“Do you wear contacts?” He asked me, as we pulled away from an overly lingering hug. He stared at me in the kind of way where it was like he wasn’t really looking at me; he was looking into me.
“Uh, no… why?” Me. Guarded. As always.
“Your eyes are really that green?”
I blinked and put my hand to my face. “Yeah…”
“Oh, I just thought there was no way those were your real eyes. They are so beautiful.” Again with that stare. He was not an abashed man.
“Oh, well, uh, thank you.” My cheeks burned. I thought to myself, doesn’t he have a girlfriend? Maybe he’s just being nice? Is that what friendly men in their thirties say to freshly-graduated twenty-three year olds? Is that what new coworkers—nephews of bosses at the company I had just been hired at—say to women when it’s their birthday and their girlfriend isn’t around? Is this the moment I should have been better, should have known better, should have stopped wanting the lust in his eyes to shine directly onto my skin?
These are the things I remember about those six months. I think I loved him in a way where I needed to love him at that time. We’d sit down for dinner and we’d hold hands in prayer even though neither of us were religious. He’d caress my bare shoulder as he walked by me and my entire body would shiver with lust. We’d drink whiskey shots straight and he’d smoke weed and I’d think of ways to avoid his lips.
One time when I spent the night, he wanted to watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory even though it was midnight and we were drunk and we needed to be at work the next day and, instead of staying on the couch, he laid next to me on the air mattress that was supposed to be my bed for the night even though his bed was ten feet away in his room and we fell asleep next to each other and I was so ashamed that his brother would find us like that and so ashamed because he had a girlfriend and he was my boss’s nephew that I woke up at 6am and left without saying goodbye or hello or please go sleep in your own bed what the fuck are you doing.
His girlfriend found out about I don’t even know what because him and I had never kissed and he was the one who asked me to spend the night and drink with him at the house he was housesitting and he was the one who complained about his girlfriend and he was the one who, when I sat down to give him a glass of water, laid his hand on my inner thigh and I could have climbed on top of him and kissed him and stole him away from her, but instead all I did was casually lift his hand up and put it back on his stomach. She found out about who knows whatever she found out about, but it was all my fault and I was the terrible one and I was the one embarrassed because the six people who worked for the company knew about it.
I went to our company Christmas party and his girlfriend was there and I got so drunk and awkward and weird that all I did was sext with this really insanely hot guy all night and then spill wine on my steak and feel like I wanted to fucking crawl out of my skin and die in a hole somewhere. One of my girlfriends who had accompanied me to the party stayed over at my apartment and spent the night in my bed tangling her soft legs with mine and I was too drunk to know how to interpret whether or not she was trying to tell me something with those soft legs running up and down mine.
Then his girlfriend called me as I was driving down to San Francisco to go to a job interview and she told me to stay away from her boyfriend and I wanted to scream and tell her it was him! It was him! I’m young and stupid and vulnerable, but he’s the one! Instead, I said: “Ok.” “Sorry.” “I understand.” I wanted to cry, but I wasn’t able to.
I took the first job I was offered. The kind of soulless job that feeds off desperate college graduates who need to flee situations created out of fear and insecurity and the grasping need to feel something, anything, that isn’t the terror of having to enter real life. The kind of job an ambitious girl with dreams to spare will take to avoid her mistakes, to escape a life she built that she needs to tear down.
I remember quitting and finding out that my boss knew about everything and I had no idea she knew and that everyone knew. I sat in her office and wanted to die, actually fucking die, as she looked at me like I had broken everything and should be ashamed of myself. And I wanted to scream, it was him! It was him! His hand, my thigh! Willy Wonka! Bringing me out to his backyard to look at the stars and putting his arms around me from behind and coming inches from kissing me and me turning my face away and going back inside and taking a shot of whiskey! It was him! Then she yelled at me, “You were at the Christmas party texting all night. What the FUCK is wrong with you!” I left that day and never looked back and drove to San Francisco a few days later with her “FUCK!” pounding away at my ears.
I remember his eyes on my eyes and how I wish I had looked away, how I wish he hadn’t looked into me, how I wish I’d have let my eyes and my shoulders and my thighs and my hands be seen and touched by someone—anyone—else.
I didn’t even kiss him. There were only memories. Regrets. Spilled wine on a steak. Soft legs on soft legs. Sexts with other men. Moments of decency. Mine, not his. And the blame. The energy of their blame on me.
And, I remember declaring that day that I would never again fall in love with the illusion of a man. I would never let myself be spellbound by the falsity of someone’s connection. And, I told myself that, if I were to be loved, that person shall make it known and I shall make it known to them and everyone else—every brokenhearted man who wants his fix on my thigh—can go find themselves in other beds. And, I thought that’s a declaration I’d love to keep. Yet, I didn’t. I haven’t. And, so it goes.