The Agony Columns: Katherine

Constantly being concerned with being a better person is cause enough to realize I don’t actually believe myself to be one, and I honestly try my best not to hurt someone else’s feelings while I pursue my own space and happiness.

At least, that’s the reasoning I use for when Evan says he loves me, and I lie and say that I love him too. And I did, I know I did, at some point, because I can’t deny those Summers when I’d watch him working on his car from the rooftop of our house and he was all I could think about. 

Our parents were kind of friends but we only knew each other in passing, because in a small town like ours if you didn’t it was obvious you were doing it on purpose. He was tall- even when we were teenagers he towered above most of us, and even some of the teachers. With quiet, hazel eyes and a sweet but little oafish face. Halfway handsome and gentle in a way that makes you trust somebody instinctively.  He didn’t talk very much back then, a fact I constantly remind him of now that he doesn’t shut up, and even then I had a feeling it was because he was either shy or self conscious about something. Some secret defect he was scared to reveal if he said too many things at once.

We hardly spoke throughout high school so I can’t calendar exactly when I decided that I wanted him. At that age your hormones are so all over the place, it’s impossible to tell, to place it to a single moment. But I do remember it as a slow and steady realization, like a favorite color, or discovering you might like girls too. Watching him play lacrosse during lunch, his long and lanky body rushing and slamming across the field. That year his parents bought him a car, and he spent every single Sunday under the hood of that marooned and beat up Subaru; his face and tank top soaked with a thin layer of oil and sweat. And on Thursdays after art class, him pretending to read the bulletin board outside of choir: his dark, coffee colored hair draped over the his bronze eyes. I remember this exciting envy when I would watch, when his girlfriend would come out of class and brush it aside. 

Lots of these moments made me stare, made me sink stupidly into the thought of him, so the exact one that took hold of me I couldn’t say. But I do know the Summer I turned seventeen was when I decided to seduce him.

It was a blind and thoughtless resolution, and honestly, a part of me didn’t believe I would actually go through with it. Confidence was part of the issue. I wasn’t exactly self-conscious, but I wasn’t arrogant enough to consider myself beautiful or seductive by any means, either. My chin and ears were very pointy, giving me slightly elfish features, which is why I’ve always had bangs and let my hair drown past my shoulders. My mothers side and two years of track left me small, what some might call petite but is really more like a little boys body. Unlike some of the other girls I was nothing to turn heads or stop traffic, but even then, I liked my frame and freckles. I had a quiet confidence in myself, and whether Evan would or not, I would like them and me just the same.

My entire tactic was non-existent. It was a thought that brewed in the back of my mind, that I thought about on the bus ride to school or during my runs. It was Saturday when it happened, I remember, one of the hottest days of the Summer, and I left early for my usual morning jog. I love running; the freedom of it, the feeling of my feet thumping against the pavement and my heart thrusting against my rib cage. Reality fades further and further the more I push myself against the strain of my lungs, my muscles tensing, my chest tightening, until everything becomes obsolete and all I can see or have the capacity to think about is the road ahead of me. And all I can feel, all I care about, is the warm and desperate air I’m gasping for. The blood pulsing in my veins so loud I can hear it. And then I stop and the world comes crashing back in a winded rush, as I struggle to catch my breath and remember my personality.

When I finished that morning, a thought struck me and I decided to go see Evan. I swung around my house, grabbed a pie mom had left on the kitchen counter and made my way to his garage. He was hunched over the hood like so many times before, his clueless gaze thoughtfully considering something. I cleared my throat to get his attention.

“Hey,” I said. Still winded, and my heart struggling against something else. He looked up with a calm surprise that grew as I approached him. “Mom asked me to drop this off,” I lied, gently raising the pie.

“Oh, yea. Thanks,” He said, wiping his hands with a blue and oily rag.

To his credit, he maintained eye contact for much longer than I expected him to, except it was obvious his neck was locked in a brace to keep his gaze on mine. Still a part of me had doubt, thought maybe I was making a mistake.

“Real hot one today, huh?” He added, coming closer. 

“Yeah,” I said. “Keeping cool in here?”

