Five years ago he came home from college to summer with his parents. I was on the cusp of a not-so-inevitable high school graduation. I had worked at the grocery store for almost two years. When I found out he would be among the self-loathing college students hired by my store as summer help, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to run.
This person makes me nervous.
This person makes me anxious.
This person laughs at my expense.
They all do, but from this one, I simply cannot take the embarrassment.
I'll make a fool out of myself just trying to slide under his radar.
I think he took comfort in knowing that no person he had the capacity to respect bore witness to our interactions. My shame was his safe haven. I have not forgotten that feeling.
That summer we took long breaks. We shared bags of cherries, spitting pits in the parking lot. I could have worked 80 hour weeks with you. I was convinced that they were paying me too much. Years later he would tell me I was his "only light" that summer. I've never found a way to make him understand the degree to which he controlled me, from invisible beginnings.
I moved to Buffalo in August of 2005 with a man I would inescapably grow to resent for keeping me from him. I told myself it was love. That got me in the passengers seat of a moving truck. That got me as far as it needed to.
For the next three years, I would be riding in the passengers seat.