He should have stopped calling because I couldn't
have called him back. Some part of me wanted him to dump my stupid
ass on the curb or wave me off without looking back. Something in me
wanted to hate him for not being a prick. It made me want to hate him because (I knew with this scary certainty) he loved me and I was the one who couldn't change.
I know it doesn't make sense but I was certain that it wouldn't work
from the start. I was sure he was just playing with me or
I was misinterpreting his open friendship, that this was my just my hopes deluding me - teasing me with possibility that would not be.
singing in the car when I realized that I was in love with him. I think I didn't
I deserved to have it returned. I felt exposed and
weak when the rough of his face met mine or when his hand touched that hollow spot in
base of my throat. His
open hand was uncertainty and fear and quivering and butterflies and
sweetness and warm and warm and...
some unknown element when it closed on mine.
Was I somewhere in his head? He always looked directly at me and I knew he saw all
the things that I saw in the mirror and hated. He saw the acne
scars on my face, my bad haircut, my stupid mouth and my clothes that lacked
style. It was as if didn't see me like I did. It was my bitter salvation, burning
under my skin and my heart pounding terror... warm. I was terrified of how intense it was.
His face was like proof of
God to me and I was afraid to inhabit any space within that perfection.
I saw the looks he got from other guys; I knew what they
I thought the same goddamn thing. It scared me that he
could unwind me with his smile and I would spiral to the floor at his feet.
I tried to fight with him so I could, for a moment, dislike something about him.
It was so daunting to stand next to
him. I orbited his perfection, tried to occupy space with him, I wanted to flutter around him like a moth. The hardest part of it all was the terrifying knowledge that he wanted me to touch him - he wanted to touch me.
The first time I met him I lost my breath; he took me completely
by surprise and I still can't remember a thing that I stammered in that meeting. He was
forward and friendly and attentive. I don't remember giving him my
phone number but he called me that
"You feel like getting something to eat? I'm buying."
It's funny, most of the time I don't have a problem talking to people on the
phone. I couldn't say anything coherent to him except a lie
"I have plans." This was a lie that disintegrated with his persistence.
I finally agreed - enthusiastically reluctant. I didn’t want
him to know that I couldn't think or breathe correctly when he
was around or how badly I wanted to be there with him. I was dizzy, damn it,
breathless and trying to figure out how to separate my brain and desire from my body so
I could have a conversation that didn't include so much mute nodding.
I realized, when he was around, that I blushed constantly.
Sometimes he would just look thoughtfully at me as if he were trying to figure
out something mysterious about me - and I would close.
That first night, when he walked me to the door and I fumbled with the key to
my apartment, his fingers touched the back of my arm and I felt this soda pop
fizz rising up my spine. I turned and leaned against the door when he pressed his hand against the side of my face and kissed me. I pushed
him back and smiled, looked at the throat of his shirt while my face burned. My lips
I told him "I don't do one night stands" and thought Damn...
I need to breathe. I wanted to stop the permanent blush on my face. I wanted more of the taste of his mouth.
"I don't either." He moved his hand and pulled me
forward by my shirt collar. His hand slid across my skin and it felt good.
Something about the way he touched me, something about his fingers... reminded me of warm milk and my grandmother's quilts and hot
chocolate and cookie dough ice cream and curling up on the couch and silly
homemade cards and Pez and sparks on the
doorknobs and warm and warm and warm... something about his hands reminded me of home. My
god, I needed to be there.
"I have to go inside." I inhaled the way he smelled and
forced myself inside. It was so difficult to leave him there. I wanted the feel of his
hands on me and the press of his body against me but I couldn't open myself to him.
Guys like him just didn't like me... how could they?
I was unremarkable, unchangeable, ugly...
He called me that night as I got ready for bed and
we talked until 3 am.
right when he got home to ask if I had a good time. He wouldn't say goodbye so we just kept talking. I didn't hang up either - I was interested in anything he had to say.
