His version of events
When I was 24, I moved to 117 Willow Avenue. It was a surprisingly well-tended place given the fact that it was social housing and had seen more roomers come and go than any of the neighbours could count. Technically, that was illegal. Everyone knew about it, but my landlady, who was supposed to be living there with her husband and two adopted children (neither of which existed) made sure there was a steady flow of free cookies and expensive wine to prevent them from blabbing. Occasionally, doorbells were rung and questions asked, but everyone was more than willing to turn a blind eye. I, too, knew that certain rules were being bent, but I needed a place to stay and couldn’t have cared less. Some things in life are simple like that.
I shared a quirky, two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor. It had character, though I wasn’t sure in what way exactly. It was clean, spacious and surprisingly bright, but there was something slightly off-putting about it. Perhaps it was the creaky floor or the leaky syphon under the kitchen sink or the fact that the living room was fully furnished, complete with a bookshelf that contained a well-stocked collection of thinly disguised erotica (I only touched those books once, I swear). My room, though overpriced, was alright. It was perfectly square, which irritated me in the beginning, but ultimately meant that I could simply rotate my furniture every few months to make it look completely different and new, while really keeping it just as it was.
My housemate was unlike anybody I had ever met. I could say she was a nice young woman and that would be true. She was young, she was a woman and, well, ‘nice’. Only it wouldn’t mean anything. When people use that word, I’m never quite sure whether they mean to praise or insult the person in question. ‘Nice’ is what you say about people you don’t think very highly of. ‘Nice’ is what you say about a one-night-stand you didn’t really enjoy. ‘Nice’ is for cowards. The truth then. My housemate on Willow Avenue was eccentric, moody and impolite. She walked around as if she owned the place, made a mess of everything without ever cleaning up, peed with the bathroom door wide open. She barely talked to me during the first few weeks, then started calling me names for no apparent reason. “Asshole” and “idiot” were among her favourites. Yet, for all her rudeness, I couldn’t bring myself to mind as much as my pride and sense of self-esteem dictated. She was a bitch, yes, but she was sexy. Her boldness and self-confidence intrigued me beyond measure. She was like a black hole drawing me in, destructive and inevitable. And I was into it. Boy, was I into it. It didn’t take long for me to start daydreaming about her. I mostly imagined having sex with her in the shower. It wasn’t going to happen, of course, but the thought of it was too good to resist. I always liked sex in the shower. The water, the steam, wet hair on naked skin. I masturbated a lot during that time. She called me names and I masturbated.
One day, about two months after I moved in, she brought home a stranger and I heard them do it in her bedroom. Or rather, I heard him do it to her. There was not a sound from her and when he was done, he opened the door, zipped up his fly and left without a word. She came out shortly after him, wearing a washed-out t-shirt and pink panties, gathered her hair in a ponytail and sat down next to me on the couch.
“Who was that?” I asked, folding the paper I had not been able to focus on.
“He appeared to be having a good time.”
“Did he?” There was a faint smile on her lips, but it didn’t linger long.
“Did he pay you for that?”
“Are you saying I’m a hooker?”
“Aren’t you?” I don’t know where that came from exactly. It could just have been a one-night-stand. Or maybe the guy hadn’t been a stranger. She might have known him from work for all I knew.
“Why? Do you want to have a go?” If she was offended, she didn’t show it. “Yeah, you do, don’t you?” she said, coming closer, “I’ll tell you a secret. I’ll do you for free.” She put her hand between my legs and started rubbing.
“Are you drunk?” I asked.
“Yes, but that’s not the point.”
“Then what is?”
Her hand was inside my sweatpants now, massaging my growing erection. She looked into my eyes for a moment, while I sat completely motionless and let her do what she thought she had to do. Her breath smelled of beer and vodka mixed together and when she kissed me, I thought I detected the taste of someone else’s body fluids on her tongue. It was disgusting and yet, I couldn’t resist her advances. There was something strangely arousing about the fact that she had just been fucked by another man. I like that word. Fuck. It sounds so much like the action it describes. It sounds dirty and yet delicious. Deliciously dirty. Yes, that was it. The whole thing was deliciously dirty. “The point is,” she said between kisses, “the point is … I don’t know what the point is.” It was disturbingly reckless and stupid of me not to use a condom. I thought about it for a second or two as we got rid of our clothes, but not long enough to actually get one. I just pulled her onto my lap and, well, fucked her. Right there on the couch, her pink panties on the creaky, old floor. Or maybe she fucked me, I don’t know. It didn’t last long, but it was intense. Intense and completely messed up. She pulled my hair, stuck her tongue in my mouth and I came inside of her like the other guy may have done (what did I know?). She collapsed on top of me, I caught my breath, felt something wet on my thigh and freed myself from her.
