#15 I’m committed to myself
Aimee and I are curled up on her mother’s couch. Her mother went to bed a minute ago, so we’re finally alone, able to dive into all our crap.
“I walked in,” she says, her eyes staring at the TV unseeingly. “He gave me his key the day before, and I let myself in, and then… I hear noises.”
“Noises?” I ask, fearing I already know what she’s talking about.
“Yeah, moans and grunts and shits,” she says, shivering. “I honestly thought he was watching porn, so I walked into his bedroom, planning to replace his hand with my mouth, but turns out he was balls-deep inside of some puck bunny. The kind of girl he said he was done with.”
“Men suck,” I grunt, pulling her to me. “Justin didn’t deserve you.”
“I know,” she agrees, sniffling a little. “Still hurts, though.”
I hug her even harder, and when she breaks down and gets me all wet, I don’t let go. I hate that Aimee is hurting, but in a weird way, it’s sort of nice to be broken together instead of alone. I know how she feels.
“I thought he was the one,” she whimpers, wiping her nose on my shirt. Gross. “He is so… fuck, Nia, I wish that you’d met him, because I feel like you would get it if only you’d seen him.”
“I get it,” I assure her. “He seemed like the kind of guy who was going to make up for all the crap other guys put you through, he said all the right things, and you let yourself belief he’d be different.” It’s what I thought Randy would be for me.
“Exactly,” Aimee says with a sigh, reaching for her glass of water. We’re not drinking any alcohol tonight, too sad to fuel our depressions with wine or beer. “Justin was… he was…”
“Yes,” she whimpers. “Except he wasn’t.”
“They never are.” Finally, I come clean about everything that has happened to me and because of me these past weeks. Aimee is the first person I confide in, and she gasps at all the right moments, looking at me with wide watery eyes, her nails digging into my skin.
“Oh God,” she breathes. “Sebastian took advantage of you, Nia. That wasn’t your fault. And Randy… fucking hell, that guy is an asshole. Xavier as well.”
I shake my head, sipping my apple juice. “What did I expect? Getting drunk the way I did… And opening my legs for every single one of them…”
“Nia!” Aimee exclaims, shaking her head at me, her blonde hair tumbling out of the messy bun on top of her head. “With Sebastian, you couldn’t even walk on your own. He took advantage of you for sure. And Randy… yeah, okay, you act like a slut sometimes, and you sure did with Xavier, but not with Randy. Even if you did, guys should always ask a girl if they can invite a friend along for a threesome. You don’t just spring that on someone. That is fucked-up.”
It feels so good to hear that maybe it wasn’t all my fault, even though I still blame myself. It’s too easy to put it all on the guys. I was there, I inhaled all those shots all on my own, and no one ever threatened me or forced me into anything. Blaming others is too easy.
“What… what do you think about… Khiêm?” I ask, feeling nervous now.
“Who?” Aimee asks, frowning.
“I thought his name was Jagger?”
“Not him,” I reply with a small smile. “I mean the Asian guy.”
Aimee racks her brain to figure out who I mean. “Oh, wait, the nerd? “
I nod. “Yeah, the nerd.”
“I don’t know him well enough to have an opinion about him.” Aimee’s eyes take in my expression, and she smiles. “Judging by your reacting to his name alone, I think I might like him. I didn’t think he was your type, though.”
“It’s not like that,” I rush out. “He… I mean… I’m sort of moving in with him.”
Aimee’s eyes widen and it takes me a long time to fill her in but. Once I’ve told her everything, she’s beaming at me. “That’s great. You truly do need to have a place of your own, and I think living with Khiêm might just be what you need to move on to the next phase of your life. Guess what…” She wiggles her eyebrows. “I’m moving on with you.”
“Moving on to what?” I ask, sipping my juice.
“To liking ourselves,” Aimee says, giving me a tight-lipped smile. For the first time ever, I realize that she feels the same things I do. She knows her goal in life – her own salon – but she’s still living with her mother, and the guys she falls in love with always cheat on her or dump her. Or both. “And to finally making something of ourselves.”
“Hear hear,” I agree, clinking my glass to hers. “No more guys for us. As of now, we’re in a relationship with ourselves.”
Aimee giggles. “Guess my vibrator is going to be busy the next couple of months.” Then her eyes widen. “Fuck, you don’t get off from masturbation, do you? Oh my, being in a relationship with yourself is going to be so hard for you.”
Aimee is one of the few people who knows that I can’t get myself off. Vibrators, my own fingers, the steady stream of my pulsating showerhead… Nothing has ever done the trick. All I’ve ever gotten off from are men. Stupid, filthy, horrible men. Which is one of the many reasons I’ve been settling for hook-ups without commitments for years now.
“I will manage,” I assure her. Although honestly… I can’t help but wonder what it will be like to stop sleeping around. I feel fine right now, but it’s only been a few days. Will I start craving orgasms eventually?
