Marissa wants to forget.
“Forget what?” I ask her, and she mulls it over, pulling her fingers to her face as though deep in concentration. Finally, she decides on her answer.
I ask what she means, because she can’t mean everything everything. She has to want to remember how to talk, or read, or breathe, at least. But what else? Does she want to forget who she is? Who I am?
And then I think, Oh, my God. Marissa wants to forget who I am.
“I dunno,” she says, flipping her braid behind her shoulder. I notice her strawberry-scented, strawberry-shaped hair clip. It waves goodbye to me as it flies away with her braid.
“I guess I just want to forget all the stupid people,” Marissa says finally.
My eyes grow wide. Am I stupid? I ask myself. But that’s a stupid question, so it must be true! I’m stupid and Marissa wants to forget me.
“Like who?” I breathe, pretending I don’t know what she’s saying. I fight against the tightness in my chest, the shakiness that’s pushing to take over my words.
“Oh, I don’t know...” Marissa trails off, nonchalantly glancing around the room. Her eyes settle on a poster of a talking owl, which happens to hang across the room from me.
She’s afraid to look at me, I think. She knows I know.
Suddenly, she jerks her head to face me, and Marissa smiles - the kind of devious grin that makes her eyes sparkle like they have a story to tell. Like they know they’re not supposed to tell it, but they just can’t resist.
“You know that new guy?” Marissa asks, and I can’t tell if we’re still on the same topic or not. I mean, I’m still on it - I’ve been on it for weeks now. But Marissa likes to jump subjects, bouncing between them so she doesn’t get bored.
“Yeah, what about him?” I try to sound cool - chill. Like my heart isn’t barrel-rolling inside my chest.
You’re going to say that you like him, aren’t you? I think. You’re going to say that I’m stupid, but he’s chill, so you’re dumping me for him, right?
And I’m going to be speechless, because how could she? I’ve been here for her all along, and suddenly I’m not good enough anymore? I mean, I’ve never been good enough - but she doesn’t need to know that!
When I don’t say anything, she’ll take my silence for acceptance. She’ll smile sweetly - she does everything sweetly, super super bittersweetly - and she’ll think about hugging me, but she won’t, in the end. Because, that’d just be weird, right? I mean, who does that?
And I’ll wish she would. At least then I’d get something worthwhile out of this whole mess.
But she’s not going to hug me. She’s just going to smile and do this little half-curtsy, half-bob thing she does, and she’ll say, “I don’t really think we should talk anymore, but you understand right? Of course, you do.”
And she’ll laugh, like that was a joke - which maybe it will be, and I just won’t find it very funny.
“But anyway,” she’ll say. “Bye, okay?”
And I’ll think, No, it’s not okay. Because I’ve been here for you. I’ve waited around for a long time. You can’t leave me now, you just can’t. That’s not fair.
You’re supposed to be fair, Marissa!
But it won’t matter because she’ll already be gone, laughing and smiling and curtsying for her new little boyfriend. Because that’s what she does. She laughs and smiles and curtsies her way into everyone’s hearts, and then she stomps on them - on purpose, even! - and grinds them into the dust. She makes you feel so stupid, that’s the worst part.
You can’t help but ask yourself, Why am I so stupid?
And you won’t get an answer, just like I won’t get an answer now.
“What about him?” I repeat, this time snapping from anger. I’m brought back to the present, where she hasn’t left me yet. Where my life hasn’t ended yet. At least now I have time to brace myself.
Marissa looks taken aback. “Nothing,” she says, mumbling through squinting eyes. “Just that he’s dumb.”
And before I can ask if there’s a difference between “dumb” and “stupid”, she is already lost onto another topic, darting between tangents like a hummingbird that feeds on change.
I can’t help feeling inferior. How can she just rush through life - through conversations like these ones - and not be affected? I feel like hot water is being poured on top of my skin. I’m burning up, and meanwhile she looks just as chill as that dumb new boy. I don’t understand it; I’ll never be that detached. I’ll never stop caring.
Even now, I start to sweat from relief and also from discomfort, from the fact that I still don’t have an answer. Because the new boy is dumb - she said it herself! But I’m still not safe, she still hasn’t said she loves me.
And I have to wonder if she could ever love anyone so stupid.