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The Puppy Love

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What’s the worst moment in your life?

Was it when your uncle inappropriately touched you at a family barbeque when you were 9? Was it when you stumbled upon your family members discussing your rapidly growing body at 12? Was it when your dad got into a life-threatening accident? Was it when your dad turned into a former shell of himself, and you have to watch him using tiny little pills for his pain? And then watching him choose to leave your family? Was it when you got that abortion you didn’t really want to but did because your boyfriend’s face turned green at the thought of starting a family with you?

Well, mine was when I answered his question.

Sitting alone on a dirty sidewalk at 11pm wallowing in self-pity and hatred was the last place I thought to find my salvation. He walked towards me, his tall shadow looming over me as I watched him take a sip from a bottle, and then the corner of his lips lifted. Back then I thought it was a grin, a playful expression wondering why was a girl drinking in a party dress in front of an empty convenience store before the stroke of midnight. Now it felt more like a sneer.

Once I was strapped into the seat of his car, I can’t move anymore. I can’t escape. And I don’t really want to.

Everyone told me that I had only one purpose in life: to look hot. My only valuable contribution to society is the golden locks that drape perfectly across my shoulders, framing my small heart-shaped face that is attached to a Bratz doll figure. That was all I was. Guys would find excuses to spend time alone with me for a night, and girls spend all day discussing what I do at night. No one ever bothered to look past the physical, except him. He gave me more than I could ever dream. He calls me back. He replies to my texts. He glances my way even though we weren’t going to be doing anything that night. He makes me feel seen. He makes me feel complete.

Sure there were some low points in the relationship, like when he doesn’t want anyone to find out about us like I’m a shameful person to be around. Or when he tells me I’m crazy when I catch him talking to some other girl. Or when he destroyed every other relationship I have in my life, but it doesn’t matter because he chose me. So, everyone can tell me I’m making a mistake or that I’m ruining my life but it’s okay because at least I’m wanted.

At least I’m loved.

And then something shifted. Instead of spending my mornings doing my 2-hour routine to please him at school, I just stare at the clock. I watched the hands move bit by bit until the time comes when he would be walking across the corridor soon, and then I drag my heavy feet to dress up the way he likes. He has a specific look he likes too. Bold eyeliner, skin-tight clothes, long pin-straight hair. It looked a lot like someone, but I was too afraid to say it. If I vocalised it, then it would become real. That I had just become another toy for him to play with, like all the other guys who came before him that did the same. I don’t know when did it happen but he became a stranger. Watching him interact with the people around me, listening in on his conversations, the mere feeling of his presence makes me feel ill at times. His touch felt like my uncle’s, foreign and sudden. His back resembled my father’s when he was running away to find drugs. His attitude was reminiscent of my exes, condescending and dismissive like I wasn’t worth his time on anything other than sex.

But he always came back. That was what made him different. He acknowledges me, he makes me feel seen, and he never left no matter how bad things got. And that was one thing no one has ever done for me.

So it may not be love, but my heart always feels so full when he’s around. He always made sure of that, even if he was the one that made it tired, but it’s okay since it’s still beating anyways. I don’t think it gets any better than this, so I don’t care what anyone says, what anyone does. What more disapproving glances and sharp whispers behind my back, I’m keeping him by my side no matter what it takes. Even if he tries to leave, I will not allow it because where else is he going to find the satisfaction I know I give him. And even if I can’t keep him by my side, I’m sure the little one in my womb can lend me a helping hand.

It’ll be different this time around.

© 2022 Alison Lian