Fiction

The Year I Learned Everything

I felt like I was about to have the best night of my life, so I took a deep breath and I jumped.

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7.

I work with a guy named Manny who also goes by his given name, Manuel, or Manuelo or Manuelito, depending on who he’s talking to. He’s one of the line cooks and his arms are lined with tiny burn scars from all the grease splatter. Sometimes when I look at his arms I want to connect the dots with a Sharpie. Manuelo is a small man, shorter than me, but I’m pretty sure he has a killer body. When he hugs me his chest is rock hard and hot. He likes to play soccer, and when he’s on break he hangs out back, bouncing a soccer ball off his feet, kicking it against a wall, sometimes faking like he’s trying to score on an invisible goalie. Manuelo has three children; two are still in Mexico. Sometimes we sit on the loading dock eating fries and pickles, or Mexican food he brings from home, the real stuff, not that shit from Chevy’s. He shows me pictures of the kids he had to leave behind and tells me in days and months how long it will be until he sees his babies, sus bebés, sus queridos, otra vez. He always holds the pictures carefully, cradled in the palm of his hand. I get jealous of his kids even though they live in a really small house, far away from their father. My dad would never show anyone a picture of me and he doesn’t know how to hold things carefully.

8.

We were lying on the hood of Jason Miller’s car at the overlook on the edge of town when I turned and pressed my hand against his face. He flinched and tried to push my hand away but I wouldn’t let him. I felt bad for once thinking he was ugly. There is nothing ugly about that boy. He’s the most perfect-looking person I know because you can tell he is good. I like his face. In seven weeks he’s going back to school. I will still be here and people will think they still know me. Boys will think they can do whatever they want to me, that I will let them. I will know they are all wrong. I’m not sure if Jason Miller is my boyfriend but when I’m alone at night I pretend he is. I say Jason Miller is my boyfriend over and over like that will make it true. I asked Jason Miller if he was going to forget me when he went back to school with all the beautiful girls he must meet every day. He said he wouldn’t. I’m not stupid like most girls who believe any old thing a boy tells them. I believed him even though I shouldn’t.

9.

Jason Miller brought me to the apartment he shares with three other guys. The place was a pit, well, the shared areas, but his room was really nice. I could tell he cleaned up because I was coming over. The place smelled like Lemon Pledge. I appreciated that. We watched reruns of Law & Order and the detectives kept saying the word Miranda until it started to sound funny and we laughed every time. I yawned after a few hours and Jason Miller asked if I was ready to go home. I shook my head. I said, “I’m spending the night.” He asked about my parents and I told him they don’t give a damn where I sleep. He nodded and went to his dresser and grinned as he threw me a T-shirt. When I started to pull my dress over my head, he turned away. “You don’t want to look at me?” I asked. “Not without your permission,” Jason Miller said. I told him he could look and he turned around real slow and watched me undress. The shirt he gave me was from the school he goes to and it smelled like him and also chlorine. I took my time. He started breathing funny and well, you know. It’s not hard to tell when a guy likes your body. Jason Miller stripped down to his boxers and crawled into his bed with me. It was narrow but we fit together nicely. I was so sure we were going to finally have sex and for once I really wanted it. He turned the lights out. We lay facing each other. I could barely see him because there wasn’t much of a moon. His breath smelled nice. Finally, I leaned into him and kissed him. He made my lips tingle and it wasn’t just because his lips were chapped. I said, “You can have whatever you want, Jason Miller.” He kissed my cheek and my neck and my collarbone. He slid his hands along my ribcage, down to my thigh. “Anything I want?” he asked. I nodded and rolled onto my back. I don’t know why but I felt a little sick to my stomach and I kind of wanted to cry so I covered my eyes with my arm. Jason Miller pulled his hand away and said, “What’s wrong?” I shook my head and swallowed what I really wanted to say. He pulled my arm away from my face and I started crying really hard. “I only want to hold you,” he said. He asked if that was OK. I whispered, “Yes.”

