Sara parks her car in front of the bank and walks towards the playground situated right next to it. She sheepishly sits on the swing and kicks her feet off the ground and let her body sway against the wind. It’s 9pm now, so no one will judge her for playing in the swings in her 30s. Up and down her body goes. In and out her mind wanders. The cold October wind hits her face as she propels forward. She remembers, it was a night like this when they had their first kiss.
A night like this 10 years ago. That’s how long they’ve been together. She had just come out of a night class in the Peterson building. Her heart skipped a beat when she noticed a familiar shaggy, brown-haired figure waiting right outside the door. Michael’s face was barely visible under his thick scarf covering his neck and he was decked in layers of sweaters to defend against the chilly autumn breeze. He would sometimes wait for her after class and maybe he’d then walk her home. But this time, when she saw his flushing face and his hands tightly folded on his chest, she knew then that he meant more to her than a simple friend. This was a guy who withstood the chilly weather to walk her safely home tonight. As they walked towards the South dorm area, he lit a cigarette, but it was not his usual Dunhill Red.
“Is that a new brand you’re smoking?”
“Haha, have we been hanging out too much? You can tell the difference?”
He reached into his pocket and showed her a box. It was green in color, with a picture of a Native American Chief on it.
“American Spirits huh? Michael, it smells better than your usual.”
“It tastes better too,” and then with his usual cheeky grin, “you wanna taste it?”
Sara chuckles as she remembers that moment again. How weird youth is, so innocent yet impulsive at the same time. She remembers grabbing Michael’s scarf towards her and basically knocking her lips against his. Then immediately embarrassed, she pushed him away and walked hurriedly forward. She straight out sprinted when she heard Michael giggling from behind, going “That’s not how you taste things, Sara!”. Of course the next morning, he was already waiting in front of her dorm room with a huge grin on his stupid face. He held her hands as they walked to class that morning.
It was not in that class, but in freshman class Physics 101 that they first met. The professor was a gruff old Russian man whose accent was completely indecipherable, except when he mentioned the 3 words ‘exam’, ‘fail’ or ‘acceleration’. It was one of his usual dull morning classes and the professor was drolling on and on about inertia, when his voice cracked and it went comically high in an instant. It was so sudden that it was funny, and Sara let out an unintentional chuckle. Apparently no one else thought it was funny except the guy sitting in front of her, who also let out a loud “HAH”. As the professor shrugged and continued with his lecture, the guy turned his head back, his brown eyes twinkled as he looked at her, and he gave her a shy smile. That was how she met Michael and they started sitting together in class.
As friends they were inseparable. First it was their shared love for standup comedies. They would watch George Carlin, Mitch Fatel, Louis CK together, sometimes even share an earphone listening to comedy shows in the bus and giggling together. They also shared an obsessive love for tacos, and nearly every weekend was spent at their favorite Mexican joint, tacos on one hand and a can of Pabst Blue on the other. Any time else was spent studying, going for football games, cycling, watching movies, going for concerts etc. For Sara, every thing seems more fun with Michael around. It wasn’t long before they fell in love. Michael would always be around her, waiting for her after class, lunches and dinners together, he’ll accompany her shopping. Sometimes maybe he enjoyed it too much, especially when she dragged him to makeup stores and caught him just being amazed by the vast variety of eyeshadow colors. Many times he’d grudgingly watch a romance movie with her and secretly wipe a tear when the sad scenes come up (Notting Hill, the ultimate tearjerker for Michael). And he was so patient with her, when she’s upset or having a tantrum Michael is always the one to make her laugh, and when they finally dated he waited a year before she was ready to sleep with him.
The first time they slept together, it wasn’t so good. It was their second valentine’s day spent together (first as a couple), and they succumbed to whatever cultural pressure that dictates valentine’s day to be the hallmark event of a relationship. Sara remembers being so nervous she blanked out, only to be shocked by the pain. It was her first time, but not Michael’s. Even so, she remembers seeing him shaking and sweating from head to toe, and when she winced from the pain, he started panicking. He pulled out and when he saw the bloodstains on the sheet, his eyes opened wide in tears, and with both palms pressed against his forehead, he apologized and apologized and kissed her on the cheek and asked if she was okay, if it hurts, like a mother who dropped her child for the first time. They ended up doing nothing else that night. The second time was better and it didn’t hurt at all, she even took the reins that time. With him, she realized she liked it better being the dominant one, and Michael too seemed to prefer it, as long as she was happy. His hair, which he kept chin-length, was easy to grab and his flustered face was always so cute to watch. He was her best friend, boy friend, and lover, Sara felt so lucky to have him.
