I’ve grown compliant. My life is easy and I sleep side by side with my best friend, sometimes we touch each other. I make promises of monogamy and those promises sometimes last three whole days. Maybe this is normal. Maybe feeling unfulfilled in a relationship of four years is normal. But I can’t stop my mind from wandering, thinking of others, lying about me, my existence, my responsibilities. Maybe it’s normal for people to fantasise about others. But maybe it’s not normal to act or pursue those fantasies.

Maybe I’m not normal.

Plenty of Fish, Tinder, HER, OK Cupid, I’ve had them all and more. I think part of me enjoys creating new profiles, creating an illusion of myself because I am a narcissist. I have a palm full of sweeties, come and take one, come and taste the mystery. You’ll assume they’re sweet but it’s only me who knows they soon grow sour…

Usually I am the pursuer. Girls want to feel special – and I am good at making girls feel special – but this time it’s not me who makes the first move. One day passes and you suggest we meet for a drink.

“Number one,” you say while pointing at the recent spilled beer mark on my thigh.
“Number two,” after I knock the tobacco out of my would be hand rolled cigarette.
“Number three,” when I trip over the last cobbled step in that eery pub.

“Are you always this clumsy?” The question hangs in the air while I blush and try to regain composure.
“Are you always this judgemental?”
“I’m never judgemental but I am always observant.”

We talk a lot, mainly about me, and you quickly discover that I don’t live alone. I quickly discover that you love games. You tell me your life is all about music, food and sex. You have a sex friend. I tell you I have more than one.

From there we started to play with each other. Not a normal game but a fucking psychological war to see who would fall first.

Later, the next evening, I’m at your apartment, “what do you eat?”
“Anything but cheese.”
“Are you allergic?”
“No, I just don’t like it.

You order pizza topped with four cheeses and I fucking eat it. We fuck. I don’t come and you tell me it’s psychological. We’re laying together, you’re kissing my forehead, stroking my hair, tucking that one strand back behind my ear.

“Are you staying here tonight?” Tension and silence fill the gap between our entwined fingers. I can’t look at you but instead bury my head beneath your chin.

“I don’t do sleepovers,” I whisper as you climb on top of me, staring into my eyes, smirking. “But I do want you to fuck me.”
“I’m not fucking you.”
“I want you to fuck me.”
“You’re not here. I’ve lost count how many times you’ve looked up at the clock.”
“I am here. I’m here. I’m right fucking here,” guiding your hand to my cunt, “fuck me please.”

The smirk on your face quickly fades and I think I have gotten my own way but this isn’t for my benefit. This is about power. You’re bigger than me, stronger and you make me feel so small, weak even. Eventually you stop and we’re laying in a puddle of your accomplishment, my humility.

“Now fuck off back to your girlfriend.”
“I don’t -“

Later, another evening, I visit you after a night out and I get defensive when you ask if I’m an alcoholic, subtly reminding me that I had three beers that first day we met while you only had two.

“You make me feel uneasy and uncomfortable.”
“Well if it’s comfort you’re looking for…” you hold your arm out and I cry.
“I barely know you but you make me feel naked and vulnerable, but safe too.” You run me a bath, pick out some pyjamas too big for me and I stay the night. In the morning you heat up croissants and brew fresh coffee and we smoke too many cigarettes. You ask me if I would mind if you fuck someone else and I tell you I couldn’t know. I ask you the same and you say yes.

When I leave it’s more than two days before we talk again.

“How are you?” A text that I reluctantly send but less than a minute later you call me.
“I’ve booked for us to go away together next month. Don’t make plans that week. Don’t ask me where we are going. Don’t ask any questions. Just say yes.”

I want to ask questions, mainly why haven’t you contacted me, where have you been, and what the fuck? Instead, silence again.

“I’m sorry we’re just friends.” I say, attempting to fill the void.
“Did I ask you something?” You say my name as though I’m being summoned by my Head of Year all over again. Your accent think and full, and how my name rolls off your tongue gives me instant goosebumps. “We are incompatible. I’m the definition of possessive and you’re not ready for that. You’re not ready for me. But you do intrigue me. And I like you. And I like it when you come.”

We had plans to meet on Tuesday but after a horrible day I needed to be at home with my best friend.

You call me. “The problem with you and I is that I like to plan and you don’t. The difference between you and I is that I respect the people I schedule time for and you don’t.”

We erase each other’s numbers and agree that it maybe could have worked if we were both emotionally available.

Last night we matched on Tinder. I think part of me fell in love with her. And when I think about her I get sad. She probably won’t sleep alone tonight but I know she will still feel lonely.

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“Don’t burn all your bridges down,” he warns her. “You won’t have anyone left to turn to.”

