MEGAN NOLAN: Acts of Desperation .3

Artwork by Andrew Forbes-Macphail
Artwork by Andrew Forbes-Macphail

THERE WERE FIGHTS in our apartment when he would sneer so hard and be so disgusted by me that I would take to our bed and lie there, crying, for entire weekends. I thought the crying would break him, would make his coldness impossible to maintain, but it made him stronger. He was perfectly smooth and blank and sat with our dog on the couch reading philosophy textbooks and smoking weed. I would emerge from the bedroom, face swollen and red saying, ‘Please, please, please’, tugging forlornly at his sleeve like a child, and he would shake me off and move to a different chair. I would have thrown myself at his feet if he’d have let me, if it would have done any good. But there was nothing there to reach.

He was a blank space, a perfect reflection and a black hole. He was a man, a killer, and a traitor. People fell in love with him because he was so apparently without identity that he became whatever you wanted him to be—a bad boy; a hurt boy; someone to save you; someone who needed your saving. And when he looked back at you he was as confused as you were that he was made to represent so much. Later, when it was over, it was this that made me pity him. I was tossed around by him—abused, neglected, overlooked—but in the end it was me who did the objectifying. He was nothing more than a life size doll for me to play out my agony with.

I was a walking wound, blistering with jealousy, weeping with need. I read his poems about old lovers and bit all the skin from my fingers. Both thumbs were dotted with sore infected cuts, on one I had killed all the nerves on the outer layer of skin and could strip it right back to a fresh layer of open redness without feeling a thing.

When I had sex with him I was briefly what I wanted to be, which was utterly without body. When my body existed in service of his pleasure, I no longer had to think about it. When he slept next to me—even if we were fighting or not touching—the fact that he existed was enough, and neutralised the world to a tolerable degree. What I wanted was always to be having sex and always to be sleeping beside him and for there to be no life separating these things.