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I’ve been sleeping with Susan for, um, lets just say for next to a while. So, we’re kind of steady. I have to dash off to London for two days, one night. For work. Jeff talk. The phone rings; I ignore and keep telling it ‘I’m not here’. Its Susan checking up on me. Then, in the dead of night, at 4:08am, a text message wakes me.
‘I just woke up. I was dreaming of you. I looked at the bed and you were gone. I’ve started reading your stuff. I confess that I never read it before. It’s torture reading about your past and the stupid girls you had. I’m sooo jealous. And I feel distant from you. I’m greedy for your past. For the years I didn’t get to spend with you. It’s like grieving over a dead person. Then I feel pressure. I feel I knew you but now I feel that I don’t. It’s like going back to the start – day one and finding out who you are. I would ring you only I’m shitless you don’t want me. And then beneath all of this I fear that I might stop wanting you. But….’
I kill my curiosity over the ‘but’ bit and think what to do for a few moments before dropping back to sleep. From bed, the next morning I play kind and send Susan a text:
‘It’s riveting, us, we are. It’s like we’re charting a course through the Suez canal to get to the ocean, going through various locks, the key to us slowly turning, creaking under the weight of expectation, waving us through to the next phase, two steps forward, one step back, and all the while nearing the vast ocean that one day will hold us together through the wildest of storms. Life with you. Huh!’
She doesn’t care to respond; perhaps she doesn’t know how to. Still, it suggests there are undercurrents. Demons.
We have history – histrionics – with dreams. Susan once dreamt that I was laughing at her. Oh, her precious ego! She said her subconscious was making a valid point; that our predicament was hopeless. There were other dreams but I’m not going to bore you with them. Well, I’ll just tell you this one as its weird: Susan dreamt that I was jerking off while I was asleep beside her and then, when she woke up, she actually accused me of it! Yes, she can’t figure out the difference between dreams and reality.
To be fair, not all of Susan’s dreams were bad. In another dream she asked her mother if it was normal for her tits to keep growing while she was in her mid-20s. Her mum hugs her tit-heavy daughter and tells her that she’s knocked up. Susan relayed this dream to me the next morning and said that in the night she woke up and there I was, my sleeping face looking right back at her. She kissed me and wondered if I felt it as I slept. I didn’t.
But I’m wary. I can’t rely on her feelings. They’re erratic. She’s up; she’s down. And I’m stuck in the middle. Being either loved or hated.
How to bear the responsibility of being tied to another? Girlfriend or wife, aren’t they terms of capture? Don’t they mean being settled, of having homes, of having order, of conformity, of comforts? Me, I feel cheated just being here on planet earth. An accident years ago should have whisked me from this mess. Life, huh!
Back to the now: I urge calm, futile though it is. Her moods are uncontrollable. Anyway, its always the same when I go away; Susan always thinks I’m running around with others.
‘In the bushes!’ I joke.
‘Well?’ she asks.
‘Susan, come on, I’m more refined than that. And how many times must I tell you, there’s only you?’
When I return to Lisbon, and just as I’m wondering how a man might spend the day, and our little saga has moved on. There was me thinking that Susan might be tending to the chores, all mother-like and cooking, but no, the girl-child lingers. My head-shot is pinned to a wall and she’s throwing darts at it; yes, at a photograph of me. My mouth is the bull’s-eye and a hole is worn through the photo where my mouthpiece should be.
‘Is it your period?’ I ask.
‘No, it’s you.’
‘Susan, stop imagining problems.’
Only there’s no stopping her. She’s made of vitriol. It’s odd as when she’s asleep she looks like an angel. But now, fully awake, and she’s crying like a baby.
‘Why are you crying? Stop crying, Susan.’
‘I like crying. Really. It doesn’t mean I’m sad.’
‘Crying makes you happy?’
‘Kind of, ya.’
‘Well, I don’t know that I like it.’
They say, do what you love and let it kill you. I am and she is. Still. They also say there’s only a handful of girls in the world you can understand. Susan isn’t one of them. She’s hysterical, a contrary depressive. What’s natural for her is a worry for me: crying, whinging, dissing. For her, to smile is work. She says I’m a moron for always being happy without just cause. Me, I feel a grave sympathy that she can’t just be content or, at least, like me, to fake contentment.
I thought ours might be the story of life; the stuff of love. Alas no and I tell her so.
‘Susan, you want to love a different me!’
‘Like it or lump it? Do you think things are supposed to be easier because I’m a woman?’ she rants.
It dawns on me what this is about: sex. It’s a conspiracy; my cock and me. I want to do it even when we’re fighting. Susan says it means that I don’t love her. It’s true; we fuck like bunnies. We do it like it’s the only way to get oxygen and the last day on earth. I tell her it’s my heart she’s getting. But the sex versus love argument goes on and on, happy never-ending after. We’re back to the old chestnut: she imagines there’s another. It’s her insecurities; paranoia running rife. I go to quench.
‘Susan, you know that you’re all I’ve got.’
‘You’re all talk’ she huffs.
She storms off to the bedroom. I follow behind and find her lying face-down on the bed. I steal up behind her and kiss her neck. She doesn’t move. I feel compelled to make a statement.
‘Susan, I would hate it if I could never do that again… forever.’
‘Go away. You got your milk.’
‘Not real milk!’
‘Ok. What metaphoric milk did I get?’
