Updated: Feb 11
I guess I should write about Magdalena.
We met in college. She seemed young. I mean, she was young, young-er, but she also seemed it, asking lots of questions and listening that way that children do when they are still learning from simple things. Her hair was short, wavy, brown. She had mischievous eyebrows and dimples when she smiled or fake smiled. Her eyes were a bit bluer than you imagine eyes to be, but they never attracted my attention. I was fixated on her mouth, her smile. It was real interesting. She smiled hierarchy, like she had something you wanted and eventually I saw her smile to herself, looking up and blinking tears, asking me why. She was a great dancer and could wear the shit out of a little red dress and some cowboy boots. Magda was the first girl I liked that wore heels, because I always thought them unattractively impractical. Though she was short. And compact. Like a rock climber or something, and I’m sure she climbed rocks sometimes. She paid attention to the world, or to nature at least, the same way she listened to the words I said, in this way that projected focus and much more respect that I deserved from her. It’s nice to have someone focus on you only.
Maybe that’s why I broke her. I was remarkably selfish, though it just felt normal at the time. I couldn’t take how distracted she would get by her surroundings, a water drop on a leaf, the trumpets in that song, intent and listening to a thing that was not me in a moment when that was wholly unacceptable. I am I and my disgust.
And now I’m struggling to get 300 words on the page about this person who kept my gaze for a while with winks and some well timed kisses (you know, the autumnal ones where the wind is blowing, and the tree you’re under has changed color as much as it might in Austin, or you’ve wandered up a few floors in the local construction site to watch the sun rise on the roof, and you didn’t even know it was going to happen like that but it did, and hot damn.) and more than a few sexy memories—on the stairs that time, or the living room floor, or in her dorm, looking out the window as people ambled to class below. The way she would arch her back and stretch back with her foot and curl her toes. She was a trophy in that way, really. I recall thinking that at the time—being interested enough, but largely just thinking that she was a specimen and wanting that, wanting to have had tried that thing: The Get the Prettiest Girl You Can Thing (and despite her considerable talents in that way, she wasn’t even the type of girl I found all that attractive).
I did the things I needed to do to get her attention, manufactured the conspicuous confidence appropriate to the task and went about telling the stories that I told when I wanted to seem interesting. Sometimes it was my junkie family and broken upbringing, playing Artful Dodger or some other nonsense. Not for Magdalena, though. She needed a guide. So I played the guide. I should say that I don’t remember deciding to do this. It is not as if I analyzed her and went about picking some program of action. I just knew I wanted to attract her to me and went about the business of making that happen. All the stories are or were me, in a way. The disease just presented different symptoms in different situations. I showed her care and insight and helped her do things that I was good at—editing (we met in a writing class), dancing, chess, music, thinking and whatever else.
There are obvious problems with that course of action as well as having to recall it now, reformed as I (hope I) am. The problem that jumps to mind just now is the short-sightedness of the approach. You really put a ceiling on the interaction by entering so insincerely. I am not a guide, nor a street urchin (an attendant lord, one that will do . . .). And she really was nice enough, but young. If youth were her only flaw, well that goes away with age doesn’t it. Most of the flaws were definitely mine (hence here I am being selfish again, turning a story about Magda into a self-flagellating piece about my own uncertain character). Not that she and I would have worked out in any way at all.
She started so guarded. Slow to talk, slow to open up, slower still to hold hands or anything the like. It did make the process more fun and probably distracted me from both my own sociopathy and the awkwardness of the fit. She, a girl from the deserts of west Texas and me a city boy. She so aware of nature and learning so often, while I was content to take my meager skillset and operate.
I think she had been abused before college. Or raped maybe. I’m not sure. There was a thing she made a point of letting me know that she wasn’t talking about. I forged ahead. I am I and my self-loathing.
I never did anything like that to her, not exactly. She consented, but on the false premise that we were sharing something when really I was a parasite.
When I broke up with her (out of guilt? Or exhausted utility? To go back home to something more real with Shauna) she cried for a few days and then came by to bring some of my things since my car had broken down (1996 Dodge Neons. Avoid them). I was honest about my feelings and apologized, but poured on enough façade to entice her hope, and we had sex again. We did a new thing that she hadn’t wanted to do, and it occurs to me now that she was probably making a final effort to keep me.
It did not work.
Now, it’s not for me to try and psychoanalyze her behavior following that. At the time I called her fucking crazy and may have been heard saying, “That bitch is crazy. That’s a crazy bitch,” in the privacy of my own home, giving in to crass expression in a way I strive to avoid. Obviously she was just hurt, grasping frantically for purchase on some lever to hurt me and finding none. There were none to be found. She told everyone we knew that I was a horrible human (fair, all things considered) or that I was a sociopath (the jury remains out). She cried. Everywhere. At the sight of me or mention of my name. For months. She lived in co-op housing with many of my closer friends, and I’ll admit more than a bit of annoyance at that. She turned friends against me, as much as she might by blocking me online and publishing (an honest and accurate) portrayal of things gone by. Shauna straddled the line of friend to Magda and girlfriend to me. The whole situation got a bit fucked.
Who knows why she couldn’t let it go. It took a year or so. I imagine she felt had or perhaps upset with herself for having been had. I’m honestly trying to give a shit, and maybe it’s just that I’m so far removed, or so absurdly competitive that it all came across to me as a versus relationship, but I really don’t care. About her. At all. I guess she’s an example of what I’ve been, a foil for the father and spouse I am now, emotionally (and literally) engaged.
Is that awful? Should we hold on to our guilt (if I had any ever in this situation) like we might hold our anger in a grudge? Well. I don’t.