I’m Tired of Living Like This by Sara Corris

Friday, November 19, 2021
Sara Corris's story evokes Philip Larkin: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do."

“Do you remember the last thing he said?”

“I’m tired of living like this.”

The officer thanked her and sent her home.

Two o’clock in the morning, and no one was asleep.

From Mark’s bathroom:

“BAGEL, NO! NO! Goddammit!”

From Sadie’s bedroom:

“Dad, shut the fuck up! Some of us are trying to sleep!”

From Sam and Mark’s bedroom:

“Sadie, don’t speak to your father that way. Mark, stop yelling at the cat like a goddamn idiot.”

From Matthew’s bedroom:

“Mommeeee, daddeeeee, why is evwybody yelling?”

Mark stormed out of his bathroom and nearly collided with Sam, carrying Matthew in her arms.

“Jesus, Mark -”

“He did it again, your cat! I stood there and watched as Bagel got inside his litterbox, pawed around, then got out of his litterbox and shh - and pooped on the floor right next to the litterbox.”

Cackling, from Sadie’s room. “Classic Bagel.”

Sam grinned too; even Matthew broke into giggles.

“Oh, it’s funny? You guys want to clean it up? Why does his litterbox have to go in my bathroom?”

“Because your bathroom’s the biggest,” replied Sam over her shoulder as she retreated with Matthew.

Mark started as something brushed his ankle; a purring Bagel gazed up at him.

“Come on, then,” he muttered. “To the guest room. No room for us in our own bed, if Matthew’s there.”

I won’t tell you the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that’s ever happened to me on the subway.

This was the summer I was studying for the bar exam. I have never been more boring. It’s not as hard as people say, but you have to treat the studying like a nine to five job. I’d lift my head at the end of each day and not remember how to make basic conversation. Not that it mattered. I wasn’t socializing much.

Except. I was going to a friend’s 4th of July barbecue, by myself. The bar exam was two weeks away. Mark was out of town for a wedding. The friend lived way the fuck out in Queens, some part I’d never been, never heard of. It was going to take over an hour by subway. Not that it should matter, but it was the middle of the day when I set off. And not that it should matter, but I was wearing a long shapeless sack of a dress that came down to my calves. I’d picked it because I planned on eating a lot, and I didn’t want to worry about how my stomach looked.

When we got to the stop, there’s no one left on the train. I get off, head for the stairs. I was carrying a tray of something, I don’t remember what. On the stairs I paused to look at the directions I’d written out. This was before smartphones. And I had that New Yorker pride about never looking like I didn’t know where I was going, so I didn’t want to wait until I emerged at the street level to check.

Out of nowhere a hand reaches up my dress, pushes the crotch of my underwear to the side, and fingers me. I screamed and fell down onto my hands and knees; my one knee hit the edge of the stair really fucking hard. The hand pulled away; I looked over my shoulder and saw the back of a man in a baseball cap running down the platform. I grabbed my tray and crawled back to my feet and up the steps to outside. All of that probably wasn’t even 30 seconds.

I went into autopilot the rest of the day. I walked to my friend’s place, said hello to the people she introduced me to, ate and drank a little. What else are you going to do? Walk in and announce to a bunch of people I don’t know, that I was just finger-raped coming out of the subway? What could anyone even have done? I only saw him running away, for about two seconds. I think he was Hispanic or maybe Indian, but even that… he could have been a really tan white guy. The station wasn’t the kind with a ticket agent booth. Besides, I wasn’t going to run back down into the station, where he was. I just got out of there.

Obviously the barbecue was terrible. At first I was kind of in shock. Then all I could think about was how I had to get back on the train to go home. And if that had happened to me in the middle of the day, how much worse was it going to be at night? This was before Uber. Plus I was still broke. I’d just finished school, I wasn’t working yet. I didn’t have the money for a taxi. Not that there were taxis in the outer boroughs back then, anyway. I had to take the subway home.

So I was awkward and quiet, which I am anyway at parties, and after I went through the motions for a couple hours, I made excuses to my friend about not feeling well and left before it was even dark. I could tell she was disappointed, but I wasn’t close to her anyway. I say ‘friend’ but she was just an acquaintance I’d hang out with occasionally. I think that’s what most people mean when they say ‘friend,’ most of the time. Or maybe I hope that’s true, because that’s how it is for me.

