I met a man once who talked like everyone was listening. He had straight brown hair and big brown eyes. And when he spoke, people listened. And I listened, too, but I didn’t want to. He looked at me one day like he was seeing me for the first time.
From then on, he talked to me like I was always listening. And I still didn’t want to, but how could you not? And I was young, only just eighteen. He was twenty and didn’t once think about his future. He would talk to me and I would listen.
He told me about how he got his license taken away and I ignored the red flag. He lived ten minutes away and I would pick him up in my old, beat-up Saturn. And one night specifically I remember we were out late after work, somewhere between 11 pm and 1 am. And we were at the convenience store down the street from his house and I still didn’t realize he was trouble when he went out of his way to go into a full-blown politics talk with a stranger who stood outside the convenience store the whole time we were there.
I remember overhearing the stranger say to him, “Who’s piece of shit ride is this?” and he said it was his friend’s car. I laughed at the time, but I remember thinking I wish we were more than that. And I can’t believe I ever wanted that.
This twenty-year-old actor who only wanted one thing and he got that from me, and he cared for a week or so, but then ghosted. And this eighteen-year-old unsure of their place in the world let him take whatever he wanted because it was summer and that’s what you do when you’re eighteen in the summer.
And at the time I remember I didn’t think he was taking advantage of me because I wanted it, too. But really, I just wanted to feel like I mattered.