“Are you ok?” I asked as I cleaned myself up with my t-shirt. I tried to ignore the wet patch that was forming on the couch between her legs. She nodded, then slowly shook her head, stumbled to the bathroom and threw up in the sink. I followed her somewhat reluctantly, but held her hair and patted her on the back as one would in this kind of situation.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“For what? Throwing up?”
We didn’t speak for a couple of weeks, then had sex again. The second time was much less messy, but no less exhilarating. We did it in my bedroom with the door open while the plumber fixed the syphon in the kitchen. I had her pinned against the wall, her legs around my waist. She pulled my hair again, bit my lip, scratched my neck. The plumber left with a red face and a visible hard on.
Our third time together involved the dining room table, more scratching, some spanking and a pearl necklace.
“I don’t sleep around, you know,” she said as she put her underwear back on, “I’m not a hooker. I only did it that one time.” She made it sound as though I had asked her about it.
“I know.” I didn’t really know, but what was I supposed to say?
“And … I imagined it was you.” She stood in front of me, chewing her lip, waiting for a response.
I thought about this for a moment. “Is that why you fucked me afterwards, so you could tell yourself that it was me?”
She cleared her throat and looked away. “He was disgusting. I mean he was handsome enough, but he was rough.”
“Rough?” I suppressed a laugh. “We haven’t exactly been having vanilla sex either.”
“It’s different with you.”
“Why? Because I’m not paying you?”
“Because I like you,” she said with a dejected smile.
“I thought I was an asshole.” I could have said something more sensitive, something along the lines of ‘I like you, too’, but there it was and it was clearly not what she had hoped I would say.
I didn’t like where this was going and I would have preferred not to have this conversation, but I followed her to the bathroom nonetheless. I wasn’t sure exactly which part bothered me more, the fact that she liked me or the fact that she wasn’t hooking up with other people, for money or otherwise. It was twisted, of course, and wrong of me to think that way, but I realised then that I didn’t want her to fall in love with me and I didn’t want us to be ‘exclusive’. Things never ended well when people were exclusive.
“Look,” I said, watching her rinse her face, “I don’t care what you do, alright? I don’t like you that way.”
“I’m not in love with you.”
“Who said anything about love?”
“You said you liked me.”
“So?” She looked up and our eyes met in the mirror.
“I thought you hated me.”
“Well, I certainly do now,” she said.
Things changed after that. We still had sex from time to time, but it was different. There were things that stood between us now. We had simultaneously said too much and not enough. Feelings were stirring and I panicked. I started bringing home other girls, fucking them so she could hear us, making a show of it. Things never ended well when people were exclusive, she must know that. Surely, she knew that?
I once had a long-term girlfriend, but she was of the crazy, clingy variety and started stalking me when I broke up with her. If I hadn’t moved away, it almost certainly would have ended in a restraining order. I would have put anything past her. There had been a few others before and after her, less clingy ones, but I always felt trapped in our exclusivity, no matter how much I cared about them. Other women always tempted me and temptation is something that is difficult to live with. There is something addictive and exhilarating about it, but it also wears you down, because it is always paired with restraint. And that is what makes you feel trapped. Restraint. There are no two ways about it.
So when I thought that she had feelings for me, I deliberately put on my worst behaviour around her, bringing home other women, rubbing my busy sex life in her face. I did it not because I didn’t like her back, but because I needed things, whatever they were, to remain noncommittal. I needed her not to be in love with me. It worked out fine for a while, at least from my perspective, but then she came to my room one night after one of those girls had left and sat on my bed.
“You didn’t enjoy that, did you?” she said.
“What makes you think that?”
“I know you. You’re not loud like that when you’re into it.”
She was right, of course. Sex with that girl hadn’t actually been to my liking, not at all. I got out of bed and put on my clothes.
“What are you trying to prove?” she asked, watching me.
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you doing this? You put on this big show, sleeping around, picking up random skanks you don’t even really fancy and for what? To prove to me that you don’t give a shit about me?”
“Well, I don’t,” I said with as much finality as possible.
“If that were true, it wouldn’t need proving.” Tears welled up in her eyes as she got up and left the room. It was the last thing she ever said to me.
I thought about this conversation for a long time. It was hard to admit to myself that she had seen right through me. Of course I cared about her. Not as much as she cared about me, but enough to want her to stick around. I liked her and I probably also had some romantic feelings for her, but I needed these things to remain unsaid. I didn’t want to end up in another relationship and go back to being tempted and having to restrain myself, because with restraint also comes blame. You blame the other for making you feel trapped, secretly, wrongfully, and it destroys everything. It makes love an impossibility. Some things in life are simple like that.
I moved out a few weeks later. Things remained unsaid and we went our seperate ways again. Sometimes, I still think about my time on Willow Avenue. I think about my room, perfectly square, about the syphon underneath the kitchen sink, about the shower. I think about pants being zipped up, pink underwear on the floor, the tears in her eyes. And I wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed. And then I tell myself that it was better that way. It was better that way, because it would never have worked.