The next time I went to BL, she was there. She perked up as I entered and explained that she’d been waiting for me to show up. She was alone again. Again it was mango juice. I’ll admit that I’d half expected all this. I’ll also admit that I was struck by a faint flashback to about five different late-’80s and early-’90s Hollywood thrillers that I never saw. Was S to be my own personal Glenn Close? Surely she wasn’t far off. Dahaha. A little Glenn Close humor for you.
Close, but no cigar.
We talked at length this time over darts, which she taught me how to play like a true leaguer. There may have been some degree of innocence and bonding here, where we may as well have been twelve and thirteen years old again, playing a simple game.
Three games in, however, all suspicions that I might have been okay at darts had been put to rest, and I was ready to return to the bar. She sat next to me now and rapidly began filling in the morbid details of her life, the conversation peppered here and there with little lapses into English–the only thing she’d brought back from America that wasn’t a scar. And of scars, she had dozens. Self-inflicted cuts lined her arms. They were the type of thin, horizontal cuts that I’d seen on others in college and recognized as souvenirs of therapy pain rather than suicide attempts. She had, however, attempted suicide several times, she assured me.
“My psychiatrist says I can’t drink alcohol with the meds I’m on,” she said, holding up her mango juice. “He also said I should find a social pastime,” she said, holding up a dart. All the pieces fit. I wondered what she’d hold up when I asked about the cuts.
“. . . and that brings me to this week, when I met you.”
A few years prior, I would have been deeply enticed by all of this. A lifetime of listening to songs like “My Lackluster Love” had given me an appreciation for codependent “cesspool romance”–I’ll be your hero, my dear; you can be my heroin. Nobody makes you feel needed quite like a human disaster area. She radiated trauma like Hiroshima itself. But now I’d been pulled through the mud one too many times by women supposedly too weak to pull themselves to their feet. The thing about these so-called “suicidal” girls, man–they love their false alarms. It’s fair practice to be dubious of anyone who’s attempted suicide several times and still isn’t dead.
Indeed, I saw in her all the signs of a manipulator. Luckily, her awkwardness made her particularly bad at it. Deliberate mentioning of my existing relationship elicited the most transparent passive-aggression I’d ever seen in my life.
“She’s great, but we’ve got a lot of barriers,” I said, perhaps foolishly. At the time, however, it was hard to talk about my relationship without saying at least one negative thing. “Like, I’m really trying to pursue the writing thing, but I can’t share any of it with her. She can’t read any of this,” I said, holding up my pen-and-paper journal for on-the-road musings.
With silent determination, S took the journal from me, opened it, and began reading to herself. To be fair, her English was probably somewhere in the low-to-mid intermediate range. But she was reading this, and I was sure that she understood none of it.
After a moment, she passed it back to me. “You sure write a lot of interesting things.”
“You’re right, I should leave my girlfriend for you,” I thought. “After all, that act you put on just now was deeply disturbing.”
The point was that, for someone who wasn’t even sure she wanted to live anymore, she had all the steadfas, back-handed cunning of a woman with something yet to lose. And she was bad at it. If the intended message was that she was somehow better for me than the woman I was with, she’d effectively sabotaged herself, which I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised over since she was allegedly suicidal. Nevertheless, the sympathy began to drain from my heart like blood from a heart.
After some time, she checked her watch for the fourth or fifth time that night and reluctantly decided to go home. “Good luck with your hopes and dreams,” I might have muttered as she left.
As the front lights went black, I stayed to talk to Mayu.”Hey Mayu, what do you make of this? Does it seem a little dangerous? Is it looking iffy to you the way it’s looking iffy to me?”
“Yeah, it’s looking iffy. You’ll want to be careful around her. She’s a nice girl, but one time, see, she fell for the owner of this place. But he’s married and has kids, see. The two of them were left alone here late one night and, well, we’ll just say things got a little crazy and he had to call the cops. She’s actually got a legally enforced curfew now, which is why she had to go home.”
I thanked Mayu, paid her with two giant Japanese coins, and left the BL. I made my way across the darkened bridge back home, checking over my shoulder exactly four times.
Would I be greeted at my apartment by this? (Note: You definitely shouldn’t watch this.)
(Tomorrow: The art of Timing.)