You Didn’t

by Cherisse Yanit Nadal

     I still tell myself every goddamn day, “He doesn’t love me.” But this time, I’m not talking about you. The words don’t come easily. Every time I say them, I think about how different he is from you. How he can actually say my name– and how he says it often. Isn’t it funny that, in the eight years you’ve known me, you’ve never once said my name? Never in front of me, at least. I don’t think you use it when I’m not around, either. Probably say, That stupid goddamn bitch. Can’t take a hint. You know, she can’t help smiling when I’m around? It’s funny.

     But him, he says it all the goddamn time. Liezl this. Liezl that. Liezl, is right– we should listen to her. Liezl, you look so nice today. Liezl did you cut your hair?

     And he looks at me. With time in his eyes, even when he doesn’t have it. With you, the countdown clock always starts whenever I get you alone. Sometimes you tick the seconds away with the tap of your foot. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-fucking-tap.

     But he doesn’t love me.

     Once upon a time, the wrinkles around your eyes would crease just-so and I would think, This is it. But I was wrong. Was always wrong. And I don’t know how to read men. Not unless they’re on top of me– and I don’t like them to stay the night.

     Just like yours, his eyes land on me within moments of his entering any room that I’m in. But unlike you, he’s not the one who looks away. That would be me. Because I can’t have him seeing that I want him more than I ever wanted you. Can’t have him knowing that all he has to do is rub his chin or roll up his sleeves or nod or speak or smile.

     And he smiles all the time. I look at him. He smiles. I walk up to him. He smiles. I start speaking. He smiles. I contradict him. He smiles. I drop something. He smiles. I touch him. He smiles.

     And a real smile. A happy smile. Not the smile you give me– like I’m the punchline of a bad joke.

     But he doesn’t love me.

     He can’t love me.

     You didn’t.

Cherisse Yanit-Nadal is a 2013 recipient of PAWA, Inc.’s Manuel G. Flores Writing Prize, and a 2013 VONA/Voices Fellow. She earned her baccalaureate degrees in English and music and her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition. She is currently in attendance at The University of California at Riverside – Palm Desert for an MFA in Creative Writing. She writes as the West Coast Correspondent for DC Asian Pacific American Film, Inc. She also served for two years as an acquisitions editor for Kaya Press.

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