Powerless

by Kyle Fournier


     “Get the fuck out.”

     “What?”

     “Get. Out. Of. My. House.”

     “Are you serious right now?”

     “Yes. Get out.”

     “Wow. Uh, OK. Where are my glasses?”

     I rolled over, turning my back to her, to reach onto the other side of the bed where I had placed her glasses. I put them in her hand as she picked up her phone. We got up from the bed at the same time and I followed her as she retrieved her bag from my couch. I picked up her cigarettes on the counter across from the couch and extended them to her as she walked towards the door. She took them. I opened the door and she went through it without speaking. I closed the door - about 40% harder than I usually did.

     Until about three months prior, I had never had fights nor any type of confrontations with the women I dated - or anyone in general. That night, however, marked the most recent in a string of fights I had gotten into with girls since I arrived in Bali. Bali was a beautiful place. I was happier than ever. Somehow, though, I was getting used to kicking girls out of my house.

--------------------------------------

     I had had a great day and was having an awesome night, but I was pessimistic about how it would end. I was at Mario’s villa in Bali with several other friends watching a popular TV show. Shinta, a girl I had been dating with intensity for a week, was supposed to meet us at Mario’s villa; she was a fan of the show we were watching, too. However, her participation in our text conversation throughout the day had me predicting that I wouldn’t see her at all. Despite my clear, direct questions - “What time will I see you tonight?” and “Where are you now?” - she took hours to reply and gave vague answers when she did. So I video called her. Surprisingly, she answered and there she was, in her room getting ready.

     “Hi,” she said.

     “Hey. Are we hanging out tonight or not?”

     “Yeah, I wanna watch the show!”

     “We finished already. You took too long.”

     “Oh.”

     “Tonight,” I said sternly. “Yes or no?” Across the table, I saw Mario snicker and his girlfriend raised her eyebrows.

     “You’re leaving your friends and you’re going home.” Her tone rose at the end of her sentence.

     “Is that a statement or a question?”

     “Question,” she said. “We were gonna watch the show. Now what’s the point?” My body temperature rose.

     “What’s the point? Listen. Do you want to see me or not? I’ll pick you up and we’ll go to my place.” On camera, Shinta was walking around her room. She did not speak. “Shinta!” I shouted. “Yes or fucking no.” Mario’s snicker grew and I noticed his compatriot, Angelo, start smiling, too.

     “What are we going to do?” Shinta asked. Exasperated, I turned to my left and looked Acil in the eye. After hanging out nearly every day for three months and sharing every detail of our lives, we could exchange a lot of information with our eyes in just a second. Achil understood my wordless request and took my phone. 

     Acil spoke louder and stronger than I had. “Shinta! Do you want to see my best friend tonight? Or not. Answer the question.”

     “Yes, I do.”

     I leaned over to speak into my phone in Acil's hands. “I’m coming to pick you up.” My tone did not rise at the end of my sentence.

     “Is that a statement or a question?” 

     Across the table, Mario’s girlfriend, Sonia, threw her hands up with wide eyes and whisper-shouted, “It’s a fucking sentence!”

     I shouted, “It’s a fucking sentence!”

     “OK,” Shinta said.

     I thanked Acil with my eyes and took my phone back from her. “Send your location now,” I said. “Now. Don’t make me wait.”

     “Why? You’ve been here before.”

     “Send it now!” I said. Mario and Angelo were covering their mouths to keep from laughing. “I don’t remember exactly.”

     “Ok. Ok.”

     When I hung up the phone, Sonia caught my attention. “What’s with that girl?” she asked. I turned to Acil.

     “She’s hung up on some asshole,” Acil said. “Kyle doesn’t care as long as she’s cool, but she hasn’t been cool lately.”

     “Iyyya,” I said.

     A few minutes later, I parked my motorbike outside Shinta’s apartment. I charged up her stairs to the second floor, then caught myself before I turned the corner. Anger was appropriate before she agreed to see me. Now, I needed clarity and reconnection. Anger was no longer appropriate. I shortened my gait and slowed my pace as I strode to Shinta’s door. It was open. I knocked twice on the open door.

