The Last Exhale

You breathed out slowly
longer
softer
than a sigh.

And as you did you wondered why
I don’t know why you like me, you said
But it wasn’t a question.
Instead
it was a statement. (A feeling of regret?
Did you think you were breaking my heart? You weren’t. I’d need to have one for that.)

Would you rather I didn’t? I replied, thinking you wanted to end that non-thing we had.
No. (You stop. Whisper, softer, again.)
I just know it will evaporate one day and I need to not rely on it.

You’ve said more since about friends and other lovers (not that I count myself as such)
who were there, then weren’t, or weren’t enough or, probably, just couldn’t be bothered
and left.

But it was all too late
I’d breathed you in
and haven’t breathed out since.

So now I pretend that we’re just friends
with nothing to convince
me otherwise
as we scramble round the edges of half-made thoughts and silent glances.

You’re complicated. You’ve said. I know. It doesn’t scare me.
But love does. Love hurts. (Apparently.) And you’re the first I’ve found who might, maybe be able to break me.

So I’ll hold this breath for as long as I can and you’ll have to leave me, not the other way around (but you’ll like that too, I know full well.)
I’m not going anywhere, no matter how hard you make it, too bad, so sad. (Ssshhhh. Don’t make a sound.)

And in the end when I finally breathe you out (turns out I do have a heart)
that last exhale
will be
my
last.

2 December 2011

White Male Rage and the Socialisation of Violence

Content note: sexual assault and sexual violence

Today, Jessica Valenti wrote:

A cruel irony of sexual assault and harassment is that the traumas which frequently determine the trajectory of women’s lives are just as often unremarkable to the men who have inflicted them.

This is why, I suspect, these men become so shocked and enraged when they’re asked to answer for their actions: When they say “nothing happened,” it’s not just a denial — it’s that they truly believe the incident was not a big deal.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Women understand this all too well.

“Men are shit,” she declared while gazing out of the kitchen window as she filled her water bottle at the sink. I gathered the recycling in my arms to take to the outside bin. At almost 17, she’s already witnessed and experienced too much sexism and misogyny. I wanted to reassure her. Tell her it gets better. That boys grow up as they become men and stop treating women like objects, or lesser. That men respect women as equals.

But they don’t. Not always.

A few months ago, I opened a message as I switched on the car engine.

“Don’t message and drive or I’ll have to come down there and kiss you.”

My stomach turned. Sour bile rose in the back of my throat. I put the phone down and swallowed, anger burning in my cheeks. I’d just sent a friend a car emoji in response to his hello, a signal I was about to drive and unable to talk, and this was his reply.

“Inappropriate.” I replied when I arrived at work, my fingers banging the phone so hard I thought I might crack the screen. “I’ve explained to you before why those sorts of comments are a) generally unacceptable to women everywhere, and b) particularly unacceptable to me. Please don’t speak to me that way. I don’t like it and it’s not ok.”

Later, I received a text rant reply about how his behaviour was all my fault.

I am tired of explaining why “jokes” about sexual assault are not funny.

Imagine if he’d said “don’t message and drive or I’ll have to come down there and punch you.”

Threatening to kiss someone against their will is no less violent or terrifying than the threat to physically harm them.

I had already explained my personal feelings of dislike of that type of ‘banter’.

I had already explained my boundaries. Which should have been enough.

I had already explained my history of assault. Which I had hoped might evoke the seriousness of why that type of behaviour was problematic when my initial boundaries were not respected the first time.

But he still didn’t care. What he wanted was more important than how I felt about anything. And I’m sure, if you were to ask him, the whole thing was “nothing, not a big deal.”

I had previously explained it all twice and refused to do it again, so I used the block function to eliminate him from my friendship circle. He wasn’t interested in respecting my boundaries and I wasn’t interested in a friendship with someone who had so little respect for me.

Women everywhere are tired of men whose mouths say they respect us but show us by their behaviour that they really don’t

I am too tired to keep explaining things, so here is a memoir about how men and women are socialised into perpetrating and accepting violence.

Boys Will Be Boys

The End: What To Do When You Finish Writing A Book

Today I wrote two little words I wasn’t expecting to write until tomorrow. And yet, here we are. At this point.

My feet are tingling like they do when you have pins and needles, numb, as if you’ve been sitting awkwardly cutting off your circulation, but in that sweet spot, before the blood rushes back into the capillaries and it starts to sting.

The cells, the atoms in my cells, are vibrating with energy. The energy of having finished. It is a gentle excitement. Soft. Like the way you realise you are recovered. After the fact. You do not notice it at first because recovery, like writing, feels like a slog. Every step is an effort. You wade through concrete. You make progress. And you don’t. There is resistance. The task seems overwhelming and you pause at various points to take a breath. To rest. There is no ticker-tape parade upon success. No party. There might have been, if you’d noticed it at the time. But even as you were thinking your last disordered thought, even as you were writing your final sentence, you didn’t know. And then you did.

So what do you do when you finish writing a book?

  1. You write the end
  2. You drink cider in the sunshine with a friend
  3. You buy yourself some flowers
  4. You go for a run
  5. You make dinner for the family
  6. You water your plants
  7. You hug your partner
  8. You feed the cat
  9. You write a blog post
  10. You begin again, a new story

I have been finished with the story I’ve written for longer than I’ve been writing it. Soon, lovely readers, I will hand it over to you.

Music Monday | Gasoline – Halsey

Once, I felt all of this.

I remember it.

Or, I think I do.

I remember it in a way that feels like waking up from a dream. In pieces. Squinting into snippets and glimpses of half-made pictures.

And I wonder.

Is it a memory or an illusion? Is it my imagination or a delusion?

I remember it.

Or, I think I do.

Because some of it, I don’t remember at all.