Conquest

Someone knocks on your door mid afternoon. Before this, you’d been sitting at your desk, watching Mad Men, eating a slice of peanut butter toast. You’re alone. You’ve been alone for a while, but you are more alone than usual. Someone is missing. But you put it out of you head, you put him out of your head and think about how much better life was when social interactions had more formal rules. You hear the knock a second time round. You get up to answer the door and he’s standing there.

You immediately become tense. He stares at the floor, speaks quietly.

We need to talk.

You’ve never been in a situation like this before. Usually, if you’re having trouble with someone, you avoid them for a while, sleep it off. But this is different, you live together. And despite ignoring his messages, and despite quietly brooding in your room all weekend, he’s come up to talk to you. To ‘fix it’. But you’re still angry. You want to slam the door in his face, but you know it’ll make him the victim. And you absolutely can’t have that. So you take a deep breath and shrug.

Fine.

He slinks inside. You take a seat at your desk, while he stands awkwardly, eyes downcast. He’s really playing up the ‘wounded puppy’ routine and you can’t wait to tear him down. For a second you feel like a queen. How a queen must feel when a peasant comes into her chambers, grovelling. You wonder if he’ll get on his knees. You wonder if you’ll ask him to. Order him to do more than apologise. Make him beg. Your mind wanders…

You realise that there must be a thin line between love and hate. At this point, you dislike him. You really do. But at the back of your mind you know how good things will be when the two of you make up. You’re momentarily torn. You want to strangle and then embrace him. Or the other way round. Or maybe both at the same time.

I’d like to apologise for my behavior on Friday.

He starts his speech while you remain stony faced. When he’s done, you don’t say anything. He looks surprised. Perhaps he thought this would be a lot easier. All he would have to do is say the words and you’d forgive. Because, at the end of the day, no one died. You’re here. He’s here. So kiss and make up, no?

Are you done?

What do you mean?

Because that’s not how I remember it.

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for. Rebuttals. Two people giving minute by minute accounts of the same night. You’ll say he was being off with you, he’ll say he was tired. He’ll say that he’s sorry you took it that way, you’ll say there was no other way to take it. You’ll say he was annoyed about something, and he was taking it out on you. He’ll say that maybe, yeah, he was annoyed, but he didn’t mean to take it on you, not on purpose anyway. You’ll go back and forth, neither of you telling the truth. ‘I want you to be who I want you be, all the time, in every situation, and when you’re not, I’m going to turn on you. Because I’m angry at myself. I’m angry at myself for projecting all my hopes and dreams onto yet another unsuccessful candidate.’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

You can’t say it. You can’t say it because you don’t know it to be true yet. In your unsophisticated mind, you think he is in the wrong, and you can’t understand his thought process, so you’ll just go back and forth until one of you, exhausted by the tension, gives in. But what he doesn’t know is that you’re made for this. This is your wheelhouse. Grudges, animosity, it’s how you’ve made it this far in life. You don’t feel alive unless your jaw is tensed, and your heart is thudding and your fist is clenched. Anger is something you understand. Affection is not.

So he gives in. But he doesn’t just give in. There are tears in his eyes and his voice cracks.

I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings…I’m sorry for all of it. The reason I walked away was because I was upset, like I am now, about…about…

He never tells you why. He doesn’t have to. All your anger is gone at the sight of him crumbling, your quest for answers or domination, whatever it was, withers away as he turns from you. He is vulnerable. He is ashamed. He is scared. You know what that feels like. You can’t press him any further. You don’t want to anyway. You’ve never seen him look so small.

I…What can I- Are you alright?

He mumbles something. Calls himself an idiot. You tell him that he’s not. Your tone has changed. You’re softer, quieter. You want to comfort him. You never want to make him sad. You go over, wrap your arms around him. He grips you back, tightly.

I don’t want things to be awkward between us.

I know. I’m sorry.

And just like that, you switch roles. You don’t know it at the time, but he’s got you, just as tightly as his hands grip yours. And all he had to do was let his pretty blue eyes get glassy and choke up a little. You should have known. What kind of peasant is allowed into the Queen’s chambers? You have met your match.

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