I spoke to Mark on the phone that night and told him what had happened, but he didn’t react much. Asked if I was ok, said that was a shitty thing and he was sorry, then moved on. Maybe it was my tone - I didn’t make it sound like a big deal, so he didn’t get how terrible it had been? But his response made me angry. I never told him that. He probably doesn’t remember.

I honestly had no idea someone was right behind me like that, not until his hand was up me. I wasn’t listening to music; maybe the train was really loud? I don’t remember. Sometimes I’m somewhere else, full space cadet mode, and then someone close by says something and I jump a mile.

I can’t remember if I was wearing sandals or wedges, which bothers me. Because when I go out, I debate the relative safety of each: if I’m in flats, I can get away faster. But if I’m in heels, maybe I won’t look so short and I’ll be less of a target. Because short women definitely get attacked more. I don’t care if there are studies to back that up, it’s true. I get groped and grabbed all the time, and it’s not because I’m so fucking hot. I’m not that vain. I’m just an easier target. I’m 5’3”, and small.

There’s nothing I could have done. Maybe I was supposed to somehow find police? Even without any real details to report? Maybe if he was a sexual predator hanging around that station, and it wasn’t the first or last time, it would have helped police to know that? Maybe he escalated to full-on rape and murder afterwards? Should I have tried? I don’t know. I doubt it.

I really don’t think about it much. I hated the 4th of July long before that, I was miserable at parties long before that, and I’ve always hated fingering. I mean seriously LOATHE. Does any woman enjoy it? Anatomically, it doesn’t make sense, if your goal is making her feel good. Although I guess that usually isn’t the goal. It’s a move a clueless teenager would do. It feels like being probed by alien gynecologists. It’s terrible.

Sometimes when I’m going out at night I stick a tampon up there, even though I don’t have my period, as a kind of anti-fingering protective device. I know that’s stupid. It’s not something I cogently plot out. Plus why only do it at night, when the 4th of July thing happened in the afternoon. I don’t know. It just shows how stupid it is for women to bother taking any precautions. Broad daylight, stone cold sober, wearing the least sexy thing imaginable, and it happens anyway.

That’s not even that bad a story. I’ve had others. But telling it this way is kind of bullshit. I genuinely don’t think about it, and not because I’ve repressed it or something. It sucks that it happened. I’m angry that these things happen all the time to women. I’m angry that men don’t understand how common these things are, or how shitty it is to have to always be on guard against it. But I don’t feel scarred by it, or by any of the other things like that, that have happened to me.

Mark struggled to focus on the Zoom meeting. From his makeshift workstation he had a clear view into his bathroom, and now he saw Bagel sauntering around the litterbox indecisively.

Please go in the litterbox, please please please. Please god, or Bagel. I need a win.

“…that’s where things stand… do you have any questions for us, Mark?”

Mark turned back to the camera. “No Gabe, thanks for the update. Great job as always. I think we’re nearing the end, troops! On to bullet point three…”

Out the corner of his eye, Mark could just make out Bagel shitting on the bathroom floor beside his litterbox.

Mark turned to face Bagel.

Bagel locked eyes with Mark.

Good. I want you to see this. I want you to see me shitting on your floor, knowing full well you will have to stoop and bend painfully with your bad knees and weak back, so that you may pick up my feces. This is what I think of you, Mark. This is what the world thinks of you.

I’m more sad and angry over the things that never happened. Much more. I haven’t had many good sexual experiences. Maybe not any. I think if I had, and there were a few shitty experiences in the mix, like the subway finger-fuck, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But I’m in my forties. I’m on the edge of invisibility, and I never got to enjoy my body. Other people got to enjoy it, but not me. I don’t understand why. I’m not gorgeous, but I’m better-looking than most. I have a good body; I work hard at it. I think about sex a lot. I can get myself off, no problem. But great sex with another person? Never happened for me. Doesn’t look like it’s going to, now.

And honestly? That’s the thing that is most on my mind, day in, day out. That is what I spend most of my time thinking about, stressing about. I can’t really make myself care about anything else.

I’m over the whole mom thing. Sadie’s nearly out of the house, at least. I feel bad for Matthew. I should never have had him. I love him, I do, but also, I wish I hadn’t had him. He wasn’t planned. But life had gotten really boring. I seized on it as something temporarily interesting. And it’s so fucking easy to get swept up in the whole ‘what if this is your last chance to get pregnant?’ thing. Which is just panicking over getting old. At least for me it was. If I was pregnant, I couldn’t be that old.

