In The Beginning, There Was Darkness

by HelluvaGirl

We met after my brief text. I never extend my messages beyond the fact I’m back, and a question if he’s got time to meet.

I know that he will, whenever he can. He will make time, and thus, on my part, it is mere politeness to ask if he will.

He takes me to a bookshop cafe, the most stylishly bohemian place in town, empty of people on a warm summer afternoon.

He knows the owner and I know the performers who’s CDs are for sale at the counter. We lively order water and coffee and I, of course, take plenty of pictures.

I’m crazy about Instagram, you’ll have to bear with me, I laugh.

We go upstairs and there’s a balcony for two. A cute spot, très français, he jokes.

He is happy to show me the place. We sit to drink and he does try to escape eye contact in the beginning.

We have a somewhat pretentious small talk about my kid, his kid, my holidays, his ex, my job, his health, my ex, his gladness to see me.

As we talk about Osho and spiritual growth, I incidentally notice dark pigmented spots on his neck, right behind each ear. It twists my stomach. I pretend to listen but I can’t follow; I keep thinking about the same darkened areas behind my ears.

After emptying a glass of St. Pelegrino, I can already drift further from the weird perception.

The conversation uncurls around creativity vs. routine, single parenthood, my dark hair period some time in the past.

He chooses the topics. I only follow, mostly listening, making comments when willing to contradict.

All this time, the owner of the place sits behind the wall close to the balcony, and touching some topics, we lower our voices. I do it thinking about him more than myself: it will not be sooner than several months before I come back and long after everyone’s forgotten my face.

At some point in the discussion about contemporary writers and events, he jumps from the table and comes back with a book. It’s a selection of pieces by the people we’ve just spoken about, and he says it’s mine to take if I don’t mind carrying the book home. A gift from the owner.

As the owner later passes by, I politely thank him and say it’s so nice of him to give me the book. He asks if I would perhaps like another one and I say absolutely not, and that he is so generous already. I know those are for giving away. Still, I believe everyone deserves a warm word.

Pretty much everyone.

The man leaves home and there’s just the two of us on the upper floor with the balcony.

He begins hesitantly and seriously. He speaks with little determination and struggles while picking his words. I recognise the old habit of verbal wandering with pathos. I feel a strong temptation to just shut my brain off, to stop listening. I don’t believe in him.

I sit there, looking pretty angelic, I can bet. The soft wind is moving my hair and I keep the eye contact even when he can’t. I know I’m not making it easier for him, and it is not my intention.

He keeps painting the linguistic aquarelle and I keep my lips sealed. If I opened them, I would say few things.

I was a child then, and you failed to be an adult.

And I would ask, too.

Do you know how you broke me? Have you ever fully realised the scope?

I won’t speak. It’s enough for him to see me healthy, calm and composed. Critical and humorous. Attractive and out of his league, out of his life, out of his cannibalistic reach.

He does try to be sincere, although I can never tell where it’s him and where are his logic constructions, safeguarding him from complete insanity, which he’s always sensed the proximity of. For example, he says: “When we met 20 years ago…” I think, man, you are totally lost. Me 20 years ago would’ve been too young even for you. At least I hope so.

I can remember the time – which, as a matter of fact, was 16 years ago – when I pitied him and his feverish effort to build houses of cards when speaking of the world and of his relations to people. So careful, so based on various assumptions, suppositions, probability. It was all on paper, without his ability to touch anything or anyone. ‘Cause as soon as he tried…

You pushed me away, he said. You taught me a lesson. I then understood that you were a woman but also something else. And that stayed with me all those 20 years.

It surprises me how he sees me back then as a psychological equal. Does he even know how old I am? He must have known then. He sure did.

As he spoke, I was watching motionless and thought that for some reason he needed to say this. On the other hand, for some reason I needed to hear this, too. I wouldn’t invite him for coffee and I wouldn’t listen to stuff I don’t believe in otherwise.

Am I waiting for his remorse? He has apologised for his past conduct in one of his long letters recently.

I guess I need to see he grasps the whole inequality of our past encounter. The absurd of him unable to see I was not an equal, not a partner to a person twice my age.

It is very much likely he is incapable of understanding this, and it infuriates me deep inside. Or if he is, he will not admit it. It could really make him mad. The fall of the house of cards.

As he walked me home, his brother’s ex wife passed us on her bike. I laughed and waved, and said: as if nothing has changed.

I walked beside him like those women I’d see accompany him on the evening streets when I was a little girl. They were blonde and he looked like a man who barely endured everything going on around him. I would see him in his beige raincoat somewhere in the town park or the boulevard. And I knew him. I knew him somehow. It took just several years to come really close and learn the names.

I remember the first time we met at the gallery, he said. I was standing the same distance from you like I am now.

Why is he speaking like that? Does he think I am single? Or really available for him in any sense?

We stopped to say good bye and I leaned to kiss his cheeks.

I can’t explain the heat that was coming from his face, his look, his posture, but I knew the feeling: it scared me to death.

And as I restrained myself from turning away and running, as I walked breathing deeply instead, frightened he would come chasing me like the time he did after I’d “pushed him away”, a thought crossed my mind that perhaps it was not my parents who made me gamophobic. That it was him and the untimely, brutal method he introduced me to adulthood, and the years after, spent making up a woman’s identity that never had a chance to naturally evolve.

I don’t want to ever experience such absence of self next to anyone. Such disparity of power. Never again.

It’s water and ink, and there’s neither after they mix.