Ever since the moon
has been looking down
on me, so have you;
and now, thanks to you,
I look down on me too.
Ever since the moon
Ever since the moon
has been looking down
on me, so have you;
and now, thanks to you,
I look down on me too.
What you don’t know, can’t know, won’t know
is she flushed it all
and now she’s ten pounds lighter
it’s been carefully dissected and left for students
to place in formaldehyde and trot out when exhibitions
are in town
rather like her
with her avuncular spirit that even when pissed on
from a great height
keeps joining the circus
you wouldn’t have wanted her if she was the last girl in the room
and she was and you didn’t
but fornicate you did
the way young skin seeks anything for a thrill
even the mildly disgusting
where did you get the scar? you asked without needing a response
but she told you everything, the whole dirty bag of it
because she wasn’t going to last. and you
weren’t going to listen
when they came knocking on your door
inquiring if you knew her
at first you said no, I haven’t heard that name before
but of course you hadn’t, you never asked
she didn’t volunteer much besides
the opening and closing of her legs
scissors chopping the thin thread
they showed you a photo
someone who had light in their eyes
not her with darkness on her breath
but it was
the dissected girl who was cut open
and *audience cheers*
found to be empty
she predated the moment of her autopsy
with a slow smoked cigarette and some warm cum
leaking between her legs
giving her the courage to believe she’d been alive
before she fell like a weight seeking reclamation
the air rushing and pulling her down
to where she lay in an impression of sleep
I don’t know why she jumped, you said
feeling no guilt for nameless sex
it was just two consenting adults
hooking up after a night of drinking
I couldn’t even tell you anything about her
other than she didn’t say no
he closes his eyes and he feels her hands
touching his shoulders softly
pulling him inside her as if she were
hungry and full at the same time
no I didn’t sense that she was sad
or wanted to take her own life
I smelt her perfume it was
left in water
(photo credit: Nona Limmen)
THE DEFINITION OF
DRUNK IN LOVE:
I know you remember my
laughter as we drunkenly
cartwheeled down the silent
corridor of another nameless hotel.
You remember how my happiness echoed
all along the hallways. You remember
telling me to jump down that flight of
stairs, telling me to trust you, that
you’d catch me. And I did, and I did, and
you did. You remember how you promised me
you’d make me happy. And you did. You remember
how you promised me that you’d never let me go.
And you did.
Originally published on The Magic Black Book, April 2016
The betrayal is deep. Maybe made more so by the stupidity of trust I possessed. It was as if he severed that last remaining piece of trust I had after all the other stuff had happened in my childhood and without that last piece I became a maelstrom.
So you are a maelstrom because you are me. Right now. Sitting in your bedroom listening to Aria with the windows flung open and the scent of jasmine in the air – you are a wild untamed fool who is a maelstrom.
You wanted to be special to someone. It was that simple.
You knew you didn’t have much chance of that because the girls who grew taller than you and had darker skin and more fawn like gait, were far more likely to be the objects of love than you. You were ordinary. You hated that about yourself and when anyone told you otherwise you hated them for lying.
Nevertheless even ordinary girls have dreams. When he told you about his girlfriend and how much he felt for her, you listened to his words and you inserted yourself in her place. But she wasn’t you. She was and still is, a beautiful, tall, glowing golden girl who brought her cello to school every day in a big leather case and walked with the wide stride of a confident and yet demure girl-woman. She had lips like the film you’d just seen and skin that seemed to drench itself in sunlight and you were a flake of dried skin in comparison.
But golden girl didn’t like him overmuch. In fact if memory serves, golden girl soon got together with son of an important man and they were a couple for eons. Golden girl was slumming it with boy with the nice eyes and she knew it and cut it short before anything irretrievable was done. But you didn’t ‘get’ that then, you didn’t really understand much. I wonder at that, because if nothing else you were smart, so how couldn’t you see the writing on the wall? Still you didn’t, you only used those malformed equations to equal your own chance with him, lapping up her left-overs like the fool you were.
