I stare blank-eyed at the ceiling, my body sinking into the mattress. My heartbeat becomes quiet and I can finally hear myself breathing. I’m not like the girls on the screen, eyes pinned to the back of my head. No, I’m still reeling from the pain and mysterious twinges of humiliation.
Sebastian comes back to bed with a cigarette in his mouth. He presses his body, sticky with sweat, against mine while running his fingers through my long hair, and a feeling of disgust wells up in my stomach. Smoke wafts into my eyes and it’s a perfect excuse to cry.
He asks if I’m ready to try again. Maybe he doesn’t see me, and I’m just a reflection of Marie. The thought makes me sick and for a second I consider getting up and leaving. But then I remember he hasn’t even come yet, and I don’t want to disappoint him.
I wonder if any of this would have happened had I not found her blog. It was strange, considering I’d known Marie all seventeen years of my life and just now this part was showing. How long had it lived inside her, binding with her intestines and pushing up against her skin?
Our childhood seemed happy enough. Marie, mom and I formed this little group early on. It was just us girls, and at times it felt like our father didn’t even exist. There were small stabs of reality, like when mom got a black eye or when we heard him slam the front door at 2:00 AM. Still, as though with some strange alchemy, we managed to be content.
Of course, we had to deal with mom’s episodes. Sometimes she’d wander around the neighborhood aimlessly for hours until someone brought her home, covered in scratches and burs clinging to her long hair. Once or twice she’d have a fit, screaming and breaking things while her eyes glossed over. I thought she was just bored, lounging around our house all day. Marie said it was misdirected anger. Whatever the cause we sealed these moments away from the rest of our memories, hoping that they wouldn’t tarnish the others.
I think mom is the type of person who should’ve never settled down. Marie told me she didn’t intend to marry our father, but rumor has it he deflowered her and threatened to tell her strict, Catholic parents. This didn’t surprise me, as mom often said that she dreamt of travelling the world. Maybe she would have, if domesticity hadn’t come calling.
Marie had to step in when mom had her moods. In her martyrdom she cooked and cleaned for the household, not once complaining. She even dealt with our father, who I feared confused her for mom on more than one occasion after stumbling home.
No wonder she chose to go abroad for college, like a fugitive making a transatlantic escape. Mom was furious, but Marie said she was just jealous. Unlike Marie I couldn’t cook or clean and hid when our father came home reeking of whisky. I was useless to him.
I was sent to a boarding school populated with green girls and old nuns. It wasn’t so bad, except for theology class. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed it if they didn’t talk about Jezebel. I don’t know why but I felt bad for her and nearly cried when she was chucked out a window and dogs feasted on her corpse. Even worse the teacher had a gleeful tone as she told the story, a certain joy in seeing this woman’s downfall.
Although boys had been on the peripheral for most of my life, their absence drove them to the forefront of my mind. I felt I was being wholly consumed by some unnamable force. Under my dowdy clothes I had fresh but ripe skin that I wish could be devoured. Two weeks later, I was kicked out for “lascivious (closet, hairbrush, hysterical nun) behavior.”
When I returned home mom was in worse shape. Instead of only being gone for a few hours, she would go missing for a day or two. My father, tired of her outbursts and upset at having no one to take care of him, began making arrangements to have her sent away. All that was left to deal with was me. I mentioned spending the summer in England with Marie as a joke, but he liked the idea. To my father I was nothing more than an afterthought, and soon I found myself being shipped overseas.
I barely recognized Marie when I saw her. Her hair was cut short, lips were blood red, and there was an aura of mania about her. She looked sharper, more angular than before.
Those first few weeks passed in a sweltering stupor. Men started to look at me in ways they hadn’t before, and some even called out to me in hoarse, rowdy voices. They filled me with a giddy terror, and I both feared and awaited their shouts. Although I wanted sex, I had no idea how to get it, and frustration slowly chipped away at me.
This probably would have lasted all summer if Marie had password protected her laptop. After indulging myself I searched through her history tab out of boredom. I saw several hits for a site called contramundum-bby.net. It was a blog about a girl having increasingly debasing sex with random men. An excerpt: “He pushed me face first into bed and pulled my hair very hard. I kind of moaned when he pinned my wrists down and told me to shut up. We fucked like this for a while and then he made me get on my knees before coming on my face.”
In the middle of a post there was a picture of Marie with semen covering her cheeks and eyelids. She looked strangely at peace, mouth slightly open as if reciting a prayer under her breath. When I heard the door close behind me I snapped the laptop shut and swung around to see Marie’s blank stare.
She asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t speak. She made her way toward me and bent down while slowly prying open the laptop, maybe afraid of what she might find. Soon Marie was gazing at Marie, completely silent. Eventually she said “You’re not gonna tell them, are you?” Almost instinctively I shook my head. We looked at the Marie on the screen for a while, and I could vaguely make out our reflections behind that kneeling girl. After a long silence I heard Marie’s voice, which felt far away and detached, saying “I love men but I think they will defeat me one day and I can’t let that happen.” With that she closed the laptop and left the room.
The secret out in the open, we became much more relaxed around each other. I regularly asked her about sex and losing my virginity. According to her it was better to lose it to a stranger, so that you wouldn’t get attached. “Women become weak once they fall in love,” she once told me. “Look at what happened to mom.”
Marie started bringing men home, and I often found myself outside her bedroom, ear pressed against the door. We were flesh and blood, and I could feel the way men handled her, how they picked her up and laid her down, grabbed her breasts, pulled her hair and bit her lips. But this telepathic intimacy wasn’t enough, and again that old feeling of desire began to swell.
I already had a man in mind. Those days I had read contramundum-bby.net intently, hoping to gleam more insight into Marie and by extension myself. This included reading the comments, which were variations of “attention whore” and “narcissistic girl with daddy issues.” Most of these were written by men, though you had the occasional woman leave a message. They usually had an almost maternal bend to them, trying to convince Marie to seek help, consider her worth or at least not embarrass the entire gender. I don’t know why but their unsolicited advice bothered me more than the cries of “hysterical nymphet.”
Then there was Sebastian. His comments were more thoughtful, saying that her writing was essential and that a lot of the criticism she received was unfair. I messaged him through Facebook, told him about my relationship to Marie and blatantly asked if he would like to take my virginity.
Sebastian said he was flattered and two days later I found myself spinning around London in his sleek, white car. He spent the entire time talking about Marie, how she should “perfect her craft” and what it takes to be a good writer. I think he mistook me for her.
By the time we got to his apartment he was all talked out and immediately took me to bed. What followed was the most painful moment of my entire life, and after finally noticing my closed eyes and clenched teeth, he recommended we take a break. I felt blood pooling in between my legs and wondered if this was it.
And now it’s starting again. He’ll topple me while I stare blank-eyed at the ceiling and hope the entire world comes crashing down. I’d think of mom, poor old Jezebel, and of course I’d think about Marie. There’d be no distance this time, and finally I’d get to slip into her skin. We really are sisters.