March 24, 2015

Tessa's Story

by Zahra Barnes

Jack didnt snap out of his fog until I was standing right in front of him. Even then, I had to clear my throat to get his attention. He started, then rose to his feet, cheeks reddening just a touch.

Hey, you. Thanks for coming, he said. He wrapped his arms around me in an almost-hug, barely touching me. Caught off guard, I wasnt able to get my arms out before his made that impossible. It was like being in a human straitjacket. I was kind of worried you were going to stand me up there, he said.

Purposely be 10 minutes late to meet the guy who yanked my heart out of my chest cavity then pounded it with the emotional version of a meat tenderizer? Who, me? I would never.

Sorry, just had some things to do. What'd you get? I gestured at the mug on the table, full of coffee, spices, and swirls of foam.

Latte. Yours is coming right up. Ill grab it when its ready. Sit, please? Jack thrust his chin at the chair to my side, which I slid into while eyeing him but trying not to look like I was eyeing him. He sank into his chair, looking way too good for the occasion. It would have been extremely helpful to my cause if hed shown up with some sort of weeping facial rash or godawful haircut, but no. In sexy dark jeans and a crisp white button-down that only highlighted his insanely pretty eyes, he looked good enough to eat. Why was his hair so shiny?

I had time to think all of this to myself because Jack was just tapping a finger against his saucer, saying nothing and staring at what I had an inkling was the spot on my forehead between my eyes. Did he invite me here just to make me wonder if my foundation was doing its job?

Caramel latte! the barista called out. Jack shot out of his chair like a bullet to get the drink. Hed clearly had enough caffeine to get him through the conversation.

He brought the coffee over to me, holding it in front of him as it trembled in his hands. He set it down so hard some of the liquid slopped down the sides. What was he so nervous about?

Im kind of nervous, he said as he sat, mirroring my thoughts.

Thanks. And its OK, I said, even though I had no idea if that would be true after I heard what he had to say. So, what did you want to talk about?

He brought his mug to his lips and took a long sip. His eyes watered. Was he getting emotional already?

Too hot, he coughed as he put the mug down. Way too hot.

I laughed a little, more out of nerves than out of relishing seeing his discomfort. Are you OK?

Yeah. Sorry, I swear Im not stalling. So, it was crazy to run into you last night. It made me realize a lot of things, he said.

My stomach dropped. Yeah? Like what?

Well, I guess I didnt know what it was that made me just needspace. After you left my place, I mean. I just knew that I needed it, but not why.

In my mind, needing a little bit of space after weeks of living together was normal, not something that should have ended us. Thats totally fine. We were pretty new, so that makes sense. I pushed myself to say what I really meant. But why wouldnt you tell me that you wanted your space, or whatever you want to call it? Even if you didnt know why? Why just go straight to the silent treatment?

Honestly? He stopped, truly checking if I wanted the full truth.

I crossed my legs impatiently. Yes, honestly.

I thought youd freak out. I dont know if you realize this, but your life is really dramatic.

I bit my tongue, reining in a defensive comeback. What do you mean?

You get fired, your roommate goes on a crazy bender. He hesitated, then continued. People say you attract what you give off, you know? No offense, he said hurriedly.

I didnt realize you thought my life would make good reality TV fodder, I said. Id come into this prepared to be mature even though a guy who disappears on you after confessing his feelings and having sex with you doesnt really deserve that luxury, but now he was just pissing me off.

I mean, we werent seeing each other for that long. I saw how awesome you were with me, but I kind of thought you might just go insane if I told you I was breaking it off. I just dont like drama. Ah, the old blame a womans emotions for everything excuse. Lovely.

I wasnt going to pursue that line of conversation, already having to fight a table-flipping urge that would only prove him right. I felt my pulse tick along at a faster clip as I worked up the courage to ask what I really wanted to know. I forced the words out around the lump in my throat.

OK, but what went wrong? You said you realized last night.

Yeah, that. He looked relieved to be moving on, then immediately hiked his shoulders up near his ears as if preparing for the emotional blow of what he was about to say. It wasnt there. For you and me, it just wasnt. Youre an amazing girl, but I don't think were right for each other. I saw you last night and I wasnt hit with some, Oh my god, I need to be with this woman epiphany.

Still as a statue, I tried to process his words even though my heart slamming against my chest.

I dont really understand, I said. Im not saying were right for each other, because clearly were not. But you acted like everything was totally fine until it wasnt. You acted like there was something there, and thats what was wrong.

I know, but thats because you were pushing for things to be more serious—”

Me?! I was the one pushing for things to be more serious? Incredulous, I seized triumphantly on this absurd logic. In what world?