     “Come in,” Shinta said, but her voice came from the other direction. I hadn’t noticed her standing at the balcony drinking a beer. She was wearing a long, tight, black skirt with lace and a classy red top. She could have been ready to go to a dive bar or an awards ceremony. I was surprised to see the short sleeves of her top, though. She usually covered the self-imposed tattoos that lined her arms. I guessed that it was late, though, so she wasn’t worried about being seen by anyone.

     “Hey.”

     Shinta reached into her room and grabbed a small bag from a shelf near the door, then started closing the door.

     “Wait,” I said.

     “What?”

     “Are you OK?”

     “Yes,” she said. Neither of us had smiled or touched each other. I hesitated at the door. I knew that my message hadn’t been articulated properly and that we weren’t even close to understanding each other, but the timing was wrong. I watched my consciousness. No words formed clearly.

     “OK, let’s go.”

     I mounted my bike and put the feet pegs down for Shinta to climb on. I took out my phone and found a YouTube music playlist that fit the mood - perhaps too well. I put the left earphone in my left ear and handed the right earphone to Shinta. She took it. It was a ritual we were used to. We backed out of Shinta’s apartment's parking lot and began driving. On the main road, I drove with the other bikes, passing cars as if they were standing still. Through our earphones, we heard particularly apt lyrics. 

     Do re mi fa,

     So fucking done with you girl, 

     So fucking done with all the games you play,

     I ain’t no tic-tac-toe.  

     It was a fifteen minute drive to my villa. Around the halfway point, Shinta leaned forward and asked, “Where are we going?” I applied both hand brakes, went up on the left sidewalk, and parked. “What are you doing?” she asked.

     I took off my helmet and took my earphone out. I craned my neck to show Shinta my profile. “You know where we’re going.”

     “To see your friends, right?”

     “Alright, I’m sorry. I should have done this at your place.”

     “You’re mad at me?”

     “Yes.”

     “Oh. You think I lied about where I was tonight?” Her tone implied that I was an emotional child.

     “I don’t know if you lied, but it’s not about that. You treat me like shit. You said you wanted to see me tonight and then you were distant all day. We had plans earlier and you made me ask you when you would actually show up.”

     “I was tired from work, so I didn’t look at my-”

     “It’s not about any one thing,” I said, interrupting her. It’s about the overall vibe.”

     “Can we do this at your place?” Shinta said.

     I sighed. Five seconds later, I said, “Yes.” I put my earphone in, put my helmet back on, and pulled back onto the main road.

     We parked at my villa. I got off my bike and walked to the large door without looking back at Shinta. I opened the door, went through it, and held it open for her. She walked through and I closed it after her. We walked down the red brick path, through the ferns.

     “How was your meeting?” I asked, hating myself for participating in her lie.

     “So long,” she said. She reached the second door before I did and opened it for me. I went through and she closed it. The red brick turned to grey brick as we circumnavigated the large inground pool that sat in the middle of five villas. At my door, I put the key in the lock, took my flip flops off, then turned the key and opened the door. I took a large bottle of water from my refrigerator and drank. Shinta sat at the head of my bed and crumpled in on herself, with her head near her shins.

     “Do you want any?” I asked, offering the bottle to her.

     She still had the same bottle of beer from her apartment. She shook her head. I sat at the foot of the bed, leaving several feet of space between us. After a few seconds of silence, I put my right arm down and stretched out on my side. When it became clear that Shinta would not speak, I did.

     “Look, I think I made myself clear before, but let me be clearer. I don’t give a shit about your relationship or whatever the fuck it is. If we’re cool with each other, you can tell me about it, but it doesn’t make a big difference.

     And listen. It’s not about any one thing. I can mention any one thing and you can have an answer for it. You blew me off last week - yeah you had work. You took a while to reply tonight - yeah you were tired and busy. It’s not about that. It’s that you don’t respect me enough to treat me well. If you gave a shit about me, it wouldn’t matter if you were tired or busy. You would act right. You don't. So, if we can get on the same page now, fine. I like you. But if you’re gonna keep treating me like this, it’s over.”

     Shinta’s straight black hair cascaded over her cheeks. In the upright fetal position, her small frame seemed even smaller. It would have been easy to put her in my luggage. Her glasses and downturned face made it impossible to be sure, but I thought she might have been crying.

