I knew I was interested in girls ever since eighth grade, when I couldn’t get my best friend off my mind. It bothered me so much that I denied it, to myself and to everyone around me, for six months. But I digress. I was nineteen, and had the worst reputation for breaking hearts in my graduating class. Not only that, but being a lesbian afforded me more bitterness and hatred than I already attracted by never calling the girls I screwed. Because I was friendly and charismatic and caring, almost all of the girls that I hung out with as “friends” ended up having feelings for me; then I got emotionally involved with them, screwed them over, lost friends, and the cycle started over. I was a train-wreck, but I played it off well enough that Ilookedstable and well-adjusted. My feelings were not generally a topic of conversation, and that was exactly the way I liked it.
These were the thoughts that were running through my mind as I was lying out beside my parents’ pool. Sweat was pouring off of my body and seeping into the bright blue towel below me on this particular afternoon, and I remember cursing at Virginia’s climate once or twice that day. Other than that, however, I was close to graduating, it was slowly edging into summertime, and I had no complaints. Just as I could have drifted off to sleep for a lazy afternoon nap, my cell phone buzzed around angrily on the concrete. I had been trying to relax, trying to move on from an entirely different break-up that had happened a month ago…well, two months. Or three. I couldn’t be entirely sure at that point. I took a deep breath, drawing myself from the sun and the breeze and back to reality; the probable reality that my ex-girlfriend, Kayla, had texted me to tell me that she thought of another of my flaws to add to her list. I picked up the phone, keyed in a password, and unlocked the screen to open my unread text message.
Instead of my ex, I was relieved to find that it was just a close friend of mine, Victoria. Victoria was a loud, boisterous girl I’d known since she was shy and quiet. The text message in question read, “do u remember the girl i told u wanted to hook up with u”. I remembered being in our school’s gym at one point with her and my ex-girlfriend, yelling to make the conversation audible over the pep rally. Victoria had grabbed the collar of my button-down shirt and hollered, as if trying to intimidate a gorilla, “SOMEONE WANTS TO SLEEP WITH YOU, BUT I CAN’T TELL YOU WHO IT IS.” I had been irritated at the time, but, of course, the day after I had forgotten, she’d come to remind me. I replied, “Yeah, why?”
It only took a few more seconds to receive the next: “well its emily and we are actually hangin out right now”.
I didn’t know Emily at the time, save for the fact that one of my best friends, Christie, dated her for about a year. I knew they had crashed and burned, and I remembered well the nights she’d wasted away crying, pining for the affection of a girl who had none to give. The words most frequently used to describe Emily, at least when I was around, were “bitch” and “psycho”; even so, I knew that those same two words were used to describe half the students in my high school, including myself. I sat up and pulled my knees up to my chest and considered what she had told me for a few seconds. There were two options. I could simply tell Victoria that I didn’t want anything to do with Emily, explaining that I had just gotten over a bad break-up and wasn’t sure if I wanted anything else. Or I could do what I always did in those situations to cope, which was to have a four-hour fling with someone who would end up hating me later for never calling them afterwards. That was what I had done after every other relationship. Hindsight being 20/20, each girl was clearly a rebound from the last. To clarify, my idea of “coping” was like using cocaine to get off pot, and using heroin to get off the coke. Maybe Emily and I had been doomed from the very beginning.
I would like to say that the reason I did the things that follow entailed something more than pure loneliness, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth. Christie still slept with a teddy bear that Emily got her, still checked her online activities, still wrote her e-mails saying she missed her, and still tried to create a friendship between the two of them that would never be, and even being Christie’s friend and confidant didn’t keep me from going after her ex-girlfriend.
You don’t have a whole hell of a lot of moral fiber when you’re eighteen years old. Nothing is off limits.
I texted Victoria back and told her that if she wanted, she could give Emily my number and maybe we could talk a little, see how things play out. The next time my phone vibrated, it wasn’t Victoria, but an unknown number. It read less like a casual hello and more like a novel, with “Emily, by the way” tacked on at the very end of line upon line of text that, to be honest, I didn’t even really read. I do remember her explaining that Victoria was being stupid, but that if I was going to answer her text, we may as well shoot the breeze a bit. This was the highlight of the past couple of months for me, just that one text. In truth, it’d been years since I had been in a situation where I was single for more than a few months; I just couldn’t do it. Sessions of therapy haven’t pushed me any closer to an answer. All I’ve come up with is that some people hate to be alone, and I suppose I’m one of them.
Somehow, the conversation picked up more quickly than I thought. For being such a hit with the ladies, I was incredibly socially awkward, and, judging by the pattern of the other lesbians I met in high school, I had thought she probably was too. Our conversation over the next couple hours revealed that, strangely enough, we had almost everything in common. She and I both liked horror movies (and even had a few of the same favorites), we had similar taste in music, we grew up under nearly the same circumstances, we both intended to work with animals upon graduation. Perhaps the most surprising of all was that we were both fascinated by serial killers. (I’m told that’s supposed to be a hallmark of losing your mind, but even now, I read up on famous murders every now and again.) I’d grown up hearing about Jeffrey Dahmer and The Green River Killer; my mouther devoured books about them day in and day out as if they were the very air she breathed, and “Hey, did you know that Ed Gein used human skin to upholster his couch?” was just casual conversation between the two of us.
