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.


5. R____

Crows show the same level of intimacy as primates. They preen one another. Behind my house, I became fixated on a couple who seemed to roost on the lowest branch. I know you may say that all crows look alike, but both of these had clear identifiers. Watching them compete and bicker, and then lovingly rubbing their beaks on one another’s oil spill black feathers is an enduring image. Sure, I am anthromorphising them, and projecting my feelings onto them, but that is what I observed.


To see her is a picture,

To hear her is a tune,

To know her an intemperance[1]


Someone once asked me what the most beautiful thing in the world was. Or to be more precise, what the most beautiful thing I had seen was.


That moment, when you wake on an early summers day, when the window is open, and the blind wafts in the breeze. It reminds me of dresses on washing lines. There is the soft glow of the sun, diffused by muslin, so it feels like the light comes from another world. It is silent. Occasionally you see slashes of blue sky, and they slowly excite you till you are apprehensive of the next flash, like a drug addict, but they disappear as quickly as they arrived. Your mind has not woken fully, so all the other emotions and thoughts are absent, and you are left with yourself and the glimmer of that muffled sun. A pale and soundless place.


Now I have R____ beside me, asleep or awake, possibly sharing it, possibly missing it, but with me, and it is still the most beautiful thing in the world. Only somehow more beautiful. The membrane between me and the world seems thinner than ever.


It feels strange to write about R____ , to try and describe her, it feels like I am playing physics, trying to describe the indescribable. I can’t explain what about her made me fall in love, but I suppose it is one of the privileges of the emotion, its complexities that you never really have to do so. It defies justification, because it belongs to you, and only you. You can defend it, but why would you, normally its existence is enough. It should always be enough.


R____ is neither tall or short, and seems to have the metabolism of an Olympic cyclist that allows her to eat and drink whatever she wants, even though it is immaculately planned, something I will come to in a bit. Her hair is dark, and falls in thick unctuous ringlets to her shoulders. I am not the world’s biggest fan of tattoos, but R has one. Just above her left hip, there is a stag, who is stood proud, its head turned backwards. The antlers of the animal crawl up the side of her, inter twining, under her arm and around her breast. They then seem to thin and disappear into her. I have never asked the meaning of it, and she has never ventured the story behind it. Like everything, the less I know of her, the more comfortable I feel. As if she still exists outside of me. In bed I sometimes trace my finger over it, as if I am touching some secret part of her heart, the closest I will ever get to knowing her, but even that is a silly idea and I often have to stop myself thinking that. She sometimes hums and vibrates like a tray of bees, as my finger rests on the mole above her navel. The warmth of her body calms whatever thoughts I have wrestled with that day.  My palm can feel the faint tremble of her heart, and I feel my heart synchronise with hers.


Her mouth is thin like a clarinet reed, and I think that comes from a life of not smiling enough and letting herself be scornful of others. I don’t think that is who she really is, she just projects this image to keep people from her. This results in a slight, natural downward curve of her mouth and a misrepresentative air of melancholy.


Her skin is pale, and almost rice paper thin, showing a network of blue blood vessels that spread through her body like a Darwinian tree. She freckles in the summer, but otherwise takes no colour. She is my Ming vase, she is my most precious and fragile thing.


But it is her eyes. It is always the eyes. Like silver salvers, they are clear like glacial tears, transparent portals to some place of arctic magic. At odds with her dark hair, at odds with her skin, they shine like Death’s very own. They glitter like a brook in moonlight, and from the moment they turn their gaze to me, I am the fallen.


She doesn’t regularly wear jewellery, apart from a thin gold ring on her left hand. I asked her once who gave it to her, and she merely responded with ‘the last person I loved’. Around her neck, she wears a small, silver St Christopher, on a thin silver strand. It feels like it could break at any second, and while we watch films I finger it, feeling the tiny links at the tip of my digits, imagining that it will melt and seep into me, carrying me to where I need to be. She normally wears jeans, and t shirts or strappy tops. They are muted in colour, all dusky clarets and heather greys, and she loves to wear jumpers over them. She is certainly not androgynous in body shape, but often her clothes iron in an anonymity in which she feels comfortable. Yet something strange happens in the summer, where her wardrobe changes drastically into summer dresses, floral prints and light colours that float through your vision like echoes of light bulbs. Her mood and body posture changes with it, and she embodies the circadian rhythm of seasons effortlessly.


She has little foibles like all human beings. She holds the newspaper with the very tips of her fingers, like she is scared the newsprint will seep into her, and change her opinion. She holds it like she has picked up a skinned carcass off the floor, and often her face forms a familiar grimace. I don’t know if the news is actually eliciting an emotional response, or she simply just doesn’t understand other people and why they would act like that. She once told me she does it to maintain a distance from the corporeal world, and that the news should be kept at arms length, so as to form an informed opinion. Another thing she is prone to do is plan her entire set of meals for a week, and make the necessary preparations on the Sunday. At first I thought this must come from strong will power and a diet, but it actually is just the closest she gets to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She never deviates from this plan, so in our relationship there is no room to surprise her by taking her for dinner. Everything is timetabled, and I need to apply to eat a take away at least two weeks in advance. I have taken to eating fast food in secret, so as to get my fix of junk more regularly.


She is a copy editor for a magazine. She is well regarded in her field, with an eye for detail so fine, that when she turns it on you, you feel reprimanded yet special all at once.


She likes sparse music, Oscar Peterson and Mogwai, she loves the quiet loud bulge and bloat dynamic. She listens to it loud, often lying on her sofa, staring at the ceiling. I watch as smiles dance under her skin, and invisible tears roll down her slackened cheeks. That natural down turn of her mouth directing them to pool on her throat, and her breathing changes. She is constantly changing. Her flat is decorated with framed things she has found like dead  butterflies flying around crashed satellites made from old Coke cans, to the Armageddon orange plastic bag from a Cambodian rubbish tip where families are seen to rummage for their lives. Beautiful, sad images which she loses herself in.  She piles everything she owns, books, CDs and the such like. They teeter and topple, but it elicits nothing but joy from her, as if she is playing a game of Jenga all to herself, and the victory comes in the destruction of the towers.  She likes to watch documentaries on telly, documentaries about great people. She says it is because she dreams that she is them, and she tastes what greatness is. I asked her what it tasted like once, and she said a 9 volt battery.


I know it isn’t a “symptom” of asexuality, but neither of us has a group of friends. I have people I know, and people I like, but I don’t regularly do anything with them. R____ is the same, she has acquaintances from the asexual group at the book shop, but that is it. It is something that haunts, and worries me. Was it the fear of being alone for the rest of our lives that  overwhelmed our asexuality and forced us into a compromise? Do my emotions to her service any other purpose than justify my existence in this reproductive world? Does my love for her, in my mind, reach for a truer ideal of the word itself? These are all questions I have ruminated over in the night, and rarely have I come up with a definitive answer.


What I do know, is that I know her more than anyone I could have possibly imagined. Yet I know her barely, and it is this contradiction on which my spider’s web of love is built.  I worry however, and think of Achilles and the tortoise. As I grow closer her to her, she has always moved on, and will always be out of reach. I will never make up the time she had prior to our being together. Does that mean we will never be truly together? I lie awake at night because of that.






[1] Emily Dickinson

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