Anger Incarnate

My best friend asked me one day if he ever hurt me, and I said no. But that was a lie.

He was exotic: he thrilled the class with stories of his junkie, artist mom in New York City and angry, outlandish dad from some pacific island, all in that soft accent from nowhere in particular. He was gorgeous in a way no one else in the small-town southern school was, and he caught my eye immediately.

I was an artist and a bookworm, a writer with a group of good friends and a clear place in the structured high school society. I had known everyone in that place since I was a third-grader: they still saw freckle-faced, frizzy-haired, braces-on-her-teeth me, but he had never known me that way.

He was in my art class. He told me I was a beautiful artist; I told him I had a boyfriend.

And I did, though I knew it was going nowhere. I had a penchant for choosing guys with no ambition and then wondering why I wasn't satisfied.

He pursued me; I was flattered.

On Valentine's Day, I told him I was single. By that afternoon, I wasn't anymore.

He wrote me songs and poems, drew me pictures of our future together, told me he loved me. I smiled and nodded.

My parents didn't like him, or his attitude, and my friends begged me to reconsider. "He's bad news," they all said, but I couldn't see it. What could be wrong with someone who was so besotted with me?

My best friend, who loved me enough to tell me daily that I was a damn fool for staying with him, asked me one day if he ever hurt me, and I said no.

But that was a lie.

And when I finally did realize that they were all right and forced myself to let him go, it still killed me to see him cry when I said goodbye, even knowing that he'd laughed at my tears.

I still get letters from him, sometimes. I read them and cry again, and then I file them away in a little box I keep for just that purpose. I want to remember every single word he says, so when I hear them come out of the mouth of the next man I fall in love with, I'll know to run.

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