10.

The morning after I spent the night at Jason Miller’s crappy apartment he woke me with coffee exactly how I like it. I didn’t even hear him leave to get it. I was so tired and I slept so hard because I knew it was safe to sleep hard next to a boy like Jason Miller. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so good my whole life. I sat up and crossed my legs and he stared at them the whole time. I’m never going to complain about running again. It totally pays off. I pulled the T-shirt further up my thighs and set my coffee on the end table before pulling his hand between my thighs. “Last night’s offer still stands,” I said. Jason Miller looked at me strangely and I thought maybe he didn’t like me anymore because we hadn’t fucked yet. “Why do you always do that?” he asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Do what?” I said. He slid his hand up my body and held my face and it kind of freaked me out because he was so gentle. “You don’t have to make everything about sex.” My face suddenly felt really warm and I was nauseous again. I got out of bed and pulled my pants on, accidentally spilling my coffee, and I knew I was about to start crying again and I didn’t want to do that. I said, “You’re an asshole. I was trying to do you a fucking favor, you freak.” He called after me but I ignored him. I ran out of his apartment holding my shoes and I walked the three miles home barefoot. All I heard was a loud ringing.

11.

I haven’t spoken to Jason Miller in three days. I’m pretty sure he’s done with me but I’ve also seen him sitting in his car out in front of my house. I don’t know what the hell his deal is. He’s called my phone a few times but I don’t answer. I’m sure he’s just calling to say something mean. I probably deserve that. You should have seen his face when I called him a freak. That was a low thing for me to say. Still, I don’t want to hear anything mean from him. I am going to pretend he’s as nice as I needed him to be, wanted him to be.

12.

Something really gross and annoying happened after work today. When our shift ended, Manny offered to give me a ride home but instead of taking me home, we sat in the mall parking lot and he kept drinking from a bottle of cheap tequila. Manny offered me some but I didn’t want any. I haven’t had a drink since that encounter with that perv Billy Tomasetti. The radio was on a Spanish station so I only understood every other word or so. When a song came on that Manny liked, he slapped his hand against the dashboard and sang along. He got totally wasted and I started stressing out that he would kill us when he drove me home. He talked a lot about his family, how much he missed his wife, said she was fat but beautiful, una gorda guapa. I felt real sad for him again but I also wanted to go home and take a shower and go to bed. He’s been weird at work lately, always looking at me like a man instead of like a friend, grabbing my ass when I’m walking to the line to get a new order. I kind of expected him to be better. That was my mistake. The air in his truck was too hot and thick and I didn’t know what I could possibly say to make him feel better about being so far from the people he loves but at the same time I wanted to tell him it could be worse, that he could be living with people who didn’t love him at all or who loved him wrong. When I told him I wanted to go home, it’s like he instantly sobered up. He looked at me real angry. I know that look so I reached for the door handle but I couldn’t find it and my hands were shaking and it was so dark. He slid across the seat and started feeling me up and licking my neck. His breath smelled and it was the worst. I told him I was the same age as his oldest kid but I don’t think he could hear me. I kept fumbling for the door handle and when I finally found it, I started jetting across the parking lot but he ran after me and tackled me to the ground. He is way faster than he looks.

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76 Comments

  • whodatgal April 26th, 2013 3:41 PM

    omg this was so beautiful and gripping and I couldn’t stop reading. This is amazing omigod…

    <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

  • Libby April 26th, 2013 3:42 PM

    This was so beautiful; cried when I finished. Wonderful.

  • Lemons April 26th, 2013 3:44 PM

    Please write a book. This is some seriously beautiful writing and I haven’t been this engrossed in a story in forever. just wow.

    <3

    http://visualcoffee.blogspot.com

    • Anaheed April 26th, 2013 8:25 PM

      She has written a book! It’s here: http://www.amazon.com/Ayiti-Roxane-Gay/dp/145077671X

    • Roxane April 26th, 2013 11:31 PM

      I have a couple books coming out next year–a novel and some essays. And thank you Lemons, and everyone else, for such kind words, particularly about this story which means so much to me.

