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Zoe’s Story: If You Really Love Me

I’m lucky, in a way. I really only have one boyfriend in my life who if he called I would hang up on, if I saw him on the street I would cross to the other side, if he ‘friended’ me on Facebook I would block him. Silas.

He was my first and worst relationship.I was fifteen on the cusp of sixteen when I met him. He wore scarves jauntily around his neck and was on the debate team. He bantered cleverly with his friends and wrote with a fountain pen. He loved higher math and photography. I felt special to be noticed by him. We fell into love in a rush and tumble. I managed to overlook his friend’s friendly warnings and the dark presence of his recent ex at all the parties–her murderous looks boring into me every chance she got. She had broken up with him, hadn’t she? It was over.

As the months wore on he began to explain to me how she was the one he credited for everything he knew about relationships and how he still relied on her for advice and direction. When we kissed he would reminisce about how the passion we felt reminded him of the passion he had felt with her. When we discussed topics of the day he would mention how she had been so good about supporting his views.

Walking down the hallway we saw her lying on her stomach to study and he asked me over lunch had I noticed the shape of her butt and had I ever considered taking up running like she did? I hadn’t. Only a mile a week he said would do the trick. I don’t remember being angry or offended. I don’t recall feeling that anything was out of place (other than the shape of my butt). He said he loved me and that trumped everything. For a while.
Prom season arrived. I was excited to dress up with him and be part of a fantastic prom couple. I don’t dance he said. And furthermore if you truly love me you wouldn’t want me to go because it would make me feel bad about not dancing. You don’t want to make me feel bad do you? For the first time my answer was slow in coming. I told my friend Anne how disappointed I was. I was only a sophomore and without him I couldn’t go. That’s bullshit she said. I don’t have a date she said, wear a tuxedo and go with me. I went to Steve with the wonderful solution. I got a cold reception. The point was for neither of us to go. Not for him to stay at home while I went off and danced the night away posing as a boy. If I really loved him I would not go at all.

“If I really loved him…” “If I really loved him….” This phrase rang in my ears; waking me up to all the other times I’d heard it before. “If I really loved him…” I went to prom. As a boy. With a matching red tie and cummerbund to match Anne’s dress. Steve decided to camp out in his friend’s hotel room and would come down regularly to summon me out to the hallway to tell me how bored he was. He didn’t like how I was behaving; he thought I was being a bitch. Anne started to get annoyed about how much time I had to spend in the hallway. As the night went on his comments became more threatening and parental. He told me how patient he’d been with me, that it took almost a Christ-like level of patience to deal with me. His words. He pitted himself against the flashing lights, all you can eat appetizers and booming music of prom and lost. In the carpeted nook of the hotel hallway he tugged his rumpled white silk scarf and finally he demanded that I leave prom, abandon Anne or else…we were through. Ok. I said. Ok.

As I walked back into the ballroom I knew it wasn’t over–not by a long shot–but I could breathe again. It was only a matter of time.

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