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.

16.

He wanted to meet my parents. The night before I invited him over, I told him that wasn’t necessary, that my parents held no illusions about my virtue and dignity. He stopped smiling. He said, “But I do.” I felt hot and heavy again like I did that night at the pool. I got angry, told him not to treat me so nice, walked away, walked away so fast it was hard to breathe. He ran after me, his feet pounding the warm pavement. He grabbed my shoulder and tried to turn me around but I fought him and started crying and got even angrier because I cry ugly. He let me fight him and throw my fists into his chest and he held me so tight it was like he was trying to pull me into his body. When he showed up at my house, I peeked through the window next to the front door. He was shifting from foot to foot and looked so young and scared. I didn’t want anything in my house to hurt him. I turned and leaned against the door and exhaled. I can’t even explain how I felt. Maybe I felt everything, all at once. Jason Miller rang the doorbell again and my father yelled, “Someone get the fucking door.” When I opened the door, Jason Miller smiled. He looked at me hard, and lifted my chin up with one finger. “What’s wrong?” he asked. I shook my head and leaned into him and whispered, “These people don’t deserve your respect.” He squeezed my hand and thrust a bouquet of pink daisies into my face. “These are for you,” he said. They smelled sweet and clean and I loved them. Jason Miller wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we went into the den where my parents were watching television and drinking box wine, putting on a real classy display. Jason Miller extended his hand toward my father but I shook my head. My dad looked up and grunted, nodded toward the empty loveseat, where Jason Miller and I sat, our knees touching. My dad looked at my boyfriend, well, I guess he’s my boyfriend, we still haven’t talked about it, and he said, “You’re about what I’d expect, not much to look at.” Jason Miller turned so red, all up his neck and through his ears. I stared down at my feet but I held Jason Miller’s hand real tight. I know it had to hurt but he didn’t wince or pull away. He held my hand too, just as tight, tighter even.

17.

After he met my parents, I didn’t think Jason Miller would ever call again. My mother was checked out the whole time, like she always is, staring at the TV, never blinking. My brother was out with his friends. We ordered a pizza, my mother couldn’t even be bothered to cook, and ate from paper plates like animals. Jason Miller told my father he was majoring in mechanical engineering, said he had good prospects, like it was 40 years ago, like he was speaking to a man who cared about the future prospects of the boy his daughter was seeing, like my father was a man who deserved to know anything about me. When it got to be too much, when my skin felt cut up and raw, I said, “Let’s go to my room,” and Jason Miller blushed again. He blushes more than any boy or girl I’ve ever known. As we left the room, Jason Miller said, “I’m going to be a good man to your daughter.” My father waved his arm, then let it hang limply at his side. Good men make him uncomfortable. Men who are interested in his daughter make him uncomfortable. My father is the jealous type. Jason Miller and I sat on the edge of my bed. I couldn’t look him in his face, didn’t want him to see my eyes because then he would see the truth of me. I was bleeding even though there was no blood and Jason Miller didn’t try anything, didn’t feel me up, didn’t push me onto my back and try to choke me with his body. He sat with me until the bleeding stopped. He kissed my neck and we stretched out on my bed and I covered his legs with mine and I fell asleep listening to his breathing. In the morning he was still there and I looked at him and saw the man he’s going to be and maybe even the woman I could be with him. I tucked two fingers into his belt loop and understood he was a boy I wouldn’t have to hold on to too tight.

18.

I had to know what our deal was so I finally asked Jason Miller if he was my boyfriend. We see each other every day now and talk all the time and we totally make out but we never go all the way which is mostly fine by me. I love making out with him but it confuses me that he doesn’t fuck me and that’s why I’m never sure if we’re actually dating or not. I think bringing up the boyfriend-girlfriend thing is the only time he’s ever gotten really mad at me. “How could you ask me that?” he said. “You are unbelievable.” He was real indignant which I found adorable. He said, “Of course I’m your boyfriend,” and then he got really nervous and asked, “I am your boyfriend, right?” We were at a really nice restaurant, sitting in a booth, the kind with real leather seats. We were both dressed up and everything. I covered his hand with mine, dragging my fingers back and forth across his bony knuckles. “You are my boyfriend,” I said. “I was just making sure.” He asked me if I was going to work the next day but it was my day off and that seemed to make him pretty happy. He said, “Good.” When I asked why, he wouldn’t say but I got excited, thought maybe we’d do something really cool. He showed up at my house late in the afternoon and said we were going on an adventure. I wore a sundress he likes and straightened my hair so it hung down my back. The look in his eyes when I got in the car—I know I looked good. We drove into the city and he took me to a baseball game. I’ve never been to a big-time sporting event before. He used his fake ID to buy us beers and we ate eight hot dogs between us. He explained about baseball and what was happening and only a little of that was boring. He bought me souvenirs including one of those big foam hands, which I have always, always wanted. After the game, I don’t know how, but we went to this really tall building, all glass and steel. It was so beautiful. The guard let us in and we took an elevator to the roof. There was this whole scene set up with white Christmas lights and a blanket and food and I didn’t understand at first, thought we had interrupted someone else’s date so I started tugging on his sleeve but he said, “Baby, this is for us,” and I said, “I hope you always call me baby.” That word sounded so pretty when he said it to me.

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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.