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I Kissed the Boy Who Hit Me: Part II
Sometimes I thought he saw me as his human punching bag. He didn’t beat me or anything, but his words cut every bit as deep as his hands. His words could claw me up and tear my insides to shreds. It was translucent torture, being with someone who cherished me one second, someone who could so violently dismiss everything I ever thought we shared in the next.
Maybe it was all just a dream, just a beautifully unraveling thing. Maybe it was just a figment of my imagination.
Sometimes he was sorry right away. Sometimes he saw the damage he’d done and he was sorry, sorry, sorry and he loved me so, so much and I was everything he ever wanted and there were tears on his cheeks and everything. I believe that he truly was sorry. I could see it in the way he looked at me, could feel it in his touch.
But he was never sorry enough not to do it again.
And he loved me. He told me every day. And I would think isn’t this what I’ve always wanted? Someone who showers me with love, who thinks I’m beautiful, always, someone who I can talk to about anything, someone who knows me inside and out? Aaron was all of those things.
But he was also angry, and I sometimes I thought it was me. But it wasn’t. It had nothing to do with me. And I understood it, though I probably shouldn’t have. I understood it, though I wished I didn’t.
And once I could get past that anger, once I had gotten under his skin and crawled into his heart… he was everything. When he was loving me, he was everything. When he was making love to me, he was everything. And I was not about to lose everything over something I had the capacity to understand.
And then there was the pool party. I don’t know why it was so significant. It wasn’t the night when we ended things. There was nothing particularly special about this night, nothing shocking that sent me over the edge, nothing inside of me that snapped.
I was in the pool with Kevin, laughing about something that is no longer important.
I heard my name but I thought it was just the concentrated mix of raucous from the party and the buzz of alcohol in my system. Maybe it was the sound of my brain rolling around in my head.
I turned back to Kevin, trying to hone in on his face, but he was jumping from side to side and I was too drunk to focus.
“Your boyfriend’s calling you,” he said quietly, and, judging by the fact that his hand kept grazing my hip, I thought maybe he was disappointed. I guess I’ll never know.
He glanced off to the side of the pool then, backing away from me slowly. “Is he the jealous type, Caitlin? He looks pretty p***ed.”
“Jealous? What’s he got to be jealous of, anyway? We’re just talking.”
I couldn’t tell if Kevin’s face fell or if it was just my state of mind, but I followed his concerned eyes poolside where Aaron stood, cheeks flaming like they were about to catch fire. I couldn’t tell if he was swaying or if it was just me, but I could see that he gripped a half-empty bottle in his hand, and that he was looking back and forth between Kevin and me like he had just caught us in bed together.
His eyes met mine then, and there was this crackling sound in the back of my head, like his burning glare was enough to send shock waves through my brain.
I forgot the pool stairs and hoisted myself up over the edge, wringing chlorine from my sopping hair. Aaron’s eyes swept over my body and he swiped a beach towel from the closest lawn chair, tossing it at my chest.
I watched, almost numb as the towel fell to the concrete ground, and in my mind it drifted slowly, like a paper airplane wavering in mid-air.
“Pick it up,” he said quietly, though his teeth were clenched.
I glanced to the water to see if Kevin was watching. He was.
“Don’t look at Kevin.” He spat his name like it was venom on his tongue. “You look at me.” He grabbed my chin in his hand and pulled my face downward, casting my eyes toward the black and blue striped towel. I thought of fresh, tender bruises. The colors blended together in my confusion.
“What part of ‘pick it up’ don’t you understand?”
I snatched the towel from the ground, wrapping it tightly around my dripping, shivering body. I could feel several pairs of eyes on me, even as I keep mine centered on Aaron.
“Why are you so upset with me? What did I do to you?”
He didn’t answer. He grabbed me by the wrist instead, yanking me the way I used to carry my rag dolls when I was five. I probably looked like a rag doll to Kevin and the others, because of the way my wet hair slapped against my back as I forced myself to walk in these short, quick steps that jerked my neck.
Aaron lead me through the grass and out of the gate, where he finally let go of me.
“Walk,” he demanded, but it was impossible suddenly. I couldn’t even see, couldn’t center the thoughts cascading through my mind.
“Are you stupid?” he cried, pushing me from behind. I stumbled from the force of the shove but managed somehow to stay on my feet. “Put one foot in front of the other!”
