Look what you’ve done to me. You’ve turned me into a monster.
The thought sinks into her skull, buzzing between her bones like a moth caught inside a glass bottle. It bothers her; she can’t shake it, even when she runs her hands through her tangled, sandy hair, as if trying to free the thought from the roots.
The man lies with his head on her chest, his hair matted with sweat, breathing short, quick breaths. Damp skin against skin, she can hear the almost audible snap of his heart strings. This is the sound, the moment, where the balance of power shifts, where they give up, sigh and twist themselves into emotional, human hurricanes, spinning violently around her, teeth flashing with hope.
I feel nothing. I am becoming you.
There is a look that men get when they fall in love. It’s a split second expression where the pupils dilate and the eyelids lower like lazy window shades in the afternoon sun. They flutter to the cradle of her neck like hummingbirds to nectar, breathing in her scent. They sigh and smile. And then that look.
She watches them from a distance even though they’re skins apart, and knows that she must move on to the next new skin, the unknown eyes and the cold body, hoping that this one will not disappoint her with romantic notions and aspirations.
She’s tired of having them wrapped around her finger like silken thread around a steel thimble. But with you, she was dragged like a reluctant anchor holding back a sailboat against the tides.
The sleeping man sighs against her chest and sinks his cheeks further into the hull of her ribcage. She reaches out to the pack of Gauloises Reds and slips one into her tired mouth.
She changes her choice of cigarettes with every man, taking on his pack, his scent and his taste in music. She lets them order food for her, pick out the best wines, wrap their jackets around her frail shoulders and make them feel like the maker of all decisions, the caller of shots; when in fact she picks them out the moment she enters a room and watches them wind their way slowly towards her like silver snakes in the grass.
This one smokes religiously, desperately dragging onto the cigarette with his teeth, as if a breath without nicotine would kill him. He has sad brown eyes and an eager body of bones, and for a moment she feels guilty that this one is too easy to break. She doesn’t want to hurt him, and he stares at her like she’s the ending to his novel, the prize to his fight, his well-earned feast.
He spoke of destiny this morning when they were wrapped around each other in the sea. Waves broke over his head and into her mouth as he leaned in to kiss her, salt and saliva trickling down her chin as he explained that the drawing on her wrist was the same he used to scribble into his school books, how he’d dreamed of a girl just like her; same auburn hair, same placid green eyes, the same fire. She was lost for words – and nothing.
What have you done to me? I’m turning into you.
When he flung his arm possessively around her neck, and sighed on top of her as the heat of their bodies evaporated into a reluctant silence of mismatched heartbeats, it hit her for a split second, staring at the ceiling – it should be you, not him, no matter who– but then she blinked the tears back and rearranged her face into a pretty smile.
The irony of it all was that after you left, she decided to pursue men with more life and vivacity in them, arms that would love her openly and generously, everything that you failed to give in your self-indulgent fear and desperation to be free.
She promised herself that the next man would deserve her. And he did, and so did the one after him. And the one after that. Yet with every man, she lost along the way, slowly morphing into you.
You were special. Like a burning flame cradled between her hands, you lit her up. You were made together, and together you made a beautiful mess, heartbeats in synch, her breath to yours like ying to yang.
Together, your damp skin came apart reluctantly at the seams, you would open your arms with exuberant joy, fling your heads back at the sky and laugh with pure relief that life is in fact tremendous when lived through each other.
There was so much excitement and promise in the moments you shared; you became children again, holding hands and jumping on tired mattresses, kicking feet into the air while the ceiling came too close. And then you fell into a tangle of sheets and pillows and bodies and eager arms, and you held her and held her and held her and then you left.
She stood there, spinning alone, keeling off balance and fluttering violently like window chimes in a sea storm.
And now look what you’ve done.
The man walks her to her street corner, reaches out in the shadows of red brick walls and humid summer skies to touch her cool cheek. He allows himself a moment to stand back and frame her face with his fingers, taking a mental photograph. He tells her he’s lost, incontrollable, bursting with feverish joy and a sudden sense of coming back to life.
She can’t help it; she bursts into laughter, peals of silver bells ringing in his ears. Oh, the irony, the tragedy is that this is everything she ever wanted to hear, but from you, not him.
She leans towards him, and envelopes him in her arms, as he breathes in her scent one last frantic time, and with every fiber in her body, she lies to save the stranger who will never – and could never- match you in your beauty and cruelty – by saying ‘Me too.’
I’ve become you.