Sunday, 3 February 2013

46. This space is for you

Chris has just left.

I'm sitting curled up on my sofa watching TV. It is 11pm on a Friday night and the programme is something featuring celebrities I have never heard of chasing each other round a brightly lit set made to look like a house. They look strange. All puffed up lips and rippling muscles and orange boobs. Hair fried with bleach until it's as lustreless as straw. The one who seems to be in charge - the alpha male? - is grabbing all the women's breasts and comparing their texture while they giggle and the beta males hang back alternately looking jealous and cheering him on. The women's eyes are full of fear but avid for the attention and they put themselves forward, undoing buttons and pretending they don't want to be touched. 

I'm frightened of these people. They look like aliens. They're behaving like aliens. They live in a world of innuendo and assault. The show is too bright but when I switch off the TV it is too quiet. I know these people are what most other people regard as "reality". That's why it's called reality TV.

I get up and wander through into the kitchen. Rammstein is asleep on the armchair. I shut him in here; I didn't want Chris to know about him. Sometimes people get put off by cat owners. I don't know why. Perhaps because they have ideas about the cat lady from The Simpsons. Perhaps I am the cat lady from The Simpsons.

I wonder if he put the condoms in the bin or down the toilet. Personally I prefer the bin because I hate to think of fish getting tangled in them, or seagulls choking on them. But then I suppose if they go to the dump they kill other creatures.

How am I feeling, feeling I am how. Sometimes it's difficult to know. I visualise my favourite of all my former counsellors. She is sitting in a low wicker chair, her blonde hair tied back, wearing a sensible trouser suit. She has her glasses on. The cuffs of her trousers have ridden up to show two inches of pink sock. I imagine what she would say, based on previous experience.

"How are you feeling right now, Alice?"
"I don't know."
"Can we work on that?"
"If you like."
She pauses.
"No, it's if you like," she says. "This space is for you. You can talk about whatever you want. Or not talk."
We are silent for a few moments.
"I have a big feeling," I say. "But I don't know what it is."
"Is it a good feeling or a bad feeling?"

Back in the kitchen, I pour myself a glass of wine and take it through to the living room. The celebrities are firing water pistols at each other. I turn them off. The room is quiet. Rammstein comes through. He has his foil ball in his mouth. He drops it in front of me. "That's ridiculous. You're not a dog," I say. 

"It's a bad feeling," I say.
"What happened to trigger this bad feeling?" the counsellor asks. "Can you think of when it started?"
"It sort of started when I was having sex with Chris."
But it had been there all along, intertwined with the sexual excitement. I desire Chris, but I don't trust him, so why did I let him come here into my space? Into my flat and then into me? I invited him over and then cleaned the whole flat today, from top to bottom, to avoid thinking about the evening.

"Did you want to have sex with Chris?" the counsellor, my counsellor, my internal counsellor, asks. My immediate impulse is to say yes of course I did, but when I think about it this is a difficult question.
"I'm not sure," I say.
"What makes you say that?" she asks and for a moment I want to punch her.
"I invited him over, so I must have wanted to have sex with him."
"Not necessarily."
"Why else would I have done that?"
"Why did you invite him over?"
"Because we had been on three dates and I thought he was expecting to be invited over. That's the time. That's when most people have sex. If I'd left it any longer, he might have thought I wasn't really interested in him."
"Are you really interested in him?"
"I don't know," I say and the counsellor and I both start laughing.
When we've finished, she says: "What was it like having sex with Chris? Did you enjoy it?"
"Well, 'enjoy', I mean 'enjoy' is a difficult word."
"Not really. You know whether you enjoy something. Did you have an orgasm?"
This question makes me blush.
"Yes," I say. "But it wasn't..." I trail off. It's difficult for me to explain what it wasn't, that somehow it felt like he had won by making me come in front of him, that it felt like my body had done it against my will. He had made me show my vulnerability but he hadn't shown his (when he had come he had buried his face in my neck so I couldn't see his face. He didn't speak. He barely made a sound).
"He didn't talk to me all the way through it," I say. "He just did it to me."
"To you?" says the counsellor. "That's an interesting phrase. Didn't it feel like something you did together?"
"Well, it was," I said. "I asked him over. I dressed up for him. I made the initial moves. I didn't tell him I was uncomfortable with it."
"So you were uncomfortable with it."
I suddenly feel tricked. Then I realise she's completely right. That's exactly what I said. And as I think that I realise it's true.
"Yes, I was uncomfortable with it," I say. "But that's because I'm a freak, not because he is."
"What makes you say that?"
"I'm not normal. Most people want to have sex with someone they fancy after three dates."
"Do they?"
I stare at her. "Well, yes," I say.
"Do you not want to have sex?"
"No, I do." I do, I do, I do. I see men I would like to have sex with everywhere. I'm just scared of them. "Most people don't take it seriously."
"Why do you think that?"
"I see them all, everyone I know. Getting in and out of bed with each other. Getting in and out of relationships with each other. Falling in love and out of love. I don't do that. I never have. I'm not part of that world. I'm shut out of it."
"Who shuts that door?"
I look at my hands. "I do."

I have drunk my wine. Rammstein has given up waiting for me to play and is batting his ball all over the room, now here, now there. Now he is pouncing on it. Now he is still, to lull it into a false sense of security. Now he has knocked it under the TV and he can't get it. He feels for it with his paw, then looks at me plaintively. I get up and take the coat hanger off the back of the door and start fishing for it. 

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