Not only is true love rare and true rebellion rare, real love is itself a radical form of rebellion—engagement, thinking, and being—-Masha Tupitsyn
I’ve been living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. At night, I can feel her presence at the edges of the room or the tip of his tongue. His ex-wife. His first love. Rebecca. The one he never wanted to leave but whom left him because her desires went in directions he couldn’t satisfy. There are parts of him I feel will always be hidden from me that her eyes have gazed.
I told him recently that I didn’t want something nebulous. Where I give give give until I’m a fucking husk, just tears and futile anger. I want something concrete and true. I want someone I can create a home with. He’s not ready, of course. And I can respect that. But he says he cares and I feel he cares. So I say I’ll stay even though I feel like I am unspooling already. I feel him pulling away. Yes, let’s take our time and chart the origins of our scars, let’s learn the texture of each other’s laughter. But it has become clear in the last month (so devoid of passion) that I am the only one imagining a future for us, I am the only one really, deeply wanting this to be more than what it has been recently. Dinner and drinks and an occasional fuck.
Sometimes I feel I have so much love to give, I could burst.
Earlier in the relationship I would take pictures of the bruises I earned. When we fuck it is (was?) an almost violent act. It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t restraining myself. That I was fully present.
There are a lot of things he doesn’t know about me and I of him. He knows only in brief flashes, like aged polaroids pinned to corkboard, about my thorny family life. He knows nothing about the two headed beast coiling in the pit of my mind I call madness. I take especially great pains to hide my anger from people especially him. And yet IT still bleeds out.
Sometimes I feel I stain people with my presence.
The color of poppies.
The color of open wounds.
The color of my madness.
I know (intellectually) he doesn’t feel like that. And yet I wonder…
Because his kisses taste like a Sunday afternoon but he fucks like a Saturday night.
Because he has a smile so warm, so inviting I know it can’t only reveal itself for me. Because I am censoring myself already. I’m writing him poems I’ll never slip into his pocket. Because I make up such a tiny part of his life and he is already devouring mine.
This all gets me thinking about Joan Fontaine, the cinematic martyr sacrificing herself upon the altar of love again and again. I always turn to Joan Fontaine when my romantic life is going to shit. I think she is the most human of the Old Hollywood stars. Fontaine won’t be reclaimed by feminists or become the sort of Old Hollywood star to be configured as a modern woman, someone to look up to. Her roles are primarily that of women in painful states of becoming brought upon by love. Not just any kind of love but tragic love. Poisonous Love. The kind of love that cuts you to the marrow. The kind of love that pains you and forgets you. Unrequited yet delicious all the same.
She’s constantly in the shadow of something (a memory, a wish) or someone (a first wife, a dead lover).
Even when she plays bad (see: Born to be Bad) eschewing the constraints of her martyrdom she exists in the shadows…of the woman she truly is and the woman she’s pretending to be. She still wants love but doesn’t know what to do with it.
There are whole universes in the way she looks at a man. Universes born of a longing I know all too well.
In an act of masochistic melancholy I watched Rebecca for the first time in years. Even though I am unlike the second, unnamed Mrs. de Winter I see myself in her. She is soft and yielding and naive, where I pretend to be more tough than I really am and have cut my teeth with a healthy amount of cynicism. But we both yearn and love too deeply. We’re both living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. We both fucking deserve better.
In text messages with my friend Michelle we discussed relationship fantasies. And how we’re coming to accept we do want families. I have begun indexing these fantasies, usually while listening to Fiona Apple or Fontaine’s warm voice fluttering in the background. I don’t want to live with my partner (most likely). I am not interested in having children. I dream of being with a man who is a fellow artist I can collaborate with. Or maybe he isn’t an artist but a muse. Someone who is more easy going and stable than I am. Someone who doesn’t mask their true emotions with anger and fear and bitchy comebacks. For a brief moment I thought the man I am still murkily, somewhat with could be this for me. That we could be what we need for each other. He is the first man I have been with that I have ever imagined a future with. That I could see easily fitting into my life for years to come. But he’s too afraid and I’m too damaged. The music of our relationship is just out of key. And then there’s his ex-wife always in the margins.
Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca. I wonder how he says your name in the dark when I’m not around. I wonder if it sounds anything like the way he says mine.