You don’t know me. I hope that doesn’t stop you reading. I have some important things to tell you. Read on as far as you can. You need to know these things. I’ll start with a little bit about me. Just little bits, mind you. Bear with me, please.
I had my first kiss when I was fourteen. She was a little older than me and a very good first experience. I thought I loved her, but, of course, I was lying to myself. She was more of a symbol than a person in her own right. She symbolised sexuality. My sexual awakening, if you like. The realisation that other people want you in that very basic way.
That was a weird age. Then again, they all are. I don’t think that I’ve learnt anything since then. Ten years. A decade (excuse me, I’m feeling old). Obviously, a lot has changed. It just does. For a start, I’ve more hair than I had then. The beard was just a joke at the start, but now I’m attached to it. There have been half a dozen girls since Kirsty. I don’t know where any of them are now, except for the latest one. I am ten years older. That’s a fact. I am still, however, inexplicably, me.
I shouldn’t go on. I bore you with these recollections. It occurs to me that you should know a bit about me, however. Considering the position you and I are in, it’s only fair.
My name, by the way, is Lewis. Or Louis. I prefer the former spelling. I am, as I revealed, 24 years old. I also have a beard. That too was a fact revealed above. I am currently in a relationship. Good, you noticed. What else? Ah, yes. I’m bored and I feel old.
There is more to me than those facts, however. What you should be asking yourself is why did I tell you, or rather, let you know, the above facts? How are they relevant?
My position will become clear. Know this- I am sitting in a small room, alone, my bearded face illuminated by a computer screen. The computer is mine, the room is not. I am surrounded by disks and empty wrapping paper. I shall not, however, tell you what the paper once wrapped. This may or may not be important. The disks contain both programs and documents. I do tend to write a lot.
More has become clear. I am wealthy enough to own a computer, but not enough to own a house. This should come as no surprise to you, considering my age. I write a lot, though that was given to you freely.
Perhaps I live with my family, or with a friend. Perhaps I live with the woman I am involved with. You don’t know yet. You will.
And remember- you know my first name.
I am drawing attention to your active role in this situation. I feel that this is only fair. Reading is never a passive occupation. You are responsible for many things here. Not least, you will pass judgement on me. You will, because it is inevitable. Think about it. You pass judgement on everything you meet and do. It’s the human way. You are already wondering about me. I am as real as anyone you know, including yourself. Just one more thing. You know very little about me, so far. I know everything about you.
Think about that for a moment. I’m patient. I can wait.
Do you believe in lies? It’s a strange question, I know, but look beneath it. What I mean is, do you realise the importance of lies? Do you agree with them? Do you, yourself, lie? It’s important. Considering what you are about to read, it’s very important.
Pay attention, here. This next bit is complicated. You’ll understand.
The filmy nightgown clings to her body like a lover. Every curve and feature of her nakedness is hinted at by the silken sheaf and he watches her move across the room towards him. Her eyes are heavy with passion, her movement feral, slow, cautious.
He lies back in his seat, eyes locked with hers. She stands over him for a moment, then lowers herself onto him, astride him. He is partially clothed, but she wears only the silk rag.
Their kiss is barely that- they continue the sweaty union of earlier in that joining of mouths. There is no poetry here, not now. The wet noises of tongue-in-cheek that would be amusing to an onlooker only inflames their passions. The love they make is angry. It isn’t really love at all.
Poetry had been so important before. It was how they had got here, after all. The exchange of poems over a long hot summer. They had lived so far apart. It was safe to play with each other with letters sent every other day. The paper games had turned into more physical pursuits. It had ended up here.
The hotel is nothing special. It lies on a main road just outside Belfast. The snow that falls outside is ignored within. Winter in this place is never so bad to be noticed. They had both come here separately, an arranged meeting. He had paid for the room, but she had bought dinner.
The meal had been enjoyed thoroughly- indeed, it was all part of the foreplay. The poetry, the letters, they had all been part of the foreplay. It had lasted six months.
The couple (it’s not a good word to describe them, really) are both practically naked now. They are, to be honest, fucking. It’s not beautiful. It’s not cinematic. It’s necessary. She's wearing an engagement ring. They both agreed it would be funnier if she wore it. She’s engaged, you see. Just not to him, that’s all.
That’s why it’s complicated.
The reason for the above should now be obvious, to you at least. Anyone else reading this may not understand, but I know that you do. You know who the girl is, and who she is engaged to. You don’t know who the man is, though you know it is not you. That alone should be worrying you.
I will tell you, just so you know, that the man was me. The events described took place three hours ago. The girl is gone now, and by the time you read this, she will be with you. You will be man and wife.
Tomorrow is your wedding day.
You will be reading this, no doubt, the morning after your wedding. I will have posted the letter to your hotel the day before, but since your flight doesn’t arrive in London until 11pm, you won’t get it until the morning. Or afternoon, depending on how amorous your wedding night is. Maybe she’s lying beside you in bed. Maybe you are alone. I wonder vaguely how far you will read before throwing these pages down in disgust and seeking out your lying wife. I think, though, that you will read all the way. Good. You and I have a lot to talk about.
