Last Christmas

“Oh my god!”

“Calm down, Matty.”

“But….OH. MY. GOD.”

“Jesus Christ. It’s a bootleg copy of Borderlands, Matt. The cover isn’t even printed properly. That looks like the printer ran out of ink and the person put back the same paper three more times just to get something on it.” I survey the cover of the bootleg Borderlands DVD I gave Matt as a Christmas gift. I should’ve picked a more convincing copy, but from his reaction, I guess it’s not a problem at all.

“Thank you, Jake,” he looks like he’s tearing up. I swear to god if he cries in the middle of the library, not only is the entire university going to think that we’re definitely gay. Everyone is going to assume I broke up with him five days before Christmas, too.

“Matt, could you, for once, not cry in the library while we’re together?” I practically plead, rubbing my temple. “Or at least before you break down completely, where’s my gift?”

Matt’s face changes instantly from emotional to barely containing his laughter.

“Really?” I stare at him. “Are you kidding me, Matthew?”

“Relax, I have your gift right here. But before I give it to you, I want to remind you that the rule was that we will give each other something we sincerely think the other would appreciate and love.” He tries to explain very carefully as if I wasn’t there when we first talked about the stupid exchange gift that was Kate’s idea, who isn’t even here.

“Does this mean I’m getting a box set of Harry Potter from you?” I feign shock.

He scoffs. “Sure, in exchange for a ratty copy of a game, I spent two week’s worth of my allowance for your Christmas gift.”

“Hey, I wasn’t the one who was about to shed tears over it just two minutes ago.”

“I wasn’t going to cry!”

“Your eyes watered, Matt.”

“Shut up, I did—“

“Your handkerchief definitely looks a little wet from the tears.” I squint at his handkerchief from across the table, so he hides it immediately.

“Jake, for god’s sake, do you want the gift or not,” he says dryly.

“Yes! But if I don’t like it, let it be known that our friendship is effectively ruined. You had been a great friend. I am not sure I will miss you that much, but rest assured that I will think about your Xbox often and I might send you a message at 3:00 am randomly asking if it misses me, too.”

“You know what? I think I might prefer that after all. Alright, I’m just going to throw this away and I’ll see you when I see you, but you will never see my Xbox again.” He says the last sentence a bit more loudly so a few people in the library turned their heads towards us and smiled, and I roll my eyes at them.

“He literally meant an Xbox!” I hiss at the next table. Some of them I recognize as classmates in a minor class Matt and I took only because the room in which the classes were held had the only functional air-conditioner back then. “It wasn’t a metaphor for anything, Melissa! Stop being nosey!” Melissa giggles again before going back to studying with her friends.

“I hope she fails her Statistics class,” I say, turning back to Matt. “But more importantly, dude you’re building this up way too much. This means there’s a bigger risk I will be disappointed.”

Matt had this smirk on his face for about five seconds more, and then he puts a box in front of me.

“Oh my fucking god,” I exhale. “How did—”

“Meh. I knew some people,” Matt cuts me off, his tone nonchalant, clearly getting the reaction that he wanted from me.

“But where—” I don’t even know why I’d ask. It doesn’t actually matter. But it’s just the greatest gift ever. EVER.

“You’re the only person I know who’s this crazy about Jollibee’s tuna pie, Jake. I swear, your poop is going to turn yellow soon.”

“Matt,” I answer, shaking my head violently. “Don’t ruin this moment for me.” I proceed to hug the box containing 36 pieces of frozen tuna pie from Jollibee, for me to consume in the next few weeks, until they become officially available again in time for Holy Week.

“You are so fucking weird, Jake,” says Matt, but laughing a little.

“Says the one whose girlfriend’s hair is green,” I shoot back. “You can leave me alone now, Matt. Leave me alone with this beautiful thing and go find your girlfriend.”

“You’re welcome, buddy,” he says, finally standing up. “Please try not to make out with it, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

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Netflix and Chill

I never want to have sex. This means that I never want anyone’s dick anywhere near me. This means that I will never be fascinated with your dick, so send that photo to someone else. This means that all attempts at flirting and getting me in the mood will be pointless. This means that “Netflix and chill” to me actually means “Netflix and chill…ing at the sofa binge watching The IT Crowd.” 

