The Braggart

“Why are you talking about other guys you’ve been with when you’re with me now?” Jamie asked not so much out of anger but in sadness, his bottom lip slightly protruding in a fashion indicating the beginnings of a pout that would not come, lest he reveal too openly his emotions to someone still too new in his life. In this case, me.

I had just finished regaling him with a tale of how I’d fucked a married man in his BMW outside of his house in the Hamptons while his wife was inside baking a pie, or whatever it is that wives with no real life of their own do. Jamie wasn’t amused or impressed, as some part of me thought that he might be. He wasn’t necessarily jealous either, so much as pitying. Yes, that was the look, one of complete suffering–an apparent ache for my own “sins.” It was then I knew I might actually have to consider changing tack with this boy if I was going to get him to fuck me a few more times without being totally scandalized by the prospect.

But what could I possibly tell him to keep him just at a distance enough? The sexual “depravity” angle had always served me so well with other guys because they could sense right away I didn’t want anything serious, and that suited them just fine. And I wanted it to. I couldn’t explain it to Jamie, not logically, but talking that way, so cavalierly, was my manner of proving to him that I did not–could not–care less about him, about whether or not we were “a thing.” It was my survival mechanism, an exterior shell of sluttery wielded to keep out men with even the faintest idea of monogamy on their mind so that they could never get too close, never even dream of wanting to when buying into my self-made image of whoredom. Instead of saying all this out loud to him, I did what all repressed former suburbanites do: I changed the subject.

“So do you think you’re going to stay in New York? Or is it just a stopover along the way to somewhere else like it always is for so many who think they want to live here but then quickly realize it’s actually a depressing as fuck con designed to make you feel constantly inadequate.”

Jamie arched his brow. “I was born here. I can come and go whenever I want. I don’t have whatever weirdness you do with the city.”

“It’s not a weirdness, okay. It’s fact. It’s probably the reason you feel like you can never permanently live here.”

“It’s a state of mind, baby, like Billy Joel said.”

That was one way to kill a girl’s boner, by quoting Billy Joel. Shit, even Christie Brinkley lost her appetite for sex over the years of being married to him. Also, on a side note, what was with the brief trend of really hot women marrying ugly musicians? Obviously, Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett spring to mind. And then Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee.

“Don’t call me baby. I’m not your baby.” Jamie, I quickly learned, had seen very few movies in his life. So I could quote people like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface and he would have no idea it wasn’t my own original thought. It was sort of liberating in a way, like I had a built-in script to carry me through the trajectory of this entire relationship, which would of course result in nothing other than a crash and burn even grander than Thelma and Louise’s. That is, ultimately, how I came to see our rapport. We were thick as thieves, the best of friends. There was nothing we didn’t or wouldn’t lay bare to the other. Or so I thought. But all along, there was something brewing in the back of his mind, something that I couldn’t see for how transparent it was at the peak of the loss of all my emotional defenses.

But before that happened, they were up in full swing at the bar I would eventually come to avoid at all costs for fear of any triggering flashbacks. It was called Bar Severo and it was in one of those arcane geography points that exist either in Little Italy or Chinatown, depending on who you ask. I maintained Little Italy despite the bleed-through of harsh Chinese barking that could have been stating the most beautiful poetry or a food order for all I knew. Likely a food order, no offense. And as I altered the course of the subject to whether or not he was going to stay in New York or move on to one of the godforsaken southern states where one of his godforsaken family members lived and could help him “get a leg up” (leg up being a prolonged period of the luxury of “figuring things out”), he responded in a no holds barred manner that terrified me to no end: “That depends on you, really.”

Feeling my state of consciousness turn too quickly sober, I ordered another vodka soda (the well drink order of non-champions) so that I could maintain my veneer of stoicism, my self-perceived superpower of aloofness. One that Jamie was gradually starting to see through, I thought. But if he had really seen through it, I don’t–can’t–believe that things would have taken the course they eventually did. That course including the usual fucking fare of me getting all clingy, especially once we started “loosely” co-habitating (loosely being, I had a place, he stayed in it), starting to be seen as too much of a friend in that he couldn’t view me as a sensual being any longer once we reached that point where he could fart freely in front of me. Some will claim this is the coveted height of intimacy. I rue that it is the death of romance, the permanent end of any chance of returning to that honeymoon period where all is, in a girl’s mind at least, as it should be. He chews with his mouth closed, makes complete sentences. It’s so glorious. As I got older, though, they stopped doing even that upon our initial stages of feigned “amorousness.” I supposed only young girls who are too dumb to appreciate it anyway are the ones that deserve the best foot forward from men. I know that I didn’t esteem it enough when it actually happened to me, took it for granted as something that all men would (and should) do. In any event, the truth is, the human heart can only really love once to its utmost potential but one instance in a lifetime. Once it’s been broken by the very person that it felt its fullest amount of love for, there is maybe a one in a million chance of it ever repairing, i.e. opening, for someone else.

I wished I had kept talking about all of the guys I had soullessly fucked that day at Bar Severo to Jamie. Prattled on until he was so uncomfortable that he finally just felt forced to leave me there, the braggart bragging to no one of her conquests. But no, I stopped myself. Let my sense of societally imposed shame and decorum get the best of me so that I wouldn’t make Jamie feel too uncomfortable. Too much like he might contract an STD just from being near me. So we got close. I got close. We were going to run away together. A maudlin and youthful idea that would be an embarrassing wish to say out loud to anyone now. But that was, I truly believed, the ironclad plan. Turns out he was the only one who successfully managed to run away, from me. Could it have been different if, in those initial phases of our getting to know one another, I hadn’t painted a false portrait of myself? The kind that would subliminally infiltrate his mind to make him believe that I could handle it–being left?

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