You might leave your hand on a hot element
You know, sometime you might leave your hand on a hot element; or step out into a hailstorm completely naked; or insist on eating a solid, yet indigestible, object. Like a spatula. Whatever diversion you choose, once you stop, a distinct happiness always pops up. Even serenity. Try it! It happens every time.
Before Emily, Scott dated another woman for six months. She was a very beautiful, very sensuous woman. An American girl he’d met at a crowded Billy Brag concert at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. She and her friends seemed sort of political, he noted immediately. And he found her unbelievably attractive, albeit in a weird sort of way. She was, in fact, pretty quirky – tattooed across her right breast in large Apple Chancery font was the word MEAT - or depending on your vernacular, he’d say later, "probably insane.”
But it had dawned on him only slowly.
Initially, he was proud of her weirdness. It was somehow an extension of his uniqueness – some people didn’t get it, but he didn’t care. Fuck them! And her unusual behavior or ideas made him feel less strange, less alienated. It allowed him to be weird. For a time, he found her and their relationship liberating, as all their friends seemed to disappear, one by one.
But she got weirder, much weirder, talking about secret constellations, intelligent life on other planets, UFOs, serpent people, and efforts to cover up certain truths; first, in short, amusing bursts followed by terrific sex just about anywhere, then in progressively longer stretches of humorless didacticness that allowed him, despite his impatience, while leaning against the kitchen counter or the couch or while looking at his teeth in the restroom mirror, to develop the transferable skill of appearing as though he cared, while devising ever-more-ingenious strategies for redirecting the focus to her not droning on about that and having yet more sex. In this manner, it almost seemed to him as though he were developing a super power.
Then, as the passion evidently began to fade, their relationship took an unexpected turn. It happened months into the relationship, one night after they’d made good-but-not-as-good-as-it-used-to-be love. They fell back onto his old futon on the floor where a humid summer breeze blew over them. Through the open window the electrical buzz of the High Park streetcar rose up above the din of Toronto’s College Street and screamed relentlessly for several minutes into his tiny bachelor apartment. All things considered, at that very moment, his life felt near perfect. And then, for reasons he hadn’t recognized, he found himself holding her, while she wept, a situation which he knew always complicates. True, he felt larger and strong, with her small body, suddenly childlike, quaking in his arms. But as the streetcar disappeared up the street, he felt a resolve growing within her, felt her stifling her sobs, and a mounting concern within himself evolving, that this might not lead to better sex.
“Hey. What is it?” he asked gently, taking control, thinking he sounded like a pretty great, well-put-together guy.
It was simple, yet terrible. She hesitated at first, but then just let it out: she had once been abducted. He asked her to clarify, sensing somehow what she would say, but hoping beyond hope that she wouldn’t: she told him she had once been abducted, by aliens, from another planet. The ones who owned all the flying saucers circling the globe.
“Oooh…” he thought, feeling inexplicably stupid as his eyes darted around the room to her possessions placed casually here and there. People believe this stuff, he reminded himself.
But, it was a secret, she said, looking into his eyes, and he understood that he should tell no one. His eyes narrowed, mirroring her expression, and he nodded. “Of course…” He agreed he would not tell a soul, and felt immediately guilty. Presumably, he recognized, this was how he now found himself naked in bed with her, which was an admittedly uncomfortable development.
He spotted his pants on the couch. How did he get into this predicament?! He was filled with a mix of complex emotions.
She relayed the whole horrifying event, laying out each fascinating and impossible detail. And began to sob again. He looked down with a growing sense of powerlessness to her scalp, visible where the clump of off-yellow dreadlocks met her head, then tilting his head to the right, to her boobs below, (making sure to hold his hand just right to obscure the word MEAT). He rubbed her back. Her body shook, but gradually at intervals farther apart. It was obvious that she was completely out of her mind, he acknowledged, finally, and that, really, someone should swing into action to relieve this poor kid of her genuine distress…
With great and obvious compassion and the sustained appearance of sincere interest in hearing more of her story – particularly the details and how this made her feel - Scott listened, while he dressed slowly and planned secretly how he might relocate to Calgary for an indefinite period of time. Perhaps he would change his name, find a second job, get plastic surgery. At the very least, he would try (again) to grow a mustache. Ultimately, he should become unrecognizable. But most importantly, he could never see her again.
That was certain.
She turned onto her back and let the tears roll over her cheeks as she spoke in the direction of the ceiling.
To be clear, he told himself, he felt bad for her, he definitely did (and wow, she was gorgeous… Should he leave so soon?) Still, he also knew instinctively that he’d been expertly manipulated, that, in fact, many details of her tale most certainly had been fabricated - he was a victim (!) - and this strengthened his resolve to move on. (She dabbed her bloodshot eyes as he checked his hair in the mirror.) He knew, for example, that aliens abduct humans, not other aliens! This surely was a recognized convention - it would be akin to cannibalism.
Consequently, he understood that he wouldn’t be able to trust her completely again. And perhaps yet more importantly, as he put on his final article of clothing, still nodding as he listed in detail all her strange imperfections, all those little quirks about her that had previously annoyed him but which he had pretended did not during his quest for intimacy, for belonging, for identity, for freedom, for really great sex (initially, L), he realized he could not trust himself, either.
Like a murder mystery where all the clues are laid out neatly by the clever detective in the billiard room, (or the living room, or kitchen), Scott realized on some level that he had known, the entire time.
And he’d gone along.
Perhaps she’d been speaking figuratively? Perhaps there really was something deeply wrong with her? Clearly there was. The tears seemed real…
“Goodbye, crazy girl…” he said to himself sadly, as he closed the door gently behind him and stepped out into the Next Exhilarating Chapter of His New Life where the din of the real world enveloped him.
And, indeed, a distinct happiness did pop up! It was exhilarating! He felt like Mary Tyler Moore. In fact, if he’d had a crocheted hat he would have tossed it into the air.
Then Scott realized he was on College Street, outside his own apartment, and that she was still inside, (with her MEAT boob), probably trying to levitate.
Breaking up is always hard to do…