When you’re here all the time, I forget who I am on my own. I paint a picture of myself that includes you and it messes around with the truer picture of what I’m actually like.
So this week, while you’re away, I’ve spent the time remembering.
Some of the realisations are good – I’ve realised that I’m great at turning up on time when I don’t have to wait for you. Others are bad. For instance it turns out that ‘doing the housework’ is only important to me if both of us will reap the benefit, so when left to my own devices I’ll hurl shoes and knickers and cider cans onto the kitchen floor, then spend days stepping around them and pretending I don’t notice.
But above all I realise this: I don’t need you.
And I know that sounds like a gut punch, but bear with me: it’s better than that. I don’t need you: I want you.
It’s a trite, obvious thing to say, I know. But it’s worth it, because you have an odd relationship with need. You rarely need anything for yourself – or at least you pretend you don’t. A week before your birthday you tell me not to bother, and that you’d just be happy to eat pizza and get your dick sucked. I spend days agonising over what I could surprise you with before settling on a combination of sloppy blow jobs, stone-baked margherita, and bullshit I picked up from the pound shop. Your ‘needs’ are summed up so neatly by the pound shop: anything you truly need from it you’ll have already, leaving only a list of ‘wants’ that will bore you after five minutes. Bigger, less tangible needs make you uncomfortable too, like when you’re deep in a fug of sadness and you wave away my help.
You’ll do everything you can to avoid ever needing me: need is for me, not you.
And perhaps the fact that you so rarely seem to need me is why I feel so loved. Absent any need, I have to accept the bizarre, counterintuitive, surprising conclusion that you’re with me because you want to be.
But in contrast you like me to need you.
Your powers are strongest when you’re the rock for me to lean on: when I cry in a heap and you get to stroke my hair. When I’m horny and twitching and you can fuck the stress away. When I’m broke, and we play that game where you try to lend me money, then I tell you to fuck off, then if I’m really broke I’ll let you lend it anyway, then slip it back into your pocket later if I think I can get away with it.
But I don’t really need you.
I think I do sometimes, because the jokes and touches and fucking feel necessary. Chopping salad while you tell me about your day, or telling you about mine while you pick gunk out of the kitchen sink: these things feel like foundations. As if without them – without you – my solid, liveable, comfortable life would crumble and I’d be left in disarray, staring at the pieces and gasping with shock. It feels, while you’re here, like you’re the cornerstone. That if you were removed and it came crashing down, what I’d build afterwards with the leftover rubble would be unfit for purpose: a one-room shack prone to leaks and vulnerable to wolves who’d blow it down.
But that’s not true. I don’t need you.
When you’re gone I am the picture of a self-help-book cliche: the woman who doesn’t need a man. The independent person. The ‘whole’ that needs no ‘other half.’ Like the trite advice given by a coupled-up person to a single one:
“You have to be happy in yourself before you find a partner.”
“Oh cool yeah I’ll just flick the ‘be happy with self’ switch, thanks pal.”
I’ve given this advice before, I’m sure. The stampy, angry rant of the Independent Woman: be OK on your own. Except telling someone that when they’re miserable and lonely is like telling a stranded commuter to spread their wings and fly. How irritating. But still: there it is. I don’t need you because I spend my life working to avoid ever really needing anyone.
I know that you like me to need you, and I wonder if sometimes it’s because this desire for independence spills over into a lack of overt love. Because I find it harder to invent cute nicknames and give you warm compliments and use words like ‘snuggle’ without barfing up my lungs. So maybe me needing you – or appearing to – is a decent fallback option. So you nurture it by giving me things you think I need: support, encouragement, help. I’m grateful, of course. But I can – and do – live without it when it’s not there.
So when you’re away I stay busy. I fill my time with other kinds of love – friendships and Twitter chats and marches and work. I have fun. I get stressed. I do all the things I do when you’re here, plus a hell of a lot of extra wanking. I cry at YouTube videos and sniff socks to work out if they’re dirty or clean. I make plans. I phone my Mum. I eat shit food and shout at Question Time. I live.
I build a week’s worth of life, and I realise that if you never came back I could simply keep going.
I could laugh and fight and work and play and sleep with anyone who was willing. I could teach others how to fuck the way we do, and turn to friends for the support you give me when I’m anxious and weak and unhappy.
And I suck at the compliments and I push away the help but I’m still here. I don’t need you, but I’m still here.
So now you get to have that realisation: that everything I need could be fulfilled elsewhere, so all that’s left is want.
I want you.
I can’t wait for you to come home.