popcorn litters the counter beside and under the bowl

The Untrue lyrics are like a knife slicing pieces off his heart, Eric thinks as he listens to the song playing on the CD player in the common room. It might have been written expressly for Elsie. God, that Amelia can sure pick depressing songs. He thinks he might counter with Queen’s Somebody To Love, but then he decides against it. That might be too cruel.

In the kitchen, the air heats up and the popcorn kernels begin to rattle, then explode one by one. Amelia tucks a bowl under the outlet to catch the popped corn shooting out. Eric tries not to let the Untrue lyrics get to him. The butter is exploding so he shuts off the microwave before it can beep.

Eric says, “So we listen to depressing music.”

Amelia nods. “Yup. I pick, you pick. Having fun yet?”

Eric wonders, is it just this song, or will every break up song rip out his heart out now?

It’s starting to get to him but Amelia’s popcorn machine is going nuts. The popping is picking up and shooting popped corn kernels into the bowl with such force they are bouncing out, landing on the counter or the floor.

Eric and Amelia scramble to catch errant popcorn, with little luck. The comedy inherent in being pelted with flying popcorn removes some of the sting from lyrics that are just a touch too close to home. The laughter they’re sharing isn’t exactly something he expected from Amelia’s description of a ‘depression party’.

Finally the corn is all popped so Amelia pulls the plug. “That was an exercise in stupidity.”

“I have to tell you, your popper’s design kind of sucks.” he says as he opens the broom closet and pulls out the whisk broom to sweep the mess from the floor.

“Only kind of? Try massive fail. This is the first time I’ve used it. My mom didn’t think I would actually go off to college again without one, so she bought me this hunk of junk new.”

Eric asks, “Popcorn junkie?”

“Oh yeah, the worst.”

“Me too.” He dumps the dustpan contents in the trash. “Do we decide what movies the same way, you pick I pick?”

“Yeah, and the best part is we can whine about our love lives as much as we want.”

Eric cocks an eyebrow, “You know all about mine, but I am at a disadvantage since I have no idea what your problem is.”

Sighing, Amelia says, “Just the usual, unrequited love. He doesn’t know I exist.” She opens the cupboard and she gathers up a half dozen spice bottles– popcorn toppings.

“This is for the popcorn?” he asks in surprise.

Amelia drizzles melted margarine over the popcorn. “We can do this one of two ways. Pick one flavor. Or if you’re boring we could just sprinkle it with the salt. But the other way we can go is to dump a bit of each topping into these Chinese tea cups and then dip as desired. Kind of like popcorn dim sum.”

Eric laughs. “Popcorn dim sum. I love it.” As they pour toppings into the little cups, Eric says, “Tell you what– next time we do scratch toppings.”

“Oooh. A connoisseur!” Amelia laughs, “Looks like I’ve uncovered another popcorn junkie.”

Eric stacks the desert bowls and carries them in to the common room. He sets them out in a semicircle on the coffee table by the sectional sofa.

As the song fades down he crosses to the equipment stack and opens the DVD player, popping in a disk while Amelia opens the wine. She carries it out and sets the bottle beside the wine glasses and the popcorn, then flops down on half of the sectional. Eric flips through his CDs, selecting one before returning the Tim Lewis CD to its case so he can put on his own choice, guaranteed to rip her heart out. Time to get depressing.

“What’ve you got?” she asks.

“An oldie but goodie.”

Amelia begins to eat popcorn but it’s not long before she’s captivated by the lyrics of the song ‘Loneliness’, and stops eating, her hand poised above the bowl, staring up into nothingness as she listens to the words.

“Oh, this is good.” Amelia closes her eyes to feel the music.

Eric drops onto the adjacent sectional section.

“Told you.” But when he looks over at Amelia he is suddenly uncomfortable. There are actual tears trickling out of Amelia’s closed eyes. He wants to pat her shoulder or something. Watching Amelia’s tears flow as the words about hopelessness and the darkness in your heart pour out of the speakers, Eric wishes he’d chosen something else.

Finally unable to stand any more, Eric asks, “Are you Okay?”

Amelia sits up and shushes him and they sit in silence as the song plays out.

As the last note fades he says, “I’m so sorry I should have picked something else, I didn’t mean to.”

“No, that was perfect.” She brushes her eyes with her sleeve and says, “You did good. That’s the point!”

“What? I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“Shut up and hand me a tissue.” Eric passes her the box.

Amelia grabs a wad and blows her nose. He watches as she scrubs at her blotchy face and mops her eyes, then gives him an unexpected smile through her tears. “You surprised, me that’s all, Eric. Guys aren’t supposed to know about the really good depressing shit like this.”

“But I thought that’s what you wanted?”

“God, it was perfect. Whining about people we love, crying our eyes out, maybe interspersed with a bit of hysterical giggling– THAT’s what a depression party is for, it’s cathartic. You’re an English major, you know what cathartic means right?”

