He rolled over and slammed his hand on the alarm clock. He brushed past my bare ribcage, and it almost felt like he silently apologized for it. It had been so long since he’d really touched me — since he’d let our skin absorb into each other like we used to do every night in the moments bookending sleep — that his brain was no longer accustomed to the sensation.
At some point, he had become a corpse, and it was my job to become a corpse in return, as there is nothing acceptable about being a necrophiliac. Who wants to be in love with someone who is entirely frozen to your touch, unresponsive to the desire your body used to elicit?
I used to think that he was cheating on me. I used to wish he was cheating on me, even, because that would at least wrap everything up in the kind of justification that I could get myself to understand. “Okay,” I would say, “He wants someone else. He still wants someone, though. He’s not dead.”
Or maybe I preferred you were dead.
When it became clear that you weren’t, I imagined that to be my cue to start pursuing you with more vigor. “Touch me,” I would say, “I want you.” I think part of you must have felt sorry, looking up at you with my chin pressed to your chest, my eyes wanting you to still find them inciting of something. I used to lead you to do daring, awful, wonderful things. Now I lead you to go to sleep at a reasonable hour so you can feign a headache.
I used to think that this kind of henpeckish non-sex was for sad middle-aged men, listlessly prodding at the lifeless body of their dimpled wife, hoping that it will eventually lead to an orgasm, no matter how hollow. I used to think that their plight was a unique one, a story that began and end with quiet, desperate self-satisfaction in the shower and vague memories of a woman who didn’t so clearly feel disgusted by their naked body.
But I am that middle-aged man, and I am not a man at all.
Maybe it’s even more humiliating that you are leaving me so completely alone as a woman — isn’t that what I am supposed to be good for? If nothing else, I can excite you. If nothing else, I can still be something you want to press yourself inside of. If nothing else, I can still offer that to the world and be rewarded for it.
Somewhere, I have failed in my duties.
And maybe you expected my love to erode with your disinterest. Maybe you hoped that this would all miraculously resolve itself, and we would move onto other things, like having children for the sole purpose of forcing ourselves to have sex one more time.
I wish you would have cheated on me. I wish you would have gotten yourself wet somewhere else, so I would at least have known you were thirsty. Now I am left with a man I love who has been hollowed out from within, someone whose love has evaporated, starting with his desire. Now I have no explanations, no righteousness for my anger, no alternatives. I either learn to live without you, or learn to live completely detached from my body.
And I don’t know which is worse.