The following short, short, short story was originally published in the collaborative Twine You Were Made For Loneliness, created and managed by Javy Gwaltney. My story is only part of the larger narrative, and it is worth reading because some really amazing and incredible people contributed to it.
There she stands, in an arched doorway, tank top riding up to expose a belly button, arm bent over her head in a fucked-up halo. Slight smile to match a look in her eyes, a look that betrayed mischievous ulterior motives. This is my favourite memory of her. It wasn’t the first time we met, or the last time, it was just one time, like every other time we shared together.
She was, utterly, unlike anybody else. Ethereal doesn’t quite cut it, because she could pack a punch that was heavier and more solid than cinderblocks. Not physically, of course. The fear of physicality kept her contained, limbs always folded in on each other like an ashamed marionette trying to hide her strings. But with her words, wow, her words could destroy cities. Breath like insidious fumes that could seep into your pores, contaminating your blood and rewiring your veins and thoughts from within. She was a force, that’s for sure.
Why did nobody else see her this way? (And no, I shall not compare you to a summer’s day.)
When did I meet her? I must have been sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, some version of “teen” that was too young for how old I felt. Already bone-tired, eyes already heavy, words already laced with whiskey and disdain. This is what I call my “bad times” or the times Before I Got My Shit Together. Every night spent in a house in a “bad” area, with “bad” people, doing “bad” things. The walls were yellowed from smoke, the couches were stained with spilt bong water, spilt beer, spilt cum, spilt Pepsi drank straight from the 2L bottle.
I know what you’re thinking. She didn’t save me.
She didn’t ruin me, either.
She just was.
I don’t tell anybody about this time. Usually, these memories are clouded over with other memories, the really bad stuff. No scare quotes there. There’s no way to be tongue-in-cheek about that one. So I don’t come here often. I save her, this memory, for the really awful times. For the 3 a.m.s with no sleep; the train rides home from work after being stepped on and squashed by work and life, like the ants that trail in the bathroom; the I Can’t Fucking Take This Anymore Times. That’s when I need her the most.
Remember, she’s not my saviour. These memories don’t save me, redeem me, or make me a better person in any way. They are just safe. A quiet corner to retreat to. Blankets to crawl under.
For all her complexity and enormity and thunderous capability, she was simple. And I loved her. And it was all simple.
This memory, she stands there. Slowly lets her arm fall back, stretches out the kinks in it, as if she’s unraveling each bone at a time.
“You look tired today, Lily” she says. She always says this.
“I am,” I say back. As I watch my memory, I mouth the words. I am I am I am I am I am I am
The others haven’t come yet, so it’s just me and her. The rest are out getting pizza, chips, popcorn, and video games from the movie rental store around the corner. Next to the building with the engravings of cows’ heads (I think it used to be a dairy processing plant). So we sit on the couch, a deep kiss that would be ravenous if I could lift my limbs, but it always feels as if my blood was replaced with cement, and if only I could be Snow White (I was never the Pretty Girl, so being a Disney princess was more than I could ever hope for) and her kiss could revive me, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and she doesn’t save me, and we kiss, and then my head rests on the back of the couch.
And that’s it. The others come back shortly after, and we separate. She goes to sit on the arm of the chair across the room, and I remain where I am, my head resting on the couch.
I replay the memory over and over.
“You look tired today, Lily.”
I am I am I am I am I am I am