‘You’re not human. I just don’t know why I’m masochisting myself with you!’
Ours isn’t a maturing relationship. She’s all about small details whereas I’m keener on big-picture stuff, the broad strokes. She turns over on the bed and fells me with a line.
‘The empty words of a writer!’
‘Writing is all I have. And yet it’s everything.’
I’m jailed by her jealousy; she lets outside things come between us. If I so much as hello a girl, she’s imagining congress. It’s ludicrous.
Another truth emerges. Back home, in Ireland, her cat has to be put down. Apparently I don’t show enough compassion. The near-dead cat demonstrates that we only know how to push apart but not pull together in times of stress. We’re reactionary, incendiary, both having the same kooky yet explosive ki energy. Of late, I’ve started keeping her under scrutiny. Ok, she knows there were two world wars and is tweaked enough to wonder about another given all that’s happening in the Middle East. Thankfully she also has a few views.
But there’s a problem.
Susan has stopped respecting me. Or at least she’s tired of listening to me, of hearing my factoids. Man-sense rather than nonsense she calls it. Although she rarely, if ever, utters a jewel of wisdom herself, she polices everything I say where once she was in awe. In fear of boring you, you the reader, I overlooked telling you things. See, I have theories about illnesses and things:
- hiccups may indicate the on-set of a stroke;
- girls don’t eat mushrooms as they remind them of flaccid penises or peni;
- farmers in Japan get Kobe cows drunk before jumping on them with stiffys.
Anyway, lets back to us.
Questions mount. We’re competitive, unsustainable, and only look for flaws in each other. Bizarrely, we have serious conversations about who is funnier! Then we have a fundamental imbalance of world views: she’s down; I’m up. She sees problems where I see solutions. We’re polar opposites; a cup half-full versus half-empty thing.
Then there’s this: she’s not generous. It’s her round at the bar and she leaves me standing drinkless as she gets herself one. What’s mine is hers and what’s hers is also hers. She isn’t into sharing. She says it’s because men must be superior (and money-bags). And then, all because Susan’s piss-hole in the middle of Ireland has a few hundred more people in it than the piss-pot from where I hail, it implies that she’s enlightened whereas I’ve a mountain-man’s mindset. It’s too much.
‘Susan, it’s not like I’m from the bush. _________ is a town and not a village.’
‘But you don’t even know bananas or electricity’ she teases.
‘I’m a real normal guy.’
‘Real – yes. Normal – no!’
Oh, it’s because (and she screams this bit):
I’m a loser.
I’m a pervert.
It’s what I hear. I’m this, I’m that, I’m never perfect. God help anybody who tells her what she is! It’s to my credit that I’m able to laugh at myself while for her, her biggest fear is being humiliated.
We go through a ceremony; a ritual of sorts: we burn my published work.
‘It’s old-fashioned having a real book. Caveman!’
My out-moded life! Susan hates paper. She prefers technology. She says reading from a sliced up piece of wood (aka paper) reminds her of Moses writing on stone tablets. Books are finished; physical objects passé. Touch, or sensory perceptions, is redundant; its only an online sense one needs nowadays. The library doesn’t feel the same way about it. It’s where Susan borrowed the book that I wrote. I’m embarrassed having to explain that I mislaid it. They frown when I give them a new copy signed by me.
‘Books aren’t for writing on’ the librarian says.
‘I autographed it!’
‘But you’re not the author!’
‘You know what, fuck you, that fucker named on the cover can’t even write His own name. And anyway, what would you know about who really wrote it!’
Security are called. I’m turfed out of the library in the same manner a wino was minutes earlier. I tell Susan about the library saga, imagining she might appreciate the irony.
‘Louis, relax, its only a book. It doesn’t matter.’
‘Nothing seems to matter but at least I’m trying to.’
‘History won’t remember you’ Susan snaps back.
‘And hanging around is never going to make you somebody!’
‘It’s a recession Louis in case you hadn’t noticed. There are no jobs.’
‘So adapt. Change. Survive. Darwin!’
The thing is, Susan and I, we’re getting domestic but I’m unsure how I feel about this. It’s touch and go. To reconcile or discard, that is the question. After all, it’s no easy task guessing who might and might not be in their right mind. I study her closely and wonder if she might be the one. But I can’t discern if the things I learn about her are positive or negative.
For example, she has lost all her inhibitions. Ever since she and I went carnal, crudeness followed. There’s road-works! Once day over lunch, she pulls down her panties and matter-of-factly asks how much she should leave behind before having her pussy lazered. She’s become mad about herself, the nymphet. She thinks I know about grooming because I keep a bonsai tree. Giving it a seconds thought, I suggest that she leaves a tiny landing strip and return to eat my sandwich.
Then she soaks her white knickers and bras in the sink. I spot the shit stains and almost comment. I can’t figure out how she progressed straight from being a virgin to lazering her cunt and without going through the standard post-pubescent phases of getting a Brazilian or vagazeeling. She even lazered her asshole! Is it for a smooth entry or exit?
Then there’s this: something or someone always makes her nauseous. She’s fixed with a malaise where she can’t understand optimism and less still joy. It gets me thinking that people come in strange packages, Susan being both a beauty and a crack-pot. She wants to play the survivor. But of what? Maybe it’s the same thing I noticed back in our shared office days where she became frustrated trying to be someone but didn’t know who to be.
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