“I’ll still have you, won’t I?” Her words slurred with pain or too much beer, he doesn’t know. “You always come running back even when I make your life miserable.

You can’t stay away from me.”

He wished he could tell her she was wrong.

This is the love I know

A loveless love, a convenient love, an after dark, occasional weekend away kind of love. It’s a love I like, a love I love.

Don’t pity me because I have love at arm’s length. This love gives me a radius of love in abundance, a love for whichever direction I choose to face, a love suited to match whichever feeling, want, and need that I’d like in any moment.

A nameless love, quiet, waiting in the shadows. A keycard love, a backseat love, a £3 a minute love. A judgeless love. A let’s tell all our secrets, turn the sound off, be present, kind of love.

A love where I can be the best version of me, the version of me you like, the version of me you love.

Waiting

I let myself in and leave my bag at the door. I undress down to my underwear as per your request and kneel in my corner. Waiting.

All my senses are enhanced. My hearing attuned for any nuance of your presence, listening as you take steps on the floor above me, listening as the staircase creeks, my mind floundering and sense of time is lost.

Eyes fixated on the wall, watching for any hint of shadow. I’d close them but the quiet only grows louder, deafeningly so.

Sniff for any hint of your scent, your own signature smell traced with perfume. Panting and savouring the air like wild kittens do.

You see me and I hear a small hint of approval. Looking fiercely at the same point on the wall trying to find some composure, holding my hands tighter behind my back while a gentle graze of acknowledgement against my neck and down my back paints goosebumps over every etch of my skin.

You blindfold me and get yourself a drink. You sit down from across the room and watch me. You take my vanity and leave humility in its place as you watch my hands restlessly fidget behind my back, watch the curves of my body, watch me want you to want me.

I can feel your hunger for me fill the room. Black lace growing wet, my heart pounding in my chest, my palms mimicking what’s between my legs. Growing impatient. I want your touch, I want your attention, I want you.

Waiting isn’t a punishment, nor is it forlorn. It is an intrinsic foreplay for you know me well. You know that under my cute short blonde hair, my head is filling with erotic images from the past, present and anticipating the immediate future. Wicked thoughts running rampant with decadent possibilities. My overactive and creative mind readying my body for you without a single word.

Invite me over to you on my hands and knees, words so subtle yet they punch me hard. Winded for you, wet for you. Feel my lips with yours and catch my breath. I can taste your need, your lust, heavy and intoxicating, tantalising my tongue. Smell the bergamot embellished with my nervousness and relief, the enticing scent of your little girl desperate to be taken by your hands, a need only you can satisfy.

you should all know my answers

It’s been five years since we met
You were the storm I wanted to battle
And I was calm you craved

I was never ready for the destruction
Unsettling my life free of complication
You were excitement and a life out of the ordinary

So I let you in

I gave myself to you
And questioned all the choices I made before
We made plans of forever
As the weight of dependency grew heavy on my shoulders

We were what each wanted in that moment
You made me feel adrenaline
And love
And now there are places I can no longer venture to

You made me forget who I am
The Lone Wolf gets weaker with two
But when you left
I became a little more fearless

Maybe it begins here

It begins here… maybe…

When I am twelve years old, my mother sinks into her own depression. Her own bad childhood resurfaces like a drowned corpse. While she sleeps and drinks and gets hospitalised, I line my eyes and paint my mouth dark. I want to offer my face and skin repainted and reinvented for recognition. Pushed up breasts, pulled down t-shirts, for my friends to accept me, for them to teach me to shoplift lip gloss and cigarettes and show me abandoned warehouses. Holding hands, smoking, and tonguing each other’s mouths, telling all our secrets, crying drunk, and perhaps feeling an element of safety there.

Or maybe it begins here…

I am eighteen. I have a boyfriend. This is a real thing. At eighteen I believe it is the most real thing possible. Jonathan is twenty seven, an engineer from Edinburgh. He is somber but bright, persuasive too, with dark hair and pale eyes. He pours me tumblers of rum and lifts me over his broad shoulders before elegantly throwing me down on to his crisp white bed. I move into his house across the motorway from the airport. I work two jobs. Mornings are spent at the coffee house where I steam silver pitchers of milk with a machine that collects brown skins and burnt milk fat which must be soaked and scrubbed from the steam arms. Nights are at the local casino’s restaurant where I stave my hunger with plastic cups of diet lemonade on ice. Here I lay down ceramic plates of gravy downed potatoes, and hot roast, and ‘all you can eat’ spaghetti, and the chef’s salad with chunky orange dressing on a counter that is lined with single men who lean over their daily specials and fork food into their mouths as though eating is its own kind of work.

When they are finished they look up at me.

