Things that we pretended
In the year we spent together, we pretended every night. We needed them, our fictions, in order to proceed. Wrapped in our inventions we were safe and free, without the distractions of fact. Last night I tried to list them all, the things we would pretend.
We pretended I was a robot, new and neatly packaged, sent to him in error. His puzzlement in unwrapping transforming into thrill. The depth of my satisfaction in completing my programmed task. I pulled a face while doing this, a robot face. If he ever caught me doing this he would laugh and have to stop.
We pretended he was a lanky schoolboy, sent to the nurses’ room. His knee was sore from fighting. Or a sports related injury. The knee was not important. My hands would swab him, disinfecting, reaching into his shorts.
We pretended I had woken him in the morning, snuck into his bed. My mouth would be around him, before he knew who I was.
We pretended I was an ambitious intern on a centrist broadsheet newspaper, he an irascible columnist. That our powerful attraction troubled me, as it meant a final goodbye to my youthful radicalism, to the purity I’d enjoyed. As for him, he’d go back to his wife in the end, as they do.
We pretended I was a Victorian Orphan Girl, rescued from the streets. He was a watch-chained philanthropist, patriarchal and fat. That his bid to save my morals succeeded in blighting his own. That he took me, on his narrow Victorian bed, praying for forgiveness. Helpless before my street-learned skills, his rectitude in bits.
We pretended we had been caught spanking, urinating, choking one another and, in my case, ejaculating, and were thus having conventional sex, only in prison.
We pretended I had leapt on him and kissed him, to stop him discussing the novels of Thomas Pynchon. Sometimes we didn’t pretend this.
We pretended he was the President elect and I his beloved daughter.
We pretended he was paralysed, able only to move his face. I was his spritely physical therapist, unorthodox yet dedicated.
We pretended he was violent and attacking, only I knew he didn’t enjoy this and it was this that I enjoyed, his discomfort in physical power. When he noticed how much I liked this, he’d begin to enjoy it himself and this would lessen my interest, until we had to stop.
We pretended that one of us was a member of a marginalised ethnicity. The other was from a more dominant group, the present or historical enemy of the other. Serb/Bosnian, Israeli/Palestinian, Burmese/Rohingya. Sometimes this depressed us. On those days we’d pretend we were both members of the more marginalised ethnicity and finding simple comfort in respectful loving sex.
We pretended I was the head of the Arts Council and he an indigent novelist. That he was trying to secure funding for an autobiographical work, The Time of all my Growing. We pretended that we both knew it was terrible. That in our act of fucking I was not just disgracing the Arts Council, but myself and even literature.
We pretended he was an old and beloved dog, allowed on the bed. His canine enthusiasm becoming something awful, yet also truly wanted. He would pull a dog face when he did this, tongue a-loll. I’d laugh whenever I saw it, have to stop.
We pretended to need these structures, We pretended that, without them, we’d fail to carry on. We pretended that the truth of it would inevitably part us and we didn’t quite want that, not then.
I pretended he was still around last night, back inside my bed. His bum warm against my sleeping hand. His rolling onto me. That he was back inside me, only as himself, not acting. I pretended, in the morning, I would maybe get in touch. I pretended until I’d finished. And then I went to sleep.