As the moonlight danced on the carpet at the foot of the leather couch in the upstairs nook that I confidently called my own personal living room and the clock inched upon midnight, she sent me a message stating, “Hey, I’m really enjoying this conversation, but I’m also really tired. That being the case, do you think that maybe you’d want to talk to me tomorrow?”
“Sure,” I responded, “I’d like that a lot.” I said goodnight, and so did she. I recall wondering how long it had been since I had last fallen asleep smiling; I realized it didn’t matter. I was now, and that was enough.
Emily and I’s friendship (or blossoming relationship, if you want to go there) was casual, at first; she would text me, usually around mid-day, to say hello, and ask how I was. I’d say I was fine, better now that she was talking to me (more girls than you’d think will fall for that line) and she’d say good, so was she. We’d discuss her family, and my family, and how her childhood went. It was cute, it was simple, it was easy. She admitted she thought I was interesting, and she enjoyed talking to me, but not much else. There was no love-at-first-sight or any of that other bullcrap, and I’m still not convinced that exists anywhere except in C-list chick flicks, where the smiles are as fake as the breasts on the actresses. It was a slow process, and one that took the form of a competition for who could act most nonchalant, as I’m sure most relationships do.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I found out that not only was Christie not over Emily, Emily wasn’t completely over Christie, either. It had started out as a normal conversation between the two of us; the same things we talked about every day. I was sprawled out on the leather couch upstairs watching the Cosby Show and wondering where the remote control was when she explained to me, in detail, that she was fragile; not only was she ‘fragile’, but she still had “residual feelings” that “weren’t a big deal”. I told her it was alright, that I could understand; their relationship had lasted around a year, and that’s hard to get over for even the most well-adjusted person. There’s a rule of thumb somewhere, I believe, that says that heartache should taper, but should at least last half the length of the relationship. Emily and Christie had gone their separate ways a little under a month ago, and I was expecting this.
At about the same time as she responded saying she was surprised that I understood, Christie called me. I cleared my throat and answered.
“Hey, Olivia was wondering if you wanted to come over and have some pizza, maybe smoke a few cigarettes and watch a movie, or something.” Her voice was flat, unrevealing. Olivia was a mutual friend of ours, someone I shared a statistics class with in my senior year. Hanging out at Olivia’s house in front of the TV was pretty much routine for the three of us, but ever since I had started talking to Emily, I had slowly faded from them; I stopped dropping by, I stopped asking to go to the beach or to go play pool. I had assumed they had noticed, but was unaware of any emotion they had in response.
“Sure, yeah, that’s fine. I’ll be over in about twenty minutes, alright?”
“Yup.” Click, dial tone.
Well geez, I thought, grabbing my keys from the coffee table and slipping my feet into my sneakers.Missed you too.
I pulled up in front of Olivia’s house and ran up on the curb trying to park next to it. I cursed, slammed the door, and made my way to Christie and Olivia, certain I was due for a talking-to. Instead, however, I said my hellos, got my hugs from Olivia and Faith (a close friend of Olivia’s), and was immediately yanked aside by Christie, in front of both of them. The room went quiet; Olivia’s eyes went wide, but Faith’s expression stayed the same; she was the only one in the room who hadn’t been acting noticeably strange since I’d arrived. I thought nothing of it. I turned my eyes back to Christie and met her cold gaze with my own, and she beckoned me out onto the front porch.
The door slammed behind me. “Who do you…why…what…how did this happen, how do you even know her?” Christie ran a hand back through thin brown hair and her eyes softened, watering a bit before she blinked back tears. Shoving nervous hands into her jean pocket to pull out a pack of menthol Camels, she added, stuttering, “You know what she was to me. Youknowhow we were. We were together a year, we only broke up a month ago.” Her thumb shakily found the flint wheel on her Zippo, and she lit her cigarette, blowing smoke as directly into my eyes as was possible. I tried to find some common ground in lighting a cigarette and smoking with her. Christie shook like a Chihuahua when she got anxious; her foot tapped rapidly on the concrete, her eyes moving like a hummingbird back and forth between dozens of monsters only she could see.
“Victoria. She told me Emily wanted to—well, she told me Emily was interested in me, so I gave her permission to give her my number.Sheapproachedme. I didn’t approach her. I’m sorry. We aren’t even really anything yet besides friends, don’t worry, Christie.” It was a lie, a shiver of guilt dropped down into my stomach, and I breathed in the nicotine a little deeper.
Christie took a smokeless breath, and let it out slowly as she looked up at the clouds rolling in over the trees. “She’ll break you,” she muttered, her tone surprisingly even after the few moments of shaky silence.
“She will break you.” She said this emphatically, as if speaking to a confused child or an elderly man with a hearing problem. “She’ll destroy you. She will absolutely tear you apart, and you won’t know it’s happening until it’s too late.” I noticed something then, in Christie’s eyes, that I had never noticed in the four years I’d been acquainted with her. There was something that wasn’t there, there was something missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but now, I’ve figured it out; there was a shine of some sort missing, a sparkle present in someone’s eyes that only disappears after a heavy loss or a great sadness. I didn’t know what to say to her.
After a few more moments of awkward silence, I said, “I can take care of myself, Christie. I appreciate your concern” - I knew it wasn’t concern for my own safety or wellbeing - “but I think I can handle a seventeen year old girl on my own.” I tried to smile to break the tension, but it didn’t work. Christie dropped her cigarette to the concrete walk in front of Olivia’s house, stepped on it to put out the cinders, turned, and, without another word, opened the door and shut it in my face.