Let me just start by saying, this is an uncomfortable one.
There are a billion things that seventeen-year-old Brenna doesn’t understand. And some of them—okay, most even—have to do with feelings. This makes her (me) feel pretty shockingly stupid, because theories and facts are what you’re supposed to work hard to master, and feelings are the things you’re supposed to be born knowing about. Instead, I eat up books with a vengeance, while struggling to grasp even the simplest emotional concepts. I kind of feel like a cartoon character.
Here is the story of how I break up with Dill, or else, he breaks up with me.
I’ve mentioned before that as a couple, we have a tendency to bring out the worst in each other. I wasn’t lying, and the interaction that follows is one I’m distinctly not proud of. While lacking in drama and vaguely surreal, it’s exactly the kind of break-up one might expect from teenage Brenna. Basically, I’m saying you’ve been warned.
First, he picked me fifty violets. Wove them into my hair and around my wrists. The leftovers, I stuffed into the pockets of my hoodie.
Later, we stopped to get coffee. It was a warm night and I asked for ice in mine. I knew the boy behind the counter, a little. He was older and I’d had Spanish with him the year before. Here’s most of what I knew about him: Buddy Holly glasses, nerdy in an ironic, contrived way—and nice, always nice to me, even when the basketball players and the wrestling boys would sometimes take my things and tease me just for fun.
“I like your flowers,” he said. “Hey, you think you could spare one?” He gestured to his lapel.
So I handed him one and he slipped it through his buttonhole, while Dill stood against the counter and squeezed my hand more tightly than was comfortable.
“I picked those for you,” he said, as soon as we were outside.
“Yes.” (Factual, remember—so, so factual.)
“So, I didn’t pick them for you to give to someone else.”
“If you picked them for me, they’re mine now. Anyway, a flower is not the same thing as affection. I wasn’t giving your affection to someone else.”
We were at Dill’s truck by then. He was shaking his head as he unlocked the driver’s side. “You’re unbelievable.”
I climbed in, tucking my hair behind my ears. The violets were tickling me. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean, I can’t be like you. You analyze everything.”
“Well, it’s a very good way to make decisions,” I said, but I understood suddenly that we were almost to that point where you can’t go back—not ever. “It’s the best way I know of.”
He turned and looked at me, and it wasn’t angry or possessive or aggravated. It was so, so sad. “Are you even into me at all? Because I can’t go through life putting two dollars in and getting a dollar back out. I just need to know if you love me.”