He didn’t have an interest in you at all but you remembered something your father had said many times. That since you didn’t have the looks or the pretty little ballerina shoulders with the tawny skin, that you’d have to hook em with your winsome personality. And that was something you could do. You could crack jokes like a sailor, you climbed trees better than any other boy, and knew all the rules of soccer. Hell you’d even bet you could kiss well based on all the films you watched and that unreal world you inhabited when the vagaries of this world disappointed. Armed with those tools you set to world, the one and only time you set out to possess someone.
And he fell for it because he was 15 and he wanted to get his rocks off. It didn’t matter that you weren’t her, when you kissed in the park in the rain and your dark hair dye ran down your faces and turned you both grey, it didn’t matter when he rooted around in your bra and found little of interest, it didn’t matter when you weren’t her and you didn’t have her pillow lips or the sunlight in your huge brown eyes. He’d have taken anything and you convinced yourself that the little lies boys will tell girls was the truth.
Of course it wasn’t. He didn’t think those things about you. He was still talking about her. When he touched your hair and muttered how soft it was, he was reminiscing, when he traced your clavicle it wasn’t you he shared the sofa with, it was her, she was there all along. But you denied that, as you denied that you had gotten him by default, on a plastic rebound from a young goddess to the flats of his disappointment, only ameliorated by your willingness.
And you were willing. Less so than most teenage girls with low-self-esteem perhaps, but only because you didn’t really like his string-bean legs and his concave chest nor the length of his fingers nor the hard knot in his neck. You probably already wanted her, though you didn’t know it, you only knew it didn’t feel good being unwanted and you’d do anything to grasp for yourself a morsel of attention. But his attention wandered almost the moment you began, his eyes always lifting over your head and into the distance. For a time you tried not to notice that but as the false promises and the cheap silver ring on your finger attested, you couldn’t pretend forever.
One night, not hungry for you but hungry for the act, he pushed you down onto the narrow bed in his unmade room and filled himself with your giving. He took without notice, he wasn’t even there, it was the rise and fall of a moment, branded in your psyche eternally. To this day you can see him, giving less of a damn than if he’d been asked to act like he didn’t, a fine performance, a knock-out example of two people and one emotion, dividing them like a snake.
He didn’t like your breasts, he didn’t like the color of your skin or the breadth of your shoulders, he didn’t like the color of your hair, the size of your lips, the way you felt inside, there was nothing, literally nothing, that did it for him that you possessed. If it had been the most important thing in the world to claim him for your own, you would have failed, you did fail, you were a humiliation to yourself and you hadn’t even seen it yet.
So when he told you things they weren’t true and he knew it and anyone with a brain would have too but you had given up on truth, you’d decided you were going to buy it, hook line and sinker and I’m sure that only made him despise you a little more. Because he did you now, despise you, in the way that young boys do, when they don’t get their fantasy and they have to make do with the girl next door. You tried every art in your collection and they all fell flat, but just the calves of a dark-skinned girl with curls down her back could have driven him to his knees and you didn’t own a thing he wanted, not then and not ever.
Giving up that precious space within you for the insertion of trust and another’s soul, is no easy feat, and when you let him inside, he fouled the future with his lies and your acceptance of them. What was worse? That you’d been such a fool or that he’d felt it was acceptable to let you act the part? It was obvious he got less than he wanted but more than he’d get with himself and his hand. You could have been a hole in the wall. You could have been a blancmange or a hooker, maybe you were, maybe you were worse, a happy hooker who falls for her client. What a little idiot you were.
The self-hate only grew like a mask behind you as you strived without success to garner some interest. He found it hard to climax with you, he said it was from drinking but you knew, there was nothing about you that excited him, he may as well have been dry humping the sofa for all the investment he had, you were a living, breathing creature who wanted to be loved, to be special to one person in this world, you’d lived with that need all of your life, you didn’t see why you’d be denied it and then he showed you the horror of how it really was, that no matter how much you may want something, sometimes the absolute underbelly of life will show you the reverse.