     Whoever spoke first would lose. I didn’t have much left to say, anyway. My hypomanic mind state craved stimulation, though. Sitting still was boring. I needed conversation, interaction, information. Instead, I had to sit still. Actually, it was the perfect time to meditate. 

     I brought my attention to my nostrils, where my breath came in and went out. I was careful to leave my eyes open rather than close them as I usually did when I meditated, so that Shinta couldn’t accuse me of falling asleep. Then, I waited for thoughts and emotions to appear. The strongest intruders in my mind were anxiety and curiosity. I needed to know more and I couldn’t wait to hear it. I noticed the thought and released it, focusing on my breath again. The same thought kept appearing, but it didn’t matter. The point was that I knew it was happening.

     It must have been three minutes before Shinta opened her mouth. “That’s fair,” she said. I watched my breath for another thirty seconds before she spoke again. “There’s something I need to tell you,” she said. Another minute. “I think you already maybe figured it out.” Two more minutes of meditation before Shinta said, “I saw Jack the other day and he wanted to start a relationship.

     I told him about you. I told him that I liked talking with you and being your friend and that I didn’t want to lose you.” Shinta wasn’t looking at me, so I was free to roll my eyes. I would have bet a month’s rent that she was lying, simply saying what she thought I wanted to hear. She continued, “So. I guess Joe and I are in… an open relationship?” I nodded. “I can see guys and he can see girls, but I have to tell him where I am and who I’m with.”

     I couldn’t play Shinta’s suspense game as well as she did, but I let her stew for about fifteen seconds before I said, “Do you really think I didn’t know all of that?”

     “I said, ‘Maybe you figured it out.’”

     “Yeah. Obviously I did. The only part I wasn’t sure about was that you’re in an open relationship. I figured you probably just planned on cheating on him.”

     “No.”

     “Well. I already said that it doesn’t matter to me. All that matters to me is that you treat me with respect. Do I have to spell out what that means specifically down to every behavior? Or do you already know what I’m talking about?”

     “I know.”
    “I wanna tell you a story,” I said. Shinta uncrumpled slightly. “I’m not comparing you to the girl I’m gonna tell you about. I just want to tell you what happened.” She nodded.

     “A girl came to Bali this past weekend to visit me. We met two months ago, but she lives in China. Anyway, she really liked me, but she’s hung up on her ex-boyfriend. We’ve been pretty open and we talk about it. She got here Friday and we had a great day. Saturday, we didn’t have a great day.” I looked at Shinta. She was listening.

     “She begged me to sleep with her at her place. She was across town at a concert and I was with Acil and Chad.” In my periphery, I saw Shinta’s eyes get wide. Chad was Shinta’s good friend of four years. She had introduced us just five days ago. 

     “So, I left Acil and Chad to go see the girl I'm telling you about. Her name is Fawn, by the way. It was pouring rain. I drove through the pouring rain and then waited outside her place for twenty minutes. I had no idea where she was and she wouldn’t answer her phone.” Shinta groaned in commiseration. “Wait, I gotta back up.”

     I took ten seconds to put the story in order in my mind. “OK, so the concert she went to was for some DJ. Her ex-boyfriend loved that DJ. I didn’t know this, by the way. So, she finally shows up and her attitude is shit. She doesn’t say sorry for making me wait. She finds problems with everything I do. I take a shower and get in bed and she scolds me. She says, ‘Put some clothes on!’ 

     Then, Eunice texted me and asked me to go see him at a nearby bar. I mentioned that I wanted to see Eunice and Fawn said right away, ‘If you go, don’t come back.’ The only reason I didn’t get up right then was that my clothes were soaked. So, she lays in bed and stares at her phone, watching videos from the concert that she was just at. I watch shit on my phone, too.

     Alright, so it’s time to go to bed now. She turns off the lights and assumes the little spoon position. I spoon her and touch her leg. She takes my hand and throws it away. I put it back. She says, ‘I’m tired.’ I got up and left to go see Eunice. 

     She begged me to stay. She said she was just tired and didn't feel like having sex. I told her I knew she was lying. I knew that there was a bigger reason for her nonsense and that she wasn’t communicating with me. I left. 

