I don't know where to begin explaining what happened last night...
Leonard and I got a little carried away with our work and as a result I missed my usual bus and arrived home late. I walked into the flat to find Alex already home from work and seated on a chair in the kitchen. He did not look happy at all and his facial expression was very grave indeed as he looked up to greet me.
“Where have you been?” he asked, his tone was calm but worryingly serious.
“At Elmfield House, I’m sorry that I’m late…”
No response. This is never a good sign. Alex is inclined to sulk like a child when he doesn’t get his own way and his thinly-veiled anger set me off wondering what I had done to offend him. We have had a number of minor disagreements recently and any one of these could have triggered his bad mood; for instance, he is desperate for us to take a short holiday together but I am reluctant to leave Leonard and Luke and so I have cobbled together a string of excuses based around poor finances and last-minute preparations for the start of my postgraduate course. The holiday issue was my first thought, but it could easily have been something completely different. Had I missed an important occasion like a birthday or an anniversary? Had I promised that we would go out somewhere? I hoped that he was simply annoyed that I had not phoned ahead to warn him that I would be arriving home late, but in the back of my mind I was - as always - afraid that he had discovered the truth about my relationship with Luke.
I took off my coat and asked what was wrong, maintaining composure in my voice. He rose silently from his chair and walked over to the sink, then turned to face me with his arms crossed.
“That’s what is wrong,” he said, gesturing towards the table in the centre of the room.
A number of Leonard's postcards were strewn across the table like a collection of outdated birthday cards waiting to be thrown away. I was furious that Alex had been searching through my personal belongings but I fought hard not to let it show. He then produced a folded postcard from his back pocket, tossed it at me and instructed me to read it. I retrieved the card from the kitchen floor and studied the picture on the front. Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. I had not seen this card before and when I looked at the date stamp I realised that it must have arrived that very morning. The message on the reverse read:
‘Please don’t have your hair cut – yet – I forgot to remind you that I have primed a panel 30” x 25” for the first portrait-paints – sitting with a book (?) in your lap, and wearing simple clothes…’
But my amusement was cut short when Alex cleared his throat and asked in a low tone, “who is he to tell you when to cut your hair?”
“Leonard doesn’t tell me anything…” I answered.
“Well clearly he does,” he replied, his frustration evident in his voice.
I stood in silence and waited patiently for his anger to subside. For a moment I thought that he was joking but I had never seen him look so serious and before I could offer an explanation he started to list his grievances with Leonard, his voice growing louder and louder with every word that he spoke.
“This man is dictating everything, can't you see? When you can go out, when you can’t go out. When you have money, when you don’t have money. Even what f*****g clothes you wear. I’m even beginning to wonder whether he is the reason why I don’t sleep in our bed anymore!”
I laughed at the incredulity of his outburst and turned towards the kitchen door, but before I could move Alex quickly stepped forward and grabbed hold of my arm. He was squeezing my arm and shouting loudly in my face and I had never seen him so furious. Tears were burning in my eyes but I steadied myself and calmly asked how we could resolve the situation. He said that he wanted me to stop working with Leonard and bravely I refused, so he swore loudly, released my arm and pushed me out of his way, causing me to fall backwards against the wall. There was a commotion in the hallway as he searched for his car keys on the table, then the front door opened and slammed hard behind him. I was relieved that he had left but nevertheless I chased out of the flat after him, shouting his name. And then, as his car screeched violently away from the kerb, I realised that I was not shouting at him to come back, I was shouting at him because I was angry. Incredibly angry.
Our confrontation had been brewing for some time, but the anger that Alex had triggered inside me ran far deeper than a simple misunderstanding over a postcard. I was pleased that I had stood up for myself - and for Leonard for that matter - and I felt utter contempt for Alex because he continually treats me like a child who must be punished for failing to obey a parent. Who is he to tell me what to do? How dare he treat me like this. How dare anyone treat me like this. HOW DARE HE! Filthy, pathetic creature, doesn’t he know what I am?!
I was filled with an absolute hatred of him and, as I glanced across at the strangers on the other side of the street, I felt equally as furious with these innocent passers-by. How dare they stare at me and judge me. How dare they assume that they are better than me. Stupid piggy humans, breeding like a foul and pestilent disease and lumbering blindly across the face of the earth like mindless cattle. They, like Alex, must understand that I am something greater than them. Something more important. Something more worthy of the world. I wanted to peel off my skin and bare my bones to them to show them how pitiful and vulnerable they are and what a superior creature I have become. They must see that I am as powerful and destructive as the fires of the sun, while they are as fragile and expendable as wishing seeds on the wind...
The swell of violent anger that was building inside me was unbearable and so I ran back into the flat and stood in the centre of the kitchen, shaking with fury and desperate to relieve my pent-up anger. I banged my fist on the table and the catharsis of pain temporarily calmed my rage, but I needed a much greater release. I needed to purge myself, I needed to sever the last physical and emotional ties that bound me to these stupid and repulsive creatures. I needed to tear out the cord and drain away any lingering poison of humanity that swilled around inside me. And so, in a fog of utter contempt and self-disgust, I marched over to the sink unit, wrenched open a drawer and spread my hands through the cutlery. Taking hold of a small knife in my trembling hand, I held it tightly against my wrist. I had absolutely no intention of hurting myself but I wanted to threaten myself; I wanted to prove that I am capable of punishing the inferior, clumsy version of myself that continues to frustrate me and I can free the purity – the very essence of my new identity - from the heavy, dried husk of humanity that is choking it to death. I fought against the mocking voice inside my head that goaded me to draw blood and then, as my hand tightened on the knife handle to apply more pressure, in my peripheral vision I saw a dark shape hurtling towards the kitchen window.
The sound of a loud impact caused me to recoil in shock and as I turned to face the window I was met with the sight of a large crow flapping its wings repeatedly against the glass. It squawked hysterically, pecked frantically at the window pane and scraped its claws against the top of the frame as though it was trying to break through and attack me. The sight of the crow scared me beyond belief and I dropped the knife and it clattered onto the worktop then fell onto the floor. Cocking its head to one side, the bird ceased its violent assault on the window, glared contemptuously at me through the glass with its beady eye and then flew away over the roof of the building. Shaken by the hideous cries and scornful stare of the bird, I stumbled backwards against the wall and slid down onto the floor where I sat for a while, wiping the tears from my eyes, calming my breathing and collecting my thoughts.