a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
[content warning: alcohol, sexual content]
Brendan made hand gestures and laughed through his teeth. You ate ice cream by the park and changed tables two times, first because of the traffic, then because of the bees. He only offered to pay half-heartedly; “I insist” he said at the counter, in a high pitched voice. Your cotton candy ice cream was freezer burnt. It cost you 4 dollars and 36 cents.
Xan with the side smirk took you to a pub. He had lazy hazel eyes and California tan, like he did in his profile picture. You drank beer from bottles and sat in a maroon booth by the corner. He hated how cliché he sounded- he really did- but he would die for some of his fraternity brothers. He stared at your cleavage and asked if you wanted to watch a movie back at his place. You walked home by yourself in the rain. You had no headphones.
Wolf of Wall Street is what they always pick. When you watched it with Quinn, he laughed at all the parts that were meant to be funny. He put his hand on your thigh when Margot Robbie opened her legs and called Leo Dicaprio Daddy. During a moment of silence, he looked at you wide-eyed: “I hope I am not boring you,” he said. He abruptly bit your arm and chuckled, calling it your “thing.”
George was the first one you kissed below the belt, from your freshman year dorm. His golden hair was perfectly quaffed to the side, he walked with a knowing charm. He told you he was a “relationship guy,” but he really just knew you were a “relationship girl.” You were a willing fool, but you had Jack on your mind. You only ever had one person on your mind.
You would meet men at bars. They would come up behind you and put their hands around your waist, the smooth ones would whisper “hi” in your ear. Sometimes you’d exchange numbers but most nights you would tell them your major, where you were from, a name they’d forget, and that was it. You hated the process but went out on the premise of “you never know.” You wondered. You hoped. You were lonely and you kind of liked it.
The only one you ever loved you never dated.
You saw his face in crowded college basements, heard his voice in empty bathroom stalls.
He had intense brown eyes and gave “sincere nods” in the hallway. He drank Coronas with a particular ease, he looked like a child who had grown up too fast. You knew when he was hurt the same way you knew which family member was coming up the stairs; you never had to ask. Your eye contact was long and curious but you were friends. You shared Drake lyrics, raced down sidewalks, and watched the stars on cold Long Island sand.
His words left an impression, his presence had a sweet aftertaste. So he’d cut and kill and come crawling back like a cockroach and you’d let him. He gave almost kisses and left you with The Long and Winding Road by the Beatles, tears on four minute drives. Phone calls on train tracks and “you’re perfect on paper, but missing that spark.”
You thought about that for a long time.
They all fell asleep so easily. You fucked and wanted to be held for the sake of being held, you craved forehead kisses because they looked a lot like love. They would put their arm around you for a little bit until they were a mere nude back on the mattress, facing away from you, and they left nothing but the white stain you scrubbed.
John’s line was “come here.” He liked that you were a virgin, pure and untouched. He lifted up your chin with his finger, pinned you against your string light wall. When he came he told you he loved you and instantly took it back with his distant blue eyes; I don’t mean that, silly girl.
By the time Santa Tell Me started playing in stores, Dylan came around. You sat in the front seat of a low tan car that you could never recognize as his. The window was frosted with snow and he had a girlfriend, so you thought, this might be real. He was bored by her. She wasn’t independent, creative like you. Two days later she was gone and you made out and did a little bit more; “God, I’ve wanted you for so long.”
Noah begged. He was a pothead with grey eyes and a long neck, slender white hands.
“It hurts baby, just feel it. See what you’re doing to me?”
“I’m not in the mood. I’m tired.”
“Okay. I’m not going to pressure you or anything, obviously.”
Two minutes later his hungry lips were on your collarbone. He brought your hand to his bulge. A few blinks later he was inside of you, thrusting in and out of a keyhole that didn’t want, didn't fit.
You watched rom-coms you used to love and got angry at the way they led you on. You couldn’t listen to songs without memories of them. You shriveled when you saw long necks and golden hair, thinking that might be him, a slow and painful dagger to your gut. With your friends you laughed about all the bad dates, the missed connections...sometimes you were just thankful for the stories. And late at night in bed you thought of all the unworthy hands that tainted your heart and body, but mostly your body, because regret isn’t designed to disappear.
When you were younger you had this floral notebook. You would write stories about Amelia Bedilia, the clumsy but well meaning maid. You wrote about your family; how they always waited for you at the bus stop, even in the rain. Your parents never went to bed without kissing you goodnight, but by 5th grade you were dreaming about Brian March’s red hair.
You didn’t understand where it all came from. You never knew how to just like something; you always let it consume you. You fell for the sake of falling, lived for stolen glances and drunk confessions. Your intuition was an afterthought, you gave meaning to people who in the end, meant nothing. For someone who hated being lonely, you wrapped yourself in a blanket of that feeling.
Eventually you grew tired of it all: the highs, the lows, the adrenaline. You’re a senior in college now and when a man grabs you by the waist, you back away. You go for morning runs around campus, watch the sunset on private benches. You learn that you like men who are abrupt and awkward, men with hearts like your own. You have no one to call when you’re angry, no heartbreak to invent on dull nights, but your sleep is long and deep and forgiving.
The next one will have a lopsided smile. You hope that when he says your name it will sound like a sweet song. His brown eyes will melt when they laugh and when you notice yourself melting with him, he will smell like hope and a sliver of temptation.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.