     The next day, she called me crying. She came to the cafe to meet me. She told me she was sorry. She told me about how she hadn’t spent the night with a guy since being with her ex-boyfriend and she felt uncomfortable with me. I told her I already fucking knew that something was on her mind and asked her why she didn’t just tell me. She had no good reason. Anyway, She begged me to go see her that night after crying in my lap for two hours.

     I told her, ‘Maybe.’ She begged me harder and harder. I said nothing except, ‘Maybe.’ She left, saying, ‘Please come see me tonight.’ Two hours later, she texted me and told me she didn’t want to see me. She was still in love with that guy. Basically, she told me that she wasn’t fired; she quit. She used me, Shinta. I’m sick of being used and I’m not going to put up with it anymore. This happened two days ago, by the way.”

     Three more minutes. I shifted my focus to the rise and fall of my abdomen. I noticed anger. Rage. How dare she not respond? I labeled the emotion and tried to let it go. 

     “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m a mess.” Tears began to fall. “I treat everyone badly.” I moved over to her half of the bed and put my hand on her back. 

     “I wrote a blog post last week called Roadblocks,” I said. My point was that every relationship is inevitably burdened by roadblocks in communication. It’s not necessarily lies or cheating. It’s anything that stops the free flow of honesty. Fawn put up roadblocks that night with me. She wasn’t tired.” I sighed. “Listen. Sex is great, but it’s not what I’m about. I like connection. It doesn’t need to come with commitment or anything like that, but when I connect with someone, I try to keep that. Maybe I’m stupid. But if you’re going to put up roadblocks, I’m not interested.”

     “I’m sorry. I felt like we connected, too. I’m sorry.”

     “It’s OK,” I said. One minute. “I’m going to shower,” I said.

     I took my clothes off and went into the shower. As the water began washing away the filth of a Balinese day, I heard Shinta say, “I’m going outside.” After I finished showering, I put on fresh shorts and a tank top and went outside, too. Shinta was smoking in the gazebo where I had taught her to meditate just five days prior. I joined her. 

     She was speaking Bahasa on the phone. She ended the call and we were silent again. 

     “You know, I can be a great friend,” I said. “I can tell you’re dealing with shit. I know a lot about that.”

     “How do you know about it.”

     “I deal with it, too,” I said, borrowing Shinta’s cigarette. “I also know that the worse it is, the less you want to talk about it. Some people are good at talking about it. I’m not. I told you Doug deals with this, too. He’s great at talking about it.”

     Two minutes. Breathe in, breathe out. Tranquility. Anxiety. Worry. Fear. Thought. Thought. Thought. I looked at the pool in front of us and heard the wind in the trees.

     “I always do this,” Shinta said. “Anytime my career starts going well, my relationships go to shit.”

     “I guess you won't let yourself have both.”

     “Why?”

     “You’re sabotaging yourself.”

     “Why?”

     “I’ve been into self-help and psychology for fifteen years. I’ve been hearing about self-sabotage since the beginning. I thought it was bullshit at first. It didn’t make sense to me. Why would I do that? Then, I started noticing that I had trouble doing really simple things that would help me. Basically, the idea is that we think we don’t deserve success. To be happy. We think we are awful people, so we sabotage our own happiness.”

     “I’m doing it to myself?”

     “Yes.”

     Two minutes. Shinta said, “My last conversation with Chad was weird. He’s my good friend and he left and I didn’t even say ‘Bye.’ Jack thought Chad and I fucked. We never did. But he’s jealous and told me not to talk to him.”

     “Apologize to Chad now.”

     “I have trouble with that.”

     “Do it now.”

     “For what?”

     “For what?! You totally blew him off.”

     “I did?”

     “Yes!”

     Shinta unlocked her phone and found her last messages with Jack. He sent her a lighthearted text and she failed to respond. He sent three messages: “Z.” “Z.” “Z.”

     “Did I blow him off?”

     “Obviously.”

     “Why did I do that?”

     “Cause you’re self-centered, thoughtless, and an absolute mess.” I sighed. “Fix it. Type ‘I’m sorry for being weird. I’m in a tough spot right now,’ and send it.” She did as she was told. 

