God & Boys


    My first year of college, a dear friend introduced, “The Experiment”: a highly scientific research project us freshmen would embark on to experience the extravaganza that is late teenage boys. The experiment does not consist of tweenagers declaring partnership through Snapchat, certainly not adults with real world pressures, but our fleeting opportunity as college aged girls/young women to experience a cosplay of romance with little to no consequences. The premise is simple: observe, report.

    Soon after, I got my chance. In addition to his privacy, I will change the name of my subject because the one he decided to go by in real life was so hilarious, I’m afraid it will be a distraction. The name “Jimmy” is similarly Riverdale-ish, so will suffice. Where I met Jimmy I shall also not disclose, as I told my parents we had met in class. So, as far as you, reader, know, I met Jimmy in a class.

    Jimmy was tall. I’m talking 6 '5". He had perfect brown curls, beady blue eyes, and incredibly poreless skin (imagine a lab grown Jacob Elordi). At a glance, he was amusing, and I could not figure him out. We shared one mutual, who described him as “pretentious” and “hot”. Precisely.

    It was a Thursday in January when Jimmy caught me in the dining hall and asked if I wanted to get dinner that weekend. Some version of, “yeah, that’d be cool,” left the furnace of my body. We met up under a street lamp in a popular part of town. He was 4 minutes late, and told me without prompt, “punctuality is not my strong suit”. I would remember this when he’d turn up at least 40 minutes late everytime we planned to see each other.

    We went out a couple times before we kissed. When we finally did, I pulled away absolutely baffled. It was the toothy-est kiss I could have imagined. Hours after he left his overstayed welcome, I went to the communal dorm bathroom and assessed the marks inside my bottom lip. I was bleeding! I texted a group chat of my closest girlfriends immediately. The consensus: successful experiment.


    Jimmy was truly the oddest man I could imagine. He loved movies, and per his request we spent hours watching them. I once purchased a Chinese propaganda film on youtube at his recommendation, which he watched very intently for two hours while I zoned in on the details of the ceiling.

    We also watched the second season of Euphoria together, and when I asked Jimmy which character he resonated with most, he said Nate Jacobs. He loved Gossip Girl, which also paints an accurate picture of the Chuck Bass glance he gave to every reflective surface. He loved clothes, and had a pair of MiuMiu pants that were too tight to sit down in. One time, I almost sat on his Jacquemus sunglasses and he let out an A24 screech.

    He once asked me if he should get sideburns. It was one of my greatest regrets that I talked him out of it. 


    There were moments Jimmy’s company was actually… pleasant. One night after watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, he carried me down the 11 flights of stairs in his building and we laughed all the way home. He gave me books for Valentine’s day, and let me borrow some of his to read.

    I felt nothing for Jimmy, I kept him a spectacle. I decided that if I could rationalize all of him, no rose tinted glasses, he could never hurt me. I saw no potential for affection. I never let myself love or even notice what made him unique. I couldn't fathom that he had a mother who plastered his accomplishments and candids on facebook. I couldn't fathom that he had (probably) cried at some point in his life, that maybe he’d grieved, that he’d had birthday parties, or even that he had been younger. I couldn't imagine real love in his ancestry. I couldn't imagine what it meant for him to care for someone, or something, and I only saw him tender when he talked about his late dog, “the handsomest in the world”. This, of course, left us with no romance. I spent the entire relationship waiting for him to leave. Not because I wanted him to, I felt indifferent, but because I knew he would. I didn't want his exit to be littered with Chanel Blue scented rose petals.

    It was more plausible to me that Jimmy was born in a room full of beakers and microscopes, along with his parents, and the one friend of his I met. I imagined them all with the qualities of Sims characters. Their home decorated with a bookshelf devoted to “Human How To’s”, next to walls of plastic family photos, fake highschool sports medals, etc. He had goals of completing a degree in finance, and having his first girlfriend. I was terrified of humanizing him in a way that could matter to me.

    Writing this, I realize how odd it may sound. We laughed together. He said a few nice things to me, but I counted every one of them as a flux in his programming. Mostly he talked about himself, and things he didn't like. He always told me I should be more confident, which made me terribly uncomfortable. I didn't like being his spectacle.


