On the way home you take the long route, through loveless lane. It was Love Lane once - Lester-Laura Love Lane, as the both of you used to say, with your arabian coffee and aunty may's scones - but now it's only loveless.
On the other side of the street you see a girl with a bunch of roses, red like a beautiful blood stain on her cream dress. The boy whose arms are around her waist whispers love in her ear, and they smile in giddy glee as they turn their backs to you and walk into the coffee house, leaving behind a trail of sweet pure honeymoon milk that all too soon turns into yellow sour staleness in your heart. You remember how that felt, the honeymoon phase of overpowering sweetness sprinkled with pretty phrases and forevers.
(what you don't see is that thirteen days later she says look nick i'm sorry but actually, i just got dumped by bryan and needed a rebound and a date for valentine's day. but you do know that i'm not the kind who's serious about things like that, right? so i hope you don't feel too bad about this. i just needed someone for a while, but i'm okay now, so yeah thanks. and nick watches her walk away in the same cream dress, and wonders if she remembers the night they made love in the park. if nothing was real about this then what on earth was she thinking then?)
You pass by the Italian restaurant and your sixteen-year-old junior walks out, with her boyfriend number three hundred and seventy-something and that chanel bag and the lovely killer heels. Pretty Boy kisses her porcelain cheek and she laughs her flirty laugh and as they wait for a taxi their flirting verges on obnoxious. They're both very good-looking, dripping with cash, a little flushed from that good wine, both not serious but looking for a pretty thrill.
(what you don't see is the steak she forced back up her throat in the toilet and her obsession with make-up, because she knows it's her face and her figure that gets the expensive boys, that gets the cash and the expensive gifts, that gets the expensive boys... and nobody will ever recognise her when she works at taka on saturdays, because she's got no make-up on then, and beneath the slabs of foundation and concealer and eyeliner is a dry pimply small-eyed plea.)
You make yourself walk past that shady alley, because you just have to, even though you know you'll see things you don't want to see. There, there's a couple making out like there's no tomorrow. Hands tugging at hair and jeans. Almost violent, those wild mouths, sucking teasing moaning. All that passion in a dirty alley. All you couples, get a room for goodness' sake.
(what you don't know is that they aren't a couple - just two broken-hearted friends, losing themselves in an attempt to satisfy their thirst for lips and legs and of overwhelming lust, and a hunger that reaches deeper into the soul - for love, acceptance, a hunger to know they mean something in this world. twenty minutes later they break away and break apart, because their thirst is satisfied but the hunger pangs scream out in longing; they get what they want but not what they need.)
You reach home, where all the single kids are hiding. Mum and Dad are out and you don't want to think about your sister and her candlelight dinner. You go onto Facebook. Someone you once knew just posted a picture of herself in her boyfriend's college tee holding a bunny soft toy. She's in her boyfriend's room. And he's right behind her in a singlet making the heart sign with his hands.
You've had enough of this lovey-dovey overload.
(what you don't know is that she's been living with him for the past three weeks. her house is a hell-hole, dad's always either drunk and shouting or asleep if he's ever home at all. and when he comes back she can tell because the shouts - slurry dad, exasperated mum - continue for at least half an hour, before something shatters and mum storms out. three weeks ago she decided this was not the way any child should live. she ran while mum was out to escape the hell-hole herself and dad was in his slurry drunken stupor.)
You go to bed in tears of loneliness and think, it's always me. Everyone's so blissful and happy and the world forgot about me. Why am I the only one who gets misery.