Content warning: mentions of sexual assault.
Writer’s note: This is not about one person in particular, but a compilation of memories from different people I have met. I wrote this piece to both share my experiences and thoughts on dating and relationships as well as to use this piece to finally let go and free myself of the heavy memories I have hidden so deep inside of me for so long.
My bed feels a little emptier now that you left. The outline of your body is still pressed into the crumpled, untucked sheets. The smell of your neck and my favorite cologne is left behind and is only noticeable when I roll over onto your side and press my nose against your pillow, which I try to avoid as to not mess up the remnants of your outline.
I ask if I’ll see you tomorrow, but you don’t respond. I ask what you have planned for the rest of the day. You respond with nothing more than an “I’m pretty busy today.” It’s as if you’re just brushing me off, enough that I understand and don’t ask you to grab lunch later. As you leave, you peek outside to make sure my roommate isn’t there, so you can leave without a trace to ensure that the only people who knew about us were you and me.
My fingers tingle as the tips of them reach your warm skin. Without much thought, I draw little hearts on your back and rub my thumb delicately against your soft lips while your eyes flutter closed. We lay, as vulnerable and open as we possibly can, on a twin bed too small for either of us, let alone us both. You hold the most fragile part of me broken from years of heartbreak and bruises as you put your arm around me, and yet you have no idea. No idea of all the pain that my arms have felt from being pinned down. No idea of the residual pain from the half-closed seal left on my mouth from all the hands that pressed against my lips to muffle anything that came out. You have no idea that you are the first to see me and hold me after what happened. And I don’t know if you ever will.
You looked at me. You really looked at me. Past the smeared mascara deep into my eyes, which you always loved the dark color of since they were much darker than yours, and past the old dried contacts and the redness they have caused found underneath all those black layers of grief and worry, lies something open and bright. A space that no one has tainted yet, untouched by your hands or the hurt they will inevitably cause. And you smile at me. A smile at first filled with excitement and admiration. A smile of comfort and tenderness and purity. A smile that quickly turns into arrogance and control as you reach into that open space of hope and innocence and inject it with your dark essence. Yet I hold them open. I don’t shut them closed.
I leave them open, for you.
You asked me if I have ever dreamt of you. “Once,” I said. I lied because I didn’t have the heart to tell you what it was about. Even though you deserved to hear every painful detail of the effect you have left on me, how could I have explained to you as you towered above me that the dream was a nightmare? And a recurring one for that matter. How I’d wake up in a panic at the thought of you still being a daily part of my life, panting, out of breath, quickly searching for the lights so I can turn to my side and make sure you weren’t actually there. How would you react? Would you get mad at me, or just be disappointed at the realization of what my dream said about you as a human being?
Innocence. It’s what I first thought when I met you. It was what I liked about you. Curly hair, curlier than mine. Sweaters and slacks and nerdy tennis shoes. A sweet smile and a comforting glance. Round eyes, bigger than mine. You’d listen to me talk for hours straight with nothing on your face but a look of interest mixed with nervousness from us being alone. A smile I read as affectionate. A touch flooded with romantic hesitation and awkwardness. I don’t know what happened. Why you suddenly became like everyone else, and then ultimately worse like your friends? Was it my fault? Am I the one who drained you of your innocence, or was it something bigger than me?
My roommates weren’t home, all four of them. It was just you and me, nowhere to go. You knew that. You knew what that meant. But I ask you, do you know what you left me with? When you left hours after seeing the tears form in my eyes, pretending you never saw them. After hearing my voice crack and my body shiver the entire time you were over. Do you know what happened after? The second, I shut the door and locked every lock in case you just decided to turn back? How I sobbed in the shower while I scrubbed my skin red? How I couldn’t wear my favorite shirt for over a month? How I avoided anyone new for over half a year in fear they would be like you? How I would walk every day on campus desperately searching for you in hopes that my eyes wouldn’t land on that black jacket of yours? How I still almost cry when someone else reminds me of you and that day? How I can’t go even a couple of days without being reminded of you?
Does what happened ever slip into your mind? Do you convince yourself nothing happened and that I just stopped responding? Do you point me out to your friends when you see me walking? Or do you pretend I don’t exist the way I have tried so hard to do with you?
Is this love? Is this what finding love is? Meeting all these people who will all end in the same manner. Are these the mushy feelings you describe as the greatest feeling in the world? Must we destroy ourselves until there is nothing left but an outer shell and a puddle of who we once were, all in search to find someone who we created an image of in our heads? Something we painted them with as sweet and romantic and understanding: the perfect person to share your life with. We idolize them and at the end of the day, they are just people. They scar and they bruise, and you leave, before they get a chance to. They are just another memory that you try to escape from while sitting a couple of rows behind them in class. And if this is love, do I really want it?
MiC Assistant Editor Roshni Mohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.