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.


3. The fear


And if it takes shit to make bliss,

well I feel pretty blissfully.

If life's not beautiful without the pain,

well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again[1]


My brother,  F____ once said to me that I chose asexuality consciously rather than any biological or deep rooted primeval imperative. He said my problem was that I actually preferred being alone in the world. I would find myself contemplating this statement, ruminating on it many a time.  It was a winter thought, one that would regularly emerge in the short days and the long, cold nights. The raindrops of the season would Morse code the words he said so many years ago, whilst the low hiss of wind through the trees would recall his sharp intake of breath at the end of when he said it. As if he was trying to take it back. We often make these statements, which we think will be beneficial to the recipient, but rarely is it taken in that light, and often all we do is give them an abiding memory of ourselves. A memory of when we cut through to that soft part, the part that we protect most dear in our hearts.


I think, deep down, maybe I did enjoy being alone. We are never beholden to anyone but our own selfish desires when we are alone. And although difficult to enter into any sort of dialogue, the space that loneliness affords creates a fictional voice, a version of ourselves which we can converse with, and who will invariably agree with what we say. Again, those frost bitten nights of winter were when I would discuss this idea most often.


I think this idea of self is a strange one, and something that I have thought about for many an hour. I tried to think of who I am, and often all I am is a list of things other people have described me as. Someone once called me brave, and I remember at the time thinking that was a compliment. But I struggled to recall anything that I have ever done which is brave. The more I thought on this, the more it began to turn in my stomach. I reached a point where I realised I wasn’t brave, merely different to the person who called me such. My life choice was not brave, I didn’t run into a burning building to save someone. I merely made a life choice and stuck by it. Those two things were very different. I then started to look a bit deeper, and found all the attributes I would describe myself as were labels I had been given by friends or family. Oh, don’t mind A____ he is such a misery. A____ can do that, he has a head for that sort of thing. A_____ would love that, he can’t get enough of that sort of thing.  More worryingly for me,  was that the deeper I looked, the more elusive the person  became. I could find my heart, but when I looked in it, I found it surprisingly bare. Like an abandoned cottage’s cupboards, just cobwebs and the drying dust of ages.


Winter nights in the city are not black. They are a tobacco orange, from the light pollution and gases being pumped out of cars and homes. It is a strange glow, that provides no warmth or  illumination, just a sickly pallor to everything it touches, and it touches everything.  It were these conditions which would cause the fear that being alone creates, to swell in my chest like a tide. I would feel the undertow of it grab my feet from me, and a firm hand grab behind my stomach and pull me under. Sometimes I could ride it out, let the panic pass. Yet often I would stare at the crack in my ceiling, watching the thin ringlets of spider’s gossamer wafting in invisible currents. Dwelling on some misery or other, working my heart rate ever higher, sweat pricking my brow.  It never started with my sexual orientation, but more often than not it would end on it. My rage or sorrow exploding when I realised that nothing would change who I was. Couple this realisation with the idea that I never truly felt like I knew myself, and it became a horrible logic loop that spiralled around itself to the inevitable crash.


I felt horribly adolescent whilst doing this even though I was in my early 20s.


I remember one of the few conversations I had regarding this, was with my father. I had ‘outed’ myself as asexual sometime previously, and other than the questions about what that actually meant, as a family we left it at that. On one of my lower days, I had a chat with my father, and something about it feels very important to me but I don’t know why.


It was that turn from spring to summer, the air was growing heady with the smell of pollen, and the bees were ever fatter, and more laconic in their flights. At the end of our garden was a small shed. It contained the usual fodder of a suburban lifestyle, a mower, cans of paints, and bicycles that were rarely ridden. I remember the days stretching long like the shadows on the ground, and the grass that year had a permanent jaundiced tinge to it. I wasn’t wearing any socks, and the blades of grass crunched under my foot.


My father was bent over the borders, in the shade of a damson tree we had in the corner of our garden.  Some had fallen and been crushed or begun to rot. This added a sweet, boozy smell to the air, and it hung around my eyes and pacified me somewhat. My father was turning the soil with a fork, and watching the earth break with each twist was hypnotic. I stood there, trying to gain some time with my father, who I felt I never really connected with me. As I said, I was feeling particularly adolescent at the time, and I am sure that all the people whom he had relationships with felt the same at some point or other, but for me I felt like I was challenging this status quo. Finally, after what felt an age, he turned and gave me a quick smile.


