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The London Experience of Jean Rhys

Sometimes I would say to myself, ‘What if you’d just let yourself go a little? Talk a little, make a little conversation, be brave, braver, and confident like those mannequins in the window that you passed today with their chins up.’ I thought I would only become illuminated as a woman when he, the man in my life stroked my cheek, my palm, my bottom lip, my head and it would always come with a rush of this feeling to my head. He is so pale and beautiful, so fragile and delicate, like a flower in the winter light. The hush of silence in the room is as soft as feathers. His breath is as fresh as water. His soul is perfect but he doesn’t know this yet. I imagine it’s a feeling he will only experience with his children and his future wife.

This relationship doesn’t heal anything in my past; bring emotional closure to the abuse I suffered in my childhood. It only serves to encase my newfound promiscuous behaviour in Technicolor in a bubble, in a grandiose time warp. I can’t make him love me. Yet he is just as much impossible to love with his own mood swings as I am. I am always forgiving of his artistic temperament. I ask myself what is his heart, his soul trying to express. He’s just as wounded as me. Comfort me, hold me just a while longer but he doesn’t make eye contact with me, and speak to me. After making love I am as empty as a drum. I watch him sleep and feel fiercely protective over him. No love lost, only my innocence.

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Before I was invincible, and now in his arms I am fragile and delicate. From far away I hear myself say, ‘Say something funny. Make me laugh.’ He smiles, looks at me as if to say, ‘I am not in love with you’ but I don’t care. For now, he is all mine. He belongs to me. His body, his jokes, the smell of his aftershave, his stories, his eyes, his lips so soft and delicate and bruising all at once. He is bitter. He is sweet. He does not believe in me, he does not believe me when I say that I love him. In my heart I say, I’ll take you just the way you are, you maladjusted, maladroit, abusive, abused child from one abused, damaged and neglected child to another. He can see me and that is enough for me.

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