Her secret....shifts....murky....murky past....hidden beneath false sparkles of polite conversation.....a secret....burns.....festers....nerve endings singed....her secret....shifts....then hides.............
All these changes, yet Carole seems to notice no change in me. I, who glance suspiciously at the barman who briefly, very briefly, becomes the image of an ex-lover in the dim lights.
I have discarded my red lipstick. I now wear no makeup to hide behind, yet I have a lot to hide. I do not belong here. I am misplaced, alone. I am acting whilst standing with Carole, smiling, sipping at the bar. Her laugh is cold. I suck on an ice cube from my glass of martini. Rob joins us, her friend from work. His hair is short like a skinhead boy. He is wearing a blue suit. He asks me what I do. What I do? I am misplaced. I do not really do anything since I dropped out of college. I hate it.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A pop star, an airline pilot, an actress. In childhood the future is a dream, an expectation, is swirling within hope and ambition. The future is a weeping willow made of gold, real yet also an illusion, something intriguing and unknown, waiting, waiting to be touched and caressed. The future is always there, rustling, beyond sight, like leaves in the darkness. I told my father that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. "Be a doctor," he said," they get paid more." He seemed pleased when I told him I wanted to be a vet, a judge. In the bathroom I would peel off my clothes slowly in front of an imaginary, male audience. I wanted to be a stripper or a model like the girls in the magazines.
Carole and Rob are looking at me. “Well?” Carole is asking. I accept Rob’s offer to take me out.
Sex was not mentioned. Not the word, sex. It was spoken, throughout the evening, though, non-verbally, eyes, smiles. No touches though. But it was expected, by both of us, I think...
A bit nervous; perhaps it is Rob’s grass. Skunk, one of the strongest. "One more coffee? I’ll make it." Stomach jittery. Perhaps it is the coffee, caffeine is bad for the nerves. Nervous in my stomach, yet not the warm tingling of excitement- that fear mingled with heady suspense followed by the high of sexual pleasure and joy. No, not that. Nervous in my stomach but dull in my head. Flirting all evening, my eyes bright, inviting windows into the warm rooms of my house inside; my private rooms that I tempt you to explore. But now, here, at Rob’s place, my shutters are down. I am cold- demons, dark skeletons shiver inside. They chatter: slut, prostitute. He wants sex. And my mother’s voice: men only want you for one thing. All the hurt. All the invasions into my body. It is my body, yet why do I feel that I should let him in? Oh, I know that there is more to sex than just that, just sticking it in. There is foreplay- caressing, stroking- but I will not enjoy that. I will be tense, ready to intercept, ready for him to fuck, to ejaculate. All this whilst I make the coffee. I feel so icy that I am surprised it is still warm when I bring it over.
I did want it. I did want it. I had a long bath and put on my best underwear; I wonder if he chose his best underwear too. It is too contrived. I do find him attractive, too. A laid-back, mellow personality, yet hard. He can stick up for himself but he is not too nasty or vainly macho. But now...is it me? Am I ruining the evening? Icing over and evasive coffee making. My sexuality and my ability to enjoy it, lost somewhere in a psychological labyrinth. And I did not realise how damaged I was; too fragile and afraid of breaking again for a flippant one night stand.
Ok, it might be more than that. I know. But I may have ruined it. All or nothing. I will say no. Yet sex has not yet been mentioned.
We smoke another joint.
He reaches over and kisses my neck. Softly. Although I feel afraid, he suddenly sends electric pulses around my head; I can see them like twinkling lights when I close my eyes. He puts his hand on my breast. Kissing is one thing. I feel afraid. I cannot respond. I suddenly slouch down into the chair like a child avoiding molestation. “I'm scared,” I say.
“What of?” he asks me quietly. Sex....I try to explain....things in my past....my secrets haunt my words with bitterness....I find it hard to communicate...I can’t....I try to keep quiet or I will taint the evening with hostility....
He seems so innocent; he looks at me, confused. He feels my frost. He turns away and I feel a demon chattering inside. No, no, not already. My chill already killing the hope of maturation for any new romantic seeds, now no roses will grow. Barren. I am not the same after working at the massage parlour. It was a sacrifice. And it was doubt. That was how men treated me anyway, like a prostitute. Perhaps all this is part of my sacrifice. Perhaps this is the unwritten law of the prostitute. But I cannot tell him any of this.
He triggered electric pulses in my head, I enjoyed kissing him, I felt, I felt, something. But now my mind contains old wounds, old flames, old enemies, dirty bastards taking advantage of me, meathead masculinity- that ugly phallic-centric insensitivity that sickens me to the core.......
...but I can say none of this to him. If I did I would only shout and scream the words that I find hard to express, so that he would not even hear and only taste bitterness.
I tell him that I walked out in front of a car. Then the evening dies.
"Don’t know. Couple of months ago."
Silence. He is depressed. I have depressed him.
He walks me home. We do not mention it. A bit stoned. I did not have to tell him. It was probably fear. Shock tactics to scare him away. Suddenly revealing a nasty wound and saying, “Look, I’m bleeding, I’m hurting.” Things too deep to say. Not now. Not so early on. I get a feeling that it is over, whatever it was. He stops outside my flat. He might tell Carole. I keep so much of myself hidden from her. I am isolated. She does not know that I was abused. Why should she know? I hide the abuse from others, yet wonder, do they know? Can they tell? Sometimes I think that they know, that it must seem so obvious. I tell him that I will ring him. “No, I'll ring you,” he says, walks off, cool. I did want him. I just could not have him.
I wake up late. Still stoned and groggy. I will lie in bed today. All day. My telephone rings. I let it ring. The last ring ends, echoing in the silence. The sound lingers, vulnerable, calling, a little sad, like an animal or something pitiful.