit it!” I holler back.

“Wait!” she says. “You have my keys!”

I look at my hands, so distracted that I honestly didn’t realize I still had them. I examine the keychain, a picture of her standing in between two guys about our age, all their arms around each other. She’s wearing shorts and a tank top. Her hair looks about the same length, even though it’s swept to the side in a low ponytail that’s pulled in front of her left shoulder. The picture has to be relatively recent. One of the guys could be her brother; the other must be her boyfriend.

“Was this on the pier?” I ask her, showing her the picture when she reaches me.

“Yeah, last year over spring break.” She takes the keys and studies the image, smiling wistfully. “It was a good day.”

“Hence why you’ve memorialized it in a keychain, right?” I remain focused on the ends of the tape roll in my hands, pretending not to show much interest in the picture. “Is one of those guys your twin brother?”

“Mmhmm,” she says. “That’s Joel.” She points out the guy on her right. He’s wearing a lime green Elvis shirt and a big smile. I’m more interested in the other one now. He’s smiling too, sort of, wearing black jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt. “It’s killing you, isn’t it?”

“What? No,” I lie, looking up and shaking my head.

She rocks on the balls of her feet and stares. “Why does your skin do that?”

“Do what?” She doesn’t have to tell me. I feel the blush, my own personal lie detector going off for the world to see.

“Your fair skin is all… mottled… like you were standing under the sun too long, only some of your face was sheltered by trees or something.”

“Maybe I’ve just been in the sun too long.”

“No… there it is. Now your whole face is the same, red color. You’re blushing again.”

“Jesus Christ. Yes, I want to know who the other guy is. So what? I’m curious.”

In the Wake of Wanting ©2016 Lori L. Otto

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