Surely it is clear to anyone – to everyone – to even the hopelessly blind, how much he suffers for her? Suffers because of her? Surely it is etched deep into his stupid, stricken face the pain he has endured and will continue to endure forever and always? Do they not see it in the way that he walks, in the way that he clenches his fists, in the way that he reaches deep into his pockets or wipes away an itch or a small hair? Can they not deduce – is it really so fucking difficult – that he is crippled by her? Can they not see?
The darks nights are the worst. As opposed to, of course, the light nights. The dark nights that are darker inside perhaps than they are outside. He knows what he means. Those dark nights when all there is is a chair in the centre of the room. The edge of the bed. Curtains. A broken lamp. Perhaps a picture on the wall that he cannot see but can well imagine: a foregrounded figure staring out to the rolling hills beyond that are in grey, betraying their green, and on horseback, haloed by the moon, a maiden in flight or on her way to something, or someone. A telephone whose brokenness is all the explanation for the fact that it never rings. He perches either on the edge of the bed or on the edge of the seat of the chair. Maybe, he thinks, she will knock at the door. If I’m quiet enough. If I stay still. Maybe she’ll knock at the door.
She is, it goes without saying, a reach for perfection. She is, it is understood, his embodiment of everything she should be. She is, naturally, doomed to failure yet, somewhat to his credit, he fully understands this. It is not so much a pedestal as a higher rung or a higher step. She is on the balcony, he is here, right down here, in the bushes.
He lost weight. A few pounds. Someone commented on it, after he’d mentioned it: yes, I see, in your face. He’s like a poet now. A skinny poet.
He lent her a book, his favourite book, and said how he thought she might like it, that it’s one of his favourites but, you know, you might like it, see what you think, and a few weeks later (weeks! how he agonised every single fucking day hoping she would read it and love it and recognise that his love of this wonderful book signified his whole correctness for her and how wonderful he too must be for loving such a book that he, unlike her idiot husband, understood and appreciated!) she handed the book back to him (didn’t she know that it was a gift?): I read the first few chapters and got bored. Through his heart, a rusting dagger.
It’s all the modern now and he follows her in ways that, years ago, would have been unimaginable, through the internet and mobile phones and through the selective network of what he couldn’t really call friends that allow him to keep tabs, if tabs is the right word, on her at nearly all times.
He had heard, through friends, that her husband was, in general, a fairly nice, as they said, guy. She spoke of him, reasonably often, as they chatted away their lunch breaks in the company of other colleagues, those unwitting chaperones. He imagined this husband, this guy, as having teeth and a smile, shoulders and probably shoulder length hair, casually confident, easygoing and mostly likeable. That is to say, an utter, utter cunt. She spoke of him often and he waited for her to say how he’d once raped her or beaten her or how he had an unhealthy interest in children who he masturbated over every night while she pleaded with him to come to bed.
It’s the feeling of connectedness that he feels she must also feel. So that when he closes his eyes and descends into his anguish she can feel his anguish as keenly as he feels it and feel that there must be something she can do. That is, when he presses himself hard against his pillow, weeping against his pillow, he is really waiting for her soft touch on the back of his head. One day, he tells himself, it will come. I should close my eyes harder, I should feel harder.
He aimed for cliché, sought refuge in cliché. He felt right at home there, where it was safe, where he was understood and pitied and encouraged. Does he really need originality at this point?
How do you, he asked himself, turn something like this into art? For this, surely, is the very furnace of art. Yes, of course, poetry and music and painting. The expression of without. But what of the within, the raging furnace – furnace again – that cries out, if furnaces can indeed cry (or crack or pop), that surely makes him his own work of art, no need for expression, just the simple state of being as it is, as he is. So he attempts, clumsily, to walk in beauty like the night.
It is reckless, this pleasure.
He attempted to formulate, to a smirking friend, how he’d been unable to, as they still say, rise to the occasion during their first, as he carefully described them, grapplings. It was, he went on, to do with, he was sure, the whole elevation thing, the way he had pushed her so far towards perfection that it was virtually impossible for her to be regarded, by him at least, as a sexual object. And there, his friend slyly intimated, is your clue. He had put her beyond the grubby business of being fucked and also beyond easy objectification.
This is, of course, easy stuff and does nothing to explain why a grown man should behave in such a way.