“Keep the rubber side down,” he said. Bicyclist slang for, “Be safe.” I had to look it up.
Felt more like a demand than a request. A way to assert dominance. My molars clamped down on each other and I pressed my tongue hard against the roof of my mouth, eyes narrowing.
“No,” I whispered, “he didn’t mean it like that. Of course he didn’t.” I shook my head and tried to stop the line of thinking I was about to follow.
But my neurons were already firing off in the same way they had been for years. I caught myself wanting to say, “You’d like that? Wouldn’t you?” All spit and vinegar. All angry teenage girl seething, “I do what I want to do.”
I wanted to lash out at every person who has ever assumed I took their opinions or desires into consideration when making my decisions. Who thought their preferences were floating around in my head while I debated what to do, what to wear, how to cut my hair, what scent to put on in the morning.
“No, actually. You never crossed my mind at all.”
When I dropped out of Berkeley my ex reached out to me and said he understood. That Cal wasn’t what he thought it would be, either. Followed with, “But why don’t you just admit you’re not cut out for it? That you only went there to spite me.”
To this day, my skin crawls when I think about it. How he could think–months after our break up–that my choices were bound to him.
Nobody spends that much time thinking about you, kid.
Thinking about me.
That’s the only consolation we get, isn’t it? The realization that no one spends their days wondering if what they’re doing is okay with us. That most hurts, joys, disappointments, heartbreaks, and wonderful surprises are all decided by chance.
Very few things in life are done to lift you up or to hurt you. You just happen to be there at the time.
It’s empowering and soul-crushing. We are small and insignificant. We can do anything without making much of a difference. May as well do what we want. Love fiercely and risk everything. Work hard and learn all we can. No one is watching.
This one’s for me.