When You Don’t Play By The Rules Of Love

Emily
Emily

One night last year, when summer was beginning it slow its bones into the recliner of fall, melting and giving way to a new season, a boy took me on a drive out to the lake. There were rowboats docked there, rejoicing in their quiet place now empty of dogs, runners, children and ducks. They rocked back and forth with the waves in the moonlight, speckled with silver just like the water. Neatly arranged two by two they sat on that dock, where I stood barefoot with my shoes hooked around a finger, a warm can of beer in my hand. “Should we steal one?” He asked, raising an eyebrow at me. His eyes were as black as mine were pale.

“Do you even know how to row one of those?”

“No, but I’m sure it’s not that hard. C’mon.” Of course it wasn’t hard for him; he was the kind of boy whose hands could conquer machines, fix cars, stop a leaky pipe. He had the rough, dirty hands of the men I’d grown up with and when he traced them along my skin at night, the roughest of callouses felt sweet and gentle.

I laughed. “That is so against the rules,” I said. “What if we get caught?”

I played by the rules. I still do. I was the first child, coddled, protected, my every move documented by Minolta and hulking video camera, my cooing, doting mother behind the lens. I knew right and wrong as soon as my brain left babyhood. There were little rebellions as a teenager, smoking and sexing and staying out all night and lying about it, but for the most part I was cautious, afraid to step over the line and create chaos.

I was afraid of doing anything but what I was supposed to do. I got the straight As, went to college, paid every bill on time. I’d been taught that bad things happened to you if you didn’t follow rules. Drive too fast, spin out on gravel and flip your car. Steal and pay for it. It’s one of those things you learn in junior high science: Every action has a reaction. Any little movement creates another, and another. Everything makes an impact.

But when it comes to love, I never do the right thing. I fall into their arms immediately, throwing my body over the car seat and plunking down right in their laps, hands all over the place in the frenzy of heat and passion that sometimes sparks over a drink or three in a dark restaurant corner. I give them what they want because I want it too, and what’s the sense in waiting? I tell them exactly what I feel when I feel it. I don’t want to be coy, or prudish, when I’m not like that in my real life.

I pick the ones who will never stick around, whose best laid plans are taking them far away from me right when we’ve fallen in love. I pick the ones who’ll never be the prince I wanted them to be, or the ones who lust after the swerves and curves of my body but still let their heart rest in some other girl’s hands. I drop everything for them, even when I know I shouldn’t. I can’t resist it. I never wait for them to call, or play hard to get, or any of that shit we’re supposed to do as girls. I want what I want when I want it and I forget all about the consequences once someone has ignited that little fire in me. It’s not that easy to do. I throw all my rules out the window when it comes to men. And every action still has a reaction, but I never learn. TC mark

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