He stopped and blinked hard, suddenly looking much younger than his years and gaping like a goldfish.

Seriously, explain that to me. You were the one who asked if we could go on a getaway, who confessed your feelings on said getaway, and who offered to let me move in. I checked along the way that you were fine with the pace of all of it. Dont try to turn this around on me, Jack. Dont.

Yeah, but I did all of those things because of the vibe you were giving off! This, like, womanly vibe of wanting things. Youre great, and youre going to make someone really happy one day. And who knows, maybe Ill look back on this and realize I made a mistake.

“‘Thiswomanlyvibeofwantingthings.’” I spoke slowly like it was the most stupid thing Id ever heard in my life. It probably was, its potential only matched by his asinine Im going to regret this so much but Im still doing it like a dick sentiment. So, instead of acting like the adult youre supposed to be, you went along with it until you could just remove yourself from my life with no warning.

It sounds really harsh when you put it that way, he said. Um, yes, thats the point. But I really do think its for the best. Dont you? Im sure youre moving on, doing well, dating, you know? He looked at me with hopeful eyes that were begging me to ease his guilt.

I was just confused. Was it that he thought I was dramatic, or that he thought I was moving too fast, or that he just didnt see us together? I felt like he was throwing out excuses to see what stuck. He seemed like a confused teenager trying to get out of trouble with his mom.

It was my turn to take a long sip of my coffee. Creamy, warm, and with just enough of a kick, it spread through my core, taking a new kind of resolve with it.

You know, I was devastated when you left. I know saying left makes it sound serious, but thats what it was. Disappearing on someone you say you have a future with is leaving. And when I walked in here, I would have rather died than tell you that. I took my last swallow, put the mug down, and started fishing around in my purse. But Im not like you. I dont think it makes sense to hide my emotions, so I wont. Jack, youre an asshole.

His mouth dropped open, which only stoked the flames of my annoyance. This was really news to him?

You might be a great guy one day, when you grow up. For right now, though? Youre a grade-A douchebag, and I should thank you for doing me a favor. Youre one of those guys who hopes that a woman will feel too ashamed of her feelings to tell him that what he did was wrong. You chose the wrong girl for that. Bits of Amy Dunnes Cool Girl monologue rattled around in my head, spurring me on. I found what I needed in my bag and stood up to leave.

Thank you for proving to me that youre not worth it. It makes it a lot easier to forget you, I said. We made eye contact and he shrank into himself a bit, finally looking sufficiently ashamed. I took one last look at his beautiful eyes, one hazel, the other blue, then threw a crumpled $5 bill down onto the table and turned away. I didnt want to owe him anything.

Jostling tourists in an attempt to carve out my own little space in the flow of traffic, I waited for the tears to come. After a few shaky breaths, I knew my cheeks would remain dry.

Of course, that only lasted until I got some alcohol into my system. That night, I met Marley at an East Village bar. I pushed through the crowd and collapsed into the booth next to her, the story of my day spilling out before my ass hit the seat. Shed already ordered a round of lychee martinis. I was on my third when I saw Finn.

I called in some reinforcements, Marley yelled into my ear. I nodded happily. I was still in the good drunk phase. I felt powerful and vindicated.

Finn motioned toward the bar, clearly making a pit stop before joining our little estrogen huddle. As if on cue, two guys came over and introduced themselves, floppy-haired twins in gingham. I couldnt tell whether they were actually twins, and I didnt care. The one in red turned his attention to me while the one in blue homed in on Marley.

Youre way too pretty to be here without a guy, Red said to me.

I suppressed an eyeroll. Well, here I am.

My lucky night, he said, grinning. Or slurred, rather. His eyes were out of focus, his breath boozy. He was tanked. I glanced over at Marley, who was clearly enjoying Blues attention. She could have both of them, as far as I was concerned.

Finn finally came over, beer in hand. The twins swiveled their heads to look up at him, then back at me and Marley to see if Finn was welcome.

Guys, this is our friend Finn, I said. I couldn't for the life of me remember the twins names. Can you make some room?

They rolled their eyes but did it anyway. I wanted them to go away. I looked around the packed bar. A year ago, Id been with Grant. Id never have thought Id have to go to bars to meet guys again. Chatting up eligible men in alcoholic watering holes had always been a favorite pastime of mine, but Id just thought I was done with it. The reality of the night started closing in on me: Jack saw me and didnt fall on his knees, begging for me back. After everything we had, I still wasnt a revelation. I was here alone. I was going home alone. And I would lather, rinse, and repeat the process for who knows how long. Pearls of sweat beaded in between my shoulder blades.

