Jimmy Would Get Jeaouls

I’m going through my collection of CD’s—A Pentatonix Christmas, Mariachi Cobre, Tim McGraw—when a small paper book bound by two orange ribbons with a water-color picture of pink and coral flowers ornamenting the front falls from the shelf. It was made for me by one of my roommates, Saki.

I flip through the small handmade booklet. Inside is a list of all my favorite things. There’s dressing up, stuffed animals, grilled cheese sandwiches, the marigolds my mother let me pick out and plant in our front yard back home, the cloudy swirling pattern milk makes when you pour it really slowly into water, and writing my middle name in cursive because I love all the loopty-loops I get to do with my pen. Ellen. It’s my grandma’s name and it’s perfect. There’s dark chocolate, the color orange, and talking to Jimena.

Before Saki, there was Jimena. Jimena came into my life my freshman year of college. When I moved into my freshman apartment, I took her out of her place in my hot pink backpack with the elephant key chains, and placed her on my t-shirt-quilt-adorned bed. I couldn’t sleep without her. One night when my roommates were out, I fell asleep holding her on the couch. When my roommate Saki came home I felt her stroke Jimena’s head, running her hand down her trunk. “She’s so cute,” I heard her say, and wondered whether she was talking about me or Jimena.

Whenever we watched a movie, Jimena would watch too. I’d tuck her under my left arm and she would watch and listen and keep me warm and happy. And then Saki would sit on my right. She kept me happy, too. I met Saki my second day in the apartment and you could say we had hit it off well. Well, see my roommate Hazel had noticed this “friendship” as she called it, and confided that she at first had been intimidated by Saki. But she didn’t intimidate me like she did Hazel—she mesmerized and excited me.

I was sitting at the table with Jimena on my lap and Saki was sitting to my left, eating some ramen noodles. “What’s her name?” Saki asked, fixating on the elephant in my lap. “Jimena,” I told her. Her accent didn’t mix well with the name and she struggled a few times before getting it. I was willing to bet she’d forget it by the next day and said so. I was right.

“It’s not that she doesn’t love you. Your name is just special,” I told Jimena later that night when we were up late talking. “She even named her boyfriend after you.” I smiled convincingly at Jimena. Saki’s boyfriend has a Korean name, but she calls him Jimmy. I knew Jimena liked Jimmy. I’d seen the way Jimena watched them as they cuddled on the other couch in the living room. I think she’s jealous. I tell her I’ll find her a guy, but I’m jealous too.

The following night we all stayed up late playing games at my insisting. As I watched Saki sit close up against my roommate Hazel’s side and nestle in, stroking her arm, watched her rub her roommate Megan’s back as Megan tried to play cards laying down, I yearned for that touch. Then I realized that I’d left Jimena on my bed and went and grabbed her. After the games had died down Saki put in a movie.

Sitting there with Jimena as the movie played, I was reminded of a couple nights previous when Jimena, my friend Kay, and I had been up watching a movie together. Saki was out with Jimmy, and Megan and Hazel were visiting family, so it was just the three of us. We were about twenty minutes into the movie when my father called. He’d been my best friend when I was growing up, but I hadn’t called recently. Just a time issue. I looked at Kay and she nodded, so I answered. He said he was just calling to say hello and asked what I was up to. I told him I was just snuggling with Kay while we watched a movie and he said snuggling set off alarms and I told him not like that, but then I knew what he was thinking, and I couldn't forgive him for it, nor get it out of my head. I talked about it with Kay afterward. I told her that maybe we are just products of society: if it wasn't such an issue, we wouldn't be so worried about it. I thought I understood. I knew there was nothing wrong with what we were doing. I just hadn't found a guy I loved, but I told myself of course I hadn't: had I, I'd be married by now.

But then about a week later I watched as Megan lay down on the couch under my purple blanket and Saki laid down next to her and partly on top of her because the couch was only so wide. Just snuggling, or not even that. And it was okay. I got angry. I'm not one hundred percent sure why I was angry, but I got up and left.

It was some days later that Saki was showing me a music video on her laptop. I was watching her more than I was the screen. Every couple seconds I moved my head just slightly closer to her shoulder. I’d seen Hazel do it earlier that night, her head resting lightly on Saki’s shoulder as they watched Hazel’s favorite animae. Why couldn’t I do that?

My head was close enough now to be awkward if Saki noticed. When the song ended, I was centimeters away. I was going to do it. She looked at me, and I quickly bent down to grab my water from off the floor, then got up to make us some popcorn. So close. When I came back, Jimena stared at me disappointedly from the floor where she had fallen when I got up.

“Relax, Jimena,” I say, and then add rather untactfully, “She doesn’t even know your name.”
I hand Saki a bowl of popcorn and then grab Jimena and sit her back on my lap next to Saki. Saki reaches over to stroke Jimena’s grey head. “Jimena, right?”

I smile. Most people don’t realize that Jimena is real. “You’re cute,” she says to Jimena, scratching under her chin. Saki understands.
The next day when I come home from classes Saki is in the kitchen. I grab Jimena from my bed and take a seat on the couch. “So how was your day?” Saki asks.
“Fine,” I say.
Saki’s brow furrows. “How is Jimena?” she asks.
“Oh, she’s fine, too.”
I give Saki a long stare, then pretend to shrug it off. “How long have you and Megan been roommates?”
“Two years almost. Why you ask?” she says, her slightly broken English coming through. For the most part, her English was impressive. But I liked it better broken.
“Well, you seem really close . . .” I trailed off. “I was just wondering if that was a cultural thing or if it was just Megan.”
“In my family, we don’t hug. That’s American.”
“Oh.” That surprises me. “So, do you like hugs?”
“Megan’s taught me to like them.”
I smile, one of those small vague smiles that shows your curiosity has been satisfied and for the next week or so, we have the same exchange. “How was your day?” “How’s Jimena?”

It’s late at night and Saki and I are home alone. I can’t sleep and so I take Jimena and walk the short hallway to Saki’s room and tap my fingers on the door—my special knock so that she knows it’s me. “Come in.”
Saki looks up. “You doing okay?”
And then, “How’s Jimena?”
“She’s okay.”
“That wasn’t convincing.”
“Well, she’s been kinda sad lately.”
“Because she loves someone but is afraid they’ll turn her down.”
“What?! Why would anyone turn down Jimena? She’s so cute!”
I take Jimena in my arms and get up to leave. My hand on the handle, I know it’s now or never. We’re still talking about Jimena, right? It’s safe.
“Yeah, she is pretty cute,” I say.
Back in the quiet safety of my room I lift Jimena’s floppy ear and whisper, just in case the walls are listening, “We can’t. Besides, Jimmy would get jealous.”