East Lansing, MI
Ryan’s snoring keeps me wide-awake at 4 AM. The grease from a pizza box on the floor has seeped through and left a permanent mark on the carpet and the smell of dirty laundry fits the college-guy apartment archetype to a tee. I don’t think my friends would be as jealous of my college boyfriend if they knew how badly I want a shower and a clean shirt right now. I hopped a greyhound bus for the night because he said he needed me. That’s what you do for someone you love, right?
There are some things that Catholic parents don’t teach you. One is that abuse doesn’t just mean physical harm. Another is that you shouldn’t feel shame for someone taking advantage of your vulnerability. But I won’t learn this for years.
I pull the covers to my eyes to keep from crying.
I am abrupty awoken by the sparkling ricochet of shattering glass.
“HIT ME, YOU FUCKER!”
The sound of primal grunting follows the request. I pull myself from under warm blankets to the open window of my townhome to find two men on my front porch rolling around in the broken glass, throwing punches, and letting out expletives. My phone reads 2:41 AM as I call 911.
“please help me, there are two men fighting outside my home. I don’t know what to do, could you please send someone over to break this up?”
After giving my address and particulars about the situation, the operator calmly asks me if anyone else is with me. My stomach drops as I respond:
“I live by myself.” The statement feels like a confession. I’m filled with fear and loneliness that buries deep inside my chest as I pull my blankets over my shaking body and wait for the promised flashing lights.
Lake Angelus, MI
Above my head is a blue and white polka-dotted sheet, carefully tucked over chairs and tables. My five friends and I have fashioned a blanket fort during a rainstorm. My head rests on Nick’s strong shoulder. His arm is wrapped around my shoulders, and his fingers are playing with my hair, slightly damp from the downpour. I pull myself closer to him and close my eyes, inhaling the heavy smell of cigarette smoke that permanently resides in his hair and cotton black metal band tees. This was before we kissed each other shamelessly without commitment.
Mallory’s head is in my lap and her feet were under the forts supporting stool. Miki is hugging her knees and leaning into EJ like a small child while her over-bleached purple-tipped blonde hair is sticking straight up and clinging to the blanket above us. Sam and Zack sit back to back, supporting each other’s weight and feeling their lungs expand and contract as they breathe. Our full-grown bodies are tangled and lazy in our fortress.
Sunday mornings have become my favorite time of the week. Cody and I haven’t left my twin sized bed yet, and the noon sun fills my room with yellow slits of light that peek through the blinds. He pulls the sky blue covers over our heads and holds me closer, his chin resting on my head. I trace my fingers down the center of his chest, pausing to feel the notch at the end of his ribcage. His chest vibrates my cheek as he asks me with sleep in his voice:
“do you know what I’ve been thinking about all week,” he pauses to kiss the top of my head, “when does liking someone turn into loving someone?”
I bite my lip to keep from smiling.