$117 Knock-Off Lingerie: On Missing (an Idea of) You

Thirty-five seconds before you left you were holding me so tight that I saw stars. I wanted so bad to ask you to stay, but I knew that it was an unfair request, one that I would have never forgiven you for asking if the roles were reversed. Fifteen seconds before you left you were holding my face in your hands, I could taste your breath as you promised me we would see each other again. Six seconds: you twisted a strand of my hair around your finger and forced a sad smile. Your teeth were slightly crooked, and your lips the colour of dusk. Two seconds: you exhaled heavily, you walked away. I could feel you tugging a little piece of me along with you, you were stretching it thinner and thinner, like an overworked piece of dough.

Eight days after you left, you said that you missed my laugh and the way my hair resembled the ocean, with its curls and knots. You said that you could still smell my shampoo – coconut with a dash of strawberry and, what was it? Lime. Oh, that’s right, coconut with a dash of strawberry and lime.

You told me you missed me after being gone for a full month. That day I spent $117 on knock-off brand lingerie, in anticipation for the next time we would meet. I knew it wouldn’t be for at least another year and a half, but I wanted to look comfortable in it so the premature purchase seemed necessary. The first time I tried it on I looked like a fraud. Like a child trying to rebel against her parents by wearing risqué outfits. My body looked awkward wrapped in it. It highlighted that I hadn’t shaved in a couple of months, that my hips were more rigid than curved. I wore the piece under my clothes a couple of times even though it went right up my arse and restricted me from inhaling air. I shaved my legs and cut out carbs for a week and a half. I knew that if I practiced wearing it, when you did finally see me in it you would be overwhelmed by my practiced natural sexiness.  

Almost seven weeks after, you left you liked one of my old profile pictures from 2011, after three weeks of radio silence. It was almost as if you could feel me forgetting you, moving on and had to reassert yourself back in my mind. I had been busy with university, so I hadn’t really noticed your absence. It had been nice. Like my mind was on vacation on an island, listening to the rolling waves. Only for you to drag it back home to the city, where the cars and construction sites ate up all the calm. So, I lose myself in a fabricated memory, where you apologise for your arrogance by bringing me coffee whilst I study. It’s a small gesture that took little effort, but you know how stressed I am and you’d do anything to make me smile.

I give up studying for the day, Economics can wait. We walk hand in hand over the bridge, our footsteps keeping in time with each other. On the bus ride home, you drape your arm around my shoulder, you kiss my temple. It feels so natural, so every day. When I snap back into reality, I can’t be sure if I imagined it or if it was just a Thursday afternoon. I play this memory over in my mind, examining it from all different angles. I run through the conversations we had on the bus, in between the temple kisses, until my mind forgets the complete isolation that will engulf it, once I reopen my eyes and step back in to reality again.

A day later you texted me. It was a sunny day and the sky seemed to be smiling back at me. You said that I should come visit you, maybe in September! You talked about the beach, how the water sparkled and reflected the sun. It was the only thing in this world, you said, that could maybe be prettier than me.  

Three weeks later, I knew that homesickness had gotten the better of you. You asked me how Brisbane was, asked me to describe the weather in immense detail. Once I got you off on the fact that the sun was still burning and the river was still brown, and that my days were the same, more or less exciting without you here, you rolled over and went to sleep. You had gotten what you needed, validation that you still occupied my mind, that I was still here waiting for you. Waiting for you to feel homesick, waiting for you to feel lonely, waiting for you to need me. And wait I did. I was a piece of frozen meat, you had left out on the bench to thaw so that you could have a nice fulfilling dinner ready waiting for you once you got home. Thanks to the blessing and curse that is the internet, I could still see almost everything you were doing. I knew I had become somewhat obsessed with you, or perhaps obsessed with what I meant to you.  

I spent my days deciphering your words and if they were said sincerely, or just because you had an itch you needed me to scratch. I hated you for it, I hated you for making me into a bitter, jealous lunatic. I willingly dived into a pool of self-sabotage and pity, just to see if you would notice and pull me out. I did tumble-turns in the water over and over again for days on end.

Three months after you left, you told me you missed me for the seventh time. You asked how “my little head” was getting along these days. I responded with a big toothy picture, anything for your attention. What I didn’t notice was the way the light hit my neck. But you did. You responded almost immediately with a million questions. “Who had given me that love bite? Was it serious or just casual? How long had this affair been going on?”.  I showed you that it was just the lighting, somewhat touched by how infuriated you were at the thought of my non-existent suitor. I hoped that you wouldn’t ask any further questions about my love life, not because I was embarrassed by how infatuated I still was with you, despite there being at least four seas between us, but mainly because I had given you the courtesy of not asking about yours when your neck had traces of other girls’ lips all over it.

A hundred and ten days after you left you sent a photo. No caption. You were lying in bed, shirtless. You had a piece of long, luscious hair, that was clearly not attached to your scalp, draped across your neck. This was an intentional draping. You knew exactly what you were doing. I didn’t say anything though. I had no right to. Maybe I still felt like yours, but you most definitely were not mine.  So, I just let the anger and jealousy simmer inside of me until my skin was soft enough to fall off the bone.

The ninth time you told me you missed me was the first time you asked if I missed you too. It was a hundred and eighty-four days after you left. This was a complicated question, because I just wanted you to notice me, to be here and not there. But whenever you popped up on my screen my chest felt so tight that I feared my head might explode. If I was entirely honest with myself, I lacked the understanding of what “you” even was anymore. It had been so long since those months of bliss that my mind had morphed you and the memories you’re in into some disillusioned, perfect reality. So much so, that I can’t be sure if it is actually you. Because the boy I am dreaming of would never tell me he’s been thinking about me when there’s another girl in his bed. The boy I am dreaming of would never slut shame me for going out and meeting new people, whilst he parades his conquests right in front of me. So maybe it isn’t you who I am longing for, maybe the boy that inhibits my mind is the exact opposite of you. So perhaps I’ve spent these last seven months pining for a boy who doesn’t exist.

So, in short, no. I didn’t miss you. I missed who I wanted you to be.

But this answer is way too complicated and cruel to explain, so I lie. Then I delete your number from my phone, and ignore all your texts. Even though we don’t speak anymore, the waves of you constantly lap at my feet. It’s been high tide for so long that I don’t even notice when the water starts to recede. Slowly, ever so slowly. Then one day I wake up to a desert. Not a drop of water in sight. The plains are endless. I could start walking and never stop. The sun is warm on my face, my neck. But I never feel thirsty, my throat is never dry.

One day, you ask for an explanation. A reason for my sudden withdrawal, and maybe I do owe you one. I’ll give you what is yours, once you give me back those seven months. I exchange that awfully uncomfortable piece of lingerie for a couple of supportive t-shirt bras that make me feel sexier than you ever did.

By: Claire Bass

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