„How come you never put me in any of your stories?“
You once broached this taboo topic at 5 a.m. as we were walking home after a long and tedious night of bar hopping, and I allowed myself to skirt around the issue because I figured you wouldn’t remember the conversation come morning.
„Can’t you tell fact from fiction? I never write the truth, quite the contrary, I am the closest thing you’ll meet to a bastard lovechild of a clumsy writer enamored of the first-person singular and a downright filthy liar.“
My reply wasn’t exactly false, still, you’d read most of my writing, and it was silly to pretend you hadn’t noticed the autobiographical amidst the surreal. Perhaps what you really wanted was for me to explain the many poorly-disguised love letters I’d written to Him in poems or short stories, words sent out into the echoing void of the world wide web. Perhaps you felt threatened by the sheer volume of that work, which encompassed a seemingly negligible slice of my young adulthood and featured a certain stereotype I both loved and despised. One that didn’t exactly fit you to a T.
Afraid of losing you, but incapable of change – instead of molding my literary expression to fit the new ease with which our life was then flowing, I tried to mold you to fit His shoes. His character. My desires.
You are a man, I wrote, who is able to love a girl like me. This was the first of many lies to come. Not because a man such as I’d constructed in my dream could never love, not even his creator (which was true) – but more importantly, because I’d put the weight of a label on your shoulders you should not have had to bear. I’d written you older and wiser, stable and sensible, down to earth and strong. I’d written you as a contradiction, a paradox, and then I wrote myself into your very core. There was no you without me. I wrote that there could never be. From that early morning on, you ceased being a person and turned into a mere channel for my insecurities. The worst of it was, I didn’t consciously want to hurt or demean you. I did what I did, wrote what I wrote, out of my own inability to focus on anything or anyone else, out of a lack of imagination, out of a need to compartmentalize, to heal. To survive.
„It isn’t fair, this Procrustean role you’ve thrown me into: cut off every-which-thing that didn’t calculate into your equation of perfection, then stretched the rest so very thin over the areas in which you thought I lacked. All this amateurish surgery, because you couldn’t accept a version of love different from the agonizing torment you’d endured, when He said you should be more like Her.“
Hah. My so-called art made such a mess. In the end, there seemed to have been no point at all – in Him loving me as if I were Her; in me loving you as if you were Him; in Him and Her, two pieces of the same puzzle, never finding quite the right angle to merge for good. Who had I been, before He nipped and tucked all the little idiosyncrasies He didn’t like about the girl I’d been, the one He was trying to sing into being a woman? Who were you, before me, before I polished your rough edges, extracted all I deemed superfluous and made you into a shiny diamond, when all the while, you were content with being a fist of coal?
This is a myth, of course. You can’t make a diamond out of coal. What I failed to see was, I didn’t need to. You boy, you were perfect in your dirty blackness, for the girl I was and perhaps still am. A coal burns hot, a diamond is cold. I used to prefer the heat, now I find it hard to tell the difference between my own desires and what He taught me was acceptable to want. It is almost impossible to tell who we were before I wrote us all down and sealed our fates with a couple of ill-advised paragraphs of drunken gibberish.
„We could have really been something. If only you’d have been you, the you who could’ve let me be me.“
Yes, I thought, but said nothing of this out loud.
Who could tell, perhaps once – a long time ago – we would’ve been like those two puzzle pieces – like Him and Her. Even if that were so, it’s not certain we would ever have been able to find the right time and angle to glue ourselves to one another. They didn’t. What chance did you and me really have? We were only supporting actors in our own lives. He was the star in mine, I in yours.
I didn’t even think to write about you, until you asked me to.
And then, what I wrote was this. What a mess, my boy, my man.
What a shame.