She’s on the standard-issue dorm couch, gingerly perched on the only spot not soaked in cheap light beer. She waits for the boy she’s secretly in love with to finish his game of beer pong.
It’s always the same. She comes alone on a Friday or Saturday- her whole week is the long stretch between them.
She sits quietly on the couch in her little floral top and tugs at the hem of her little denim shorts and twirls a lock of processed cornsilk hair in her fingers. She makes herself small and sweet and smiling.
Boys like girls who are small and sweet and smiling. Boys make them their girlfriends. Boys posts pictures of small smiling girls on their facebooks. Boys tell their mothers about girls like that.
If only she is small and sweet and smiling. And patient. She is so patient. She sits for hours in near silence, fending of the advances of drunk roommates. Just watching. Smiling.
Eventually, he’ll finish his game. He’ll bum a cigarette from his roommate, and he’ll clumsily try to smoke it with the secret fear that somewhere across the country his mother can feel him breaking the one rule she had for him. He’ll pee off the balcony. He’ll stare at her with bloodshot red-blue eyes. He’ll go to his room without saying a word. Her phone will buzz a few seconds after with her formal invite to join him.
Everyone knows where she goes. Everyone knows she’s in love with him. She thinks that maybe if she’s patient he’ll love her too. He’ll stop talking about his ex when they’re alone. He won’t tell her that she’s so similar to the girl back home but different enough that he can’t be seen with her at parties. He’ll be proud to have her. He’ll love her too. Maybe then, when he touches her, she’ll feel more than a dull ache in her stomach. She just has to wait.
He’s tall and lanky with dark hair and a perpetual smug smile. The world exists only for his derision; there is no pleasure in anything. Everything is ironic, everything is a commentary, everything is old and silly. Everything is a half-assed satire of something else, a parody of a parody, watered down until nothing true exists.
He’s always saying something awful about someone. He’s never smiled or laughed when it wasn’t at another’s expense.
This time he says, “Women are still learning to be people.”
And everyone looks at her. She’s the only girl in the room.
She has to be cool. She has to be cool about loving a boy who doesn’t love her back. About the anxiety that keeps her up all night and makes her miss her classes. About being “on call”. About the creepy redhead from down the hall who puts porn on the tv whenever she’s around. About the sexist jokes. About the homophobic slurs hurled at the only male friend she has here- who only just worked up the courage to be who he is. She has to be cool. She can’t be like “other girls”. Other girls are bad and expect things like love and respect and kindness, and she doesn’t know why those words are spit like poison, but she doesn’t say anything. She never says anything.
So she just stares.
He begins to laugh at his own witty take on feminism. At his edgy joke and how it made her uncomfortable. He laughs and laughs, and they all join in. She’s silly for having come here. She’s silly for trying too hard to not be like the other, silly girls.
Her eyes are black. All the way through.
The boys laugh until their stomachs ache. They laugh until they can’t breathe. They keep laughing. Until there is fear etched into their faces, until each new fit of laughter brings up bubbles of blood in their throat and out their mouths and down their alt-pop band t-shirts. They laugh until the last one slumps over dead in the beer-soaked carpet.
Still without saying anything she delicately climbs over their bodies to the door. She is careful to make sure their blood doesn’t ruin her pretty floral top with the peasant sleeves. She is small and sweet and smiling. She is amber-vanilla body spray and death.
He was right, though, about women not being people. At least not in the sense of being human.