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AND THEY WANTED US TO LOVE THEM 

My liver ached. My knuckles were bruised from hard faces and brick walls. I got taller. The scars from her started to fade and I took to fucking young women in back alleyways and in public toilets. At twenty-five, I’d become a mighty war.

I got a job at the local pub, washing dishes and getting yelled at by angry cooks and uptight waitresses. Listening to them, I’d stand silently at the sink with my hands in the darkened dishwater, and watch the clock above their heads, hands ticking down to my break. Each day before the afternoon rush, I’d leave the kitchen for a cigarette and walk up and down the front of the pub, drinking the remnants of other people’s beers and whiskeys. I’d often catch myself in the reflection of the pub’s grand glassed doors and I’d stand still, watching, hating myself, hating it all. Most nights I’d stay after my shift was over to bet on the horses with the old drunks at the public bar, and I’d always find a late night corner of the pub to watch bands pay their dues to some almighty muse.

One night, as I sat and watched my friend’s band play cover tunes, I noticed a woman, perhaps twenty, standing at the back of the room with a can of cheap rum in her hand. Her washed out black hair and the plumpness in her face matched the size of her rump, and afterwards, as I sat backstage with my friends on an old couch that smelt of cheap perfume and beer, she walked in with her friend. Her hands grabbed around the bag strap across her chest as she sat down on the plastic chairs near the back door, and her eyes looked to everyone in the room but me. I sat back in silence, drank my beer and watched her heft, her nervous indifference in the smoky air around us.

As the band started to move out the back and pack away the gear into Peter’s mum’s car, she walked up beside me, her hands fumbling at her sides, and offered me a cigarette. Her eyes looked at me with a sense of urgency and bulging discomfort, as I took one and asked her to walk around the corner with me. And she did, her hands grabbing for me. Her head low. Her eyes to the ground. Her heart pounding like the sound of a thousand microphone’s dropping. Her feet dancing impatiently for whispered, heated, love.

We walked away from the crowd, my eyes resting on the nape of her neck, and I grabbed at her as we turned the corner. The collar of her dress pulled tight around her thick throat as she looked up at me, her eyes wide and screaming like a hundred birds in flight, and told me to touch her. Slowly, as I stood above her, she opened her legs against the cold bricks of the alleyway’s walls and guided my hand to her. My fingers feathered the inside of her legs as I whispered in her ear, take my keys, go back to my car, sit there and wait. And she did.

And I walked back to where my friends stood, made some joke about whores and alleyways, picked up my bag, and my half-opened bottle of wine and walked back to the car. Her silhouette reached up to the yellow moon of poets. Her legs folded up towards her chest like a small flowered child from a time gone by. Her eyes jumped back and forth at the shadows of the night. I got in the car, looked down at her concrete heavy legs, turned on the radio and drove.

We drove for fifty minutes. The sounds of her chewing at her gums and lighting cigarettes stopped her insistent chatter and the boredom of the long highway in front of us both. As we reached my place and parked the car underneath the old Jacaranda tree, we both sat silently and looked out to the dark, started to search at the outside world, unsure of reason, unsure of everything.

My unit sat amongst four other bedsits, each separated by thin fibro walls that kept our nightmares and arguments familiar and shared. In the few months that I’d been living there, I’d often hear the old man next door softly and in low tones cry into his pillow at night. The faint sound of his laboured breath echoing and growing as it drifted down the hallway to each unit’s doorstep.

That night as we took the steps to my place, the old boards beneath our feet moved with our weight and she stumbled and laughed at the stars in my perfect black blue sky. And I took her inside, poured cheap red wine into plastic cups and sat with her in the grey couch that I’d found by the curbside just the weekend before. Its pillows stained with years of what I suspected to be fighting and fucking, inspiration, anticipation, real love smells, hair bleach and semen. And we curled our legs together on the couch. The sour smell of a week’s worth of alcohol from both our habits sat in between the thin space between us, as we faced each other in the dark, both silent in our individual messes, and started to kiss. My mouth wide, her lips thin. Her head too small for her body. My cock hard with anticipation. Her legs hairless. My fingernails, filled with dirt, scraping softly on her back as we kissed for hours. Her groans loud, louder, until her urgency to be loved became wild and she straddled me, her legs strong, her hair swinging from left to right as she searched for my nipples under my shirt in a vain attempt to turn me on.

And I looked at her, the lamp beside me showing the acne scars on her chest and the hairs around her nipples, as I slowly pushed her head down to my groin. My cock, fighting to be released, sprang out from my jeans like some wind-up puppet as her breasts, now free from her clothes, swung like low pendulums over my thighs. She held my aching blue balls in one hand as her lips ran over my cock from base to top like some dirty 1980s amateur porn movie, my aching balls exploding all over her breasts as I kicked my heels into the ground and called her a whore.