I went from being one of the youngest mothers to one of the oldest. And in between, twelve years had passed. I tried explaining it to one of the other moms. She laughed. ‘I know, they grow up so fast! I just want to squeeze them and say, stay small!’

That wasn’t what I’d meant at all. I’d meant the complete opposite. I’d meant my time, my life.

And she’s a therapist, that woman! I bet she’s a terrible therapist. Someone with zero imagination, zero curiosity about other ways of living or thinking. I bet her clients open their mouths, and her brain’s pathologizing away. A DSM-thumper. I bet she’s never helped a single client. Probably made a bunch of them worse.

I don’t feel like my kids’ childhoods are going by in a flash at all. No way. If there was only Sadie, I’d nearly be there. Maybe I could last it out, stay fuckable long enough, with great effort. But now? It’ll be another twelve years before Matthew’s gone. What’s the point then? There isn’t any.

Men are so stupid, the ones like Mark, who think women are shit at saving because they’re flighty, or bad at finances, or something. When the reality is, who cares about those years? I don’t think I’m alone on this one. It might not be all women, but I’m guessing it’s a shit ton. When I fantasize about travel, or nice dinners out, or throwing parties, or owning a beach house? Half the fantasy is how I’ll look, and how other people will be looking at me. What do I want with beachside retirement property? I won’t want to go to the beach then. That will be the last place I’ll want to go. The time for doing any of those things is now. I’m at the end already. It starts so much sooner for women than it does for men. Nothing’s changed.

No one gets to measure my losses. I get to feel it however the fuck I’m feeling it. That’s the least I can get. I know what people think: sad middle-aged cliche. Another self-absorbed, over-privileged white lady. Shitty mom, shitty feminist. The trainwreck.

That probably isn’t true. Probably no one thinks about me at all. Except my family. And that doesn’t matter to me much. It hasn’t in years. It’s not enough. It makes me sad, that the whole world of people who ever think about me is contained at home. Outside of there, I don’t even exist. There’s no witness to my time.

Mark sat before his laptop, staring at the message from his daughter’s teacher.

I am concerned that Sadie is struggling scholastically in these unprecedented times. Since the switch to remote learning she is frequently absent from class, and turns in assignments late or not at all.

Let me stress that this is completely understandable. I write so that Sadie can get the help and support she perhaps needs.

I attach a recent example of Sadie’s work, after receiving her explicit consent.

The attached document was brief:

Why I Had An Abortion
By Sadie Schultz

Because all the sage-burning wasn’t doing shit. Weeks later, and I was still pregnant A.F.

That’s a problem, if no one has ever been especially nice to you growing up. It makes it hard to interact with people later on. I don’t come from a huggy family. Of course we hugged sometimes; not like there was no touching. But you combine that with a total lack of friends at school… you’re going to be weird. I don’t read friendliness very well.

There’s a limited window for making friends. For learning the how of it. I hate, in shows or movies, when the losers are portrayed as a group of four or five close friends. I’d have killed for four or five friends! Or, you know, one. There’s a huge fucking difference between not being part of the in-crowd, versus having zero friends at all. The Carrie Whites, the Martha Dumptrucks, who truly have no one.

Some skills, there’s a limited window, and then that’s it. In high school we watched a documentary on Genie, the feral girl. I’ve never forgotten. Sometimes it’s too late. I’m not saying it’s the same as that; obviously that had a lot more going on. But there’s a throughline, I think. Windows close, early on.

In my teens, early twenties, I’d be out somewhere by my own loser self - during the day mostly, libraries or cafes or arty movie theaters, or just walking around. I don’t even mean bars at night, but there too, especially there. Any place. If someone complimented me, or seemed nice, or started talking to me and seemed the least bit interesting, usually I’d be happy about it. I’d go along without thinking. Sometimes it’s gradual, like they’re brushing against you a lot, or they touch the edge of your jacket while they’re commenting on it. Sometimes I was ok with that. Sometimes it was already making me uncomfortable, but I think it’s me. I see normal people touching all the time. In the normal world there’s lots of physical contact without it being weird or sexual, so be normal.

