A Horror of Female Convergence
The 4 a.m. shivers roll me out of bed. You don’t move. You are a Moomin lump; a gray mass against the pre-dawn light.
I sit on the edge of the bath, feeling the white enamel strike cold grues through my thighs. I tilt the magnifying mirror to reflect my face and experiment with words.
We can’t go on like this, I say. But that’s not right. You can go on like this. It suits you perfectly. I flip the mirror to the magnifying side. Each pore of my face glistens in the semidark.
I can’t go on like this. But no, that sounds Bovary dramatic, as though I’m about to rummage through the medicine cabinet for poison pills.
I should be able to tell you. Love should mean we can tell painful truths as well as painful lies. I am still in love with you, but I want to sleep in a small, cool bed that smells of me alone. I want to turn the light on at 4 a.m. and read, and fall asleep again in the comfort of its glow.
I picture you, mounded under our quilt. You’re not a Moomin—you’re the snake that swallows Moomins. You’ve wrapped your coils around me, and each time I breathe out you hug me closer.
I feel smothered, I say to the mirror.You’re too close to me. I tell you, You’re a Moomin eater. The silliness of it makes me giggle and the echoes bounce around the surfaces of the bath, ringing a sour note from the tumbler that holds our toothbrushes.
Guilt creeps from the cork tiles, seeping up my legs by capillary action until it saturates me. I used to relish being close to you—it was like taking a journey whose ending was always home. I celebrated when our periods synchronised, and when you bought clothes for me that turned out to fit perfectly.
But now the intimacy offends me. I don’t like the way you bulk-buy our underwear. I hate it when the carton of choc-chip ice cream appears in the freezer every month: comfort food for my PMS. I despise myself for eating it. Nothing I do is unexpected to you, even if it surprises me. You might be expecting this very moment. You’ve probably got a calendar on which Carol wakes up at 4 a.m. feeling stifled is marked for today.
I stare through the pebble-glass window at the ever paling sky. For a while I’m happy, not thinking, watching the daylight slide down the window like frost melting. Then I know you’re awake. Did I hear something subliminally: the creak of the bed, your soft footsteps?
I swivel so that I can see the door. In the arctic silence of white tiling and chrome fixtures I watch with frozen attention as the silver handle descends one millimetre, two, three. I imagine your hand on the other side of the door, cool and capable, resting gently on the mechanism. I start to shake.
Are you all right? Your voice is calm, you know I’m all right. You know everything.
I swallow. My throat is dry and narrow.I’m fine, I manage to say.
Good. there is a pause in which I wait, without volition, to see what happens next. The handle rises one, two, three millimetres. You’re gone.
I watch morning light flood the window. Then I come back to bed. I stretch out beside you, careful not to touch. I listen to the dawn chorus as you sleep.
How much can I say about this without giving myself away? At a very young age I had a relationship like this and I have never forgotten the claustrophobia of it.
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