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Who Should I Kill? You or Me?

“You’re still the cutest boy around,” Parisa wrote at the end of her 28-page letter; a riveting document of grief, tenderness and humor. She had accepted we would no longer be together. “Too bad you’re a fucker. I like you anyway.”

Between us there had been bad times; and some utterly dreadful ones, but never a drowsy moment.

Sometimes Parisa charmed me with her amusing antics and perplexing wit. On occasion she infuriated me beyond reason — and could stand there unfazed while I endured melt down. As the sheltered, untested young man that I was when we first met, I fell prey to her child-like rants, bizarre scenarios and whip-smart comments that often left me sputtering.

While our contrasting personalities made our relationship entertaining, they also fused into a catalyst for a number of sad, disturbing encounters. As we raided each other’s insecurities, our relationship spiraled into a vicious cycle of attempted breakups and fits of madness.

No matter the anguish we caused each other, for me Parisa remains an exceptional companion of uncommon passion and startling tenderness.

“All right — I have a crush on you,” she blurted out after I had overheard a phone message left by one of her roommates. She had questioned how much time Parisa and I had been spending together.

Several months earlier, we had met through a mutual friend in a university dorm lobby outside Los Angeles. I was finishing the last semester of my undergraduate studies. Parisa was seventeen. Her black, crimson streaked hair hung in a loose pony tail, with strands tucked behind her ears — each one pierced by a dozen small silver hoops. Her wire-rim glasses and fair complexion betrayed an appealing innocence mingled with elements of Goth and punk.

No matter the anguish we caused each other, for me Parisa remains an exceptional companion of uncommon passion and startling tenderness.

Our mutual interest in music and film led from record store trips and renting videos to Parisa leaving dubbed song collections on my truck’s windshield while I worked. She collected an impressive set of records, CDs and cassette tapes featuring obscure British and American indie bands. The ominous, intriguing sounds from artists like Slow Dive, Kristin Hersh, and the Beautiful South haunt me still. I’ll never shake free of This Mortal Coil’s “Kangaroo” — its disconsolate vocals and loping rhythm enveloped both of us in a lush melancholy on nights that grew late and pensive.

Parisa’s growing attachment to me took an urgent turn when I got ready to leave her apartment after visiting for the evening. She protested with mock but anxious concern. “What? Wait a minute. I think you’re confused,” she laughed while hooking her arms around my elbows, “you’re in no condition to go right now. I think you need to stay the night.”

Her gestures of affection expressed a stunning passion in the hastily scrawled notes, photo collages, and hand crafted greeting cards she often gave to me. For Valentine’s Day Parisa presented me with a card made of folded construction paper, layered with black languishing hearts and red wavy filaments. The best cards for the occasion were gothic, she insisted.

More stirring yet was the clay figurine she sculpted for me. It assumed a reverent posture holding a heart at the end of outstretched arms. Parisa left a cardio-shaped space above the statuette’s midriff.

Catholic iconography appeared among the myriad trinkets and keepsakes that covered the shelves of her bedroom. “I like them because they’re boofy,” was her kitschy rationale for the thorned-and-bleeding messiahs and weeping madonnas. Looking back at the candles and corny night lights, I realize how the sentimentally saturated images may have served as emblems of the overwhelming emotions Parisa sometimes experienced; to her credit, though, she never succumbed to a saccharine moment as long as I have known her.

One such drawing captures me dangling from the tattered end of my sanity, grabbing her neck then clutching my own. “Who should I kill? You or me?” I screamed.

A slogan in red letters printed on a slip of self-adhesive paper posted above Parisa’s closet door mirror, read, DROWNING GIRLS ARE SEXY; at the very same instant an aesthetic article of faith, as well as an ironic dismissal of the cult of females that reveres the image of Hamlet‘s Ophelia.

Parisa also charmed me with her edgy wit and fits of delight. “I like you, fool,” she sometimes confided in an embrace or on a note. When I asked why she even bothered getting involved with me, she shot back without hesitation, “Because of your dumb face” — making about as much sense as did my insecurity.

Even her own bouts of self doubt were discharged with clever scenarios. Learning that I had been accepted into graduate school at San Francisco State, Parisa whined in despair. “Now you’re gonna go off to school and fall in love with the girl wearing the Derrida T-shirt — I just know it!”

As my birthday approached, Parisa took to hollering at me, “I hate you on your 23rd millionth birthday,” showing slightly less anxiety for our age difference than her enthusiasm for a day we would celebrate together.

Carried away by the occasion, she baked a cake that turned out in a heap of batter and sky-blue frosting. Always able to salvage a laugh from any minor disaster, Parisa inscribed “THIS CAKE IS SCREWED” in red gel across the pastry’s surface.

