Winner of the Broke But Moisturized Inaugural Essay Contest
Do you ever think about me? Does anything we shared linger with you? Do you have regrets?
Even in more technicolor days, I sensed we were destined to burn out as brightly as we began. You told me after our second date you weren’t sure what you wanted. I hoped I could enjoy being with you for what it was, whatever it was. But after you suggested we “pump the brakes for a while,” all those romantic notions shriveled, pale with grief. The last time we saw each other was for Halloween; I was Poison Ivy and you Cat Woman. We shared so much joy in planning our costumes, getting ready together, but you were already considering ending it. The morning after, the last morning I ever woke up next to you, something had changed. I lived in a three-day panic until you decided to break the news. I drew it out of you and afterwards I cried so hard I vomited. Was it the callous way you spoke to me about my own feelings? Or because I was proven right about you? I blamed myself partially. Why did I let myself be consumed by passion when I needed stability? Really I wanted whatever I could get and took just that. You made me feel like I sparkled; when you looked at me, I hoped you were sparkling too. So many times while we were dating I wondered if you even liked me. And now, what to wonder?
Being from the same town and having mutual friends, you were one of those people I absentmindedly followed on Instagram. Once in a while we would message each other. I noticed you had a boyfriend in your pictures and then you didn’t. As our messaging got more frequent for about a year, I wondered, what do you want from me? I got drunk enough at a Fourth of July party to try and find out. All you did was like my comment (“still hot”) which made me cringe! Thinking I lost my chance, imagine how good it felt when you did something similar (but less intoxicated) by commenting “who gave you permission to be so hot” on a post of mine two weeks later.
I waited until the following morning to ask you out. We planned to for drinks with a combination of our friends. That Friday, as we all sat as a group at a bar, the two of us at a partial distance, you entertained us with an anecdote about dating men. And then boldly added across the table, “I’m a weird flirter which is why I was so surprised you knew I was coming onto you.”
Walking across the street to my favorite dance spot, I noticed you quickly found your stride next to mine. We sat close on the ripped red upholstery while we waited for the dance floor to open, the glitter on the walls already showing off its moves. The fullness of it all nearly overwhelmed me. Leaving work to meet you, I was so anxious I could’ve thrown up. But then there I was gleaming in our lunar beauty, watching you beam right back at me.
On the dance floor, we kept making eyes at each other, getting closer, and I was electrified by the feeling that you wanted me. You asked to take a picture with me—was that a move? You sweetly brushed my bangs with your fingers and sprayed me with your perfume after I complimented it. I embraced the flirty scene and asked, “so is this what I think it is? Like, you’re into me in a romantic way?” You said yes. We kissed a few times that night and afterward you pointed out ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me” had been playing.
Two days later, we went on another date and it kicked off from there. Texting you threaded each day into an endless blanket. You started to refer to me as your girlfriend. When the time for our first sleepover came, you confessed you were nervous. That humanized your godly glow, softened your hard c and I couldn’t help but blurt out: “I’ve never had sex with a woman before, or a man.” Your gentle reaction told me you could be kind. But you fight so hard not to be. You asked “what if I’m not good?” And I replied, “it’ll be good because it’s you.” I can almost still feel how it felt to lay across from you on my bed, dreamy-eyed. I bathed in every moment you allowed yourself to be vulnerable: you sweating through your shirt on our picnic; showering together; your face twisting into a moan; my knee splitting open and you holding my hand all night; you getting naked first and admitting “I’ve never done that;” kissing at indoor mini golf, the blacklight making our teeth glow; sending me the link to “You’re the One that I Want” on your bus ride home the morning after we had sex for the first time. And “My Girl” randomly one day. I was the only girl you had ever been with, and that made me feel special. I rode those waves of connection far into delusional comfort whenever I felt you fading. I wanted to be your girl, with all my heart.
You know when you take clothing off that’s been close to your skin, and its fibers linger with your essence for a while but then it fades? As was my affection for you. The dissipate was excruciating, but one day the spell broke and I was free.
I used to bare everything to you; you’ve seen every single freckle, giggling as you discovered new ones on my butt. You’re so far away from me now. All because you never could relinquish your power. You devoured me like it was sport and I enjoyed our play so much I barely realized I had been bled dry. I wasted away reassuring myself and you. I have never confronted the fragility of my ego more in my life. Have you confronted yours?
You practically demanded to keep contact after dropping me as hot and heavy as we began. And then you audaciously texted me to ask if I cursed you, to see if you could stay at my apartment for a music festival, to claim guilt that your parents never met me even though a month prior you insisted we were never a couple. A week after the end, you sa you missed talking to me and refused to understand why being “just friends for now” would be impossible. “Why are you acting like I’m breaking up with you?” You really were as emotionally manipulative as I feared.
I started writing about you because I had no idea how to remember you. I loved you and then I hated you too and then what? Where does it go? Is a fling ever just that? I was the center of your world and then you needed space. I took nine months to write this; I guess I needed space too. I unfollowed you on Instagram, refollowed, then muted you. Recently I let my eyes look their last. You had a meme posted about how your zodiac alignment meant you “really didn’t care about how [anyone] felt” and wrote “a formal apology to all my exes.” I never knew I could have a near equal amount of adoration and contempt in my heart for one person. You could be so stubborn and totally boring and threw my feelings in every direction. You said “we’ve definitely known each other in a past life” and then “I can’t make any more plans with you right now.” You were selfish, openly sleeping with other people the whole time we were together, even posting about it on Instagram. But after you broke up with me you didn’t like when I tweeted dating app jokes. You told me you hated PDA but got upset when I didn’t kiss you when you visited me at work. Sometimes I wonder if you were embarrassed to be in a queer relationship. And that made me sad for you, but also sad for me. Toward the end of our constant, unhealthy stream of texting you brought up for the second time in a week how your face is asymmetrical. I thought, is that all there is to talk about anymore? Your worldview was crippling, confined and I ceased to fit.
I wonder now: does a relationship like this gain power from its tumultuous ephemerality? Well, you can keep your power. I’ve got mine. The part of me I tied to you was set adrift on a rainy October night and after all my mourning I realized I didn’t want it back. There is strength in knowing I gave you my love freely, without regret.
You are the wound of first love lost, a stress nightmare I will face without warning, an unsent love letter tossed into the flames.