My Possible Girlfriend – Johanna Hatlem
November 15, 2023
Some dark flinging body crashed hard into the driver’s side of Charlie’s silver Audi at 11:02pm on the first Thursday of Senior year. Charlotte, she was already dead when I forgot to send her a good night text message at 11:30 pm. Total impact, beads of blue glass and crushed aluminum like some stupid paper wrapper. No jaws of life or devotional signs of mind could have changed one thing. Grace is impossible. Charlie died again at 5:37 am in the morning when her best friend, Soph, Sophia, called me. She wouldn’t stop calling, and when I answered, she couldn’t stop crying, and I could hardly figure out what she was trying to tell me. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to figure out her gargled snot-enmeshed speech, except like, context clues.
I didn’t find it possible that she could be really dead, her possibility remained, for me, in my bed, where I still smelled her laundry detergent, and underneath that her sweat, and underneath that, well anyways. She had just been telling me about something she really cared about, she was so focused. She had been speaking to me through that small strain, speaking to me from the focus. I wasn’t listening, I was looking down at her neon pink Adidas no-slip no-show socks. I was wondering how she kept her socks so clean. I was just, a few hours ago, wondering about when she would leave so I could go to sleep, not for any reason other than I had football practice in the morning.
Charlie’s possibility could have been in lots of places but it was all there, all crushed into the driver’s seat, no longer human, just a body, and in that way completely human and more human than she could have ever been in life. She could have stayed over at mine that night, I could have been enjoying kissing her too clean mouth. I could have been licking in between her teeth. She had the cleanest mouth I had ever tasted, the one time I had truly cheated, the half-assed bitch had a mouth of oral landmines, thrush and plaque and bits of apple skin between her molars. I had regretted the moment only in that I had missed Charlie’s complete shy sterileness. I had missed her more than I had felt guilty, and that made it all the worse. Charlie’s dad was a dentist.
Charlie wanted to be a dentist too. Charlie wanted a lot of things. I liked this about Charlie. I liked that she wanted to be a dentist and to maintain a well kept home. I liked that she wanted me to be a well-kept boyfriend who posted pictures of us together on Facebook. She wanted me to hold her hand all the time. She wanted a black lab and a renovated kitchen with no crushed metal or crushed organs or blood. She wanted absolutely no one to think she was a bitch even though she totally was. She wanted life to line up like her incisors, after her braces, she could be the braces, she could be anything, she was perfect and deadly, and I never asked anything of her.
She asked a lot of me, and that was okay, that was our exchange. I was a solemn fixer upper, I was a future burnout, I was lost when she found me, it was Charlie who made me join the football team, and I did it because then Charlie could be completely mine. She could love me singularly without too many things being said, made of it. She could say my name out loud, she didn’t have to whisper it, or feel ashamed for the way she cared about me. I could have the so-called power, and she could remake me in an image of someone she knew she wanted to be. I didn’t have to want anything, she could do the wanting for the both of us.
But I still wanted, wanted entirely for one thing. In all the remaking Charlie had imbued me with a certain allure to other girls. I was whole, and in this way they wanted me, endlessly, they saw I could be whole with someone, someone beautiful, someone possible, a pretty bitch. And Charlie didn’t respect me. She designed the exchange, she understood that I needed her, that I needed her will, she understood I was at her feet. And I let my hand slip, told the truth too many times because I was too stupid not to. So to regain myself I entertained these girls, I spoke too vulgar words in front of them, asked them for favors, drove them home from parties that Charlie was too good to attend. I let them get close enough to touch, I pulled away and felt important. They wanted me so badly, I wanted people to know, know that they wanted me without any promises or sacrifices or even kissing. They would have let me fuck them without kissing, I wanted people to know this, I wanted Charlie to know this, but Charlie didn’t care, she saw me fall down everyday, and she picked me back up, and she would pick me up again.
And I did actually enjoy each one. I enjoyed their dimpled breasts and their Victoria’s Secret perfume and their giggling and their hope. I enjoyed their desire, I enjoyed every moment of possibility they provided me. They truly knew how to have fun, they enjoyed the rare music I put on the radio, they still had access to something I didn’t, and they understood that, and that made it all the worse for me. They were charming and special and bright, almost every one of them.
