Men come to me, broken and battered with shattered hearts, and I am the oxygen that resuscitates them. I pick up the shards of their selves and piece them together as best as I can, looking over them with eyes like wine. It is all very autumn and pitying; I never have sprung into love. I do not confidently grip his large and sometimes hairy hands and bound off into greenery and sunshine. My hands struggle to envelop one of his—tenderly, like a mother—and I run my fingertips over his veins and bitten fingernails. Although, to be fair, I fail to see the elegant “piano hands” my family says I possess, unpainted and pallid and square.
Love for me has been both of us shuddering under itchy yarn blankets, clutching the other for some semblance of warmth. It is more intimate than camaraderie, yet more estranged than sharing a table with another caste. They could be all etiquette and cummerbunds and there I sit in ripped jeans jabbing at some deep-fried microwaved meat medley with a plastic fork. Or, in shoes that fit and washed hair, I can have the privilege of eating until I’m full rather than broke. Yet there we sit and eat together, different but the same. Stuck.
There are glimmers of strength and fortitude while I am in a relationship, but they quickly wane with the impermanence of infatuation. I’ll feel impenetrable, powerful, locked arms with a winner. Not this time, I mutter, breaking my arm to set myself free. What is all that noise? But, with half a hand I caress their face and dab the dirt off their skinned knees. It’s always the same.
A thing to be utilized; a mannequin, posed and positioned and standing guard. Here, bend this way. On your knees. Up straight! All the time gnarled and contorted and folding in on myself, fetal and frightened. What about my insides? Here, I’ll feel them. To your limit. Wear this for me. Don’t wear this for me. Take that off. Put this on. Brush it this way. No, not like that. A different color, maybe?
Bleak and malleable. My eyelids twitch unless I force them closed with my fingers. On their own, they shiver and dare not to. Can’t miss a beat. Don’t miss a step. Everything is watching.
Everything is watching.
They’ve got red pens, all of them. I’m walking through a lifelong critique. Perform for us! The audience cries out with missing eyes. Perform for us.
Please, don’t make me…
Don’t make me… I don’t want to.
You’ll feel good! You’ll look good! You’ll be good! You’ll be a good person! You’ll be a good girl!
Veiny hands seize me. Spittle in my face. Can’t you see that this is a good thing? Why are you so sad about something so good? Are you that selfish? You’re doing a good thing! His burnt face is wrinkled and pinched in frustration. All of theirs were. All of them, all fissure foreheads and beady eyes and hot breath and flared nostrils. All of them, like bile-belching grim-toothed dragons, staring at their meek and frail prey to throw onto the hoard. A gaze that cuts like glass.
Just another one on the pile. A Christmas present for volume, not value. Quantity over quality. So what do you care if I’m fun for you or not? Just move on to the next one. Throw away the broken toy. Spit me out; unhinge your jaw and swallow somebody else whole.
And so they do. Serpentine eyes leering, tight lips snarling, their backs face me and they slither off all claws and scales like a monitor to do just that, to monitor. Go watch someone else on your silver screens. My puppet show is too low-class and obsolete for you. Why listen to my wood clack when someone sleek and chrome is silent, just like you like?
Fucking idiot can’t even do the right thing. It was fun while it lasted though, right? Built you up nice and strong to go for the brass ring. A foothold and stepping stone through a churning sea just to make it to the other side. Right. I’ll drown you, right? Hold you down. You can’t live under here with me.
Back to the deep with me. Into my cave I crawl.