An excerpt from Girl, In Fragments: A Memoir
In high school, there were parking lots at night. Sleeping corporate parks, near tired warehouses and railroad tracks. I used to sit in my car and cry. There was never anyone else around, only the trees lining the lots and the darkness painted between them. I’d make sounds, hideous and loud, until my lungs were exhausted. There were other parking lot nights, and I would sit in cars with boys. I became reckless, and those boys became men, and I stopped scribbling their names on loose paper.
What did you see in me? Why did you wound me, cut my song out of me, lock me inside myself? Every part of me used to sing. How did you take that away?
I go into the backyard, look for the sky through slots in the branches, or stand on the corner of an intersection, watch the cars nod off against the curb, or I drive and drive and drive, the same roads over and over, and I wait for them to change, but they don’t, and I don’t either, and I see nothing. Everyone sees nothing, except maybe what is unimportant to see.
I am genuinely tired of owning a body. I think I’d like to put it in storage for a while. Forget about it for a bit.
The history of you, and what you did, is all over me, inside me, coating every nerve. I want to touch another body and feel without you, but I can’t seem to. My body does not feel nine years old, and also it does.
In high school, I didn’t know how to say no, didn’t realize that I could. There was Brendan, or it was his brother, Andrew—I told you I stopped writing their names. He fucked me in the backseat of his well-used four-door. After he came, he kept me hostage, propped atop his lap. Kept scratching his nails into my bottom, an agitating caressing motion, digging them too deep. I wanted to ask him to stop. I had relinquished those rights when I’d followed him over the center console into the backseat. Relinquished isn’t the right word. That would imply I had ever felt in charge of my body in the first place.
I thought I was good for nothing but my body. I sought out boys, or men, who would confirm that for me. All the while suffering small, sharp, cutting hope that they might tell me otherwise.
They never did. What’s that line about the definition of insanity?
The first time I tried to kill myself, I was in high school. My mother drove me to a juvenile inpatient center. On the way, I told her about all the boys in cars. How I’d lost count. How undesirable I felt, empty of anything left to offer. I didn’t tell her about the men in cars. I didn’t tell her about you.
My mother cried, looked at the road, looked at me, looked at the road. I looked at the trees lining the parkway, at the darkness painted in between them. She said nothing. Nothing that I can remember. She probably said the wrong thing. What would have been the right thing?
Somewhere, I once read, we accept the love we think we deserve.
A couple of years ago, around New Year’s, a man in my car told me he liked me for “just fucking,” and disliked the idea of pursuing anything further. That spring, another man in my car said, “You’re just using this rejection to upset yourself.” He told me I shouldn’t feel so distraught over something so trivial.
When that man got out of the car, I thought, I will be nine forever. I thought, I will feel the wrong feelings forever, I will always feel hurt when I shouldn’t, should know better, should be better. I thought, I will be nine forever.
I left my car on the side of the road, key still in the ignition. I wandered some residential streets, got turned around, got lost. Nine forever, nine forever, jump in the water.
I called Nina. What’s that you’re saying, she asked.
Jump in the water, I said. I couldn’t seem to say anything else. My mind was clinging to those words, my mouth doled them out over and over and over.
Nina found me in front of an unfamiliar house, curled up on the curb. I climbed into her car.
Where are your shoes, she asked.
I didn’t know, so I didn’t answer. Instead, my mouth repeated, jump in the water. Jump in the water. Jump in the water.
What water? Nina asked.
I want to drown, I sobbed. Nothing will change. Nothing will change, and I will always be this way. It will always be like this. I should just jump in the water.
But I didn’t jump in the water. She drove us around until I calmed down, and I didn’t jump in the water. I lived.
What did you see in me? Why did you wound me, cut my song out of me, lock me inside myself? Every part of me used to sing. How did you take that away? When I was seventeen, I would drive. I would drive and drive and drive, the same roads over and over, waiting for them to change, but they didn’t, and I didn’t either. Not for a long time.
I like to think about the years before you, when someone would come for me, mostly my father. He would carry me sleeping from the car to my room, my head drooling on his shoulder, too fatigued to move.
One night I decided I was done with just fucking. That isn’t true. The idea developed over a couple of months, but it became real the night I said it aloud to a man in my car.
One night, I decided I deserved more than just sex. I no longer wanted to just fuck, I’d had plenty of meaningless sex.
I decided I wanted to feel something new, something else, something wholly good.
I told the man in the car I didn’t want to just fuck anymore. The man said that was all he had to offer. I’d like to say I never invited him back in, but any decision can be undecided.