I’ve seen her. I can’t unsee her. She’s so smart I’m pretty sure she saw me. But the nature of our unspoken agreement now is that we don’t know each other, have never met, will never meet.
I think the last thing I said to her was “I find you domineering and competitive and belittling, and you don’t seem to want to do anything about it,” (I had suggested therapy.) That last time, she had come to my back door completely coiffed and in new nail polish. I felt like she wanted me to look at her, but really I don’t know what she wanted, was deeply unsettled in fact. That last should absolutely not be a dependent phrase. I was deeply (let me stress) deeply unsettled by what I perceived she wanted, a thing I had kept as vague as possible and therefore menacing, a fog machine I’d invented just for when she was around, conducive to phobia, I suppose.
Initially, I think that because she appeared to want to be a middle-aged, middle class, bourgeois white female, I was led into thinking we were kin. I was not threatened at first. The perceived wish on her part to be that thing kept her within the realm of the knowable and therefore the controllable. Looking at her and listening to her state her wishes, I thought I knew/felt what she wanted and could abide or refuse. One or the other.
Over the course of time, with our participation in old-people’s sports games like Pickleball and checkers, coupled with the truth I had known from the beginning which was that she was a man, I was led to nerve-wracking doubts, shoals of fear. She was very competitive, the riding of bikes, for example, was always a contest and not a tour. She completely took over the art project I had enlisted her help with which involved the engineering then building of a simple object. I was left with her drawings and no ideas of my own.
She cried (crocodile) tears once at a concert we went to, blubbering about the beauty of the violinist’s arms saying her long-ago wife had arms like that and “Oh, what a loss!” In my mind, I went, “What?!, the defining relationship of your life and the wrenching break-up as you’ve described it subsequently comes down to the loss of specific toned muscles on a skeleton?” I am not understanding, I say to myself and am grossed out. I can have neither control nor abiding here. I do not know what the desires are. I cannot, will not, be the target. Too bizarre for my one and only long-held identity.
This is a social dilemma of a modern kind. I can’t unsee her. But I can scooch past, without a salutation, find a desk, and write this tiny bewildered piece. (more…)