I fall into bed and he envelops me, his hands so delicate I can only feel their warmth, not their weight. He presses dry, velvet lips against my shoulder and I melt, his skin so soft and gentle and numbing. Loving him feels comfortable, like junk food and sitcoms. Loving him makes time slip through my fingers, and it is midnight, and we are naked, and it is dark, and I must go.
He nudges me awake before I knew I’d fallen asleep and I jump, my heart racing, my eyes wide. He smiles, and I go back to breathing. Comfort, easy. But it’s time to go.
I dress and he just watches, stands, silent. Something is wrong.
In his doorway, my chest tight and my brow tense, I ask if we are okay. He seems confused.
“Of course.” When I ask if he’s sure, he adds, “Yes, we’re okay.”
“I just want to make sure, just in case. You seemed mad at dinner…I just want to make sure,” I say, annoyed by the whine of my own voice, the chatter of my words. He rubs the bridge of his nose and the movement makes my breath catch hard.
“Okay. I love you.”
I walk to my car, my head turned exactly away from his door (though I know he’s not still looking). Keys in ignition, car comes to life. I cry in the whirring darkness.
Why did you do that? I chastise myself like I am my own child. Why did you ask? Why did you persist? You’re so stupid. You’re so stupid.
I get home and put water on for tea. I brush my teeth, wash my face. You’re so stupid. Now he’s probably annoyed—well, yeah, because you’re annoying. Am I annoying? Yes, asking him all this stuff, you’re annoying. Does he even want to be with me? Yes, that’s what this whole thing is about, of course he wants to be with you. Shut up. Why did you bother asking, you know it’s true. Asking and asking and asking, that’s what will make him not love you. Does he love me? Yes, Jesus Christ. Yes. Well, he didn’t say “I love you too.” He said sweet dreams. You know he loves you. Does he? Yes. He said so. He didn’t say “I love you.” He said we’re fine. Well, nothing’s fine. Oh, shut up, everything’s fine, just stop thinking!
I put on pajamas. I crawl into bed. I’m disgusted with my own mind. Every day, every time the phone rings, every time I order coffee, every time my boss asks me a question. Just relax…stop.
My breathing is slower and my blankets are a comforting warmth. It feels nice when my clenched muscles relax.
Then the kettle starts whistling—I had forgotten my tea. I had forgotten my tea.
I take a fast breath and scream. I start weeping, choking, my hands in tight fists against my sheets. How could you forget the tea? What kind of person forgets when they put on tea? I shove my face deep into the pillows and scream so loud my voice cracks and my throat hurts. I punch the mattress, storm down to the kitchen, shut off the stove, collapse in a corner, cry into my knees.
God, you’re so stupid, forgetful, annoying. This is like when you missed your stop on the subway. Like when you went to the market and forgot to buy milk. Like when you forgot to pay the parking meter. The parking meter. The damn parking meter, why did you have to remember the parking meter? It had ruined my whole day.
I’d taken the morning off for a doctor’s appointment, and in my rush to get there on time and my worry of finding a parking spot I’d forgotten to pay the meter. I remembered in the waiting room, and my eyes misted immediately. I figured I had time to rush out, so I sprinted, paid the meter, ran inside just in time—and realized I’d forgotten my coffee in my car. Two things in one day. It’s gonna be a bad day. It set off more and more bad things. Doctor says I need to exercise more. Eat healthier. Get back to work. Boss is annoyed. Bad day. Held the tears down as long as I could. Took crying breaks in the restroom. Went home ten minutes early, felt guilty for doing so, skipped class, felt even guiltier, spend the next fifteen hours in bed, crying, hiding from the world.
How many days have sent you to your knees? How many days in a row have you broken down crying?
You’re so melodramatic. Stop crying on the floor, you look so stupid. Pathetic. Get up, get your tea, and go to bed. You don’t even deserve tea. Why is tea doing this to you? Why are you doing this to yourself? No wonder you forgot to pay the meter. No wonder you forgot your coffee, the milk, your subway stop. No wonder he’s not in love with you anymore. Shut up, stop being dramatic. You’re wasting time. You should be sleeping. Get up.
I get up, I get tea, I go to bed. I try to think of outer space. Empty. Open. Quiet. No words, no sounds, no thoughts. I want to call and ask him again if he loves me. Don’t. Think of space. Think of nothing. Stop thinking. Stop it. Stop thinking.
ABOUT CHRISTINA BAGNI
Christina Bagni is a senior WLP major with a focus in Creative Writing: Fiction and a minor in History. Her work can be found in the Underground Literary Magazine, Spare Change News, and The Boston Globe. She is currently an intern at Ploughshares. Christina enjoys writing, reading, music, and traveling, as well as playing with her dog Lacey. She also runs a mean Dungeons and Dragons campaign.