He still thinks this is how I was born. How terribly naive. At times, I wish he’d realise that my cells didn’t decide to man up and learn some coolness as they were putting 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 loveable.
“You are like a beautiful tomboy, bold and real and, at the same time, pretty and sensual,” he tells me, and I know that he is fascinated with what he sees.
He just doesn’t know I’ve made it up for him, to see exactly this and nothing more. I want to tell him that, but I instinctively put on a small smile and keep walking. A little longer, I think. Just a little longer, ‘till I tell the truth.
At night I think of how I could have stopped right there, giving 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, sipping on my tea.
‘Why are you doing this?’ he would have asked me, wondering at my ability to switch from editor-in-chief of me to my rawest, purest, most 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 I couldn’t sleep for the noise I made, when others like him slept like babies.
‘What’s on your mind?’ they would ask me when they saw me wide awake. I would think, ‘Everything,’ but say, ‘Nothing.’ Then they would get easier, and the noise would get louder. But then there was the God damned fear.
Him, for example, I really like. I liked others before, but now I can’t think of anyone that isn’t him without laughing. I want to bring him home and show him where I really live when I don’t live out in the world. Home, up the spiral staircase where all my paintings are hung, each one in order with their colours progressing 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, yet proud of how they were stitched together with enough love to keep them together. But this isn’t magic for all pairs of eyes. This is 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 noises 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.
The same night, I also ask myself for the first time whether he loves me or not – but I know that 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 home may not mean much to him. I am less afraid of vandalism than I am of a lover dismissing it for wood and pretty carpets, 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 shiver at the thought, and I know the God damned fear is still here, sat across from me, sipping its own tea. ‘A little longer,’ I think. ‘Just a little longer, ‘till I tell the truth.’