Pillow talk: Little girls and the small problem of intimacy


There’s a guy talking about his dog in my bed. He comes over, even after I tried to convince him not to; busy work day, tired, general life maintenance. I preface the night by telling him how exhausted I am, and in a way it’s true. It doesn’t seem to matter, and he is here within the hour.

When we talk it’s not all that different to most first conversations, except he is lying sideways across my mattress. There is a physically imposed current of intimacy. A gamble you take when inviting anyone to bed, even if the whole thing is spurred on by laziness and an aversion to giving a guy what he wants (meeting him in the outside world).

I start talking about my dead dog, because we are talking dogs, and because he comes up a lot for me lately; in dreams, writing, late-night conversations like this, fuelled by tedium. We start playing with each other’s feet, I have to stretch to reach his, and I think he is probably quite nice. I only get slightly emotional talking about my dog – I’ve always taken his memory seriously. The guy is staring intently at my face. I finish the story.

(Beat.)

Sorry, I just have to say, I love your lisp. It’s so cute.

I do try hard to be flattered. Instead, I imagine a cool and collected version of myself, gently telling him to get out of my house. But he takes my laughter as thanks and we get lost in a different conversation. At some point I have to strip my jeans off and it hardly feels worth it. At some point I think that he is sweet again, and maybe I’ll let him curl up at the end of my bed when I pull the blinds down.

Back in my bed. This time, alone. I washed my sheets for no particular reason, probably. I think of him again (my dog), and then the guy from the other night. I lay in the same position he was in, crossways over the bed, but I don’t take up as much room. Thinking about the problem, the problem of attempting to display myself as serious. Maybe I am not that person / dog whimper / Maybe when I feel serious about something I’m just pretending.

It’s possible he doesn’t care about dogs, despite having one, or that he didn’t notice me blinking away future tears.

When I get out of bed I write four different recounts of my dog dying. I feel comfortable at my desk. I print my stories, all with thickly-titled DEAD DOG in the heading. Words on a page have weight. Anyone could read them, not even knowing the voice it came from. Detached from my own. Another narrator will become the new expert on my dead dog. The writing has authority, even if it never leaves the pile of paper on my bedroom floor.

I’m not sure why I care so much, and then suddenly I am. He didn’t take me seriously. In any case, I come to the conclusion that his dog must suck and I never wanted to meet her anyway.

I find that something is lost here. I hop back into bed, diving through my cushions and scanning the pages. DEAD DOG DEAD DOG DEAD DOG shouting from the pile. Maybe this isn’t what I needed to say. This is dead weight.

There is no accounting for the way I felt, stranded, marooned together on my bed, changing the narrative based on what the guy knew about me already (nothing), what I wanted him to know, who I wanted to be with him. You can’t see my hands, the way I flung them forwards to indicate the speed at which my dumb dog ran out of the front door. You miss me looking off into the distance, avoiding his eyes, unconsciously looking to the direction of my childhood home, kilometres and years away. And then, you don’t even know how the understanding came. How, halfway through speaking I agreed, for a brief moment, that I do not sound like someone who should be taken seriously.

I become aware of my voice again. Same bed, different person. Same location, but not in my head. I am comfortable because I bought nice, new sheets. I am uncomfortable because he helped me pick them. I waited some time before mentioning my dog to him. He asked if I had any photos, and why my family had named him Mickey. We lay the proper way on the bed, with a gap between us.

I have to tell him that I can’t see him anymore. I want to tell him it’s because I feel too much for him, and he can’t give me more. I try. I think of dead dog. Words not coming out right, words coming out slow. Too many commas and not enough full stops. I want to be commanding, and also comforting, to yell into his neck while I’m nestled against it. My words tangle and fall quietly into the space between us.

Think of dead dog fleeing through front door. A lispy girl yelling across the road. I tell him no more contact / car break / I try to say these things to him, and all I can think is please, please don’t take me seriously.

Header image by Frank Flores

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