Stories

People You May Know – Briege Terese

“It makes me feel like a porn star sometimes,” She said with a strained, flat tone. There weren’t any tears in quite a while, but there was a sense of limbo, a slight upgrade from the river of graceless and greasy stick pics for some people. Sometimes She wondered if she should talk to her therapist about what life was like after being assigned as a symbol for something radical that needed a slide show to come with it, but… She wasn’t quite a symbol? She wasn’t quite an icon, didn’t see herself as such, nor did She think She had the gumption or perverse hidden drive to craft herself into something for someone to project their fantasies onto. She was a cynical observer, someone who liked to shoot the shit with anyone who somehow got it; along with being the occasional artist, She needed her balance outside of the grind of “work,” “career,” and “growing up.” She had a lot of anger, confusion, and resentment inside her, but they were at war with the feelings of alienation She felt from her supposed inability to deconstruct whatever… was in her head?  
        She had her physical health issues, and in her weird way saw herself as some character in a lot of people’s stories: her first-ever somewhat suitor was a punk rocker She bonded with because they both lacked licenses, She “made him feel like he was twelve years old again,” and the experienced man(?) lived the life of a renegade whose friends were in bands(?), made films(?), and did substances She never saw in person. She felt like the innocent doe who stumbled into a suburban development with swimming pools and walked onto the highway in the city; her health fumbled, and he ran away from her and spiraled into his habits, along with finding ways to shoot and wound much easier targets. But why? He said She was the least self-obsessed person ever, and the stars aligned for a few warm months in a way that confused the casual horoscope enthusiasts but made the most no-bullshit people say “You were a good example and it was an obvious Goofus and Gallant situation, thank Christ you never got intimate with him, who the fuck knows what retarded shit his stick-and-poke friends were doing.” Cut-and-dry, but it’s not often you come across a boy roughly your age who appreciates guttural punk music and find out he lives a train ride up north, but that’s the beauty of first, (forced) love, so the first cut is the deepest? Is it less severe and legitimate because they met online? Because She was such an inexperienced person who didn’t know where to find a fake ID? It certainly is in a confusing way when the second proper “date” She had was sitting side-by-side in a city park with some different boy from a randomized local chatroom who scared her off with the tent he pitched on her stomach; he towered above her like a giant sequoia, dwarfing her five-seven, one-TWENTY-something pound frame that up until that point made her feel like a freakish Amazon. She didn’t know any men besides the gay men She worked and studied with, so She really needed to get out of her comfort zone, by any means necessary, but if only She knew how bad things really were… like…
        Going on first dates? There’s a website and TONS of applications for that! She started basic and started a profile with the oldest, most well-known service around, and boy did She get some interesting messages! She was a mere eighteen-year-old and met this pretty cute, albeit complicated guy from a state over in a chatroom who She bonded with over local music; he shared his well-known family’s history, She found out he took a break from a college next door to the high school She graduated from the year before, so the stars (or algorithm) were aligned: they went to an organic burger place and She ate her grass-fed beef cheeseburger while he had his veggie burger, and veganism looked good on him, but he didn’t match up to who he was in writing, which led them to part civilly and gentlemanly; maybe She would have the same luck moving forward? She made her policy: she’d only say stuff online she’d say to other people’s faces, never expect to have a relationship or any predetermined plan, and only post three quarters of her body, covered from (at a minimum) her breastbone downwards. Her inbox was full of different messages that would’ve been hard to imagine:
        “If I saw you in my yard, I would chase you out with a rolled-up newspaper, cute hairstyle though, nice and feminine but your eyes make you look batshit, fucking weirdo,” and…
        “You like money? Want a sugar daddy?” from someone whose profile included a picture of a muscular pit bull. The plot was always changing the roles of certain characters, and the more certain people looked the same the more they eventually would switch up and make themselves the protagonists. The constant roulette of swiping and clicking made the game a much riskier surprise, but She never put too much in for it to leave her for broke. She met weird photographers who wanted to be her Uncle Terry, met a few dealers who were disappointed She was more Mary Jane than Nancy Spungen, but it was meeting an older man that made her feel like She was brought closer to G_d; on a chat room She bonded over their love of old cinema, distaste for porn culture, but most importantly their fear of being publicly seen, and She would later learn he was a young dad separated from his wife from a semi-arranged marriage. Her stomach and heart felt like they were punched and twisted by two rough, chapped fists and her throat was sore for an entire year and a half. She’d take a break for a year after being hospitalized on-and-off for having a suicidal nervous system. 
