It wasn’t my whole life that flashed before my eyes. It wasn’t even my whole time with Lisa.
It was more like unconnected vignettes, just funny things, flashing all in a row as my throat closed up and choked the air out of my lungs, as my hands pawed at my bag where I always kept my EpiPen–
Flashes of the psychotic ways that she loved me.
I remembered her telling me that she was fighting with her roommate. But not in a way that anybody could tell, not even him. Instead, she would go into the bathroom every night and touch her finger to her eyeball, then touch the same finger to his toothbrush.
“But why?” I asked, laughing at the image.
“Because it’s gross,” she said. “And because I’m mad at him. He’s moving out.”
“So what? I’ll move in instead.” And then I held her down and licked her eyeball as she squirmed underneath, just to prove how un-grossed-out I was by her ideas of passive-aggressive revenge.
Laughing, she wriggled in my arms. “Don’t you ever leave me!” she shrieked.
I remembered her confessing to cheating on me, and I remembered telling her that I didn’t care. And the crazy thing was that I didn’t.
It had been at a music festival, she said, both of them covered in mud and body odor, grappling in his tent while distant guitars chugged outside, some spaced-out hippie snoring on a sleeping bag next to them.
“I knew you were psychotic when I fell in love with you,” I told her. It wasn’t a diagnosis. Just our word to describe the intense way she felt and acted on everything. She was almost feral in some ways. All actions, no words. “Hell, if you weren’t that kind of person–the kind who gets swept up in doing and feeling–I don’t know that I’d love you so much.”
Tearful, miserable, she clung hard to me, as if her confession had left her drowned. “I’m serious,” she sobbed. “Don’t you dare ever leave me.”
I remembered getting furious at her only once. When I found out that she had replaced my prescription shampoo with plain old Head & Shoulders. She had had some reason for it, some slight or insult of mine that had warranted the act. But I had blown up in anger.
“Don’t you understand, Lisa?” I shouted. “This thing we have only works because I can trust you. All the things you never say, all the crazy things you do. It only works because I’m willing to trust you somehow–”
But then she seemed to dissolve into pure terror, begging and pleading until I finally told her what she needed to hear. “I promise you, Lisa. No matter what you do. Even this, even something worse–I will never leave you–”
Not a whole life, like I said. Not even a whole relationship.
Just some memories that flashed by as I searched for my EpiPen. Then suddenly she was there, materializing out of nowhere, handing me the backup that we keep taped to the side of the refrigerator next to the fire extinguisher.
Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh—
I raise my hand and prepare to jam down hard into my leg–
(My eyes wandering at the last second, straying to hers, trying to read her expression. What is she feeling, what is she thinking? Why is she holding her breath that way? I’ve never used an EpiPen before, never had to stab myself, so does it always feel like this in your hand? Or is this somehow different? Wrong—? And most important, most important of all–
Does she still believe me? Or is she convinced that my words are lies? That I’m passive-aggressively plotting some betrayal of her, waiting for the right moment to spring my unsuspected revenge–
Just as she would do if I treated her the way that she treats me—)
I’d say it if I could, but my throat is already shut. I can’t tell her anymore than I already have.
I’ll never leave you. I never will—
Not for a minute, for as long as we both shall live—
Whether I can trust you or not.