After they are both done with me, I redress and return to playing on the swingset in the side yard by myself. My mother is inside the farmhouse, baking goodies for my dad to take to work. I am trying to pretend I am ok, that what just happened didn’t actually happen. I am lying on my belly on the swing…twisting, twisting, twisting…As I clumsily pirouette to twirl the chains up, dirt kicks up into dust clouds…For a minute, I am reminded of Pigpen from the Peanuts. The chains keep rubbing together like the legs of a metal cricket. Tighter and tighter. The anticipation of release, of lifting my legs up and spinning out is making me giddy. Just as I get to that point of letting go, his friend leaves in his vehicle…as he drives by me, he slows down & throws a dollar at me and smirks. I am reminded of his Chapstick greased lips on me in the trailer & I want to throw up. Instead, I lift my legs up and for a minute, my body feels weightless…freed from the laws of gravity, freed from the weight of others…And I am happy in the momentary cyclone of dizziness. But, eventually, I have to go pick up the money before anyone else sees. I put the money in my pocket and try to forget about it…but every time I reach in there, I am reminded of what he paid for. For the next year that I am shared with him, he continues this habit of throwing money—sometimes a dollar bill, but mostly just pocket change—at me after he uses me. I am afraid of others finding it and questioning why it’s there, so I am forced to hunt through the grass on my hands & knees to find it, completely humiliated. Even if we looked at the sum total of what he paid me, my innocence cost very little in the end. I couldn’t even buy a loaf of bread with it.
Once again, I find myself nursing wounds…new ones made & old ones reopened.
After months of barely-there hauntings from J., he texted me yesterday morning. He began accusing me of having no intentions of moving out of my current living situation, of purposely leading him on. Just dragging me through fields of barbed wire. I finally decided to have the uncomfortable discussion that I have been putting off for too long. I told him he should move on…that I have been unable to save more than $1000 after a year of socking away little by little and that even after cutting any extras, I continue to live paycheck to paycheck. I told him that I didn’t expect him to wait. I told him that he held the reins on a timeline that I didn’t fit into…and didn’t think I ever could. It’s time for us both to move on.
He begins texting me back that he understands my financial situation, just how bad it is …He asks if I would be willing to sleep with him and carry his child for financial compensation. I am horrified that he is talking about paying me to have sex and get pregnant. Because he is friends with people on the board where I work & I am nervous about what he might say to them, I try to just gently backpedal away from this situation, so as not to anger him. I tell him I don’t think it would be a good idea, that it sounds too difficult to navigate this obstacle course that is getting increasingly more complicated. Once again, he tells me that he would be willing to compensate me not only to get pregnant by him, but that he would provide financially for the child. He throws it in my face that he knows I need the money, that my car is on death’s door. Basically, he is saying that he thinks I am buyable. It occurs to me that for the second in my life, someone is throwing money at me after screwing me. I just keep trying to get out, get out, get out…get out of this fucking situation. I appeal to his ego, tell him he’s a catch…tell him he doesn’t have to buy me out, that he can find a woman who can be with him and give him a child. He gets angry & reminds me that he’s not a scumbag or a druggie like my exes & is not going to rob me blind with this arrangement. He then tells me he is sorry he wasted a year of his life on me…which hurts more than I want to admit.
I am not naïve. Look, I knew that he was never going to marry me…I was not a girl that his parents would ever approve of. I was not a girl that belonged in the stratosphere he socializes in. I knew that he was coming into town and fucking me in secret…but I thought, there must be something he likes about me or he wouldn’t come all this way, spend all this money, have sex with me like he did. And I thought because I was aware of the fact that this was not going to be a situation that morphed into anything more serious than fun & companionship, I had insulated myself from being hurt. But then: I am sorry I wasted a year on you. All that time we spent together was a waste because I’m not a baby mill? Because you incorrectly thought I was desperate and poor enough that you could pay me to fuck you and get pregnant? I didn’t realize he thought that lowly of me.
He continues to chisel away at me about why I won’t do it and why I lead him on. I tell him that I’m thinking of going back to college to complete my bachelor’s so I can get a better paying job & that if I do so, that would need to be my priority. Not another baby. He tells me, “Good, you should. It would redeem you.” One more body slam against the mats…I don’t even try to get up this time. I’m down for the count. Just go away. There’s no sport here to keep kicking.
Because I’m at work, I retreat to the bathroom to cry.
When I come out of the bathroom, I look at my phone to see he has texted me once again, “I still would love to impregnate you. And it would really stick it to your ex if I did.”
Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Godfuckingdamnit.
I don’t hear anything more, till I’m in the middle of a manager’s meeting and look down & he has texted me. He is talking about a radio station he is streaming, like he didn’t just completely strip all value away from me a few hours ago. I don’t respond. Later, he texts me asking if we are still going to hang out. I know what that means. Again, I just don’t respond…This morning, he starts harassing me again about whether or not we are going to hang out. I tell him I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to “hang out.” I can’t afford to lose more dignity to him, I’m already skint. He continues to text me that it’s fine, he doesn’t think I’m a bitch or anything. Then says, “we can still hang out & play.” Yeah, play. You mean hang out & use me, right?
I think back to that kid on the swings, who just wanted to fly away from it all…how the minute she picked that money up, it changed to a stone, to deadweight in her pocket. Somehow, it’s still there, but no matter how hard I dig I can’t find it, can’t take it out…I am left to carry it everywhere.
On days when the exhaustion of shouldering the weight kicks in, sometimes I think I hear the ghost of Virginia Woolf speaking to me…
Wade out to the middle of the River Ouse, child, see just how heavy that rock can be in the greedy undertow of a hungry current…