Your Gift

Published in Goodnight, Goodnight, an anthology from the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Competition 2009 for South Australian writers.

A movie night by myself. Sunday night on the couch, just me and the box – I know it won’t happen, even as I plan it. I could sit and watch movies for hours with you. Now, by myself, I can’t sit for minutes. When I get too still, too quiet and alone, I think of what you did and want to scream.

Lips and fingertips

Fingertips on lips

Wrinkles ‘round blue eyes

Crinkling as you cry

House a mausoleum without you

I’m trying to recover. After what you did. Your shattering, smashing body. Unforgivable. But I can block it out. I can block out all the bad, unliveable stuff about you and still feel your absence so sharp.

Whenever my heart gets plucked, you’re there. But you’re leaving. A smile from a man, a lingering look across a restaurant – a voice inside says it was so much more with you. How can anyone live up to what you created in me?

Then, you showed me the monsters that live inside you.

‘You’re a fucked up alcoholic, and you’re here for my physical pleasure. This is going to happen.’

You broke into my house, six months after we’d broken up. Six months of missing you with my entire being, of wanting you back the way I want air.

But not on these terms.

You walked into my room, drunk and naked, and climbed into my bed. It was five am. I didn’t recognise you, and I screamed. You pinned me to my bed, your breath vile, stinking of cigarettes. One hand holding both my wrists. I’m face down, your legs are between mine and with your other hand, you’re trying to part my buttocks. You’re trying to push your penis up my arse. And I’m crying for you to stop, but you keep saying ‘this is going to happen, you worthless slut’.

Thank-god, I got angry. I fought back. Some vestige of spirit said your words weren’t true, there was some worth left in me, alcoholic or not.

‘You’ve cried rape before, haven’t’ you?’

I thought of the night I hitched a ride home, in blackout. Of waking up with a stranger. I didn’t remember a thing. I’d never told anyone, I carried it locked in my kryptonite lined box where intolerable things are put. Seventeen, blind drunk, no purse for a taxi, lost and deranged – the man took me in that state to his home. Is that rape?

‘No copper will believe you,’ that’s what you said. And you would know, given that you are one. ‘This is going to happen. You might as well be good for something and this is what I want.’ Over and over, ‘This is what I want.’

I tell you it’s rape, and you say you know and don’t care. You don’t care about me, never did. And then, the light bulb moment. You’d been raping me ever since we met. Taking from me, from my body and heart, never giving anything back. Just dangling enough to keep me submitting. I bailed you out financially, emotionally, sexually, and you just took, took, took. You told me you were a thirty eight year old boy, and I didn’t believe you. No, I just thought you were telling me you were fun, and I already knew that.  But you’re just a fuck up in every way. And still, I wasn’t enough for you. Until this.

‘This is what I want.’

 

Your voice and your smile

Monotony stopped for a while

It was fantasy, not real

Always guessing how you feel

Only ever wanted to reach you

 

I only fought back because you shattered me, smashed my stupid illusions. In that moment that lasted all night, all year. I see you as my mind constructed you: happy, funny, so handsome and quick. Your damned wink! Obsession, not love. Though I would have done anything to have you – is that not love?

You were the zipless fuck, the full body kiss. There’s space where you used to be, now on the periphery of my life. I can sense your lack.

 

Skin on skin

Before too virgin

Now unclothed

You’re never exposed

Never slept naked with another

Five am you walked, drunk, into my bedroom and because I’d been drinking for a week, you got angry. You ripped off my robe, groped my breasts so hard they bruised, told me to suck your cock. I agreed so you’d let go of me, and I pretended to start going down on you, then slid off the bed and ran for the phone. You were right behind me, and I only got to dial the 000 before you slammed down the receiver.

‘You’ll be sorry you did that!’

You picked me up, a bear grip from behind, and ran back to my room. I had no substance, a weightless anorexic in your arms. You threw me, face first, onto the bed. My head hung over the edge, nearly bashed the floor. You pinned my arms behind me, and wrenched my head back by my hair. I thought my neck was going to snap and my hair was going to come out by the roots, chunks of meat and blood attached. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, trapped and pinned like a butterfly staked to a board.

‘Chris, please don’t. Chris, please don’t. Chris, please don’t’.

 

And you were on top of me, trying to slam your dick up my arse. But you couldn’t. I’d fought you off for too long, and you were too drunk, and you’d lost your erection. Instead, you lay on top of me and slurred into my ear how much I disgust you, that I’m a waste of space alcoholic. I make everything hard for everyone in my life. You said at least when you tried to kill yourself, you only took you. That I take everyone around me.

You fell asleep on top of me, slurring your hate. It took forever to struggle out from under your dead weight. And then I lay, exhausted, on my bed next to you. As a couple, we didn’t make love in my bed very often; I always drove up to your place ‘cos you never had petrol. I loved your bed, your house in the hills closed in by trees and green and bird songs. Sandalwood burning and Ben Lee playing on the stereo.  But I lied, I wanted more than to just begin.

This was how we ended. I sat and looked at you passed out on my bed. Your face looked old, frown lines sharp, forehead creased and hair more receding than I’d ever realised. You stank of cigarettes, foul, and for once I could look at you, be next to you, and feel no love. You hadn’t raped me, though not through lack of trying. I got up, rang the police and waited for them on the couch, the front door open so I could run out if you woke. They came quick, a blonde woman and an older male constable. The male cop picked up your clothes from my lounge room floor, took them into my room and waited for you to get dressed.

They escorted you out and you were wearing your grey coat – you didn’t look like Bogart in that black and white picture on your mantle anymore. Just a hobo.

The female cop had my cat in her arms; she’s seven years old but the cop thought she was a kitten. Most affectionate cat in the whole of Adelaide, and you didn’t ever like her.

‘We’re done’. They were your last words to me, as the police removed you from my life.

I didn’t feel much after you left. Just a sense of swallowing a whole lot of nothing, and it’s taking up a lot of room in my body where you used to live.

 

Lips and fingertips

Your smile an eclipse

Forever too short a time

Never got to say goodbye

Memories are a mocking consolation

Maybe that was your gift to me, that’s how I see it now. If you hadn’t shattered my false god, I’d still be at worship. I don’t worship now, but I write to bring the reality of it all back because no-one believes me (you’re a cop after all, while I’m a pathetic alcoholic) and I need to remember. And I know, really, that you weren’t all good, or all bad and neither were ‘we’. There was good there, once, you moon faced fucker. And now, I’m lonely without my idol. But I want real love this time, and I have to push you out again because you’re still sitting in there, somewhere, and I don’t want you taking any part of me anymore.

So I thank you, for what you did, what you gave me. The effigy is burning and I’m slowly filling up your space.

With this, your final gift.

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