"What are you doing?"


"I'm at Emma's house. She fell asleep. Wanna pick me up?"

Emma is David's girlfriend of 2 years.

David and I are 17 years old and about to graduate high school. We have been close friends since age 13. This is the first contact I've had with him in over a month.

On my way to Emma's house, I try to recall what types of drugs I've consumed in the last 24 hours: Adderall, Xanax, weed, caffeine, Ambien, alcohol.

I've slept 9 hours in the last 3 days.

I park my black SUV in a red zone outside of Emma's house and turn the engine off. I open my email and read the last thing I sent David,


Please don't contact me anymore. I don't feel interested in continuing any kind of relationship with you. I understand that we have been friends for a long time, and I value that, but our current dynamic is causing me to have negative feelings about you. I don't enjoy this. I don't want to argue. I'm sorry.


I feel a sharp pain in my stomach. I become suddenly unable to discern the difference between anxiety and excitement and hunger pains.

I put my hair in a bun. I tear a hole in my tights using my thumb and forefinger then remove my tights and put them in my purse.

I call David. His phone rings 3 times then goes to voicemail.

The gate in front of Emma's house opens and David walks toward my car. I unlock the passenger side door. David sits down and I turn the key in the ignition.

"Where am I driving?" I ask.

"I don't know. Maybe turn left here."

I park my car on a dark residential street.

David begins saying things to me. I watch his mouth move, unable to comprehend the meaning of his words.

I nod in agreement, sometimes saying things like "right" or "yeah" or "that makes sense."

I focus my attention back on David's monologue when he says that he doesn't like most of the people he spends time with but feels afraid of being alone.

I ask him why he feels that way.

He says being alone makes him feel bored.

I ask him why he feels afraid of being bored.

He makes a confused expression then looks down at his phone. It becomes clear he isn't planning to answer my question.

"How was Emma?" I ask.

"Fine I guess. She fell asleep."

We are silent for a few seconds.

Aside from my mother, David is the only person I feel comfortable being quiet with.

"I have been thinking a lot about suicide," he said.

"Do you want to commit suicide?" I ask.

"I don't know," he says. "I just like thinking about it."

He enthusiastically describes a scenario in which he would leave a note on his dining room table, apologizing to each of his family members individually, then sneak out of his house in the middle of the night, drive 6 hours outside of Los Angeles in any direction and shoot himself in the head.

I ask David where he would get the gun. He doesn't respond.

The idea of David committing suicide feels troubling and I wish he wouldn't talk about it. I desperately want to express that to him, but I know that would mean admitting to David, and to myself, that I would have a worse quality of life without his presence.

It is important to act as indifferently as possible.

David turns to face me.

"Do you ever feel like you don't have options?" he asks.

"What do you mean?"

"I feel like I'm not really choosing anything. Things just happen to me."

David shifts his gaze and stares at the floor with an expression seeming uncharacteristically meek.

"You don't take responsibility for your actions," I say.

I immediately regret my response. Not because I don't believe it is true, but because I don't want him to become offended and lose interest in me.

It is important to always remain neutral.

"For example," David says after a few seconds of silence, "right now, I want to have sex with you. I know I shouldn't be doing that, but it seems inevitable. Like I have no choice."

"You made every choice leading up to now," I think.

I have begun to successfully shift all blame for our morally bankrupt relationship to David, who has begun to successfully shift all the guilt he felt to some nebulous, undefined "power" over him neither of us can confirm nor deny the existence of.

"Yeah," I said. "I feel like things are out of my control sometimes."

I bite a piece of skin off my left thumb. I feel a twinge of pain as my finger starts to bleed and I am momentarily calmed by the concrete causal connection between the blood on my hand and the act of biting.

I stare out the window and feel exhaustion set in. The Adderall I took earlier is beginning to wear off.

It is dark except for streetlights.

I consider telling him about the drugs I consumed in the last few days, or how I hadn't slept very much. I imagine telling him those things, him saying, "Why did you take drugs?" or, "Why didn't you sleep?" in a vaguely disapproving tone I am familiar with. I would respond, "I don't know," and he would say, "Oh," or, "Ok," then remain silent for a few seconds before changing the subject.

David quietly stares at me. I look down at my legs, then up through the front windshield. I sense that something is about to happen. David would grab my leg, maybe. Or he would pull my hair.

I make eye contact with him and immediately feel an urge to close my eyes. "The eye contact part won't last for much longer," I think. David reaches his hand across the space between the driver's seat and the passenger's seat. He grabs the inside of my thigh and pulls himself toward me. Using his other hand, he grasps a fistful of hair near the back of my neck.

I feel consciously like I want to pull away from him, but unconsciously unwilling to. I become suddenly disoriented by my inability to experience any logical reaction to my situation.

David abruptly pulls away from me. I climb into the backseat without saying anything and he does the same. He sits next to me and grabs me by the waist, swiftly places me on top of him.

While he kisses me, he grasps at various parts of my body in a way that seems more like flailing than conscious motion, as if he can't decide what he wants to touch.

