Eli laid in the spare bed staring at the ceiling. He felt no inclination to move into the next bed two feet away and make love to the woman lying there in a negligee. Those inclinations had passed. It wasn’t that the sex had been bad or unfulfilling -on the contrary; he’d had his first tantric orgasm with her and she was a good mix of submissive and assertive. It simply didn’t feel righteous anymore and that was enough for him
So why be here? He didn’t know what he wanted from her. It wasn’t a free place to stay -he would have been much happier at the cheap hostel he normally stayed at. There he could stay up all night, plying his craft, listening to gangsta rap and noone questioned his behaviour. Here, if he stayed up late in the kitchen doing that, especially since the sex had stopped, it would arouse suspicions and cause more tension between them. Yet here he was in her house just the same, not knowing for sure why. He supposed it might have had something to do with keeping everything lovely until the conclusion of their business together -collaborating on an artisan’s market- and he highly doubted that their “friendship” would continue past that climax. Since he had stopped sleeping with her It had gotten to the point where everything she did annoyed him and it was a struggle for him to be patient and kind to her. It transcended rationality too: He had been in town the night before and had dropped by expecting her to be home. The fact that she hadn’t been home had irked him. How dare she not be at his beck and call when he was being self-sacrificial and putting up with her?
No, instead some scared Swedish girl -a boarder he supposed- had opened the viewport and nervously told him that she, Kay, wasn’t home.
That fuckin’ Swedish girl. That broken little human being. Eli didn’t have much patience for scared people, much less use for them. He felt they were disappointing as human beings. On some fundamental level they had failed where they could have excelled simply by having a spine. The Swedish girl had been scared of him, he could see that in her eyes, and it was entirely irrational as she had been “protected” from him by a steel door. What a waste of a human.
Jack barked at a noise and Eli looked over at him disdainfully. He thought about how he hated scared animals most of all. Jack’s barking was a symptom of his history of abuse. Kay had rescued him and apparently his original owners had broken his bones and beaten him. As the dog’s big, sad, scared eyes eyed Eli warily, the latter felt a longing to see the dog whipped and beaten until he whimpered in submission and/or learned to shut the fuck up. He could barely tolerate Jack’s furtive movements when he wasn’t barking, but when he was barking, and because Eli knew that barking to be a fear-based reaction to noises in the night…well it was almost too much to bear.
Eli hated Jack. What was worse was that he knew this hatred, like his annoyance with Kay, was irrational, but that still didn’t diminish it. Hating Jack felt good. He was a useless piece of shit faggot of a dog who regularly got humped by Lola (a spunky female 2/3 his size). God how he wanted to just smash Jack in the face with a balled-up fist as he slept one of his nervous, fidgety naps.
It wasn’t all Jack’s fault Eli supposed; in her compassion perhaps Kay over-indulged him. She said he didn’t like men and since she accepted this as one of the realities of Jack’s disposition she never tried to correct this antisocial behaviour in earnest. At most, she would gently raise her voice to quiet him down.
The saddest part was that Kay’s raised voice, even muted from the other end of the house, was often still enough to make him stop barking. God, what a pathetic faggot of a dog, lacking even the spirit to defy a barely-heard master of obliging disposition.
At night, when they lay in bed not having sex, sharing the bedroom with 2 dogs and 4 cats (this irked Eli greatly but he kept his mouth shut…mostly), Kay would have to tell Jack to stop licking his paws (the scared little fucker would stop too) because it was apparently a nervous habit which he had that was analogous to a nervous human biting their fingernails. Jesus, not only was this dog a scared little pussy faggot, he was also a neurotic Jew.
God, Eli wanted to smash him good. As if hearing and understanding Eli’s inner monologue through the assistance of some telepathic, human to dog translating apparatus, Jack widened his eyes at Eli and the big ivory whites were plainly visible as he stared sidelong.
“Keep eyeballing me you fuck!” Eli thought. “One day Kay will leave me alone in the house and you’ll fucking suffer for every time you barked at me, or a noise, or whatever.”
