Early May, a week before the end of Jules’ first year of college.
One question runs through my mind as I stare at page—I don’t even know. It’s a notebook. I think it’s got a solid three hundred pages, so, where I’m at right now, it’s maybe two hundred and something? How did I even manage to fill this whole thing in a single semester? There’s no way we learned this much. I definitely didn’t.
And, more importantly, what if I just stopped studying right now? That’s the question that keeps flashing in my mind like a bright neon sign. If it’s the difference between a solid A and a B+ on this final, I might just take the B+. I’ve done well enough that everything else should cushion that. Because, fuck, I’m so over this.
One of my textbooks for Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Research Methods sits next to me on my bed with the aforementioned pages of notes on top of it that might as well be some alien language at this point the way my brain’s refusing to process any of it. More books and my laptop are spread out on my desk, ready for me to get into later. As little as I’m looking forward to it.
Mat knocked out a while ago. His head rests on my thigh, and his quiet snores mix with one of the songs from the sun emoji, yellow heart emoji playlist I made for him over a year ago that’s become a go to for us when we’re just hanging out. I mindlessly graze my fingers across his bare chest and fiddle with the small vial hanging from a gold chain around his neck containing a tiny grain of rice with my name etched on it.
I could’ve been napping with him. As much as I wanted to forget about studying for a couple more hours and be my boyfriend’s little spoon, I did the responsible thing. But now I’m still tired and concentrating is becoming harder to do. I’m reaching for anything I learned in this class between January and right now, and . . . yeah, very little.
I need to try. Just fifteen more minutes. I can do that.
I already wasted too much time. I mean, well, not wasted. The time was put to good use. My roommate left Friday for his older sibling’s graduation and won’t be back until late tonight, so Mat and I have been making the most out of our privacy. A couple times over. And then a couple more times after that.
And it’s really difficult to fight the want (need, if I’m being honest) to just throw the book aside and wake up my boyfriend for another round, but I have to stay strong. Survive the next five days and I’ll be out and staying with Khan and Ruben for a few weeks before heading back to Corpus Christi for the rest of the summer. I’ll have more personal space, no roommate—as much as I really love Dillon and we’re already talking about how we’re going to set up our room next year—and no communal bathroom. And, most importantly, I won’t have to worry about anyone walking in on me in a very compromising position with my boyfriend (sorry, Dillon). I’ll take Ruben’s sassiness any day over sharing showers with an entire floor of LMU students.
A solid five minutes of doing a half-assed job of studying goes by before feeling Mat move, his body stretching, his arms reaching up into the air all without ever opening his eyes. He mumbles something barely understandable but enough for me to catch it and know he’s asking me “What time is it?” in Vietnamese.
I raise my phone, a picture of us from when we skipped class to spend a whole day on Santa Monica Beach for our first Valentine’s Day together is displayed with the time and date.
“Almost nine thirty,” I tell him. “You staying here tonight or going back to UCLA?”
“I should probably go back,” he answers, a lot of reluctance in his voice. “Walk me out?”
A reason to take (another) study break is something I’ll gladly say yes to. Even if it’s because my boyfriend’s leaving me and even if we’ve got to put on the rest of our clothes now when I’m already pretty comfortable sitting here being used as a pillow.
We walk hand-in-hand from my room all the way out the door of my residence hall, but as soon as we’re outside, Mat’s hand pulls away from mine, and he comes up from behind me and wraps his arms around my stomach. He holds onto me, staying just like that as we keep walking to his car, and I know we’ve got to look ridiculous like this, laughing and nearly tripping over ourselves. Acting like we weren’t constantly all over each other the last forty-eight-and-then-some hours.
“Let’s go for a drive?” he says when we reach his car and he finally lets go, walking over to the passenger side and opening the door for me. “I’m craving a donut.”
“I have to study, cariño.”
“You’re gonna ace that exam. We both know this. Spend one more hour with me,” he whines, grabbing my hand and pulling me to the open door. “C’mon, baby. I probably won’t see you again until your finals week is over.”
I groan, acting like I wasn’t already going to say yes the second he said donuts and even more so when I felt my knees going weak hearing him call me baby. “Fine, okay. Donuts. But that’s it.”
“Last time you said that you were the one that had to stop at that taco stand in the Ralph’s parking lot.”
“They were really good tacos! I don’t have time for that tonight, though. So, donuts only. That’s it.”
We sit on the sidewalk in front of California Donuts. In the exact same spot we’ve spent an hour, sometimes two, so many times this year. I grab my Mexican hot chocolate donut and Mat takes his usual Fruity Pebbles one from the plastic container.
“Hold yours out next to mine. Let me get a picture of them,” I tell him before he takes a bite. That turns into a few selfies and a few more sugary kisses. I pass him the bottle of milk we’re sharing and rest my head on his shoulder. His free hand wraps around my waist and the other holds his donut close, offering me a bite before he finishes the rest.
