I have a little monster in me. She knows she is bad. She knows that she is impossible to love. This knowledge does not stop her when she is awake. She still bites hands. She plots.
She still makes appearances when she thinks she is losing you. She will blurt and splutter reassurances to keep you. She doesn’t like anyone very often, you see. She wants you to stay close and she worries that I will bore you or that she will scare you away. This monster seeks your adulation.
It doesn’t get it. It gets something else. My monster is ushered into the light by your chiding prattle. That is better than a bouquet. “Monster,” you say, and I feel squirmingly real and seen for all the things, terrible and not, that I am.
As a junior in college, I was all monster. There was nothing else to me. I was a fragrant and earthy gollum. I shed clods of dirt as I walked along. I was a mess. I was my lies. I was my meanness. I was a seeping lymphatic abscess. I was yellow, green, translucent fluid apologizing for existing but refusing to let my pungent presence go unnoticed.
Every girl is crazy at least once. I was crazy when I was a junior. The guy was Adam. We were in a play together, boyfriend-girlfriend in a play together, and the second he pointed out to everyone gathered just how weirdly uncomfortable I was leaning against him on stage (touching anyone, really) I decided he was it for me. I can mistake cruelty for interest and concern: It’s a lesson I learned.
I asked him to my sorority’s formal. He said yes. His eyes were bulbous like a renaissance cupid and he wore an excessive amount of aftershave that I mistook for manliness. He wore glasses and I thought he was smart. I borrowed my friend Jane’s sky-blue cotton dress. I dusted glitter powder above and around my tits. Fiona Apple played and I dry shaved my armpits, using a razor and a plastic cup that I’d wait a day or two to clean up. I was going to make him mine.
When a shadow makes you flinch, when you jolt awake from the beginning of sleep, your whole body tense and waiting for his roar, when certain songs must always be skipped, when your skin has been taught to hold its breath in anticipation of pain, seduction, even if you’re nineteen and for the most part soft and sweet and beguiling, isn’t the easy game it should be.
( -- wrenching your arm twisting a pinch full of the skin at your hip until it and you go black whispering insidious truth into your ears how different I might have been had he never been found a place to lurk chin on my shoulder thin lips to my ear but he did and he was and the words are real and so I am who I am the damage cannot be erased or even addressed head on instead it is here a paranthetical --)
At the formal Adam, bespectacled, squat and fleshy, talked to another girl. I was drunk and pressed against a wall. I asked the question before I realized anyone was there to answer it. “Is she prettier than I am?” The woman at my side weighed her answer, sipped from her red cup. “Yeah,” she said. “Or anyway, she acts like she is.”
I had his phone number and at night during the summer I would dial it and walk away, letting him listen to the silence on the other end. “I think he likes me,” I said to a mutual friend. “I’m pretty sure we’re basically almost a thing.”
When he cornered me at a party that fall to set the record straight I wanted to die. “Do you think there’s something going on between us?” I demurred. He insisted, talked about the calls that summer. I turned red and said something about a bad connection. In the big room of the house, B.O.B. is playing. The place is sweaty with too many bodies and too many beers. I go to join the fray and fling the monster around until she is sated and I am no longer ashamed.
How do you explain to a 20 year-old boy that your delusions have almost nothing to do with him? There’s no explanation other than the ones the men in curled baseball hats sipping drinks utter like a sacred universally understood bro oath: “That girl is fucking crazy.”
And maybe she is a little.
And maybe it isn’t insanity. Maybe it’s wishful thinking. It’s playing pretend -- imagining a world where they are beautiful and believe it. A world where they are happy. Maybe it is not even that sickly sweet. Maybe she is just waiting for someone to recognize her monster. Maybe she is waiting for claws and teeth to rip her apart until all that remains are the grim, sweet skeletons kept strung together with damaged tendons, embarrassment, and regret. “The bones,” she tells her fellow monster when he appears, “are chipped and strange. But they are yours.”