How To Be Casual

Eat slowly, but finish everything. When he asks about school tell him it’s OK and then neglect to return the question. Stare at the cheap candle in between the two of you as he talks about himself, unprompted. Deliberately glance around the room at other couples.

Close the menu. Focus on a point roughly three feet above his head. Trace the red and white patterned wallpaper with your eyes. Move on to count the number of lights.

He asks if you like his new sneakers. Shrug. They’re at least two sizes too big. Begin to hate his 3 Days Grace shirt. Begin to realize you have his wardrobe memorized.

He tells you that you look sexy in jeans. Wear a skirt the next day. You hate skirts.

Cultivate a knowledge of empty parking lots. Begin to measure time by the digital clock on his dashboard, by the shifting green numbers marching past resolutely. in church, in math class, neon bacteria crawling along the peripheral of your gaze and the synapses of your thought.

Google “sex”. Google “Orlando Bloom”. Listen to romantic love songs from the 1950’s.

Consider writing to Dear Abby. Consider telling your 7th grade English teacher. Consider telling your parents. Sort of tell the girl at Rite Aid who sells you condoms with a slug of gum in her mouth and cleavage darkened by fluorescent lights.

Go out to dinner with Best Friend. Talk about school. Talk about movies. Best Friend pays the tip and asks whether you are alright, what’s going on, do you know that you’re smart and pretty and worth something, because after all, you deserve to be with someone who really loves you, and you know all this, right? Stare at the salt and pepper shakers. Ignore Best Friend’s calls for a few days. Best Friend always was a bitch.

Tape a picture of him above your desk. Throw it in the trashcan, write a list of his flaws, and hang that above the desk instead.

Renounce chick flicks. Better your film taste to Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarentino. Appreciate good cinema. Begin to understand the repetitiveness of the spectrum of human emotions.

Deconstruct love. Love is a thing of black-and-white movies and varicose-veined parents. Begin to see love as milky-eyed and wimpy, the old couple walking too slowly at the subway. That’s love.

Consider yourself morally superior. Consider yourself feminist. Get drunk.

Laugh when he tells you that he wants to kiss under the stars. Smile because he is genuine. Frown because he is genuine. Wonder when that began to bother you.

It’s his birthday. Consider baking him brownies and bringing them in. Decide not to.

Meet his girlfriend. Accidentally. Get paired for a science lab together. Measure the velocity of a model rocket. Play tic tac toe on the lab sheet paper. Can’t stop staring at her tongue.

Tell yourself that it’s high school. Tell yourself that it’s this town. Tell yourself that it’s the monotony of middle class existence.

Tell him that it’s over. He hugs you. Consent to hug him back even though it is tacky. Go out to dinner. The waitress thinks you two are on a date. He laughs quickly, and you remember the way he does that slight inhale before laughing.

Notice that he’s taking it very well. Look at him as he reminisces about that radio show you two went to. Admire his finding a PG memory to talk about. Admire the platonic way he hugged you earlier. Sort of admire the 3 Days Grace shirt you’ll never have to see again.

He asks apologetically if you can split the cost of the meal. Apparently your company doesn’t merit free food. Take your coat, your leftovers. Sort of take your pride. Walk out of the restaurant and to your car. Buy a box of Kleenex on the way home. Stay up all night crying. Apply lots of concealer the next morning. Give him a big, cheesy wave in the hallway for the next week.

Be casual.

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Emily B
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