A few years ago, I had a relationship with Steven, a veterinarian. I’d met him when I brought my birds in for checkups. We were together for about six or eight months.
We were with some of his friends in East Hampton on day when he asked me: “Have you ever been in love?”
The question startled me. It seemed bizarre.
“Yes, of course I have. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you don’t seem like the type,” he said.
I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It made me really confused. Who doesn’t fall in love..? Everyone falls in love!
I came home and told my Canadian friend what Steven had asked me.
“It’s true,” said my Canadian friend. “You don’t seem like you need to be loved. It’s really weird. Especially for a woman.”
Still perplexed, I went to my expensive analyst.
“Of course you need to be loved,” she said. “Love is a basic human need. You just don’t expect to get it, because you have never been loved properly.”
It was then that I remembered something the Surgeon had told me about myself:
We were about seven months into our relationship, and things were starting to get pretty heavy. It was getting very personal. I was still working a few shifts a week at the S&M studio he’d met me at–he hadn’t insisted that I quit yet, though he was starting to bring it up. We were staying at the Hotel Wales on the Upper East Side. We’d been drinking vodka, but I remember the night very well. I pushed him hard, very hard. Out with it, out with it. I knew it was there in him.
The suite was as far away from other guests as possible. I’m still surprised, in retrospect, that nobody called the cops. Hours and hours. People were catcalling from the sidewalk below. I found a tangle of my dark gold hair on the bathroom porcelain the morning after.
Before he left, he sat next to me on the bed. I was laying on top of the nice white quilt. On my stomach, with a smile on my face. The bruises and welts were already coming up on my back, quick and eager as mushrooms after a Spring rain. He was icing me down.
He looked down at me. Uncharacteristically silent. Considering.
“That’s your problem,” he said, more to himself than to me. “You’ve never been loved.”
It didn’t register at the time. I was off in happy la-la land. Obliterated.
I wondered, the next morning: What did he mean by that?
As I woke up alone.