Emma Winsor Wood

Need? I get what I want.
Not a boast, but a fact:
him, across from me at a meeting in May w/ the air of a minor aristocrat:
blue-eyed, authoritative, blond,
He must have been bored that summer b/c I was insecure & overweight,
tho by then I knew: definitely straight.
How should I begin? I could write a dissertation:
"You're Mistaken": Mansplaining & Physical Manifestations of Modern-Day "Hysteria":
          1. Loss of friends, outside interests, perspective
          2. Wears leggings; obsessed w/ "The Woman Question" in all classes; reg. digresses
          3. Exhibits signs of disordered eating; self-diagnosed w/ "self-controlled anorexia"



& the rest
is backstory:
his coy, or merely dilatory,
courtship—for you, impatient reader, here condensed:
summer, St. Petersburg, Russia; hum of saws slicing diseased poplars                                                                                             
in the school's up-grown yard;
drizzle daily; meandering, drawn-out walks; the charred
tips of filter-less fishermen's cigarettes; stray dogs, car alarms....
Three weeks in, amongst vodka, lemons, & tables tattooed
w/ <3's & initials, we danced till, sweating, we
went outside for some air. Change in setting:
graffitied colonnade, speckled sky,
chill. Did he make some Grand Sentimental Confession?
That's a leading question.


That needling question
reveals the speaker's lingering rancor, not present back
when she made a
truly brilliant comment about the watermelon
in Chekhov's "Lady With the Little Dog," which went
or ignored. "Emma..." he said as if
the name were novel &, unfolding his arms, acquiesced
to my persistent, pointed stare:
leaning in,
he brushed my cheek w/ the ember of his half-smoked, apologized, then
enfolded my tongue in
his like a snare.
Thus began the affair.



It began as "just an affair"
overseas. We
played Scrabble, drank tea, shared ice cream, bad poetry,
dismissed divine art, debated comma splices, & did it
everywhere: a public park, my back crushing his
one nice jacket beneath shrubbery;
the "teacher's only" bathroom, my ass, pressed cold
on the sill; & then the luxury
of fully succumbing,
in his sofa-bed
or my sofa-bed,
to the sucking & plunging
w/o distraction, glamor,
or the stress of possible rupture.



The stress of possible rupture
amplified all feeling.
Once, his nose started bleeding
mid-thrust. We didn't stop; I mistook the wetness on my neck for spit. After,
he sat up & "Don't move.
You're covered in blood."
It was dark. He led me to the moonlit mirror: what?
Red matted into hair, smeared across cheeks, nipples, lips—a spoof
of losing a thing, petty
as our long + dear departed
virginities. He licked most of
it off of me.
The next morning, alone, I spot-cleaned the white sheets & pillowcases.
Traces of him persisted.



His scent, insistent, permeated
my ordered closet,
color-coded, the scoured
basket of
my skin. He refused
to wear antiperspirant:
his redolence, arousing
or revolting depending
on whom you asked,
distinguished him, determined
to be "different from
the rest."
W/ him, I lost at least one eyelash a day.
My wish each time the same: stay, stay, stay.



Each time the same "stay, stay, stay,"
a cri de coeur-turned-command:
"When I say I want you, I want you now," he wrote in jagged
script on a scrap of yellow legal pad, when one night early on, I stayed
out slightly later than intended.
Reading his note at 20 (& ∴ lacking
the excuse of adolescent, or even teenage, understanding),
I thought, What a sweet & loving message!
How would you characterize the protagonist (Emma),
e.g., blind, obtuse, &/or charming, if oblivious, ingénue?
Can we chalk her actions up to inexperience?
Argue for/against, using textual evidence.
NB: In your final essay, please define the term "chimera"
& remember to write w/o an outside agenda.



"It's like you write w/ an outside agenda,"
he told me one morning, while licking off a macchiato moustache.
"All your papers are about gender."
"Write what you know will be my epitaph,"
I replied, while struggling to transform
my agitation into paragraphs.
He yawned.
I can't argue when attacked—
said s'thing about the significance of the timeworn
& the primacy, for me, of every petty, human action
(drawing baths, watering house plants, holding
dirty sheets) before the grand pas classique of abstraction.
2.5 years later, his fav. professor, commenting on my summa thesis, wrote, "Excellent analysis, writing, etc. but what animates it is the author's obvious feminist passion."