      • maria14 April 28th, 2013 5:40 PM

        Your short story blew me away. Love the style in which you write. Your characters are beautifully drawn, authentic and raw. I would like to know more about your upcoming books and essays. What is the title of the book?

  • goma April 26th, 2013 3:49 PM

    <3

  • Lemons April 26th, 2013 4:01 PM

    ok, double posting because you actually made me cry!

    I hope this all really happened, that Jason Miller really exists. You managed to describe true love honestly and accurately, thanks :)

  • Emmie April 26th, 2013 4:03 PM

    Beautiful, beautiful.

  • Maggie April 26th, 2013 4:09 PM

    This is taking me forever to read because it’s so good I keep pausing so I can save the rest for later. Gotta have something to live for

    • Maggie April 26th, 2013 4:54 PM

      OK I’m finally finished, but I wish I weren’t… It was just so good.

  • jwells April 26th, 2013 4:17 PM

    Beautiful.

  • dessertdesert April 26th, 2013 4:22 PM

    This has got to be one of the most amzing short stories i’ve ever read. I came to tears at almost every page.

  • blueolivia April 26th, 2013 4:27 PM

    wow. wow, wow, wow, that was beautiful. so well written and honest and pure. i love it. wow.

  • Lola the ladybug April 26th, 2013 4:44 PM

    I loved this story ,thank you.

  • sana haque April 26th, 2013 5:00 PM

    Wow! A beautiful tale about a girl trying to find what love really feels like.

  • Gracie April 26th, 2013 5:05 PM

    painfully beautiful, I actually cried

  • Caitlin H. April 26th, 2013 5:10 PM

    This is so amazing, Allegra, I love the illustration as well <3

  • madicps April 26th, 2013 5:11 PM

    So, so good. Thank you so much. This was so incredibly beautiful and one of the best pieces on Rookie. I wish it went on forever.

  • rachelisms April 26th, 2013 5:16 PM

    Your style is gorgeous! I typically have a small hatred for things written in the first person, but this, I must admit, is one of few exceptions. You even convinced me on Jason Miller, and I’m a cynic so that was always going to be a toughy. I would love to see more of your writing :)

  • Tyler April 26th, 2013 6:21 PM

    This is so, so wonderful.

  • Alex S. April 26th, 2013 6:24 PM

    I had no idea what this was going to be about, but I’m glad I was curious.

    Such beautiful writing, I felt like it was a story being told by a friend on the way to class or something. Conversational and honest, one of my favorite pieces on Rookie.

  • DrewNotBarrymore April 26th, 2013 7:08 PM

    What a wonderful read! :) The imagery and feeling of this was fantastic. I adored it, and I hope hope hope you write more. <3

    On an unrelated side note, today's background image looks kind of odd on my screen.
    There appears to some kind of weird, dark, shadowy, patch near the girl's armpits. This doesn't appear on any other webpages I open, anyone else having this problem? ^_^

  • paige.xo April 26th, 2013 7:27 PM

    oh wow wow. amazing….

  • Ruth-Ann April 26th, 2013 7:33 PM

    This is honestly so beautiful, perfectly paced and magnificently well-written. When you described Jason, I automatically thought about my crush. The acne, his kindness.. everything. I want to thank you for this so much. xx

  • Melissa Zheng April 26th, 2013 9:56 PM

    I read this twice just now, it was so good. Seriously amazing.

  • erika k April 26th, 2013 10:16 PM

    This is probably the prettiest thing I’ve ever read :’)

  • Zanna April 26th, 2013 10:24 PM

    this is just so beautiful… i couldn’t stop reading. amazing story

  • Rebdomine April 26th, 2013 10:29 PM

    This made me cry.

  • rubypowers April 26th, 2013 10:33 PM

    I feel really sad and happy, this was so great. Thank you for writing this.

