It is the kind of night that cats get hit by cars. The sky swarms above me, indigo and silver, simultaneously pressing me down and pulling me up. There is no smile in her voice. We are both heavy with frustration.
I dash across streets like a shadow even though it is the first time I have felt tangible in a long time. I get there first. I order two whiskeys. A man’s drink; we are men’s women. When she arrives I am breaking the surface of the hot, honey pool. She is glowing; pretty and frustrated. I gesture half way down the glass and I say, By then, you’ll be smiling. I am wrong. She smiles immediately.
The bar is filled with men with one eye on football and the other on us. We never realise this until one man doesn’t want us. We forget that we are desirable because we are enough without them. I flirt all the time but rarely do I fall. I want to be unjust and make them all pay: I want them to fall for me just so that I can step aside and refuse to catch them. Fury becomes me.
I say, I am sad but I am pretty. I feel like I could bear anything as long as I don’t feel ugly. Pain is easier when you feel beautiful and tragic. She laughs. I am not joking.
My spine is straighter than it’s ever been. He gave me that. I suppose that setting myself on fire wasn’t enough. I hate him. But I don’t know if I regret him. I am an antique wine bottle, filling myself with grains of experiences. I have never felt so permanently powerful. I want to devour life whole.
They say that fire is a severe form of self-punishment. Well I am done with guilt. I let it let him walk all me. Punishment for all the men I hurt. Punishment for being arrogant enough to believe I’ve hurt so many. Now he’s over me. You were too nice, my mother said. You always do this. Stop giving; there is no need to be repenting mistakes that only you think you made.
Of course. I forget. I won’t again. Now I’m dusting off his shoe-prints, not quite surprised to find that he left no dents.
I am a baby tidal wave of strength: come on, baby, hit me one more time. I am going to stay up here on this two-dimensional pedestal as a self-proclaimed man-eater. I am going to let them crowd around my feet. They do this because they know I will not fall for them. It is safe to want me. They will never have to deal with having me.
The funny thing is that, despite everything, I am determined to love even harder next time, all the times.