By Christiana Spens.
“He’s free”, he says. I take the offered Scotch (prepared before the news) and sit down, and James, my lawyer, looks at me with pity. I never wanted pity. I never wanted any of this.
Perhaps I should feel relieved that it’s over now. There will be no court case. There will be no confrontation with the seediest politician. There will be no waiting and doubting and being doubted, any more. I could feel relieved that he’s free, he’s gone, he’s leaving the country. But of course I’m not. He still possesses me, and I wonder if I will ever get rid of his force, ever reclaim anything from before.
I drink the Scotch out of politeness but it does nothing for me. “We don’t have enough evidence,” they say. “We don’t believe you,” they mean. He is more credible than me. He doesn’t wear make up and he doesn’t need to fight back. He need only explain that this could be bad for his career, his marriage, God forbid — his health. Is his wife standing by him? Probably. She must be eyeing her own maid suspiciously. You just can’t get the help these days. They talk too much.
The silence must be irritating the lawyer, because he starts to speak, the same old clichés. “Have you thought about counseling?”
“No. Not yet.” I’m getting sick of hearing about that. I don’t want to admit that all the burden falls on me, that this is all my problem now, my issue to fix, not his. I don’t want to accept that my own lack of power means a sentence of further weakness, doubt, and unhappiness. I don’t want to accept someone else’s problem as my own. Not yet.
“Would you like another Scotch?” He has a warm, sweet, and hopeless voice. He looks too childish for all this though he’s in his thirties. Something about the pale blue eyes. And he knows he can’t do anything but offer me a drink, despite all those years of Law School and success. Maybe I don’t bear all the burden after all. I’m his failure, too.
“Yes please.” I reply, smiling — unconvincingly, I’m sure. It’s nice to have someone else be the one to pour the drink. I might as well enjoy it while I can. I’m sure the many drinks of the future, the many drops of lethal solace, will be at my own hand.
“Will you go back to your job, d’you think?” James asks, reading my mind and then flinching as his own presumption. “I mean…there are other things…there are other opportunities if you don’t want to…be a maid.”
Speaking is tiring me. I just want to withdraw, but I humor him, because he tried to help me. “No, there aren’t.”
I get scared of men, now, where I didn’t before — and even this forced conversation with James is unnerving me too. He’s my lawyer but he’s also just a man, and since last month, I find it hard to be in any man’s company. I finish the Scotch and I say,
“I should go now.”
“I’ll get you a cab.” He replies, relieved, and reaches for his phone.
Might as well enjoy the perks of being a victim while I can, I think to myself, as I get into the car. After today there will be no more free cabs, pity drinks, or polite condolences. There will be no more questions, no more talk. The real silence will set in and nobody will want to know, because in many ways, this never happened. This cab ride home is the end of it being a reality to anyone but me. I can sense all this — the months ahead — as the car pulls away. I can sense that this feeling of fear — fear of sitting alone in a cab, sitting alone anywhere — is here to stay. I can sense that I don’t own my own thoughts anymore, as we leave Manhattan.
The lights are beautiful as ever, gleaming in the dark, and I try to lose myself in watching them, rather than fantasize about jumping off the bridge and letting the darkness swallow me entirely. I don’t want to be this person but it’s inescapable. I have lost control of myself. I focus on the lights, even as they blur and shake, drenched in someone else’s tears.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christiana Spens graduated from Cambridge in June (Philosophy) and is the author of The Wrecking Ball (Harper Perennial 2008) and The Socialite Manifesto (Beautiful Books 2009). She is working on two new novels at the moment, in Scotland and Marrakech.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.