I want to stop kissing him, move my face back slightly so it's a few inches from his face, place a hand on his left cheek, look directly into his eyes and tell him there is no need to be frantic, we have plenty of time, he can touch anything he wants to touch.

I want to explain to him that I am not expecting to receive the same type of affection he gives to Emma. I want to tell him that I don't deserve anything from him. I want to convince him this type of relationship is sustainable, we can continue on doing this indefinitely.

He removes my shirt and unhooks my bra strap.

I grab the bottom of his shirt and pull it over his head.

He covers his stomach with his hands. Being shirtless in the back of my car always seems to make him feel vulnerable. I do not enjoy having the power to make him feel this way.

"Hold on," he says.

"What?" I reply.

"A car is coming."

He wraps one arm around my back and cradles my head firmly against his chest.

Being in this position makes me feel safe in a way that I have never felt with him before—as if we have merged into one unit of matter moving aimlessly through space and the constraints of time no longer apply to us.

I know this will be over soon, and he is probably not feeling the same things I feel. Or if he is he will never attempt to express those feelings to me, or to anyone. Our lives will just continue on the same way, but with the silent burden of knowing we've had an unshareable experience.

I listen to his heart beat and feel overwhelmingly small.

It becomes clear to me that David and I are biological organisms who possess brains which produce thoughts and feelings and sensations, and our brains, encased in our bodies, will never cross any distance, conceptual or otherwise, to connect with other brains.

Whatever "connection" I feel with David is based solely on the assumption that everything he expresses to me is an accurate representation of something his brain has produced within the privacy of his own skull and surrounding skin.

"Trust," I think.

I do not trust David.

When the car passes he grabs me at the narrow part of my waist and flips me onto my back. I remember a conversation we had on AOL instant messenger three years prior, the day after we had sex for the first time. He asked me to tell him something he could do to improve sex with me, and I told him that I had only ever been able to achieve orgasm while lying flat on my back.

Since then, he's always put me on my back when we are about to have sex.

I feel aware of certain things while we have sex: the distance between our faces; how he always seems to hold himself above me, arms fully extended, as if he's trying to achieve the maximum possible distance between our bodies; the way the streetlamp reflects in my rearview mirror; the seatbelt buckle poking into my back.

I keep my eyes shut, opening them occasionally when I sense that something has changed—a shift in his body weight, a repositioning of his hand from my shoulder to my throat.

I feel anxious about potentially making eye contact with David during sex. Eye contact suggests a level of intimacy that I do not feel with him. I am vaguely comforted (and more than slightly disappointed) when I open my eyes and realize he is looking directly forward, through the side window, instead of down toward my face.

He begins moving faster, then slower, then he stops moving completely. His arms collapse and he rests his body on top of mine.

I hold my arms at my sides. I want to wrap them around his back, but I know that would suggest a desire, on my part, for physical intimacy outside of sex. The confined space in the back of my car renders me unable to change the position of my legs however, which are still wrapped around his back.

I enjoy being in this position with him. I think maybe, if I stay perfectly still, he will remain on top of me for a few seconds longer and I will have time to pretend this is normal, that he wants me the way he wants girls he dates publicly.

David sits up and immediately scoots away from me. Our disheveled nudity seems wildly inappropriate and awkward. I find both of our shirts under the driver's seat. I hand David his shirt then put mine on. David puts his penis away and zips and buttons his pants. I realize he had been wearing them with the fly unzipped and his penis conveniently hanging out of the fly in his boxers.

He reaches into his backpack, which is resting on the front passenger's seat, and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He opens the door facing the street and walks outside before I have time to find the rest of my clothes.

I walk out of the car. The cold air on my skin feels relieving.

David holds out his pack of cigarettes to offer me one. I put a cigarette in my mouth and he lights it for me. We smoke in silence.

I do not enjoy the taste of cigarettes or the way the smoke feels in my lungs. I don't normally smoke, but I think it will make me feel better somehow. Calmer maybe, or light headed. It does neither of those things.

I sit on the hood of my car and David stands a few feet away. I look at my phone. It is 2 o'clock in the morning.

A police car pulls up next to us and rolls down the passenger side window,

"How are you guys doing tonight?" the police officer asks.

"Fine officer," says David in a tone that I recognize as the same one he uses when he's lying to his parents.

"It's awfully late to be out on a Wednesday," says the cop suspiciously.

"Sorry officer. My girlfriend and I were just finishing our cigarettes, we'll leave soon."

I momentarily dwell on his use of the word "girlfriend."

The police officer addresses me directly,

"Is everything alright here miss?"

"Yes officer," I respond.

"Is this an okay place to be smoking? Would you like us to put out our cigarettes?" David asks.

"No," the police officer responds. "I just wanted to make sure the young lady is comfortable. Have a good night."

The police officer drives away.

David grabs my foot and puts his cigarette out on the bottom of my shoe. I drop my lit cigarette on the ground and David stomps on it.

"Ready to go?"


I start the car.