\Being with him embodies that feeling, like the one that surged through me moments before every high school football game.
Back then, we were poised to run. Shielded with feigned innocence, we took care not to stain our uniforms with trails of forbidden glitter while secretly admiring the flecks of shimmering gold that somehow dusted our bare shoulders and legs.
We stood clustered on the edge of the team’s entrance, seconds before we ran in front of the boisterous crowd. The evening crackled with spirit, with renewed vigor and vitality. Such exuberance, the endless endurance of the young, all of it somehow synonymous with faded flashbacks igniting the cerebral yearbooks of generations past.
Up in the stands, men with receding hairlines rose and shouted ‘we’ as if they were indeed the ones dodging and panting on the field. Their wives halfheartedly waved hand-painted signs above platinum dyed bobs, surreptitiously scanning to see if anyone was still watching. All of the above nevertheless captivated by those who represented what they could no longer do, who they could no longer be.
Friday nights hold time in snippets of memory, more sensation than snapshot, the only times in my teen years I felt I could trust the swell of utter joy, the adrenaline set to spike. My years of dance training resulted in the rare certainty within my insecurity that I was a good performer, leading our cheers and dances front and center, even if my surplus of stomach and thighs prevented me from being a flyer. I could not imagine what it must have felt like to be tossed into the air and then caught as if I weighed nothing, the trust that someone would be there to break my fall. I was always the base in that equation, the bruises and scrapes littering my arms and knees in testimony to my solid build, my dependability.
My steadfast longing to soar freely in a different body didn’t matter, though. Not in my rosy moment, my contentment gently blended with a blush of apprehension, touching down on youthful confidence that, win or lose, it would still be a good night.
Being with him embodies that feeling. It opens up possibilities within me. His admiration and draw to me is something I simply know, a diamond of truth buried deep in my soul, it almost feels like self-acceptance. I like him and he likes me and it all just bounces and reflects off each other.
With him, I dismiss the years I was too much or not enough. Too fat, too emotional, too nerdy--not pretty enough, not savvy enough, not cool enough. Starving and bingeing and purging and punishing, my unending journey to recapture the feeling of performing at the games, but always slapped down with reality along the way.
Until I met him.
With him, I’m not the chubby, quiet sidekick I was in high school, the punchline of fat jokes, teased and taunted by the skinny ones. He never knew the girl whose front yard trees were mummified with mounds of toilet paper after my senior year dance show with the words “Don’t Wear a Leotard” scrawled in shaving cream across the driveway.
He knows the me I really am underneath, the one I worked so hard to unearth.
Until he pulls back, and I feel he is pulling back now. If you want freedom, I’m your girl because I need mine, too. I just need to know that we’ll always come back together at the end of the day, the unspoken trust, loyalty, a safe resting place. How can you ask me to trust you when you always disappear?
I feel bold tonight in my vow to be more up front and honest with him. My head fizzes with alcohol, my body whirls with our chemistry and anticipation. It’s my turn to reciprocate and to verbalize my feelings, just as he requested last week. I’ll let him know he’s not alone, he doesn’t have to run. He can trust me.
I’m at a brightly lit bar with my friends and I leave him a voicemail when I go to the bathroom. “Hey, I haven’t heard from you all week. Call me...I want to see you.”
He calls back an hour later, but keeps repeating he can’t hear me. Then he texts, “Call me when you get home.”
And I do call him as soon as I get home, sitting on my patio with my phone and cigarettes and journal as usual, but he doesn’t answer. I make another drink I don’t need, and it sloshes over the corner of my notebook as I try to drunkenly write and make sense of this infatuation. The vodka reignites my evanescent brazen streak, so I text him as I light my cigarette. “You frustrate me.”
He fills me. Starving myself is a worthy sacrifice, so necessary to grasp the upper hand. I’m hitting my stride, mastering the power it gives me, so why does insecurity jab at me more than ever? Is this me, this girl who attracts stares and whistles, who doesn’t pay for drinks? Light enough to be pulled into laps and picked up and twirled around, dainty and untethered.
But all I want is him.
No answer to my text. No answer to my call. I fumble with my pen and furiously channel my alcohol-numbed longing.
I took extra pains with my appearance because I was so sure I’d see him tonight. I made it up in my mind that he would take one look at me in my little skirt and cropped tank and hold my upper arms like he does while he looks at me and he’ll give me that smile and tell me how pretty I look and how much he missed me. Then he’ll bring me in close and smell the lilac shampoo he likes, and he’ll whisper in my ear that he’s sorry he hasn’t been in touch but he was afraid he scared me off with how vulnerable he was when he was with me last week, and it made him feel so insecure but now he’s realizing that I’m in this, too, I’m in it with him, and we need to go through this together.
. But that never happened and I don’t understand why. He was so present last week. I swig my La Croix and vodka. I glare at my phone and consider throwing it inside.
I hate the power he has over me. I hate the depth of my feelings for him. He’s going to break my heart and I feel it in slow motion, but I can’t stop.
I pinch my belly, feel my ribs. I could be a flyer now, top of the pyramid.
He’s calling me. I throw down my pen, drain my drink, pick up my phone. I open my mouth and my truth tumbles out, eerily similar to everything he’d told me last week.
“You’re driving me crazy! Most of the time I have to tell guys to back off, but with you...I don’t know what you’re doing...”
There’s a pause at the other end. “I know.”
I’m swaying in my chair with vodka and nerves. “I mean, we’ve been together all summer and you tell me all that stuff and then you just...vanish...”
He clears his throat. “Come over. I want to see you.”
“I want to see you! I go out with my friends and I just think about you...I do want to see you, but-” Am I saying too much? I reach for my drink. It’s empty. I suck on the vodka-laced ice.
“There’s no ‘but,’ I want to see you, too.” His voice is so deep and soft.
“I don’t know if I can drive right now.” I’m one-eying my journal. “Can you come over here?”
He sighs. “I’d come to you, but I don’t have my car. My brother has it and he’s still out.”
I’m always off balance. I’m always drunk on attention while teetering on the precipice, battling this constant fear of losing IT, this thing I suddenly have that I'd always wanted but I fear is not really mine, not sustainable.
I’m not that drunk. I need to see him, be held by him. “I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”
An hour later, we’re tangled together in his bed. “I don’t want you to think I called you over here just to have sex,” he murmurs into my hair, stroking his hand lazily down my back. “We don’t have to.”
I don’t care either way. We end up just sleeping that night. He’s holding me so tight and my head rests on his chest and his heartbeat lulls me to sleep and all is well in the world and I’m slender and soaring and I’m blanketed in that feeling again.
Melissa Mark struggled to choose between majoring in the writing arts and psychology in college. After practicing therapy for twenty years, she is now exploring her love of writing with renewed vigor. She is passionate about mental health education and awareness, something she hopes is reflected in her pieces. Her work can be found in such publications as Dreamers Creative Writing, Scary Mommy, Drunk Monkeys, and Open Minds Quarterly. Melissa lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and two children.