This means that pickup lines will be met with a resounding, “WHAAAAT?” This means that, “fuck me” will always be just an expression. This means that asking me to talk dirty to you means telling you the story of that one time at a bar, I drank a blue cocktail and the next day my pee was the same color. This means that if you really want me to talk dirty to you, I will tell you that one of my favorite bands is Garbage. I mean, how dirty is that, right??? 

Garbage???

I never want to have sex and I never talk about the boys I like in sexual terms. This means that I don’t care if Leslie Odom Jr. is topless or wearing a bespoke suit—he will always be beautiful to me. This means that yes I like this one boy very much but no, I don’t want to fuck him just to prove it. This means that I really just enjoy talking to him and listening to him talk about his music. This means that sexual innuendos will never come from me.

But this doesn’t mean that I don’t laugh at green jokes. This doesn’t mean I am less interested in making connections. This doesn’t mean I find beauty less appealing. This doesn’t mean I think sex is dirty. This doesn’t make me a prude, a tease, or a bore. This doesn’t make me a fucking challenge.

I don’t want to have sex. But this doesn’t mean that you can look down on my lack of experience or that I will let you “teach” me. This doesn’t mean that maybe I just need alcohol to loosen up. This doesn’t make me ignorant or incomplete or a freak.

I don’t want sex. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t want love. The holding hands, the butterfly kisses, and late-night drives. This doesn’t mean that I don’t fall in love sometimes with the slightest hint of someone’s kindness. This doesn’t make me a sexually repressed, un-feeling robot.

It just means that I never want to have sex. This doesn’t mean I don’t have anything else to offer.

Kate’s Song

Explosions in the Sky – Human Qualities

The night wanders away from me like every good memory from an aging mind. Slowly at first, and then suddenly it’s sunrise and I have to ponder over every decision I’ve made that got me here.

I broke his heart.

And in every minute that passes between us in silence, I can hear the crack grow bigger. All his questions wanting to get out of the little spaces between his hesitation and the sheer will to appear strong.

A coffee mug sits in the middle of us, so unassuming. It was the first thing I ever bought him. It says “Phony” in screaming red letters, a word from one of his favorite books. And now it screams back at me so loudly–I guess that’s how it works.

By the third hour, we have exhausted all our words, and we talk in head tilts and sighs. Our movements calculated, precise. He gives me a look that says, “I think I sort of understand,” and I shake my head to answer, “you know I’ll always love you, right?” But I keep the rest of it with me.

I don’t let out what kind of love is left in me for him. I make no movement to indicate that it’s the kind you will always wish you had more of, but don’t regret not having anymore, like a favorite TV show they cancelled too soon, but then the ending makes sense and you make peace with it.

Sometimes there are disappointments so great and palpable you know it had to happen for you to grow. And I know I’ve erased every role I had in his life with one mistake. I will never be Girlfriend, Best Friend, Confidant, Crazy Cat Lady, Murakami Fangirl. I will only be Cheater.

I circle my finger around the coffee mug rim and can almost hear his laughter from the first time he used it. I pick it up, wanting to channel whatever residue of joy was left from that moment. He stands up to look at me and says two words I never thought would ever hurt far more than anything else in the world.

“Keep it.”

The Fall

These days, people come up with clever names for everything. We call sadness hashtag-relatable. Our heartbreaks prompts. Someone’s illness a beautiful phase. And somehow you become not just accepting but mainstream. Not just indie but hipster. Not just lover but savior.

I have been called many things. People tell me I’m weird, and judgy, and cold, and blunt, and denser than the Dead Sea. That’s okay. People also tell me I’m interesting, and strong, and lovely. They also tell me I’m brave.

We’re so slow in recognizing things.

Somehow it’s called courage rather than oversharing for telling these stories. Without flinching. Referencing everything in past tense or in third person as if all of it didn’t just happen to me last night.

But more often than not, I still can’t call it by its name, because it’s not permanent. It comes in waves. I convince myself I don’t suffer from it, I merely experience it. As if saying “experience” could make it sound like I go trekking or sky diving. When all I could ever imagine is diving from the 22-storey building.

