You’re sitting on the bus seat and the boys are trying to touch you. You’re staring forward telling yourself it’s not worth it to fight back. You repeat the rules over and over again in your head, and you repeat the punishments in your head. You start to wonder what worth it means, and who or what it applies to.
Your boyfriend cheats on you and you find yourself staring at her, full of rage. You’re angry at her. You repeat the rules and you don’t think of him. You let him back into your bed because he said a few words. You wonder what she looked like there, and you get angry. You’re angry at her and not at him, but you turn away after he’s finished this time, and he comments on it nervously. You stay quiet and say you’re just tired.
You’re lying in the bed of your first college fuck and you’re wondering if you’re supposed to stay or go. The bed is hardly big enough for two and you are pressed up against a wall—you’d have to crawl over him to leave and you think maybe it’d just be easier to stay until morning. You wonder when his roommate will be awake and you tell him to set an early alarm because you have to study. You wish you could shower but he’s falling asleep, and you stare at the ceiling for hours. The next day you say no words but he pours you a bowl of cereal before you go.
You’re thinking back to the time you rode the bus and the boys tried to touch you. You think of the time the boys swatted up your skirt in the hallway for a laugh. You were worried about what underwear you were wearing—you didn’t want to be embarrassed by a fully covered ass. You think about the time you watched a movie in class and your desk partner kept touching your legs. You thought of the rules. You think about the parties where the boys move their hands toward your crotch as you try to block them with your elbows. You wonder if there are still rules now. You wonder what would happen if you fought. You wonder what worth it means.
You’re lying underneath your friend, biting your lip with uncertainty. He says, “You don’t want to do this, do you?” and you say nothing. You take a sharp inhale and he enters. You stare at the ceiling, half because you’re bored and half because you want nothing to do with this. You don’t feel violated; but you don’t feel anything. This isn’t different from any other time.
You never talk about it again. Somehow the friendship fades out into awkward hellos and goodbyes with the briefest of how-you’ve-been doings.
You’re in fifth grade and you’re wearing the velvet tracksuit your aunt bought you because your mom told you to. You didn’t wear a shirt underneath, and you can’t remember why. You didn’t wear a bra either. The boy on the bus slips into your seat and keeps trying to unzip it. You turn away with real fear. The next week he asks you if it’s unfair that the school made him get his haircut. You think it is, but you don’t say anything. You stare and you don’t say anything at all.
You’re boyfriend turns crazy. He used to be a person but now he’s a thing. He’s a heavy blanket on your face. You hear a pill bottle open before he enters the room. He gets into bed with you and you realize what he’s done. He says he did it for you. You call an ambulance. You make him get dressed. You wonder when you ever asked for this, you wonder if it is your fault. You don’t have time to wonder anything else because you’re so concentrated on a heartbeat, and later you are blamed for everything.
You wonder why all your boyfriends didn’t have friends when they were children. You wonder how close anyone ever got to you, or rather, how close you ever got to anyone.
You wonder why you’ve always dated people who want to die.
You’re lying in bed next to someone you love who doesn’t love you back. It’s alright for now. He wraps his arms around you and you lick his chest. He looks down at you and giggles. You want to stay here forever. You try to convince yourself that this is enough, that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t love you since he doesn’t love anyone.
You’re sitting with your friend and you’re talking about sex. You’re both admitting numbers, and you can tell from her face that she’s shocked not to mention judgmental. You’re not surprised. You go back to your room and you lie in bed and start thinking. Thinking about the whens and the whys, and what whos you regret and which you don’t. Wondering how you thought about it all in the beginning. You think about how quickly you went from a first kiss to a first everything else. You can’t remember anymore how that happened. You can’t remember if you wanted it or not. It feels distant, forgone.
You remember phases in your life by who you were dating and it makes you sad. And soon you realize you forgot about people, and maybe whole sections of your life, too.
You’re holding hands with a boy for the first time and you’re worried that your parents will see. There’s hot sand beneath your feet and you’re sensitive about the sweat accumulating in your palms. You think of reasons to stand up, to walk away and let go. Not because you don’t want to hold the hand of the boy, because you do. But you feel like you’re breaking a rule. He leaves a note on the door of your grandparent’s trailer a couple days later to tell you he doesn’t want to see you anymore. It’s the first time you see the words “it’s not you, it’s me.” You laugh out loud because even at that age you can taste the bullshit.
Then again, you realize there’s always some truth in that statement.
You break up with a boy, and you realize, it isn’t them, it’s you. They’re loveable, but you don’t have the right makeup to love them. A boy breaks up with you, and you wonder what’s wrong with you. But maybe they weren’t the right form to love you. Maybe people can like each other and they won’t fit.
You’re alone. It doesn’t happen often. You’re alone and you aren’t interested, and neither is anyone else. You’re lonely. You have the desire for sensations, but not from anyone in particular. If you tell yourself the truth, you wouldn’t want love and warmth from anyone at all because it’d feel wrong. You don’t want to look for a cure in a sugar pill. But you still feel lonely.
Your boyfriend tells everyone you meet about the time you were with two girls. You hang your head down and avoid eye contact—not something you do often. You have to explain the nickname his roommate calls you, “lesbian fister.” You have to inform people that you’ve never fisted anyone, nor been fisted or come close. Not that anyone will believe you after that. And not that it’d stop the nickname from spreading if anyone did.
You’re a child and you’re on the bus. Your best friend is sitting next to you so the other boys don’t bother you even though he’d prefer to have a seat by himself.
You’re walking around the city with your boyfriend at night and an old man from across the street yells something unintelligible at you. You don’t respond and he calls you a fucking whore. Your boyfriend looks like he’s going to yell something, but he doesn’t and you’re thankful. He asks if you would have preferred he did, and you explain that if anyone was going to respond it would have been you. He holds your hand.
You’re lying next to your boyfriend who you love. He likes you and cares about you but doesn’t love you. But you aren’t thinking about that right now. You’re talking about silly things and calling each other silly names. You’re looking into each other’s eyes, but you can’t stop thinking about how you want to fall into them. You’re just thinking about how nice it is to be here. In a bed that isn’t yours but it feels more like home than anywhere else you know. You lean over him and he smiles up at you in a way you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a smile that says I’m happy, not at the situation, but with you specifically. You start thinking about how he doesn’t love you and you want to cry. Cry because you’re incredibly happy and sad all at once. Cry because you’re at home and lonely as hell. Cry because you finally reached the theme park but it’s about to close. You lean down and kiss him, gentler than you had intended to. Perhaps so gently that he knows what you’re thinking.
You’re sitting on the bus and no one is there. You’re staring out the window.
Katie Mehrer is currently working on her undergrad at Grand Valley State University studying psychology with a minor in writing. She hopes to eventually go into neuroscience. This is her first publication. Random details of her life and interests may be found at her blog.