Her doorbell rings.
“Ah. Fuck” — less of an exclamation and more of an absentminded acknowledgement — then she tosses a salsa container on the counter that she’d just pulled from the refrigerator and moves to open the door.
The salsa, some tortilla chips, four ibuprofen, and a screwdriver make their way onto a platter that she sits in front of as she nestles into the couch and crosses her legs. She takes a swig of the screwdriver and downs the pills.
Still a bit smudged with last night’s makeup, she’s wearing a pair of denim shorts, and a soft button-down. No bra. While it’s clear these are pieces of clothing she pulled off of her floor after rolling out of bed, there’s still something conscious about her choices and the way she frequently flips her hair.
She lives in her body but in a way that seems more like she carries it around with her, instead of being part of it. She hears what they say about it when they talk but she doesn’t carry herself like any of it gets through:
I love your tits.
I love your legs.
She’s really full of herself.
You’re so tiny.
I love how you feel.
I wish I could get that skinny.
You don’t struggle because you look like that.
I hate you.
Her usual response is that tits are just tits, at the end of the day.
— — -
“God, I smell like cigarettes from last night. Oh yeah — sure, it was fun. I did meet this guy and we had really good conversation… Ohhhh I don’t know. I just loved what he was saying about Dostoyevsky truly writing the third perspective and that had me hooked. You know how I love inference in a man. But he said he had to work early in the morning. So! Made me realize I read that one wrong.
What? Oh. Sure I guess he could have had to actually work early but if he liked me, he would have stuck around. It’s — Nah, it’s really not a big deal. Ohhh yeah… I got his number but there’s no fucking way I’m using it. Can you imagine?? I called up Pete and had him come over instead.”
After a pause, she says: “Which also doesn’t fucking matter either.”
She has lit a cigarette at this point and waves her hand over this last statement while pulling in and staring at her feet for a brief moment.
The screwdriver is half-empty.
She comes back to the present and makes eye contact. Her tone is a touch forced on the next thing she says: “So. What happened with George? Did he straighten up?”
When she meets things or people she doesn’t like, her eyes take on a very specific hardness and her heart easily closes. She is very loyal to those she loves, but this loyalty isn’t easily caged nor is it entirely gentle. George had recently experienced this firsthand when she shoved him against a wall at a house party.
The fucker deserved it.
She jumps over what she is hearing, “He’s insufferable, really. I’ve gotta wonder what it must be like to think so much of yourself that you can cause that much turmoil and know — just know — that everyone will go right along with it. What a fucking twat. A real fucking twat.”
And then more quietly, this time:
“I’m almost jealous of someone who can live like that, you know?”
But she didn’t really say it like she thought anyone was listening.
She sips from the screwdriver, lights another cigarette, and takes a steadying breath.
“See, here’s the thing, though. I think you gotta remember that you’re kind of a steaming pile of shit, you know? And I get that that’s hard to have to face that over and over again. But guys like George…they’re just all you’ll find so you have to play this smart.”
She pulls on the cigarette then says softly. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a huge cunt, but it’s just the way the world works for you. If you decide it’s worth having some fun with him for the time that he is around — go for it — but I worry you’re out there trying to live a life that isn’t yours.”
There had been moments when love was at hand or a dream was tangible for someone that she knew. And she had pushed them. She had said to go for it, to take the risk even when the fog was heavy with fear. She had planted her feet and spoken bravery into the void. She relished it when life gave someone she loved everything she believed they deserved. She was fierce in this way, a crippling idealist who could read and believe love and connection between humans as if it was written in the sky.
“Some people find it.” she went on, “Love. Connection. But your life isn’t the same as other people’s lives. I don’t want to sound wholeheartedly cruel, but you’re just not the kind of girl that people remember. Or love. Or want. Or miss.”
“And we both remember when this became clear. You were, what, Fifteen? You stood in front of that fucking mirror and told yourself the truth. It was a hard truth and I get that you want to unlearn it or run from it. But it’s been of service to you, it’s been helpful. The life that you want, the life that you see others are so easily able to have…you told yourself that day in the mirror that you understood that you couldn’t dream that for yourself. And you have to remember and face it now before it all goes up in flames and you are left — once again — picking up the pieces or asking questions that aren’t yours to answer.”
This last sentence she says a bit more urgently before shifting her position in her seat and leaning forward. It almost seems like there is sadness in her voice.
“And listen, you know you can always burn it. And that shit hurts, but… it’s always better to use your capacity to destroy before the truth takes shape and then takes over. When the time comes, burn it down because you have to. You know how.
You’ll go a bit too far because you have before and you hope and you dream and your heart starts writing a story. But then there always comes that moment because it’s always there, it’s always on the horizon. It’s that moment you know is set for you. That moment you have to remember will come. And that’s the part you don’t want. You don’t want to have to remember. I’m saying all of this so you don’t have to forget again.
You’ll always be alone — in the end — because you’re worthless.
You’ll always be alone — in the end — because you become the problem.
You’ll always be alone — in the end — because you’re easily forgotten.
No one will love you the way you want them to and the ones that want you for a time are just there for that: a time.
Girl. Tits are just tits.”
She lets a beat occur. Then another. It hasn’t been an easy conversation for her, but it does seem that she feels she has said all that she needs to. And then one final question comes.
“So have you remembered? And now that you’ve gone too far with those dangerous dreams, will you save yourself from the worst and burn it down?
She has always felt safe with fire so it’s not uncommon for her to bring it up. Fire has been a forging tool as much as it has been a way to stay alive, to stay ahead. She sees clearest once the fire is set to light the path. Bar fights, street brawls, friendships that ended in cruelty, moments of passion that veered into cold and hardened words — those were all moments of fire that brought an end, a type of death, the truth. And in those moments, she could see herself even though no one else ever would.
She learned that at 15. And she told it to herself in a mirror.