Misunderstandings

She sat in the driver’s seat of her car, shifting her weight uncomfortably, trying to loosen the trench coat belted at her waist. It covered nothing more than her best, and only, matching set of lingerie. The black lace separates and sheer stockings had been painstakingly selected an hour before as she carefully prepared for what she had imagined, quite vividly, as an evening of hot sex with her boyfriend.

Another call went to voicemail. She had been waiting for him to come out of the bar for over twenty minutes now.

As she began to work up the courage to venture out of the car in her currently sexless outfit, she caught sight of him across the road, dragging on a cigarette, laughing and talking with a group of people she didn’t recognise. He had been a regular smoker when they first met, something that she had found both unfathomable and repulsive, but thankfully he had abandoned the habit as they had grown closer.

She called him again. He continued to smoke and laugh, not even acknowledging the ringing phone that was no doubt in his pocket. She continued to watch him, all hopes for the evening she had fantasised about steadily evaporating.

Should she just go home? Should she get out and confront him? After weighing these options up, she decided that having to go home and explain to her housemate that something had happened between them, which would of course reinforce her dislike of him, was more than she could bear.

Getting out of the car, she nervously ensured that no one would suspect her of not wearing any clothes under her coat and tottered over to him in shoes wildly inappropriate to the situation.

‘Where did you come from?’ he said, clearly surprised to see her, and clearly drunk.

‘Um, I’ve been waiting for about twenty-five minutes. Didn’t you get my calls?’

‘I guess not.’

She stood her ground as the people he had been speaking with continued to smoke, feigning ignorance of the unfolding situation.

After a hasty round of introductions in which none of the parties remembered the others name, she whispered to him ‘can we go now?’

‘Not yet.’

He instead lead her around the back of the building where they sat on a park bench with yet another stranger who offered her boyfriend a joint. She was freezing. The two men had started chatting, proceeding to get stoned. It was if she wasn’t there.

She had always had a dislike of drugs. She had never taken them and none of her friends were particularly in to them. She associated marijuana with the sorts of people who had little drive and were happy to waste time — essentially the sorts of people she had difficulty relating to or respecting. She also disapproved of people using substances as a crutch rather than dealing with issues head on; or using them as an excuse to have fun, as if fun without drugs, the kind she enjoyed, was somehow lesser.

As she watched him, an unsettling feeling clawed at her stomach. Who is this person? What am I doing here? Why am I with him? Everything he was doing, how he was behaving, was so at odds with the boy she thought she knew.

He eventually acknowledged her deteriorating mood, finally coming to the conclusion that it was in fact time to leave. He tried to kiss her and hold her hand. She shrugged him off.

They went back to the car in silence. After getting in and setting off, he began a steady stream of chatter to fill the heavy silence. She didn’t respond.

After a painful half-hour they reached his home, unlocked the door, crept past the kitchen and into his room. Again he reached out to her. Again she slithered out of his grip.

‘I just want to go to bed.’ It was still relatively early, but all she wanted was to crawl into bed and pretend none of this had ever happened.

As she started to remove her coat, struggling to somehow still hide her state of undress underneath, he issued a sigh realising what she must have had planned, what he had unknowingly ruined.

He was still in a state alien to her, so she continued to shrug off his apologies and climbed into the cold bed, turning her back to him. Giving up, he went about the business of readying himself for bed while she huddled under the doona.

Of course this wasn’t the first time they had had problems. Is it this difficult for other couples? Did they misjudge and misunderstand each other this often? Was everything she loved about him actually a façade?

She didn’t really talk about her relationship with her friends, preferring to keep the intricacies of their courtship to herself. It made their relationship feel more intense that way, an in-joke that only they could enjoy.

But now, laying here while he inadvertently knocked things over in the adjacent bathroom, she regretted this decision. Perhaps she was overreacting. Maybe to most people getting stoned and behaving a bit shittily was par for the course and she was just too prim, proper and stuck up. If only she knew more about how her friends boyfriends behaved.

Eventually, he crawled into bed and reached out for her. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.’

‘I know.’ she whispered. She couldn’t articulate any of what she had been thinking and feeling out loud. It was too big, too difficult and she couldn’t erase the notion that it was all somehow all her fault.

He shuffled over, offering a conciliatory hug and, against her will, she could feel her body soften into his. She could feel his erection growing against her as he reached between her legs, stroking her. She didn’t want to have sex but her body continued to betray her and in that moment it felt easier to succumb to his desire than to explain herself.

The next morning, when the alcohol and marijuana had worn off, when he had returned to his familiar form, she began to feel foolish. The distance of a poor night’s sleep combined with an inundation of apologies had softened her. She felt that perhaps she had over-reacted, that things had not been quite that bad. The sex, and the exact circumstances had already been buried deep in her subconscious, not to be pulled out and examined again.

Bringing her a cup of coffee and some buttered toast, he promised it would never happen again. She believed him.

‘Will you be alright?’ he asked.

‘I will’, she replied, not because she actually thought she would be, but because in that moment, it was the easiest thing to say.

Illustration: Lexi Keelan

Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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