The belated and not-so-thrilling conclusion to the V card hat trick.
It is summer. I am a bona fide ex-virgin with a boyfriend I can fuck as often as I please.
Well, not exactly. Chaining him up in my bedroom is not as viable an option as my libido would have me believe. But we manage.
The Spaniard’s parents bought him a new car for his birthday. We have already found all manner of dark corners to park it in. At the end of the academic year he took me to a formal dance at his school. My body-hugging long black dress looked positively stunning draped over the back of the passenger seat afterward as we steamed up the Jetta’s windows in a shadowy lane.
But now that school is out, I discover that being The Spaniard’s girlfriend has extra perks beyond movie dates and the occasional hot and heavy session in the VW. While my own so-called friends have been deliberately MIA due to an extreme epidemic of bitchiness, The Spaniard’s friends quickly take a shine to me. Before I know it, I am swept off my feet and firmly deposited into a booming social life consisting of party after party of the garden, pool and beach varieties.
It seems too good to be true, and it is.
I am invited to a girls-only sleepover by a lovely soul named Melody. It is my first invitation of the summer that does not include The Spaniard. My anxious tendencies take over and I try to make excuses, certain I have only been asked out of politeness, or worse, at The Spaniard’s request, but The Spaniard assures me he had nothing to do with it. The girls beg and plead and wear me down until I promise to attend. Even so, I am surprised at how warmly I am greeted upon my arrival, how quickly I feel included. I realize I have grown unaccustomed to kindness.
But the good feeling is fleeting. Halfway through our second McCain Deep ‘n Delicious cake of the night, there is a knock at the door and Melody risks her freshly painted toenails to wobble over and answer it. Standing on the doorstep is The Spaniard…in full drag, complete with outlandish blonde wig and dainty handbag.
The girls cackle at his valiant effort to circumvent the evening’s No Boys Allowed rule, but he is nonetheless barred from crossing the threshold. Instead I am good-naturedly shoved forward to assure him I am alive and well and send him on his way. I am quick to do so, but not quick enough. We are cajoled into an awkward goodnight kiss that makes an even bigger mess of The Spaniard’s already poorly-applied lipstick.
As the door shuts on his retreating form in its ill-fitting dress and I wipe the waxy red smudge from my face, the girls gush over how sweet it was of him to come check up on me. I smile and nod, but truthfully I find myself incredibly uncomfortable and turned off by the gesture. It seems too wildly out of character to have been hatched out of mere concern for my well-being.
The more I think about it, and about him, the more positive I become that it was a controlling, manipulative move. An ambush visit not to ensure I’m having a good time, but to remind me that he’s the reason I have these new friends. And demonstrating that he will go to any means necessary to make certain I don’t forget it.
It’s effective. I spend the rest of the evening unsuccessfully trying to scrub the image of his tacky blue eye shadow and whore red lips from my memory.
We never speak of that night. We continue as if nothing happened, but now that I’ve begun actively watching for the red flags, they’re everywhere. I was just too busy being Miss Popular to notice. But I’m on to him now. And once I start pushing back against his manipulative challenges instead of turning a blind eye, he goes to greater extremes.
He starts a fight as he’s driving me home one night; a sudden, heated spat over something totally insignificant. He stops the car at the side of the road and tells me to get out, and after some more yelling back and forth, I do. He speeds off down the road until he’s out of sight, only to circle around and reappear at my side a minute later, apologizing and begging me to get back in. I can’t pretend I don’t need the ride to get home on time, but I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cave too quickly, either, so I keep walking and make him roll the car slowly beside me for a full block before I comply.
I keep going out with him because it’s something to do, but it’s getting tiring.
Even our romps in the backseat of the Jetta have developed an element of tedium. Our lovemaking has become repetitive and one-note. I suggest switching things up and trying different positions, but The Spaniard always finds something to complain about if I’m not on top doing all the work. Irritated by his unwillingness to adapt, I develop an irrational smugness about the fact that I have never so much as bothered to fake an orgasm in his presence, let alone had a real one. This is not lost on him. One night he remarks, “I guess I’ll take you home so you can finish yourself off,” and it takes every ounce of my willpower not to burst into laughter.
