No lies. We were in agreement about that. I was afraid of lies, of what he could conceal from me.
We were on the phone the first time it crept in. I was in the small square dorm room with linoleum floor. It was night, late because that’s when the rates went down, after 11pm when everyone else I knew was still easily awake, but I could have been asleep two hours ago.
I am sitting on the floor between small desk and bed, beside the trunk with my stereo on top, the one cool part of my room – this stereo which I only had because by a fluke we had an extra one at home after my father gave up that apartment in Maryland, another futile venture.
Jeffrey was telling me on the phone how he’d spent the afternoon with the girlfriend he’d had before me, the one he’d sliced his wrists for, the one I’d seen black and white photos of – not her face, just a naked blurry breast, an arm, the girl who still went to the same smart-kids college as he did, the one who’d come over during the Dylan concert, who had seemed so at ease, had made Jeffrey laugh right away – that girl.
“Are you jealous?” Jeffrey asked and I said I wasn’t. I held onto I-am-not-jealous with a vicious grip. I must not be jealous.
I am just miserable and sad almost all the time. I don’t say that either. I must, I have to get some kind of life that I can show to Jeffrey, display on a platter – see: I am happy and talented and satisfied.
But there are no people anywhere. I don’t know where other people get their people. Where did they find someone to have coffee with, to walk with? I don’t even know who to sit next to in class.
So I sit alone. Always alone. I make a proud art form out of alone.
I find now and then a man or a boy. I know how to do that. I can fill the space with them. One will always eventually come along and say hello like the one who came when I sat outside on the first sunny warm day. He comes along, he is dark and older than me, a real man and he suggests we go for a stroll and for an afternoon I have company. This is familiar and it feels good to have someone to walk down the sidewalk with, to hold hands with.
Or I can start talking to a boy in class and I can ask him to go get something in the diner with me, and I can corner him into sleeping with me. But is it really possible to have people you like to talk to? People you can call up? I hunger for those, pretend to Jeffrey that I have them, describe whatever friends I do have as greater, hipper than they are.
Because this reality is embarrassing. If he really knew, this love he keeps saying he has for me would not be there. He loves me because he thinks I am someone else. He thinks I am like one of the people in his novel, people who chat and make jokes and know a lot of other people. This is what his life looks like to me, and it’s how he describes his years in high school.
I don’t eat so at least I will be thin. I don’t eat for as long as I can every day. I sit in the Choc Full O’Nuts and have coffee and one of their donuts, crunchy and greasy to perfection. I know how many calories are in that donut. I should not be eating it, it is a failure, but I can’t help it. Jeffrey will never know I was here.