I was going to write about Amma from ‘Sharp Objects.’ I bought this boy a copy once but he didn’t show up and so I gave it to my friend. I remember once he looked at me and I thought he could see everything, every part of me. I thought maybe he wanted to, but I didn’t want that, so I looked away.
Sometimes he looked at me like I was this person he was looking for, and I ignored him. Sometimes I even glared back at him, defiantly, hoping he would get the hint. Hoping he would stop it. Eventually he did. I felt so empty.
I process everything on the page. Maybe that’s what I should have said. Give me time, to get it right.
I loved him as much as I could in messages he thought were crazy-girl stalking because I told him they were trauma-girl stopping when I meant to say..something. Isn’t it always the case that we say the perfect thing in our own heads, but when we most need to say the words, nothing happens?
Sometimes I think I have been talking to him this whole time. I mean I feel like I have. It is like praying. I send out the words and I hope he will catch them. If not they will remain outside his doorstep.
He looked at me like I was the one. I told my friend I thought he was the one. I told the sky and the trees. I told everyone but him.
I thought he was better off without me. And I thought I was dying, and nothing I could do about it. I was sick all the time. I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t know how to fix anything. I wanted him, but I was broken and I thought he would stay with my broken self out of pity. I thought if I was too broken to have children, too broken to invite my parents to our wedding, he would resent me someday. I thought.
Now I write letters to my computer screen and he’s the only one I hope will read them. I am writing love letters but women are not supposed to do things like that. Anyway I don’t think more words will fix anything, he was raised in the ’90s like me and he thinks men should be the one to do stuff like that. I write to him and he feels emasculated, lessened. Maybe. But I can’t stop writing to him. I haven’t really written to anyone else since I met him, I mean I haven’t really written for anyone else’ eyes but his, I mean someday if I publish these in a collection it will be entitled ‘letters to a man who is not listening’ and my generation wrote poems and songs to people we loved who we did not know how else to reach. What I mean is, I stopped caring if I ever became famous or a published author, the day I met him. Except that I thought for a while maybe I could win him that way.
I don’t give a shit about winning. But I want to win him.
I want to win him, but I want him to be safe from me. In the eyes of someone prettier and blonder and skinnier, and. Better. Someone who will smile back when he smiles at her. Not have to think about it. Not freeze paralyzed in the face of real love. Not someone like me.
People like me, we are not supposed to be part of the story. Of people like him. The mistakes I made were scripted for me. My low self-esteem and hurtful reactions were the result of oppression, not insecurity. It’s unfair but so is everything else.
When I was young, all I wanted was to be loved. Then the ’90s taught me I was ugly. And I learned to stop wanting. To stow that part of me away. And with it, so many other parts. Hard to want to give back to your community when they have made you into someone who desperately needs what she will never have. I learned to hate myself, for being unbeautiful. I learned to hate this society, for conflating beauty with lovability. And I learned to hate my own community, for cosigning whiteness, and agreeing.
Hate is not just a perspective. It is a feeling. And hate is the proper word for it.
I really am Amma Preaker. I really do despise that girl I taught him painstakingly to love instead of me. I really do boil over with hate, scream at him in my head, lash out at the people who might otherwise love me best. I don’t know how to trust my community when they come close. I am a dog who has been beaten and starved and learned not to trust. The difference is, when I growl, no one says ‘poor thing he has been abused.’ Instead people say, see, I told you she wasn’t worth loving in the first place.
I used to wonder if he would still look at me that way after his parents told him he could do better and his best friend made fat jokes at my expense. I wonder if I’m better off not knowing those answers.
I am that girl who gave him all I had. All I had to give was a life without me in it. Giving that to him all but killed me. But I have also been trained to be a martyr and a people-pleaser and an outcast. So I did it.
I wanted to be his knight in shining armor, too. If I were not such a girl, I would instead be a warrior. I wanted to save him the way he saved me, even though I never told him that. I wanted that more than I wanted to be happy myself. So I saved him. I saved him. I saved him from the only thing I could really save him from, which was from me.
Do you think he is better off? I think so. I mean. Don’t you think he must be?