(What "animates the author's obvious feminist passion"
is beyond our scope; it precedes & outlives the affair.)                    
                    Est. shot: San Francisco, Victorian mansions.
                    Int. young couple, seated, on a white four-poster.    
After 18 months, attraction reduced
to increasingly isolated spasms,
she/me's in media tantrum,
root of which likely self-inflicted lack
of food, tho in his mind: ingratitude. Hangry, she bites
his neck, runs hands over zipper, unbelts, unbuttons, shoves him, kneeling, onto the window seat, where
she slides btw his knees on her back, sticks his cock in her mouth—in/out/in/out, hand grasping the base
of the shaft—anticipating the pleasure tk, for her, later—when he slips
out for a sec & lets out a soft cry............
His jizz salty-cold in her eye.



That his jizz, shot salty & cold into my eye,
the same girl, who'd once let him fuck her w/ his unwashed big toe, boded
ill for us (the couple), already "on the rocks"
b/c a few weeks prior he'd bought me a copy of Simone de Beauvoir's The Woman Destroyed.
In the book's final, eponymous story, a wealthy middle aged housewife, lashed to her husband like a mast, dis-     
integrates when he confesses to an affair. We were apart when, late one airless summer night, I read it, then
for a semi-civilized hour
to call. "It's just a book," assertions of love, "I'll call later," etc. I was not
persuaded: after we hung up, I ripped
the story from its spine & walked to a small rocky beach w/a book
of matches. When the fire wouldn't catch, I tore the pages to pieces, waded into the Atlantic & pushed them
under a mass of bladderwrack.



"A mass of bladderwrack"
is a large amt. of a certain type of seaweed that can be found off the coast of Connecticut, but not elsewhere
in this book...which is to say, I'd like to be less austere,
but when, after a year w/ him, I stopped washing my hair, it looked so lank
it made me miserable. So wash it, he said.
& I did.
I don't think I'll ever know how to pursue beauty
w/o contradicting my expressed beliefs.
he murmured, as he pulled me towards him one sunny afternoon in his bed, hoping
to mess up the sheets. I didn't get wet.
Hurt, he went back to his desk
to study French.
I forced myself then: acting playful, crawled to his chair & started
sucking his cock. It was a way to say, Look, darling: I care.



Sucking cock's one way to say, Look, darling: I care,
but even it has
its limitations. For not quite
two years, his was the last voice I heard before sleeping
each day. What more is there to say?
Addiction's the, uh, opposite? of self-reliance?
...yup. It's not rocket science.
But I needed to learn it the hard way—
Oh, that.
Caveat emptor, or
beware prettiness, skinniness, wit.
& all that other seductive crap.
It's a handicap.



You were my handicap.
He said we'd become like "two skaters w/ our skates laced together"
& I wondered how long it had taken him to find that metaphor & whether
he expected commendation. We were outside, sky overcast but not trembling—a blast
of wind broke the silence & I
dashed across streets w/o looking both
ways, or forward, or back,
all black, black, black, blank if
he didn't want me—I stopped near a
bed of tulips—I didn't
myself. The tulip in my hands disintegrated. Why
was I crying? & then that stale, stale echo like a dart—
Need? I get what I want.


Need? I get what I want.
& the rest?
That's a leading question.
The affair began w/  
the stress of possible rupture,
his scent, insistent, permeating.
Each time the same "stay, stay, stay"
& "remember to write w/o an outside agenda." 
What animates the author's obvious feminist passion?
His jizz shot salty & cold into her eye.
A mass of bladderwrack.
Sucking his cock was a way to say, Look, darling: I care.
Sucking cock's one way to say, Look, darling: I care.
These hands, I swear, will never bear a solitaire.





"What an odd thing a diary is: the things you omit are more important than those you put in." —Simone de Beauvoir, The Woman Destroyed