For the rest of the week, I couldn’t stop thinking about my future with Kevin. My remaining time in Jamaica was getting shorter and shorter, and I was dreading the moment when things ended between us. How was he going to end things with me? Would he act like nothing was wrong as he saw me off at the airport, then just never return my calls or emails? Would he sit me down one night and tell me that it had been fun but that it was over? And how would I react? Would I keep my cool, or would I cry and grovel like a fool?
And for the rest of the week, there remained that unspoken tension between us. I was unusually quiet, and Kevin clearly noticed it, but continued to ignore it, and pretend that nothing was wrong. So our time together consisted of forced conversation on his part, and monosyllabic replies on my part. I had gotten to the point where I was purposely mute, because I wanted to see how long he really intended to act like nothing was wrong.
“Now Nadiya,” Adrianne counselled me on Friday, “there’s one person that you know you can talk to about Kevin, someone who has his ear, but who will be honest with you as well. Don’t you think you should give Lily a call?”
“I don’t know, Adrianne. What’s the point in calling her? I heard what he said, plain as day. Am I asking her to try to change his mind? That’s pathetic!”
“No, not change his mind…exactly,” she replied reluctantly. “But maybe tell you why he’s not willing to do long distance.”
“I don’t think it matters why, does it? All that matters is that he’s not willing to try. That he doesn’t think this relationship is worth trying.”
“Come on, Nadiya, maybe it’s something that you guys can get around. Just call her, OK?”
I was silent for a second. I didn’t want to appear pathetic, but at the same time, I was pathetic in my desire for things to work out between me and Kevin. Oh, what do I have to lose? I’m leaving anyway. If I never see her again, then who cares if she and Kevin sit around laughing afterward about what a loser I am?
“OK, fine, I’ll call her,” I answered grumpily. “But don’t expect any miracles out of it.”
“I’m not expecting miracles, I just don’t think this is the end for you and Kevin just yet! Call me back after you talk to her, alright?”
Despite agreeing to call Lily, I procrastinated for another hour before picking up the phone. I was dreading having her confirm what I’d heard, and having her confirm that there was no hope for us.
Lily sounded happy to hear from me when she answered the phone, but she could quickly tell something was wrong by the tone of my voice.
“Everything OK, Nadiya?” she asked, sounding concerned. “You don’t sound your usual self.”
“Well, actually…no. Things aren’t OK at all. Specifically, things with Kevin.”
She was silent for a second, which told me that she wasn’t totally surprised at what I’d said. “Has something happened?” she asked cautiously.
“I overheard him talking at his cousin’s wedding last weekend. He was saying that he doesn’t want to do long-distance. That Canada is really far away, and that he and I are done once the school year is over.” I tried not to choke up as I said it. “So I guess I was just calling to see…has he said anything to you?”
I didn’t even know what I wanted from Lily, I think I wanted her to save the day again and tell me that it wasn’t true, and that the person I’d heard talking was actually a long-lost twin of Kevin’s who also was dating a Canadian girl. But she didn’t. “He has,” she answered miserably. “He told me the same thing recently when I asked what was going to happen to you guys when you leave. He said that you’ll both be too busy with school for it to really work. I’m sorry to have to tell you that, Nadiya. But I don’t want to lie to you.”
“I expected you to say that. I just wanted to know.” I tried to sound light and unbothered, but I knew I instead came off sounding slightly crazy.
“So it sounds like the two of you haven’t talked about it! He doesn’t know you heard him talking at the wedding?”
“No, he doesn’t. And let’s keep it that way,” I added hurriedly and firmly. “Please don’t say anything to him. We’ll talk about it on our own time, I don’t want him to know I overheard him, or about this conversation either.”
She was silent again.
She sighed loudly. “OK, OK, I won’t say anything. But what do you want, Nadiya? Do you want to try to stay with him?”
I couldn’t lie to her either. “Yes. I do.” I paused. “I really do. But a long-distance relationship can’t be built on one person. If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t want it. And I certainly am not going to try to force him.”
“But maybe if you tell him how you feel-”
I cut her off. “We’ll talk about it when we talk about it, Lily.” I didn’t mean to be rude, but there was just nothing more to be said.
“OK, I understand.” She sounded mournful. “He really does love you, you know that, right? He just thinks that it will be way too hard because of how far away it is, and how busy school is for him…”
“Well, at the end of the day, he’s probably right. Kevin’s a smart guy. Anyway, thanks for talking to me, Lily, and please don’t say anything.” After promising me again that she wouldn’t, we got off the phone.
I’d promised Adrianne I would call her back, but I just couldn’t do it. There was just nothing more to be said.