Then suddenly it would become very obviously sexual. Like grabbing your butt; that’s the most common one. Groping up the skirt, or between the legs over jeans. Tugging down my top with a finger, or lifting it, depending on the top. Or teasing like they’re gonna and then laughing when you take them seriously. Like, of course he wasn’t serious, chill out. Or they grab your face with both hands, to kiss you. I hate that. I really don’t like that feeling. Or he doesn’t grab you, but he presses his pelvis against you so you feel his hard dick, and that’s supposed to be a compliment. Some guys, they take your hand to do it. Grab you by the wrist and press your hand to it, and make some comment like you feel this? Anything you say in response, any face you make or nod of the head will be stupid. It’s a ridiculous situation, but somehow you’re going to look stupidest of all.

Of course lots of times it isn’t as far as any of that. It’s a hand on the back, or hugging that can’t be shrugged off, or tugging you towards them. Whichever way it came, I never knew how to get out of it. Because I’d let it build to that point; clearly I was an idiot and hadn’t been behaving normally at all. I’d probably been giving off flirty vibes, leading them on. A normal person would have clocked they were a creep and not engaged, so now I was fucked no matter what I did. If I tried to end the conversation he gets angry and expresses it one way or another, none good. Usually just embarrassing, but even that sucked.

To this day I have no idea how to do non-sexual physical closeness. I see everyone else doing it all the time. People leaning on each other, hugging, joke-punching or slapping; all kinds of things. I have never managed to do that. With anyone, guy or girl. I still don’t know why everyone else can have that and I can’t.

“Did you talk to Sadie?”

“Yup. It’s private though.”

“But everything’s fine? It was just a joke, like you said?”

“Told you, it’s private. Girl stuff.”

“Well, as long as everything’s ok. I’m glad she’s comfortable talking to you,” Mark said insincerely. “I can’t get three words out before she’s telling me to go fuck myself.”


“It’s a normal part of being a teen, this whole angry phase. Thinking you hate your parents.” Mark glanced hopefully towards Sam.

“Whatever lets you sleep at night.”

All hope died.

“Well, good night - where are you going?” he asked as Sam rose from the bed.

“I’m going to stay up a while longer. Maybe watch TV in the guest room.” She said this over her shoulder, without looking at him.

Mark sat for a moment, then reached for the TV remote. He wasn’t sleepy either. He’d learned long ago that tired and sleepy were different states.

The first program descended into animalistic sex almost immediately. One moment they were office colleagues; the next, he had her pinned against the wall. Which she seemed to like, despite not using words. They tore at each other’s buttons, unconcerned with the remaining business hours.

Mark continued flipping through channels, but found more of the same. None of it porno sex, just regular TV sex.

Mark turned the TV off. Onscreen sex made him sad. It was a reminder that he and Sam weren’t doing that anymore. They hadn’t for a long time. Mark wanted to have that again, with Sam. Sam didn’t. Maybe she never would again. He preferred not to think about it.

I was fifteen when the world decided I had become fuckable. When you’re a girl, everyone on the planet all at once will let you know. I loved it. Everyone who saw me had to comment. Nice comments! It’s not even a sexual thing, half the time. Gay men. Elderly women. School nurses. Everyone had to say how great I looked, how great my body was, how thin I was.

It happened out of nowhere. I was at school, the first time. Last week of sophomore year. I was wearing jeans and a camisole, kneeling on a chair to look in a microscope. This girl who never talked to me - no one ever talked to me - came up and said, “Hey Sam. Todd says you look really hot.” I was so upset. I thought they were teasing me. I’d gotten used to being left alone; I couldn’t take being actively picked on again. I didn’t know what I’d done to provoke it. Then I saw Todd. He turned red and looked down, and I realized they were serious. It was one of the best moments of my life. I was in shock, that whole summer. People actually liked me! At least enough to notice me and say something nice. Mostly nice.

Some people - really just my mom - would comment on my clothing, that it was inappropriate. Other people didn’t say it, but I’d see the looks. It was all the same summer clothes I’d worn the summer before, without anyone thinking it was slutty. That was a crazy realization: once the world deems you fuckable, ALL summer clothing is provocative.

