When I Grow Up

At this moment the touch of his lips on my arm is the worst thing I can imagine. I think that if the world itself ended right now, it would be a relief. I hate him. And I hate myself about ten times more.

I know I’m being dramatic. I can’t seem to help it.

Somehow I let this creep up on me. A crack between us formed, then spread. Now here I am. A sharp, broken thing. I wanted so badly to be in love, to be wrapped in a boys arm and be totally safe. That’s where it started. I wanted to be in love, and so I convinced myself that I was. I played pretend, and it bit me in the ass. Because once you start something like that it snowballs. There’s no taking back the things you’ve said, the promises you’ve made. Back tracking seemed impossible. So, I just kept going. It’s easy to dismiss something when it’s not what you want to feel. But all the pretending in the world wont create anything real.

I can smell the gritty, vibrant scent of summer. The dirt against my back is cool in comparison to the hot, stagnant air. The feeling of him stretched out next to me is cloying and repugnant. I hate the hand on my stomach that is about to creep under my shirt. I hate the sticky feeling he leaves as he kisses his way up my arm. He is so smug in his delusions of romance. For just one second I imagine jerking my arm away. I imagine screaming, breaking the sultry peace. I am not sure what I’d yell. I would open my mouth and for once not have to edit my words before speaking them. Honesty would fly off my tongue, a deadly weapon.

And this is why I hate myself, even more than I despise him. Because I am corrupt. I was surfing Pinterest the other day, loosing myself in projects I will never do and places I will never see, when I ran across a quote that hit my like a slap to the face. More insult than pain. It said “Are you who you wanted to be when you grew up?” Normally I would be scornful of something like that. Just some picture put through an artsy filter that is supposed to make the words more believable. As if advice is a bandaid, for use on any wound. This time, however, I was online because I didn’t want to think about crossing the room to get my beat up cell phone. I keep it on silent these days, my excuse to myself for not answering when he calls. When anyone calls, actually. I don’ t know when my life became so intertwined with his that it’s not even mine anymore. I read that stupid picture and it actually, ridiculously, brought tears to my eyes. The kind that slip down your face, and that you feel deep in your gut. When I was little I wanted to grow up to be a princess who slayed dragons. I wanted to rescue busloads of children from freezing rivers, and save cats from trees. When I was little I wanted to be a hero, to be bigger than myself. When I was a little girl I wanted to find a love so clean that it would become a story told at bedtime to restless children. I am none of those things. I have devoured myself, and all that is left are the worst parts of me. The parts that hardly existed at all just few years ago.

We started dating two years ago. Or maybe a year and a half. He would know. Sometimes I think that I forget these things on purpose, like if I refuse to remember them they will cease to exist.

I had never been in love, had kissed one boy and one girl, and had felt a heady mix of terror and joy both times. When we started to flirt, in that inelegant way that only teenagers can, I was giddy. I thought he was cute. So outgoing, so funny. We laughed all the time back then, even at things that were not funny. Mostly I liked how much he like me. I had never wanted, really wanted, anyone before. The first time we kissed it was fireworks. I told my mom that I was falling in love. She hugged me. Such a nice boy. Such a good family.

Even then I realized we didn’t have much in common. I chose to admire the way he jumped into situations without thought. I decided it was fearlessness. He was so brave, he didn’t have to worry the way I did. All the best hero’s are impulsive.

Last year, on his birthday, was first time we had nothing to say to each other. It was also the day I first had sex. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. And it was something to do together. Something we could share, could talk about, could think about. We had been sitting on my bed in silence, and I felt panic settle over me. So I leaned forward and kissed him. Pushed all that panic into a productive outlet. I’d bought condoms off the interned the week before, just in case. It’s not like I hadn’t intended to do it eventually.

Ten months ago I caught the bouquet at his older brother’s wedding. I had been one of the bride’s maids.

Eight months ago I started working in his mom’s book shop.

Seven months ago is when we were both accepted at the same university. My parents threw a party, with streamers in the school colors. He carried my little sister around on his shoulders, and she ripped them down, giggling hysterically. That was the first night I couldn’t sleep. The sunrise was beautiful, though. I missed school the next day.

Five months ago was when I began to chafe at the feeling of walking with my fingers laced with his. I started to find excuses not to hold hands.

Three months ago I stopped lying to myself.

Two months ago was the first time I broke up with him. He didn’t understand at first. Was so sure of me that he couldn’t believe it. I felt like a traitor. When he told me that I was just confused, that I was just having cold feet about college, I didn’t believe him. When he told me I’d be lost without him I felt a chill. When he asked if I wanted to throw away the last two years, if I wanted to demolish the life we’d built, if I really wanted to be alone, I started to backtrack. My hand touched his shoulder. Tears streaked down my face. When he wrapped his arms around me I didn’t push him away.

Last month was the second time I tried to end things. That time he got mad. He said the same things. He told me how pissed our families would be. How disappointed. He asked who I thought I was, because there were plenty of girls who would want to date him. He told me how ungrateful I was, after all he had done for me. What was I thinking? That fight ended with a slammed door. And the next day, when he was waiting outside my house that morning just like always, I got in his car. I didn’t want to make a scene in front of my parents and little sister. I was prepared for another fight. Instead it was like it had never happened. He never mentioned it again. And since then, when I pulled my hand from his, he finds it again immediately.

My logical mind has decided that the boy who I once thought I’d spend forever with is not to be trusted.

His lips are at my collar bone. The feel of his tongue disgusts me. I sit up so fast that I slam his head into the bottom of my chin.

“Lets go back to my room. It’s too hot out here.” The words slip out before I have time to think them through.

Instead of my room I stop in the den. The den, that is just a closed door away from the kitchen, where my dad is making iced tea. The den, that is down the hall from the office, where my mom is working and my little sister is playing on the floor.

I take a deep breath.

“We need to talk.”

His face instantly fills with anger. His voice is low, but venomous. “This again? What the fuck is your problem? What are you trying to do?”

“I’m not trying to do anything.” My voice is not low. I am very careful to speak at a normal level, and my voice sounds like ice cracking. “I am breaking up with you.”

“Come on.” His eyes are narrowed in a way I’ve never seen before. I am grateful for the ugly look on his face. “You think you can do better than me? You’re wrong. You’ve always thought you were too good for me. Is that why you’re doing this? ‘Cause I’m not into all that brainy shit you’re always bragging about? You think you’re so much smarter than everyone.”

It’s the kind of insult that has just enough truth in it to cut deep. It should make it easier to end this, but instead it makes me want to prove him wrong. I want to prove what a sweet girl I am, even though I’m not.

“No.” I say slowly. Feeling my way toward the right answer. The kitchen has gone silent. “No.” I say again. “It’s because I want to be who I’m supposed to be. It’s because I want more. More than this.” I gesture between us, only realizing after I’ve said it that he’s sure to take that as a personal insult.

“You want more than me? Well, fuck you. You aren’t going to find it. You’re gonna to regret this.”

I am suddenly calm. “Not more than you. More than this.” I pause to think, and he opens his mouth, about to spit more ugly words. I cut him off. “This isn’t who I want to be when I grow up.”