If you pretended you wanted me, you know, I’d probably go away. Don’t you know that by now? That I’d be repulsed if you told me you loved me. That I’d drain you faster than a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold. If you said, “Let’s try this again,” I’d laugh and say “No.” I’d walk away with my hips swaying. I’d put on some lipstick, get into a cab. I’d go home with a guy who doesn’t know my last name, hear him sneak out of my apartment at around 3am. I’d stop answering your calls, stop texting you funny things during the day. My friends would say, “Have you heard from him?” And I’d roll my eyes and take another sip of black coffee. I’ve been ordering it how you like it lately. As if drinking your blood will make me stronger than you.
But you wouldn’t do that, even for a joke. That’s the problem with you and me; we both want the last word, and only one of us can have it. You win because you’re braver. You’re willing to cut off your own limbs, wrap the wound in a tourniquet, scale down the side of a mountain to survive. I’m not. I break my own heart out of boredom each Tuesday. You drink with your friends, bury yourself in work, flirt with new girls like you used to with me when we met last summer. I get lonely and sad, text you poems that I love. I wait for you to reply, “I don’t even know what that means, Whitney,” and sulk at the bar below my apartment. I bury my face in bowls of stale popcorn.
When you shout and make me cry, I should probably leave. I should know when I’m no longer wanted. I should give you the finger, screech, “Go get some help!”, eat a whole box of donut holes, and sleep without dreaming. I should. But I don’t. Instead, I ask you questions like, “Was I really that awful?” and, “Why does everything I do make your skin crawl?” and, “Do you think I’m a monster?”
Because here’s the thing that I’ve learned about monsters: they aren’t monsters when you love them. They aren’t monsters when you’re walking down Fifth Avenue, holding their hands. They aren’t monsters when they’re buying you dinner with the dregs of their paycheck. They aren’t monsters the first time you see them all cute and drunk at the Way Station. They aren’t monsters when they buy you Popsicles, steal your plaid shirts, introduce you to their mothers. They aren’t monsters when they dress up just right, when they laugh at the jokes you spent all morning writing. They aren’t monsters then, are they? They can’t be. You pulled one of them in close once and called her your dream girl. You tried to teach her how to dance, even though she was terrible. You let her talk during movies and let her meet your sister. You took her to that Matisse exhibit at MoMA, that Ghostbusters gallery, that midnight showing of Edward Scissorhands on your birthday in December.
You loved her, goddamnit, now why can’t you just say that? She’ll slink off like Godzilla, glide beneath the waters, back to where she came from. You’ll scare her off easier with promises and passion. You’ll get rid of her forever if only you’re kind.
So, call me baby ‘til I hate you. Make me sick with your devotion. Refuse to leave my side. I’ll be outta here fast, leave you be down in Brooklyn. I’ll move back to California, dye my hair, get a puppy. I’ll move back to Austin, get a nose ring, learn to skateboard. I’ll do yoga, eat more vegetables. I’ll worry about the ozone layer instead. “Baby, I was faking the whole time,” I’ll tell you. You’ll be glad that I’m gone. I’ll stop wishing you well. We’ll stop pulsing out steam like a broken summer radiator. We’ll stop feeling obligated to like each other’s bad music. We’ll never be able to go back to Saluggi’s, but we won’t even care. You won’t call me monster. I won’t call you puppy.
It will be worth it, to finally flee this ghost town. It’ll be worth it to become an expatriate of your heart.