I did not have sex with a man for the first time in Israel. Instead, I had sex for the first time in a hot tub in Berkeley. That man who was basically still a child asked, and I hesitated but I was really turned on so I said yes. It hurt. He tried another angle. That didn’t hurt, but instead felt like nothing at all.
He did that for a few minutes while I watched the wall and squeezed my eyes shut and wished I was a ghost. I wished I was pretty so I could be the girl the boy I loved was fucking right then, on the other side of the country. I waited for him to re-emerge in my life and I waited for him to forgive me and I waited for him to move like he said he would and my heart turned to blisters and the scabs over the pus did not cover the stink.
I worked in Stockton for a while, for no reason. I turned down my dream job for no reason really, just depression or general misery, turning my rage back on myself like I was taught to. After I knew he’d blocked my number I texted him and texted him, frantically, a lost girl in a big bad world that, turns out, really does hate me.
Girls learn hate, instinctively. I hated him but I trusted him anyway, even though he made my stomach muscle back into a fist. I blamed myself for not telling him all the things I wanted to tell him, then, and forgot all the reasons why I didn’t. He really liked thin girls. Liked the way they hesitated then surrendered to him like they were supposed to do. Liked the way he could stay unslept underfed skinny himself but still hold their wrists down if he wanted to. Liked how they looked up at him under long eyelashes asking him to save them. Appreciated how he could always save them, from spiders or aggravating bosses or bitchy best friends. The way he could never save me.
My inner thin girl would bite his head off like a praying mantis. My inner thin girl would run off into the trees and wait for his soul to leave his body and leave his life and come find her. But he never would, would he?
My inner thin girl went to private school with me. We made over a 4.0 and we had friends, didn’t we? I can’t remember now. My inner thin girl stopped taking antidepressants in junior year then cried and cried. My inner thin girl let herself be edged out of plays, conversations, flirtations. She let herself disappear, or I did. I covered her under a sheet of ice and told her to shut her mouth. I applied to second tier schools because I thought I was not good enough to get into Ivy Leagues. I got into every school I applied to except one. I went to just about the cheapest school on the list because my parents earned a lot of money but it was going to remodel the house not pay for my education.
I went off to school and got paper thin and then my parents insisted I was a liar and a crazy person and I moved into a coop filled with drug addicts and college dropouts who hated me. I became a college dropout and it was all my fault, ask anybody.
I had sex with women and I hooked up with anyone because that’s what you do. I still expected one day I would meet my soulmate and he would be so admiring of this performance of femininity I have been perfecting all my life.
I hated his performance. I didn’t want a performance. I wanted the real thing.
Love found me but love let me go. Love left me and I was so sick for so long and I didn’t care. I knuckled through that and I knuckled through sex with strange men who left bruises on my breasts and pain between my legs. I stood quiet in the center of a room with many people in it. I blinked at no one and wished I had spent middle school learning how to make boys like me instead of surviving the girls who learned how from their mothers. My mother taught me how to let men leave bruises on me. My mother thinks I am a joke. If that’s the case I am not a very good one, am I?
When I say things like this, people wrinkle their noses and tell me I need therapy. I am not sure how so many people got the idea that a therapist will replace a mother who sold her daughter to her husband for a very nice house in the suburbs. Even my therapist thinks that’s stupid.
I am supposed to be writing pretty things. Things people might actually want to read. I am supposed to be writing about birds, and rose petals. I tried and tried to tell him pretty things but they came out all crazy. I think he would have liked me better if I woke up early and took a shower at 5 in the morning before climbing a mountain like the other girls, the pretty ones.
I figured if he liked me he wouldn’t also like them. I figured he would claim me now he had finally found me. I figured he would love me back, but he..
The pretty girls think I am an idiot. They all wear thongs and string bikinis and Brazilians and I think maybe they were right all along, only I am old now and I would bet good money his 26 year old Harvard graduate girlfriend agrees. I would bet when she looks at women who look like me, she feels pretty. I would bet she is one of those women who thinks the world is much harder for pretty girls than ugly ones. Who can’t understand why women like me hate her.
I wonder if there is any small part of her that feels she is settling? In the meantime, I wake up every day to men on Bumble and men in my house and men in my classes who would sleep with me if I wanted but I turn my face to the wall. I turn the silver bowl inside my throat into words he doesn’t care about. I watch the same five scenes from the same old movie in my head. It’s two years later but I still can’t rewrite them. I still wish I lived in someone else’s story.
They probably bonded over their parents’ divorces. It is probably the worst thing that ever happened to them, except the things they will never tell each other about. Sometimes he whispers things he remembers into my ear and I don’t know whether to believe him or not.
I had a future, too, once. But things happen. My friend died on my floor. My friend kicked me out of my house because I saw our housemate’s boyfriend try to rape her when she was unconscious drunk, or maybe because I stopped him, or because our other housemate saw her boyfriend hug me one morning when I had the audacity to cry in my own kitchen and let myself be held just a little too tight. Another time, my housemate decided I was stealing her things. Another once, I was a Jewish girl in a white world that thought I should be more like them, and my mother had dark skin and I was loud and sexy and had curves that made men want to do things, and my Jewish community slammed tight as the trapdoor between my legs. I always loved them back but they let men tear me apart as target practice, and. At the end of it all they gave me him, but I lost him. I forgot I could lose him. I forgot he might agree with my mother, and also think I was a joke.
Now I am a weapon and a joke. Now I am sprouting sadness and sex is a blade always at my throat and always held in someone else’s hands.
I think if they get married, her parents will both give her away, probably. They will help each other assimilate, onward, ever onward. The Jewish community that feeds all its resources into boys like him and all to spare into girls like her will continue to shake their heads with pity. I am the villain of the story my elders are writing.
No one grows up dreaming of becoming Maleficent, you know. When I was 8 years old I wanted to get married. When I was 9 I found out I was ugly and I stopped dreaming.
I suppose people like him think there is a place in this world, a house called therapy. Where people like me will go and get ourselves good and fixed. Therapy who will be the mother who protected us and the father who defended us. Therapy that will make us lovable again.
I am not sure what love is exactly but I know it is a word people use before they hurt me.
I wait for him to call me the way I wait for my mother to leave my father l. The way I wait for a female president or a good job at an organization where people respect or maybe even like me. I change and change hoping people I love will notice but they don’t notice. I change hoping people I care about will love me back but being cared about is an art I have never learned.
Sometimes I think I knew him in a past life but I must not have been ugly then. Or if I was, I didn’t realize.