This week’s memoir assignment at Write on Edge was to write about a memory of yourself with someone else, as other people help shape who we are through their words to us, their actions, or their lack of action.
I wrote this to stand on its own, but it’s also a continuation of a previous memoir piece (the first RemembeRED prompt I ever responded to), which can be found here. I decided to write more of this story even though U2’s “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” tells it better.
My boyfriend, if you could call him that, sat on my bed. When we weren’t “doing shit,” as my friend from across the hall so colorfully called making out, it was painfully obvious this relationship of convenience was neither a relationship nor convenient.
I willed him to kiss me so I wouldn’t have to think about it, but he started talking instead.
“I don’t understand why you hang out with me,” he began tentatively.
Huh, that’s not a question… I held my breath and waited.
He went on, “Say you’re hanging out with a tiger…,” he paused to see if I was following.
“Uh, yeah?,” I already knew where this was going, so I nodded, urging him to get to the point.
“You say you want the tiger to stay, but it’s sort of awkward with a lot of silences.”
I gave him more silence, so he continued, “Then a cheetah comes around. You come alive. You’re friendlier and happier. You talk and smile and laugh. So why do you bother with the tiger at all?”
There wasn’t going to be any doing shit tonight.
Apart from that, it was hard to decide what annoyed me most about this conversation: how dead on he was, how stupid I felt for not breaking up with him after his girlfriend had visited weeks earlier, his hypocrisy, or his unnecessary use of metaphor.
Ironically, if I hadn’t been the most inhibited version of myself with him, I would have called him out on the last two. Are you saying you think I like Mark and Ron better than you? Are you aware of the irony here?
Instead I continued his metaphor, “No cheetah has ever been interested in me.”
I’d overcome my overpowering inhibition when with him and gave voice to my most embarrassing truth. And it didn’t seem to hurt him, or make him angry, or even make him pity me, because he simply didn’t buy it.
“I find that hard to believe. Am I just someone to be with until a good cheetah comes along?”
You really don’t get it. I don’t believe anyone else will ever be interested in me. Your attention intoxicates me.
But I had to force myself to speak again, so all I could get out was, “I don’t know, but isn’t that pretty much what I am to you?”
Only a week before, he’d said he didn’t know the real me. He expressed surprise I hadn’t told him I loved him yet. Before the big cat discussion, I think he told himself I loved him but just couldn’t say it. Or that I was holding back emotionally and if I would just let go…but now he was visibly upset whenever I smiled at, laughed with, or talked to a cheetah.
While he was surprised I didn’t love him, I didn’t see how anyone could fall in love under these conditions.
I was looking for a sign this relationship was good for anything beyond taking my mind off the cheetah. But now he wasn’t even doing that anymore. He actively reminded me of the damn cheetah.
He always insisted I wasn’t a substitute for the long-distance girlfriend who had reportedly agreed to see other people. Something about his vehemence about this and the way he wouldn’t give up working on me suggested he was auditioning me to replace her. Or just trying to get in my pants. But his motivation wasn’t important. Either way, he was right, I wasn’t my best self with him.
I don’t know what he needed, but I needed a cheetah.