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Broken Boys

by Serrana Laure

        I have a thing for the broken boys. The lost boys. The my mother never really loved me boys. The I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you boys. The you are my muse boys. The maybe if I never sleep, I’ll learn the answers to the universe boys. The I have a girlfriend, but it’s okay boys. The I’m too smart for my own good boys. The maybe if I fix you, you’ll fix me boys. The I’ll never leave you, until I do boys.

        I pull them into my orbit. Magnets.

        The my mother never really loved me boy, loved me. We lost our virginities together on a chilly afternoon a few weeks before our fifteenth birthdays. Frost glittered on the window above my bed; the condensed crystals of our breath. He smelled of absent parents and Oldspice and weed. He was spindly, all long arms, and sinew. So skinny I could see his ribs. I traced them with my lips, desperate to imbibe his goodness. His kindness. His slightly sideways view of the world. He left imprints of himself on my skin in bicycle grease.

        Together we thrashed. Moshed through the grime, and cheap booze, and drama of adolescence. We lit desks on fire in English class. We bled every platelet of caring into only one another. Built a fortress inside each other to shut out the disappointment of the world. Convinced that by loving hard enough, we could make ourselves immune to hurt. We were so sure. We were so young.

        He taught me to let myself be angry sometimes. Also, that it is okay to be sad. Often he would disappear, drowning in the murk of his own mind. And I would sit, with his head in my lap, and wait for him to come back to me. Stifling the stabbing pain of separation. Of not being able to follow him there. We melded before we knew ourselves alone. And I, so young, was not equipped to handle such a delicate thing as a heart.

        The I’ll never leave you, until I do boy, was sweet despite his exterior of leather and chrome. Shields for his softness. Sweet leather boy. Sweet, but there was a piece of him missing. The first time I told him I loved him, he said he didn’t think he had ever loved anyone. Not even your mother? I could hear the horror tearing my vocal cords as I tried to swallow my sob. He said he didn’t understand the word love. That he got the concept but it was intangible. In his charcoal grey bedroom that night, I pressed myself into the mattress hoping it would swallow me. Smothered myself in the pillow, praying he wouldn’t hear me whimper. When he finally told me he loved me, I felt like Aphrodite.

        I alone could make a nonbeliever see the face of God. This was proof that by loving him I had healed him. I wonder now if I was right.

        When I saw him years later, he told me he was in therapy. I didn’t ask if he had learned to love his mother. It was no longer my place to wonder.

        The maybe if I never sleep, I’ll learn the answers to the universe boy, was a hurricane of pain and lust and infatuation. His beard smelled of sandalwood and pipe tobacco. We lived off coffee and cigarettes and whiskey and angst. Stayed up all night. Disappeared to countries with water we couldn't drink. Searching for something. We kept moving too fast. Hoping reality wouldn’t catch up. Running from something. We absconded to Mexico after six weeks of knowing each other. Replaced whiskey with tequila. Ran to an airy white hotel room on the beach. Our laughter ricocheted off the whitewashed walls: mania manifest. My mother thought I had gone insane. We craved every breath. Every particle of each other. Not even my bleeding could stop our obsessive attempts to consume one another. He left handprints of rust on my milky luminescent skin. Painted petroglyphs on me in my own blood. Walls spattered red. I should have taken that as an omen of how he would one day rend me apart.

        The scars he left are mostly invisible. If they could see inside my vacuumed womb, perhaps they could tell me if the cleaning left scuff marks. He thought I could help him transcend. Instead, we dragged each other down into the musty blankets of depression. The best thing he ever did for me was leave me.

        The I’ll never learn your name boy, and the I can’t remember his face boy, and the sexy pirate from last week, and the I don’t usually sleep with women but there's a first time for everything boy, and the you are my friend’s older brother but look how nice we grew up boy, and the I picked you up on the subway boy, and the our parents are upstairs boy, and the we don’t speak the same language boy, and the I live in the middle of the woods to escape my past boy, and the please sneak out the backdoor my mom is home boy, and the you are so pretty it hurts to look at you boy, and the mohawk & bullet belt boy, and the it doesn’t count as cheating because we have already slept together boy, and the let’s look at the stars and I’ll be so profound boy, and the I know you are manipulating me but I don’t care boy, came and went in a haze of tequila and costume parties. Taking little of me, leaving less of themselves behind.

        The I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you, boy was four years younger than me. I had loved him always, but he was so young. I felt responsible. Like I had to make sure he made it to adulthood intact, and healthy, and alive.

        He found me one summer, years later, conveniently alone. We tumbled into each other in the back seats of cars. Like teenagers, we locked ourselves in our friends’ parents’ bedrooms and enveloped each other in a haze of the forbidden. We caressed and tasted and groped. But we never fucked. He told me, tears staining his cheeks with salt, that he loved me too much for that. He was afraid it would change us irreparably. I tried to understand. We have already changed, I thought. We changed the moment you pulled me onto your lap, and pressed your lips to mine, and slipped your tongue into my mouth. Caressed my face. We changed when we slept naked together on the carpeted floor of the room we were not supposed to enter. We changed the time we went down on each other in the back of your parents’ car. But he was so earnest with his big Bambi eyes. He seemed truly afraid to lose me. I wonder where he is now. I wish we spoke more than once a year on his birthday.

        The you are my muse boy, the one with the tattooed face. He left me with mediocre doodles scratched into my flesh, a lovely case of gonorrhea, and a shame I couldn’t scrub off for years. I liked him. We loved to get stoned and fuck in inappropriate locations: under the above ground subway lines in Brooklyn, in roommates’ beds, in the backs of cabs, in public restrooms. We both liked it rough. I still have lines carved into my back where his fingernails peeled my skin in long arcs like a cheese grater. I loved pressing on my bruises the next day. Tiny, tender reminders. I liked it. I liked him. But I still remember the way he would press his hand to the back of my head when I would go down on him. Hard, so that I couldn’t move. He didn’t care if I choked. I remember how I would crawl out of my skin in those moments. Levitate. Watch us from above. But I liked him. I did. I liked him.

