Written while listening to Shrug by Ani DiFranco.
“what’s with that halo hovering above that thick skull
spare me –
if i do say so – i think you’re covering
‘course there was nothing could’ve prepared me
for the side effect of this dirty drug
the way you punish me and then you shrug…”
~ Ani Difranco
Your late-night, drunken apologies are getting as stale as the smell of old cigarettes and empty beer bottles littering your flat – that little-boy smile and shrug like a fist twisting inside my gut.
I’ve been here before.
You want a reaction from me. You want jealousy, accusations…something to assuage your feelings of insecurity.
You tell me about her – some “helpless” girl for whom you have hopeless feelings. The one who always calls you when she’s going to break up with her boyfriend, finally, for the millionth time.
Like she’s doing tonight. Again.
You hope she’ll leave him and come rushing into your arms, i suppose – this unobtainable girl.
We’ve been here before. The first time, you admitted you were just trying to make me jealous.
Both then and now, you are drunk.
But this time, i’m sober – i’ve had half a glass of wine – not counting the two i had at Dad’s earlier in the evening – and the lucidity in my head is clear and bright – putting you directly under its hard, unflattering light.
The sounds of midnight sirens make the perfect music to this surreal tableau.
In one breath you tell me that you’d leave me for her if she ever ‘miraculously called up and asked me to marry her’, and the next, you’re asking me to move to Norway with you.
“Do you think i’m an idiot?”, i ask, taking a long drag on my smoke.
“What kind of prideless woman would move to another country with a man who’s in love with someone else? Fuck off."
You try and eat your words, to backtrack – telling me your thing for her is “just a fantasy”, that it would never happen.
And all i can think of when i look at you gazing at me apologetically, hopefully, is that you are pathetic.
And i’m even more pathetic for sticking around.
My face is burning as i try to keep my emotions off my face – taking another drag of my cigarette, my feet casually curled under me on the chair.
You flinch and pace under my stare as i let you talk yourself into a corner; i have no intention of helping you out of it.
I’m almost tempted to offer you a smoke, tilting the kitchen light into your face.
The thought amuses me enough that i laugh under my breath.
“Everything, Alaska. But especially you.”
So i’ll make it easy for you.
You can have her – even though she’s never so much as hinted that she’d want you aside your role as the guy she runs to for attention when she and the boyfriend are on the outs.
You want games, you want drama. You want me to throw things and make a scene, to claim my territory like some kind of feral cat.
But i don’t belong to anyone – so no one belongs to me. I belong to myself, and i can’t give you what you seem to need.
I’m a woman, not a girl – why can’t you be a man?
Maybe there is no such thing, i think as i top-off my glass of wine and stab out my cigarette -
But i’m not going to be your second-choice.
I feel my pride uncoiling, kundalini-like, at the base of my spine and spilling out of my mouth.
“It doesn’t matter either way, Alaska. You’re leaving anyway. Norway, China, Alaska…it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do. You run away. Isn’t that what all this is about? You’d rather have some girl who uses you when she’s fighting with her boyfriend, whom she’ll never leave, than someone who’s actually willing to share your bed.”
You stare at me a moment before reaching for your beer.
I shake my head as i realize the truth of what i’ve just said – you cling to me like i’m some kind of life raft – you come to me when you’re happy, when you’re angry, insecure, when you don’t want to be alone; i’ve shared your bed, your secrets, your cigarettes and your time.
But i won’t play the part of ‘girlfriend’ just to level your playing field with her.
As you crack another beer and begin your litany of excuses and apologies again, i know that i’ll be leaving in the morning – and i won’t be coming back.
Fuck you, i think, the both of you – joined in your mutual isolation by miles and a telephone line…
You’re perfect together.
And i’d rather be alone than be with you.