Her name was Jade, like the stone, like her heart. She flirted with boys, but went to bed with girls. You could tell she didn't give a fuck about anything, that she was free. There was ebony eyeliner encasing her green eyes, voluminous lashes fluttering like black butterflies every time she blinked. Tattoos of fire-breathing dragons ran up and down her right arm to her left leg, and the first time I saw her I thought she was trash.
I envied her.
"Do you have a dollar?" she asked me one day after Philosophy. Her voice was delicate, yet solid. The skies were overcast. "I need to catch the bus."
"Where do you live?"
She squinted her eyes, curled her full lips, but didn't ask the question that was written across her face. "Near Carpenter Street, three miles from here."
"I can take you home," I offered. She stared at me for a moment, and that was when I noticed her eyes weren't actually green. She wore contacts.
The gray clouds condensed and began to drizzle. I could feel minuscule droplets splatter on my face. It was suddenly very cold. Jade folded her arms, then shrugged her shoulders.
"Sure, why not?"
Time distorted itself, twisted into different fragments of the same picture. Me and Jade at the movies throwing popcorn at the back of stranger's heads, me and Jade having four am conversations about insomnia, me and Jade at the occasional party. In a snapshot motion, we had become close friends. Click.
Parties were the best with Jade around. She danced drunkenly to the rhythm, every bone in her body bending, hips blithely swaying. The vodka in her veins made her invincible. Everyone else's eyes would be glazed over, but not hers—hers would be animated, fiery. Alive.
"Dance, Angela," she would tell me, her face glowing from intoxication, tugging at my frail wrist. "Leave the wall behind you, and dance."
That night she wore burgundy lipstick and a black dress and looked like the devil when she grinned. Her raven hair was tousled around her shoulders, framing her features. She was ablaze (or wasted) with an intensity I'd never seen before.
"I'm not like you—I can't just dance," I told her, my voice uneven. Having had a few drinks myself, I felt warm and somewhat disoriented. I briefly wondered if she could feel how erratically my pulse was racing.
She stared at me blankly, and I noticed that I was wrong: her eyes really were green. The contacts were clear.
"Suit yourself," she laughed, letting go of my arm. Then she disappeared into the night and some other college student tried to chat me up. I think his name was Sam. He kept asking me if I had a boyfriend, and my eyes would trail toward the devil before replying, "no."
Somehow Sam had gotten my number. He'd take me to bars where he'd sing shitty karaoke and drink light beers. Sometimes we'd go behind the bleachers on campus and make out to try and remember the false glory days of a forgotten high school realm. When my roommates said he was cute, I would ask them why. When he told me I was the sweetest girl he had met, I wouldn't say anything back. And two months later when he asked if I would be his girlfriend, I said yes.
I don't know why.
I think I was lonely.
"Do you love him?"
Those were the first words out of Jade's mouth that late afternoon at the park. I had scored a joint from a mutual acquaintance, and I knew that it wouldn't have felt right to smoke it with anyone else.
The sun was retreating slowly from the sky, dipping lower and lower into the vanishing horizon. I was spellbound, dazed, by the crisp and colorful world I had transcended into.
Jade took another drag and blew the smoke in my face. I coughed, unprepared.
"What…was that for?"
That day she wore a blue sweatshirt and ripped jeans. Her bangs kept falling into her eyes every time she turned to talk to me—the raven in her hair getting in the way of the butterfly lashes. And for some reason, I could see the dragon tattoos on her clothes. The natural and mystical blurred together—later, I would find that fitting.
She opened her mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by a fit of laughter so violent she wrapped her arms around her torso and tears spilled from her eyelids. I guess I found this pretty damn funny, too, because before I knew it I was rolling on the ground beside her.
Still giggling, she tried once more. "Do you…you…uh, shit…what was I saying?"
"I don't know."
"Who do you like?" I managed to ask her when we were coming down.
"Girls," she replied, unfazed. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
She smirked with raspberry lips. "Do you like girls?"
I felt dizzy. I didn't understand the question.
"I have a boyfriend," I said, my jaw quivering.
"That's not what I asked."
She laughed and another day was gone.
It was our three month anniversary, and Sam kept trying to take it to the next level with me. As soon as his calloused hands tugged at the rim of my jeans, I pushed him away, told him to go home, said it was over. He laughed and the night wouldn't end.
We were lying under the velvet black night, Jade and I, watching as our cigarette smoke rose into the atmosphere. In the distance were the city lights, luminous and radiant. Almost like the look in her eyes, but not quite.
And suddenly, I don't know what it was, but something struck me fast and hard like a bullet. I was staring at Jade—at her hair, her eyes, her lips. I gazed longingly at the curves of her body, the shape of her chest. It was then that I decided she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, and I wanted her to be mine.
She caught me looking and squinted her emerald eyes at me again. "Are you feeling alright, Ang? 'Cause if you want we can go back—"
I silenced her with a kiss. She replied with a touch. And then before I knew it she pulled me back so that I was on top of her, and our mouths just kept moving with our legs suddenly entangled.
She tasted like nicotine, liquor, and vanilla coke.
Not that it mattered: I was already addicted.
Hands roamed freely from hair to hips and thighs, tracing contours of desire with eyes sewn shut. There were kisses on necks and softly uttered gasps. And I could hardly breathe because I was too busy breathing so heavily, and my mind had gone blank, and all I could do was keep touching her, kissing her, needing her. Our bodies were grinding so hard that the friction burned my skin but set the world on fire, and I wanted to strip her bare and cry at the same time.
