– Laura Cleary

It’s still under the bed, I think
The note.
Under my side of the bed.
He wrote it in that ink he likes. The kind they use for comics, he says.
The paper’s not ripped so he must have cut it out of his sketchbook. I don’t think I’d have seen it that night but for the eyes drawn at the top of the page. I wonder if he drew them before or after he wrote it.
They’re good. The eyes.
Evocative. I think that’s the word. If it’s the word I’m thinking of then that’s it all right.

Girl’s eyes. Blue. Long lashes. Japanesey.
Y’know, in that Animé kind of way.
Oh please don’t call me a racist too. I’ve had it all weekend from Himself. On Friday the last bus home was delayed nearly ten minutes when a Nigerian lady started on the bus driver. Shouting over and over that he’d short-changed her. It was stupid. I mean, this is Dublin, right? She’d want to get used to it.
With that in mind I tutted out loud and rolled my eyes.
Which makes me a racist. According to Him.

But yeah, the note.
I was out when he wrote it.
I know – Me. Out.

If the universe obeyed any kind of hard law I’d have been sucked into a rupture between space and time the minute I stepped outside after dark. But, the universe having the sick sense of humour it has, time just kept on running.
It continues to run.

The call came out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen Rob in two or three weeks so was thrilled to talk to him. He’d said he’d be in Town for a gig the next week and he had an extra ticket. I didn’t expect to be let go, but like I said, the universe has it’s own twisted humour.

You see, Himself doesn’t like Rob. Doesn’t like any of my brother’s friends. Doesn’t like me when I’m around them. I get common when I drink, he says.
So I haven’t been back home in ages.
Last time would have been the beginning of June. Barbeque season.
Rob was there.
He likes to play guitar in the front room with the lights off. I remember going in by accident one time, before I knew him. I was looking for my phone or something equally stupid and there he was in the dark. Just him on his own, smoking and strumming away. He looked up and said hello to me so I hung on. I went in there again at the same time the next week, and the next. It became our own private ritual. The 3am Deep and Meaningful. While the rest were in the kitchen jackknifing from Imagine to Stairway to Heaven, we’d sit in the dark and talk until daylight.
We talked about everything.
About life and about love and about the pain of it all. About how it was just so fucking scary. About how no one seemed to notice. How no one would listen.
That’s how the whole thing started. For me anyway.
I listened to him and he listened to me.
Every Saturday night for a month.

Yeah, Himself didn’t like Rob.
“I was listening to the radio,” he says to me one day. “This panel of psychologists were talking about para-suicidal behaviour.”
I don’t remember replying. But then, I’m pretty sure he was playing Metal Gear Solid so it wouldn’t have mattered if I did.
“It must be what’s up with you and that Rob guy. The moping around and the self-harm and everything. I mean, I know it’s almost healed but” he did his quarter smile here, an upturned mouth corner, “it’s pretty obvious you’re right handed.”

He’s never said anything about me wanting Rob. Still doesn’t. But he knows it. And I know it. It’s just this fact. His mother can’t make mashed potatoes and I’m a whore.
I don’t really get it though. I’m too fat to be a whore.
I catch my reflection in shop windows on the way to the bus. I know all about my belly. My arse. These cords looked way nicer on my brother’s girlfriend. She says she’s a size fourteen but I don’t believe her. She’s really goodlooking too. She doesn’t even wear makeup. Just mascara. And that’s only because she’s blonde.
I stopped wearing makeup for a while, but Himself hated it. Kept telling me that all the girls he did his portfolio course with did their makeup every day. Whenever he buys me lingerie he buys makeup for me too. I’m not very good at wearing either of them.
The Brazilian was less trouble. Crowdpleasing too. He asked me to drop my jeans pretty much the minute I came home.
I guess I didn’t mind. It was late so I was going to bed soon anyway.
I always strip naked for bed. It’s just easier.
I strip naked and climb over into the bed while he turns off the computer. Then he strips off too and lies beside me. Well, beside me but over the covers. It gets too warm under the covers, he says. It doesn’t take long or anything, I just don’t like the way he looks at me while he masturbates. So I turn to the wall. He doesn’t always touch me, but he does more now than he used to. I suppose I don’t mind it much anymore. You get used to it.