Moving from Corpus Christi, Texas to Los Angeles, California was my dream. Even before Mat slid into my DMs nearly two years ago, a lot of me thought that every single one of my problems would be fixed with a hop off a plane at LAX. It was idealistic of me, I can admit that, and I’ve had to work on being more of a realist. Finding my place here.
And it hasn’t all been easy. College courses can be no joke. I miss my family. I miss Xo always knowing exactly what I need, even before I do, and Güelo and how he always smells like smoke and wood. And all the friends who are basically family that I left behind. Not having Jordan and Itzel and Rolie and Lou and Piña to walk to class with or eat lunch with or spend the afternoon at the beach with or play soccer with has been a big adjustment. Starting all over with no friends was scary. Figuring out who Los Angeles Jules is has sometimes been stressful and, even with an amazing boyfriend and his amazing family, lonely at times.
Even my relationship with Mat has had a couple bumps. If I thought that being in the same city as him meant we’d see each other twenty-four/seven, my classes and his classes and all his biology and public health organizations and me joining an intramural soccer team and both of us joining fraternities definitely made it clear that I had the wrong idea. And we’re nineteen, figuring ourselves out and what we want as people and where we see ourselves in four years (Mat’s vision board with PhD pamphlets for UCLA and Stanford and whole checklists make it very clear that he has a better idea of what that looks like than I do) can ignite, even if barely, that idea of what if who I am tomorrow doesn’t include him?
But every day I wake up so glad to be his boyfriend. To be the person he says “I love you” to. Who gets to have all of him. Who gets to be his person. And we’re lucky that, even as we’ve grown as two separate people, we’re still equally sure that the direction we’re growing is toward each other.
“Babe,” Mat says, grabbing my hand. “Where’d you go?”
“I—sorry. Thinking. What’d you say?”
“I got our tickets for LA Pride next month. And Khan, Ruben, and Tien were wondering if we want to go to WeHo and Long Beach Prides. Also, I was thinking we should do glitter body paint.”
I laugh, because obviously he wants glitter body paint. “You’re serious?”
“Everyone does it. Like, no one goes to these things fully dressed. I’ll do red, orange, and yellow, and you can do green, blue, and purple.”
One hour becomes two. I buy us another donut and we talk more. As if we haven’t spent every minute this weekend together. But I had to wait almost a whole year to be able to do something as simple as sit around at a donut shop with my boyfriend. I don’t think I’ll ever rush these things.
Dropping me off turns into making out in Mat’s car. I didn’t need much convincing from him to take a few more minutes of letting every responsibility outside the vehicle fade into nonexistence. I finally manage to push myself back from Mat’s lips, barely holding firm to my decision to head back to my room and study for a couple more hours, knowing I’m only seconds from deciding that the backseat of his car sounds like a better option.
“I’ll be back with Khan, Ruben and Ba on Saturday to move you out.”
“Okay. Don’t forget,” I say.
“We’ll be here first thing in the morning. Or I can spend the night Friday if you aren’t doing anything with Dillon and everyone. I don’t mind letting them have you for a while longer if I get you to myself for a few weeks afterwards.”
We stay locked onto each other’s eyes. My hand behind his head brushes through his hair and fingers graze over the skin of his neck. I’m not ready to have to wait an entire five days to see him again.
“Go study, babe. Kick some final exam ass.” Mat kisses me one more time. “But, before you go, tell me you love me,” he says with a smirk.
It’s been two hundred and fifty-nine days since I got on a plane, by myself, with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, California.
My first year at Loyola Marymount is almost over. A week of finals, a few hours getting all my stuff out, and I will officially be a college sophomore. Last August I was wondering if I’d be able to make new friends (I did), and if I’d find breakfast tacos as good as Texas breakfast tacos (I didn’t), and if Los Angeles would ever feel like home (it does; very much so). Back then, I couldn’t be certain that Mat and I would still be together in ten months time.
And to that, honestly, I think I could spend every moment I have left repeating those three words to him over and over again. To the boy who slid into my DMs. Who offered support and encouragement from the moment we met. Who believed in the idea that no number of miles should come in between what we want as long as we were willing to put in the effort. Who, at one point, told me I deserved all the happiness in the world and has since become a huge source of that happiness.
I know we’re young and there’s still so much to experience and go through, but I want to do all those things with him. I know that he’s the love of my life, and in every way he looks at me and holds onto me and says my name and babe and baby and anh yêu em I know that I’m his.
I’ll tell him I love him as long as he’ll let me as many times as he wants.
But, also, there’s something appealing about not giving him that satisfaction just yet.
“Tell me you love me first.”