He still thinks this is how I was born. How terribly naive. Sometimes I wish he’d realise that my cells didn’t decide to man up and learn some coolness when they put me together. That was my mind, many years later, laying out in front of me a detailed plan to make me good, and easy, and lovable.
‘You are like a beautiful tomboy, bold and real and, at the same time, pretty and sensual,’ he says to me, and I know he’s fascinated by what he sees.
He just doesn’t know that I made it up for him to see just that and nothing more. I want to tell him that, but I instinctively put on a little smile and keep walking. A little longer, I think. Just a little longer, until I tell the truth.
At night I think of how I could have stopped right there and given him all the secret access codes and passwords to the girl behind the mask. He would have been terribly confused, I laugh to myself in the quiet, drinking my tea.
‘Why are you doing this?’ he would have asked me, wondering about my ability to switch from being my editor-in-chief to being my most primal, pure, authentic self. And I would have thought—or even said?—something along the lines of, ‘Why not? I have been enough of a coward to last me for the rest of my life. Let’s start again, let’s start here.’
It was true, after all. I could have listened to my heart more. Then maybe I wouldn’t have heard it screaming later, all those long, impossible hours when I couldn’t sleep for the noise I made, while others like him slept like babies. ‘What’s on your mind?’ they’d ask me when they saw me wide awake. I would think, Everything, but say, ‘Nothing.’ Then they would leave me alone, and the noise would get louder. But then there was that damn fear.
Him, for example, I like a lot. I liked others before, but now I can’t think of anyone who isn’t him without laughing. I want to take him home and show him where I really live when I’m not out in the world. Home, up the spiral staircase where all my paintings hang, each in its order and with their colours that run like the seasons. Home, where I break the spell with my mind and I am the same girl I have always been.
A little insecure about how her parts don’t always match, but proud that they were stitched together with enough love to keep them together. But this isn’t magic for all pairs of eyes. It’s much more fragile than what he sees. This is precious and must be protected always, even when the armour gets so heavy I can’t go on, even when its creaking sounds get so loud I can’t sleep. Even when men like him try to poke at it to check what’s real and what’s not.
That same night, I also ask myself for the first time if he loves me or not—but I know he does. Uncertainty would only mean that he doesn’t. When somebody loves you, you don’t find yourself curled up on a couch questioning their love without laughing at the thought. And yet, my house may not mean much to him. I am less afraid of vandalism than I am of a lover dismissing it for wood and pretty rugs, and not staying for dinner.
The girl wants to be loved. After all, love is what made her. Love is what keeps her parts going. If she is met with love, but then love leaves her, she risks coming apart. Her threads will have mixed with the new love and pull at her, trying to follow the new love out the door. I shudder at the thought, and I know that damn fear is still here, sitting across from me, drinking its own tea. A little longer, I think. Just a little longer, until I tell the truth.