All of them were available to me in total isolation after Charlie died, each one texted me, held onto me a little too tightly. Each one offered themselves to me at various points, presented themselves as the answer, as a condolence, as a consolation prize. They all fucking disgusted me. For once I couldn’t think about anything carnal. I couldn’t think about my mouth around someone’s breast in the mossy under of the woods, or in the front seat of a car. The front seat of the car was where Charlie was forever, all crushed up. So now I found myself unable to even hold that body I had gotten used to boredly rejecting. I didn’t want new things everyday anymore, I wanted to be bored with her. I wanted to hate her again, I wanted to beg her for forgiveness. I quit the football team and holed up in my room playing Skyrim. Everyday I looked at my sodden bed and imagined a reality where instead of her leaving that night she had stayed, she stayed and I pulled down her black Lululemon leggings to her ankles and kissed her legs and ass and let us be violent again and not just passive aggressive and sterile. Where I crossed the impasse and let our souls be reunited in a dark after. Where I fucked her so good she respected me again. Where I didn’t ever have to look at all those girls for anything ever again, except an occasional flirtation when she was really getting on my nerves.
I imagined a reality where I could have decided I loved her before she was dead. I sometimes imagined that I must have caused her to die. I guess I had even technically wished for it one night. One night I had wanted to fuck Amelia Stratton so bad I had wished that Charlie didn’t exist at all. Amelia was in my front seat wearing a white athletic skirt and her warm tan body was sticking to my gray leather seats. I didn’t know that for sure but I could imagine. It was a high July night and my car had no AC and it was hard to imagine anything that wasn’t sticky. We were on our way home from a mildew house basement party, Charlie was at home with calculus.
Amelia was telling me funny anecdotes of a vaguely sexual nature, of a trip to Europe, of a one-time kiss. I could feel the pressure of her desire, I could feel that maybe she didn’t even understand it herself, that maybe she didn’t know that she wanted to fuck me. But I always knew, my only talent was being able to identify this, bringing it up from people and teasing it out.
That singular streetlight illumination gave the solid impression that Amelia had a perfect face. When I caught glimpses of her; appropriate, attentive glimpses as she spoke to me, she looked like a haloed being.
I had thought to myself that if Charlie didn’t exist this moment with Amelia, where she looked so hot, and was saying things that were so cool, and laughing at my jokes, could exist forever. That she respected me, that she was all possibility in that she could maybe love me, in an uncomplex way before everything became tied up and dry, that she could maybe even one day understand me, but most of all I just wanted her so fucking bad, and I wished my girlfriend didn’t exist, because Amelia had a big ass mouth, and I was too scared of her telling to do anything, too scared of a life without Charlie there to make me appear more whole.
My life without Charlie was nothing. Everything I had imagined, briefly, the sex I would have, the freedom I would feel, the uncomplicatedness of everything just simply did not exist. Everything was overcomplicated by her not being there, because she had this great will, she just knew. She knew what she wanted and she was gonna get there, and I became wrapped up in all that shining will. I became a part of the fabric of her life, I became Charlie’s boyfriend, her will eclipsed my own, and in her absence I didn’t feel I had been freed from some dictator, I felt I had lost everything.
The devastation was like that of a post-war reality, I was trying to reconstruct, recollect the pieces of myself that were even me, and what had become her, and what had only existed in opposition to her, what had only existed in hoping to be free of her, of hoping to be with other people, in wishing she would just look at me again.
She wouldn’t ever look at me again, and I couldn’t even be mad at her over it, I couldn’t even blame her for my psychological hang-ups or insecurities. Death had made her perfect. A silver screen missing at every moment, a flower plucked, preserved in an enchanted glass case mid-bloom. Death had further crystallized all her desires, even though she hadn’t completed anything, not even high school, in effect she had because she would have. And she would have had the well organized house and the black lab and a successful dental practice, and she would have had the faithful husband who she could continue to will into even being, and maybe it would have even been me. And maybe she could have one day used her massive electric power to understand me, and we could have kissed each other under covers of light, and looked out at the rain together, and laughed at shit talk until it hurt from the oxygen suspension, just like we did in the good moments. We could have had polyglot children and real grown up jobs.
But Charlie, my Charlotte, died on the first Thursday of senior year. And with her went my artificially erected will, and with her went a part of my soul, and with her went my future, at least for now. When my carnal presence returns, when I can think of a body that isn’t her broken one, when I can decide things for myself, when there is one thing that truly matters to me, maybe my future will have a name. But for now I’m just without Charlie, for now I’m just in my room playing fucking Skyrim and not texting anyone back, but fuck I can’t say any of this shit at her funeral anyways. I’ll only be talking about how beautiful she was, and she was.