You cut me out of my dress one morning in the only gesture ever made to indicate you might be saving me from myself instead of pushing me further into the black hole of my existence. I was in a rush, as per usual. The clock was always working against me in those days, even though it was supposed to be an advantage to feel as though time might go on forever as a result of my youth. With the abyssal pendulum that came with an office schedule, however, I could feel the quicksand through the hourglass going at once too fast whenever I was outside of the cubicle partitions and at once too slow whenever I found enough time to be with you. Time. That’s what it always came down to with us in terms of arguments. I maintained you had too much and I had too little, that it was tearing us apart, like Lisa to Johnny in The Room, and you, in your usual way, would argue in neither direction. It wasn’t important to you. I found it difficult to ever truly gauge what was.
Except, well, the assured gift of oral stimulation multiple times a week. More than sex, it was what you valued, possibly why you “kept me around the house” as long as you did. And it was your house. Sure, we might have split the costs, but you were the one constantly there, constantly adorning it with random riffraff culled from the street or from friends, or acquaintances of friends. Nothing in it felt like me. If anyone I knew ever dared to come over, I would feel so falsely represented I would almost want to kick them out the second they arrived. Caravaggio was not my bag, okay? Coarse though it may have been to you. I just didn’t want images of skulls or death and decay around me. Felt I got enough of it in the outside world. So the night that I drank too much cheap Prosecco bought from the bodega nearby and found that you had vanished without any warning or explanation as to where you might have gone or when you might be back, I had no one to take it out on but Caravaggio, the framed print I had bought from the Borghese Gallery and paid to have framed crashing with such ease to the dirty floor I refused to mop because I maintained it was the least you could do to earn your keep.
I couldn’t look at “Saint Jerome Writing” for another fucking second without crawling out of my skin. This was, I knew, how you saw yourself. A learned scholar. That was what this whole “I’m not getting a job until I finish my novel” thing was about. And what if you did finish it, I demanded. If, miraculously, ten to twenty years from now, you did manage to finish your “great American novel,” what excuse would you come up with then to avoid falling in line as the rest of us had been forced to? God knows you could be so adroit in your Houdini-like maneuverings.
You didn’t bother responding to my rage as you clack clack clacked away on your endlessly modern “writing apparatus,” a keyboard attached to an iPad, pausing only to tell me that I was interrupting your concentration, that you had solved a great puzzle as to what would happen next to that precious extension of yourself, your protagonist. I knew better than to express my anger too “overly” at you. That it would only make you shut down and recoil all the more from me. Something to do with your fraught childhood, no doubt. This coping mechanism of closing off when someone showed any sign of intensity.
So I walked out. That was last night. I suppose tonight you had decided it best for your “muse” if you didn’t have to be near me and my “energy.” That it might be better for you to blow off steam by letting people unlike me instead blow steam up your ass about how hard you’d been working on your “project.” I suppose I wouldn’t know for sure until the morning. In the meantime, all I could do was pick up the pieces of the broken frame and ripped print and hope that I wouldn’t have to explain the truth to you about what happened. That my drunken repressed temper got the better of me and I had to take it on Saint Jerome, on Caravaggio.
Hoping you might return if I stayed up late enough, I decided to peruse the internet for replacement poster and frame options. Based on what I was seeing, I had clearly overspent at the Borghese for the sheer “luxury” of being able to say I had purchased it at the Borghese. How fucking pretentious you had rendered me. Though, if someone asked you, you’d likely say you’d transformed me into someone far more dignified than when you first met me. That you were just working with the unformed clay you were given and that, in the end, you could only work with that raw, crude material so much.
I fell asleep before you returned, but I heard you stumble in around three, muttering who knows what under your breath–something about a plot point revelation or story idea? Another eureka moment you claimed could only come with drugs and inebriation. Funny…I guess we can all be geniuses then, so long as we can afford the means to regular mood alteration. Well, I could not. That’s why I rose fifteen minutes after eight (sleeping in that extra fifteen minutes) to get ready. To make my usual preparations for battle.
I put a gray slit skirt on and a button-front white blouse before walking to the kitchen to start making coffee. I then went into the bathroom to start washing my face and putting on the makeup that might possibly conceal my contempt. As the whistle to the kettle blew, I suddenly felt the urge to change. This abrupt need happened to me often on those mornings–never convinced that what I was wearing was a fake enough caricature of the corporate whore. But when I went to remove the skirt, I found the cheap zipper wouldn’t budge. All the while, the kettle kept screaming, soon rivaling my own shrieks as I declared, “It’s cutting off my circulation–I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!”
It only took you about two minutes to finally stir, so unwilling were you to acknowledge theatrics of any kind. When you saw me tugging and ripping at my garment, you rolled your eyes, calmly went to turn off the stove, grab some scissors out of the kitchen drawer and methodically cut the skirt from the bottom where the slit began. You tossed it to the floor and stared at me like I was a “silly woman” before you pushed me against the refrigerator, pulled my thong down and started to fuck me as though it was your reward for coming to my rescue.
And as I felt you inside me, all I could think was: set me free, why don’t you baby?