I AM NOT YOURS
You might think an interview process with ex-girlfriends and current ones would be easy and sticky like napkin-less takeaways you eat walking. They whisper when you leave rooms and you know this because they do it when you come back in, too. And you use verbal placation, the same sentences appropriate for both people, because although those you date are different, have dated yearly, for weeks or just days, they have essential commonalities, understand each tone of you, hear it right down to the cages of ribs and the swellings of organs which shouldn’t swell and you should see a doctor for. Things which swell aren’t always euphemisms. But you don’t see doctors, and you enter into situations such as this, a girlfriend and an old one and a low spoke tension and physical lies and an unclenchable feeling that some times shouldn’t collide and timelines aren’t reversible and you wouldn’t be a traveller if it meant reliving anything because why date up when you can date down, in age, anyway. And the thrill of each ending was a story you wanted to tell, irregardless of notches, numbered on wood, before you’re dead, or after it. They’ll talk then. They’ll talk then. They talk right now.
One day I’ll be gone. And I don’t mean savour each moment because we all die or accidents happen but I’m going to pack up and you’re not going to expect it. You won’t see suitcases because you’re not allowed in my house – your dad banned you – and my office could be empty days before you find out, and you’ll not know. You can’t come close. Jackie works next door and if she saw us for coffee, drinks or a meal, she’d shop us like children shoplifting magazines, sweets in supermarkets. Everybody pays.
So enjoy car drives. Remember the world ends around us. We watch it degenerate and any thoughts of kids, continuing this, only adds to it: would you want to destroy resources we hardly have enough of?
Relationships end. We’re romanticists, the both of us, raised to believe love is core and everything else follows. But what if our parents were wrong. This ‘what if’ tells me we’d be bad parents, or I would be, and it’s a begging question: what will we do when our teenage daughter takes up with her teacher. What could we say about it?
I’ll love you until the glaciers melt, start melting. Oh. Shit.
Any threat, from your father or forces higher – gods or police officers – isn’t enough to stop me.
I read stories in which people leave other people on alters to follow you in streets, to learn how you sleep.
Any sleepover we have is The Exorcist, I Know What You Did Last Summer. I don’t mean costumes and masks, but unsettling, short, inconclusive.
Every past tense or present participle – hiring, doing, eating – is you making beds, taking showers, us buying houses, having having having.
If you had asked on our first night, the first time we broke the other’s personal space, I would not say we would know each other now, or that adversary was something that happened outside of books, film plots.
I delete your voicemails but you aren’t erasable like pencil which isn’t really erasable either unless you’ve pressed so softly there’s little or no indentation at all. And trust, I couldn’t press softly enough.
Once, my dad cut my fringe an inch short. I can’t remember him doing it, the reason for it – my mum was away, asleep or speaking languages to the neighbours and they couldn’t hear the vowels or the numbers so understanding each other took a really long time. When she came into the kitchen her mouth opened like a slit baked potato and in bed later I could hear half-spun swear words and five times, “What were you thinking?”
You know what turns you off when you see it. Before that, the delicious unknown swirl, the way his hair sticks to his head nonchalantly, like it’s better not to wash now, will make you heady, and you’ll sleep with your stomach elevated, your aesophagus threatening to slide right out of your mouth.
You remember what dating without talking was like – like a movie – and the familiarity of films, which makes you remember sidewalks and stores you’ve never been to, means you hanker for other, simpler men, who haven’t an opinion on Damien Hirst, don’t know who Tracey Emin is.
His fault wasn’t trying, writing, dressing, kissing, wasn’t what he said the first morning or what he’ll say the last. Some renovations you can’t make. The sheer energy in wood-sanding, carpet stapling is a full time job, and your career goals of princess, pop star, don’t leave room for almost men, slight ones, men growing their hair to pretend they’re Jeff Buckley, the sort of extinguishable genius that knowing is like touching a Ouija board. You saw The Exorcist when you were fifteen and have waited for transformation since.
Sometimes the person you’re talking to will be topless, or about to be. There is no etiquette for this. You were taught to cover your eyes when male members of your household stepped out of the shower unannounced, when a sex scene happened on TV. So you’ve heard what topless sounds like but you can’t place these sounds, wonder how someone stripping on a baseball court becomes heavy-breathed and screechy. You’ve been practicing deep-rooted groans.
When clothed, you’ll imagine the outlines you can see underneath, especially when you’ve seen flesh before. You’ll look for cheat-sheets, problem pages, web forums, with ideas to get men down to underwear. You’ll carry bottled water. You’re reclaiming wet t-shirt contests for feminism, doing us favours.
He will think there’s a trade, if he can clock hours against you, eventually you’ll strip too. This is not how it works. He’s basically your bitch. Your name’s on the credits. He’ll be recast next season. Fuck him while you can.
One day I’ll understand why I did it, reverted to the life I had, pretended I’d wanted it, that there weren’t pieces of me previously – my shirt buttons, shoes, elastic and stitching – that were all after you, ready to pinch you, shrink you in hot washes, seal you in packets and watch your breath collect as condensation in droplets at the bottom of bags. You made me forget the world ended as it ended around us and I never called your authority or questioned you having it and we didn’t need escape plans: I practiced balance with my yoga daily and I stretched you out on sleeping bags as my child slept and you said you’d play a part, you’d be a person I might need and you’d touch me when I asked and you’d have a flashlight handy and you’d walk me in the middle of the night when I needed a piss and you’d hold my unwashed hand on the way back, ready to own every inch as god watched. You’re dead now.
They said don’t dwell on could-have-beens, the teachers in schools that nuns owned, but every regret’s an unexplored avenue, a mistake that aches for conclusion.
When he was dead, I was it. Our shirts were sophomore hand holding, and I licked behind each tooth, more thoroughly than you thought, and I told your son I would save him.
Now I watch the handle of your toothbrush bright in the low light of the torch whose batteries are dying but as we’re denying the world’s ending we use each resource until its wrapper’s utterly empty, until it’s leaking acid.
Soon we won’t wake up and won’t know it, and what’s the matter with that? Every false start will disappear like an exposed negative, shrivel like the magnetic tape in a VHS set to fire.
You, my security blanket, get picked up by people you call husband. I’m vilified like no replacement ever beat out the original. But I’ve seen Crocodile Dundee and I’ve watched Gilmore Girls. I’ve wasted time. I’m playing a long game.