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.

final_roxanegay_03

25.

I asked Jason Miller to my prom. He dropped hints for like five weeks as if I would take anyone else. My mom got real excited and we went to the mall. I hadn’t been there since that stupid thing with Manny. I told her to park on the other side of the lot. I don’t know why. Before we got out of the car my mom turned to me, lightly touched my shoulder. She said, “Are you sure about this Jason Miller? He’s an odd-looking young man and you’re such a pretty girl.” Heat rose through my face. “I like the way he looks,” I muttered and then I clammed up. We went to a nice store, the kind that smells like perfume and new clothes and rich people. I tried to give her the silent treatment but my mom was so nice, smiling so much she hardly looked like my mom. She held dresses in front of me and had me pull my hair up. She said I should show my neck more. If she knew how many hickeys I’ve gotten in high school, she probably wouldn’t suggest that. The dress we finally picked was gorgeous and so expensive. I didn’t think a piece of clothing could cost so much but my mom told me not to worry, said she has her own money my dad doesn’t know anything about. She made me think someday she might have a life that has nothing to do with him. I would like to think we both want that for ourselves. When Jason Miller came to pick me up, he wore a dark gray tuxedo with a pink tie to match my dress, no cheesy tails, no silly top hat, just a classic, well-cut suit. He brought me a corsage of pink roses. His hands shook as he fastened the corsage to my wrist. I wanted to keep it forever. While my mom took pictures, Jason Miller kept staring at me, kind of like a creep if I’m being totally honest, looking at me like he had never seen a girl in a nice dress before. I loved it. We drove to prom in his dad’s car, a black Lexus. Even my dad was impressed, whistled as we walked to the car, and Jason Miller opened my door. He shouted, “You kids have fun.” It’s the nicest thing he’s ever said to my boyfriend. A couple weeks ago Jason Miller said he wanted to a rent a limo but I told him only assholes take a limo to prom. He got super red. Real quick I said, “Not that you’re an asshole, but you could use the money for something way better.” We danced all night even though normally Jason Miller hates dancing. He didn’t even complain. He totally lied about being a bad dancer. He was all over the floor like a wild man and I was right there with him. I know the girls I go to school with were jealous as hell. Those bitches never expected me to be the one who ended up with an awesome college boyfriend who can dance his ass off. Kylie Green went so far as to tell Jason Miller to keep his arms and legs to himself when she and her boyfriend were dancing too close to us. I told her to fuck off and me and Jason Miller just danced harder. Sometimes we drank from his flask, not enough to get trashed, enough to pretend we weren’t in a high school gym in a dead-end town. When we left, he carried my shoes because my feet were killing me and draped his jacket over my shoulders.

26.

After prom, Jason Miller drove me to the overlook. We lay on the hood of his car, staring up at the sky, listening to Bob Marley in our bare feet. I asked if he wanted to have sex because that’s what you’re supposed to do on prom night. He didn’t go to his own prom so I thought it would be a nice thing to do for him, a way of thanking him for treating me nice. He said, “I always want to have sex with you, but you’re not ready.” Why does he think he knows me better than I know myself? I smacked his stomach pretty hard and walked away, not far. I wanted to figure out why he makes me so happy and so mad at the same time. I couldn’t do that thinking when his leg was hooked over mine and he was singing Bob Marley and making my skin feel tingly and sharp. The air was perfect, foggy and wet, cool. He called after me but I didn’t answer. I hid behind a tree because I knew he’d come looking or at least I hoped he would. After a few minutes I heard footsteps and started to get nervous. All kinds of people go to the overlook. I worried maybe it was a serial killer. The teenage slut always gets it on prom night. When I saw his tall, lanky body about to move on by, I reached out and grabbed his arm and pulled him against me. I could still hear the Bob Marley and the beeping of an open car door. “Why’d you run off?” he asked. I shook him a little. “You make me feel like you don’t want me, and if you don’t want me I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be for you.” I just blurted it out without even thinking, something I would never normally admit to a guy. I tried to take it back, said, “Forget I said that.” Jason Miller told me to close my eyes and even though that makes me nervous I did. A few seconds later, he said, “Open your eyes.” He was holding a long jewelry box and my heart started pounding so hard. I couldn’t breathe, didn’t need to. Jason Miller said, “I found something better to spend my money on.” He looked so handsome and happy and I wanted to believe I had something to do with that. As I opened the box, I said, “What the fuck did you do, Jason Miller?” Inside sat a beautiful necklace, a silver chain with a diamond pendant in the shape of three intertwined circles. I pulled my hair up and turned around. His breath fell on my bare shoulders as he fastened the necklace. I moved to turn back around but he wouldn’t let me. He rubbed my shoulders softly and leaned in real close and started whispering. Between words, he kissed my neck. 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. I pressed my forehead against the tree and felt the weight of the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned hanging from my neck and the weight of his words, and the foggy, wet air holding us together. He said he likes how I always say both of his names. I said, “I like keeping your name in my mouth as long as possible.”

27.

I’ve always wanted to stay at the Walker Hotel in the city. I don’t remember telling Jason Miller how much I loved that hotel but somehow he knew. When I was younger I imagined what it would be like to sleep in a huge, soft bed, ordering room service, watching movies. After graduation (he came and even sat with my parents), Jason Miller took me to the hotel and when we checked in he gave me his last name, said we only needed one key, and pressed the small plastic card into my palm, let me lead the way with one hand on my back, the other carrying a bag with our clothes and toothbrushes and deodorant and such. I was nervous sliding the key into the door even though I’ve been alone in bedrooms with lots of boys. The room was cold but exactly how I imagined, with beautiful antique furniture and a big bed covered with lots of pillows. I was burning for Jason Miller, how he made me wait, how he knew I wanted and maybe needed to wait, how he always let me know he wanted me even though we were waiting. He set the suitcase near the dresser and stood with his hands in his pockets. It was my turn to take the lead so I pulled him to the bed and I asked, “What do you want?” biting my lower lip and closing my eyes because this time I really didn’t want him to push me away. He slid my shirt off over my head and kissed my collarbone and between my breasts. He said, “I want you in any way I can have you.” I wrapped myself around those words and I wrapped myself around him and he didn’t fuck me. The word fuck is way too ugly for what he did to me, but it was the first time I ever felt anything worth feeling with a boy or a man. Later, Jason Miller sat with his back against the headboard and I sat between his legs, playing with his feet, which I pulled up into my lap. He kissed the back of my neck and my shoulders over and over, his lips soft and wet, his breath warm. I’m pretty sure it was his first time for sex too because the look in his eyes was something. My eyes, I am sure, looked the same. It was kind of like my first time too, that’s what I told him. I like that maybe Jason Miller is always going to be only mine. ♦

A version of this story originally appeared in Prairie Schooner.

Page

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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.