Comparisons are odious.
“The one I love last is the one I love the most,” Yan says. I’ve just broken up with a man who was obsessed with my exes. How many there were, who they were, and whether he would stack up. But Yan is different. He says he doesn’t care who I’ve been with. And that I shouldn’t trouble myself with who he’s been with either. Who he has loved in the past.
Yan means it as reassurance. And at the time it works.
But I think of Yan’s words a few years later when I’m watching fireworks with my boyfriend Kurt and his friend Otis. Otis is a tall, lumbering sort of man. He reminds of the trolls in the old Gold Box Pool of Radiance.
“She’s alright, I guess, but she’s nothing like the last girl I dated. Not even in the same league,” Otis says, of his girlfriend. His girlfriend frowns. She can hear him. We all can. But she’s busy wrangling their kids, trying to keep their youngest from putting rocks into his mouth.
I turn away from all of them, taking long drags from my cigarette, my eyes watering. Kurt wraps his arms around my waist from behind me.
And I pretend Otis isn’t there for a while. On that roof during the fireworks show. And for weeks after. I politely refuse the leftover Domino’s Otis brings to our apartment after his delivery shift. Slices he gets to keep when the pranksters strike. Otis comes by often, to see Kurt and our roommates. To smoke up and listen to himself talk.
Otis brings it up often, how he blew it with the last girl and has settled for this lesser girlfriend. He doesn’t care if she’s there or not. He just says it. It’s public knowledge.
I don’t tell anyone, but it makes me sick. And it bothers me that no one else seems bothered.
But I do feel a little better when my roommate Noah tricks Otis into buying a bottle of ibuprofen poured into a sandwich baggie, telling him it’s some good shit. “Painkillers, man. A kind you’ve never tried. They’ll blow your mind.”
My book is out!