Mark

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By Ryan Perdio

I attended a birthday party. Selena turned 21. At first her colleague, I became her friend. And not long after, I was adopted into her circle of friends as one of their own. I’m the oldest in a bunch of early twenty-somethings. An interesting group that is tightly-knit but at the same time with separate groups within the whole. They’re a lot of fun, still striking the balance of burgeoning responsibility that comes with adulthood with the innate call of childish rebellion.

I shouldn’t have been but I was surprised when I saw Mark sitting with the rest of them. He noticed me arrive and stole a quick glance. We exchanged looks and as quickly as our eyes met, he turned away, pretending to be suddenly interested in the wall in front of him.
He must still think of that night.

It was a balmy summer’s evening when it happened. A group trip to the park, a few shots of vodka and a late-night round of board games, eventually saw Mark too tired and too drunk to make his way home. Despite offers by friends for a ride, he’d insisted on staying over at mine. I thought it was odd, since we weren’t that particularly friendly with one another. But I didn’t mind. I had room. Instead of sleeping on the couch, however, he ended up on my bed. We slept but not before other things happened.

“Please don’t tell the others about this,” he said when I dropped him home in the morning.

I sensed that he was worried.

“It’s okay, you know.” A reassurance.

“Still, please don’t tell anyone.”

“Tell them what?” I joked in mocked confusion. He smiled.

Almost a year later and I found myself trying to avoid Mark for most of the evening. He kept looking, subtle but ever so conspicuous. And it happened more as he drank more. Inevitably, we found ourselves facing each other on the dancefloor.

“How are you, Mark?”

“Okay, I guess…”

We danced to the beat, swayed to the music. He kept looking around, as if searching for something, but in truth he was trying to avoid eye contact. I did the same and noticed the disco ball slowly revolving above us.

“So, I was wondering…”
I turned to him, anticipating what he was about to say.
“…how you’ve been keeping?”
“Okay too, I guess.”
“I see.” A beat. “Can I call you sometime?”
“Oh.”

I’m surprised by his question. It was the last thing I was expecting. We hadn’t seen nor spoken to each other since that night. It was as if it had never happened. Part of the reason, I assumed, was Mark’s reluctance and inability to admit to himself the truth about what he truly felt deep inside. Or the fact that what had happened between us was more than just a one-time experience. Or, drunken or not, that it wasn’t he who instigated things. Or worse still, that he didn’t enjoy it.

And now, here he was. Initiating something once again.

“I guess you can call me…”

“But?”

“But I’m seeing somebody.”

The look of worried anticipation on his face changed. Deflated.

“I see.”

I smiled at him, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. But if it doesn’t work out… will you call me?”

“Sure. Okay.”

He excused himself to go to the toilet and for the rest of the evening, we didn’t dance or talked to each other again.

(For comments or feedback, email rperdio@rocketmail.com)

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