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Long Ago MAG
I had to text the Jerk Ex-Boyfriend. I always had to text the Jerk Ex-Boyfriend. He wasn't even my Jerk Ex-Boyfriend. I didn't even like the Jerk Ex-Boyfriend. I don't think I ever liked him, not once. Not even at the eighth-grade Valentine's Day Dance when he gave her that bracelet and she was all “aww!” And I was all “gag.”
She was too busy to text the Jerk Ex-Boyfriend. She was kicking aside laundry and searching through her drawers for yet another box of makeup. I could recognize all that makeup – I either gave it to her or was over so often that I knew just what she had.
I wish I still knew what she keeps in those boxes.
I was on her bed, lounging in a tank top. I had a T-shirt on originally, but she was wearing a tank top and I wanted to also. I sat up and tried to ignore the bulge of my belly, but I felt a blush creep up my neck, embarrassment making me bite my lip. Tank tops were a Jill thing I shouldn't try.
How long ago it was that I didn't try.
“What should I say to him?” I asked, holding Jill's phone aloft. I was drowning in the green pastures and wet, brown eyes of the horse posters plastering the walls.
“Tell him to go to hell,” she said casually, holding up a pair of ultra-skinny jeans. I shrugged, typing in the message and wishing I could add a “JK!” to take away the sting. But I knew she meant it. She was like that.
I could never be like that, but God knows I tried.
“I'm outgrowing my jeans again,” she said forlornly.
“That sucks!” I tried to infuse sympathy into my voice that I didn't feel. Those damn skinny-skinny designer jeans. I wasn't jealous, no; I was simply frustrated that she was too tall for anything other than designer jeans. Of course I wasn't jealous.
By now I've stopped lying to myself; best thing I've ever done.
“Sit still,” she commanded, coming at me with a spear of eyeliner like an Amazonian warrior. I instantly turned to stone as she touched the tip to the thin skin of my eyelid. She pressed hard and worked fast, swiping my eye with a motion that seemed careless to the untrained eye. She was the only person I knew who could turn my eyes into smoky, long-lashed, deep-blue pools. Thank God for a best friend like her.
I'll never forget what she taught me.
I couldn't help it; I wiggled. It hurt or it tickled or it made my contacts itch. She was relentless, swatting my leg and yelling “Stop moving!” in that ridiculous voice that meant she wasn't really mad. Concealer, blush, eye shadow (six different shades for one eye), lip gloss, mascara – it was ridiculous, but in eighth grade you think it looks good.
“You wear eyeliner to school, right?” she asked, her face so close I could feel her breath. Strands of her sun-bleached blonde hair tickled my cheek. “It looks good on you,” she said, reaching for another tube of something. I beamed at the unexpected compliment.
I wish those compliments still held as much weight.
She unfolded her long frame from the bed and went over to the full-length mirror in the corner. She blinked at herself, inspecting her face.
“Come here,” she said. I slid off the bed and went to the mirror. She slung an arm around my shoulder, and I tentatively snaked an arm around her waist. Not many people can say they've held what they worship (even though, by now, I've converted).
The soft light behind us outlined our forms and my eyes flicked between us, taking in our juxtaposition. Like baby bird wings, her hips jutted out harshly, the skin of her stomach pulled taut across the expanse. The curve of her torso was defined like a carving into the dim glow of the background. Every inch of her that was against me pressed hard into my softness, my outline dipping and curving out and around. She was all bones and firm skin, an exterior as tough as the interior.
A carefully-crafted skin can hide any bruises; time can wear down anything.
For the first time, I saw fragility. Her limbs seemed like they could be easily snapped, and her veins were visible beneath her skin. She faded into the background music and the darkness that rolled in from the window. I held her waist tighter, afraid she would suddenly drift away like a balloon cut from its string. I knew that it wouldn't be okay for me to keep holding her so tightly. I knew that in a second, I would have to let go.
It's taken me much longer to really fully let go.
She pulled away. “Hey, can you check if he texted back?”
“Sure,” I said and watched her go to her closet, her long legs painfully thin in those skinny-skinny designer jeans. I turned back to the mirror, trying to figure out why, at that moment, I hadn't felt jealous.
It's taken years, but I can finally say I know. After she tried to waste herself away and gave up on her body, I looked in the mirror and asked myself if I would ever do the same. It's been a long time since I've tried to emulate her. When she gave up on nirvana, I reached it. I don't need to be her. I need to be myself.