Sitting thigh by thigh in a cold college dorm, I had to get rid of the Beast of Burden.
Her eyes bore into the computer screen in front of her, highlighting and deleting passages of mine that she deemed "awk". We had wrapped ourselves in cheap polyester blankets, the kind you buy wrapped in loose plastic bags, hand taped together from a hole in the wall Latino market. My fingers gripped the spiked hot chocolate I had made the night before and reheated in the microwave. I nudged the cup towards Mary urging her to take a sip. She spared me a glance and took one, returning it to me before editing once again. Mick Jagger's voice weeped through tin laptop speakers, filling the room's studio interior, enhancing my own on coming migraine.
"Can you turn the music down? My head's feeling kind of weird," I said.
"Yeah one sec," she responded.
Mouse moves pixel by pixel. Highlight, delete, capitalize,highlight, ((awk)). Mouse moves to file. Click, save, exit. The music stops. My eyes were closed, my teeth were clenched, the Baileys didn't help and neither did midterms.
"Migrane?" she asked.
I managed a jerked nod. The hot chocolate was out of my hand and the pill bottle was in.
"Here," she said.
I didn't want a take it, my system wasn't up for anything coming in or out, and I was being stupid. I could feel her rolling her eyes. The bottle was out, the top was off, and her fingers were in my mouth. I startled.
"What the fuck are you doing?" I asked.
Her fingers were still in my mouth and the words were jumbled, there was a pill in there too. She slammed my mouth shut like you do with a dog, holding it closed until I was forced to choke it down. I felt violated but in a way that screamed familiarity in a nonviolent environment.
"You weren't gonna take the pill," she explained.
"Maybe not at that exact moment, but it was an Advil not a cyanide capsule, I would have taken it eventually."
"You needed to take it now though, the headache was just going to get worse."
She wasn't getting it, but when was the last time that she did? It was passive aggression seeping into genuine affection and it got fucking tiring. I unwrapped myself from the blanket, getting up from the bed and taking back my laptop.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Because I'm pissed that you forced a pill down my throat when I said I didn't want to take it!"
She unwrapped herself too, the cold room seeming to be burning and freezing simultaneously. I shoved on a shoe, she crossed her arms and tapped her foot like some goddamn teacher annoyed by a mouthy troublemaker. She didn't say anything, just tapped her foot in a manner so irritating I had to stop myself from slamming my own on top of it. When she didn't continue her thought I whipped my head up to look at her, migraine on the verge of worsening from the sudden movement.
"What?" I snapped.
"You're seriously angry at me for helping you?" she asked.
"Yes, I am. You're controlling. You always have been, but it's gotten to the point that being your friend almost doesn't seem worth it. I need to work on my own for a while."
I got the other shoe on and stormed over to the door.
"Hey," she called. My hand stopped at the handle. "You're welcome for editing your shitty thesis, bitch."
I smiled, bitterness staining my gums.
"Thanks a lot, asshole," I finished.
The door slammed shut behind me.
My feet were hurting' but I could only hope I was her Beast of Burden, and not the other way around.