And so it was a shock to her when cracks started occurring in the relationship. Once they graduated, they decided to live together. At first it was so lovely to have someone she loves to come home to, cook dinner with, wake up with, do mundane housework together with. Then one night, she awoke to the sounds of Michael sniffling. When she realized he was actually crying next to her, she shut her eyes and pretended to still be sleeping. She felt his hands twirling her hair and quietly, he mumbled,
“Being with you, Sara, like this, is so hard.”
Gradually, things became more difficult. She noticed that he was very secretive about his things, his laptop, his files, phone, closet. He wouldn’t let her do his laundry or check his mails. He also became increasingly withdrawn and agitated around her, and started spending more time out of the house than in. Arguments between them, which used to so rare in college, became more frequent when they lived together. She remembers coming home to see Michael in a new haircut (since he works now, his hair had to be cut short), and happily told him he looked so handsome. He got irritated at her sight and said she was ‘insincere’, ‘a liar’,’ always bothering him’, which escalated into a fight… they ended up not talking to each other for 3 days.
There were suspicious signs around him; several time she would notice lipstick stains on Michael’s work shirt. One night out of curiosity, she looked into his phone
(she wasn’t proud of it) and saw that an unsaved phone number had sent 10+ pictures of nude women. She was so disgusted she confronted him immediately. Instead, Michael berated her for touching his stuff and left the house for days. Eventually he came crawling back and apologized and told her how much he loves her. And even if he cheated, what could Sara do? She loved him so much and they’ve been together for so long. She endured as long as he promised to never cheat on her again. The final straw came when she opened his work bag and saw a purple G-string in it, visibly used before. She lifted it up and threw it at his face. She remembers so clearly his face when he saw the underwear. It was a mix of sadness and guilt, but mostly tiredness. Michael looked at her and bit his lips, but he had no more energy to give any excuses. The last thing Sara said before she left the house that night was
“We’re done, Michael.”
We’re done, Michael…
Sara stumbles out of her daydreams and tosses her head towards the direction of her caller. A pretty, tall lady is waving at her outside the bank and Sara jumps out of her swings and gallops towards the lady.
“Maria, are you done with work?”
“Hmm um… Were you waiting long? Were you cold?”
Sara looks at Maria’s concerned face and never felt more in love. Her beautiful long brown hair sails against the wind and her eyelashes curtain her beautiful brown eyes. Her lips, as red as a cherry, curls into a pout and her well groomed eyebrows furrow in worry. Her makeup and clothes are impeccable. If she was ever tired from her 9-hour work in the bank, it does not show in her appearance. In Sara’s eyes, Maria is exquisite and lovely in every way.
Maria flicks her lighter and lights her cigarette. As she puffs her first smoke out, she notices Sara’s love stares and grabs Sara’s shirt towards her, planting a light kiss on her lips. She smiles cheekily and her deep voice bellows,
“So how does this one taste like?”
Sara rolls her eyes. Even as Maria, she’s still the same. She remembers the first time Maria appeared to her, it was the night Michael finally confessed to her about his desire to be a woman. Throughout their whole relationship, Michael had struggled with gender dysphoria and tried to keep it a secret from her. When Sara left the house, he ran after her and told her the truth, that the lipstick marks were his own when he wiped his face with his sleeves, the G-string was something he tried on, and the nude pictures? They were sample pictures sent by a plastic surgeon after a consultation they made for a gender reassignment procedure. She was shocked when he revealed the truth, but even more surprised by her own feelings, that remained unchanged at the sight of the sobbing man in front of her. The sobbing man who shook nervously as he told her how much he loved her, how scared he was that she’d leave him, how he wished things were different. Her boyfriend may be a woman, but he/she was still the same person she loved, and who had been beside her all these years, and whoever he is, she will accept and love him regardless. It was that same night that they came up with a new feminine name for him. Maria.
Now as she looks at Maria again, Sara realizes her love for this person has only grown in time. Is it because they’ve been together so long? Is it because Maria’s a woman now? Is Sara actually a lesbian? Who fucking cares, she thinks. Isn’t that what real love is, when you stop asking why you love the person, you just know you love them and you’re happy that this exquisite person loves you back. Sara squeezes Maria tightly and replies,
“I love any brand you smoke, now let’s go home”.
Well, when i saw the prompt, for some reason i thought of a beautiful trans woman and that’s how the story came up in my head. I envisioned it to be way shorter, but as i was working out in the gym i keep imagining the story in my head, and more and more details grew in the scenes i imagined. Looking at the length of it, i keep thinking that some scenes were unnecessary or some details can be omitted, but i still wanted to portray the story the way i thought about it in the gym haha. Anyway, i’ll continue to improve my writing and hope you enjoyed it. It wasn’t that dark right? Haha.