  • emilycarolina April 26th, 2013 11:13 PM

    This is so unebelievably amazing. It made me cry because I want to be with someone like Jason Miller and I always feel like I’ll never find anyone who loves me. This story is just so beautiful, thank you for sharing!!

  • serena05 April 26th, 2013 11:38 PM

    Please turn this into a book and publish it. I swear it would be an extremely worn book on my shelf.

    • Roxane April 27th, 2013 1:16 AM

      I am definitely thinking about turning this story into a book. And thank you!

      • kolumbia April 27th, 2013 8:45 AM

        I really hope you will! This was beautiful and gripping and extremely well-written. Your writing puts little nuggets of beauty into a really bad situation. And of course, that makes the happy ending that much sweeter.

      • AnoHana April 27th, 2013 12:09 PM

        If this story is ever turned into a book, I want to be the first to order it from Amazon!

  • quieroserdemadera April 27th, 2013 1:28 AM

    Even though my whole self shed tears, my eyes are not wet.
    This story feels so close to my heart, it surprises me how much it made me remember. It made me feel like I’m watching “it” from the rear window.
    I’ve been trying to put some feelings together, and with this I nailed it. I’m dating my Jason Miller.
    Thank you for sharing <3 :)

  • Randilyn April 27th, 2013 1:48 AM

    This was so incredibly beautiful! Couldn’t stop reading it.

  • lishbish April 27th, 2013 2:08 AM

    Ack I loved this and I generally hate anything pertaining to love! It was so well written and just real and I was completely engrossed.

  • AriaZia April 27th, 2013 4:10 AM

    I am pretty sure that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read…. speechless

  • shelley April 27th, 2013 4:47 AM

    This was amazing! Wow

  • RhiaSnape April 27th, 2013 7:36 AM

    This was so so beautiful and touching…if this were a book i’d have to buy it.

  • AliceS April 27th, 2013 7:46 AM

    This story makes me feel so good in so many ways. I can’t even know how to express what I’m feeling, and usually I have no problems in finding words.
    “He said he wants my heart not my body and that he’ll know I’m ready when I don’t shake or look scared after he touches me. He said other things I can’t tell you” is just one of the phrases I’d like to write down in a journal to read over and over every time I will need something to “stop the bleeding”. Thank you.
    I join those asking for a book.

  • AnoHana April 27th, 2013 12:07 PM

    I did NOT expect this story to be so amazingly beautiful. I just started reading because I was bored and then couldn’t stop because it felt like I was reading a thick book for hours…

    I am seriously speechless.

  • Lea April 27th, 2013 12:17 PM

    This is so beautiful, I cried. Thank you so much for writing like this. I hope you get to write lots and become famous.

  • Ally_O April 27th, 2013 1:52 PM

    This is probably the best thing I’ve read in a long time. I didn’t want it to end! Please turn it into a full-length book, I would read it again and again. Also, great job to Rookie because I’ve never read a piece of fiction on this website that I didn’t love.

  • figgy April 27th, 2013 2:02 PM

    This story is beautiful. I won’t even try and say anything else about it.

  • Anya N. April 27th, 2013 3:35 PM

    This is so beautiful. I hope we can all find our Jason Miller. <3

  • Gabrielle Micale April 27th, 2013 3:41 PM

    I want to hold this story close to my heart and never let it go. Absolutely beautiful and devastating. Such an engrossing read.

  • mokgadi April 27th, 2013 7:09 PM

    This was beautiful/ awesome/ amazing, made my study breaks just that much sweeter :)

  • unicornconnect April 28th, 2013 4:50 AM

    This was so beautiful, it kept me enthralled the whole seven pages.

    Is it weird I kept imagining Jason Miller as Bill from freaks and geeks though??

    • baex3 April 28th, 2013 11:11 PM

      I kept picturing him as Bill too! LOL.

