Ryan was stupid.
That was her decision.
But she didn’t mean he was stupid in that way that she always said it, like he should listen to her and realize that Beyonce is so much more of a genius than Bill Gates and if he did listen but he disagreed with her she thought he was totally stupid…just blind to anything awesome. This time she didn’t mean it that way. Well actually she did. But that wasn’t the point.
The point was that Ryan was literally stupid, and she’d been right all along.
Because it was like she had to do a dance with pom-poms to get his attention or something. She had to squeal and jump and clap her hands like she had all through high school. She’d stopped doing that during college, but he reminded her of her high school boyfriends and so she turned into a high school girlfriend. Crying and drunkenly kissing him… picking fights because it was the only way she knew how to get him to talk to her at all. But she had other things to say, too. It wasn’t like the only thoughts she had were ones that annoyed him, she just had to get some kind of reaction from him…some kind of emotion… Otherwise what was she doing?
She was not one of those trashy girls who just hooked up with guys. Really, she wasn’t. Because those girls were gross. And she also couldn’t stand guys who just wanted any girl…like who wanted any spot to just…ugh…disgusting. She hated that.
So she’d spent her time with Ryan trying to get him to prove himself. And in the end he didn’t.
Because he was stupid.
That was her decision.
The thing with men was that sometimes they were boys. Like Ryan was just not grown up and always rolling his eyes and trying to make other people look bad. But she had her share of weird problems or whatever, so she tried to overlook his and be a nice girlfriend and work with what he had. Sometimes men were boys and she had to be a girl in order to even stand them at all, in order to make it work she had to be seventeen again. That was just a fact of life. Like when J Lo was with P Diddy. She had to just act a certain way.
But then sometimes, every once in a while in the moments when you least expected it, sometimes men were men…really just men in this tall, tree trunk kind of way. Like George Clooney. Like serious men who thought squealing and jumping was weird and who only wanted you to kiss them if you were sober. Men. Manly…sexy…men. Kelly had only really been with one of those kinds of men. Her junior year of college she’d met this guy named Max who she thought looked kind of like Keanu Reeves and made her totally melt so that she couldn’t concentrate at all during English Lit.
She found out from a friend of a friend that he was having a party on Halloween and she thought she didn’t even care that she was supposed to be doing something with her roommate, she would go to this guy’s house and do the thing that she always did, which was so genius and worked every time.
She had this cup full of coke, plain coke, but she pretended it was half rum, and she would act drunk because guys always liked her better that way. And she wore a low cut shirt and she sipped daintily, finally finding him in a corner and draping her arm around his shoulders and chattering about English and Shakespeare and how she didn’t get it at all (even though that was a total lie) and he had frowned at her.
That had never happened before.
And he said: “It’s Kelly, right?”
And she said yes.
And he said: “Didn’t Dr. Harper announce that you were the only A on our last exam?”
He’d asked her that with his voice rumbling low and directly into her ear. She had frozen…she had not known what to say because he was right, but guys didn’t usually remember that kind of thing. She nodded stiffly, thinking that was the end of her party for the night. He grinned at her and reached for her hand behind his neck, grabbing the cup she was holding and tipping it up to his lips, his eyes shining when he realized it was not spiked at all. She thought if she were the type of person who blushed now would be a really good time.
Sure that he was about to walk away from her and find someone less sober and less intelligent to talk to, her eyes widened in surprise when he wrapped a long arm around her waist and pressed his mouth against her ear. He was solid and strong and she leaned into him because she had never felt so not in control of the moment before.
“Don’t lie so much, Kelly,” he breathed, and she felt her mouth curl up into a half-grin. When she spoke her voice was lower than before, easy on her vocal chords and smooth like caramel.
“Thanks for the advice. Do you always ruin a girl’s fun?” she wondered spicily. He chuckled.
“I don’t think your fun is ruined,” he’d assessed, and she felt a certain kind of unfamiliar thrill shoot down her spine and then settle somewhere deep in her stomach. She pulled back and looked him in the eye, her gaze sparkling with interest and surprise. “Do you?” he asked huskily. She shrugged. And then she walked away from him.
Because she knew this game just like she knew the other game. When she glanced at him over her shoulder he was laughing and eyeing her appreciatively.
They dated for two years, and she broke up with him right before graduation because she found him in his bedroom getting head from a drunken sorority girl with blonde hair and huge boobs. When Kelly had walked in on them the girl had giggled and muttered some kind of embarrassed exclamation in a high pitched voice that made Kelly flinch.
She walked away from him then, too. But it was different that time. It was a lot less fun.
Sometimes men were boys and they wanted you to talk fast about nothing and then get down on your knees. She knew that for a fact.
It was almost inevitable.
That was why she was always so surprised when Darryl shook his head at her. She would reach for his belt and he would shake his head. She would start to talk about what she’d read in InStyle magazine and he would shake his head. She would feel her voice pinch upward in that certain way that she had when she would start to fight with him, accuse him of using her, mask her real feelings with this tinny sounding falseness, and he would just look at her like she had insulted him and he would shake his head.
It seemed like now she was just quiet all the time…just waiting to feel comfortable with how much herself she was…how much…just older. He only kissed her if she looked him in the eye first. He only smiled at her if she said something really, genuinely funny. He only moaned if she spoke to him with caramel dripping from her vocal cords.
Ryan used to tell her to shut up.
Darryl would tell her to quiet down…to talk low…and then when her voice floated smooth and deep across his chocolate skin, he would ask her to say whatever she'd said again. And she would.
Sometimes men were boys and then sometimes men were men. And she liked the way that Darryl’s eyes flashed hot and deep when she told him what she wanted. She liked the way that Darryl’s hands were steady on her hips and pulling her towards him instead of pushing her away. She liked the way Darryl was honest, even if this was all going to bite her in the ass eventually.
Because Darryl was a man…at least for the moment.
And Ryan was a boy.
Even with his fancy promotion and his stupid beard that she hated, he was still just a fourteen year old in costume.
And he was still just like really, really, totally like…