She abruptly stopped, pushed me to the side. She gently, but entirely, extracted her body from every place it had met mine. And although I had been staring at her before, I turned to look away.
Out of breath, she said, "I thought you didn't like girls."
There were no stars that night, but the moon had never been brighter.
I kissed her painted lips once more, savoring the sensation of her skin beneath mine. I wondered how I could have gone for so long without realizing this sooner. The answer was simple.
"I don't, I like you."
The left corner of her lips curled upward into a crooked smile, and I knew that she meant it.
Days, weeks, months. I spent afternoons fighting with Sam and evenings making out with Jade. It wasn't wrong to me. You'd think I'd be scared or confused, but I wasn't. I wanted for nothing less than to have her body within five centimeters of mine at all times. I needed to see her smile, to smell her lavender perfume. I even longed just to hold her hand.
She was my pill to kill the pain, my loaded syringe, my favorite daydream. Her lipstick was composed of honeydew laced with heroin, and her touch was a crystallized stimulant that raised my body temperature dangerously high. She was the strongest medicine and the deadliest poison, and she was everything to me.
She wouldn't tell me how she felt. Whenever I asked her if this was what she wanted—if I was what she wanted—she would just shove me up against the nearest wall, look me straight in the eye, smile, and then kiss me. You'd think I would know what a kiss meant, but honestly, I kissed Sam, so it could have meant fucking anything.
Whatever it meant, I played along. Because I knew somehow that paradise was only a tourist town, and the clock was tic-tic-ticking.
"I think I'm in love with you," I told her once late at night. She was wearing ripped leggings and a neon orange bra. The rest of her clothing was somewhere in the front seat of her beat-up car along with the rest of mine.
She gave me the strangest stare.
"But you have a boyfriend."
"That's not my fault. I've been trying to break up with him since forever," I said, my heartbeat escalating, my nerves beginning to tighten. She laughed at me.
"You're a funny girl, you know that?"
I didn't understand her. I wasn't sure if I wanted to.
It happened, eventually. She was piss-drunk and I was suffering from sleep deprivation (I couldn't sleep at night when I thought about her). We were at her apartment, sitting on the couch, when she decided to get up and throw the shot cup at me. I wish I could say I didn't see it coming, but I did.
I can't remember what she was wearing.
"Fuck you," she slurred, staggering toward the kitchen. I remained seated and watched her. She had never been that drunk before. I don't think she even knew what she was doing. "Fuck you!"
"You already are," I reminded her.
She didn't laugh. She didn't even smile. Her eyes were ice-cold.
And then she fell to the ground like a pile of ashes and began to cry. I ran over to help her up, or hold her, but she shoved me away. She kept mumbling fuck you fuck you fuck you under her breath, and I briefly wondered if this was her weird way of saying she cared.
I don't know how much time had passed before her crying gently came to a halt. I tried to hold her again, but she dug her nails into my shoulders and pushed me back.
"Why are you still here," she hissed, her voice broken and raw.
"I…love you," I told her, feeling faint. "That's why."
"I wish that you didn't."
My heart sank.
For once, I understood exactly what she meant.
Falling, I was falling. There was too much space in the atmosphere, but not enough air to breathe. Jade wouldn't talk to me after that night. She disappeared from class. The sinking in my stomach wouldn't stop. Down, down, down, it plummeted. I slept with Sam. There were no tears for me. Winter was coming, and I couldn't feel a thing.
Sometimes I would drop by her apartment unannounced, try to somehow find my way back in. I'd ring the doorbell, knock, even shout her name. Nobody ever came. It got to the point where her neighbors started telling me nobody by that name lived there—that the room was occupied by a late widower. I told them they were wrong, but I'd leave anyway.
Nights were stretched out, tiresome, unforgivable. I missed her the most then. But that was only until I learned to hate her.
I got a tattoo of a Siren on my left arm, like the ones you hear about in the tale of Odysseus. An enchantress, seductress, half-bird and half-woman. Sam hated it, but we would still fuck anyhow.
After awhile, I think I learned to like the feel of him inside of me.
Winter came and I buried myself in snow. There was something eerily familiar about the cold. Sam said he loved me on our sixth month anniversary. I told him that I couldn't say it back. Surprisingly, he said he understood and he knew those kinds of things took time.
I couldn't bring myself to tell him that time hadn't moved since the end of October.
Not since the night the girl I thought I loved ran away from life.
The thing about hate is that it tends to harden into apathy. I'd kiss boys, sleep with girls, stay with my boyfriend, and none of it would matter. Sam knew and didn't seem to care either. He probably had girls on the side, too. It wasn't an issue of loyalty; it was about making sure you'd make it through the day.
I didn't forget her name, but I did forget the feel of her skin, the beauty of her laugh. Such memories became irrelevant to the numbed hours of my waking routine. They served no purpose other than to make me shudder, and so I cast them away.
But that didn't mean I wouldn't dress myself up in something tragic and torn, wear my makeup in excess, or hide any trace of sympathy from my dull face. People couldn't read me, and that fascinated them. But the sad truth was that there wasn't anything left to read anymore. The only emotions I felt were indifference and lust.
There was a fog veiling my eyes and an emptiness arresting my mind. I still couldn't cry. I wanted to scream. Sometimes I'd see the moon and feel a bitter sting. Other times I'd get high and still feel nothing at all. Love was a lie. And I—I had finally become the one thing I always wanted to be.