When I was young I thought I knew what jealousy was and I thought that it could be conquered. Jealousy was the scary incongrous thing that showed up every three years or so to make false accusations and leave me curled up in a ball on the floor crying and pleading my absolute innocence. It was a small price to pay, I thought, for what appeared to be unconditional love and acceptance. It didn’t happen that often. Everybody’s a little carzy, right? So why should I expect the person I loved to be 100% sane? I went along with it. I rolled with the punches. I was a good sport. Then my life grew dimmer and lonelier and I began to realize I was damaged goods, slightly flawed merchandise that was available at a discount. That I was not loved perfectly, nor respected at all. I’d been settled for. And I met Wallace at my little inventory job. We’d ride up to Denver or down to Pueblo or La Junta with about a dozen other people, squished into the van like sardines. We’d spend a good few hours a week in transit and several performing acts of unspeakable data entry and almost immediately we bonded to the point of near inseperability. We got each other’s twisted senses of humour. We recognized in each other the grim smile that is only worn by the serially depressed. We instinctively knew it was safe to bitch to each other about our respective relationships and our fucked up childhoods and the fact that we had a nowhere job in a nowhere town where they consistently shorted our paychecks. There was definitely an underlying attraction. The air was heavy with the prospect of uncommitted crimes. The points at which our bodies touched in those crowded van seats were warm and dangerous. If we accidentally touched it felt like an electric shock or a scorpion bite. And we alternately flirted and barraged each other with insult humour and teased each other that we’d say offensive things to each other’s spouse and/or fiancee, respectively. And then Wallace disappeared one day and came back ten days later with the news that his girlfriend had dumped and moved back to Seattle to be with her kids. And then things changed. Mostly we’d still laugh and talk and even flirt a little, but there was a bitter edge to everything he said to me. A lot of conversations ended with statements like “guess you better go home to your husband and kids now.” Or “You can just get your own damned ladder. Why? Because you’re married.” I suppose a lot of it was the depression talking (yet again I ask you: why do I find depressed men so alluring?) and some of it was just that I reminded him of his ex. And I was probably a bit of a bitch to deal with myself at the time, having just plunged into the psychic aftermath of a halfhearted but neccessary abortion. After a few months Wallace announced he’d gotten another job and we spent the last three days he was there laughing and talking and even touching knees a little. He gave me his inventory vest when he left and it smelled like him. He hugged me and told me my “quasar” colored Doc Martens looked like someone had thrown up a Crayola 64 pack on them. Three months later, just after I had tended my own resignation, I showed up at work to the familiar presence of a leather jacketed fake blonde boy enveloped in a cloud of Marlborough smoke. He was standing with his back to the wall in a pair of sunglasses, looking like John Lennon in those old Astrid Kurcher Hamburg photos. For one tiny moment I was literally breathless. And then I was a joyously caffeinated little chatterbox for the next two days, until it was time to part once more. We never exchanged numbers and we completely lost touch thereafter. And though we never said anything about it the underlying reason was that even though nothing untoward ever happened we were definitely guilty of something. Thought crime in the first degree. And for the first time in my life I knew what it was to suffer the lash of jealousy and deserve every welt of it. I felt the guilt of the truly guilty. I felt as if I’d committed a grievous sin, atheist that I was. I crucified myself over it for a good many months and behaved as though I’d done something to deserve the worst of punishments. But I never let him touch me and he never even tried.
I used to be good and I used to be loyal. I think I lost my conscience somewhere around the time I lost my hope for a better future. Another day came and another person came along that seemed to know and want and understand me. And this time I was too sad and too tired to fight it and it wasn’t what sunk the ship so much as it was the destruction of the remaining lifeboats. And now Jealousy is one of my most constant companions. Jealousy follows my car around and spams up my voicemail on weekends. Jealousy calls up my friends and whines about me when it doesn’t have the guts. Jealousy embarrassed me at the bar the other night and shouted at screamed and called me a whore. Accused me of being loved, which is a most horrible crime indeed. With some men if you exhibit the slightest bit of attention and another girl is present, then you end up in Hell where you can’t even go to the fucking bar without getting followed into the bathroom and accused of devious machinations and verbally assualted in front of the jukebox by angry vicious women when you just want to play some Nirvana tunes and finish your goddamn Guinness in peace and hope that someone else you know will come in and rescue you if only to prove to the now gathering audience that possibly you might have some acquaintances that are not psychotic. And all of this over a man who doesn’t claim to love either one of us and, at least on my end, is not being asked to. I don’t want to love him and I don’t want him to love me and I certainly don’t want to be punished over something as stupid and imaginary as that. She kept shouting things like “You can just have him, then!” like she owns the title and is willing to sign it over to me and he has no say in the matter, or “I guess you two are in Love” like love is some sort of resinous goo that we’ve stepped into a puddle of and splashed all over us and we’ll never be able to wash off of our clothes. The stains will never come out. Even ultra strength Tide won’t get the love out of your laundry…Also she said we “deserve each other.” Probably she was right with that one. Probably we do deserve each other. We deserve a lot of things, not all of them nice, and “each other” is probably one of them. But I don’t want to love or be loved anymore, regardless of who it’s with and in what esteem I hold them. Love is just an excuse to take people hostage. Love is a justification for irrational anger. Love is a little box we feel justified in shoving other people into. Love is an act of devouring limitation. Love is an excuse to command and torture. The only relevance love has for me anymore is that it means I’m not allowed to talk to my friends when I most want to. Either a significant other is home and must be paid rapt attention to or a jealous ex husband is set off by god knows what or an ex-girlfriend demands a 24 hour lockdown in exchange for beer and cigarettes. See what I know? I give beer and cigarettes away for free. Apparently I’m not charging enough.
Perhaps I am a simple bitch. Perhaps I am a whore. All I know is that the clock is ticking and the rope is growing thin. I can make allowances for friends who have baggage and needy acquaintances. I’ve been in my own pair of those shoes and I hated how they fit and I don’t envy that at all. Fighting over a guy in a bar, though, smacks too much of a relationship and I’d rather gnaw my own leg off slowly over the course of a fortnight than ever have to fight over someone or endure someone’s jealousy or be anyone’s prized possession ever again. Apparently I’ve placed too many of my eggs in one basket. Apparently it’s time to diversify. There’s got to be more than one man in the world who’s intelligent and cute and would rather talk about books with me than invite his bitter ex over for weekly multihour drunken torture sessions. So what if said person doesn’t accept me or understand me unconditionally. Maybe it should just be about fucking. If it’s just about fucking it’ll probably never come to blows, right? Know any cute brainiacs with envious literary taste and no desire for longterm stability? Bonus points if they’re depressives of Celtic and/or Viking extraction. Because we all know my proclivities.I judge prospective lovers these days by the cadence of their voices the quickness of their laughter and the size, quality, and content of their bookcases. My ex didn’t read anymore and ultimately I think that’s what doomed us. He didn’t read. I slept with somebody that did. Maybe it’s as simple as that. I am a bookslut indeed. Will whore for works of relevant fiction. I am the Harlot who haunts the Borders. Fear me. Ha!