Just when our mind games have reached an all-out exhausting intensity, The Spaniard breaks the news to me that he will be visiting family in Spain for the whole last month of the summer. In the wake of this announcement, we temporarily drop our pettiness and try to make the most of the days before he leaves. The romantic, doting boyfriend of our inaugural tryst in the woods appears to make a comeback, and for a while it really does seem as though absence will make the heart grow fonder.
Or maybe just fatter. On the eve of The Spaniard’s departure, he arrives at my door with a box of thirty chocolate truffles, one for each day he will be away.
From afar he emails me a poem he wrote me, full of dark, hauntingly sensual imagery. The wording is so evocative that I immediately resolve to set it to music, and add it to my pile of angsty teen songwriting attempts in progress.
On our five month anniversary, spent apart, The Spaniard’s smiling mother hand delivers a bouquet of stunning peace roses in his stead.
But as summer draws to a close and I face the reality of returning to a school I hate, depression sets in, and my interest in being in any kind of relationship is waning fast. At this point, I finally admit to myself, I’m only really in it for sex and friends, but the sex is mediocre; the friends, secondhand. As I retreat further into self-indulgent wallowing, I recognize The Spaniard’s supposedly grand romantic gestures for what they are: meaningless placebos. For the first time, I wonder if he’s been chasing girls in Spain. I discover I don’t care if he has.
I begin contemplating our partnership’s end with as much strategy and mindfulness as I had devoted to the orchestration of its beginning. As tempting as it would be to simply break things off myself, I don’t want him laying claim to the role of the injured party. I need him to be the bad guy. I want him to be so much of a dick that even his best friends say, “Man, that Spaniard, what a douchebag!” instead of, “Man, that Nut, what a bitch!”
I’m sure he can deliver. So I wait.
The Spaniard comes home to a girlfriend devoid of life. It’s not an act. I’m truly miserable, and it’s quickly clear that whatever spark once made me desirable has effectively been quenched. We meet up at my favorite park and idle on the swings as he tells me about Spain, but after his talk elicits little more than nods and “uh-huhs”, he reluctantly asks me what’s wrong. I shrug and tell him I’ve just been depressed lately. He comes over and gives me a hug, but it feels obligatory, half-hearted at best. In that moment, I know I’ve won. It’s only a matter of time.
Shortly after our lackluster reunion, my parents whisk me away for one last weekend at the lake before school starts up. I intend to spend most of it sitting out on the dock, brooding. But on the second day of dangling my toes in the cool water and staring into space, a calm descends. Something has changed, I can tell. Whatever it is, the end is in sight.
When I get home and log in to ICQ, he messages me immediately.
“We need to talk.”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” I reply.
There is a pause. And then: “I slept with someone.”
“Oh? Do tell.” I don’t bother pretending to be shocked.
“Look, I really missed you this weekend.”
“LMAO. You’ve sure got a funny way of showing it.”
“But the last time I saw you, you were just so…I don’t know. You were all sad. You weren’t exactly fun to be around, okay.”
“Gee, sorry my depression’s such a downer for you. Cause it’s totally a picnic for me.”
“Look, I’m just trying to be honest. I was looking forward to seeing you, but you didn’t seem to care that I was back. And then you left town.”
“That wasn’t my choice. My parents made me. Besides, you were gone for a whole month and that wasn’t an issue. I can’t go away for a fucking weekend without you screwing someone?”
“I was just lonely, okay?” There’s a pause, as if he’s waiting for me to respond. When I say nothing, he continues. “I went to a party on Saturday. Katelyn was there alone too, her boyfriend just broke up with her. So we went somewhere quiet to talk, and I was comforting her, and we had a few drinks, and…well…”
“…and you decided to take advantage of a drunk ballet dancer with an eating disorder who’d just been dumped? Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Okay, now I’m actually angry.