I turned my light off in my room so that nobody would come knocking and just lay on my bed staring out the window. My year had been going so great but then things had gotten so difficult lately. First, there had been the robbery, which had left me on edge for weeks. Before that, I had been floating around in a bubble of naïveté about the paradise that I thought Jamaica was, and the gunmen had harshly, quickly and unforgettably burst that bubble. They’d forced me to the realization that Jamaica wasn’t for me after all. Then I had gotten into a fight with Adrianne, which thankfully didn’t last long, but which had still been no fun. And what had stayed with me from that fight was when she had told me I wasn’t a Jamaican. For some reason that had been really painful for me to hear, despite coming to that realization on my own before. And now, the last straw, Kevin wanted to end our relationship once I went back to Canada. But I’d always known I could never have more than a fling in Jamaica, I now had no plans to come back, and it would be years before he could be free to move. So why was I so upset? What had I expected? What was it that I wanted anyway? What was I supposed to learn from all this? I was completely confused.
It was only seven o’clock but I just didn’t want to think about anything anymore. All I was doing as I lay there was getting myself more and more sad and confused. I decided to try to make myself fall asleep and get all of these thoughts out of my mind, at least until the morning. My body was obviously exhausted because, despite my racing thoughts, I fell asleep almost instantly.
But I didn’t stay asleep for long. At seven forty-five, my phone rang. For a second, I had no idea who I was or what was going on, but I got it together in time to answer the phone before my voice mail came on. I hadn’t even had the wherewithal to look at the caller ID.
“Wow, you sound groggy, Nadiya,” Kevin said after my hello. “Were you sleeping?”
I realized then that I’d completely forgotten we were supposed to be hanging out that night. I had halfheartedly suggested it the night before, and Kevin had halfheartedly agreed. “Yeah, I just took a little nap, but I’m waking up.”
“Are we still on for tonight?” I wondered if he’d be relieved if I said no. Maybe he was secretly hoping that we would just grow apart from even before I left, just spend less and less time together until our relationship faded away into nothingness. My pride wanted me to cancel, but I was still hungry to see him as much as I could while I still could.
“Yeah, we’re still on,” I sighed, sitting up and switching on my bedside lamp. “What do you want to do?”
“You want to rent a movie?” I wasn’t at all surprised. With a movie, there wouldn’t be as much opportunity to talk. The silence between us wouldn’t be as deafening with a movie playing to fill the void.
“Sure, why not. I can be ready in about half an hour. Is that OK?”
“Alright, cool. I’ll call you when I’m near.” Just like that, no small talk, no joking around, and the conversation was over.
And that’s how it was for the rest of the night. When he picked me up, we listened to blaring loud music on the ride to the video store that precluded any chance of conversation. In the video store, we didn’t have our usual banter and debate about which movie to watch. I suggested one that I knew he wouldn’t be in to, just to see what he would say, but he agreed to it right away. The ride back to his house was another test of the strength of my ear drums, and then he started the movie almost as soon as we got there.
OK, this is starting to get ridiculous. I was getting mad sitting there on the couch. I knew why I wasn’t saying much these days, but he didn’t even know I’d overheard him! He had no reason to be acting cold to me! Is he that much of a coward that he’s really going to try to end our relationship this way? I was silently seething as I sat there. Even though I was staring at the screen, I was completely missing the movie.
After about twenty minutes, he sighed quietly, pressed pause, and reluctantly asked, “Everything OK? You’re kind of quiet. You’re not laughing at any of the funny parts in your movie.”
“Neither are you,” I shot back.
He shrugged. “Well, this isn’t my type of movie. But you picked it, so I thought you would at least find it funny.”
“So if you didn’t want to watch it, why didn’t you say so?” I snapped. “You could have spoken up at the store but you didn’t. You’ve barely said anything all night. Or all week for that matter.”
He looked uncomfortable as he said, “I’m sorry. I’ve just been stressed out with school, that’s all.”
Even if I hadn’t overheard what he’d said at the wedding, I would have known he was lying. He just wasn’t very good at it. For a second, I thought about calling him on it. But then, what was the point? I wasn’t ready yet to force him to break up with me.
“OK. Sorry, I didn’t realize that school was getting to you lately.”
“So…is that why you’ve been being quiet lately, because I was?” He wouldn’t look me in the eye as he asked the question. Who knows, maybe if he had, I would have been honest with him. But I was just too proud to do it. If he couldn’t look me straight in the face and admit to me that he saw no future for us, that he was just biding his time before he got his life as a single guy back, I certainly wasn’t going to out of nowhere start begging him to stay with me, or trying to convince him that a long-distance relationship could work. He doesn’t really want to know why I’ve been quiet. He’s just asking because he thinks he has to.
I nodded and tried to put a somewhat realistic-looking smile on my face. “Yeah, it was just that. Let’s get back to the movie.”
He un-paused the movie, and from then on, we both made an effort to laugh at the funny parts. I’d never felt so insincere in my life.