She stayed that night, her body like dead weight in my bed as I tossed and turned, hoping that the nightmares wouldn’t rise up to meet us both in a sweaty union before the sun rose. And the next morning as she moved slightly to wake, I turned to her, her mascara soft eyes leaving black stars on my pillows, and with a languid push, moved her back to face me. Her head twisted sideways on the pillow and she groaned a small good morning. Her hands felt at the floor beside the bed and she raised her head, grabbed at the half-full glass of wine, took in a heavy swig. And she fell back down to the pillow, with the smell of her sour mixing in with her chemist bought perfume, mixing with my own sour, my own need to reach for the bottle. Feeling like home with her in that moment, sad and fallen. Her name, like my mother’s, was Susan.

I slid up behind her, her soft back filled with moles and the occasional stray black hair, and my hands moved around the base of her small breasts, pushing my large and blackhead ridden nose into her sharp shoulder blade. Spoon-like in my movements, she made some comment about the sharp morning sun in her eyes, pushed her strong firm arse up against my groin and folded her hands over her head. This scene in my room, with the woman whose body and smell felt like she had as much anger and sadness for the world as I did, played out just like this across men’s bedrooms in suburban, sparsely furnished cheap rental homes all across this beautiful city that I called home.

And they all wanted to stay. And they wanted us to love them.

That morning we drank the rest of the wine. We went through the cupboards searching for more when we ran out. We found a bottle of old whiskey under the kitchen sink. We played Fleetwood Mac over and over so that the echoes on the walls began to feel familiar together. We drank with fury and passion. We listened to my mother’s unanswered voice on the end of my answering machine telling me she loved and missed me. Our laughs were loud as I told her that my mother could find me wherever I went, could find me under 10 metres of the hardest ice. I told her never to answer the phone to my mother’s pleas. Ever.

We smoked the last of her cigarettes and, her in my old T-shirt and her yellow flowered underwear and me in a pair of wide fronts, started to go through the ashtray and pick at the tobacco left in the smoked cigarettes, making them into small hand rolled ones. We drank whiskey in my mouldy shower as she got on her knees and swallowed me whole. She asked me about my mother and her calls. I told her. I asked her about the one thing she wished she hadn’t done. She told me. She grabbed at my hands as I fell back onto the couch. She made me cheese on toast and cut up small pieces of apple that I didn’t eat.

She stayed for days.

Over the next month, Suzy and I drank and fucked and stayed indoors in our underwear, telling each other war stories and grooming each other like apes. She shaved my crotch to see the full size of my cock and I’d sit on her back, looking for blackheads and squeezing them, watching the yellow hard pus slip under my fingernails as we silently watched the old black and white television. She took to making me concoctions that she found in an old natural remedies book to try and stop my nightmares and daily told me she could love me. Love me like she’d never loved before.

We’d fuck and talk and sit in the sunlight in the late afternoons. We fucked so hard that she developed a bad case of thrush, and she sat on the kitchen floor with a lit cigarette in one hand and a tub of natural yoghurt beside her, her skirt lifted up to her waist, as I talked to her about wanting to travel to Spain to see men bullfighting. To watch them face their own deaths in the Corrida, to witness their search for reason, to marvel at their acts of faith. And I talked at her, my voice rising, electric, as I imagined the Matadors’ fine-boned body brushing past the massive beasts under the moonlight, a slight erection sitting under my hand as she ignored me. The idea a bore to her, a tedium, a thing other people did. And she casually dipped her finger into the pot and opened her legs to wipe the cold fresh comfort onto the lips of her cunt as I sat at the window with a beer in my hand.

Our smells had now mixed in with one another. Our unwashed hair had left stale smells on the linen in the house. Her insistent chatter about her friends I had never met bored me. Her pale blonde hair clogging up the bathroom sink and the used tampons thrown at the top of my bin disgusted me. The smell of her stale breath after wine a constant, as my hand tapped on the window sill, silent with nothing to say to her, knowing that I could never tell her how much I could never love her.

As the second month of us being together came about, Suzy moved in with me, quietly and without asking. Her collection of nail polish sat on the edge of the bathtub, the smell of her sandalwood sat in my pile of unwashed clothes. She started to take long walks to the bottle shop and buy us casks of red wine and the cheapest whiskey she could find, and on the days that I’d go out, Suzy waited at home for me, making dinners of cheap mince and vegetables and reading old romance novels. She cut herself a key. We talked little. I smoked more. My fingers began to stain yellow with nicotine and the once flat stomach that I would proudly display to strangers now folded over my jeans like surrender.

I began to feel age.

I began to feel the heavy weight of a loveless love.