Mood: older, wiser
Drinking: fountain soda
Her smile, the first time it appears, startles me. It comes without warning. It reminds me of you.
She gave me no clues that she had such a weapon in her possession. Nothing about her suggested it — not the crooked whitestrips teeth, not the shiny Mattel hair, not the suburban manicure or the pink lace bra playing peekaboo with the gaps in her button-down shirt. None of it looked anything like you.
But then she smiled and there you were.
The first time I met you, sullen and sulking in your plus-size, out-dated jeans, there wasn’t a smile anywhere in sight. Your eyes, heavy with silver shadow, didn’t lift from your knees. You chewed the ends of your hair and took up far too much space. I couldn’t decide if the blemish on your right cheek was a birthmark or a bruise. I couldn’t decide if I liked you.
But we were friends a few weeks later. You made sure of that. You asked me to lunch at a Burger King with no drive-thru. We picked at our fries, smeared the ketchup in circles, made awkward conversation, and left. I remember feeling sorry for you, but I can’t remember why.
It didn’t take you long to turn the tables. To ignite that 10,000 watt smile and melt all my reservations. I was so dazzled, I didn’t even think to protest. Or step back to safety.
I dream of you sometimes. We are giggling, conspirator-like, over coffee in a bright cafe. (Actually, it’s not coffee. It’s some other imaginary beverage, since I don’t even like coffee in my sleep.) But we are together. We are friends again. We are fine. We’ve forgotten all the reasons why this will never work.
The dream doesn’t last long. It doesn’t have an ending, either. Just fades away… You would pay for this information, wouldn’t you?
Ah, how you used to shine. The world was less bright when you were away. Less complicated, too. But I didn’t yet know the value of simplicity. So I let you attach me to yourself like a surgically enhanced Siamese twin. We were almost that inseparable.
Remember how they called us “the Twisted Sisters”? Or was that your name for our duo? There was such a stack of lies, I can’t remember which ones were true.
We paraded around as equals in our complementary platform shoes, but I always knew you were the one behind the wheel. You had the agenda, the vision, the ulterior motive. Left to myself, I would have spent all those years at home, buried in fiction. I would never have found my dancing shoes.
Perhaps I should have thanked you for that, for drawing me out, for showing me the world, the ropes, the intricacies of eyebrow waxing the way you did. But it seems now such a small compensation for the damage. And you didn’t do any of it for me, anyway.
You should know that you were the one who first told me you were crazy. It would have taken me so much longer to figure out, on my own. But you showed me the stash of stabilizing drugs in your bedroom closet. You blamed the defect on bad genes, bad parenting, bad luck, bad sex. But you brought it up first ? just so you know the insult is not random. Just to justify my means, in the end.
We were parked in my blue Celica the first time I finally believed you were dangerous. It didn’t start out as an argument, but it ended there, and I was the one with all apologies. You got me to repent of sins not yet committed, to confess to lies never spoken. And you covered your tracks with that smile.
Three times I denied you. Three times you talked your way back in the door. (There was no charm to any of it.)
My friends, the ones who knew you, would be horrified to know that, in spite of it all, I sometimes miss you. (The new friends would worry, too. Oh, they’ve heard some stories.) But they shouldn’t. I’m not dialing information. You could flash that smile all you want, now, but we both know where this would end. We’d both go around the bend. I’d hate you all over again.
I have hated you, yes. It’s no exaggeration this time. I hated you with a far greater fire than I ever used to love you. So I sold all your secrets, mon cherie. I exposed all your lies. I ripped doors from closet hinges and dragged your skeletons into the burning light. I made a public display of all your dirty laundry. For those few frantic months, I would have done anything to ruin your reputation. With mud, with machetes, with malevolence, as if any of it would make it better. As if any of it would make you go away.
I got tired of it, eventually. (Hatred is exhausting, debilitating.) Time and distance make everything look so much smaller. No, time doesn’t heal the wounds, but it certainly takes the edge off.
I don’t know where you live anymore. I don’t know how you’ve made your life. I don’t know which fads you follow or what you have done to your hair. But I’m sure, I’m very sure, that you’ve replaced me.
You’ve got some other girl hooked on your smile and you’re leading her on, mile after mile. And she’ll swallow all your stories (especially the ones about me). She’ll follow until it’s too late.
But I see through it now. It’s been years since I was fooled. And I am taking it back, finally, what you’ve done to me. My very cells are tired of knowing your name. So these are the last words I will write of you. There’s nothing left of you now but a substitute smile.
-Lo, who still has her dancing shoes.