I am so sick of our crazy love. You know it’s getting pretty punky when the cops show up. I never wanted it to be that way. I guess we are just punks at heart…

Such resilience I admired in her — to gaze disappointment in the eyes and shake it down for laughs, sometimes sighing, “Oh, well…as is life.” Early on in our relationship she expressed a tenderly stoic attitude: “In life I know I’ll be happy and I’ll be sad,” she lilted with a certain resignation.

Two years before we met, Parisa’s father died in an auto accident. A whole season passed that she could not bear looking into the sky. Sifted by such loss at a relatively young age, I believe, impressed upon her an appreciation for the vulnerable qualities of the human condition.

“You know you’d be a lot cuter if you had a limp,” she once informed me. She admired those who wore hearing aids or were born with cleft palates — other examples of Parisa’s fondness for the dents and blemishes that enriched one’s life.

A more disturbing dimension of her character helped perpetuate a ritual of mayhem and anguish in our relationship. My part in setting this cycle of upheaval in motion occurred when I made a comment unfairly comparing Parisa’s enthusiasm about sex to that of my previous girlfriend.

Doing so seemed to arouse an anxious, insatiable curiosity. Parisa’s habit was to pose awkward, probing questions seeking answers from me that would reassure her of my loyalty and affection.

“So, when you were with her…” the interrogation often began, innocently enough. My responses ran afoul of inconsistencies in my effort to speak the truth without aggravating her misgivings or, worse, provoking more questions. “Yeah, I felt that way about her then, but now with you…” I mustered in superlative tones to put down the mistrust that made our relationship unbearable.

“Didn’t we go over this nineteen times already?” I shouted from mental fatigue every time Parisa restated her battery of questions. Before long, the discussion unraveled and led to a mad dash to her apartment’s front door. Leaving abruptly seemed my only relief. With Parisa pursuing me, we slammed against the door in a fit of limbs, grunts and unavoidable laughter over the futility of our struggle.

Somehow Parisa managed to keep us together through such encounters, funneling some of our more livid scenes into impromptu sketches. One such drawing captures me dangling from the tattered end of my sanity, grabbing her neck then clutching my own. “Who should I kill? You or me?” I screamed.

We had the last of our habitual scuffles when the police got involved. My effort to keep Parisa from entering my apartment building was mistaken as an assault, by someone who happened to be driving by. Fortunately, a female officer arrived to bring an end to the confrontation.

Parisa gave up the chase, but still endured the reflex of keeping us together. Over the following couple of weeks she kept her distance while casting her heart into the long letter.

Recalling the police’s intervention and her sense of our relationship, she wrote “…that woman didn’t take my name down or anything. All she did was give me a really nice talk about why I shouldn’t like jerks.

“I am so sick of our crazy love. You know it’s getting pretty punky when the cops show up. I never wanted it to be that way. I guess we are just punks at heart…. I don’t care about the cops. I wish people would mind their own business.

“All I ever wanted to do in life was watch movies. I hate you, you stupid idiot. You have your books and poetry to protect you.” In the midst of her distress Parisa was still capable of a gesture of admiration, while deftly working in a Paul Simon reference.

She enclosed with the letter a handful of color-copied Polaroid shots she took while in the depth of her anguish. “I took this picture ‘cuz I was sad,” she scribbled on the thick bottom margin of a self portrait. I have never seen a more beautifully downcast countenance. I marveled at the catatonic gleam in her eyes and her gently pursed lips.

“Then I decided Shinto was sad, too,” the caption read of a shot featuring her black, uber-feline cat. “Everything around me seemed to be crying,” said another picture of a vase with drooping flowers perched on a television in her room.

Eventually, having finally broken up and achieved a warm friendship, Parisa and I still engaged each other with our creative and intellectual pursuits. One of the greatest compliments she paid to me involved her adaptation of a poem I wrote, into a short subject film entitled, “Wonderful Creature”. Fusing together my crane fascination with my admiration for Parisa — whose physique reflected a graceful, crane-like form — I rendered a sparse tale of a crane watcher who waited lakeside among reeds for a fleeting gaze at the bird in flight.

gliding feathers and angles
cuts an arc over a
cool and ashen sky

loving the hush of wind
on his ear and cheek
huddles patiently there

among reeds and marshes

beguiles and mocks him
hovering just overhead

leaps to embrace her
to gather into his arms

flutters and squawks
evading his desperate grasp

laughs with regret
as she flies
from his wanting

ascends into the heavens
hearing a faint voice cry out:
‘o that wonderful creature!’

The poem articulates what conventional language, for me, could not convey. I may never write a more sublime lyric, but I believe I expressed the vision of a lifetime — compelled, of course, by Parisa’s exceptional character and disarming manner. Haunted by the memory of her exuberant spirit, I live with the cadence of her impulses echoing through my life.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Coming of Age, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Romance, True Story