        She later returned after a year to have her first high school boyfriend as a twenty-something. She saw him as the person to rip the bandage off her and he saw himself as her death; She would take him to rock shows, show him vintage stores and new cuisine, and he would take her out of her suburban neighborhood, take her to weird “meetings of the minds,” and eventually was a supporting character in her major development: She felt an overwhelming sense of anger to shut down something causing chaos in her local neighborhood and She didn’t mind exposing herself and mocking everything around her if it meant peace. A public mockery of the concept of the forced, sterile sincerity would change her life: She was a good, bad, or crazy character in some people’s franchises, stories, fan fictions, and erotica; She also now had a boyfriend who was in a group ran by a thought leader and met others who thought front, back, left and right, and boy did it come with dealing with a lot of pride from others! She saw constant fighting in person and online, and She unfortunately had to deal with some punches because her boyfriend chose to pick a fight behind her back. She was able to graduate from college but couldn’t get a job because She unfortunately was forced into being a “wife” for her boyfriend who was slowly being turned into a prideful man instead of one She took pride in. She also met many other men who saw her as a two-dimensional concept or as a real girl to pick up and hug like a doll. The bandage She thought was ripped off revealed a womb that was being ripped further. Her first official boyfriend was someone who put himself out for the worst reasons and would prevent her from leaving his side or going home, She and her parents were treated like vending machines, it took her many attempts to leave his forest full of fermenting piss bottles, but…
        It finally happened, and She was at that point simply a concept to some; a lot of her friends feared her, and She didn’t have many others until a message came from a void and She met someone from her past She owed a slow dance to… Some guy She volunteered with at a special needs camp who became her boyfriend for a few months but later broke up with her after learning about how much looks mattered. She went on to date others and have the most intense and long of pair-bondings by modern standards: She was the mother, sister, schoolgirl, secretary, daughter, and librarian. She grew in certain ways She couldn’t imagine for herself in between doctor’s offices and train rides. She always wondered what it meant to be someone who was her own person, and knowing how deeply her bonds with others defined her and affected others deeply scared her into periods of mutism and severe indecision: her fear of scarring the souls of others was what came after years of learning how God was watching and others were sure to call you out on how you were committing a sin against their humanity, dishonoring someone who was made by God and therefore had God in them.
        “I wouldn’t say you’re like a porn star, it’s not like you’ve posted any suggestive pictures or uploaded anything about yourself that’s extremely sexual, you’re someone who found yourself in mostly male-dominated spaces and you didn’t confront certain things you’ve felt because you were with such a bad partner at the time,” Mrs. Therapist told her in a tone as neutral as the cream-colored sweater on the trained professional; the lack of stereotypically feminine examples She had growing up along with attracting weird men really confused the twenty-something; they wanted a mom, fuckbuddy and daughter/sister-type subordinate but She had a mom that self-identified as the janitor, chef and grunt of the house and a dad who was the local pillar for the quaint little suburban town where barely anyone left their homes except to drink or go to the city. She never understood how Mrs. Therapist had a calm, well-balanced, nuanced approach to life as a person who spoke in front of screens from 8 AM to 8 PM six days a week while being the mom of a one-year-old. She sometimes found it hard to talk to someone who was able to get it all together and have that standard life, She was at risk for death more than her peers and lived the life of a spiritual nomad and corporate serf, She’d eventually make it… in time… at least She found a few outlets and some semblance of community where her experiences could be leveraged as credibility; She showed herself in the first time in God only knows how long? At least She isn’t an island, and if She was a bird so was everyone else on the horizon…
        He took on a lot of roles: brother, comedian, philosopher-king, among many other prestige titles but He liked the simple things and somehow juggled them both on and off the clock: coffee, video games, reading, and writing.  
        He somehow recognized her from some corner, somewhere, he couldn’t put his finger on it (the mouse, or screen, or keyboard?) and look back to really pinpoint her, but She definitely seemed okay compared to most, albeit cryptic and confusing to read, but worth sending a carrier pigeon to, so He sent her questions about banal things like her breakfast, alcohol, and what made her so tightly wound-up. She had a soft spot for the weird and confused, She was someone who treated interactions as teaching experiences, She also couldn’t afford to make enemies after dealing with her past, She had a life taking care of her loved ones and needed to keep them safe, so She responded to his skittish, childlike messages; one day, He decided to make the move to show his human face behind all the weird masks: 
        “Would you go to [redacted] with me?” He asked.
        “I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate me being used as a human sacrifice,” She said.
        “What is your issue, you retarded?” He responded.
        “Nah, just a crazy brain system, you need to meet women in person,” She sent.
        He may be someone She knew, maybe in passing, or as a concept, and vice versa, but He didn’t know her full story or the batshit insanity She had to deal with as an ex-meme.