Sturdy Solid Firm Girl

“Is thatchor girl?”

“Nope.”

Tanner says decisively, almost enthusiastically

And I’m not. The first time we hung out after I arrived in the city, he told me he didn’t think we should sleep together. I, both drunk at high at that point replied with an incredulous, “Ever?!” Then I pouted, and he put me in an uber, and I slept in that stranger’s car most of the way home.

Last night when we met up at 2am and hung out until 5am there was no mention of the conversation. It existed foggily in my memory, not quite real. I was surprised he contacted me. For what felt like the hundredth time I had made myself give up on him and then backtracked the moment he gave me a little bit of attention. It was a snapchat, I replied, then another snapchat, I replied, then nothing. Then a phone call. I said I was far away and he said he could meet me in the middle. I had nothing better to do, but even if I had I would have blown it off to sit on that bench by the bike path overpass with some beers and him.

We’re not in love anymore. It doesn’t feel like it did 6 months ago. It really doesn’t feel like it did a year ago. We’ve never been friends and the person I have been when I’ve been with him is an entirely unique me. I don’t know how we work not living in those roles. He does and can be different and persistent and resolute.

In the spring he quit drinking, quit smoking and quit me. Now he’s back to drinking on the weekends, smoking when he drinks and I guess hanging out with me in a similarly moderate way.

I should be stoked. What I really need is good friends in the city and the fact that he wants to hang out and not sleep together is a compliment to my personality. Or a sign of his loneliness. Or it’s possible he just likes the way I can’t not compliment him and try to make him laugh.

After the night on the bridge he sent a message reading: tacos tomorrow?

I agreed, confused but willing.

At 11am I said: Tacos?

And he said: tacos.

It just happened to be Puerto Rican fest in Humboldt Park. A biker talked to us about his gang and called Tanner “Taylor”. For the rest of the day I didn’t miss an opportunity to introduce him as Taylor.

I think we have fun. The food was good. Biking together is fun. When we bike together he goes his speed and trusts that I will keep up. It is unspoken that he will not have to wait for me. I have no chill, but I can hang. If it kills me I will keep up, and several times it almost did, as he took yellow-light left turns and merged lanes between cars. Halfway through the afternoon we went to get me a helmet. An acknowledgement of the physical danger this activity put me in, if not the emotional danger.

We went to coffee, watched a movie, watched another movie, biked home and met up with a mutual friend. The two of them made fun of me until I threatened to leave with a poutiness that only seems to manifest when I am with them. I stayed and Kyle offered me weed. I declined citing the last time when I got too fucked up and fell asleep everywhere.

“You were fucked up? Do you remember what we talked about on the walk home””

“Uhhh. Maybe? What was it?”

“About how I don’t think we should sleep together.”

“Ever?!?!” I was again incredulous, even though I did, in a hazy way, remember the initial conversation. My reaction convinced him I had forgotten, but both uninterested in a re-hash, we moved past it. We went to get pizza and on the way to the restaurant, passed a street full of cops investigating a recent shooting. We had probably heard it, but mistaken the gunshots for fireworks. The police presence put us all on edge and as we walked back, each wearing our white privilege like a guilty cloak, we saw a group of men who had moments before walked alongside us get arrested. And that’s when the stranger asked Tanner if I was his girl.

This happens to me with semi-regularity.

Sometimes the strangers tell my male friend:

“You have a beautiful wife”

and the friend is forced to reply:

“Not even close”

or a homeless man tells a companion of mine:

“Take good care of her”

and he says:

“…Okay, I will”

These moments are jarring and bittersweet. They remind me that there is no one looking after me but signal that at least as viewed from this outside perspective, I could be someone’s girl.

I put too much stock in being someone’s girl. When I look at any couple, I must fight the urge to feel inferior to them because no one has picked me for such a long term project. This line of thinking is especially irrational because I have had opportunities to lock it down that I have rejected (sometimes in spectacularly  messy ways). I have more experience with love than many, and I never wish I had found my other half as an 18-year-old in New Mexico…

And yet there is a fear. That I am too much for anyone to handle for more than a vacationship/long-weekend affair. I worry that every time I’ve fallen in love it has been a whirlwind, separate from reality. I have never had a comfortable, long-term stable thing. Even when I lived with my boyfriend, it was in Finland and it was the first time we had been in each other’s presence for more than a few weeks. Not typical. Not real life. An extended vacation after a string of vacations that made up our entire relationship.

My goal in relationships both romantic and platonic is to personify what that other person wants or needs me to be. This always turns me into a warped version of myself- made of my perception of their desire combined with actions and attributes I’ve learned command people’s respect. This is what suits me to short, intense and conflictless (until we both go home) relationships. For 5 days I can be exactly who I need to be for the magic to happen. I can be at peak form- charming, and kind but a little bit dangerous, a little bit mean but with a wink and a smile. I can keep up for  5 days without asking for anything without showing any weakness or displaying any needs.

And that’s what I did when I met Tanner a year ago. That’s who I was, so of course it ended. It wasn’t a kindled campfire built slowly and steadily. It was flash paper- bright and hot and gone.

The future for me, is one where I am my own girl. Not a malleable jelly girl able to fit whatever container she is put in. Not a paper girl ready to be burned up. But a sturdy, solid, firm girl, my own sturdy solid firm girl.

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