“Why?” Mare asked. “How many girls have you been with?”
This is always presented to me as a very loaded question.
Mare was the best girl when I knew her -- half hair, half heart and all sass, with eyes that sent you spinning. I can barely picture her now, except for those eyes, huge and brown and gentle like clawless bears. I wouldn't say I'd get lost in them, but they were certainly the type that stayed with you.
We always hung out on the corner of her block. That's where she provided me with all my firsts. Not those contrived firsts, like a kiss or a blunt or a handjob. The real firsts. The ones you feel forever. The first time you want to pull all of someone else into you, but can't. The first time you're so hurt you want to split them in half, but can't. The first time you want to be both anywhere and nowhere else on Earth, but you can't do anything but walk away.
We were the cheesy type of 12-year-olds. There was a bigger house being built across from the corner, all marble and ficus and fish ponds. She said we would live in it when we grew up.
She got a real boyfriend a few years later. She's had one basically every day for the decade since, all of different sizes and shapes and builds and temperaments. They had nothing in common except they've spent a considerable amount of time with her. Now she's about to marry one.
I know she doesn't love him, but I know she's convinced herself she does. And I don't know why she can't find the time to love herself.
It's possible I'm coming too far from the opposing perspective. She'd be appalled if I told her the number of women I've slept with. But I'm slightly appalled by the number of people she's been with and by that, I mean been committed to. Because damn, if that doesn't feel way more intimate than a few minutes of half-drunk clit rubbing. It's way more of a gamble, way more of a compensation, to fit in or be whole or to fall into some silly bag of quotes to tag your Instagram with.
Every time she meets someone new, she starts the clock. Two years, minimum. Then it ends, and she's left wondering if anyone will ever love her. Someone will, I want to tell her, if you just give yourself a chance to find them. We can't just choose who we commit to the way drunken men throw darts -- blindly and without recourse. You're just asking to miss the board.
We can't just choose who we commit to the way drunken men throw darts -- blindly and without recourse.
Every time she tells me about how bad the relationship was, it's always bad for the same reasons. We rushed. He grew bored. I got frustrated. He didn't love me. We didn't want the same things. It's stale. I loved him and now I hate him. Now I feel less. I don't even know who I am anymore.
Then she's with someone new within weeks.
Her number is five. She's been in relationships with all of them. I don't know what to say when she asks me how many girls I've slept with. It's more than five, I say.
Mare is terrified of being slut-shamed. She thinks five is a good number in her efforts to avoid such. But at this point, who is judging? Who is keeping score? Who are you living your life for besides yourself?
She's spent the last 10 years the same way I have, jumping from person to person, and she doesn't even know it. She just happens to dig her claws in, scratching forever for something she doesn't even know is there. At least I'm honest about it.
I don't understand these types of girls. I don't understand their dreams. I think of them every time I see an old woman poking around the edges of her tiny slab of property, watering the plants or whatever, so totally adverse to stepping even an inch off her lawn. It's not unlike the way a stork dances around a zoo rainforest exhibit, wings clipped and steps careful, under a ceiling painted the color of the sky.
She's never single for more than a month or so. She calls me every time she is. I always go -- because I love her -- and every time I'm amazed at how lost she still is.
Every two years or so, we talk about the kids we hung out with then, and how many are on heroin, and her crazy mom and unlucky dad, and my crazy dad and unlucky mom, and whether people ever truly stay together, and we wonder what exactly we ever wanted with one another in the first place. Then we go back to living. The whole thing is sort of a farce, not unlike your local elections.
She always appears a bit amazed at the person I'm becoming. At the places I've been, the things I've done. How I'm sitting there with all these experiences and she's sitting there with all this heartbreak. She seems impressed that my conscience, all these years later, can be clear.
She reaches for my hand. I know she doesn't love me. She's just looking for somebody to love.
I tell her we missed our chance. I walk away from her time and time again. The truth is, though, she could love me, because she could love anybody. I'm offended by the way we tend to see that as such a virtue. I don't see what's so damn impressive about giving so much of yourself to someone else just because they're there. It's such a desperate sense of entitlement. Surely all these people are here for me. ME. I. Surely because I've seen them and we've spoken and now we're sharing a six-inch sub, there should be no one else.
Jumping right into the deep end does no good unless you learn first how to swim.
I don't see what's so damn impressive about giving so much of yourself to someone else just because they're there.
I know women I like a whole lot less than Mare who take some time to get to know themselves. They learn who they are before they just give themselves away to someone else. They make a point to figure it out, complicated as it may be.
Yeah, they may fuck up along the way. They may fall flat on their face. They may run into guys like me. But being loose with your heart is worse than being loose with your body. And I don't know how to help her.
She still wants that house, but its starting to lose its luster. The fountains are dried out. The trees have been ignored. I drove past it the other day. For the first time, it's starting to show its age.