If You Were Mine

By: Melanie Harlow



* * *

I didn’t intend to lie—it just slipped out.

I’m not even a good liar. Every time I tell a fib, my ears get cold and tingly and I have to rub them. I’m not even kidding. Growing up, when my mother would question my sister Giselle and me about who made the mess with the toothpaste or forgot to take out the dog or ate three cupcakes and left the wrappers on the counter, she always said I gave myself away immediately by grabbing my ears. (Giselle, of course, was a spectacular liar. She was a spectacular everything.)

So I was all set to answer truthfully. The words were right there on my lips. No, actually, I couldn’t find a date for your wedding. I’m coming alone.

(Coming Alone: A Memoir of My Sex Life, by Claire French.)

“Because it’s no big deal if you don’t have a date. I just need to know for the head count.” My friend Elyse, the bride-to-be, had cornered me by the copy machine in the office of the elementary school where we both taught. Her expression was something between sympathetic (I’m sorry you’re still single as fuck) and gratified (thank God I found someone). “We’ll have a singles table, and there will be plenty of people at it. Maybe you’ll meet someone!”

Oh, God. The singles table.

I’d been relegated to the singles table enough times to know that it is nowhere I wanted to be on a Saturday night. Or any other night. Was there a more awkward place in the universe? I remembered the last wedding I’d attended solo. My table mates were an astonishing array of weird—one guy just wanted to tell me about the new sheets his mom recently put on his bed (Spiderman), another told me his safe word within five minutes (rutabaga), and a third bitched nonstop about how mad he was that his favorite character had just been killed on Game of Thrones (“Think about it: every scene you ever saw him in was a lie!”). Later, I’d caught the bouquet, and I’m not kidding when I tell you there was a collective sigh of relief among the crowd, and I actually heard someone, possibly my mother, say “Praise Jesus!”

I just couldn’t.

“Actually, I am going to bring a date,” I heard myself tell Elyse as I gathered my copies from the machine. My ears started to prickle and I clung to the stack of papers in my arms to avoid grabbing them.

“You are?”

I tried not to be offended at the shock in her tone. It’s not like I never went on dates. It’s just that most of them were complete duds. “Yes. I’ll get that RSVP card to you right away. Sorry it’s so late.”

“That’s OK. This is so great, Claire. I didn’t realize you were seeing anyone.” She walked with me out of the office and down the hall. Her fourth grade classroom was directly across from the art room, where I taught. Elyse and I had been pretty good friends at one time, but in the two years since she’d been dating her fiancé we hadn’t talked as much. I might be able to pull this off if she didn’t ask too many questions.

“Well, you’ve been busy with the wedding, and it really hasn’t been that long.” I moved quickly—the sooner I could duck into my room, the better. Elyse was notoriously chatty, and she loved to gossip.

“Like how long?”

“Like a couple months.”

“Wow! Good for you. How are things going?”

“Great!” I chirped too loudly. “Just great.”

“Is he cute?”


“What does he look like?”

“Uh, blond hair. Blue eyes. A little scruffy if he doesn’t shave.” Basically I’d just described my dream man, Ryan Gosling.

She lowered her voice. “Is he good in bed?”

“Fantastic.” (Coming Alone would be full of stories about Ryan and me. We were dynamite together.) Reaching the doorway to the art room just as the bell rang, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Have a good one!” With a wave of my hand, I scooted inside and shut the door behind me.

Immediately I dropped the stack of flyers on the closest table and rubbed my chilly ears. It’s not even like I was imagining that they were cold—they really were. I’d looked it up once, and the explanation was something about anxiety causing blood to drain from my face. That made sense to me, since lying did make me anxious. A lot of things made me anxious, though. I often wished I was more confident, but Giselle seemed to get all the mettle in the family. Maybe that’s why she was in New York City, living her dream on Broadway and I was still here in the city where we’d grown up, living a mile away from our parents and teaching art at the same elementary school we’d attended.