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.

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7. Phenylethylamine and Oxytoxcin

The leaves of the silver poplars which, in places, finger our trenches brushed against my face; I thought what a good thing it was to be alive in a world where silver poplars grow

 

We met in a park. It was summer, and there were the infinitely long shadows of that season creeping across the floor.  The trees which lined the paths seemed to evaporate into the warm and dusky sky. Little coppices existed, but this was nature at its most subtly controlled. People sat on rugs and blankets, drinking, smoking, enjoying the last hours of a balmy evening. There was a haze of laziness which buzzed around us like overweight drones, the scent of pollen and the bitter aftertaste of diesel wafted dreamily about as everyone tried to wish the night away.

 

I was angry, all I had done is tell the truth. All I did was tell her what I thought.

 

The feeling was invasive, like someone had spiked a drink I had drunk. The initial shock of not feeling ok, to a rapidly deafening din of emotion, was disorientating. I could feel my molars involuntarily grind over each other, as I fought back a stinging prickle behind my eyeball. It felt like my eyes were electrified.

 

I saw R____ walking to me. Slowly, reluctantly, and all I thought was that she would say we couldn’t see each other anymore.  Ever.

 

I had no idea.

 

I had no idea how this would play out. I wasn’t sure about the hand I had been dealt.

 

‘This is dramatic in a soap opera way, don’t you think?’ she said, sitting down next to me. She had disturbed the loft of pigeons that were skulking around my legs. They flew 4 ft, but then returned to fret about us.  I hadn’t seen her since I told her that I was falling for her. She had taken it badly, which wasn’t the biggest compliment. It must have been three weeks, which was longer than I had ever gone without seeing her, and it hurt inside.

 

I said something about not wanting to make it dramatic and that the crap drama was accidental, but she was already looking around the park, disinterred from where we were, miles away dreaming about a future which may never happen. A troop of runners whizzed by, all ipod wires, flashing neon trainers and glistening sweat. They smelt visceral, and I looked at R____ and realised we would never have that. I didn’t want it, not in the fluid sense, but a world of colour, of blood was important to me. I wanted some context to my life, some key relationship that wasn’t familial. I wanted R____. I had gone from not wanting a relationship, in any form, to finding someone who I thought I was falling in love with.

 

‘Do you remember the first thing you said to me?’ She was still looking around, avoiding eye contact.

 

I suppose it was a gradual change, building to that moment at the talk on evolution. Like a season, it crept up on me, but there was a tipping point. A point when it went from small embers to forest fire. When she went from being my friend who I cared about, to the person who occupied most of my waking thought.  I saw small signs, I am not oblivious to the world around me. I would sit by her in the cinema, and I would be as occupied by the smell of her hair, as I was the film.  And that smell triggered an internal zoetrope of the times we laughed, and talked and just let the world slide past us. I missed the point of all the films we ever watched together.

 

I didn’t remember what I said about love, and so she told me.

 

‘You told me it was an imbalance of Phenylethylamine and Oxytoxcin, and that all imbalances pass.’

 

I queried that, could I be that cold?

 

‘You don’t remember?’ I couldn’t tell if she was sad at this?

 

I said I didn’t like to remember, that our memories were flawed, and that we remembered what we wanted to.

 

‘Then you will have to learn to remember A_____, because the rest of the world is not like you.’ I don’t think it was a surly comment, more an olive branch, a life lesson for me.

 

I said that she was like me. And I think that realisation must have hurt her a little cause she couldn’t refute it.  She stood up and stretched her legs. The sky was darkening, but a flash of pink was still streaking across the sky, as luminous orange scars were being etched by jumbo jets high above us.

 

We fell silent.

 

‘Shall I tell you what else you said about love to me?’

 

I said I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, but she went ahead anyway.

 

‘You said it was nothing but chemistry. The first stage, infatuation, was a virtual explosion of nuerochemicals very similar to adrenalin. You said things about chemicals that make us glow and feel all cuddly, and then something else stimulates the production of adrenalin, it makes our world go round, our eyes sparkle and our heart beat faster. You said our entire existence then depends on the sight of the person who triggered these reactions, like some drug addict, and as the addiction to the chemical grows stronger, our attraction becomes greater. Not exactly… not exactly emotional. Not..not…’ She trailed off. She was playing with her hands, turning them over, looking for some lost cartography that would see her through this.

 

I didn’t understand the point she was making. I may have said that, but what difference did it make? That was then, this was now. I was suffering a chemical imbalance and I was happy of it. It felt like the birth of colour television to me. Nothing had ever triggered an emotional release like this. I was kind of annoyed at myself. In fact I was kind of sickened. To even think like this, with a vocabulary so unfamiliar to me, was disorientating. That I didn’t see the argument coming made me feel doubly stupid. I just didn’t think people argued over this. Why would you argue over love? Surely everything I said, about chemicals proved we could do nothing about it? I tried explaining this to her, but I could tell she wasn’t listening. She didn’t want excuses.

 

The birds were all returning to their nests, there was a chatter above us, sweet nothings, affectionate trills, and all the while I sat there, quiet and unsure.

 

‘So if you believe all that. All that stuff about chemicals. What has changed? Has anything?’ She was staring at me now.

 

I said something about people changing. How I never expected to feel like this. But this seemed to anger her.

 

‘You never thought you would love someone? That is so sad A____. Did you blame your asexuality for that too?’ She was working herself up.  I went to say something about how I felt she was projecting her fears and insecurities onto me, but with a withering look she gave caught the words in my throat and there they died.

 

I thought about this, I didn’t want to charge in with some flimsy reason. I asked her if she meant blame. She didn’t answer, just bored into me with her reddening eyes.  In the end I said something about how I gave up on the idea of love. In my mind, sex and love were linked. That physical imperative was the driving force. But that had changed, everything was different.

 

‘And what if you change and want sex, and then will I be enough, will what we have be enough?’

 

I couldn’t categorically say that would never happen, that maybe one day I would wake up and want sex, and so I said that. But I also said that no one could guarantee such a thing. No one can say that they don’t change. I feel I change with almost every breath.  I said I wished I could promise her that, but I just couldn’t.

 

She looked away, the street lights came on, and the early rising moths were already dancing around the bulbs, banging themselves headfirst into the glass. It never broke.

 

I asked her where this was going, and how I had ruined what we had before.

 

‘You haven’t ruined anything. You have changed everything. Why?’

 

And for the first time I said it, I said because I love you.

 

And she collapsed like one of her Jenga piles and I gathered her up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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