It’s not about the act itself but the aftermath. After it happened I couldn’t pass by a mirror for months without resurrecting the image of handprints on hips, the kind that didn’t scrub off in the shower no matter how hard I tried, burning my bones, the memory of bruises reddening my ribs. I remember slinking back into my father’s sweatshirt and leaving in the morning like nothing happened. You were fast asleep and I didn’t wake you– just slipped on yesterday’s wrinkled clothes, ran my hands through the knots in my hair you made when I was too dizzy to tell you to stop, and put last night’s unfinished homework, stained amber by your cheap liquor, back into my school backpack, unfeeling. And then I didn’t feel anything for the rest of the year. But after I left your dorm room that morning I got coffee. Two cups of half & half coffee creamer into a medium-sized styrofoam cup of dark roast. I took the window desk on the third floor of the library and wrote a mediocre essay on the dark lady in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 through a post-structuralist lens. At the campus ice cream shop that night, over double scoops of mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone, a close girlfriend of mine asked me what was new in my world, and I said, Nothing much, just looking forward to Thanksgiving break, and adjusted the collar of my shirt so she wouldn’t see what you did and bombard me with concern. That was the beginning of my fear of love. It’s not about the act itself but the aftermath. The cavernous space between the me I knew and the me that couldn’t be touched without the compulsion to scream. If anyone asked about you then I would’ve lied through my teeth and said something along the lines of We’re good. We’re not together anymore but we’re good. I wouldn’t have told them about the way you made me swallow a pill just in case, I don’t know, just do it. I wouldn’t have told them about crossing paths with you later that week, that all-knowing smirk plastered on your face, and how seriously I contemplated the height of a rooftop and whether or not it could eradicate my suffering. It’s not about the act itself but the aftermath. It was the way I kept going, pretending we were still best friends, that the night never happened, that we just fell asleep and nothing more, and you took nothing. 

Everyone has their own share of myths. 

This is the one I’ve been telling. Until now.

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