I first met your wife (interesting term) over a year ago. We were not close, to begin with. Slowly, however, we got to know each other. We both worked in the same office. She was an editor, I was a writer. The newspaper was a relaxed environment to work in. We were bound to get talking. We went out for lunch together, went shopping together, the usual things two people do when they are trying to get to know each other.
The thing is, she never mentioned you. At all. I thought she was single. So, of course, I tried to get her into my bed. I failed. She played games with me, the very ones I thought I had left behind in school. I had forgotten how exciting the chase was. She enjoyed my attentions. Then, in June, she was transferred to Dublin. I was upset- I don’t drive and she didn’t have a car. We decided to write. It was in those letters that she first told me about you. I must admit, I did go through something of a moral crisis. Should I get involved with a woman who was engaged to another man? She offered. I accepted.
It wasn’t as difficult as you might think. The moral question was answered by the fact that she made it clear that she loved you. She never loved me, and that was fine. I didn’t love her. It was much more basic than that. And more complex- but that can wait.
We just wrote, initially. Then, in August, we began to realise that there was more to us than that. I can’t really explain it, without letting you see the letters. She keeps them in a briefcase in her office, by the way. I always sent the letters there. She asked me to. She didn’t want you to suspect anything. Nice of her, really. Protecting you like that.
Anyway, we began to flirt, to play games in the letters. Safe games, at first. Then I suggested meeting up with her. This was in September. She was unsure, to begin with. But she backed up her written sentiments, and I spent a week with her in Dublin at the end of September.
Seeing her without you suspecting anything was easier than it might seem. Those nights late in the office were spent with me. I was in bed with her when you called that Monday night. She said she sounded strange because she was tired. You’re damn right she was. Eight hours in bed will do that to you.
Why am I being so hard on you? That’s a reasonable question. I’d have to be some bastard to do this to a guy on his honeymoon. Perhaps I have a reason that is better than bitterness or anger. Perhaps I don’t.
Tonight wasn’t the first time I’ve had sex with her. That was in Dublin. But I don’t want to give you the idea that she’d been seeing me behind your back since then. When we parted that Saturday, it was for good. That’s what we had intended. She told me that she loved you, and that you had asked her to marry you the previous week. You had given her a week to think about it. She thought about it a lot. I realised, without bitterness, that I was part of her thinking process. She was sorting out her feelings for you even as we made love. I didn’t feel used. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed her. She is very good in bed, after all. You know that now. I found that amusing, you know, that she wouldn’t sleep with you before you got married. I still laugh about it. But you knew she wasn’t a virgin. That bloke she met in Italy, he really was the first. I, however, was the second. Bronze medal, Martin, isn’t really all that bad.
She didn’t tell me her decision until later. Remember, at this point, I didn’t expect to see her again, and that was fine. I came home and worked some more. I met another girl. She was new in the office, and I actually fell in love with her. It happened so quickly. Two months. I was a different man. The Lewis that had slept with your wife in Dublin was forgotten. I even moved in with her. That was at the start of December.
Rebound. That’s got to go through your mind, yeah? It passed through mine, but I quickly realised that I loved her in a way that had been non-existent with your wife. That was lust. When I mentioned that it was more complicated, that’s what I meant. I fulfilled a need in her that you never did. She enjoyed my poetry, my art. It was something that always frustrated me. Poems poured out from me at times. She held the words in her hands and drank from them like water. No one that I have ever known felt that way about me before. She inspired me to create more and more and she drank it all. She swallowed it all. She licked her lips for more. She drank me dry. I loved it. I loved it.
She sent me a Christmas card. It was simple and uncomplicated. She told me that you were getting married on New Years Day. She asked if she could see me. I arranged the room for New Years Eve, and told my girlfriend that I was spending it with some friends. We arrived at the hotel at about six in the evening. We ate dinner, then went up to the hotel room and fucked until midnight.
Then we talked.
Another flashback. Endure it.
“Tomorrow I’m getting married.”
She is still. She smells of him. She is lying in a tangle of blankets.
“I know. How do you feel about it?”
He lights a Silk Cut, talks a long drag. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out over the city.
“I’m scared. But I’m sure about it.”
He inhales cool smoke, breathes it out.
“You didn’t come here to be talked out of it, I know that.”
She sits up, pulls the blankets around her.
“Maybe. I thought you might try.”
He turns and grins a tobacco stained grin.
“You thought wrong.”
She lights a cigarette (you didn’t know she smoked, did you?)
“Want to know why I came?”
He nods, genuinely curious.
“Because you hate him so much. You’re the last person I’ll ever meet who hates him. Tomorrow I’ll be surrounded by his family and friends. Then I’ll be surrounded by him. Forever. And I’ll forget what he did. And then I’ll love him.”
He smiles. It’s a bastards smile.
“I do hate him. And I’ve never met him.”
“You never will.”
They embrace. It lasts a while. Then they part.
