December 22, 2007

The following Monday morning, Joel walked into Maths class and looked towards Layla’s desk. Yes! She’s back!


A number of class-mates surrounded Layla as she shared the story of the untimely death of her adopted sister Tahirih; the young family left behind; the funeral in Melbourne. The girls all hugged Layla and the boys awkwardly expressed their sorrow for her troubles.


Joel hung back listening whilst Layla was in company. He had wondered why Layla hadn’t been in school or seen since their intimate jog. So that was it then. The cause of his unraveling turned out to be a tragic event. He felt bad and selfish. He wished she could have felt close enough to confide in him. He could have comforted her.


Last week, after leaving Layla at the busy intersection, he had been in some sort of spiritual ecstasy. ‘She likes meeeee’. This had sustained him highly throughout the night but when he awoke, about five, his ecstasy had drained, replaced by feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.


He liked to look at Layla, the hhmmmm hottest girl in the world, and had played out as many night time fantasies on her as he could muster, but she wasn’t supposed to pop out of the page and interact with him in real life. Certainly not in the forceful way she had. He really didn’t feel good enough for her.


He had been quite happy compartmentalizing fiction Layla and flesh Layla. But why would she be behaving like this to him? Did she really like him or was she taking the piss? She couldn’t like him. If she looked too closely she would see all his blemishes and realize her mistake. If she kissed him unawares she would be disgusted by his breath and chuck up. Maybe she was just being friendly in her own way and he was mistaking the signals?


Whatever the case, her friendliness or pushiness had caused his inner and outer worlds to inconveniently and disturbingly collide. He had to bring some order back to their orbits. He had gone into school to face his demons. And when she wasn’t there… well, he had no way to tune out his turmoil so the anxiety had put down roots and immobilized him during the week and through the week-end.



“I’m so sorry to hear about your sister Layla”


Still seated, Layla turned her head back to look at Joel and he rejoiced in the instant brightening and saddening of her face.



“Well, not my sister exactly Joel. Tahirih lived with us as far back as I can remember. She was the same as a sister. But thank you so much for your kindness Joel.”


Layla paused in thought before getting out of her chair and slinking towards Joel with a gathering lecherous shaping to her face. ‘Oh God no’ thought Joel ‘No’. Unable to find it within himself to enact his initial urge to flee from the mourning maiden Joel shakily stood his ground. Layla clasped her arms around his neck abrasively in a V-like extension and poured her body onto his tighter than lego. ‘Very unfair, this is just wrong’ thought an embarrassed and offended Joel. Layla whispered in Joel’s ear.



“Do you know what I want? You know what I’d really like to do Joel? What would make me feel good?”


Joel, feeling disappointed, dirty, insulted and humiliated was in no position to answer. His brain was blocking this whole experience, well at least dulling it. It was ironic though; this scene was almost identical to a fantasy this same brain had been working on for short car journeys and church readings.



“I need a game of footy. Just a kick-about. It’ll get the poisons from my system. Please Joel, pleeeaaassee?”


Footy eh? Okay. That’s interesting. The visual situation in the classroom was still a tad bizarre but now Joel had some plausible deniability. Woman, mad with grief seeks refuge. Joel solidly stands by her. Can work with that.


[Joel, softly rubbing an arm on Layla’s back says loudly and publicly]:

“It’s okay, Layla, it’s okay. Yes, why not, let’s have a couple of kicks of the footy after school. Alright guys, we’re having a kick-about later. All welcome, everyone. Let’s have a bit of fun.”


Privately, Joel remained entirely unconvinced of his worth and Layla’s motives.


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