  My previous experiences of romances consisted of a blond boy in my middle school who glowed with angelic childhood elasticity, no match for my modge-podge of split ends, dull gapped teeth, cheeks that never saw the end of fallen mascara flakes, and a herd of high school carnivores who preyed on my purity like some video game. 

    Having someone acknowledge my presence is very uncomfortable. I think of the Chinese proverb, “The flapping of a butterfly's wings can be felt on the other side of the world,” and try to be as still as I can. When Jimmy told me I was “the most beautiful girl in the world”, I wanted to hide. I had reached the highest verbal display of affection I knew him capable of giving, a threshold only his dead dog had crossed, and reacted the way one would if their Sim turned to the computer screen and smiled at them.


    During my early teens, I made it clear to those close to me I didn’t want to be touched. More than just being “not a hugger”, I hated when people would pick an eyelash off my face, or a fuzz of my sweater. Their fingers felt like biting into tinfoil. Sometimes, it still feels that way.

    In my freshman Biology class, the teacher explained that beings adapt to their bodies: they live in their skin, and it's also a part of them, but they aren't always thinking about it being there. We put on our clothes in the morning and forget them before coffee is ready. 

    I feel am eternally trapped in awareness of my presence and body.


    I was 11 years old at summer camp and getting my face painted for the Fourth of July, when I shook my shins and declared, “I love it when my legs jiggle.” I really did. The way it looked like they were giggling made me giggle. It felt good. I was at summer camp, and getting my face painted in grass while music played, my hair and skin half damp from a swim, my shins moving like the ripples in the lake as we moved down the morning current.

    The older girl painting my face stopped and replied, “what? I've never heard anyone say they liked that,” and others her age chimed in with their disdain for jovial parts of their bodies.

    I learned there, and in many places, that the giggles turn to cackles and sneers as we get older. The occupant of each body will live their entire life irritated and angry by the sounds, shushing their bodies like a laughing baby in a house during an active robbery, and not without abundant company.

    Over time, I disciplined my body into silence, and simultaneously became estranged from her. My body is not a home, but an exhibit of a home full of impractical furniture. The chairs are uncomfortable, the windows are bolted shut.


    I have a fantasy that I am invisible, and that none of this matters. I have another fantasy: a house that is mine, tucked away in the woods, hundreds of miles from the nearest human. Like Beauty and the Beast, my home is a family and the laughter is sacred. I turn on the stove, I light the candles and watch the wax run. I take the plastic off the refrigerator, unscrew the bolted windows.

    When I find myself in the woods, I feel like I am stepping into a painting on the wall of places I’ve disappeared in. The undried grass sticking to my feet as a plea for me to stay, each wash of sky telling me of the evenings I’ve missed here, and an orange sun who still hopes I’ll see her silver.

    I watch my skin turn pink in the July sun, like real skin. I run my hands over the peeling blisters in August. I cut my hair into the sink, and watch the pieces fall on the porcelain only for it to come back longer. I see the sunken spot on the sofa where I sit everyday. I am perennially looking for proof that I exist.

    To those women I met at summer camp, and to myself, I hope next time I see you we can remember that Fourth of July in its laughter. I hope you remember the sound of hundreds of us singing “Take Me Home Country Roads,” by John Denver, in the tuck of the misty mountain where the smells of wet grass and campfire smoke are as decadent as the Nilla wafers and milk we had every evening before Taps.



    “The meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but that some things stay the same only by changing.” - Heraclitus in Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments


    It is the last day of my 19th year, and there is so much I want to tell you. The first is that you may think you want answers, that seeing the knife that cut you will stitch the slash. It won’t. I am a teenage girl, so bound to be a bit deranged. You know how it goes. I could give you every explanation for my suffering, we could spend an afternoon together, dragging fire close to the burns, and it wouldn't take away the welts.  I’ve searched the ends of the earth for answers, and have some bleak rationalizations of what torments me most. I am now swarmed by truth like angry hornets, me the angriest of them all.

    There are still an endless amount of questions I’ve found, estranged from their answers. I don't know what it means that I like plane turbulence, and thunderstorms, or that my first love and I never saw each other more bare than when I held the blade of his pocket knife close to my palm, and he looked at me like god. My father is still the only person I know who isn’t afraid of me when I cry. I don't know where to go when I want to crawl back inside my mother’s womb. I don't know how romances end without one person rotting inside the other. I don't know how to be the unrotten one. I don't know that I want to be.