A Murder of Crows

This is the story of a man who is asexual and falls in love. it is about how we define ourselves in the modern age, and what love means to those who have no physical avenue to explore. It is about the way we interact with our families, and how echoes of past lives filter through to us.


4. One another

The crows behind my house seem playful to me. I have seen them throw discarded dog toys to one another. They jump and peck at them, seeming to recoil in a mixture of horror and delight when they make a sound. I have seen them hang upside down, and they then call to others who themselves choose to join in the viewing of the world from an topsy turvy perspective.  I have seen them, when the weather is warm, sun bathe in formation, and I have seen how close they grow to one another. The way they call and preen one another makes several images swim before my eyes, the way their relationships are transient, at once loving and competitive. Tender moments from histories that don’t belong to me.


Love is like the wild rose-briar,

Friendship like the holly-tree—

The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms

But which will bloom most constantly?[1]


I don’t think of myself as an unfriendly person, in fact, I think I am polite and quite nice. I am a strongly moral person, and I would never wish to hurt anyone. Yet I still don’t seem to have many friends, and even they have the regrettable feel of acquaintances.  Unfortunately it seems when I meet people, they find me difficult to read, and as such have an inability to get close to me. I think of myself as open, but when you are so very different to so much of the population, they find it hard to accept. The countless number of people who have accused me of being either gay, or just saying that I am asexual to score with women, has reached a number so high I have lost count. I used to get quite angry about this, but as time went on, I guessed it was a choice of ignorance and assumption made by them, and I should just ignore it.


I did have one friend, someone who I was very close to. His name was B___. We went to primary school together, and as we lived quite close, even though we went to separate secondary schools, we stayed in touch and used to spend a lot of time together. It is amazing how fast time moves at that age., and I remember one summer B___ going away for the whole 7 weeks. I recall it quite clearly, I was 15, and although I missed him, I managed to occupy myself with children’s holiday TV, and trying to redecorate my room. I felt I had grown out of the childish colour scheme and posters. I have always liked things very simple, and so it was a case of removing an awful lot of junk I had accumulated. By the end of the summer, my room was very sparse, like a winter field, but I liked it, my bed and desk seemed to stand like altars, with a plain rug on the floor, and a very neutral beige muffling itself over the walls. My parents were taken aback when they first saw it, and I am sure I saw worry skirt all around their mouths and foreheads. But they came to accept that it was just my way.


B___ and I used to talk about girls we liked, and although I used to purposely choose unattainable girls, I suppose there was a large part of me that wanted to be accepted, and maybe deep down somewhere, for them to like me. Most people want to be loved.  Yet our conversations were always pie in the sky, we still played football in the park, secretly smoking cigarettes stolen from his mum’s handbag and talking about what our future’s held.


Then he returned from that 7 week holiday, and time had moved at the speed of light, and he wasn’t the same, and neither was I. One of the few people in the world who I loved, I lost. A gap had appeared between us, a distance of millimetres, yet a distance so wide nothing could bridge it.  Even now I am not sure if I was to blame, or he was. I suppose it is wrong to try and enforce some sort of binary code on a friendship, and blame only leads to ugly finger pointing. In the end, I think what happened was we realised how different we were, and we were going to be, and we couldn’t live in the same world.


B___ came straight over, he was tanned like golden syrup, and bouncing like some over excitable Labrador.  He ran up to my room, where I was just listening to some music, and staring at the faint cracks in the newly painted ceiling.  He took a step back when he saw my new room, but he quickly was overtaken by his excitement. He shut the door.


‘A____, you’ll never guess.’ His eyes flickered from me to the door and back. His voice lowered to a whisper. ‘ I – I had sex on holiday.’ I sat up, there was shock in my face, but quickly I realised that I was supposed to be happy for him. I asked the right questions, of that I am sure. What was she like? What was IT like, and he gave me the gory details.  He had a new found confidence, and I couldn’t see him wanting to play computer games with me any more. I could see he had moved into another world, behind a veil I couldn’t cross.


One day, we were in the park sharing a cigarette, he had just told me how he had been at a party and pulled 3 girls, when out of the blue he said,


‘A____, you aren’t bent are you?’ I coughed on the smoke, which spurt out of me like my last breath. I fervently denied it. ‘Ok, ok,’ he said, ‘its just that you never really talk about girls, or try and talk to them.’ I said something about not really talking to anyone, and he fixed me with a squinting look that I didn’t really understand. And then I did something which I don’t regret, but which impacted on me a lot, I told him. I told him  that I thought I was an asexual, that I didn’t find women or men attractive, and that was just the way it was.  We joked about it, and he said he didn’t believe me, and that hurt. I wanted him to tell me it was alright, that he understood. But all we both understood was the past truly was a figment of our shared imaginations, and neither of us could go back there.