My hair was in a ponytail and I could feel beads of sweat brimming down my temple, sides, stomach. I could feel my chest heaving against the stuffy Summer air as I was pacing the garage. I couldn’t keep still, so I decided to focus on the feeling of my feet wading against the pavement and my heart thrusting against my rib cage. The heat crept into my lungs and I could feel a strain, my muscles tensing, my chest tightening, my body anxious and waiting for something. Deep breaths of the warm and desperate air I’m gasping for, the blood pulsing in my veins so loud I could hear it.

“Not like you,” He said, and I laughed, or at least, pretended to.

But for a moment I saw his hazel eyes flick down, then up. 

And I knew. 

A Man On Fire Only Attracts Cold Women (aka April’s Fool)

A man can’t be happy with a bottle and a woman. Hes has to choose one. So falling off the wagon for me is a return to form, before we learned how to judge each other, outside the barriers of suffering. Heartache aint just pretty songs, it’s memory of the body, carnage of the blood, when shame didn’t exist and knees were made for grass, concrete and scraping. How do you move on from a lost love?

People love a mystery and hate the answer.

But I can’t help but keep falling if thought of her makes me lose my step. How can I catch my breath if every chance her lips take it? An impossible pink, thick as a consonant or poems in a boot. Been down that road of doubt and I don’t beck, and I have my doubts with people, but I suspect everything except the flesh. Appearance blinds, words reveal, but phrases have disguises too.

Like when I lie and say “I need you,” but really mean “I can’t stand myself,”

She takes selfie pics in the bathroom with her foot on the sink to show off her shoes, a soft grunge glamour and I’m all about that that life. Such a peaceful face- long nose, bangs down her forehead, big hair and anime eyes. The kind of girl a man imagined into existence while in bed and dreaming off into the ceiling. Chaos, counter-culture and pandemonium. A monster, but the good kind that stirs her coffee counter clockwise. Better than these animals that don’t eat meat but put sneakers on dogs because it makes them walk cute, read a Simone De Beauvoir quote and get obsessed over France, start an Instagram and think they’re professional photographers.

“Who did that to you?” She asked me, and runs her fingers gently across me like a wound. I can’t stand the caress of her eyes.

I am uneventful and they write songs about women that look like her; golden haired with eyes expecting miracles.

Diss Me Like You Mean It (aka Brutal Affection Is The Truest)

Love at first sight is nonsense, or so goes the cynic; an illusion and silly little phrase we parade around to make sex and marriage seem more magical than they really are. It boils down to what the stupid body wants and we mentally justify afterward, finding any excuse to validate the unnecessary and coming off like a douche either way. Like when someone tries explaining the use of a camera inside of their refrigerator, or why they decided to have children.

But the fact of the matter remains- when I met May I was mesmerized. Her hair, was it maybe? So red and brutal on a stranger. Bleeding down her back and looking full of Fall. The confidence of knowing what a decadent disaster a house party is, but taking the time to curl and color her eyelashes anyway. It’s indescribable really, her character and what it did to me. But since I am trying to make you love her as I did, I suppose I should try.

She carried herself like a woman twice her age and half as condescending. Pleasant and friendly in a half-sincere sort of way. But blatant, the way normal people should be. If she said she loved your outfit it was always off the cuff and out of tangent, like when you proved her wrong about who won best picture in 2017 (she thought it was La-La Land.) And when corrected her pitch shifted extremely from high and low on vowels, stressing consonants along the way.

“See, look, Moonlight,” I said, showing her my phone.

“Ohhhh my Goddddd, I love your shoessssss where’d you get themmmmmm.”  She said, turning down the hall before I could answer.

She was mean but didn’t mean it, I think, and I could tell by how her eyes darted for a reaction to what she said. The way you tell a two year old not to touch that, and they reach…just for a second. Hand inching to that electric socket. Eyes 5+ feet high staring down. All that ceiling, all that ceiling. And they reach, but not because they will. They reach to see how far they can push, they reach to get an idea or a glimpse of what you might do if they did. But they don’t.

That was the way she had.

“Do you have a light?” I asked her in the hallway.

“Brighter than you know,” She said.

“Gross.”

“Yeah,” She said. A strand of blood dangling from her smirk. “I kind of like you too.”