I kept wondering
why he asked me so many questions about my life. Why did he let me talk so
much? Why was he happening to me? Why did I want to tell him everything? I wanted him there to touch but it was
easier to speak when he wasn't. Every time I spoke I felt compelled to
blurt out what he did to me. It made me angry and embarrassed that he could
play such havoc with my mind.
All night I stared at the muted TV and pretended
he was one of the mundane faces I saw on The Learning Channel. He was just a
homeowner on Trading Spaces helping Doug take down a ceiling fan; he was just a team member on
hammering out metal frames to make into something new; he was just some guy on
the infomercial hawking Oxyclean. He wasn't this perfect thing. He wasn't this
perfect thing looking at me. He was just a voice that made me feel warm
I spent two weeks on edge, in fear, each time we got together (practically every night)
was the same. I pushed away and looked at something else to see if it
reflected his face. I tried to recall
the feel and the sight of him while he stood right where I could have it - for
free- he was right there. Where was I? Why didn't I just look at
He took me to some secluded park in Worthington and I spent the
entire drive staring out the window while we talked. I fogged the glass with my
breath to mask his reflection and tried to picture his face in my mind. I felt the air around him, hot and heavy
beside me, as he drove.
"What's wrong?" He took my hand. I let him but still
looked away. His hands were warm and warm... and...
I wouldn't look at him.
Instead, I smiled and stared forward, aching to see him out of the corner of my
eye. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just... looking around." I hated lying but it was a compulsive reaction. I had to
lie. I couldn't change.
He caressed my hand with his thumb and this made me want
to turn and look... not too long! I
look at him. If I did he would see that I loved him. Did he know? Did he know what he did to me?
So I stared at our hands on the seat bedside me as we drove.
We sat on top of an old picnic table with peeling green paint and he snuggled close to me. Under that pale gray afternoon we watched maple leaves, the
color of flames, spiral to the ground around us. I felt his breath on my
face as his arm slid across my shoulder and his hand moved up the skin on my neck... snow cones,
popsicles, dilly bars, caramel candy, snicker doodles, oatmeal cookies,
cinnamon toast, banana bread and warm and warm and warm home... came up and
touched the curl of my ear. He pressed his forehead against the side of my head
and touched my neck with his lips. I was goose bumps and pounding heart and soon
afterwards I was lips and kissing and tongues and want and want. I was
grateful that I could kiss him with my eyes closed. If I opened them then I couldn't
have looked away.
This wasn't a melting, it was a shattering, a great wall of ice that collapsed around me and I could feel the emotion welling up stronger in me, filling my eyes with tears. So,
I shut them tight so I couldn't see...he might see it there.
We went back to his place and he sat on the couch with his knees
across my lap. We watched Survivor and he sipped orange juice and I ignored
the TV. I wanted to touch him so badly that it made my fingertips burn. I
was intensely aware of his legs across me - at his bare knees- and... I couldn't look at his
face... I put my hand on his knee, moved it softly and he smiled. I
saw his lips move out of the corner of my eye.
This was what I feared - this desire, this feeling, this comfort.
Wasn't this kind of intensity supposed to be fleeting? Wasn't the voice in my head
supposed to be fading? My heart pounded so hard that I was certain he could feel it on my skin. Why was it pounding?
That was when I knew that it was too
late to stop- I fell. I
had no right to be in there; I had no right to feel his hands on me, those fingers, that warmth
and his skin. I lifted my hands away from his legs and
realized I had no place to put them that wasn't on him - and
it was perfect. He leaned forward to kiss me.
"I don't know what to do with my hands." I said this into his
mouth while kissing him and he showed me where to put them. My eyes were closed.
He wanted me look into his eyes but I couldn't - he
held my face on either side with his hands, tried to force me. He told me he loved me while I stared at his perfect mouth. The words came out and I answered him with my closed eyes.
