You fill up my glass, and then your own. You have no idea how much I love you, and I know I could never tell you because you’ll never be able to feel the same way about me. I’m fine with pretending, but I know you wouldn’t want to do that either. We’re exchanging war stories, tonight, and you’re massaging my tired feet.
“Well, when I was in seventh grade I found out that I was failing math and that my grandma died within the same hour,” You say proudly.
“Oh, baby, poor thing. When I was in seventh grade my math teacher threatened to fail me if I didn’t take me shirt off and let him give me “special massages”, I think I win.” I laugh and take a giant swig of my drink. I look into your eyes, you don’t find my story funny – if anything you’re a bit more disgusted with me than you used to be. Or maybe you’re just feeling sorry for me.
“You know, I’m not looking for pity. I’m really not, if you’re going to lay here feeling sorry for me I’ll have to take my booze elsewhere.”
You grab my hand and press your thumb deeply into my palm, and then begin to apply this same pressure to the base of each of my fingers. It feels so good. “You’re not taking that booze anywhere,” you whisper – as if you’re actually interested in the alcohol.
It’s moments like these that make me wonder if tomorrow when I wake up I’ll still be so happy, or if I’ll be back to my normal suicidal self. My suicidal self that holds on to past injuries as if they’re some kind of trophy. That wanders around the world being the worse sarcastic syndical bitch I can be. Being mean and rude and loud, and all the time worrying that someone won’t like me. At least it’s because I made them dislike me. It’s better than my childhood, where I walked around being as nice as I could, hoping someone would love me – only to always get left alone, wondering what it was that I did to deserve this. If I’m going to continue to be punished, I’m going to at lease deserve it. You’re still doing my hand, and I have this sneaking suspicion that you’ve heard every thought that has gone through my head tonight.
“You’re so fucking scary.” I say, staring into your eyes, even as I raise my glass for a sip.
“Did you say scary?”
“I said sexy,” I smirk and finish off my glass, so that you think maybe it’s just the alcohol making me be so forward.
You extend your arm and gently caress my face, and then begin to twirl a few strands of my hair together. You stare into my eyes, and smile that stupid smile you do. I smile back. Slowly, you move your face close and close to mine, until our noses are touching. I close my eyes and await the touch of your lips.
“You know I love you, right?”
My heart jumps into my throat blocks any air from flowing into my lung. For my entire life, I have waited for someone to say those words. And you said it.
It was late summer of 1997 and I was seven years old. My grandfather had recently bought a large amount of land near the river that runs through my hometown, and he had invited me, my father, and my brother to come see it. It was horribly humid that day, and the land was entirely forest. There were a few small paths, and the occasional clearing, but for the most part foliage surrounded us completely. My dad was paying no attention to me, mostly he talked with his own father and tried to keep my brother from jumping into the river. To my father, however, I was invisible. I listened carefully to my father’s conversation. Mostly, it bored me – but I paid close attention just in case there was something I could contribute.
“Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work but I don’t see why you couldn’t build here, the elevation is high enough that I doubt you’d ever have any problem with flooding.” My father had said.
“Yeah!” I shouted, trying to sound interested, “I just hope you don’t have any problems with bears!”
My grandfather laughed, and my dad did nothing – other than possibly roll his eyes. This is when I knew that I was going to have to do a lot more than provide interesting conversation to get my father’s attention. I wondered off, by myself. It came as no surprise that no one noticed I was missing.
I was surrounded my thick branches, leaves, and thorns. The threat of camouflaged animals was frightening. I had been serious about the bears. I walked cautiously forward, not knowing what I was looking for. Suddenly, however, a thorn-covered branch that extended outward into the trail caught my vision, and everything made since. As soon as I saw it, I knew. I knew exactly what it was that I had to do, no matter how much it hurt. I carefully grabbed the branch with two fingers, being careful to be sure none of the thorns stuck into my fingers. I inspected it closely, looking for the one with the sharpest point. I wasn’t afraid of the pain that was coming; I had accepted it as an unavoidable fate. And I knew it would be very small price to pay for my father to finally love me. It was my only option, the only way my dad would ever notice me.
Once I had found the sharpest thorn I extended my right arm and slowly scraped the branch across it. Nothing happened, so I did it again – only this time much harder. It didn’t hurt much, and if this was all it took for my dad to love me, well, I could do it all day.
Almost instantly blood began to pour out of my arm, and I felt so relieved. The battle, however, was only halfway won. I had to rejoin the group, and show my father what had happened. I ran in the direction of where I could hear them talking, running fast and looking downward, paying no mind to my direction. Suddenly I ran into my father’s leg, a hard smack that almost knocked me backward. He looked down at me and said nothing – and then I extended my arm for him to see. His eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. There was a short pause before the words came out.
“Buchanan! What the hell happened? Are you okay?” My heart jumped, my insides felt warm. He cared. I offered no detailed story, and I didn’t want to lie. “I got scratched,” I said, simply. Dad got down on his knee and removed a handkerchief from his back pocket. This was probably the only moment in my entire life that I was not disgusted by the sight of a handkerchief. He tied it tightly around my arm and then grabbed my hand. “Stay with the group, okay?” I nodded. For the first time, I felt that my father loved me.
My mother always told me that I’d know when I’d found the right man. I’d look into his eyes and see past them, deep into his soul and his mind. And when I looked into those eyes and, more importantly, past them his soul would speak to me and say “Alyssa, I’m here. I’m who you’ve been waiting for. I’m the only man in the world who can possibly love you the way you deserve to be loved.” And then I’d know. Tom’s eyes aren’t saying that to me, they’re saying something more like “I’m horny” and that’s really enough for me right now.
I push my fingers into the heap of curls atop his head and gently pull his face closer to mine. We start to kiss, and at the same time I start to wish I were somewhere else. I wish I were having lunch somewhere nice, with seating on the sidewalk or preferably roof. I wish I were shopping on the busy streets of some large city. But instead here I am, locking lips with Tom in his shitty little apartment. I guess things could be worse.
Once we’re done he walks to the kitchen and lights a cigarette on the stove. No after glow, no more kissing, no “Thank you”. Nothing. Maybe my mother was right, as I’m starting to realize that Tom is quite rude. I slip back into my panties and begin to button my blouse. Tom is standing in the kitchen still, naked, smoking his cigarette.
I open the door closest to the bed, assuming it’s the bathroom. In such a small studio apartment doors can only go so many places. But I’m wrong, it’s not the bathroom – it’s a balcony. I step out and close the door behind me. A cool breeze blows past me, and suddenly I realize that maybe I should have put my pants on. But I ignore this notion and continue to look out at the city in front of me.
There’s not much here on the balcony – a small black table with an ash tray and a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. A miserable plant that probably hasn’t been watered in months sits in the corner. I remove a cigarette from the pack and put it to my lips. I click the lighter, it sparks but the flame does not stay long enough for me to light the cigarette. It takes several more attempts before I’m successful.
The thick mentholated smoke enters my lungs, and I exhale deeply.
My mother would be so proud. Standing on a balcony of some strange man’s apartment, wearing no pants, and smoking. At this moment she’s probably rolling over in her grave and wishing she could commit suicide for a second time. I guess she screwed herself out of that opportunity.