Gradually, he stopped visiting me as much, and I did the same. He would go out on the weekends, and he wouldn’t ask if I wanted to join him. Before you knew it, we were on nodding terms on the street, and although my parent’s would ask after him, I think they realised that something broke that summer between us, and we never fixed it. It is natural that as we all get older, we lose touch with the people who made us who we are. The earth is always spinning, pulling us into our constituent parts, and as we separate, we pull away from the ties to one another.  But that was what happened when you got older, not when you had built your entire life on the friendship of one person. I take whole responsibility for that mistake though.


I miss B___, and I sometimes, very randomly, wonder what happened to him, whether he’s out there, somewhere, happy. They are always fleeting thoughts, like wasps in summer, intrusive and with an air of malice. It was this relationship that prevented me from forming any more connections with other people, till I met R___ at the asexual book group.


The bookshop where my fellow asexuals met was sat on a wholly uneventful road. It didn’t feel like the city, but it didn’t feel like suburbia, an in between place. The irony of the location and function was hammered home in a clumsy and over the top manner. Cars respectfully trundled past, their engines keeping a suitable level of hush. The sky was pale, and my breath escaped from my mouth in plumes of pale candy floss as I approached the brass handled door.


The door to the bookshop was black, with small glass panes that were mottled and bubbled so they distorted everything that lay beyond. My eye jumped to the little advertising cards that were stuck to the window on the left. Adverts for poetry groups, for a cheap, broken down tumble drier and flats for sharing, rooms to rent. All were written in a rushed biro hand that must have meant something to someone, but nothing to me. I pushed down on the handle which creaked like a floorboard and entered. A couple of people were browsing the shelves to my right, it was the historical section and they were gingerly fingering books on Alexander the Great and other historical figures.


I didn’t understand the allure of reading about a by-gone time. Why dwell on a past you cannot change? I saw in the corner a handful of people, they seemed to be huddling, more than you would expect from strangers, and they spoke in reverential tones, low and husked by the dust concertinaing from the books they were surrounded by.  I didn’t have the courage to just bowl over and ask if they were the group, and so I browsed the shelves for a while.  I had an ever decaying orbit which fell in on them, I navigated biographies, world, fiction, war, all whilst getting closer to the epicentre. Finally I was settled within earshot.


‘It is just all over the television, all over everything. It makes me sick having to see it all day every day’ An angry ginger haired man said in an aggressive whisper. ‘See, what all of these sexual people have been told, and what all of us asexual people have been told, is that sex is necessary.  We’ve all been told that everyone needs sex, that it’s unavoidable and that we had better learn to like it our spend our whole lives being miserable.  Pah! Told that sexuality is an integral part of happiness, that sex is something we have not  because we want it, but because we need it. And all of us, sexual and asexual, have been lied to.’  The other’s agreed, all except the woman I would learn to be R___. He had a point, but I was having difficulty connecting to him, like his righteous, rabble rousing tone sat against my want to be accepted and nothing else.


‘Can we go back to talking about the book?’ she said, looking appealingly at her friends, there were some 7 others, some nodded, but the ginger man spoke over her,


‘This is a social group as well as a book club R___’.  That man is a dick, I thought, and I decided there and then that I didn’t like him. It was when this thought of displeasure straggled its way across my mind, that he caught my eye.  ‘And who might you be?’ he said it as if every word had the bitter taste of charcoal.  I said that I heard from an internet forum there was an asexual group who met here, and that I wanted to join.  ‘How do we know you aren’t just ‘cruising’ ?’ I said that I was new to the whole thing, and didn’t even know what cruising meant. ‘Cruising is when straights, or gays, try to pick us up because they think they can ‘convert’ us.’ He did that annoying speech marks thing with his fingers, as if he was in a work tribunal. I told him that I was vehemently against the idea of sex, that to me it and love were just a brain imbalance of chemicals.  I told him that I had never so much as kissed another person, and that if they were so worried, I would leave until they had checked my references. This brought a small laugh from a couple of them, and I found myself smiling.


