I have read we should strive to be heroes for our child selves. But what do you know, child self, of the low-ceilinged offices of adulthood? Every time I wake up, the ceiling has gotten lower.
I have never been truly loved, I think. I believe Nate wanted to love me but didn’t know how. I had the thought for the first time last year that my parents may never have truly loved or been truly loved in their entire lives. I worry that that is my fate, too.
I imagine there is a baby in my stomach and I imagine it as my child self and I think, “How could somebody love this thing? How could anyone care for it?” My mother used to tell me she hoped I would become pregnant, even accidentally. I suspect she believes childbearing is an act of sanity. “But sometimes,” my mother says, “when you see a single mother at the store, or on the street, you have to wonder what she did to get herself in that situation.”
I run around my new city looking for something to love. I had sex with Nate again because I have fallen or I think I have fallen in love with my boss. He doesn’t love me, and he doesn’t want to: he has too few emotions, and he thinks I have too many. “We would not work long-term,” he says. “I agree,” I say. His fingers and tongue inside me in my apartment, in the park at dusk, in the cemetery behind the mausoleum with the sphinxes standing guard—he won’t let me touch him, yet I cannot stop myself from loving him. I tell him I need to practice being emotionally wiser with him, less vulnerable. He says, “I don’t really think of emotionality as weakness. I tend to think of it as strength.” I say, “I do too. That’s not what this is about.” He tells me it shouldn’t matter. He tells me I talk about power dynamics too much.
I imagine what I would name this thing in me, if there is a thing in me. This has happened before. I imagine what I would name the thing and what we would do together. And if I imagine it well enough, to the point that I begin to want it, I inevitably bleed, and nothing happens.
I mostly imagine girls. I don’t really know how to imagine a boy. I have realized that I don’t know how to trust men who aren’t angry. But I don’t know how to imagine my son as anything other than gentle and scared.
I think of the things my daughter will remember when she is grown—Sylvia Plath and Judith Scott; the red, white, and blue afghan Bubba Sue made; a vase of carnations always on the desk; how one corner of the apartment always smelled of cologne and we didn’t know why. I will tell her there is the ghost of a boy living over the kitchen table and she will grow up believing she can communicate with the dead, or wishing she could. If she is like me, though, she will fall in love with him. If she is like me, she will only want impossible things.
“It’s the not getting it,” I will tell her, “that makes it sweet. Years will pass, and the not getting it will be sweeter than the getting it ever could be. The getting it fades. The not getting it ages like wine, or a mythos.”
And tomorrow—tomorrow I will wake up in a pool of blood; the ceiling will be a little lower.
Dev Murphy is a writer and visual artist living in Pittsburgh. You can find and follow her on social media @gytrashh.
Gem Blackthorn is QMT's Sex Columnist, and the author/curator of Lust Thrust Thursdays. Send her your submissions and questions at sexsexsex [at] queenmobs.com