This revenge fantasy had a certain cathartic effect -it satisfied a darkness within Eli that he knew he had yet to overcome. He was typically good-natured -a dope-smoking yoga enthusiast and beach bum, so he recognized how out of place and problematic these thoughts were and he was introspective enough to look at where they came from. Why did he hate scared people and animals? Well that was easy -he was scared himself. All the macho bravado and posturing aside, he hadn’t overcome his fears of death, dismemberment, etc. He supposed with the latter two (dismemberment, etc) he would find a way to make the aftermath of whatever tragedy befell him his new normal and therefore adapt. In the case of death, he knew nothing would matter once he was dead, but he did fear dying “badly.”
Was that it though? Did that account for his hatred of weakness and fear?
His hatred of Jack and the Swedish girl went deeper than his own fear. It went to the child he was and how small and inadequate he had felt in comparison to his step-father and his older step-brother. He despised how ineffectual he had felt because he had no inclination to work on chores like they had. He had to be forced to work with vague notions of the corporal punishment which would befall him of he didn’t pull his weight. And these notions of punishment were never too vague because getting smacked around, mostly by his mother, had been a regular occurrence.
His mother. That was it. More than his step-father and step-brother criticizing his lack of work ethic it was his mother smacking him around and emasculating him for indolence that made him feel really inadequate as a child. He had been scared of her. They had been close to be sure, and she could very often be the best mother in the world, but Eli clearly remembered her dark side and the thud of the untrained, balled-up fists of a bigger human being crashing down on the side of his head as he cowered and tried to guard with his forearm.
He smiled as he remembered getting hit. When they had taken his mother to court on charges of abuse during his late teens he had racked his memory for all the times she had hit him. He obviously couldn’t remember everything, but there were 5 or 6 incidents which he could remember very clearly and give approximate dates for. Such accounts, of explicit physical abuse, were necessary as their factual, tangible nature made them play better in court, but the memories of being hit didn’t trouble Eli; indeed many of the later accounts of physical violence happened when he was bigger than his mother and already starting to see a way out. By that point her violent flailing was known to be survivable and her dinner-plate throwing was amusing.
Instead, what troubled Eli, even to this day years later, was not the outbursts but those eternal, torturous moments where she would make him run a psychological gauntlet of interrogation and intimidation and he would watch in slow motion as her disposition went from inquisitive to suspicious to intimidating to violent, hateful and emasculating, all the while increasing his fear so that his insufficient answers sounded more weaselly and contemptible even to his own ears.
She made him so afraid that he hated himself for being a coward and so he hated all cowards.
Cowards like Jack.
Cowards like the Swedish girl.
Cowards like himself.
Did he hate her?
He thought about this for a moment but decided he didn’t because that would be too easy. He hated the way she made him feel but he didn’t hate her -his attitude toward her was actually surprisingly enlightened, especially when contrasted to his attitude toward Jack and the Swede whom he realized were largely blameless recipients of his hatred.
No, he didn’t hate his mother. He didn’t fear her either, not exactly. He did however have an appreciation and respect for the power she still had over him. In the last few years there had been many overtures toward reconciliation and for a time things had been good, but she had darkness deep down inside her and when she felt she had gotten her hooks nice and deep she tried to leverage their newfound relationship by having him turn against his step-father, her estranged ex-husband. It was a desperate act from a desperate woman and even through his resentment of her attempt and betrayal of his trust, he still felt pity for her. She was a ruined woman who had ruined two marriages (and who knew how many other relationships during the years they hadn’t spoken) and she was more than a quarter-century past “the wall.”
She’d had it all, twice and fucked it up, TWICE.
When Eli considered this he felt only love, pity and compassion for his clearly disturbed mother….but he wouldn’t allow her to get her duplicitous hooks in him again.
Perhaps part of the reason he was here -in Nicaragua, not specifically in this platonically tense slumber party with a self-proclaimed witch (Oh yeah, Kay also professed to be a witch)- was that he was staying as far away from her as he could. He knew her parents, his grandparents, were getting older and their passing would force the family together, but only if he allowed himself to be forced. He didn’t intend to allow that.
“If they want to reconcile they can come here,” he thought bitterly, yet knowing deep down that this separate peace brought him no peace at all.
Jack exhaled loudly as he shifted his position on the ground.
“Fuck you, you piece of shit,” he thought, and then turned over and tried to sleep.