This novel is dedicated to Zuzana Pistova. A woman who knows a thing or two about unconditional love.
A Sunday in September, 2016.
Z is visiting her parents in the middle of Slovakia. John is home alone, suffering from the dreaded 7 year itch. He’s drinking his second bottle of red wine.
The most impossible thing has hit him. He’s fallen in love with a woman. Head over heels. O’s her name.
John is trying to understand what’s happening. He feels like he’s betrayed Z. What happened?
Lounge Act by Nirvana in the background.
John forced himself to remember how he had desired his wife once. Before he’d had her. Right before. When Z still seemed out of reach, when she could have slipped away still. When the thought of potential defeat gave him a bitter foretaste. A taste that made him clench his fist and inwardly scream, I have to have her or my life will be empty from this day onwards. He wasn’t being dramatic, that was exactly his reality.
They were sitting in the bar-slash-restaurant of a hotel. He’d called it quits half way through that day’s lesson of Dutch. And now he was there with his class. His students and Z. His attraction had already torpedoed the whole teacher-student relationship. He’d given up all his power. She was on top of him. She was in charge. He lusted after her, he’d have given the fingers of his left hand to be with her. He could still remember her face that day. How she had pretended that nothing was going on. More make-up than she was used to wear. Was she giddy? Because of him or because she was out with her class-mates? Some of them were close friends of her.
They avoided each other’s eyes. The students oblivious as to the reason of why they’d had a short lesson or why he’d taken them out for drinks. He had gotten her, and as long as she had been aloof, as long as she was less into than him, his attraction had been all encompassing. It had eaten him. He’d been a slave to it. Gradually, the balance of power had shifted, and she was more commited than he was, and his attraction had faded. It wasn’t gone entirely. That surprised him. It was still there. The core of it. Something to do with the bone structure of her face. Something to do with her feminity. Her cheerfulness. But this burning desire to have her, to be in her. No, that rarely re-surfaced. She had not lived up to the expectation that she would stay in power, would give him clear borders, that she would be the center of his attention.
He loved her, how could he not? She was perfect. She surprised him every day with that big heart of hers, her oceanic patience, the many ways in which she made it abundantly clear that she loved him just the way he was. A love he felt entirely unworthy of. A love that made him avoid her gaze, because of the guilt. He had the power to make someone outwordly happy and most days he didn’t it. It was easy to make Z happy. He could do it, in a million little nearly effortless ways, and still he didn’t. Incomprehensible. He hated himself for that. He hated nature for that. It was easier to blame nature. Nature had planted a cruel principle in his male soul. The principle that men only come alive when they have a challenge, when they desire something that seems just out of reach. He was happy every time he could overcome that principle, and he still could. Yet the challenge, the need for a challenge pulled at him.
He had that with O now. It was as debilitating as it had been back then. Debilitating was the word for it. Debilitating and incapacitating. Before he was ready to focus on O, his thoughts ran even further back. Before Z there had been Soraya. A doctor. He remembered the first time he’d told her how he desired her. In the cafeteria of a huge hospital. How he had almost drowned in her long nails with the screaming red nailpolish, the long black curls, the brown hue of her skin, and her big Disney-like eyes, black, like glistening antracite full of intelligence, full of ambition. Z looked like Sandra Bullock and Soraya had looked a bit like Penelope Cruz in white coat.
Before Soraya, there had been two others.
That made five. Five hits of the ‘I have to have you or I’ll DIE’ pistol. There had been other girls, but not the kind that seemed to come as a bewitched coin, Eros on the one side, Tanatos on the other. Both pulling him equally strong, depending on which side the coin chose to show. It had never been as bad as with O though. With O it might stop, O could handle him, O could put a stop to this. O would be enough. That’s why he felt so complete with her.
He tried to focus, he tried to push the pain away. The pain of not having. Not having enough. Not having satisfied that socially unacceptable appetite. Never. He jerked his head back towards the pages of the book he was reading. The love affairs of Nathaniel P. Hoping to find a soulmate there, someone who was going through the same thing. Cursed with the same insatiable desires. Even if only on paper.
It was not to be. Nathaniel P turned out to be very monogamous and a lousy lay, so the sex scenes were nothing like what was going on in his head. Still, he read on. Gobbled up the words. Soaked up the words and threw them like bricks at the thoughts that wouldn’t leave him otherwise. He tried desperately to push out O, but he couldn’t. She had nestled herself tightly, somewhere in clusters of neurons. Perhaps only a scalpel or a sophisticated brew of chemicals could ever excise her.
He wondered where O was right now. Probably entirely oblivious to the fact that someone would want nothing more than to sit next to her and hear her talk about whatever came to her mind. She also didn’t understand how different, more mature his feelings were for her. She was the first and only he wanted children with, which came as a big surprise to him.
No, she wouldn’t be aware of that fact. Not her. O was a bit of a workoholic and not very in touch with her emotions, if she ever had any. She would always find some reason why they would not be together. She had rationalized things too much. With his help. They went off into long, stimulating, yet, very rationalized conversations.
He was a Pisces and she was an Aquarius.
He’d read somewhere that the male Pisces can make the Aquarius female get out of her head and into the world of feelings.
John felt that this was true for them.
Though right now he wished to be an Aquarius himself and be all head and no heart.