I was never one to jump on impulse. I lag, my brain moves slower than my body, emotions paralyze me, words get caught somewhere between the larynx and the uvula. Never action, only thoughts, and if action, then stale action, no emotion behind it, for the emotion has already burnt up, fizzled out, evaporated, dripped from my pores, and only its hollow momentum is left behind.
Oh yes, I’ve kissed people before, and one was good. I’ve fucked people before too, though none of them had been very good yet. I followed impulse there, but the impulse was not my own. It was what you’re supposed to do when you’re fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. You see a half-attractive stranger, you offer up your mouth and the space between your legs that you haven’t explored yourself, then hope they do the same and are not disgusted by the mere proposition. It’s weird and awkward and mutually unsatisfying, and you part ways forever, unless it was good and then you do it again. Good or bad, it doesn’t really matter, you call up your friend the second it’s over and you two giggle over details. That’s where the real pleasure is anyway. And that’s how you waste an adolescence, with the smug conviction that at least you hit all the milestones on time.
I hit all the milestones but love. You were supposed to have one, a big, sweeping, all-consuming teenage love that made your rip out hair and cry in bathroom stalls and write stupid poems and throw rocks at windows past midnight. Every year I had possible candidates and they liked me well enough, but I was shy, I was scared, I said nothing, they were swept up by big girls who could use their words.
And I’d known you for so long, known of you for seven years, but never like that. Time was running out, you were beautiful and sweet and we had things to talk about. You gave me butterflies I guess, fat half-dead ones who couldn’t flutter very fast, but fuck it, I would fall in love with you.
It started at the dance. The dance was ending, the DJ said it was the last song. You were right there, green velvet dress, makeup dark and angular and always perfect. I can’t recall what color your hair was then. You were looking around for something, and my tongue lay in the back of my throat. I thought I’d swallow it. Half the song was over. A disaster. I wanted to ask you to dance. I pushed the words out my mouth, like blowing a balloon, a sudden gust of air straight from the diaphragm. You said yes.
We were close. We swayed, my thigh sandwiched between your thigh. That was as sexual as it ever got. You texted me that night and I tried to decipher the orange heart emoji at the end. Why that color?
I wanted to ask you out. It took me a few weeks to push the words out. You said yes. I wanted to kiss you on the first date, not you specifically, it was just what you were supposed to do on dates. I chickened out. The second date, I asked at the last possible moment, when you dropped me off at home. You said yes. We kissed on my front porch and you weren’t very good, but I was also your first kiss.
I wanted out a few weeks in. We were official, I agreed on a whim, but when I laid in bed at night, your face made me nauseous. It was a beautiful face, but not a face I loved, or would ever love. Just a lovely flower I’d pass by on the side of the road. But no, we were official. And I’d come this far, I followed impulse for the first time, real impulse, personal impulse, even if not very strong. A personal victory I did not want to relinquish.
And sometimes it was good. I loved it when we layed in bed together. One time in my bed, you wrapped yourself around me, like a koala on a tree. We said stupid things and giggled and I was happy to hold and be held. One time, we fell asleep together in your bed, my arm wrapped around you, my face buried in your back. I loved it when you would lean on me or hug me for a long long time or run your fingers through my hair and make me shiver. But notice the distinction: I loved it, not you.
It was all the in-between bits that I hated. I had to push words out all the time. I had to say things for you to get in bed with me, and we couldn’t just lay in bed all the time. There was school and friends and going on dates where you do things, and I could never say the right things at the right time. You were quietly disgusted with me.
If only there was shouting, fighting, something, anything. You drew a portrait of me in grey tones and I wrote a poem about you, but in Russian, so you couldn’t understand it.
Three months, I still wanted to quit, but I couldn’t think of words, of reasons that didn’t make me an asshole. I was a nice person, an honest person. If I wanted out, I would just say so. Right?
Three months, you told me you loved me, whispered it in my ear, on my bed. I said it back, on impulse.
There was a gap, something missing, an emotion, a feeling, a flood, a storm, a beehive in the gut, electricity in the bones, adrenaline in the heart. I kept waiting for it, for you to love me with your flesh and not your words. There must’ve been something wrong with me, and I wanted to ask why why why why what was it but I didn’t ask. What words do you even use for such a question?
There were always two dances in the springtime, one hosted by the school and one hosted by a church. I hate dances, I never know where to stand, who to stand with, what to do with my arms or my face, and you disappeared halfway through. I found you in the bathroom, laying on the ground with some other girls. You were anemic and always tired and I took that as fair explanation. I wanted to ask why you didn’t tell me you’d disappear in the bathroom for an hour, but I didn’t. I held you in my arms, and that felt good, but we had to leave, it was the last song and we slow danced again. Your dress had so much fabric on the bottom, we couldn’t get close.
I had dinner with friends before the second dance, and I told them I wanted to break up with you but I was gonna give it some time. They called me an asshole. You sat down with us, and they smiled at you.
I was on the dance floor, and again you disappeared. Again, I found you laying down, you were tired, I understood, I laid down with you. You got up and left. I found you in the bathroom, and you left again. My friends were ready to go, I told you I was leaving, you said you were staying with some friends of your own. I understand, I said, but I wanted to say fuck you.
We walked down city streets, me and my friends, cars flying by, buildings piercing straight into the night, and I cursed your name over and over. Finally my blood bubbled and my hands shook and my heart roared.
You pulled into my driveway that night to say goodnight. The words gurgled in my throat, my esophagus threatened to push them down. I spat it out - I want to break up.
I suppose it seemed like it was out of the blue, like an impulsive decision. I’m sorry for that.
But I didn’t love you, and I didn’t think you cared enough. I suppose I helped you check off your milestones, even if you didn’t help with mine. At least now your song lyrics have a lot more substance to them, and when my friends start giggling about their exes, I have something to contribute and giggle about. That’s where the real pleasure is anyway.