‘Hello A_____, everything ok?’ My mother had come out and was putting summery garments on the washing line. The plastic clips clashed with the water rotted wooden ones, whilst the fabric conditioner must have been one of jasmine and other eastern scents which mingled awkwardly with the already confusing smells of early summer. I said something about not feeling good. He raised a solitary eyebrow, but returned to his tilling of the earth in front of him. After some time, he spoke,


‘And what is it that is troubling you?’ He didn’t turn and face me, but continued to work the earth. It felt a bit like therapy, and that was a situation that I never felt comfortable in. But it was my father, and I felt like this maybe the only chance I would get to talk to him.


After waiting myself, trying to grapple with the core of my problem, I said something about not knowing who I was. My father gave an involuntary snort and turned. He had a strange smile, a knowing grin which showed too many teeth to be purely friendly. With the slightest shake of his head he turned back to the ground.


‘You don’t know who you are? Mmmmmm. And what part of it is causing you the most problems?’


I think I said something unhelpful like ‘everything’. He rocked on his knees, and then with an element of force buried his fork into the ground and turned.


‘Sit down’ he said, and although commanding, there was little to give away any indication of how he was feeling. ‘The fact that you have the luxury to question this, makes me jealous of you A____.’ He said, repositioning his body so he was resting his weight on his palms, legs stretched in front of him. I said something about surely he must have questioned himself, his identity, but he shook his head.


‘And when would that have been? When I got married young? The fear of being alone was too great. I got lucky, I married a beautiful woman like your mother, but even then I didn’t know who I was. I don’t think I know who I am now.’ I saw him gaze at my mother who smiled at us both, her boys, and she walked back to the kitchen, empty basket under her arm.  I said that the fear was the magic word. That fear was what I would find myself feeling when alone. Fear that this was it.  I had made my bed so to speak, and that I would lie in , it alone, devoid of any form of companionship. I said I was sure I could love someone, just not in a sexual way. He looked at me, and then shook his head.


‘The world doesn’t move heaven and earth for you A____, no matter how much you will it too. It doesn’t follow anyone’s rhythm but its own. Do you think that being with someone will change you?’ I said it could do. He laughed.


‘You don’t understand do you? You don’t change, you just let what has always been inside you out when you are with someone. They nurture things in our hearts, and it is what you put in that you get out.’


I was somewhat taken aback to hear my father talking like this. He was always so detached, for him to talk of nurturing a truth seemed overly romantic and out of character. I said something about how I was worried that there was nothing there to nurture, that I was more worried that I would find someone who I did care about, and they would pass me over because they would see me as an empty vessel.


‘And why do you think you are empty?’ Because I had looked, I said, because I tried to search for who I was, external to what other people thought I was, and I found nothing. I was getting confused. I wasn’t sure whether I enjoyed being alone, and was scared of having to share that space with someone, or that I was scared of the emptiness and that it would yield nothing for the person I cared about. I wrestled this over and over, and in the end I let it all out, lahars of emotion pouring bubbling forth. My father sat like king Canute, and when I had finished, he just looked at me.


‘We didn’t have time for that sort of introspection in my day.’ he sighed resignedly. I couldn’t tell if he would have procrastinated as much as I did if they could have. I have a feeling he wouldn’t have. I asked if he understood how I felt, and  he gently put his autumn leaf hand on mine.


‘I’ll never understand you A____, much like you won’t understand me.’ He let those words hang in the air, shards of light dappling through the trees, cutting them up and letting them drift to the floor like confetti. ‘But the sooner you realise it isn’t about understanding, or fixing, or saving. It isn’t about knowing oneself innately, or changing for someone, or anything else, the sooner you will be happy.’ I didn’t understand, and a puzzled expression dripped down my face like tar.


‘You are looking so hard for something that will find you when you need it.’ He patted my hand a couple more times whilst nodding. ‘It will find you.’


I asked what ‘it’ was.


And he just laughed, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. ‘Lord knows A____.’ And with that he returned to the quiet hum of summer, and his garden.



[1] The View Modest Mouse Good News for People who like Bad News

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