Shorts are sexy. Tank tops and camisoles are sexy. Tops or dresses without a bra underneath are sexy. Showing tummy is sexy. All bathing suits are sexy. What the fuck, though? It’s crazy fucking hot out! What else would I wear? It was the same stuff I’d worn every summer my entire life. Suddenly you have to be very aware of your body at all times. You’re doing scans 24/7: how see-through is this garment in this light? Is a strap somewhere slipping? If I jump or run a certain way, is my skirt or top flying up? If I sit with my legs apart at all, can people see too much? If I bend over, can people see down my top? What about the back of my jeans? If I kneel, does it make my butt stick out in a provocative way? If I need to get on all fours to look under a desk, does it look suggestive? If I get cold, will my nipples be visible through this fabric? If I lift my arms too high or too fast, will my shirt slip down or ride up? Never again are you just going about your day, 100% focused on school or work or whatever. Your brain splits. One part is constantly doing a head-to-toe check to make sure you aren’t being accidentally sexual. You’re always on the outside looking at yourself, wondering how what you’re wearing or doing looks to other people. Play is gone forever. You’ll look like a skank, running and climbing and tumbling and splashing the way boys can.

Todd incident aside, nothing actually changed much at school. I was still an established outcast; there were no dates or dances. But I’d see guys checking me out. I’d notice the male teachers acting differently, being low-key flirty like they were with other girls. It made me happy. It still makes me happy, on an otherwise shit summer day, having a stranger compliment me on how I look. I love that feeling. Being desired. It’s probably the closest I’ve gotten to sexually satisfying experiences with other people.

Every summer, I worry it’s the last before I go back to being invisible for good. How will I ever talk to anyone then? I can barely do it now, when at least sometimes people notice me. Even if it’s girls in a locker room, saying what great shape I’m in; that’s some interaction, at least. It’s a big deal to me. It’s the best part of my day, when it happens.

I know that’s sad. It’s not that I don’t think I have anything else to offer. I think I’m worth talking to. I think I’m funny and interesting. But other people don’t.

Mark clenched as he heard something against the bathroom door.

“I’m in here -”

The door swung open, revealing only Bagel.

Bagel padded over to the spot directly before the toilet, his eyes never leaving Mark’s eyes. Then he squatted.

We’re making eye contact, Mark.

“Bagel no, please,” whispered Mark. But he was mid-shit, and powerless. And Bagel knew it.

We’re shitting together, you and I. In sync, and all while making eye contact.

Mark desperately wanted to close the door, at least. Could he reach it with his foot?

Bagel followed his gaze.

And with the bathroom door wide open, yes. How does that make you feel, I wonder? Exposed? Vulnerable? Violated?

Mark strained to finish, but that only made it worse.

Bagel finished first; his back straightened.

Mark flinched as Bagel rubbed against his ankles.

One day you will die, and I will eat you, and then I will shit you out onto this very same floor. You will lie here, just like this turd. Look at it, Mark. LOOK. AT. IT. This will be you, one day.

Bagel exited the bathroom, leaving the door open as he did so.

My mother was so jealous. She was the only one who was concerned, and she wasn’t concerned for me. She was mad that I was getting more attention. We walked into a grocery store one time and this guy goes, “You have a beautiful daughter!” She was pissed. The weight thing became a battle between her and I. She’d yell at me and try to get me to eat and tell me something was wrong with me, because she wanted me to lose. She never offered to get me help, she never said it in a concerned way; she said it like I was a disgusting freak. She was angry. I was better at it than she was. She went to the ER once, for dehydration issues. I was hardcore.

The hardest thing to do in the entire world, is not eat. When you’re surrounded by available, delicious food. Very, very few people can do that. The willpower to do that is insane. I’ve done plenty of difficult things: law school and the bar, giving birth, running marathons. None of it’s as difficult as starving yourself day in, day out when you’re surrounded by people eating. You’ve got to make it the one thing you think about. I couldn’t do that again if I tried.

Ticking all the white girl cliché boxes, I know. But it was the Ally McBeal era, the waif era. The aesthetic was different than today. Or not. In any era, everyone loves an impossibly small slip of a girl. It’s so many things. It’s cute. It’s girlish. It’s feminine. It’s sophisticated. It’s chic. It’s striking. No matter how thin I got, I got mad compliments. I remember once the nurse about to weigh me said, “Not that you have anything to be afraid of, skinny Minnie! I’d kill to have your figure.” And she pinched my waist. I could barely stand up on the fucking scale. I’d fainted twice that morning, and I had an IV in my arm for dehydration. This was the third trip to the ER in as many months. No one said anything about eating disorders. Everyone loves a skinny girl.

