...I had been born with an aristocratic older lady tethered to my insides. I didn’t need too much external verification.
When I was twelve, stumbling into the horrors of puberty, reeling from the revelation of Will’s unclad torso glimpsed in the changing rooms, I came to realise that I needed to protect myself. I made a decision: I would never attempt to be of the body. Physical beauty belonged only in the realms of extreme fantasy. Whatever caresses I might come by in my life, they would never equal the sight of a bare-chested school bully. I knew this, accepted it and made my decision- I would never be of the body.
I considered Stephen the best I could hope for.
I am not ashamed of the time we spent together. Stephen is now a very successful man, quite the celebrity in his own milieu. I could boast a bit if I had the heart. I don’t.
Lonely, I struggled into my second month in the city, continuing to hide in my flat, still clinging to a little hope. I imagined my book unfolding. I walked from room to room clutching at ideas, all ephemeral, all sickeningly dull given a minute’s consideration. My real energies went into the construction of fantasies that were far from literary, their purpose being to keep me from teetering over into total despair. Ever since childhood I had done this: imagined life rather than lived it. In my early months in the new foreign city I returned to this hobby with gusto. I would walk around my flat talking to myself. My eyes open but my mind elsewhere.
There were restrictions in place. The imaginings had to be within the realms of possibility.This still allowed me plenty of scope. Thus I daydreamed of myself made respectable, respected and popular by my literary achievements. Famed for my soirees, I attracted the artistic and intellectual elite from all over Europe to my tastefully furnished abode and served cocktails amid witty banter dressed in a green velvet smoking jacket. Very Wildean, I thought- my diluted approximation of the man (I could barely even drink back then). I pictured titled people in my sitting room: Duke, Duchess, Earl. Walking through fields in tweeds, shotgun over one arm, turned suddenly unsqueemish, I saw myself at Sandringham, invited the for the Boxing Day shoot. Such fantasies were fine.
But the aforementioned bully was out. He had no place in my conscious thoughts. Many years ago I had banished him to that wheedling limbo very close to sleep, where he would sometimes appear. Then it would be sticky pyjama bottoms again. Once more the scrubbing of the stubborn spot.
How sure I was of my ability to transcend such seedy matters! I really thought I was meant for higher things.