I Never Meant To Hurt You
“Rachel!” was all she heard as she gathered up some dirty clothes from her bedroom floor. Her father was yelling at her from downstairs, and all she could think of if how lovely it’d be to live as a bird. Her room appeared as disjointed as a psychiatric ward during the height of Vietnam; stacks of old notes passed in class were cannons, her lipstick was a live grenade, and her bed a bomb shelter.
Rachel wasn’t sure about a lot of things, although it was becoming painfully aware to her that she was both strong and fragile. Her independent nature and visceral perception were struggling with her fear of being hurt. She curled up on her floor, like a ship sinking she studied the rug like it was a matter of life or death. She felt her father was incapable of understanding her, not that she was particularly interested in hearing what he had to say regardless. She felt like the rug would swallow her whole, a sandpit serenely disguised and devastatingly effective.
As she looked up for the first time in several minutes, she saw the red glow from her alarm clock staring back at her. 5:03PM. She was late, and in her mind; a jigsaw puzzle of heartache and desperation, she realized she was only prolonging the inevitable.
She met Kevin at a vomit-covered party on the wrong side of town. She was dragged there unwillingly by her friend Melissa, and spent the majority of her time watching passersby like dancing corpses in a disco of death. The conversation discarded as easily as the plastic cups, their humdrum rehashing of old stories and bravado heavy rhetoric played like music to their disjointed steps in a dance of delusional teenage treachery.
Kevin sat next to her on a couch; it smelt of stale cigarette smoke and sweat. She had unfairly dismissed him before he had opened his mouth. But, once he spoke, so softly and sure, he won her over. They went outside where it was quieter on the back porch, and listened to the insects sing their sweet songs. The sound reminded her of family bonfires as a little girl, where the warmth of the fire would illuminate her face like the sun’s rays dancing on canyons.
They started dating the following week, like two cars colliding on the freeway they recklessly went forward without fail. Like a scientist Kevin would examine her, studying every hair and pore. His favorite moments were the awkward ones, when they’d both try to steal a glance and catch each other in the act, only to then quickly turn away. She felt so vulnerable, yet strangely safe. For their one-month anniversary Kevin drew her a picture of a pterodactyl flying through a valley dotted with the skeletal remains of dinosaurs, streams and rivers, and a lone cactus caustically holding a handgun with tears falling from it’s rough green surface.
Rachel slid silently out of her house at 5:10PM. She was supposed to meet Kevin at the park at 5:00, but was caught selfishly lost in her own mind like a deserted dog searching for scraps of food. She tried to gain a certain amount of composure, but walked like she was a leaf blowing aimlessly in the wind. Her palms felt moist as she rounded the corner towards the park. She saw Kevin from afar, swinging slowly at the playground where they’d sometimes talk till dark, sharing memories from youth and discovering each other like explorers on an expedition of monumental magnitude.
When she sat next to him he looked up without speaking a word, and tried to put his hand on top of hers. Rachel moved back slightly, and instantly Kevin’s eyes appeared like those of a deer in headlights. Instantaneously transformed to being on the defensive, Kevin felt lost like a young child separated from their parents in a grocery store. She didn’t want her words to have a bite like that of a snake, and tried to focus on altogether random things to occupy herself, like frozen ponds and bloody knees.
“Kevin, I don’t want to see you anymore” Rachel said, softly yet direct, casting the first stone. Kevin immediately started crying, tears falling from his eyes like crumbling buildings, leaving streaks behind on his soft cheeks. “I love you, Rachel. I… I know that you have a lot on your mind, and I… I…” he tried to catch himself from sobbing openly, “I want to be there for you” he finished. “I know you think that’s what I need to hear, but Kevin, I want to face things on my own” she said, composing her words like Mozart orchestrating, “I’ve never been dependable on anyone before… not my family, or friends… and I feel so naïve and exposed sometimes” she looked at the grass beneath her feet then back up into his eyes. Kevin looked a mess at this point, his face wet and red he slowly lowered himself from his swing onto the cool earth. On his knees now, Kevin bowed his head, his hands clinched into fists digging into the soft mud. When he looked back up specks of dirt highlighted his gentle hands like a graffiti covered church, or so the disturbing symbolism struck Rachel in her mind.
“Kevin, you’re such a wonderful person… but I’m not in love” she said, “and it’s unfair to both of us to pretend otherwise.” He looked up into her eyes as if he had never seen her before, as though he thought this teenage girl incapable of being so powerful. She tried not to focus on his face, yet let distant thoughts spiral into her coconscious like nature films of fish leaving eggs and shooting stars. She heard a train passing by in the background and it peculiarly reminded her of the first time she made love to Kevin in the basement of his parent’s house. After they finished he laid quietly on her chest, staring at her for what seemed like innumerable hours. “This hurts so… bad,” Kevin said, weakly grabbing at the legs of her jeans. Rachel thought about sitting on her father’s lap watching their fireplace flickering during cold winter nights when she was a little girl, and said with finality “I never meant to hurt you”.