I couldn’t stand the way you styled your hair. Saturated with drugstore putty, one dense clump of blond flopping against your sweaty forehead when you ran. It reeked of forced seduction. I couldn’t run my fingers through the strands without finishing with tacky palms. I hated that I began to associate love with the residue it left behind, that sickly perfumed grease forever lingering on my skin.
I know you still harbor resentment towards me because I come from money. Not an abundance of it, but enough. Your face burned when I bought you lunch and concert tickets and that cheap pair of winter gloves when the stitches on yours started to come undone in the snow. And when you’d pay for my dinner on our once-in-awhile date nights, the register would beep, card declined again. It’s fine, I’ll take care of it, I said, and I meant it– it really was fine. But you’d thumb through your empty wallet anyway, fingers toying with that hollow space, promising me next time, next paycheck, I’m so sorry.
I forgive you.
I loved that you didn’t need to buy my love. You made up for it in sh-tty poems on brown one-ply napkins that you’d write for me during your fifteen minute water breaks at work. Lavender weeds you’d pluck from the grass and fashion into mini bouquets to slip under my pillowcase for me to find when I couldn’t fall asleep. I always knew to check. Photos of me you’d take when I wasn’t looking, lost in thought or translation, my crescent eyes gazing out into the unknown future that scared us both. You managed to capture my fear on film. I just wanted to see how our story would end.
I could feel your heart sink from across the restaurant table when my family praised and coddled me over dinner. You never had anything close to that. You smiled at your plate of pasta and didn’t say a word. Just sat there stone cold and shot to death inside. At that moment I wanted to run away with you. I wanted to burst through those glass doors and leave everyone behind to give you the life you deserved. Textbook perfect. Rocking chair easy.
You and I dreamt of running away. You told me you’d take me to Denver or Santa Monica or Portland. We could rebuild there. You could show me real stars, the kind you used to chase when you were a battered little boy living on the poverty-stricken side of town. A world away, you told me. I hardly remember it anymore. But I know you did. You can’t forget a childhood like that, falling asleep famished to the sound of your parents shouting.
I saw a life with you, the kind I didn’t know existed until I met you. I was raised on Sunday mass and pairs of spotless shoes every new school year and heaps of pocket money to waste on comics at the yearly book fair. I knew you could taste my privilege when you kissed me hard. That it stung your lips and filled your lungs with yearning. My perfect life festered on your tongue.
You wanted to deserve me. I should’ve left you gently.
Maybe I hated your hair and your cash register apologies and your fear of being loved for real. Maybe I hated the way my family hurt you by being a real family or that you couldn’t just love me, you had to worship me.
But I never hated you.
I would’ve ripped every dollar bill to shreds just to see those stars with you.