And somehow that’s called poetic rather than unsettling.

On days that I’m doing okay, I question if it was even real. If what they always tell me had some truth in it. Am I really just overthinking things? Could I have made the day better if I forced myself to get out of bed? Would things have turned out differently if I didn’t tell them, that one time, that in my dreams I can clearly picture myself dead?

Will people still call me lovely after that?

When all of the sick scenarios I’ve imagined myself in are splattered on the concrete and passersby keep guessing what I looked liked with my head intact. But I don’t think I’ve ever kept my head intact.

People have clever names for everything. Phase. Episode. Incident. Attack. Clipped versions of my early mornings and dull afternoons that drone on and on. While that image of me becomes clearer. Dress perfect, arms outstretched; a ballerina frozen in mid-dance. And I think–

We’re all so fragile and careful on not breaking our bones, thinking flesh is more expendable. We always think the softer ones are more expendable.

But there is no redemption after this. There is no clever way of labeling depression. You can’t call it by your past lover’s name to make it more familiar, more tangible. Nothing poetic about the literal breaking of everything you are on your way to the ground.

I’m not here tell you flowers will eventually grow on that block of concrete surrounded by police tape.

On days I’m not doing okay, I forget what it means to be a person and all the clever names I thought had memorized and remember only that image of me on the ground. And I write it down. I write it down and maybe tomorrow I’ll remember to wash my hair. I write it down and tonight perhaps I’ll eat dinner. I write it down. The impact. The wind in my hair. The heart-stopping end. I write it down.

And then maybe I’ll recognize myself again.

Transition Girl

I’m the transition girl. The scary little footbridge you’re afraid to cross but do anyway to get to wherever it is you’re going.

We’ll meet under unusual circumstances. It can be at an art fair, or a pottery class, or a dingy bar you went to after a breakup. We’ll smile, exchange witty banter, and you’ll go home thinking you MUST know me more.

I’ll be interesting and funny and cute. I’ll introduce you to a new band each week. We’ll share a soda at some park listening to the new album of City and Colour.

And then you’ll think to yourself how the hell I ever got to be me. And why was I still single?

I’m the transition girl. The one you read in books, who leaves both protagonist and readers a trail of question marks, compelling you all to read another chapter.

You will mistake me for a dream girl, leaving “manic pixie” behind, ignoring the hair color and the disappearing acts, thinking everything I say determines the plot, treating my sadness as some sort of foreshadowing.

I will teach you how to be extraordinary. To try new things. To develop a taste for the wonderful and the crazy. Because sometimes they’re both as sweet as candy.

I’m the transition girl. I have mystery written all over me, and you’re welcome to try and pick me apart to indulge yourself in whatever stage of confusion you’re in.

You’re welcome to turn my words into your gospel while you figure yourself out, decide what it is you really want. Treat every moment we have as an adventure, while some indie folk song plays in the background.

But to tell you honestly, I’m so sick of all of it. People leaving the moment clarity hits them. While I fade along with the song.

People thinking I’m broken but held together by glitter glue so at least I sparkle in parts that hurt me the most.

I’m sick of remaining in people’s what-if lists, of thinking I become stronger anyway every time I’m abandoned. That at least I’ll get a good poem out of it.

I never do things for the story.

But the story always happens to me: the meet-cute, me thinking oh my god he noticed me. And he doesn’t mind that I sometimes get crazy. And he remembers this band I said I liked that nobody else knows. And he doesn’t think it’s weird that I change my hair color every two weeks because I desperately want to crawl out of my skin but this is the least I could do for now to become someone else.

I never do all of this for the story. I never wanted to be written off as a plot point, someone the main character meets to make him realize his worth—and in the end I am never worth it.

Because I’m the transition girl. The manic pixie dream girl. Only a few memorable chapters long but never the happy ending.

And all the time, when it’s over, you’ll remember me only when that indie folk song plays on the radio, which won’t be always. You will look back at the time we had with great nostalgia but not an ounce of regret. I was someone you had to know. A phase before you got your life together.

And while it’s flattering that I helped you get where you were going, I still think you should know. I never thought that you were only visiting.