“We’ll be strong together,” Aimee vows. “Although, obviously, I will be masturbating like crazy. Otherwise, I will turn into a crazy bitch for sure.”
“Yeah, because you’re so lovely now.”
We both laugh, and I’m so happy to have my friend back. I hate that it involved her and Justin breaking up, but everyone but her knew it would happen eventually. Aimee has been my bestie since… forever, really. She knows everything about me, and she still loves me. She has horrible taste in men, just like me. Deciding to remain celibate until we find someone worthy might seem weird, but the fact that we’re doing it together assures me that it’s the right decision.
“You are… what?” Marcus asks, looking from me to Khiêm with wide eyes. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No, we’re not,” I reply, taking a bite of the burritos I made for the three of us. We’re at Marcus’ apartment, and since I’m officially moving in with Khiêm tomorrow, we figured we should tell my brother. “Me and Khiêm are going to be roommates.”
Marcus blinks a few times, hands frozen halfway to his face, his burrito falling apart as he squeezes it too tightly. “B-but… I mean… you…”
“I have a spare room, and Nia needs to get her shit together,” Khiêm states simply. I’m not even offended by his words. We all know it’s true. “She’s going crazy at home, and she doesn’t have the money to get her own place.”
Marcus takes another moment to wrap his head around this, but eventually a smile lights up his features. “That’s great. Thanks, man.”
Yeah, I figured he’d see it like this. Marcus feels like Khiêm is taking care of his baby sister like the good friend he is. In a way, I think that’s true. Khiêm feels indebted to Marcus because he took care of Phuong years ago, even if it was just for a week or so. After spending a full week shopping for stuff for my room, assembling my bed with Khiêm and putting all his crap in the closet we bought to put in his studio, I don’t feel like it’s only about his debt to Marcus, though. We get along even better than I thought we would, and I think that Khiêm is lonely, to be honest. He seems so happy to have someone to talk to that I almost feel bad for him. Sure, he talks to fellow gamers and fans for hours each day, but that’s not the same as having someone in your space who isn’t just… digital, you know? Someone made out of flesh and blood, laughing at your jokes.
Or maybe I’m just trying to find reasons to make it okay that I’m invading his apartment with all my crap. I don’t know.
“This won’t be weird, right?” I ask, looking from Khiêm to Marcus. “Me living with your best friend?”
Marcus shakes his head. “Of course not. I think it’s great. No offense, but you need a change, because right now…”
“I know,” I say when he trails off. “I’m a mess. Trust me, Marcus, I’m well aware of that.”
“Nia,” he replies softly. “What happened with Sebastian? I know you said it was your own fault, but… I mean…”
I shake my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He will tell me what Aimee told me: that Sebastian took advantage of me. Maybe he did, I don’t know, but fact is I allowed myself to get so drunk I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, and Sebastian was hardly the first guy I allowed to fuck me even though I wasn’t truly into him. I want to feel worthy, wanted, beautiful. And I use guys to make me feel like that, even though they never truly do it for me.
“Now that you’re my bitch, will you cook for me every single day?” Khiêm asks, sweeping in to save the day and change the subject.
“Don’t call my sister your bitch,” Marcus says, but he’s smiling.
“How about we each take turns cooking,” I offer. “Surely you know how to after living on your own since you were 20?”
“18,” he corrects me. “Two years in the dorms, and six years at my own mancave.”
“So you know how to cook?” I ask, noticing that he never answered my question.
“I know how the microwave works and I can boil pasta,” Khiêm growls, looking down at his plate. “You’ve lived at your parents’ house all your damn life, Nia. Don’t judge.”
Marcus grins. “Dude, you have no idea what you got yourself into. Nia always judges everyone. She’s probably already put you in the gross nerd category in her mind.”
Khiêm and I lock eyes for a moment, and I hope he knows that I didn’t do that. Okay, yeah, maybe I did at first, but he’s more than a nerd, and he’s not gross. The past week, he’s been my saving grace. I may be a judgmental bitch, but not about the guy that offered me a place to stay when I needed it. Not about the guy who listened to me when no one did. Not about him.
“I can cook,” I say when the silence keeps stretching on, growing uncomfortable. “Mom taught me. I’m sure I can show you how to make things that aren’t pasta or microwave crapfests.”
“Sweet,” Khiêm replies, taking another bite of his burrito. “I will be your faithful student.”
Marcus laughs. “Oh boy, I can’t wait for you to realize just who you invited into your home.”
“Nice, bro,” I grumble, rolling my eyes at him.
“You know what I mean,” Marcus says, ruffling my hair. “You’re my sister, and I love you, but damn you’re difficult sometimes.”
“Don’t touch my hair,” I bite out, trying to get my curls back to the careful way I styled them.
“Exhibit A,” Marcus says solemnly, winking at Khiêm. “Good luck, dude.”