Hello all! Welcome to the week of Valentine’s Day, which usually finds me and my single friends eating chocolate and watching sappy movies. (The same can probably be said of you, too, if you’re single – don’t even try to lie to me.) This week, I’m going to be indulging in all things romantic, because even if I’m not in a relationship, I can at least enjoy the fictional people who are, right?
You guys seem to like that book I’ve been working on. Have another excerpt.
“You always smell good,” I tell him.
David grins, outshining the sun. “Why do you think that?”
“I dunno…” I grin back, twisting my hair around my finger. “Do you wear much cologne? When you’re not around me, I mean.”
“Not really. Special occasions… church… whenever I’m gonna see you.”
“That make it, like, every day,” I say, gently ramming my shoulder into his.
He copies my action. “I guess so.”
“But you even smell good after a game,” I tell him, a little bewildered. I look up at him. “All guys sweat a ton during lacrosse games, so how come you always smell amazing?”
David laughs a little. He holds his hand out and I tightly intertwine my fingers with his, never wanting to let go. He swings our hands in front of and behind us, back and forth and back and forth. Then, he stops abruptly, pointing to a painting in front of us.
“What do you think about this one?” he asks.
I stand still, staring at the painting. It had been “our thing” to go to art galleries for about three months now – six months into our official relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend – and we both enjoyed stopping in front of random paintings and talking about them for a while, going off on tangents and eventually trying to tie it all back to the painting.
“I don’t know,” I say, staring at the random lines splashed on the canvas. “Isn’t this kind of art, I dunno, kind of meaningless to you?”
“Not really. There’s an art to that kind of art.”
I shoot him a look as I shove my free hand into my pocket. “And you would know that because…?”
“Because, believe it or not, I used to take art lessons.”
I look up at him, slightly surprised. “Really.”
“Really.” He smiles and squeezes my hand. “Now tell me something about you that you’ve never told me before.”
I stare at the painting, trying to think. It feels like I’ve told David everything about me. He knows me better than anyone in the entire world – even better than I thought I knew myself. I can’t count the number of times he’s helped me come to a conclusion after I ask him a question, always adding to the end of his suggestion, “But you were already going to do that, weren’t you?” And it always made so much sense that I didn’t understand why I didn’t think of it before.
Eventually, after studying a certain congregation of yellow splatters for a few moments, I decide to delve into the one area I hadn’t talked to him about very much. I take a deep breath, then look at a line in the wall beside the painting as I say, “I don’t care about my mom. I mean, I don’t care that she’s… gone.”
David doesn’t say anything for a minute. I don’t know how the information struck him. Maybe in a bad way? He’s always had a good relationship with his mom and dad. The idea that someone couldn’t care about the whereabouts of their mom is probably really foreign to him.
For a few moments in the awkward silence that falls, my heart starts to pound as my mind starts coming up with all the reasons why he’s going to hate me now. There’s a reason I’ve never told him this before, I think, my breathing starting to go haywire. Now he thinks I’m an awful person for not caring about my mom and he’s going to break up with me and-
Then David smiles at me, squeezes my hand, and looks around, then points towards the other end of the room and says, “Let’s go sit on that bench. There’s a painting over there that I want to look at.”
Splattered lines on canvas again, I note as we sit down. We stare at the painting, my heart pounding and our hands still clasped together, his thumb caressing mine.
After a while, he quietly asks, “Why don’t you care that your mom left?”
I stare down at our hands, my heart rate finally starting to relax. I swallow. “Well, I just never liked her that much, so it was easy to not care when she left.”
“Why not? I thought you never really got to know her.”
“She was here for twelve years,” I say, finally making eye contact. “She was there for me ’til I turned twelve. And then she was just gone. Left my dad for another man. I had no idea. Either I was a totally oblivious twelve-year-old, or she hid it really well. Dad and I have never been the same. My dad drowns himself in work and women and I drown myself in school.” I smile a little. “And you.”
David doesn’t smile back. He just looks confused, and more than a little pained. Again, I understand why. “But… didn’t you love her for those twelve years she gave you? I mean, it doesn’t excuse what she did, but…”
I shrug and turn my gaze towards the painting again. “‘At least she was there for twelve years.’ That’s what I told myself.” Furrowing my brow, I stare at a cluster of red dots on the painting, remembering those days of self-blame and self-hatred. “For a while. Then, I got to thinking about how much she really wasn’t there, even when she was living with us. She was detached and disinterested. And, after a while, I realized that she must’ve been lying to me the entire time.”
It hurts to tell him this much, but I feel like I can. Even though I’m here in the middle of one of Atlanta’s most popular art galleries, I feel like we’re more alone than if we were in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
I exhale slowly. “She must’ve been lying to me, right? All those things she said about how much she loved me… they weren’t true, were they? Because if she really loved me, she wouldn’t have left. She wouldn’t have left my dad and she wouldn’t have left me. And I was really sad about it for a long time and blamed myself so much.” I swallow and frown, avoiding David’s probing, sympathetic gaze. “But then when I remembered all of the lies she told me, I didn’t feel anything but hate for her.” My chin quivers a little and I rub my nose with my free hand. “I don’t want her back. At all. Not if she’s going to lie to me like that again. I’m better off without her.”
Sighing, I let out a short laugh. “I’ve never told anybody any of this – not even my dad – so don’t go blabbering off to your parents or Kyle or any of your other friends or anyone, okay, or I’ll dump you.” I sniff and swipe at my cheek, turning my head a little so David can’t see the tears welling in my eyes. “And that’ll be the end of that.”
A silent moment goes by. I bite my lower lip and try not to cry as I think about what David must think of me now.
What does he think now that he knows how I really feel about my mom? There must be verses in the Bible that talk about loving your parents even when they mistreat you…
But I really don’t care that much. My mom took me to church when I was little. Some good it did her.
I’m about to just ask David what he thinks when I feel him reach across my back, lightly grab my shoulder, and pull me towards him.
“I’ll never leave you,” he quietly tells me.
I look up at him and he smiles down at me.