I stole every book you let me borrow. I’m sorry, but you will not be getting them back. After all, I already accidentally ripped the cover off of A Moveable Feast. And I sold your copy of Ulysses to the campus bookstore. I think the theft evens out since you stole my adolescence. If you want to try and make it up to me, you can send me a check if you’d like. It won’t make up for the time you called me “honey” in front of the whole class, or the time you gave me 100 points on an assignment I didn’t even do properly. That was very irresponsible.
It wasn’t like you were movie-star hot or anything. But when you’re a high school senior, no one is more attractive than someone who indoctrinates you. I would have been the perfect Manson girl. You dressed like free love was still free and told me, “I don’t put much stock in astrology, but Hamlet was a Virgo.” You asked me if I believed in psychoanalysis. I told you, “No, I get along well with my father.”
My friends often listen to me recount stories about you. They ask me, “How do you know he felt the way you thought he did?” As if they’re the jury, and you’re the plaintiff, and I — hysterical and feral, but attractively so, of course — am on the stand in cuffs. Because young women must always be beautiful, even when their lives are being torn apart.
If we were in court and your lawyer asked how I know you loved me, I wouldn’t reveal the illicit rendezvous’ or the late-night correspondences. I wouldn’t even tell them about how you bought me a gift when I turned eighteen. The only evidence that matters is this:
I was seventeen. It was Olivia’s birthday. We were celebrating at a restaurant downtown that I could hardly afford to enter. I wore that floral, strapless black dress with the whale boning in the bodice and a full tulle skirt. I debated taking it off, worrying it was too fancy, but I distinctly remember thinking, “What if he’s there?” There was no reason for you to be at that restaurant. But all things seem like signs when you’re in love.
During dinner, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. While descending the perfectly cinematic sweeping staircase, I ran into you. You stopped and looked up at me, and suddenly I believed in telekinesis. I summoned you. I was a good witch, and I had powers. But even good witches get burned at the stake. You hadn’t taken a love potion, but from that glance I felt it: You were smitten with me. I could have melted into the stairs beneath your gaze, oozing down each step in a drippy puddle of teenage fantasy.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it was THEN I knew!” I knew that you did not owe me an answer, that I would not get the Annie Hall ending I felt I deserved. The court reporters type furiously. You roll your eyes at my childish hallucinations. The crowd shrieks and begs for my crucifixion. Your new wife and son sit milk-white and silent. The officer carries me off as I snap my jaws like a rabid dog, kicking and scratching and clawing back, back, back to you.