"Resisting madness can be the maddest way of being mad."
Norman O. Brown
Let’s not talk of what will come tomorrow
It was the night I was stung by a bee and he was glassed in the face that I decided to tell him I loved him. He sat in the corner, a wad of toilet paper I had taken from the ladies bathroom pressed against his broken lip. Revolted, I turned towards the bar, asking for tequila, needing a line of coke. Returning to Henry’s crumpled figure I grabbed him, dragging him to the closest mcdonalds, to avoid talk of God and love and being. “Talk to me about obesity. Talk to me about the economy,” I begged. “Let’s not talk of what will come tomorrow.” “Don’t be corny,” he said. And this time I cried. And this time I kissed him and this time when the cut reopened, I smiled. Wincing as I sucked his lip he told me he wouldn’t be sleeping with me tonight, that tonight his mind was elsewhere, that tonight he was thinking of seventeen year old abs and brunette hair. He whispered this to me under the fluorescent street light as he twirled my blonde fringe. “Why are all London street lamps tainted yellow,” I asked and he walked away. “It makes everything look haunting,” I continued. “Why can’t they just be normal and neutral like in other cities?”
The first time we slept together we both smelt like the same Molton Brown products. Sweet mandarin and grapefruit. A reminder of how sordid and unsweet our own love was. Our first time I told him I only had eyes for him and he believed me and he held it against me. The second time I smelt like Raid and he smelt like blood. Collapsing into each other this time more hastily, more comfortably, in an odor closer to death. He said, “Whatever,” when I asked him how it was and I rolled my eyes, in defense, in solitude. It was warm that night, but what is warmth in a city that announces suicide like a football score?
Twice a week the man from Mower Food Services would show me pictures of his Volkswagen Campervan. His name was Joseph and once I told him his name was ironic and he asked me what ironic meant. He spoke to me of parts and mechanical technicalities and I would fade in and out of comprehension just as I would later fade in and out of consciousness as he pumped away on top of me. I liked his age and decay, his poor vocabulary, and his thick northern accent. I liked it because it made him seem fantastical to me, not in the comic book, superhero sense, but like he was just a glitch in my life narrative, a supernatural occurrence in the linear progression of my life. He called my pussy ‘gash’ and I took no offense in this. He would finger my laced knickers, hungrily, entranced. But his cascading features only reminded me of her and her youth and her clear skin and the abs Henry was so quick to mention.
A month later Henry called to ask if he could make me dinner and I laughed as Joseph’s cum continued to drip down the back of my throat. I agreed and, later, with bellies full of ramen, he led me into his garden. In a tent, he fucked me and I bled and he joked that I was a reborn virgin, and I teased that he had confused the pious with the sexually repressed. No difference, he grinned as he turned over onto his side. He never touched me when he didn’t have to, when touching didn’t promise anything. To Henry, touching either meant sex or intimacy, the later of which he was fully against. So I left him like that, alone in the dank sleeping bag he had taken from his mother’s attic. When I got home that night I took a vicodin and went online. And that’s how I always fell asleep during those seven months: to an open laptop and the muted sounds of female ejaculation.
We continued this way like most people do, not out of care, but out of boredom, out of responsibility, with an overwhelming sense of practicality. This is what people do, we said. We stayed together in the same way someone always has to say ‘bless you’ after another person sneezes and if no one does you feel helpless and you say it too long afterwards and you don’t even believe in a divinity and there you are bestowing graces on his behalf. Our practiced liaison just our way of imitating humanity.
I got sick and Henry brought me M&M’s in the middle of the night. My legs were swollen and I had been in bed for days. I asked him to explain his choice in confectionary but he just laughed like I was a crazy person, like the blood wasn’t getting to my head properly, like this was affecting my speech pattern, like this was not the time to question motives. He came back with a glass of water and opened the bag of candy. I told him about the article I had read that morning, the images of a floating civilization with cocktail waitresses singing Tom Jones and serving crab cakes still haunting my head, and again he laughed as he swallowed whole the rainbow coloured sweets. “You know they’re my least favourite form of chocolate,” I tried, failing to mimic his amusement. And that’s when I realized he hadn’t bought them for me at all.
My legs are no longer swollen and my bed hasn’t been slept in in weeks. And I found those M&M’s at the bottom of my purple backpack a month later and I threw them in the bin.
"All children have cheeks and all mothers spittle to wipe them tenderly. These things either matter or they do not matter. It depends upon the universe, what it is. These acute memories are probably symptoms of disorder. To him, perpetual thought of death was a sin. Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead."
Herzog, Saul Bellow
Today I tried to text “disgusting” (in reference to the toad-in-the-hole I had for lunch) but my phone autocorrected it to “I’m disgusting”.