Sorry, can I get out for a second? Everyone turned to stare at me, and I tried not to look too panicked. Finn, still in the process of getting settled, looked at me with a question in his eyes.

You OK? Marley asked.

Fine, I just need some air. Ill be back. I grabbed my coat, feeling like Id crawl out of my skin if I didnt get out of the bar immediately.

I burst into the chilly air with a grateful gasp. The massive doorman looked at me suspiciously. Im just going to take a break for a second, I said.

OK, sweetheart. Take your time.

That ounce of kindness was all it took. Ill never find a man whos that nice to me, I thought. It was one of those things that seems undeniably true in the moment, even though you know the next day youll wonder how you ever believed it at all. Embarrassed, I turned away and pinched the web of skin between my thumb and index finger, willing myself not to cry. I shuffled a few feet away so the doorman wouldnt feel the need to ask me what was wrong, then leaned against the wall and tilted my head back. I knew there were stars up there behind the smog, and all I wanted was to see them. Too much time gazing at the inky darkness gave me the spins, so I tucked my chin to my chest and closed my eyes, trying to clear my mind.

You need some water, someone said, startling me. My eyes flew open to find Finn standing in front of me.

I know. I just wanted to see the stars.

Finn tipped his head back even though he had to know there was no way hed be able to spot any pinpricks of light. None tonight.

The stars were beautiful in Hudson River Valley, I said quietly. The alcohol was urging me to think about Jack, even though I really didnt want to. Besides that coffee, Id only had a bagel. I knew this would only end badly. Where was all the power Id felt earlier in the day?

Finn looked at me quizzically. Hudson River Valley?

Where Jack and I went on our trip. I saw him today. And it was shit.

What happened?

He doesnt want me. He told me so. Just like Grant. Thats the terrible thing about alcohol. It dredges up old wounds you thought had long since healed. But apparently, the Grant-sized hole in my heart wasn't quite closed. I picked up the opening beats to Haims Forever pumping out of the bar, which was the only thing that made me feel slightly better.

Oh, come on. I dont know this Jack dude much, but Grant definitely wanted you. He just fucked up.

No! I slapped my thighs hard enough to sting. I dont know why, but they dont want me. I give myself to them and they take me for a test drive but Im never enough, I hiccuped, my tears on the verge of tears spilling over. I felt sick, probably from a mixture of alcohol and embarrassment. But a tiny part of me felt relieved to finally say what was quickly becoming my biggest fear: that no one would think I was worth staying with.

Instead of the usual protestations, Finn was silent. I scanned his face, suddenly terrified he was trying to decide if he should be a good friend and tell me everything I was doing wrong. He looked torn, but he took a step toward me all the same.
Tessa, youre more than enough. His voice shook at the end. I looked at his hands. Also shaking. How can you not see that?

With that, he put both hands on the sides of my face. Time slowed like syrup as he leaned down and touched his lips to mine. I froze while his thumbs traced my jaw, the rest of his fingers coming to rest on the back of my neck. My skin erupted into goosebumps, whether from surprise or from the cold, I couldnt tell. His lips, soft and warm, moved against mine tentatively at first, then with more assurance. For a second, I responded in kind. I deepened the kiss, brought my hands up to his wrists and latched on, worked my fingers over the muscles of his forearms.

Then my brain sounded the alarm. What the hell was I doing? This was Finn. Finn, my friend, who Id never even glanced at in that way. Finn, who had a girlfriend, turning me into the Sophie of their relationship.

I yanked my head back so hard I cracked it against the concrete wall. Stars exploded in front of my eyes.

Shit, Tessa, are you OK? Im sorry—”

I massaged the quickly-growing knot on the back of my head. No, Im not OK! I pour my soul out to you and you take it as a chance to get some?

What? His eyes dimmed. Of course not! You know me better than that!

All I know is that I need to leave. Now. For the second time that day, I turned and fled from a guy who, on the surface, seemed perfect. Just not for me.


  1. Chris - @nylonlover69 on IG/TwitterMarch 24, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    Yes, ma'am... a grade-A douchebag... that's what Jack is all right.

  2. I seriously fist pumped when Tessa gave Jack that dressing down! Not enough guys hear it, I myself had to give one of those the other day. YES!!!!!!

  3. Oh I was hoping Finn would kiss her (was looking for a back her up to wall kind of kiss, but not hit her head lol) I think Finn has liked her for a while

  4. I think this is a good time for Tessa to focus on her job and putting all her energy into that. I can really see her succeeding in that, and it would be nice to have a protagonist that was not so bogged down in boy drama.

