Leo loved pornography. Enjoying it alone was his primary sexual outlet. He wasn’t particularly secretive about this predilection: Maggie revealed that, like I had been, she was expected to simply accept it. The merest whimper of complaint, the slightest hint of desire for a shared intimacy resulted in Leo calling me (and later Maggie) a nymphomaniac. He claimed we were psychologically and emotionally damaged for wanting affection and physical intimacy.
In hindsight I can see his actions for the defense mechanism that they were. By projecting his own dysfunction onto his partner, he made it someone else’s problem, something he didn’t have to examine—or change.
But as a nineteen-year-old who’d never been in a serious relationship before, I had nothing to compare against things with Leo. He was seven years my senior; he’d had other girlfriends. Maybe he was right—he really was just like every guy out there. Nobody was actually having sex, not really. That kind of thing was for the movies.
It breaks my heart, Maggie said. I’ve seen your picture. Have you seen mine? We’re beautiful. What’s wrong with him?
I still don’t know the answer to that question. But corresponding with Maggie absolved me of the idea that something was wrong or unnatural about me. Leo didn’t prefer pornography because I was hideous or fat or a terrible lover, which is what I’d thought for years. He preferred it because of some secret thing within him, a twist of shame, a taboo thrill, a fear of intimacy. Maybe, in his heart of hearts, he didn’t like women; he liked seeing them held down, gang-banged, ejaculated upon.
This correspondence is a grave trespass, Maggie wrote. If Leo finds out he’ll be livid. I could say the same thing about this blog post. I have to keep telling myself it’s my life; I can write about it if I want to.
Maggie wrote in one email that Leo said I’d hurt him worse than anything or anyone in the world. Leo, the man who once hurt my neck trying to force my head into our toilet. Possessed by the same cruel wind that fills the sails of a grade-school bully, he one day took a notion to give me a swirly. I had to fight like a panther to keep him from it, and when I screamed he accused me of trying to get the neighbors to call the cops. Do you want me arrested? he hissed. I’m just playing around.
In the shower he would sometimes spit on me. When I told him to stop, he countered that it didn’t matter because we were in the shower.
I hurt him? Such a thing doesn’t even seem possible.
(To be continued)