I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to be away from the backyard where people smiled and laughed and were safe in each other’s company . I wanted to be where I didn’t have to worry constantly about keeping someone else happy. I didn’t want to be here.
“Kevin Donahue,” he muttered, pacing back and forth. I flattened my body against the side of the house, tracing the dips in the brick with my fingertips. Maybe if I stayed like this I would become invisible. Maybe I would melt into the wall, or my skin would turn to brick and I’d be camouflaged forever.
“Is he the kind of guy you go for when I’m not around? When I turn my back for five minutes?”
I kept my mouth shut and just said nothing. My words would probably have been incoherent, anyway. I’d let him have his way with me and then he’d feel guilty and then he’d say he was sorry and then this night could fade to the depths of my memory.
“Do you like to show yourself off, Caitlin? Do you think you have anything to show off?”
I folded my arms across my chest and tried to make myself numb, so numb that I couldn’t feel it when he yelled at me. So numb that I couldn’t feel anything if I wanted to.
He kicked at the ground. I watched as speckles of mud spattered across my shins.
“Let me tell you something,” he went on, his finger in my face. “You are nothing without me.
Nothing. I am the only person who will ever want you.”
“You’re a liar.” My words were quiet, under my breath, almost like whispers. His head jerked up like I had just screamed at the top of my lungs.
“What did you just say to me?”
“I said you are a liar.”
“Say it again, Cait.” I could taste the beer on his breath. “Come on. Let me hear it again.”
“Kevin wants me,” I said slowly, deliberately, trying to hurt him like he’d hurt me. “If he didn’t want me he wouldn’t have had his hands all over me back there-”
“Shut up!” he screams, grabbing my shoulders and shoving me back against the bricks. They scraped up my back and the pain shot down my body in heated, electric pulses.
“And you know what, Aaron? Maybe I’d rather have someone like Kevin. Someone who’s not such a raging lunatic. Someone who-”
“I swear to God, if you don’t shut the hell up!” He had got my arms in his death grip and he was shaking me, shaking me so hard that my head rattled around and I pictured it popping off and rolling around at his feet.
‘Oh!” I made a strangled sound as I hit the ground and then there was me in a towel and a bikini, lying on my back, struggling to shield my face from the boy standing over me.
“Don’t hurt me, Aaron,” I said, before I even realized my mouth had formed the words. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
He stared down at me, and it was just the two of us in the side yard under the moonlight, his face illuminated in the supernatural, iridescent glow. He stopped moving at all, and I started crying, swept up in an abrupt hurricane of emotions.
“I… I wasn’t going to hurt you…” he said finally, his voice cracking like a baseball against the brand new aluminum of a bat. I focused on that. I focused on baseball. I listed names in my head, as many team names as I could think of.
He slid back into his body. I recognized the soul behind his eyes again.
Sox. Red sox, and white sox. Indians. Blue jays- no- cardinals? Yes. Yankees. Cubs.
“Caitlin,” he started, dropping down beside me.
“Please don’t touch me.”
“Why do you have to say things like that? Why do you have to make me so mad?”
I wanted to say that he started it, but we weren’t first graders and this wasn’t an elementary fight. So instead I told him that I was sorry. I told him that I shouldn’t have said anything about Kevin. I knew before I said it that I was only going to make things worse.
“You’re always doing things… always saying things…”
“So are you.”
“I know,” he says finally, after a hundred and sixty seconds of silence. “I’m working on it. You’ve got to work on it, too.”
I stared down at the cold grass and shivered. “Okay.”
“Couples fight sometimes, when they love each other,” he said, trying to convince himself that we were normal. “Things get out of hand.”
People throw their girlfriends to the ground and then turn around and tell them it’s about love, I thought. I knew it was wrong. I knew it. But didn’t the good outweigh the bad, most of the time?
He took my chin in his hand, then, gently this time. My scraped back burned like acid. My body was freezing.
“We love each other, don’t we, Cait?” He wrapped me in his arms then, and I knew I shouldn’t have held him. I knew it was wrong and I knew that he was wrong and I knew that we were crazy and that we would never make it together.
But in that moment I was cold and wet and he was warm and sturdy and I hung onto the only thing I had ever known.
“Yeah. Yeah, Aaron, we do.”