Why I Vomited the First Time a Boy Told Me He Loved Me
It’s every girl’s childhood fantasy. The tall boy. The swirling night. The yellow ovals of porch lights shrinking and expanding all at once into a soup of fresh yellow. When all the air is yours and all the world is yours as you are loved, finally, loved...and hunched over in a bush projectile vomiting onto the dirt. The dream.
I believe myself to have been a fairly self-aware child back in the day, but even I would be shocked had I predicted at the time that all that build-up, all those ever-afters and Barbie dream weddings, would drive me like a freight train into this.
He is nice. He is cute. He likes me—er… loves me… (stomach churns again on cue). Externally, I must be an exercise in self-loathing or self-pity. I must be the rom-com idiot walking off in the wrong direction. Or into a wall. Or off a cliff. So what, exactly, you may ask, is wrong with me?
Well, to start: athletic misgivings, chronic nail-biting, the amount of time I spend honing the perfect Shaggy voice so that I might one day accurately sing along and/or become him entirely. But that’s beside the point. This boy and I had hooked up sporadically and ever-so-sloppily over the course of the year, a Dead Sea swimming with subwoofers and splatter paint. We had mentally signed that unwritten contract of casual escape and there was no needing. There was no asking anything of each other. I thought.
I was a puddle of a mess who had just been dumped for another girl by the only boy I ever felt raw and valid beside, and this contract was the only thing I had in me—the only thing I could feasibly bring to the table. And I could have sworn that was spelled out on my face. (Unsurprisingly, this is not the first time I am disappointed in the lack of lawyers who specialize in Mental/ Theoretical defense to come to my rescue.) I could have sworn we met in this mystical and gracefully elusive place called the middle, where everyone is happy to save face and waste time. Everyone is dancing in a wet, hot basement, lasers carving into cinderblock walls, and entire bodies traded in for only their hands. Sign the dotted line, drink this amber lake, and move in place. Speak blur. Be getaway.
But this is not the story of sad-girl-waxes-immune-to-love. It doesn’t even speak to cynicism, though it tends to be mistaken as such. This is not the story of love at all. This is the way we perpetually cup each other into warped snow globes of somewhere and something else.
Maybe I misled him and maybe I hurt him and for this I am sorry, but there is nothing romantic about the way he claimed to see me when I hadn’t shown up to be seen in the first place. There is no love note burrowed inside mirage.
Much like with the boy who left before, I had once again mastered the art of makeshift apparition. I was not me at all but a window, a glimpse into some future love, a possibility. He had never seen me at anything less than a giggly, sequined revelry. And he never would. In his presence I never cried, I never complained, I never ranted for a straight half-hour about my favorite poets or subjected him to my self-indulgent, dramatic readings of their work. I never told him about the lonely, clawed thing coiled in the back of my 3am throat. He never knew one word of my sister, or my best friend, or the ways they make that clawing thing just that much smaller, its sharp insistence just that much more dulled in their wake. I am cheap thrill. I am dancer. I am distraction for all the clawed things of his own. And who could not love something so shiny and false?
In the vibrating pulse of fresh anxiety, I am overcome with refusal… and vomit. I just want someone else to see. I don’t have it in me to don another bed sheet or haunt another hallway with would-be-should-be-could-be. I cannot be another transition or tinted yet again in rose. There is plenty of time to play ghost, but not yet. Not here. Here there is still body. Raw, valid, and alive. And somewhere, I don’t know where, but somewhere, there is still love.