Her version of events
I immediately recognised him when he moved in. How could I not? I had seen lots of pictures of him on my cousin’s facebook page. I hadn’t really been in touch with her for years, but we kept track of each other on social media, liked a picture here and there, left the odd comment. He appeared to be the love of her life and I half expected to be invited to their wedding at some point. We were related after all. But that invitation never came and I watched him gradually disappear, first from her pictures, then from her comment section and then from her friends list. I never dared ask what happened, but I pieced together a story of a messy break-up, in which he was the villain who left her with a broken heart and serious trust issues. When he showed up at my door, introducing himself as my new housemate, my opinion of him had already been formed. I didn’t see it that way then, but I know now that he didn’t stand a chance against my prejudice. I read into every little thing he said or did, constantly expecting him to confirm my preconceived ideas of what he must be like.
I never told him why, but I barely talked to him in the beginning and mostly behaved as though he weren’t even there. It was a way of showing him his place and I’m ashamed to admit that I did it on purpose. I told myself that it was all on behalf of my cousin, but the truth is that I did it for myself. And the truth also is that I didn’t only do it, because I disliked him, but because I was secretly also attracted to him. It was the kind of slightly uncomfortable yet intriguing magnetism that repels you and draws you in at the same time. From the moment he walked into my life, I knew that I would not be able to resist him, however much I tried to convince myself of the contrary. Some things in life are difficult like that.
About two months passed and we got used to each other. He got used to my rudeness and I got used to his seeming indifference. It worked out well for a while. We shared the apartment, but not our lives. Until, one night, I got drunk with a stranger in a bar. He was handsome and charming, paid me compliments, bought me drinks. We got along well and I didn’t mind his hand on my knee. I didn’t even mind when it moved up my thigh and under my skirt. I let him fondle me and whisper things in my ear.
“I think we should go back to your place,” he said, fingering me under the table.
“Why not yours?”
“Come on, it will be fun.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“It sure feels like a good idea, doesn’t it? Come on.”
“No, I can’t take you home with me.”
“What if I pay you for it?” His hands were still busy between my legs. I should have been offended. I should have got up and left, but I laughed.
“I’m serious,” he said, “I’ll give you a hundred bucks, what do you say?”
“I’m not a hooker,” is what I should have said. I should have refused, but I didn’t. Something in me was intrigued by his offer. It was dirty and wrong, but I liked what his fingers were doing to me. I should have known better and I should have said no, but I took him home with me and let things take their course. Once he’d paid me, he acted as though he owned me and a part of me took pleasure from his dominance. It was only when he was gone and I was lying naked on my bed with the money on my nightstand that the reality of what had just happened hit home. It clearly wasn’t the first time he had bought sex, but it was the first time that I had sold it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I knew what I was supposed to be feeling, but were those feelings of guilt and shame really there?
I put on some clothes and joined my housemate on the couch in the living room. The fact that he had been sitting there the entire time bothered me more than what I had just done. It was his ostensible aloofness that drove me to make a move on him that night. I think I subconsciously needed something to really feel ashamed about and I needed him to be as morally degenerate as my prejudice expected him to be. It would be easier not to like him if he really were an asshole. So I tried to bring him down. And he came all the way down. That is when I finally felt ashamed of myself.
Our relationship, such as it was after that night, was entirely dysfunctional and unhealthy for both of us, but it was also too good to resist. Sometimes, we want most what isn’t good for us and it is the thrill of going against our own better judgment that makes us want it even more. He surely sensed that I liked him more than I would have admitted and I think it made him as uncomfortable as it did me. His feelings for me clearly were ambivalent. One day he would seek me out and enjoy being with me and the next he would try to go back to the way things were before we had sex, telling me that he wasn’t in love with me. “Good,” I would say, “I don’t love you either.” I didn’t, not really anyway, but it still hurt when he started bringing home other women. His constant need to show me how little he cared about me nagged at my self-esteem.
It wasn’t his lack of true feeling that bothered me. It was always clear that we would and could never be a couple, because forbidden fruit loses its taste once it becomes yours, once it becomes everyday. I didn’t need or want him to fall in love with me. It was his denial of the unique allure between us, the strange attraction that sprang from the peculiar situation we had manoeuvred ourselves into, that pained me. For all its twistedness and all its moral questionability, our relationship meant something to me and I was certain that it meant something to him, too. All I wanted was for him to acknowledge the fact that we were not just anybody to each other, that neither of us was replaceable. Yet at the same time, I also always understood why he couldn’t. If we had met under different circumstances, things would have been a lot more straightforward. We would simply have liked each other or not. But some things in life are difficult like that.