Periodically I go through 24-hour periods of uncontrollable puking. Always have. Still do. No idea why. But this morning when I was 17, it was really bad. I’d been in the bathroom the entire night in the worst pain, holding my stomach and sweating and lying on my side. I literally couldn’t get up. My mom found me and yelled at me, demanded to know what was going on. I had to say to her, I think I have a problem. That’s how bad it was. She was angry, but mostly happy. She’d won. And then she told me she had to take care of our guests - her sister was visiting - and she’d take me to the ER when they’d gone, but I’d have to wait. She left me on the bathroom floor and closed the door. I wish I didn’t know that part.

I don’t believe she meant for it to get as bad as it did. When she did come get me she was really shocked, I think, at how serious it was. I don’t think she’d realized I wasn’t being melodramatic, that I really couldn’t stand or walk anymore. She was nice to me then, was patient about helping me to the car and taking me to the hospital. Of course, I was seriously fucked up by the time I got there. Part of my intestines had collapsed. I was in-patient for 15 days, with an NG tube going down my nose and throat and into my stomach, while they ran tests and waited to see if they could fix it without removing a chunk of intestine and leaving me with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.

The first few days, I wasn’t processing any of that. My electrolytes were crazy imbalanced, so I was out of my fucking mind. I couldn’t stand the feel of the NG tube, the pressure of it in my nose and the pain in my throat every time I swallowed. I pulled it out. Multiple times. It took a LONG time to pull out. We’re talking hand over hand pulling, yards of tubing, me gagging the whole time. And I did this multiple times! I remember doing it, but I don’t remember feeling it, thank god. The last time, the tubing was covered in blood; I remember seeing that. The doctors looked nauseous. Like even for them, this was some crazy shit, what I was doing. I must have cut my throat or stomach or something. But they put another tube right back down, even though I begged them not to, and they restrained my wrists to the bed so I wouldn’t do that anymore.

I thought she was beautiful, growing up. She was much better-looking than I’ve ever been. She had a beautiful face, beautiful eyes, beautiful hair. I’ve never had any of that. I just have a good body. When you’re only hot because of your body, you don’t have the wiggle room women with good faces have, that few pounds to go up and down.

Sadie lay awake, listening.

“What more do you expect, Mark? What do you think marriage is after the first few years? It’s roommates co-existing, at best -”

“That’s it? That’s all we’re doing, is co-existing?” Sadie flinched at the hurt in her dad’s voice.

“Grow up, Mark. That’s the reality. That’s the best-case reality! It’s normal. No one’s got the movie version -”

“I thought this was a phase. I never thought this was it.”


“I get that marriages have ups and downs. That kids and work can overwhelm all the rest. I thought we’d been having a rough couple of years. I didn’t think… you’re saying this is how it’s going to be, always? How you feel about me now, this is it?”

He was crying. Sadie’s stomach twisted. She felt uncomfortable. Embarrassed. More than anything, she hated them.

Fuck you both. I shouldn’t know about this. I shouldn’t be hearing this shit.

Sam’s voice was dead. “I don’t know.”

“So we might never have sex again, is what you’re saying? You’re not attracted to me anymore, you don’t even like me anymore -”

“That’s not what I’m saying, Mark. This isn’t weird, probably most marriages -”

“Stop saying that! You don’t know that! How could you know that? I don’t care what other people do in their marriages, I’m talking about you and me. Our marriage. And you’re saying, you don’t see us ever -”

“I said I don’t know! I’m sorry, but I don’t. I’ve told you before, you can sleep with other -”

“Sure. Because this makes me feel really confident, to go and try picking up women for the first time in, what? Almost two decades? I was never good at that. It was never fun for me. Even in college, when it’s supposed to be easy. And now? I’m not young anymore, my own wife doesn’t want me -”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry it hurts you. I don’t mean to do that, I don’t want to do that, but do you really want me to go through the motions -”

“Of course I don’t want that! But I’m allowed to be sad about it. I still want you, you know that. I think you’re the most beautiful woman in any room we walk into, always. And I’m sad, because you don’t feel that way about me -”

“I’m sorry you’re sad, Mark. That sucks, it really does. But I’m sad too, okay? All the fucking time. You can’t meet people? What about me? I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about having anyone else in my life, just to talk -”

“Everyone is feeling lonely right now baby, everyone is feeling that way -”

“You think it’s about all of this?” Sam was shouting now. “You think I’m upset because of this bullshit? What do you think my life is, day to day? There’s nothing for me on the other side of this. No one texts me, no one misses me. I won’t have more plans, more people. Nothing like that is waiting for me after this. All this is probably better for me. At least I don’t feel like a loser for having no one to see, no plans ever -”

Mark cut in. “You don’t mean to be hurtful, fine. But it’s incredibly hurtful to hear you go on about how you have no one, when you’ve got me and Sadie and Matthew and Bagel -”

“That’s not enough! I can’t make my whole life just about you guys. It doesn’t mean you’re nothing, but it’s ok for me to want more. I’m so lonely…”

Aaand now she’s crying too. Selfish fucking assholes.