  5. That was an intense post... Jack is absolutely ridiculous, all I could think while reading that part was DAFUQ?!?!?! It's about time guys start to get put in their place when they say shit like that. Accusing her of moving too fast? HA... it makes me so irrationally angry considering this is fiction... but it happens for real in one way or another, ALL THE TIME.
    Also, bad timing Finn. Really bad timing.

  6. I'm just so relieved I'm not the only one feeling like she did, even though this is fiction:-)

  7. I totally did not picture the conversation with Jack going that way.

  8. PLEASE don't let Tessa start dating her friend. That's so been-there-did-that... the girl gets screwed by all the wrong guys, only to find the right one was there all along. Snooze. I agree with another commenter that said that this is the perfect time for Tessa to focus on her job. She was so career-driven at the beginning, and although it's nice to see the other aspects of her life, I'd like to see her get back to the kick-ass girl she was before.

    1. Haha funny how people can be so different, all her focus on work sounds super boring to me. You only live on this earth for so long, life's to short to look back and have the career and be lonely too. Not saying she needs to jump into anything but there's also nothing wrong with focusing on your job and a guy/friends/family it's possible to have both

  9. This was SO GOOD. I haven't commented before but have read from the beginning. As a twenty-something dating in a city (SF, not NY) I can definitely relate to this. The end of a long term relationship, the flings that start off as "fun" but quickly get more involved and ultimately end in disappointment. Trying to be cool, and fun and not too serious even when the guy is pushing the relationship forward, only to have him turn out to be a douche. Loved that she told him off! Great writing as usual :)

  10. I love this post! Last year I was involved with someone who did almost the same thing to me. He was the one to want to move in the forward direction, I checked in at each step, and it ended with me finding out it was too fast and he has been seeing someone else...from his roommate!
    I stuck up for myself by being bluntly honest in how dumb he was and I did it all at a bar in a city and left his roommate and him there! It was great and the first time I stood up for myself...I recommend it!

  11. okay, kudos to Tessa for handing jakc's ass to him.
    and kudos to the writer for turning things with finn in that direction and ending this chapter in the way she did.
    too often we see things as we see in movies and novels--forgetting that what we're reading and watching is someone else's IDEALIZED version of what the world could be. Someone fulfilling their what-if through literature or film. IN real life, when your female friends is drunk and crying about being taken advantage of, and you happen to have a girlfriend(IDC if she's mean), the last thing you do is try to kiss said female friend and confess your love. That adds more stress to a stressful night and it puts your entire friendship at risk.
    So kudos to this entry for being realistic.

  12. Poor Tessa. I totally, TOTALLY empathized with the moment of kindness with the doorman and how you feel like you will never, ever find someone who will even be nice "like that" to you. Anyone heartbroken recognizes that feeling. Very relatable.

  13. I think she should give Finn a go he's liked her forever!!

  14. Omg this was amazing. I wish I had Tessa's strength to stand up for herself and call a guy on his bullshit. Someone did that to me not too long ago and I let myself sink into it. It's tiring to be disappointed by guys and start thinking that you're the reason all of it went wrong. Just when you think you found someone worth every effort, they turn you down for something stupid like, I don't like you as much as you like me. Type A Douchebags! I'm so happy this post touched on this subject because I'll never let a guy treat me like that again and let myself feel at fault... As far as Finn goes, I think he always had good intentions which is why he never acted on his feelings before. But alcohol probably gave him some courage at the worst time. Poor Tessa :( she'll get through it though, she's strong!

  15. I thought Finn and his gf had broken up?

  16. Ahhh! Love the Amy Dunne reference! Favorite movie!

  17. I never comment, but this was one of your best entries yet. So relatable and loved the verbal beat down she gave him. Keep up with the great writing!

  18. This post was just so relatable! I have definitely had the 'they never choose me' breakdown in the past and its awful. Reminds me of this article:

    Anyway, great post can't wait for next week!

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    قصص سكس و نيك

    صور سكس و نيك

    نيك اختي .... و لا اروع

    قبول اختي سهام في الجامعة /محارم

    الولد الشقى واخته وهى نايمه (احلى سكس )

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    هيثم وريم اختة

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    قصة اللص الذي سرق البيت واغتصب المرأه المتزوجه

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    صور سكس و نيك

    نيك اختي .... و لا اروع

    قبول اختي سهام في الجامعة /محارم

    الولد الشقى واخته وهى نايمه (احلى سكس )

    عهد و اخيها انس قصة اخ واخته فى بلاد الغربة

    هيثم وريم اختة

    قصة الجناينى وست البيت

    قصة اللص الذي سرق البيت واغتصب المرأه المتزوجه

    ناك حبيبته المتزوجه فوق السطح

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