The man and woman are dressed again. It’s late at night, and she has an early start in the morning. It is her wedding day, after all. She stands at the door, he lies on the bed, hands behind his head. They look at each other for a long time.
“Have a nice life, yeah?”
He smiles gently at her, a hint of affection there.
“Yeah. You too.”
Then they part for ever.
Why do I hate you? It’s another good question. I have my reasons. They’ll come in a minute. It should be enough motivation to keep you reading. Very soon you’ll be able to pass that judgement on me. Not yet, mind you. Some evidence is yet to be presented. This race has a little further to run.
I came home about an hour ago. It’s pretty late now, or early. About five in the morning. I walked, by the way. Took me an hour. As I walked, a strange set of feelings came over me. I suddenly felt bored with the whole affair (pardon my pun). And I felt angry. Bitter.
There. It’s out now. No taking it back, because I said it. Anger.
Bitterness. I really don’t have a better reason for doing this. It really is simple. Let’s take them one at a time.
Remember how I knew that she had never let you sleep with her? Right about then you probably felt a little stab of pain. From that shard of guilt, still stuck in your conscience. She told me all about your little indiscretion last Saint Paddys’ day. A few too many pints of Irish nectar?
The last flashback. Guess who’s the star?
The music is loud, even through the floor. The bedroom is dark and alien- they’ve never been in this part of the house before.
“Ah, c’mon. It’s a party. C’mon.”
She pulls away from him, feeling a little sick. It’s only partly the drink.
“No. Martin, no. I told you. Not until we’re married.”
It must be the drink that makes him reach out and grab her arm. He wouldn’t do it if he was sober. Never. The justification makes him smile.
“You want to. I know it.”
He pulls her onto him. She’s too surprised to struggle. He starts unbuttoning her skirt. Her hand, finally, comes to life, and battles with his. There is a tearing sound, vulgar and harsh. The music plays on below.
The skirt is off. The hands fight harder. There is so much less clothing to fight over now.
“Martin! Please, no!”
Her voice is pleading, yet subdued. Their struggle does not warrant the attention of the masses strewn around the house. He giggles drunkenly, and continues the rape.
Her hands move swiftly. She reaches up, and scratches his face, deep and fast. He screams, and pushes her off, his own hands racing upwards to nurse his scars. She sits on the floor where she landed. She looks terrible. She looks sad. And she looks really fucking angry.
She pulls her skirt back on, and leaves the room, clutching it together.
He lies there.
“What have I done?”
He sobers up.
That sort of shite makes me angry. You should have respected her wishes. She cared about you. But you got greedy. You’re some man, Martin. That guy in Italy must have really worried you. Screwed up your masculinity or some such bollocks. Don’t you worry. She didn’t sleep with you because she loved you. She wanted what you had together to be special. She didn’t want you to think she was cheap, or easy. She loved you, despite your greed, your impatience.
Makes you wonder why she slept with me. I’ll tell you why. She needed to get something out of her system. She needed to get rid of it before she married you. She used me to do this, and I let her. I knew what she was doing, and I went along with it. All the anger she felt for you was exorcised tonight. She emptied it all over me, and now I stink of it. The hate I have for you is hers. It couldn’t be mine. I’ve never met you.
That’s why I’m bitter. I’m taking on her burden. She loves you and she fucks me. She loves you and she fucks me.
I feel so used. I feel so stupid. I’m the one who got screwed over here, not you.
Just a minute. Time to come clean. Maybe you do deserve a little fair play. I lied. I lied to you.
I did love her. I wanted her to love me back. She admired me, and inspired me, but she never, ever loved me. She kept that for you, locked up in some stupid box deep down inside. I loved her, and all I could taste was her love for you. It grew greater each time we met, each time she dumped more and more of her hate onto me.
So. I’m angry. I’m bitter. Maybe I’m dumping some of her hate back onto you. That’s where it probably belongs. I know I don’t want it. Maybe it’s her I want to hurt, not you.
Like I said, I lied to you. Maybe about more than you think. Let’s say I didn’t sleep with her. Let’s say that I talked to her a lot, and she told me one night at a staff party, drunk on Babycham, about your little romantic interlude. Maybe I barely know her.
Then again, maybe I do. You’ll wonder a lot about what’s true, and what’s not. Maybe this letter is more than a petty gesture of revenge. Maybe not.
The envelope is beside me. There’s a patchwork of stamps on one corner, I couldn’t really tell you how many. It’ll be enough. Pretty soon I’ll finish typing and decide whether or not to post this. A few loose ends to tie up, first of all.
The wrapping paper is actually quite important. It contained a present from your wife. A collection of poems. Wallace Stevens. She wrote a message on it. I bet you want to know what it was. Tough. I’ve revealed so much that you need some mystery. Funny thing is, it’ll keep you awake some night years from now. What did she write in Lewis’ book?
I never said I was nice.
I’m still deciding whether or not to send this. After reading over it, I do realise the harm it’ll do if it gets to you. I’m still deciding. It will let me know what kind of bastard I really am.
And, if you’re reading this, you’ll know too.