Sadie got out of bed and stomped down the hallway. She quieted her footsteps as she approached Matthew’s bedroom, cracking the door open just enough to squeeze in.

She stood over his bed, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

He’s still asleep through all this, thank Christ.

Sadie tried nudging Matthew over to make more room in the twin bed. His eyelids fluttered open. “Mind if I sleep in here with you tonight, kiddo? I had a bad dream.” Matthew nodded sleepily, never removing his thumb from his mouth.

Once Sadie was settled, Matthew snuggled up against her shoulder and fell back to sleeping. Sadie lay awake, staring at the glow-in-the-dark star decals on Matthew’s ceiling.

It’s not like I later found a world full of people who would stay with me through a bad night. They all kinda react like my mom: disgusted, and then leave me there alone.

I’ve tried reading firsthand accounts of things like depression. Some helped, until the author recalled how “sometimes my friends would crawl into bed with me and hold me all night, while I cried and cried for no reason.” And I’d feel betrayed. I’d feel jealous of this suicidally depressed person, because Fuck. You. You have friends who would hold you and cuddle you all night when things get bad? I’ve never had that. I would kill to have that.

There’s Mark, I guess. He would if I asked, but not really. I can’t cuddle with Mark really, just cuddle, because it makes him sad. We haven’t had sex in over two years. He’s not awful to me about it, but he’s let me know it bothers him. Any time I try being affectionate with him now, without it being sexual, he doesn’t like it. It seems to hurt him, or frustrate him, because it doesn’t lead to sex. Like I’m leading him on. Even Mark. My fucking spouse, he acts like that.

But I can’t with that anymore. I’m done, going through the motions and letting him do whatever he likes with my body once a week or so, because of some dumb idea that this is what couples should do. He’s put my body through enough shit, having his kids and his abortions. It isn’t fair. Sometimes I start feeling bad again, but then I think of all the years of sex I didn’t get anything out of. Fuck him.

He can get laid somewhere else. I’m fine with that. I’ve told him that. I’m reasonable. I’ve never understood those women who don’t want to fuck their husbands anymore, fine, but also don’t want them fucking anyone else. That seems harsh. I’m not like that. He’s lucky, to have someone who sees it that way. I refuse to feel bad.

I still get to cuddle Matthew. I’ll have that for a couple years more. I should be grateful. I know there’s people with even less contact, less touch. He’s a good kid. The best thing to do for Sadie, is stay out of her way. Teens need space from their parents. They want to feel a distance, at that age. Being around her could only hurt her, bring out all the jealousy and competitive shit my mom did to me, and that’s the last thing I want. I was scared shitless of that, from the moment I found out I was having a girl. I did NOT want to be having a girl. Parents are supposed to want what’s best for their kids, the best life possible. Well, life is a fuckload better if you’re a boy. I didn’t want a girl, to put her through all the stuff that never changes, no matter what people say. Especially not with someone like me, given my experiences with my own garbage mom. I was terrified of messing Sadie up about food and body stuff. I think I’ve done okay, all things considered. Now she’s in the home stretch before college. I just need to hang back and let her be a teen, and she’ll be fine. I could only make things worse.

“Did you hear about the Schultzes? Isn’t it terrible?”

“I know, I can’t imagine. I heard it was pure luck that the wife was the one who found him. Normally the girl - Sadie? - would have gotten home first.”

“That’s horrible. Can you imagine? So selfish. Those poor children.”

“I know. It’s just so sad.”

“Do you know how it happened? I heard hanging -”

“That’s right. Apparently at the top of the basement steps. When the wife first found him, he was down at the bottom - the beam he’d used must have broken - and she thought he’d fallen down the steps. Of course when she got closer she saw the rope around his neck, and then she understood.”

“That’s awful. Can you imagine?”


1 comment:

  1. You’re right, men are oblivious to what attractive women have to go through on trains at clubs, bars, with their clothes and mothers. We just notice them, and hardly empathize with them, assuming how happy they must be. Covers don’t tell the whole story. And being forty does suck.