It was the night that I thought, maybe this could be my forever.
Several hours earlier, I was introduced to your family for the first time. We drove to your hometown for your cousin’s wedding ceremony, preceded by the wedding reception where we all watched as the bride and groom had their first dance. My heart filled with joy for the beauty of their moment – just them, together, in a room full of everyone and yet, it was just the two of them. Every person watching knew that part of these two people would be present in this moment forever.
And that was where I found myself now, alone in a moment with you that I would never entirely leave. One hand steady on my shoulder, as the other slowly unzipped the back of my dress to reveal my shoulder blades and then my lower back. I was in your hands, but in a different way than I had ever been before. Instead of letting my dress fall to the floor, you held it below my knees as I stepped out and then reached for my pajama bottoms. I turned to face you as you sat down on the bed and looked up at me with a silent smile. Left foot in, right foot in. We never broke eye contact as your hands pulled my shorts up to my hipbones and stayed there a moment before reaching for my shirt. Two arms up, you slipped it on over my head.
I know how it feels to have your hand reach out to hold mine as we walk down the campus quad. I know how it feels to pull myself inside the vault of your chest on a lazy Saturday morning. But this was a form of tenderness that didn’t match with those moments. You pulled back the sheets and tucked me in, kissing me once on the lips and then on the forehead.
The next morning, I awoke with the aura of last night still filling the room and I contemplated why it had been so easy to surrender myself to a position that felt so much like dependence. As a girl who for the longest time refused to yield her autonomy to anyone, who was driven to prove she had the motivation to make things happen for herself and on her own, how had it been so easy to soften to his touch and drop into his arms?
Because — my inner dialogue responded, answering my question just as easily as it had asked it— I had believed that doing so wouldn’t make any less of me. Because his intention was not to treat me as a child, it was to show me that he was a willing recipient of the responsibility of taking care of me. He had tucked me into bed, not as a prized possession, but as a prized being. And I knew I was willing to give more of myself to him, so long as I could have more of these forevers.
It’s nights like this when I miss you most. I’m in my dress and heels at a date function and the night has been…
I’ve participated in small talk, met some people, my date is nice. But that feeling is starting to come, that bitter-sweet sensation of invisibility bordering alienation. Bitter—because to the people in this room, I am just one more body. I am insignificant. Sweet— because of my insignificance, nobody will notice if I disappear into the darkness, slip away outside into the night’s cold crisp air or to the solitary confines of a bathroom stall, and sit there just to breathe. But Bitter again —because I am here alone, without anyone. Without purpose, without feeling… with every feeling, with it all bubbling up and I can’t stop it and I can’t force it back down and God why do I feel so angry? Why do I feel so hunted and battered and hurt?
This date function feels like a continuous series of pop quizzes meant to test my social capabilities for the level of entertainment I can provide. Like every interaction is a test drive to see if I’m worth getting to know. I am fucking exhausted from the charade. It’s not fine. It’s not okay. I find it truly incredible how inferior I can allow myself to feel. What authority do they have to condemn me to a supporting role?
Why can’t I just disconnect the wires in my brain that make me care what they all think? They, the term so easily turns the world into a dehumanized mass of ignorant people who don’t understand. But I want them to understand. I want them to see the ability I possess within me to be a loyal friend, the trueness of my intentions. I want them to care about me, or I at least to like me. My thought process cycles the same question over and over again: What am I doing wrong?
I just don’t get what is expected of me. Or rather more I don’t get what they expect of me. And I cannot succeed in meeting my own self-expectations if I do not have a clear understanding of how I am meant to meet theirs. I’ve created a warped reality for myself wherein I cannot fully love myself unless I am loved by everyone else.
Clearly this is an unrealistic expectation, an impossible standard of never butchering a first impression while playing by everyone else’s unwritten, unspoken rules. And yet here I sit in a bathroom stall trying to catch back my breath in this massive exertion. Here I am trying to prove to everybody I meet that I am witty and charming and fully worthy of his or her attention, including people with my same morals and those without. So even if she’s looking over my shoulder as we speak for someone higher on the social ladder or he’s probably just looking for tonight’s hook-up, I subconsciously allow myself to feel disappointed, maybe even ashamed, that they don’t seem to place value on me.
It was so much easier when I had you. It never mattered that he had brushed me off or that that group of girls had been obnoxiously exclusive because at the end of the night it was just you and me. Just you and your arm wrapped around me with pride, as if to say, “I got her.” These nights I felt pulled into the moment by someone who wanted me there more than any other person. And that’s what I long for now, to be tied down to earth by someone who’s willing to hold me there.
As I stand alone on the curb to hail a cab, I crave nothing more than to tell the driver the address of your standard Central Campus apartment room. But as the music from the venue grows softer and softer, I find myself being driven in the wrong direction.