Alcohol can loosen the tongue and it did that night he told the truth. It was a strange witching hour, you wanted the truth more than anything and you couldnt’ stand the truth, you couldn’t stand to hear what he really thought even though it made so much sense. He spilt it gladly, relieved presumably from hiding it so long, all those nights he fucked you he’d probably have preferred his own hand or the hand of a stranger. You were less than that, less than anything he could want, he’d only stayed out of pity, or apathy, he couldn’t be bothered to do anything to change circumstance, he knew he was young and time would shift everything without him even trying.
And it did, the night he went to a party without you and a girl with a long neck turned toward him and he felt that absence he’d been searching for all those months, a longing, a quickening for her. They had made love in the garden, he had whispered things to her that he meant and he had been disgusted at himself for wasting that time on you, on your pallid complexion and your wan face and your unimpressive body. He probably found his own sister more attractive than you, he hadn’t thought of the rules that guide us subconsciously and cause us to direct our gaze toward opposites, incase we should get bored with those who resemble ourselves and our beige unsatisfying childhood.
The long-necked girl, she laughed at the desperation in your eyes. She never had such emotions, she could control a boy with the switch of her eyes, the tilt of her body, the smallness of her hands. She was an Audrey Hepburn in a sea of milk, she beckoned him with her tiny wrists and he came, suppliant and hungry with gold in his eyes. And you? You didn’t hear about it for a day or so, and then the whole ugly story came spilling out, a bag of steaming, foul guts, polluting your nice little fantasy that was ludicrous and childish and absurd and shameful, branding you with a ‘I told you so’ a hundred times over.
I told you so. I told you the specter of her father said, if a father thinks a daughter is ugly, that’s like a test of the rest of the world. What were you thinking? Why did you think you could be loved? Cherished? Adored? What dared you believe this was a destiny you could penetrate? You were only ever going to be a neighborhood shag for the bored boys who hung desperately like weeds on the road side and took anything that happened to be passing.
The first night you slept alone you saw it clearest of all and after that you began your lies again, the delusions you told yourself, the ability to forgive the unforgivable and soon you were going back on every promise you had made yourself, you were standing there crying, beseeching him, a part of you screaming at yourself for the sickness of being the one to do that, and the other part urging him not to leave. But he had never been so he couldn’t leave, he just wasn’t there in the first place, he was a face, a glance, a dismissal, that stung to the very marrow of your being.
And years later as you sit in your chair and watch the lustful gaze of men traverse your body and take in your face, you still feel that sting. You still remember with a lurching sickness the way he dismissed you. It would never be enough that nobody since had done that, it would never be enough that all you ever heard now was the opposite. You could be the most beautiful woman in the world or the least, and it just wouldn’t matter because it was no longer about such superficiality as it had been at 15, it wasn’t even then but you didn’t know it.
It was about being special. And you hadn’t been then. And it was the very end of a slow road of rejections and reminders, beginning with your earliest memories and ending with him, his flat eyes and his uninterested hands, pushing you out the door, a garbage bag of your belongings in one hand, and you were walking down the street unable to see for the tears that spilled out of you, tears for yourself, tears of hate, tears of permanency because ever since you had been that girl, the one who unimpressed, the one who didn’t matter, the girl who was overlooked and chosen last if at all.
You could climb a hundred mountains, be made love to and told everything you’d ever desired, and it would sit like a lie in your stomach. Poisoning any chance you had to change. You were wired this way now, wedded to the idea of your inadequacy, an altered picture, a dysmorphic version of yourself that was more real to you than anything echoed by anyone else. When they said wonderful you saw awful, when they said gorgeous you saw hideous, when they laughed at your jokes, you believed it pity. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing was ever believable again.
Except the truth of that first time. The honesty and brokenness of the moment when he infested you and you let him, with a life long supply of inadequacy and shame. When you closed your eyes you could see the look in his eyes when he took in your body and tried hard to orgasm. Failing. Failing. Failing. And that truth was the only truth, nothing that came afterward had the same degree of hideous accuracy and no matter how often you were told you delighted, you were still, underneath all the sham, the pretense, the bolster, the fraud, you were the same 15-year-old girl killed by apathy. No longer believing yourself capable of being special to a single soul in this world.
