Sunday, 26 October 2014

93. The bubbles are teasing the petals of the flower

I am in Sally's flat. I am drinking a glass of prosecco. Sally has put a preserved wild hibiscus bud in the bottom of the glass, and the bubbles are teasing the petals of the flower so it slowly opens. Traces of the juice it was preserved in are turning the wine a very pale pink. The glass is a fragile vintage bubble with gold around the rim.

Sally's sofa is covered in fake fur throws and velvet pillows, and the lighting comes from a softly glowing lamp, with a shade shaped like a huge gold paper flower. The room smells faintly of jasmine. There are no hard edges or bright lights here.

Sometimes I need to get away from the too-loud, too-bright, too-hard world where people are full of anger and the plastic tables are stained with tea rings. Is this why men over the ages have idealised the realm of the feminine? This soft fantasy world, with all the colour and frippery and slippery satin they weren't allowed to provide for themselves, because they were men with everything that entailed. A world of soft voices and soft lighting and physical pleasure - not necessarily sexual, but in the silk under your hand and the taste of the delicate food. A quiet world where you can finally rest your tired senses.

Well, at least until the children came along. After which things would never be quiet again, unless you were rich enough to afford Nanny. Maybe that's one of the problems between the sexes. We give them a glimpse at solace and then take it away tired brain isn't working very well. My head is spinning. I can feel the tears burning in my eyes.

Sally is sitting in the chair opposite me, watching me. One hand is pulling restlessly at the buttons of her high-necked blouse; the other holds a burning cigarette. She's worried about me. So am I.

I don't know what to say, Alice,” she says.

No,” I say, looking into my prosecco.

Sally is quiet. She reaches out and taps her cigarette into a green cut-glass ashtray.

I wish I could be one thing or the other,” I say. “Either happy in a relationship or happy alone.”

No-one's happy all the time,” says Sally, taking a drag. “Life is hard work. Other people are hard work. Sometimes I even find myself to be hard work.”

I really don't -” I break off, close my eyes, try again. “He's my friend. I don't want to hurt him. I want him to be my friend. I want us to carry on having sex. I want him to be around and make me laugh and get stoned and watch stupid films with me. I want him to hold my hand. I don't really get the whole being in love thing, or what it means, or what it's meant to feel like, but this feels good. It feels good.”

I imagine if I finished it and had to watch Martin happy with another girl. It makes me feel as if someone has slid an cold icicle slowly into my heart. But the thing is, he probably would be happier with another girl. How can I possibly make him happy?

This morning we woke up together. I turned my head and he was looking at me with love, an expression of happiness so deeply stupid it made him look like he had a subnormal IQ, and I suddenly wanted to hit him. It was an uncontrollable wave of rage from somewhere deep inside; I was furious. I buried my head in his neck so he couldn't see my face, and it passed, but it terrified me.

Let's break it down,” says Sally, waving her cigarette.

I want to hurt him because:
he loves me. What is he, an idiot? 
of my belief that sexual love is ownership. I've spent most of my life looking for an "owner" because without one I'm worthless. Now I have one, and the other side of the scales kicks in. I hate being owned.
I'm in pain. How the fuck is he allowed to be so ridiculously, stupidly happy? Why should he have that, when I can't? How can I make him happy, when I can't make myself happy?

I want to drive him away. I want to laugh in his face, to take the piss out of how pathetic he is and see him freeze up with unbelieving hurt and then turn as cold as stone, and while I would hate that expression there is a bit of me that would like it much, much better than the vulnerability and affection I'm seeing now. 

Why, Alice?

Because this is outside my comfort zone. Because I don't know how to do this, I can love but I don't know how to be loved, and the idea of it makes me frightened and angry.

But I'm lonely. But I want him.

So what does what I want matter? I want a lot of things I'm never going to have. The problem is that understanding how and why I feel what I feel doesn't change shit.

I realise, suddenly, that whatever the truth is of my thoughts, it doesn't matter how much I love Martin. I can't be in a relationship. Do this, over and over, for however long, maybe for the next 20 years? It's just too hard. I will, inevitably, end up hitting him or yelling at him to fuck off one day. And it will be just because he openly loves me. I'm too damaged, and I'll end up damaging him. He deserves better.

It's too big a mountain. And it hurts like fuck to admit it, and I know how much I am about to lose, but there is only one thing I can do. 

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