I met her
short story about a not-so-short relationship
I met her in a bar.
Surrounded by strangers, dim light, pop music. My feet hurt and I wanted to go home, seek the comfort of my bed, tell my friends how much of an introvert I had become.
Then, in the bathroom, two or three people between us, waiting in line to relieve themselves. She looked around. Our eyes locked.
I had seen her before at that same bar. Never thought I should give myself the chance, considering my low chances. Never thought she’d give me any chances to get over my unwillingness. But then our eyes locked again, this time as we looked through the mirror and washed our hands. She washed hers too slowly, finishing it just as I did, a coincidence too strong for me to neglect or sabotage myself. By the door, I turned around and smiled.
“Hey. What’s your name?”
I met her on her bed.
We walked fast. As we got through the door, my eyes were only able to register what should be one kitchen, one bathroom, and the doors to two bedrooms. Then, one roommate, a guy she’d met in high school and had been her closest friend ever since.
No competition, she assured me, though I didn’t ask. She only liked girls.
In her room, old disks, young-adult fiction books, psychology books, childish drawings. Stars glued to the walls, pants and shirts covering the floor, cups and spoons right beside her bed.
Her bed, clean and small. Two pillows, black covers, a fluffy blanket. Then, her body. Then, my body. Then, our clothes.
She smiled as I moved down between her open legs.
“What is it that you like?”
I met her in her house.
Her mom at the door, inviting us in. The old, familiar dog that I knew, but only from pictures, now smelling my hands and jumping on my legs. Her little brother, coming out of his room with headphones around his neck just to say hi.
Old pictures of herself as a 12-year-old. Braces on her teeth, pink eyeglasses frames, straightened hair. It looked like a disguise. We laughed, intimately, at how she had changed.
Then, the awkward lunch. Her dad, who arrived late. His snark comments and her face like thunder. The implied accusations. My realization that, with my presence, a secret had just been revealed.
Her hands on mine, telling me we should leave. Her tears, which she was trying so hard to suppress.
Then, my voice, as I kissed her forehead.
“What is it that you fear?”
I met her in pain.
The days spent in my room. Her cold hands trying to warm mine. The small conversations that couldn’t and shouldn’t mean anything.
I asked her to leave me alone. She asked me to leave her alone. We kept going. The pain, too.
The knowledge, the deep and hurtful knowledge that only comes with vulnerability. The knowledge that silence was hurting us, but that any word could mutilate what we had. The knowledge that we were no longer good for each other, and only remained together for fear of the alternative.
One day, the limits. Broken plates and souls. Her sneers and disdain. My voice as I screamed at her.
“What is it that you hate?”
Her eyes as she looked at me, pointing like an arrow to what should be the answer to my question. My knitted eyebrows. My heartbreak. The final silence.
Years later, walking in the streets, holding my phone and wallet and headphones with only one hand. On the other side of the street, the same curly hair, the same laugh, the same movements I thought I’d never see again. My throat closing with panic.
Then, eyes locking again. Then, ignoring any signs of recognition that my brain was trying to send, the avoidance. I kept walking as if nothing had happened, as if our paths never crossed, as if those questions and their answers never mattered. I kept acting as if I’d seen a ghost, no, a person that I imagined, a daydream that resembled a nightmare. Because the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself of one thing: the past can be erased when it’s no longer relevant to your present.
I didn’t meet her at all.