My boyfriend kissed my cheek and then proceeded to brush my hair as we sat on his bed watching TV. He set the brush down; one by one he cracked his knuckles. It was a sound I had heard many times before, but had never actually thought about. I grabbed his hands, they were cold and sweaty, and placed them on either of my cheeks. The smell of cocoa butter filled my nose, and I felt at home.
“Why don’t you ever let me crack your knuckles for you?” I was joking around, trying to be cute, but the smile on John’s face disappeared. He jerked his hands away from my face and put them to his sides. His eyes, once soft and caring, now beamed at me.
“Why do you fucking care? It’s not a big deal, Leah.”
“I know it’s not a big deal. It was just a question.”
We sat in silence. He had nothing to say, and I was too fearful to say anything. Every so often I would look over at him to see what he was thinking. I couldn’t get past the way his eyes crinkled when he laughed, or how he would pull on his cheeks out of boredom. “Do you like being my boyfriend?” He turned to me and responded “yes” then kissed me. He faced the TV once again, and we went back to not talking. John began picking at his hangnails. He wasn’t doing it aimlessly; all of his attention had turned to his fingers, whereas before it was on the TV. He mumbled something, and I grabbed the remote to turn down the volume. “Excuse me?”
“Why did you have to ask me that, Leah? Was it necessary? You know the answer will always be yes.”
“I’m sorry. I just need validation.” I looked into my lap. “I just need validation.”
He scoffed. He stood up from the bed and started pacing around his room. He pushed his hair out of his face and stood still.
“I can’t give you validation every second of your god damn life. You’re here, in my bedroom, isn’t that enough? I’m not with my friends. We are together. Enjoy the moment. Why can’t you do that?” His face was flushed.
“It was just a question. I didn’t mean to embarrass you, but obviously you don’t like being my boyfriend.” John walked over to me and placed his hands on my shoulders. His thumbs dug into my skin, and I shimmied out of his grip. I retreated to the middle of the bed, and he followed.
“Stop saying that. Shut up. Just shut up.” I could feel his hot breath on my face, but I stayed still. “You’re being ridiculous, Leah. Do you know that?” I suddenly tasted salt in my mouth and wiped my eyes. Embarrassed, I looked away from his stare. “Look at me. Look at me right now.” The smell of his spearmint toothpaste crept into my nose.
“Get out of my fucking face.” My body scooted to the edge of the bed, and I swung my feet over the edge. While I watched my feet dangling there, the carpet underneath them turned into a black bottomless pit. I feel deeper and deeper into the hole.
My body jolted, and the daydream was over.
“What the hell? Get off of me. Get off!”
“You weren’t responding to me. I didn’t know what to do. Calm the fuck down! You were just sitting there, staring. I called out to you and nothing. This was all I could think of.”
My boyfriend had both of his hands on my shoulders and was leaning over me. He had shoved me on the bed in an attempt to get me to stop daydreaming. I started laughing. “You’re crazy. Insane. Mental. Batshit crazy.”
His eyes continued to pierce my skin, and I rolled out from underneath him. “We need to have a serious conversation anyway.” My voice shook. I didn’t know where this conversation was going, but it was necessary.
“What’s up?” He came to sit next to me. He placed his hand on my upper thigh, trying to show affection.
“This… uh… you…” I froze. I contemplated what I was about to say, and the tears rolled down my cheeks. I shook my boyfriend’s hand off of my leg.
“Leah, what is it? Just spit it out already.” We laced fingers; it was his way of telling me I was safe. I could hear my own heartbeat, and the tears came faster.
“You’re not there for me. I feel so alone all the time. There are things I want to tell you throughout the day, but don’t because I don’t want to annoy you. I feel like a burden to you. Do you know how much it sucks when your favorite person in the world will not talk to you? It’s not a good fucking feeling, John! And do you know the worst part? You don’t care. You never ask me how I’m feeling. You never think about how your actions will affect me. I just want to talk you, and you ignore me constantly!” My face was hot. I was struggling to breathe at a normal pace, and my tears stained my skirt. I had never cried in front of my boyfriend before: it made me feel uneasy. I never wanted him to see my raccoon eyes or blotchy cheeks. I looked John in the eyes, somber and cold. The love had disappeared. I did not recognize the boy in front of me.
“Do you hear yourself? How could I not care? You mean the absolute world to me. I admire everything that you are.”
“Shut the fuck up, oh my god. How can you sit here and spew all this crap at me when you barely talk to me? You ignored me last night, and I sat at home waiting on your text or call. Do you know how embarrassing that is? It makes me feel like I did something wrong.”
“I was in a bad mood. I didn’t want to be around people.”
“Is that why you went out with your friends? I’m not an idiot. I do not put up with liars. What happened to the guy who gave me this entire speech about how he would take care of my heart and protect me from all the crap in this world? Where is he? I have not seen that guy in a couple of weeks.”
“Leah, I’m sorry. I am so so sorry.”
John tried to wipe the tears from my face, but they wouldn’t stop. His hands trickled through my hair. We didn’t speak another word to each other. He apologized, and that was enough. Eventually, the tears stopped, and I felt safe again. We kissed, and touched, and connected. He drove me home around midnight. I looked into his eyes to say goodbye on the way out of the car, and they were empty. No love, no sunshine, no glowing. We kissed, and it was meaningless; just skin touching skin.