It’s Tuesday night, and I’m alone at the bar. I always come alone. It’s the perfect place to people watch: college kids playing dress-up as adults, millennials mourning their loss of youth and yearning to be in college again, real adults who just want to be seen and heard and felt as people again. I like watching these people sit uncontent and alone at a place supposed to be so happy. I like watching them look at me; judge me for my lonesomeness, my forlorn presence. People like that love someone to remind them why they go out and cut smiles out of their cheeks. I like to watch, to throw it back in their face. I like watching their ignorance, their insecurity. Like watching people stumble through first dates and tense work meetings. Like watching people in groups as they pretend to have fun, pretend they aren’t already searching for the next best thing. I like watching and knowing, feeling what they are too afraid to and embracing it.
I like the newly divorced men the best. The only ones not afraid to show their misery, who embrace it with me. They come here to make a public display of it, to incite pity and find someone new and shiny to tell them how special they are. They always think it's going to be me. It never is.
Tonight it’s 40 something salt and pepper hair. He leaves it long, showing off just how distracted and tired his woeful heart is. It takes him forty minutes to come over, to introduce himself, and draw back the curtain on act I of what I’m sure is a very compelling show.
He asks me for my name, and I tell him it's Dolores. He doesn’t get the reference: men like this never do. He goes on talking, like I never said a word. Men like this never have to get it, never have to pay as much attention. We always assume they know. Say shit like that to impress them and watch their blank eyes stare back at us. Let their stare trace down our necks and make their way back up, but never directly in the eye; but that’s okay, we never expect something as incredulous as eye contact. I don’t want him looking at me like that anyways. It’s almost worse. I prefer my men blank, luckily most of them are.
This one in particular is of the pseudointellectual breed, which happens to be my favorite. Men who treat their tailored shirts and greasy, expensive hair pomade acts as some type of degree. Some type of intellectual high ground, some type of knowledge that they are looking down on us and expect us to feel it: crave for us to feel it, thrive on it. The type of power and superiority complex that only comes from never being told you’re wrong or that you’re taking up too much space. The kind of sadistic impudence that reduces the people around them to others. Men have always had it easy like this, they make it easy for each other.
Puppets, the lot of them. They don’t know what it’s like to have to claw, bruised and bloodied, fingernails torn from their beds and callouses ripped open again, pushing and fighting and dying for a moment of autonomy. Of peace. They get to remain puppets, perfectly stuffed with nothing inside. Drill a nail into their skull and be met with an echo-chamber. They’re allowed to stay like that, they aren’t expected to be anything more, anything different. They’re allowed to be one dimensional, to be made from felt.
I let him lean into his delusion of marionette. Let him flirt with me and smile and blush on command and make him feel like he got that reaction out of me. I bide my time playing the part as I sharpen my tongue for the killing blow. I sit and watch him talk about himself, smiling and smirking as he continues his show. I want to tell him to stop smiling, to scrape it off his face with my jagged, sharpened nails. I want him to let me. I want him to lean in and kiss me. I want him to want to know how my tongue would feel in his mouth, to stick his down my throat. I want him to remind me that someone might still want to do that. I want him to want me, to tell me I was right about him without saying another word. I want to feel him like it.
I want him to let me use my brash teeth to clamp down on his neck, to tug at the flesh and threaten to tear. I want him to feel stuck, frozen: subject to my positioning, to my will. Legs stiff and stuck straight, a wooden smile poorly painted on, suspended ten feet above the ground immortalized by tiny strings. He stays there waiting for me, wanting me. Willing me to allow him the tiniest inch, the tiniest freedom from his hollow wooden brain. But that’s not how the game works, and he knows that. He has always pulled the strings, painted on the smiles. It’s my turn to play, my turn to make him dance.
I bring him home from the bar like that, limbs clanking together in my jacket pocket. He’s beginning to mold when I bring him out, his timber will gives in to mine of steel. I won’t make him dance, or beg, I never do. I make him live instead, torture him the way he begged me to at the bar. I leave him to live behind the glass door, a new decoration on the wall for me to display. I watch his chalky eyes take in the graveyard of wire strings and chipped smiles before him. I leave him with his rotted marionette brothers, their unblinking eyes on my back as I lock the door and turn away.
Sophia Sorrentino is an emerging queer writer in NYC. They're a sophomore in the Creative Writing Program at Fordham University who enjoys breaking form and bending genres. This is her first publication, but other half finished works and half baked ideas can be found on instagram @sophiagrso.