Later, as I fled back to my apartment, I could smell him on my clothes and
skin and I understood. I knew the feeling his fingers and kisses brought. I knew
it... from Christmas morning and Thanksgiving day and birthday candles when I
was six and watching scary movies with my mother and singing with my sister and jumping
into the lake with my cousins and my grandmother humming while she kissed me goodnight... I knew
what it was. It was
unconditional. It was that real.
This revelation made me pull the car over and I hyperventilated until I broke down, sobbing. Headlights blurred past and
semi-trucks shook my car with their whipping roars. I hid my face in my hands,
terrified of going home or going back. If I went home I knew I wouldn't see him again.
I went home and I didn't call him back... I didn't answer his calls...
I didn't look at him!
My apartment was so fucking quiet with his voice only in my head and on my machine.
My fear, that he would just keep calling, was right. My heart was breaking
but I couldn't help myself. My answering machine clicked off message after
message and each one was punctuated with "why?" and "where are you?" and "what did I
do?" and "is it because I told you I loved you?". I turned up Red House Painters to drown it out because I couldn't stand to listen to my failure in silence. I turned up the volume - could I change? I kept making
promises to the phone saying: "If he just calls five more times I'll answer
it... if he calls ten more... fifteen.... if he comes over, then I'll be sure he
loves me... it'll be OK to love him then...maybe... why doesn't he just give up? Give
His voice in my head, taste in my mouth, hands on my skin... please give up... was it so much easier to be afraid?
He didn't give up.
He came to my door and I
saw his shadow
through the glass and curtains of my living room window. I crept to the door and
stood with my hand touching the doorknob. I could feel it move with his
hand. My only remaining connection to him was that locked, shifting bulb. I kept my hand
touching it because I had to
feel something he moved in this world. I think
he saw my shadow through the curtain because he spoke softly - intimatly.
I couldn't see his face though the door, could I?.
"I don't know what I did." He said. "I just need to talk to you for a minute,
I gave him silence and the doorknob shifted again, testing, hoping...
sparks on doorknobs...
"I just have to say that I know what I said probably scared you and I'm
sorry. I don't know why I react to you like I do but I feel differently
when you're around." I could hear his hand sliding down the door and feel the
pressure of him leaning against it. "I never know what you're feeling. You
never show anything to me so I never know if I've said something wrong or not. I
I finally looked through the peephole and it was dark where he pressed his head against it. I couldn't see his face. I the door
shifted with his weight again.
I couldn't see his face!
"I just wanted to say that I love you. I don't care if you don't
love me back-
no, that's a lie. I want you to love me back. I just don't know if you
The other night I thought you did. I thought that I was right. I thought you were
holding back and were afraid. I know you don't know what to feel sometimes. You
don't even want to look at me sometimes and I don't know why. I don't know what
I've done. I need to know
that you hear me now." He paused and seemed closer to the door. It
was as if he were whispering in my ear. "You said you don't do one night stands and I'm telling
you, I don't either. That's why I thought that what happened actually
meant something to you." There was more pressure and I could feel his weight lean
in as I pressed my face against the peephole. "I wanted you to love me. I thought you might." The weight receded and the doorknob became lifeless..
I saw the darkness fade and reveal his face in a rounded fisheye distortion. It fused his
dark eyebrows, drew his blue eyes into drooping smears down his face, stretched
his nose into an ostrich beak and turned his sleek chin into a globular mess
under a wide, cartoonish mouth. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever
seen - if he were an ugly man I wouldn't love him any less. His beauty had nothing to do with his face. I stared into his down-turned eyes and realized that they contained the
same thing as mine-
fear and insecurity. I realized that I was fulfilling
both of our worst fears by pushing him
I unlocked the door and twisted the knob. He stared at my feet and I took a
step forward and made him look at me. He closed his eyes for a second and then opened them.
I held him at arms length, at first but this
time, I took a good look... it was like staring at medusa, a basilisk, a
titan, a god, the sea, the sky, the earth... we were sprouting wings and metamorphosing
and speaking in tongues... it was home, it was salvation, it was revival, it
was rest and heaven and sanctuary and revelation... I had done
...and I was changed.