“Hey, blondie. You sure look good tonight.” I am wearing my uniform: black skirt, red blouse, nylons. I have a name tag too. I smile. I blush and giggle at their short hand abrasive flirts, anticipating their tips, already counting them in my head.

I have plans to move to London to study. I had won a poetry scholarship, £3,000. But Jonathan is short on rent. He needs his car fixed. He needs help with the electric bill. I pay for these things with my scholarship money and with my tips I buy us dinner.

Before my nineteenth birthday comes I have given all of the money to Jonathan. This happens just before or after I turn nineteen. It’s May or March and we’re in bed. I am straddling him. He reaches up to touch my breast.
“You are so beautiful. People would pay to look at you,” he tells me. He speaks about Dave, his friend who is looking for young girls to pose nude for a college website. “I know you need money for school.” He pauses for a moment. The windows open above the bed and we are laying next to each other now. It is spring and accompanying the cornflower blue skies is a breeze. The white cotton comforter feels like a net, something holding us. I am sleepy and Jonathan’s voice lifts above me into the dim air between the bed and the ceiling. “Dave says he’ll pay be a finder’s fee, £50, but I wouldn’t even keep it. I’d give it to you to pay you back.”

Or I can tell it like this…

I am eighteen and I am in love with Clare Ryan. She is Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend and we meet first at one of his many house parties with spilt beer and a red-shaded light where Jonathan and his band play so loud and beat heavy and everyone is dancing in a way that makes me feel nervous. It makes me want to dance with them but also to hide. I am lost and feel out of place in my own home, as though I am struggling in the depths of a river with a growing tide. I walk through various rooms before sitting on the couch at the front steps and watch different textures of darkness blanket the canal. I wear my flannel cut low and swallow more rum. Clare is in there among the bodies. She is dressed in a slip dress and a fake fur coat and her hair and lips are the same colour red.

Later, another evening, she’ll stop by alone and I’ll be watching her at the kitchen table, admiring her. She sits on the edge of one of our old metal chairs, shading her lips with her red pencil before smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. Her lips imprint her mark over the cigarette and bottle top. I long for her mark to be left on me, for me to be hers. Hours later we’re in Jonathan’s bed together. I’ll be kissing her mouth and then between her legs where I don’t know what I am doing but I want the taste of her, the smell of her, the presence of her. I want her lingering fragrance to intertwine with my curiosity, the scent of coca butter and aloe. Her skin is soft too, softer than mine, and her eyes and smile could easily light up and fill this darkened room in an instant.

Jonathan will be there too, in bed with us, but I’ll ignore him. I’ll watch her body move and listen to her caught breath. It will be intense and magnified like a held note in a powerful opera. In the morning, I acknowledge the way she pulls up her skirt, the way the thin fabric glides up her thighs. She tells us how she never over stays her welcome. It will be Christmas morning and she’ll leave. She’ll be gone either escaping from, or chasing, her personal nightmares, her demons. She was welcome to stay. She was welcome to stay forever.

Later, still, it will be summer and another party. Clare will be in a black dress and fidgeting with a red hat while sitting on the floor, leaning against the end of the bed with her hair behind her and her dress fanned across the carpet. We had the door closed. On the other side, there’s all the noise but in here it’s just us. Quiet. Isolated. Warm. I want to kiss her but I’m too scared. Instead I listen to how her father treated her as a child, how he disciplined her, how he pushed her away. She tells me when she first moved to Scotland and how she pawned her grandmother’s gold bracelet to buy toilet paper. And then how she met Jonathan. I had never seen her so vulnerable and unsure of herself. She projected such confidence all of the time. She pulls a bottle of silver glittered nail polish from her purse,
“My mother sent me this,” she laughs, “The colour is called ‘Psycho’ so I guess it made her think of me.”

And now, at her house, in her cluttered bedroom in Merchant City in Glasgow. She is in a little white tank top with no bra and we are sharing a bottle of vodka and ice. She shows me a picture of herself at the strip club where she used to work, the one Jonathan introduced her to. In the picture she is wearing tall boots and the flash glares against the vinyl reflect the white of her eyes and teeth. Her eyes are greyish blue and they penetrate me as I take a closer look at the photograph. I am looking at the shadows that define her shoulder and thigh muscles, her breasts and collarbone. I see the way she grins lazy at the camera, her gaze somewhere outside of the frame, her face sweet but distant, like no one can touch her ever. I sensed that Clare avoided close relationships, avoided even the proximity of love, avoided most of the range of human emotions. But I was still here. I had stayed the night and it was now the afternoon. We are sitting cross legged, facing each other on her bed as though together we are floating on a leaf on the hugest river, the currents taking us wherever they wanted.