        The maybe if I fix you, you’ll fix me boy wanted to shake me from some nightmare he had concocted in his head. Thought that because I was a little bit cracked I was broken. He didn’t understand that his use of epoxy and varnish made me feel like a porcelain doll in a falling glass cabinet. More fragile than I was before. He didn’t understand that maybe I wasn’t the one who needed fixing. Maybe, I just needed someone to appreciate the artwork of my scarification.

        The I’m too smart for my own good boy, saw inside of me. He was intrepid. He ventured into the dark places no one had ever been willing to enter before. Said he didn’t need a lantern, he knew how to see in the dark. He understood when I said, I feel empty. Understood what it means to feel utterly, desperately, irrevocably alone. And we were friends. Just friends. He understood that I loved someone else. Respected me. I thought. After all, he understood. But tequila makes people crazy. And lines blur. And respect gets muddied by chemical urges. And hands end up where hands shouldn’t. And lips go rogue. And I found myself apologizing for saying no. And he never did say I’m sorry. The suspension bridge of trust between us snapped that night, throwing us into the ravine, leaving us no way to walk back across the rift. 

        The I have a girlfriend but it’s okay boy, was old enough to know better. Not even a boy. He was ten years older than me and I felt like I was tasting the succulent secrets of adulthood. I was hypnotized by his glittering azure eyes. The girlfriend was merely an obstacle to be conquered. He made me raspberry pancakes in the middle of the night. Wasn’t that proof enough that he loved me? I knew better, even as I found myself topless on his toilet at five in the morning. I knew better, as he put his hand over my mouth so his roommate wouldn’t hear. And later as I was scrubbing him off me, I came to understand that consent and respect are not mutually exclusive. How could getting something I had wanted so badly make me feel so worthless? I still wonder sometimes if it is my responsibility to have that conversation.

        The lost boy, has always been, the never bold enough to try boy. The wandering boy. He has loved me our whole lives. Since we were in braces. Since before we knew our own bodies. Since I was too curvy for my age and he was too gangly. Since we were virgins. Since we first discovered infatuation. We shared first kisses, first groping, first heartbreak. We have made each other cry and then kissed away the tears. But “friendship” has always separated us, like a sheet on an ancient wedding night. Holes in only the practical places. Still, there is always seepage. For more than half our lives, we have cobbled together a makeshift dwelling of emotional dependence.

        He wanders. Hops from girl to girl, from city to city, from heartbreak to heartbreak. And I wait patiently for him to wander back to me. For things to shatter. And I am always the one to glue the fragments back together again. We have always wondered what if? and never been bold enough to learn the answer. We are always respectful of each other’s partners, because who knows what happens if we are not allowed to know each other? Still, he tried to kiss me on my wedding night. I blamed the absynthe. Wordless, we agreed to never speak of it.

        The maybe if I never sleep, I’ll learn the answers to the universe boy, came back years later, disguised. Shrouded in a cloak of benevolence. He found me when I was vulnerable. Running from something. And I have never been able to say no to this boy. I am drawn to his glow. I bask in his heat. I knew it was dangerous, that I was bound to get burned. But I have always loved fire. So I let myself be hypnotized by his flicker, grow high on the fumes of his fantasies. I listened when he said, let’s be friends. I listened when he said, he was sorry, that he understood the ways he had hurt me. I wanted so much to believe he had learned something, that I even listened for a moment when he said run away with me again. As the candle light of the bar danced across his face in golden arabesque, I saw the murals he painted of the good times we had had, and I thought, what if? For a moment, I wondered.

        But he still bled whiskey, and he still never slept, and he still kept company with the girl he had left me for. You are everything I have ever wanted, he insisted. My scars throbbed. I remembered how he had once convinced himself I was a goddess, called me Persephone. And I remembered how quickly he had fled, the moment he discovered that I was merely human. He loved to compare himself to Apollo. God of music, brilliant like the sun. In truth he was Narcissus. He said he saw himself reflected in me: mirror souls. The emptiness in my gut constricted. He didn't love me, he loved the nostalgia of me. The perfect princess he had molded in his memory. He wanted to possess me. Shape me. For me to be a reflection of the ways he had moved me. He was restless and bored. Still running from something. No, I thought. I cannot save you. I will not rescue you from the girl you used as a parachute to eject yourself from our plummeting life.

        I reminded him of how we had once flown too close to the sun, and when our wings melted―and we fell―how we had dragged each other down and torn each other apart. How our violent words had ricocheted. No, I said. We are mania manifest. And he said he didn’t want to know me then, if I didn’t share his dreams. If I didn’t want to ride the waves of his delusions. He didn’t know that the best thing he ever did for me was leave me. But I knew. My cells remembered.

        I dance around the broken boys. Lepidoptera, drawn to the heat. I know that my wings may get charred. But there is gratification that comes from holding your hand to a flame just long enough to blister. The acrid smell of singing skin, maybe a melting fingernail. It feeds something in me, like pressing on a bruise. A tiny release for the darkness festering. Justification for what’s broken in me. A reminder that to be human is to feel pain. That sometimes trial by fire brings us closer.

About the Author

Serrana Laure grew up in the mountains of northern New Mexico. She lives in New York City and is currently an M.F.A candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. 

From the Editor

Want more of Serrana's work? Follow her on twitter @serranalaure instagram @sillyserrana and on Facebook as Serrana Laure.

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