Have you ever cried just because you’re you? Of course you haven’t. You’re the kind of person who would smile at me, as the rain hit like hail against the windshield, right before you kissed me. I hate you for that, for loving me so foolishly. For telling me my eyes look wise, and that my crooked smile reminded you of home. I believed you, as all stupid young girls believe stupid young boys. Perhaps youth has nothing to do with it. Maybe all people are stupid and all people believe someone.
Regardless, you shattered the silence I surrounded myself in with one slam of that stupid math textbook that you stole from your locker mate, the one who turned out to be a nymphomaniac. I can’t believe I fell for that shit about you needing a tutor, especially because I’m like the last person on earth, in hell, or whatever, that should give math advice. But your voice sounded genuine, and sincerity made the most attractive scent as it came off your skin, so I thought, “Who can’t learn Algebra 2 in one night?”
Insidious. The first movie we went to, remember? I peppered you with questions before the curtain parted, the way your puppy doled out kisses, with increasingly more devotion. I barely saw the movie; I had already seen it the week before. What I wanted to see were your reactions. I wasn’t disappointed. You flinched at parts that made me scream and your hand convulsed once before settling over mine. It was soft and sweaty, giving away how much you really hated the dark. Do you hate me now; do your palms sweat at the thought of me?
Afterwards you slipped your jacket over my shoulders, and I wondered out loud what it was we thought we were doing. I remember you stopped, the shadow of the marquee covering precisely one half of your face. Like an old black and white movie, you were shadow and light juxtaposed.
So part man, part nightmare you asked me, “How do you sleep with all those thoughts in your head?”
I went home that night and sat in my garage turning that thought over in my mind, forcing all the others out, trying to find an answer for you.
Do you remember that March? Of course you don’t, because to you it was just a month for the green beer you smuggled into punch bowls at the Luck of the Irish dance. We danced. I knew I had always wanted to dance, but not in front of my peers. So I kept my mouth against the salty flesh of your neck as I spoke the words, “Do you ever have that feeling that you’re empty, that you’ll always be empty and you want to die?”
And your eyes shone because of that stupid disco ball and your voice was confident, “You don’t want to die; you just want to be saved.”
At the time that line was fucking Shakespeare, Keats, Byron. I would have slept with you, or at least given you face in the back of your mom’s car for those words, but in the harsh florescent light of day how the hell do you know that!? You, who never thought about what happens to the old couples who walk past us at Fishers Post, when one by one they stopped showing up, your only comment when I asked where you thought they were, being, “people die and the world keeps turning.” You, who never considered the home life of our peers, never asked about the bruises blended to easy breezy beautiful Cover Girl on the skin of my arms, or why my clothes smelled of smoke when I was asthmatic. You never asked.
You told though, words tumbled over the chapped bottom lip you constantly chewed on. Hatred for your brother, compassion for Jake Thompson when his father passed, wondering about the future, scared of the past. Your hands moved faster than your mouth, and I found myself following the fluid movement of your fingertips more than your phrases. What would they feel like with my hair wrapped around them? Would my body warm them or would they stay clammy?
Then you said the word. That disgustingly sticky word that had my eyes glued to the pink of your tongue pressed to the white of your teeth. Love. I could feel panic behind my eyes and in the corner of my mouth, enough to flatten it into a line known as my shutdown faze. But you, with your dumb smile lines and your smirk. I hated to love that smirk. Love. My lips opened minutely. Love. I felt rejection bubbling up my throat. Love. I had to tell you. Love. I didn’t want to hurt you. Love. I love you too.
It was everything Laurie Monroe moaned about in the girl’s locker room, right before she tried to con a tampon off someone. A blur of pheromones, lust, and those little trinkets you’d leave in my locker. I can’t believe I was stupid enough to give you my locker combination. You should probably get yours changed by the way.
I threw all of that crap in the dumpster behind the school. It was harder than I thought it would be. I almost kept the bracelet, the one you left with the little note about how every time I heard it jingle I’d remember you. I did, so you were right about that. I heard you every time I wrote something down, when I rolled in my sleep, you were in every moment. But I couldn’t keep something that could whisper against my sketchbook, my pants, or my body to remind me you happened and how much I had liked that. How I had rustled the bracelet on purpose to keep myself from thinking. “It’s the thinking that drives people manic,” you’d say on the days I was looking tired.
“I’m just exhausted,” I would lie and lean against you. I was good at that, smiling and saying I was fine. I figured why burden you with the constant hum in my brain, worrying that you couldn’t hold all the weight I was carrying. The weight of my tears, the weight of my failure, and my dreams, but you braced your feet apart and took my burden. You held me and I wept, and then kept right on wailing. I was the flood and you were the ark, oh now I’m just getting biblical. Anyway, I cried. Which I only did when my father told me I was supposed to be a boy, or that one time in middle school when Mr. Brundricks told me my art was shit.
You held on, for that I will give you credit, and when I had finished your lips barely rubbed against the outside of my ear. Your words were horribly callous and exactly what I needed, “Are you done?”
I was, but I didn’t realize that what I was really done with was you. Instead, I nodded mutely and wiped my thumbs under my eyes. Why is it people who cry think the soft skin of their thumbs will soak up their tears?
I could feel you slipping away from me, like the time we lay on your parent’s waterbed, trying our damndest to make waves, cackling as we were pulled apart, the pads of our fingers sliding over each other. Except, instead of laughter, your flesh began to shudder under my tongue in places you used to shiver, and I began to cover my stretch marks with self-loathing palms.
You dropped me off in the wee hours of the next morning with a kiss, but it felt more customary than passionate, and I remember standing on the broken sidewalk watching your car sputter away, the left taillight winking. I touched my fingers to my lips and listened, your banging muffler and my father demanding where I had been, my mix cd for the day.
Chances are by the time you read this you’ll be in homeroom, which is how I planned it. I didn’t want Darren or Justin to see you reading and snatch it from you. I wanted you to be alone, with no support around you like I was when you broke me. When you shook my shoulders and whispered harshly, “Nothing lasts forever.”
I knew that of course. I could probably write a book on that, filled with pictures of dead moms, animals, and flowers. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you want to know it. I felt the pain from your soft, dry hands clenching my forearms, but I couldn’t feel much else. I realized I was clinging to shadow only because it was made of light.
After, as I was sitting in Maloney’s café drinking the overpriced sugar water they call coffee, I saw them. All the couples who had disappeared from Fisher’s Post were sitting across from each other, their wrinkled fingers linked. I blinked twice, and one half of each couple was gone. In each ripped, red booth was one body, mechanically sipping the same drink as me. That’s when it hit me. Hit me that I was alone to think.
It was overwhelming, the barrage of ideas and questions, so with shaky hands I tried to make sense of them on a flimsy napkin, which is why this whole letter is so fragile. I love you. I miss you. Where are you? Come back! Don’t leave! I need you. Those are the simple phrases that I think of when I think of what we were. And I have one more.
I hate you.
For loving me so foolishly and for allowing me to love you back,