She needs to grow a thick skin and not give a damn about what others think and when she is old enough it won’t matter at all, none of it will, she will no longer be that fated creature who denies herself the pleasure of living because of one boy so very long ago. I hope you read this. I really hope you do. As you stare at yourself in your darkened mirror and wonder why nobody looks that way at you. I hope you realize, as good as it is to try for what we want, there are some things we should never want and one of them is to be the bed fellow of a disinterested boy who without even knowing, robs us of any potential to be something more. If he read this, he wouldn’t even know who I was referring to, I am absolutely sure he has forgotten you, and forgotten me, he is probably married to someone who made his eyes glitter and you, you will never even see the possibility of such things, because you are still there, 15 years old, feeling his uncaring imprint on your flesh, wanting to wash until you dissolve with the water.
You, me, empty beach
Lukewarm tea in polystyrene
Secret thoughts cast out to sea
On broken glass you fell asleep
I whispered, “Don’t follow me”
And swam ’til I was out of reach
Further from you
Closer to me
To madder ideas than you could ever conceive
And thoughts that are deeper
Deeper than this, deeper than me
To the might haves and the has beens
To separate futures and choreographed smoke screens
Your love for me like seaweed
Wrapped around my ankle, trying to kick you free
And then: a sudden clarity of mind and I decide
That comparing my moods to the changing tides
Is too benign, too simplified
You should think of me, really,
As all of that exasperated energy beneath
The kind that riles in whirlpools, in eddies
In tsunamis, in bed sheets
Or as a simple pebble that you choose, hold, and then throw back
Into the same situation from which it has just escaped
The harsh worn smooth, gradually
Your voice slowly eroding my sharp parts, the ugly,
The physical extensions of a psyche permanently lost at sea
How many years would it take for you to file down my edges
To wear me down with hits and kisses and all those near-misses?
I tried to drown but the ocean just spat me out
And out and out again
I emerged from the deep
Too shocked to speak
Bone-dry by the time you woke up and looked at me
You didn’t ask me where I’d been
You didn’t even know I’d left
But the next time I leave
Image by Christine Renney
He could always invent tragic
on epic scale
a lethal cocktail
brandy and toothpaste
mouthwash and painkillers
but he was the one
sick with regret
I stepped outside and you were right there, ground to a halt at the zebra crossing, left hand gripping the wheel, right arm slung casually out of the open window. Our eyes met for a moth’s wing-beat of a moment and then my legs stopped working. My lungs seized within their ivory cage; my skin recoiled, terrified, clinging on to its muscle beneath, trying desperately to appear less on fire than it actually was. You were so close that I could touch you. You looked the same: as before, as always. I looked unusually good, even better than you’d remembered: this excellent coincidence confirmed my suspicion that God is female.
Instead of speeding off, you stayed put, and everything around me came to a standstill. I looked in every direction apart from yours and yet all I could see was you. Without even looking, your face was all that I could see. I fell in love with you with my eyes closed in the first place, after all. You were smiling at me; you were happy to see me. It wasn’t your old smile though, the one I have chalked on the wall of my skull. This smile was heavy, so fucking heavy, anchored down by heartbreak and regret and shame. For the first time in some months, we were breathing the same air as one another. But this air was hot and stale, saturated with the vicissitudes of nostalgia. The memories that we had so carefully created and curated fell from the open sky and smothered us, a fusillade of love and pain and love and hate and love and loss and love.
You were waiting for me to acknowledge you: with a wave, with a smile, with a middle finger, anything. And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I ignored you but my heart was being fed through a paper shredder and I didn’t want you to see me suffer, or rather, see me still suffering because of you, tragic and dismissible like a half-mangled fox dying by the side of the road. It would’ve been kinder of you to run me over, to put me out of my misery. That would have hurt less than it did to see you smile.
I realise now after all these years that that smile you wore was saying “I’m sorry” but, back then, I didn’t want to hear it so it fell on deaf ears. Now I want to listen to all you have, to all you are, to all you have become without me. We are older but none the wiser. Love is love, no matter the style of our smiles.