The quad, number 3 

I’ve been food shopping and making my own breakfast, lunch and dinner, since Mexico. That’s a thing that most adults do, I realize, but I never had. I could make hundreds of excuses, but essentially, buying food out, wasting all that money… was just, laziness.

I just stopped in Sweetgreen (sweet Sweetgreen, how I miss your financially wasteful but delicious $14 salads) to ask if I could purchase a small side of dressing for the dressing-less salad I have waiting for me at home. This isn’t a normal ask, I just left my dressing at work and fuck you, I don’t want to use olive oil.

The cashier’s response? “I’m not going to sell you a dressing, but I will give you a dressing.” Her headband had a watermelon rind pattern on it and she was lovely.

That’s something number 3 taught me: people give you a lot of shit for free, if you just ask.

His thing was free sodas at Taco Bell. Mountain Dew. His literal pride and joy, outside of Guitar Hero and conspiracy theories and racing cars.

I’ve never been one for hand outs. When I was 12 years old, my parents said, if you want fancy new clothes (Abercrombie) and spending money, get a job. So I did.

Everyday after school I babysat two girls, and their dogs, for three hours. And on the side, I worked making classroom posterboard presentations for their mom, a teacher, at an hourly rate. Hustling before I knew what hustling was. Eleven years old was the last time, in my entire life, when I was unemployed. They’ve given me a lot, my parents, and I know that, but I have always been accountable, which to me, is worth noting.

So even having a guy pay for me on a date felt like a handout. That was never me, I always split things, right down the middle. Insist on it, because that’s what’s fair. I remember when online dating was still taboo, when I was with number 4, and my friends had quietly joined. This one girl would say that even if she hated the guy, she still got a free dinner out of it. I couldn’t grasp that logic.

I met 3 through his friend who I worked with at Macaroni Grill. I was a hostess. When the manager hired me he’d said my smile would bring in all the customers. When I was training, as a runner, I spilled hot pasta sauce, covering a man’s lap. My manager had laughed when I told him and said not to worry, we’d just comp him. They hung my written test on the board in the break room, because I was the only employee to score 100. Number 3’s friend had a crush on me. But when I was introduced to 3, he won me over, by jumping through the sunroof of my Volkswagen Beetle. I’d been a real sucker for mindless assholery back when.

He was a lot of fun for a few months. He was spontaneous and silly. He was alternative, compared to my friends and I. He had snakebite lip rings. And he adored me. But he was the kind of guy, I always knew, that would adore anyone.

Eventually, he started to annoy me, a lot. He would visit me at school as I tried to study and beg me to play video games with him. I took school very seriously then, finally, because it was my money (the loan company’s money) paying for it. I spent a whole summer trying to break up with him, before I left to Prague, but he would cry, and I would take him back. An endless cycle of break up-cry-take him backs. I don’t think I had ever seen a man cry. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I just, I didn’t know men that cried. I never cried in front of anyone. My best friend, to this day, has maybe seen me cry once.

I went to Prague, still dating him. My friend Amanda and I rewrote the words to Miley Cyrus’ Seven Things I Hate About You to a parody about how much I couldn’t stand my boyfriend (well, there’s a funny word). After a month or two abroad, I broke up with him. He hadn’t been able to understand why I couldn’t spend my full days Skyping him. He had been so controlling. I never saw him after that; I never saw him again. We had dated for a year and a half. Later, when I was returning home, he contacted my mom to beg her to let him pick me up from the airport with her; I told her she shouldn’t dare. I regret this cruelness now, to leave him with zero closure, but at the time, it was the only way I saw possible to remove myself from him. I was single for the first time in almost five years, for a whole whopping month.

After I broke up with him, I had a one night stand with a guy named Greg in Poland, the night before I went to Aushwitz. It made me feel sick; both aforementioned made me feel sick. But the autonomy was vibrant.

And then, I met number 4.

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