The room spun as I plopped down on my bed. Still dressed in my royal blue and gold belly dancer outfit, I looked down at the beaded tassels scattered around me.
I hadn’t even waited to get out of my work clothes before opening that wine. The bottle of Shiraz that I was still holding was now empty. It slipped out of my hand but thankfully didn’t break. At least, I didn’t hear it shatter.
It wasn’t the first time I’d come home from work and immediately opened a bottle of vino. But this day had hit me particularly hard. It felt like I was drowning in sadness.
I didn’t even really know why.
Whenever I would sink into this place of melancholy, for some reason, my thoughts would always wander to Landon. I had no clue why after thirteen years, I was still thinking about that boy. Well, technically, he was a man now.
I forced myself up and stumbled over to my closet. After unzipping the black, canvas backpack, I dug inside, sifting through the dozens of notes he’d given me. Each was folded into a triangle. Choosing one at random, I opened it.
I wish I had as much arm hair as you.
P.S. Will you let me braid it?
My name is pronounced RAH-na, so Landon used to call me RAH-na Ba-NAH-na. For a short time in my life, he was everything to me.
At thirteen years old, I was a tomboy living with my parents in a converted garage on Landon’s parents’ property in Dearborn, Michigan. They’d turned it into a rentable apartment with a kitchenette and bathroom. I didn’t have much aside from the roof over my head and, well, the hair on my arms.
Whereas Landon’s dad was an executive at Ford, my father, Eddie Saloomi, worked at a bakery downtown and made just enough to make ends meet. My mother, Shayla, who was significantly younger than my father, never worked.
My parents’ marriage was arranged. Papa preferred that my mother stay home and take care of the house. In reality, all Shayla really did was cook the occasional meal in between trips to the mall to steal clothing from Macy’s. She’d also sneak calls to her boyfriend, who was closer to her age. I just remember my mother being miserable most of my childhood. I also remember thinking she was physically the most beautiful woman in the world. While Shayla had soft features, I had inherited my father’s nose and unibrow. I was also hairier than other girls my age. Maybe that was why Landon treated me like a boy. He certainly couldn’t have known that I had a crush on him. He also couldn’t have known that hanging out with him every day after school was what I had lived for.
My time at the Dearborn apartment was short-lived. Landon’s parents ended up kicking us out for defaulting on the rent, and I remember feeling like my entire world had come crashing down.
In two days, my father had packed up his old Toyota pickup and moved us to live with my grandparents across the state.
I never saw Landon again.
I had chosen not to say goodbye. He never came to say goodbye to me, either. I was so incredibly mad at him, feeling as though he could have done something to prevent the ouster. It was a horrible way to end things.
Over the years, I’d thought about Landon a lot. Never once had I considered looking him up or contacting him, though.
Why the urge all of a sudden on this random Thursday night? I had no idea.
I refolded the note and placed it back into the backpack. Stopping to look at myself in the mirror, I caught sight of my runny mascara. The heavy eye make-up brought out my green eyes just as my light olive skin accentuated my black hair. Despite the hot mess, I liked what I saw and hated feeling that way. But I’d worked damn hard to look like this. Of course, the alcohol had probably given me a false sense of confidence.
I wonder what you’d think of me now, Landon.
The one thing I knew for certain: he wouldn’t recognize Rana Saloomi if he saw her on the street.
I had my ideas about how Landon might have turned out, imagining he went to a great college, had a high-paying job, a beautiful wife or girlfriend. I imagined him happy. I imagined he never thought of me. I was obsessed with my image of Landon, and I couldn’t figure out why it mattered. It was all in my head, but somehow his happiness was a reflection of my unhappiness.
Despite my confusion over these lingering feelings for Landon, tonight, in my drunken fog, I was just angry. I wanted to talk to him. And no one sane was here to talk me out of it. I had myself convinced I would never have the confidence again. This was my one and only chance. Calling him tonight seemed more and more like a bright idea by the second.
Opening my laptop and clicking on Google, I searched Landon Roderick. A listing with that name came up in Los Angeles.
Was it even him?
If so, he probably wasn’t going to remember me. But I didn’t care. Unable to talk my inebriated self down, I needed to tell him off. I needed him to know how fucked-up it was—what his parents did. And I needed him to know that he was no better than me. Basically, I needed to say the things I had been yelling at him in my head all of these years.
I dialed the number and listened to the ringing.
A deep, gravelly voice came on the line. “Yeah…”
My heartbeat accelerated. “Is this Landon?”
“I’m sure you don’t remember me. Well, with your fancy California life and all.”
“You need to know something. I had feelings.”
“The fuck? What?” He repeated, “Who is this?”
“Maybe all I was to you was the pudgy, little tomboy with the bad haircut and the hairy arms—just the girl who lived in the garage. But I mattered. Not only that, I looked up to you. I looked forward to every day spent riding my bike in circles in the front driveway while you skateboarded around me. I still have all your damn folded notes. I don’t know why I even kept them. Meanwhile, I bet you don’t even remember who the hell I am. Nooo…not my-shit-don’t-stink Landon Roderick…in his L.A. mansion, too good to remember the little people. In case you’re wondering whatever happened to me, well, everything went to hell after we moved. My mother left us. And my life was never the same again. So, even though you don’t even remember who I am, I remember you. Sadly, the last time I was ever happy was with you.”