‘Oh let him sit down,’ R___ said, ‘this is a social group after all’. I asked what they were reading, and the ginger man, who I would learn was called E____, piped up ‘ It is Tin Tin’ in the Congo’ . I snorted, and asked if that was the massively racist one?  ‘Well what you call ‘racism’ was actually more to do with the stereotypes enforced by the bourgeois of the time on Herge.’ I could tell that I wouldn’t get on with this man, but he seemed to hold court. I asked in front of all the group if he was in charge, and he spluttered in that way self important people do. As if to ask a question such as that was rhetorical, and so passive aggressive.  ‘We don’t have ‘people in charge’, I just help facilitate. ‘ I raised an eyebrow and turned to the other’s and asked them about asexuality, and what it meant to them. He didn’t seem best pleased at me hijacking his gathering, but the others seemed to enjoy talking to me.


They taught me so much, how no one chooses to be asexual, much like no one chooses to be straight or gay, how none of them wanted to confront this truth about themselves, but in the end they did confront it. In the end, they knew who they were, more so than anything else.  The joy of talking to people who had the same fear of confronting who they were and how that was never a pleasant experience unlocked a flood gate of emotion in me. I realised that my lack of friends had more to do with who I was as a person, unlike many at the group who were charismatic and popular in their social circles, and not some inherent trait in all asexuals. They told me how they all still play the games of hiding it, and how they are too fed up of explaining themselves to people who didn’t understand.  The shop had shut a while ago, but the group had some agreement with the store owner which made it very easy to be open about these things.


One of the group was telling me how his family viewed his asexuality like the way the Mesopotamians viewed left handed people.  As some sort of shame bringing curse to be ‘cured’. That disgusting word ‘cured’, used in the context as if it is a sickness. Sickness, illness, malady, prevention and cure. Horrid words devoid of humanity, and its ability to heal. He also said it didn’t help that he was left handed.


All the while, during these conversations, R___ sat in silence, watching me. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t something there, I found myself drawn to her gun metal eyes, and she never flinched or looked away. Just stared at me like an oil rig boring into the sea, and anyone else I would have felt awkward, but not with her.


When the group came to disband, R___ waited behind, and I finally plucked up the courage to talk to her. She had made the odd comment, always pithy and dry like an unripe orange.


‘So, what did you think of the group? Gonna come again?’ She said as I helped stack some chairs.  I said I would, and that it was nice to learn so much from them. ‘They love fresh meat.’ She said, turning and smiling. ‘And they like you. And don’t mind E____, he is just a massive wanker. In every sense of the word.’ I laughed at that and said that I would see her next week.


When I returned to my flat, my head was spinning.  All I could think about was  R____. I had trouble sleeping that night, and it was only at 4am that I realised that something had changed in me, like a seed lodged in a cracked brick wall, I could feel the roots spreading, taking hold, and then slowly, fracturing my heart in two.


I went to the weekly meetings regularly, and after a month or so, plucked up the courage to meet R___ outside of the group. We went bowling, and to the cinema, and basically all the kinds of things you would do on a date. Meals, and watching DVDs together. Staying over one another’s, and drinking far too much red wine and crying. She told me the top 5 reasons people thought she was asexual. That she must have been abused, or that she was a lesbian.  That she hadn’t met the right guy or had some hormone problem.  Or she just had come out of a relationship that ruined her.  None of which were true. She just had that void, that lack of wanting to have sex with anyone.


And then came the moment I realised I loved her.


The train rocked and rolled in the tunnel, and long gone were those grey lightbulbs that people used to hang onto. In their place, strips of neon yellow metal, coated in plastic, arced over head, whilst people read free newspapers. My headphones were snug in my ear, but I still had the sound of the journey bleed into me. Half caught laughs, snorts and splutters mingled like familiar party guests. My heartbeat remained a steady 70, but my mind was racing.


It is almost impossible to explain, and I keep returning to the body as proof, but it is the easiest way to portray how I feel in regards to her. I think the best way I can say is that she makes me day dream. She makes me lose concentration, and I want nothing but blue skies and balmy sunshine for her, forever.


We were going to see a speaker discuss evolution at a café that put on science evenings.  It was a strange date, but it seemed to make sense in some convoluted logic in me. I arrived around 20 minutes early, and sat on the bench outside the venue. It wasn’t a particularly large crowd, and the street was quiet. People were having drinks in the pub opposite, and I saw the speaker arrive. No one chased him, no one asked his autograph. R____ bang on time, and we went in. I ordered us a couple of beers and we sat there and listened to him. I saw the small movements in R____ fingers on the arm of her chair. It was by no way a full house, and there were the ghosts of absent guests sat in quite a few chairs. Maybe it was this space, the soft, melodious voice of the speaker, or just something brave and illegal in me, that made me reach out, turn her hand and let my fingers interlock. I held her hand through out the rest of the presentation.


And I decided I never wanted to let it go.


[1] Love and Friendship , Emily Bronte

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