“It wasn’t like that…”
“Bullshit it wasn’t. Did you even use protection?”
“…I don’t know. We’d both had a few. I don’t think so.”
I resist the urge to try and strangle the monitor. “So now the freshly-dumped bulimic ballerina has to worry that she might be pregnant too? Wow, you’re a piece of work.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I just needed to tell you what happened. I don’t expect you to forgive me, so I guess this is probably over.”
“You’re damn right we’re over. But since we’re all being so honest, I have to say, I’m actually glad you turned out to be a cheating bastard. I was going to break up with you anyway, but I hate being the one to dump someone. I always feel like a horrible person afterward. So thanks for stepping up and being the asshole here. You really made things a lot easier on me.”
“Now fuck off and go apologize to Katelyn, you piece of shit.”
I get a phone call from Katelyn a week later, asking to meet me for coffee. Before we’ve even ordered our drinks, she’s begging my forgiveness for her role in my relationship’s end, but I wave her apologies away.
“Don’t even worry about me. I mean it. I’m glad it’s over, really. It just sucks how things went down, and I’m sorry you had to be involved. Are you going to be okay?”
For a second she looks like she might start to cry, but the moment passes and she smiles at me gratefully. “I’ll live. Thanks. Thanks for being so nice about this. I was afraid you’d hate me. I came prepared for you to call me all sorts of names, which you would be completely entitled to do…”
“I know what he’s like. It’s not your fault.”
“I still feel like a bitch.”
“Don’t. He took advantage, and he knows it. Don’t beat yourself up.”
A couple of months post-breakup, I decided to pick up a few of the CDs The Spaniard used to play in his car. Despite everything, I couldn’t deny he had introduced me to some amazing music.
I’d have bought several of the albums long before, but he’d told me not to bother, that I could just borrow them from him whenever I wanted. Under the circumstances, I doubted that offer was still good.
After a trip to Virgin Records downtown – and fighting the usual shrink wrap battle back at home – I sat down at the computer and popped in a disc by The Tea Party, dark and brooding to match my mood. I hummed along to the familiar melodies somewhat absentmindedly as I browsed the internet. But as the tenth track began to play, I suddenly snapped to attention.
I had never heard this song.
We had listened to this CD in The Spaniard’s car about a million times. I thought I knew it forwards and backwards. Why had I never heard this song?
Eighteen seconds in, I knew why. Because while the tune was unfamiliar to me, the lyrics were not. I knew them well. Extremely well.
You fucking prick.
I logged on to ICQ. The Spaniard was online.
“So I picked up that Tea Party CD of yours that I always liked so much,” I messaged him, not bothering to say hello.
“Oh, yeah? …oh. OH. Uh…”
“Yeah. That was really nice of you to let them put that great poem of yours to music.”
“What can I say? It was way better than anything I tried to write for you, so I figured why not?”
“Y’know, every time I think you couldn’t possibly be more of a dick, you manage to find a way. Good job.”
I was going to leave it at that, but before I could log off, The Spaniard wrote back.
“Did you hear Andrea broke up with me?”
Andrea was a girl at my school who had apparently been The Spaniard’s confidante during our relationship. Every little lie he had told me, he had also laughed about with her. She made a point of triumphantly informing me of this when they started officially seeing each other a little while after The Spaniard and I broke up. I shrugged and told her I didn’t understand the logic of dating someone who openly admitted they were a liar and a cheat, but hey, whatever floated her boat.
“No, I hadn’t heard, but I can’t say I’m surprised. She finally see the flaw in that relationship, did she?”
“She said she realized she could never really trust me.”
I snorted out loud. “Gee, I wonder why, Mr. Poet.”
I logged off and walked into the living room. I opened the folder on the piano where the page of stolen verse was sitting, still waiting ironically for me to put it to music. Shaking my head, I removed it from the folder, balled it up and tossed it in the trash.
“A plagiarist,” I muttered to myself as I sat back down at the computer. “A lying, manipulative cheater is one thing, but I can’t believe I lost it to a goddamn plagiarist.”