A lovely friend who lives in New Zealand hinted for years that she had a dark secret that she'd been keeping. I'd make guesses, of course. Most of my guesses were very dark, which says more about me than about her. When she was maybe twenty-eight (she turns thirty-one in December), she did share this, about the older lover who's haunted her life:
I can't stop fantasising about my uncle (for clarification--- he's my mothers cousin, but I shall refer to his as my uncle for convenience). He must be...62-ish now. He's tall and tan and solid. He owns a pub in the outback in Australia. I first met him when I was in my mid teens, he taught me how to blow smoke rings, we drank sambuca and we fucked. Now I can't stop thinking about the last time I saw him...it must have been 2008? Or 2009? It was at a family funeral. When I saw him after the funeral I went up to him and hugged him. Brushing my hands around his waist, I felt something like an electric shock. 'Hey there, beautiful' he whispered in my ear, then kissed my cheek. An hour or so later I noticed him watching me, and nodding his head towards the bathroom. I swallowed the rest of my gin & tonic and walked ahead of him. I was wearing black heels and a black skirt. After he shut the door, he ran his fingers up my thigh, lifted my skirt and kissed my bare cunt.
I need him again.
She expanded on that a few nights later:
it has been years. but there will never be anyone else. i met him when i was 17. not so young, i suppose. but give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life. cards on the table, right from the beginning. first cousin once removed is the technical term. and thirty years between us. our first night together i was drunk. sambuca flowed through my veins. but it was electric. i knew at the time it was different to anything i'd ever felt before. i didn't know that i'd never feel anything like it since. it was a cheap motel room. we fucked countless times that night, then the next day he flew back to australia. a month later he flew me to his pub in the outback. we had a whole month together. to date, that was the longest time we ever spent together. i started to understand that it was love. we'd pour drinks at his bar all night, then take a bottle upstairs with us. we would drink and talk until dawn. the sex was amazing. he went down on me for hours. i'd had men before...but not like this. i felt so powerful, so needed, and so loved.
we've been together all over the place. vancouver, tokyo, auckland, sydney, the outback, fiji, wellington. we steal long weekends. we fly each other wherever, whenever we have the chance. for a long time i wouldn't let him cum in my cunt. my mouth was fine, preferred. i got over that though. its been ten years now. and nobody touches me like he does. nobody looks at me like he does. he is the only man i want, and i can never have him.
“The only obsession everyone wants: ‘love.’ People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you’re whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You’re whole, and then you’re cracked open.”
and i have tried to not let it consume me. i slept with men his age. boys my own age. girls. there is only him. i've had long-term boyfriends, who thought nothing when i flew to fiji for a 'girls weekend' and spent four blissful days with his tongue in my cunt and his arms around my waist. when i flew to vancouver with friends he arranged to be there for a weekend too...i told them i was catching up with my uncle, and had his hand in my cunt in the lift up to his hotel room. another time we were together for four nights in auckland. we stayed at a house in devonport, and it was like this 'what we could have been' experience. we cooked for each other, and read aloud to each other. we played cards, and mixed each other drinks. we walked around naked. we bathed together. we came together all week. it was agony to catch the plane home after that.
he is my addiction. we're a chemical reaction.
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
some nights i stay up late, drinking straight bourbon and smoking. habits i learnt from him, of course. they aren't my only bad habits. on those same nights i might cut and purge. i didn't pick up those habits from him, but i'd say he inspired them. it would kill him to hear me say that. what we have together chokes me. it annihilates me. it is everything, yet it can never be anything. how did it end up like this? i was young and drunk, our first night together should have been just that, a drunken regret. not the start of an affair which would come to both doom and define me.
and a few weeks ago i got a text. i will see him soon.
this is my secret.
I read those two e-mails and sat back with a drink and tried to decide how to react to her story. I don't find the travel implausible. She's from a posh family, and she grew up taking travel for granted. I know her family's place in Wellington society; I know the firm where she works. I know her tastes in older men--- I'm one, after all. I had no way of knowing how true it all was, but it was all quite plausible. Accept it as true--- I decided that she wasn't making it all up after a few bourbons. What I felt was...well, jealousy of course. Obviously jealousy. She's haunted my thoughts for years, and I can only wish that I could evoke that kind of romantic obsession in her. I wish I could mean that much, for good or bad. So of course I felt jealous.
It says a great deal about me that I read "Sambuca" and let my mind go to the last time I'd had Sambuca. Years and years ago, in an Italian seafood restaurant in Vienna of all places. I thought about her description of Sambuca flowing like electricity through her veins. I tried to recall the girl I was with in Vienna and what the sex had been like for us that nightWhat. It says a great deal, too, that I was a bit disappointed about her clarification of who her older lover had been. "Uncle" is simply far hotter in this context than "first cousin once removed"--- a status I couldn't begin to define or diagram. If she had to be with him, he should've been her mother's biological brother. The vision of an incestuous affair is hotter than simply a years-long affair with a much older man--- even if the older man happened to be, well, me.
What I felt was a mix of jealousy, envy, and depression--- a toxic enough cocktail. Jealousy that I wasn't the older lover she could obsess over. Envy that she got to fly to distant cities and carry on an affair in elegant hotels and exotic settings. Depression that I wasn't likely to have that kind of amazingly literary obsessive romance in my life ever again. Jealousy, envy, depression--- I used to note that mixture as JED in my paper journals, and note that it never ended well, that it was always associated with self-destructive time in my life.
It's certain that the thing that makes her stories most painful for me to read is that I don't have stories of my own right now to match hers. Her past is full of stories, and this season I can't imagine that any of my own are as good as hers, or ever will be again.
I've spent my lifetime living through stories, living inside stories, aspiring to be part of stories. JED is the dangerous and corrosive feeling I get when it strikes me that my days of having worthwhile stories to tell may be over. I always see sex and romance as being about the stories one gets to inhabit, the stories one gets to trade with lovers, the stories that one uses in seductions.
I love the stories my NZ friend tells. But I do sit alone and recognise that I'm not likely ever to have stories worth telling a lover again.