End of the Month: An excerpt from Porridge: A Memoir

“I’d be good to you,” he says to me over bites of sushi and spilled soy sauce.

“I’m good to me,” I tell him and stare down at my roll.

I hopped off a bus less than an hour ago to visit a city I had once been so connected to. The boy I am eating with claims to have feelings for me. I bumped into him when I was making my order; we’ve had less than four superficial conversations.

“I don’t want to be emotionally involved right now,” I tell him, and I tell myself my work relies on being as emotionally detached as possible. That’s only an excuse, but I feel the words come out with so much truth and feeling.

He begins to condescend, and presumptions about my previous relationships fly around the air. “Someone was bad to you and I won’t be. You’re hurt and I would never ever hurt you.” I let him babble on and smile when needed. He tells me he’s seen me in my new city but choose not to say “hello.” Then why say hello now? I wonder this, but do not say it out loud; I just let him babble.

“You don’t believe in us, just give it a chance.”

I tell him this is only infatuation but he doesn’t like the sound of that. “I genuinely just don’t want to be in a relationship right now. Period.” I say finally, and pack my empty sushi containers into a plastic bag. These words are right, but he’s unhappy with my them and gets up to leave. I feel bad for a moment and remind myself that it is better to be completely truthful with him and with myself. I want to be free and confused and indecisive, right now. I just want to be me, not us. I need to put my feet in the water, and then in the pond and then the lake. These words are right. As I watch him go, I imagine the sound of a rusted bird cage echoing with every step he takes. My heart tightens as I imagine an animal’s would when they’ve just escaped a trap.

 l/r

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