This afternoon, as we stood outside chatting, I kept focusing on the bridge of your nose. It was sunburned, and you hadn’t tried to cover that. Your skin was completely bare. You had dark circles under your grey eyes. Your shorts revealed the bruises on your knees. You stood before me, emitting an occasional nervous giggle, your whole self on the line. And me, I had my armor on.
My neatly black-rimmed eyes were hidden by the Jackie O sunglasses. I had just fixed my lipstick. I wore a vintage pleated skirt and crop top and boots. My arms were full of books. You saw the ambitious college student, the girl whose life is on track.
“Fuck,” I said, because I’m the girl who swears, remember, that’s a part of the armor, “I have to run. There aren’t enough hours in a day.” I smiled, I played my expected part. That’s the main difference between you and me. I am a collection of quirks, a series of recognizable traits. I’m always playing a role in my personal production. And you, you’re always just you.
That’s why you broke his heart, you see. He wasn’t used to your brand of rapid honesty, he wasn’t prepared to be engulfed by a real person. He was used to me. He was used to the character sketches we presented to one another. Maybe that was why we were together for so long. So long. I know our relationship seems intimidating. We were method actors in a play about a couple, but we were acting none the less. We were clean and uncomplicated. We always had our armor on.
I wish you and I had met under different circumstances. I honestly think we could have been friends. We study the same things, we’ve got mutual acquaintances, you seem perfectly pleasant. We wouldn’t manage a friendship, though. You came too soon after me, you were too much of the reason for the closing of the play.
I don’t think I can ever fully get over that. It’s funny, the idea of the two of you together physically has never bothered me. When I first found out about your existence, I wasn’t hurt by the image of his hands on your body. I didn’t shudder at the thought of his lips locked with yours. But I couldn’t fathom how willing he was to move on. He’d quit the play, and it fucking hurt. You managed to take his armor off.
And then you tapped out. You weren’t willing to play a role, that’s not who you are. Two weeks in, a few social media posts later, having referred to him as ‘your man,’ you were tapping the fuck out and coming to talk to me. You’re phenomenal. I so wish we’d met under different circumstances. I fucking wish we could’ve been friends. I admire you so much. I have never broken anyone’s heart, you see.
I’m the girl with the Jackie O sunglasses and the lipstick and the armfuls of books. I’m a person you’ve heard mentioned: a collection of anecdotes, positions, appointments, interests, distinctive physical traits. I can easily be summed up, explained. I make sense. From a distance, I think my life is pretty enviable. Even up close, I quite fancy the individual traits I’m made up of. I’m a success. I don’t show the sunburn on my nose, or the bruises on my knees. I’m a mirage, a hologram. I can’t get hurt. I can’t hurt you.
But you’re a real person. You’re physically vulnerable, mortal, human. You are your sunburn, your bruises. You’re the nervous giggle as you speak to me on campus. You lay yourself bare to everyone you meet, you’ve laid yourself bare to me.
I wish I could hate you. It’d be such a delightfully perfect cliché. The righteous girlfriend hating that bitch who broke her relationship, and then broke the boy. “How could he choose her?” I could hypothetically say, “How could he pick her?” I’d metaphorically show off my accomplishments. I can’t hate you, you’re way too fucking cool.
In the end, I think, if I had to choose between us, I’d also have chosen you. I’d have picked the real person over the acclaimed performance.
You’re the girl who broke his heart.
I’m the girl who never really had it.