Yes, even I have lovers. I get them from the Internet. I am successful because I communicate in a regular manner. I use only ordinary words and gestures. I am never alone on a Saturday night. I get every job I interview for.
When they arrive, we sit on the bed. They talk, I nod. They leave gaps I can ask questions into. It is a conversation. We are communicating. My lips are lacquered. We never eat the snacks. You can fuck a corpse but you can never feed it. When I open my mouth, it is never for a meal. They believe I am a good listener and they believe this is a quality of mine they like – as much as they like my eyes say, or that because my only desire can be to be desired, I work hard and permit everything. And so not only listening but listening well becomes an important and therefore likeable characteristic, no, a rare quality, and so a valuable one – precious as loving a hand on my throat, squeezing. So they want to keep me, despite my poor body – plump, lovable, emaciated, shrill. It’s the silence that arouses, that acrobatic sympathy.
Because they underestimated my intelligence, any shreds of it they see are elevated and worshipped as those idiots elevate and worship say, a piece of toast in which they believe they see the face of God, revealing only their own doubt, their own faithlessness. They spread out inside this awful feeling, mistaking for love the gap between their expectation of my stupidity and the reality of my aptitude. They expect me to be grateful for this insult, as if I could not see them happily realising that that handsome face in the department store window they accidentally pass by is actually their own.
I study their lips. I study their eyelids. I study the hairs glistening all over them. I smell them. I stare at their skin. I wonder whether or not they have souls. I wonder if the soul resides only in gesture. I wonder if gesture resides only in soullessness. I stare beyond their ears out of the window, leaping from it and landing silently on my toes, not looking up, not looking back, running beyond their flesh and mine, beyond the script, beyond the nullifying strokes. I smile. They sense its oddness and categorise it as my haunted quality then dare to play around in it.
The confused boy, who, poking with his foot the immobile animal at the water’s edge, still has not discerned whether it is dead or deadly.
The mind goes, high on our theatre.
I am extinguished, consenting.
I love letting go. I love being spontaneous. It’s exclaimed on my profiles: ‘I love letting go! I love being spontaneous!’
My eyes clamp shut, flicker open, roll.
Where is my real choice?
They touch me and are not electrocuted. They feel my touch and survive it. When their faces break and crumple, spasm and sigh, I know I am not dead, but I also know that they could kill me. What pleasure will we choose when happiness is disentangled from relief, when freedom is disentangled from safety? Oh devotion! How it can fortify.
Too soon I am reformed, boundaried and stubborn, meat. It will take more. That nothing can touch me is my greatest asset and my most tragic weakness.
We part before the at first serene, then undoubtedly more demanding, bucking and rearing of fondness might set in.
My hand is not fit to shake anyone’s mother’s, my smile too shrill to safely encounter siblings. Though I look the part, it is not me you want to take your nieces shopping.
When they go, I am relieved. I look in the mirror and watch the face change back into what it is. When they go, I am devastated. I look in the mirror and watch the face change back into what it is.
When they go, I launder and change the sheets, wash up the glasses, ashtrays and little bowls, dispose of the bottles, butts, food, and condoms, sweep the floor, air the room, vomit, shower, brush my teeth, take my pills, input my nutrition, and check my messages.
Because it will take more, I attend occasionally orgies organised by men so finely dressed that their misogyny gets outfitted as sophistication so sheer as to make critique seem undeniably paranoid. Gentlemanliness is conjured as the softest weapon, as though it only meant still believing in hats and rules about hats. Single girls half-price. My real friends were the dormice and the elephants, the wild and open-hearted; and our best intimacy was painting her nails, or wet shaving his face when he was sick but had to work regardless, or how letting ourselves be held was what strengthened our arms. At these events my hatred is perceived as aloofness, irresistibility. Doll. I sit at chairs pulled out, cross my poorly-stockinged legs, drink drinks brought to me eagerly, accept the bodies of others. They think my stained and sorry cotton underwear, my betrayed body is how I’ve chosen to look, as though I were catering to some kink – reality maid. They wonder at the natural cruelty of so weak a creature – not even empowered by lingerie. To seduce I do nothing, I simply ask for their watches and rings. They love feeling, without actually being, confused about who is at the top and who is at the bottom. I pick nimbly across strewn bodies to loot lucrative cloakrooms left trustingly unattended. I do not wonder if these bodies have souls – I wonder if they have cash. Now I am connected to everything.
For the seventy-five-minute bus ride home a man asks me, for each one of those seventy-five minutes, where the remote is, and I answer him each one of those seventy-five times, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, seventy-five times. It is a conversation. His chapped feet stick out of decrepit brown sandals contorted by bunions shaped bulbously like the helium balloon adorned with a silver cross bound with pink and red bleeding roses tucked under his right arm and tied with a string to his belt loop.
Here I am, leaving in piles on each piss stained seat small offerings from what I took: a fifty pound note folded into an origami crane with a pseudo-sadist’s signet ring tucked into its right wing and a creamy yellow rose petal at its tail; a twenty bent into a sail boat floating on a lawyer’s designer silk cobalt tie arranged in waves with three torn petals for froth; two fifties constructed into an elegant box with inside it another two fifties folded into a smaller box with inside it a gold tooth ripped right from the gums of an almost recognisable politician and still bloody.
At his broken feet, I lay the rest.
Mira Mattar writes fiction and poetry. She is an independent researcher, editor, and tutor. A Palestinian/Jordanian born in the suburbs of London, she continues to live and work there. She has read and published her work widely. Yes, I Am A Destroyer — published by Ma Bibliotèque — is her first book. Twitter: @_her_moth.