  • wackygerman April 28th, 2013 5:48 AM

    Nice story, I really liked the style. The girl character is elaborate and deep. Jason Miller, though, was a bit too good to be true to me. Maybe it’s because I’m 25 and disaffected, but the end was a bit too happy for me. (Perfect man + acne = freak?)

  • eliza dolittle April 28th, 2013 10:41 AM

    this was immeasurably beautiful and hit me low and heavy in my gut and i wish i could understand all the ways it affected me because it feels really important and don’t mind me i’m just crying :’)

  • Grace Mecha April 28th, 2013 1:10 PM

    man, i love this. i seriously don’t even have words to describe it. calling it amazing would be an undesrstatement.

  • TinyWarrior April 28th, 2013 2:55 PM

    This is such a beautiful piece, Roxane. I couldn’t stop reading, even through the tears. You portrayed sexual abuse so accurately, the pain they go through, etc. I was a little nervous when I saw that it was one of the tags, but I’m so glad I decided to read the entire story. I really urge you to turn this into a book – I think this is a story that needs to be told, especially now.

  • Tallulah April 28th, 2013 11:02 PM

    this is so beautiful. I don’t know what to say, it just is so perfect.
    http://thuggestprincess.blogspot.co.nz/

  • Valerie Violet April 29th, 2013 3:54 AM

    So beautiful

  • dragonfly April 29th, 2013 7:06 AM

    Wow. That was amazing and so gripping. I loved it!!! :D

  • allie.x April 29th, 2013 3:08 PM

    one of the best things I have read, including non-fiction etc etc. one of THE BEST. so moving and I feel like everyone can find something they relate to in this story. I really felt compassionate towards the main character as well. very powerful writing!

  • christinachristina April 29th, 2013 6:58 PM

    WHY DID IT HAVE TO END

  • maxrey April 29th, 2013 9:54 PM

    This is beautiful, and I love the illustration at the beginning. I might have to print it out and hang it up. Perfect story!

  • ___ellarose April 29th, 2013 11:08 PM

    oh man.. this made my heart pound

  • EmmaF May 4th, 2013 11:57 AM

    WOW. Your story is amazing. I’m crying.
    <3

  • Sea goddess May 4th, 2013 12:45 PM

    this is so beautiful
    is it true?
    i literally couldn’t stop reading<3

  • Dominika Király May 15th, 2013 3:38 PM

    THIS STORY IS JUST AMAZING! LOVED IT!:)

  • Gwendolen June 3rd, 2013 4:44 PM

    That was really one of the most romantic and beautiful stories I have ever heard :D

    http://theirfancies.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Jes June 9th, 2013 3:03 PM

    this made me very happy.

  • orthopedicsaddleshoes June 28th, 2013 1:00 PM

    I’m still on the fourth page ‘cuz I keep pausing because IT’S SO GREAT but I’m so in love with Jason Miller. Oh god.

  • double-fantasy July 7th, 2013 10:00 PM

    THIS IS SO GOOD I CAN’T TAKE IT OMG I LOVE THIS SO MUCH

  • mollusk July 19th, 2013 2:26 PM

    beautifully written! can’t wait to buy the book.

  • mollusk July 19th, 2013 2:27 PM

    ayiti, I mean. i’m glad this story is the way it is.

  • Fee July 30th, 2013 7:41 PM

    I know this article is a few months old now but I hope that Roxane sees this – I read this piece while I was studying for exams, in the totally packed university library, and I was really shaken and teary afterwards. It is absolutely beautiful and really hit home. I read constantly but this made me feel things that no other piece has in quite a while now.

    contraluna.blogspot.com

  • Isabellla August 16th, 2013 11:52 PM

    this is one of the best stories i have ever read, it was so beautiful.

  • November 3rd, 2013 7:55 AM

    I’ve never read something that affected me the way this story did. This story made me feel so happy in a weird way and I’m glad I decided to read it. Actually, I’m glad Roxane decided to write it because I can easily say I’ve never read something so simply beautiful. I could read it forever and ever. I’m even tearing up a little bit. This is amazing.