He only forced me once. He’d been pushing the whole blowjob thing. Not that that’s anything out of the ordinary. I’m fine with it mostly but it’s just such hard work and I can never get it right. “Open your mouth more” “Use your tongue” “Don’t use your tongue” “More” “Faster” “More” It’s exhausting. And I would have usually but I was just so tired and it was so late that suddenly I was crying. Which just made it worse. He always gets harder if I’m crying—he says that’s really common—so I tried to calm down while he sorted himself out. I remember thinking it was taking longer than usual so I turned onto my back. He must have picked it up wrong or something because he slid his hand under my neck and pulled my faced over and onto him. I tried to pull back but he’s stronger than me. I gave up. Spat it out after.

I cried myself to sleep that night.

He hasn’t done it again. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, so I haven’t mentioned it. But I don’t know. This week he downloaded this instructional pornography. Been playing it over and over. The chapter on anal sex in particular.
A frank discussion before the act can avoid much discomfort later on.
I remember trying to concentrate on ironing my jeans just before the gig, the ones with the really high waist, but he turned the volume up full. Every word seemed to rise up off the ironing board and soak into my skin.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain.
I unplugged the iron and threw some of the makeup he’d bought me into my handbag. I’d do it on the bus. One of them had to have a mirror in the lid.
Be mindful of your body’s reactions, particularly on the first attempts.

I was in town way too early so I went and walked around Stephen’s Green for a while. The Green itself was closed but I don’t mind walking around the outside. The street noise is nice, comforting.

I met Rob outside the bar. Which, by the way was heaving with upsettingly attractive girls. You know the type. Drummer chicks with effortless hair and forearms hidden in festival wristbands. To busy writing blogs on the decline of the post grunge scene to fall for their brother’s mate.
Women. Well, too close to women for me to cope with.
So I got drunk.
The singer guy was pretty good from what I could tell. Rob spent most of the time sitting completely still with his eyes closed. Listening. I tried to concentrate on listening too but I couldn’t stay focussed. Halfway through the set Rob had shifted forward on his stool so his thighs ran the outside of mine.
I leaned back a bit. His breath was thick. Warm with Guinness.
I moved my hair over to one side, leaving my neck and shoulder bare. Every second was like a needle stick. A tiny point being pulled out, over and over and over. The singer finished his set. We both clapped louder than the people around us.

Walking out I asked him were he and his girlfriend serious.
He said yes, that he loved her very much.
I knew her and could see why. She was an angel. Her mother died last year and she still wasn’t over it. They had been close. You could see it in the way she smiled when she thought no one was looking. As though the pain tasted sweet. She was just so sad and elegant and beautiful. And he looked after her. They belonged together.
I said I was okay to get another drink, but he wanted to get the bus home, there was one in a couple of minutes and no more until 3am.
We hugged at the bus stop and I promised him a bottle of beer the next time I saw him. “Might just take me up on it,” he said.
I haven’t seen him since.

Himself was awake when I got home. Taking big sniffly breaths as though he’d been crying. I didn’t say anything. Just stripped and got into bed.
The next morning he woke me. From behind. He must have decided he was done asking and just went ahead with it. I scuttled away from him, horrified.
“What are you doing?”
He looked hard at me for a moment.
“I think you know,” he said.

We looked at each other across the bed for a long time. Then I lay back down.
It burned.
Deep, controlled breathing is a technique used by many
Like he was jamming a white-hot poker into me.
There are ten thousand nerve endings lining
You deserve this.
It didn’t hurt as much.
You know what you are. You whore. You deserve this.
I was crying but it barely hurt at all.
Then a moan.
A climax.

I didn’t find the note until he had gone to get breakfast.

All I can think about is the two of you. Jeremy came over to see me but I can’t even talk to him, I just sit here, shaking.
You’re out there with him, because you want to be and you left me behind you. After all of the time I’ve spent on you, you leave.
I was here for you when you had nothing. Now I’m the one you’ve left with nothing.
I’m alone in here never going to forgive you.