Congrats, you’re dating. During Thanksgiving, an insignificant kindling was lit by a Facebook comment. Apparently, he liked gin & tonics. So, you compared types of gins—each gin better than the last. A “flirty” game of “who knows the most types of fancy gin.”
Your relationship was slow… really slow. Your relationship couldn’t be superficial. It had to be real. Mostly, his genuine interest scared you. As the weeks stretched by, you eventually held his hand…. You eventually hugged him. But that was it. Your world is bowed, distorted, and nauseating. Had someone put a fish-eye lens on your life?
Your relationship was weeks of watching Netflix (no “chill”) and grueling conversations about your day. The exhausted state put knots in your back and hydrocodone in your hand—you hadn’t been comfortable or relaxed since the mutual agreement of relationship.
Phone calls with your mother revealed that you wish someone or something external would disrupt this boring hell. Hollywood has normalized relationships and desire. Maybe, if he kissed you, all would be redeemed. You looked forward to that. You were fueled by the excitement of a mind-blowing kiss. You wanted to see stars. You wanted to smell cinnamon. Or, whatever films portray.
A month went by. Many sarcastic remarks and witty jokes were left in the air… no laughter to propel them into your “shared” future. Suspended. You met his parents, hometown friends, and siblings. You sat at their tables and squirmed in his embarrassment. Apparently, the stories his friends told shouldn’t have entertained you, brought forth lost light to your eyes, and expelled tears of joy. No, you’re supposed to be “refined.” This box was getting smaller by the second. Where did all the air go? This had to feel natural, soon, right? You don’t break it off; so, you sought escape. You buried yourself in “hobbies” and “responsibilities.” All fabricated. You hoped for something memorable or intellectual to occur. Too soon for cold feet.
This is how it happens. You’re stuck, but free to move. Expectation keeps you stationary. The French film plays on the television. Why are you watching this with him? You haven’t paid attention since the beginning. When did you zone out from this moment? From him? Rather, the faint smell of mold stuffs your nose, and the sharp smell of cat piss waters your eyes and fries your nostrils. He doesn’t have a cat… Repeatedly, you escape to the bathroom. You would sit somewhere, but pubes, urine, and dust cover everything—not just the horizontal surfaces. There’s a spider web and 11 leaves in the bathtub. During the month, you invest time and curiosity into the development of this spider’s home. Like you, the leaves are frozen; thus, they are trivial. You leave the bathroom and pass the ever-growing pile of dirty underwear. You never notice pants or shirts in this pile.
A smile dominates your expression of boredom. He returns a smile. It’s genuine, you think. You remember freshman year. In class, this kid sat behind you. His face was void of facial hair, and he didn’t wear glasses. He seemed interesting. He’s always seemed interesting. Now, he’s attempting to fit into an ill-shaped mold. He’s rejecting his own sincerity and replacing it with an unnatural swagger. What drew you in was a façade. What you’ve uncovered is a vessel ready to adapt to and adopt personalities of others.
Similarly, your walk is awkward. You’re under a microscope. You’re aware of who he wants you to be—unnatural, as well. He swings his arm up as you sit on the ridiculously low couch. The only chair where your feet touch the ground. The only chair where your knees are by your ears. Being tall is pretty uncomfortable. Your spine arches back. Your mind shushes its protests and aches. His arm drapes behind your neck and pushes your head forward a bit. A forced, upright fetal position. The French people are wearing leaf skirts and jumping onto straw roofs. You missed something.
Can I kiss you?
You scrunch your eyes closed. You don’t want to see his face up-close. The one eye you’d focus on would be intense. He would look like a fish. Your glasses clink. He chuckles, and his hot breath intrudes your mouth. Chili? When did he eat chili? You can feel his nose digging into your check bone. You remain in upright fetal position. His luscious lips are smooth, beyond the workings of Chap Stick. They are like water balloons threatening to pop. There’s no resistance, no support within these flexible vessels. They just slosh about. Nothing to rocket you into the galaxy… into the stars. His mustache goes up your nose. Like your back, your mind says that this is normal. Your face should itch. You should want to flee. This must be what the kissing couple on Keat’s Grecian Urn felt like. Forever stuck, wondering if the spider finished its home. But, hey, he’s kissing you over a month later. Right, don’t wander away, Mind. Why are there leaves in his tub? Maybe he does have a cat… or did… Does he just smell like cat piss? No cinnamon. The French people are screaming. Frustration? There was an explosion somewhere in their world. They seem agitated. Why are they yelling? You want to watch this film; you want to know what blew up.
You’re doing fine.
You seem unsure and tentative. You’re doing fine.
You tolerate this experience until his attention is pulled toward the television. The credits are rolling. He turns back; you stand up.
It’s late. Class...
You know this won’t last. You know you can’t kiss him, again. You know you can’t look at him. You’re not embarrassed. Repulsed. Not long after the end, another girl will take your place—awkward, bowed back, and the same two French people screaming on the television. Maybe, she’ll know why they’re yelling. Maybe, she won’t notice.
See you tomorrow?