     “Good job.”

     Two minutes. She said, “Something really bad happened the day after I slept over here.”

     “Go on.”

     Five fucking minutes. Irritation. Curiosity. Guessing. I couldn’t take it anymore. “Did you try to kill yourself?”

     “No.”

     Three minutes.

     “I saw Jack and told him about you. He was so mad that he screenshotted some conversations and pictures.”

     “Of him with other girls?”

     “No.” Thirty seconds. “Of me. He threatened to post them online.”

     “Wow. That’s fucking pathetic.” Twenty seconds. “You already know what I would say, so I won’t bother.”

     “Say it.”

     “That’s really, really psychologically abusive.”

     “I told you that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance,” she said. “Jack is arrogant. And I really like it.”

     My irritation swelled. “His arrogance is based in bullshit. He’s pathetic. He’s a child that throws tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.” 

     One minute. “You like him because you don’t like to make your own decisions. You want to be told what to do.”

     “Yes!” Shinta looked me in the eye for the first time since we had been outside.

     “It’s the same reason you like being tied up, hit, and choked. You’re submissive. That’s fine. But it’s another thing to spend your life with an abusive guy who will threaten you like that.” Thirty seconds. Then it hit me. “Wow,” I said.

     “What?”

     “There was one minute yesterday. One minute. I thought of doing something similar. Fuck, it’s exactly the same. But I didn’t do it. Thank God I didn’t do it,” I said.

     “What?” She lit another cigarette. 

     “I unlocked my phone. Fawn said this to me.” I read it aloud. 

     “And full disclosure, part of the reason I am saying sorry is because I still want myself to feel better and I want to feel less of a bad person. I don’t want to be like this but this is what I feel and you deserve the truth. David is the only guy on earth that makes me feel like we are equal instead of him offering help or trying to chase me all the time. That’s why I like him. So, idk. Part of me still want to say I really am sorry.”

     Twenty seconds. Rage. “She doesn’t feel that I’m equal to her. She thinks I chased her. She flew to Bali to see me! She begged me to stay with her two nights in a row! So, anyway. I took this screenshot.” I extended my phone to Shinta and she took it. “That’s David’s Instagram account. I wanted to send her that screenshot, letting her know I could message David if I wanted to, with some message to the effect of, ‘What would David think of our conversation?’” Twenty seconds. “But I didn’t. Thank God I didn’t.”

     Thirty seconds. Shinta asked “Did you hear the earthquake today?” I didn’t give a fuck about any natural disasters, but I let her talk about the irrelevant earthquake for two or three sentences.

     “Let’s go inside,” I said. She picked up her cigarettes and phone and we went inside. I got into bed all the way on the left side. I expected her to get in on the right side, as far from me as possible. But she didn’t. She got in right next to me and cuddled up to me. I had my iPad on my chest and was about to start watching something on Netflix. Shinta took off her glasses and cradled them. I took them from her and put them on the empty space on my right side.

     She put her head on my chest. I massaged her back. She pressed herself into me more. I took her by her hair and pulled her face to mine. I kissed her and she reciprocated. Then, I moved my hand down to her skirt and started taking it off. 

     “I don’t think we should do that tonight.” She was playing. She must be playing. I rolled us over so I was on top of her and gripped her throat with my right hand. My left hand rubbed her crotch. She moaned and arched her back. I found the button on her skirt and started undoing it. It was tight and not easy.

     “Really. We shouldn’t do that tonight.”

     “Wow,” I said. I fell back onto the pillow beside her. There was a foot of space between us. A wave of relief washed over me. It was over. “I think you should go home.”

     “Because I won’t fuck you?” Her tone was indignant, as I knew it would be.

     “That’s a great story, isn’t it? You can tell people that and I’m the asshole. ‘He told me to leave because I wouldn’t fuck him.’ But that’s not what it’s about. You want to fuck. You’re just not doing it because you want to maintain control. Do you know how that makes me feel?”

     “Bad.”

     “Yes. Very bad. It makes me feel like you have all the power.”

     “Why is that bad?”

     “What?”

     “Why is it bad that I have all the power?”

     I looked her straight in the eye. “Get the fuck out.”