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I.

I said that I didn’t know what I was thinking, but that’s a lie. I remember thinking he had the kind of handsomeness that you can already see beginning to fade. I lay next to him in bed, overheating under the hotel duvet, and imagined him in twenty years. I don’t have to know a boy very well to be able to make up his whole life in my head. I could picture him sliding comfortably into middle age, his silly-whim tattoos faded by the sun and his blue eyes misting over, his dark hair salt and pepper.

I looked over at my best friend. She was curled up next to me and I could see the tattoo on her ribs that matched the one on his leg. I imagined telling her that her ex fucked me on the hotel bed while she was passed out next to us. I wondered if telling her that I couldn’t cum painted a more generous portrait of my character. I decided to leave out the details. I wouldn’t tell her how I started lightly bleeding or how I could hardly fit him inside me because my pussy was clamped together like a sticky lock. Apparently, my vagina has more of a conscience than me.

I always know what I’m thinking.

I was thinking how much I like being the one who does terrible things and drives handsome boys crazy. I liked hearing him tell me how good I smelled and how beautiful I was and how he wanted to kiss me all night. I especially liked it when he said he wouldn’t hurt me.

He did though. For days after I could feel my pussy swollen and bruised like a stubbed toe. I liked this too. It made it harder to forget what we did and how bad I should feel about it.

After he left in the morning, I told my friend right away. I told her the truth because I could sense that she already knew something was wrong.

“He’s not mine,” she said, but I knew she was thinking the opposite.

We didn’t speak on the drive home. She blasted Glass Animals and smoked my last cigarette out the window of her green Subaru. When we stopped at traffic lights I could see her legs and hands shaking.

I was visiting her in California. I’d lived in the same city for two years now, a stretch for me, and I’d made it a game to find my next place to live. It’s so much easier for me to feel happy if I pretend that everything’s a game.

Before that night, all I knew about him was what she told me, which was that they loved each other and always would. I’d never had a boyfriend and her stories made me feel so sorry for myself, and then mad for being so pathetic

She told me about the times they would hop in the car and drive to Mexico. The time they did heroin and got tattoos. She said they were so close that they were almost like brother and sister, that fucking was an inch away from creepy. She said he even used to help her get the hard to reach spots when she did her own Brazilians.

As I packed my bags back at her house, I felt indignation setting in, like the foggy “marine layer” her surfer roommates told me about, something that always recedes by midday.

I felt embarrassed. But I didn’t feel that bad. It was intoxicating to find out for sure that I wasn’t the type of person who did.

I’d hesitated with him before we went too far, but not until I knew it was too late. I said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“I know her better than you do,” he said. “She won’t care.”

Even if he believed that, I knew it was bullshit. I knew her the best. She would know that I didn’t just want him; I wanted the things she had. I wanted to feel like I was the best.

 

II.

She was brushing her teeth in the bathroom of the hotel. He and I lay under the covers and touched our feet together while she shouted from the bathroom, “Which one of these three types of toothpaste sounds the best? Glamorous White, Cinnamon, or Cool Mint?”

I yelled back, “Glamorous White!” and he ran his hands over my hips.

When we all got tucked in and turned out the lights, my friend took some Xanax and feel asleep. He kept touching me. I put all ten of his fingers in my mouth, one by one, and sucked on them. We kissed.

We had all gone to school together. Now, I had just turned twenty-three and he was fingering me under the sheets. Now, he was moving my panties to the side and pushing his dick inside me. I know what I was thinking, but I didn’t know how to feel. I lay on my back and we looked at each other and he fucked me from the side. He said, “I love looking at you,” and I grabbed his ass and tried to push him deeper.

He asked me if I was ok and I pushed him away and said, “I don’t like this anymore,” and went to the bathroom. When I came back, he was sitting in a chair by the window with his underwear on. I sat down at his feet and leaned back on my elbows, opening my legs. The little blades of hotel carpet scratched my ass and I thought about itchy, jagged bails of hay.

He told me I was worrying for nothing. He told me to sit in his lap. We kissed and kissed and then he told me he was going to fuck me again and we fucked in the chair next to the window and I just tried to think about how cookie cutter, blue eyes, American handsome he was and how everything was fine.

 

III.

In the morning, he sat down next to the bed and looked at me. I hoped that he still thought I was pretty in the daylight. I love falling asleep with boys but I hate waking up next to them.

After collecting all my things from my friend’s house, I took the train along the coast to Los Angeles. I drank tepid coffee and thought about the most disgraceful thing I’d ever done. It wasn’t the night I spent with him, not even close. The worst thing I ever did was sit on that train and think, as I watched the ocean through the filmy window, that I was better than my friend. I thought these words and knew that I was mean: “If he ever loved her, he’s bound to love me more.”

I think what I meant was, “he’s bound to love me now.” There was an absurd comfort in seeing myself as I was then. I was in love with the lamest version of myself; and she was holding me captive at twenty-three. But those moments when I broke away were so heady, when I could sneak off to California and spend a night as the first-choice friend. One day soon I would start to live like that forever.

In the hotel, I’d felt so transparent. For a while, I imagined the sound of my phone ringing and hearing him say my name when I answered. I gave myself the fantasy of a boy to make it easier to spend the day in solitude.

There is nothing as clear as being alone in an aftermath.

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