The boy across the bar believes he has mastered the art of building something out of nothing, and maybe he has, but he doesn’t know the first fucking thing about making something into nothing, and there’s an art in that, too. The ability to turn what you want when it’s within your reach into just another quiet empty room is something you have to work at, something you have to hone, something you can’t just stumble into. It requires talent to ruin everything worth ruining simply by entering the race.

He won’t understand that and so you don’t tell him. You listen and you talk and you listen and you talk, and you wait the appropriate amount of time between sentences, you pause, you smile, you nod, you place your hand on his shoulder in what you hope is a conciliatory fashion at just the right moment, and you shake your hair, you avert your eyes, you play for him the woman he wants you to be, and you talk and you say nothing worth hearing.

You say nothing worth hearing and you say nothing worth saying, and you know this to be the only way because you know this way to end the same as every other way. It wouldn’t make a difference if you offered him the world between your eyes alongside the world between your thighs, because the end would always be the same and you have already learned how to hug the pillow so it seems like a comfort and how to hug the floor so it tells you what you already know, and you have already learned how to say goodbye without saying anything else.

You have already learned.

You lean in the right amount, you lean over the right amount, you lean back, you lean, you lean, you lean any way but on him and you learn what he wants you to be and you be it. You be that thing, because the thing that you are has only the oxygen to breathe and not any left to keep breathing, and you be a thing instead of a person, you be so much less than free. You just be.

You have already learned the science inherent in losing, and you play only the game that gets you there.