“Yes, I know what cathartic means.”

Munching on popcorn Amelia asks, “Who’s the singer?”

“Annie Lennox. She writes awesome lyrics. Hang on.” Eric jumps up and gets his PDA out of the CD box, passes it to her so she can read the words of the song they just heard.

“You’ve got all your favorite the lyrics on this?”

“Not all, but a lot. There are tons of lyrics online.”

“Huh. I didn’t know that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there stopping and starting a CD to get down all the words to a song I love. I mean look at this, they’re brilliant.”

“Yeah, powerful imagery. Sometimes I toy with the idea of writing song lyrics, ’cause lyrics are like the poetry of today.”

“I never thought about it before but that makes sense. ‘Poetry’ used to be huge but it sure doesn’t come across as being ‘cool’ nowadays.”

“Guys can’t admit we read or write poetry, but writing songs is acceptable. Only thing is, I’m not very musical.”

“If you’re good at picking songs with great lyrics, you might be good at writing them.”

“Thanks. So what do you think, isn’t it time? I think so.”

“Time for the first movie?”

“No, time to tell me why you are depressed.”

“But you’ve got a movie ready to go.”

“And it’ll stay ready. I’m not letting you off so easily. What’s getting you down?”

“It’s just the usual. Unrequited love shit.”

“Maybe you could get it requited?”

“Don’t be such a man.”

“What do you mean?”

“Trying to solve my problems. That’s a man thing.”

Eric says, “What I can possibly say to that? I hate to have to tell you this, but I am. A man, I mean.” His words just hang in the air for a minute.

Amelia nods. “Uh, I will admit that I have noticed you are in fact a man. Thing is, what I’m really looking for is a friend.” Amelia sees the frustration written on his face and tries again, “Look I’m not trying to drive you nuts, really. It’s just, how do I explain a depression party? It’s about just sharing feelings. We’re not trying to fix them, just to process the feelings and let them out.”

Eric says, “Wallowing, you mean.”

“Yes! Exactly. Except it sounds better when you call it catharsis. The thing is, it It helps make it easier to cope with all the crap. That’s why blubbering is good, though you don’t seem comfortable with that part.”

Eric says, “That would be a man thing.”

“I’m not trying to–”

“Yes you are, but it’s fine. I have an older sister. And she never actually talked to me about anything. The only time I ever saw her cry was when I think she’d just been dumped.”

“Oh, that’s so sad.”

Eric holds up a finger. “Just let me finish, Okay?” Amelia nods so he continues, “I heard her crying in her room. So, you have to understand, the rule was I wasn’t supposed to go in without permission but she was crying, and so I went in to give her a hug. But she threw her radio at my head, but I ducked and it hit the wall and smashed into a million pieces, which was apparently my fault too. My allowance was docked for months to pay for the new one.”

“But that’s not fair.”

“Yeah, well she told our folks that I broke it, and I didn’t realize until years later that it really wasn’t my fault. I mean, I made her mad, right?”

“How old were you?”

“First or second grade, I think. What’s that, six or seven or something? Guess I still don’t know how to deal with girls.” Seeing Amelia start to open her mouth he self corrects. “Women. You know I don’t do so well in the girlfriend department.”

“Oh, Eric, no one’s keeping score. It’s just, well, you can’t ‘fix’ feelings. You just have to live through them. And besides, your sister sounds like a bitch.”

“You got that right.” Eric grins. “So. What do I do to help?”
“Just listen, it works wonders.” She looks over with brows raised and he nods. “Okay. I’ll tell you. The guy wouldn’t know who I was if he tripped over me. But for some stupid reason, well, I just fell hard for him. I mean, he’s not even really that bright, which is unusual for me. Usually I get all hung up on brilliant geeky guys who don’t know I’m alive.”

“But not this time?”

“No this time I’m just hung up on a drop dead gorgeous guy who doesn’t know I’m alive.”

“I can see where that might be a problem. So,” he glances over at her, “I’m not allowed to ask why you don’t ask him out?”

Amelia giggles. “Am I that bossy?”

Eric nods, “Understatement.”

Amelia laughs. “It isn’t gonna work that way. If we’re gonna be friends I guess I can’t give you a hard time for being a guy. Do-over. You can do or say whatever you want to do or say.”

“Gee thanks.”

“Da nada.”

“So why don’t you just ask the guy out?”

“Because he’s carrying a torch for someone else. And it is huge, his torch, I mean. For me, well, I’ve got a crush. Unrequited, the oldest snub in the book. A couple of depression parties and I’ll be over him. But he’s just so fixated on her he doesn’t even see any girls except her. And here I am still hung up on the guy even knowing that. I mean how pathetic is that?”

“Let me grab the chocolate and we can watch a movie.”

“Chocolate? You know about chocolate?”

“Oh yeah, you need chocolate at a depression party. Gotta keep those endorphins flowing.”

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