From the Issue: Unraveling, Arya F. Jenkins

I am wrapping my un-chicken salad to take to work. Jean says, “You’re doing that wrong. Plus you need more pita.” A few minutes later, as I apply lipstick, she tells the mirror, “I just read on Yahoo, lipstick is bad for you.”
 
Jealous of these things because they touch my mouth, she is attempting to reclaim me. A silver pen bought at Tiffany’s last week meant to remind me of her generosity and ownership.

But I am not hers.

She is the one who said to me, “Come out here to live with me. You will never have to work a day in your life.”

I packed my small life of books and treasured belongings and moved east to be with her, hooked by her promise. Each month, when my bills came, she paid them, but not before making it plain who was to be at her elbow, assisting always, a whore without reprieve, a colorful, dangling object.

When there was work to do for her, she stood behind me while I worked on my laptop, smoothing my hair, bringing me special coffees, holding my hand until the job was done, then abandoned me for her whims—her long hours drinking with male friends, members of a boys’ club she thought she could seduce merely by doing up her magnificent hair, adding perfume and laughing, but who only provided a screen for her illusion of participating in their debauchery.

Had I been treated like someone worthy of my own volition, I might have kept twisting myself around her needs and assumptions…. Eventually, recognition quelled desire, my own urge to be there, and I began to let go, dream differently.

In those dreams, the elegant façade, her compliments to me before people, still tickled, swaying me a little, but there was my growing angst for time, and hunger for a lost self with which her lies could not compare. Even as I hung there, satchel and box in hand, she said to me, “You don’t understand, some people love by refusing. I wanted to tease you by doing the opposite of what you wanted.” As if explaining herself could turn me around at the final moment. I said, “You’re crazy,” and let the door slip shut behind me.