Save it for later (are you brave?)
A relentless blue sky that’s icy in its persistence, even as the sun pours onto the balcony. A comforting routine of easyJet flights, airport pølse, suburban rail and dated cars conveying you to what now feels like home from home: your second city. Parents greeting you. Friends — not quite yours — in two-room apartments in Nørrebro who serve you reindeer stew and invite you to Greenland (he shot it himself; you’ll never go).
This is what you give up.
Alternating pity, disgust, sadness, anger: how did I last so long? When did it start to go so wrong? How — and why — did it even begin?
The adventure sours. What was once a cultural novelty becomes an irritating undercurrent to every prickly misunderstanding, when really, it’s just him. It’s everything he’s never dealt with. It’s you for putting up with it. It’s you for being bullish, for being stronger, for being impatient. It’s him for crawling into a hole when the family problems started, and you for lying to yourself about what you really wanted. What it comes down to is that despite sharing a plan to wed, your lives will never again collide. And you prolong the slow sunder by lying to yourself, again: you want to hold on/you want it to work/you know it will work/you can both get through this. While in your secret moments, deep in your real self, you’ve already left and given yourself over to men with ten times the sexual authority.
No one knows what is coming
Or who will harvest what we have sown
Or how I’ve been dulling and dumbing
In the service of the heart alone
This is the time to feed yourself with everything you subsumed in the service of a Serious Relationship. Double LPs that soundtracked your happy, single interludes; late nights; fish and chips; deep purple lipstick; wild sex.
(‘You’re so brave!’ they say. ‘It’s a very brave thing to do.’)
You don the mantle of female picaresque, buoyed by a piece you once read and furiously keen to convince that ‘societal norms’ do not apply to you, you who has always had a story to tell (always just that little bit over the line) and who (if you admit it) likes doing exactly what you want, when you want, with whomever you want. You who wants to change the world. As ever, as ever.
You throw yourself into the deep, as ever.
You are convinced that you own your commodity value.
But your ‘libidinous self’ is mutually exclusive to your relationship potential.
This is what they tell you.
You got it wrong and hawked the wrong one from the start.
This is what they tell you.
You don’t even want a relationship — you just finished one!— but the damage has already been done. That cheque has already been cashed into the wrong account (even if the price was right).
‘But how is a woman supposed to write about her past if it’s unseemly or boastful to say she’s been the object of desire?’
You get what you wanted. They want to fuck you, but they also want to box you in, tell you what you want to hear, save you, tell you you’re crazy. Save you for later. And you recall from the song you keep listening to over and over Joanna Newsom singing, ‘Who died and made you in charge of who loves who?’ (It’s me nailing you! You’re my conquest!)
Yes, you are brave. To be loved is not enough.
Brave enough to hold out for something all-encompassing. To be not only loved, but understood. To be yourself running alongside another, always on the move together, bolstered by a physical connection so intense that regularly losing yourself is the purest satisfaction. Every twisted orgasm face, every smell, all of it fades before a feeling you never want to end, keeping you on the edge until you fall and fall again and you fall together and the long squeeze all night is a paradise you have never known.
Yes. You are brave. You know you may not find paradise, but you will know yourself. And for that, everything else can wait.
The following is a feature article from the LARB Quarterly Journal: Spring 2016 edition. To pick up your copy of the…lareviewofbooks.org