A short story by Andrew Hook
– a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that the one they love is also in love with them
When my tutor, Tom, 37, wife, two kids, living in suburbia, told me this in the darkened lecture hall, my hand dangling casually between my legs, I knew he had found a way to pass on the secret of his love. Happiness spread like an aurora, spotlighting me amongst the crowd of fifty students. He had picked me out as easily as a cherry pit.
I listened intently. The lecture he had spent hours preparing was a eulogy for his feelings. Standing behind the lectern, dust motes floated like orbs from the darkness into the light. At his close perspective they were invisible. But I could see them. I knew they were there.
Afterwards I rose languorously from my seat, smoothing out the creases in my skirt. Similar to a cinema showing, some left more eagerly than others. I always waited for the end credits. I strode down the aisle as he collated his notes. When he barely glanced I knew it cemented the secrecy.
“Great lecture,” I said, half-out of the doorway, half-in. “Thanks.”
He mumbled something impossible to catch. Yet I heard it anyway.
– a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking
I am 19, studying psychology and art history. I have a mole above my left breast that resembles a third nipple under the right conditions, although there is an absence of sensitivity. I’m told my legs are my best feature, if you’re looking for that kind of thing.
You know me already.
What is your wife’s name and age?
What are your children’s names and ages?
The life-work of Salvador Dalí is a great challenge for the psychology of art from a psychoanalytic point of view. For an artist who deliberately included psychological symbols in his work one has to discern the affected psychology from the hidden psychology. Even with Dali, there must have been influences, conjunctions, and metaphors within his paintings that the artist didn’t deliberately place there.
My art history lecturer, David, 48, divorced twice, unknown progeny, lives on campus, speaks to a small number of us. I understand he’s selected the group specifics in order to mask the feelings he has for me from the rest of the student faculty.
Including myself there are three girls and two boys. From the five, two of us are listening attentively. There are fewer boys so the male/female ratio when including David is 50/50. David will have realised one of the boys, Zachary, is already going steady with Chloe. Having done his research he will know that Piotr has expressed an interest in me. That leaves Lauren with her long brown hair and obsequious pout for himself. That’s the non sequitur. He has claimed Lauren for himself as a ruse to keep the feelings we share hidden.
It is Lauren and I who are listening attentively, yet it is only me that David speaks to. When he describes Dali’s painting, The Great Masturbator, 1929, I understand he is expressing the sex act he intends to initiate with me. The centre of the painting depicts a distorted head facing downwards, another figure has fresh cuts on his knees. The woman, representing Gala’s muse, holds her face close to a thinly clad male crotch. Between us, David and I will rotate in the role of each of the figures. When David shows us a section of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights which resembles The Great Masturbator turned on its side then the duplicity of this private lecture is further confirmed.
Within the art, within the psychology, lie the keys to those I love and those who love me.
I reach and point to the suggestion of a moustache on the image in the Bosch painting for no other reason than because David’s fingers grip the facsimile at that height. Withdrawing my hand I lightly run a teal-painted nail down the length of his index finger and smile.
It doesn’t bother me that the other students might have noticed. What is important is that David’s fluster irrigates my cleft and his subsequent attempt to not acknowledge the bond between us further emphasises his entrenched romantic desires.
Who is this?
I reflexively bite my bottom lip as I decide how to answer the email, aware of the sexuality in the gesture which is completely unintended. Tom knows who it is. He is forced to hide his desire in case his emails are monitored. The governing board disapproves of relationships between students and lecturers. Not because of concerns over age differentials, but because they don’t want parents believing they are sending their children to a fuck-fest. I don’t have any of those concerns.
I type back: the one that you love.
– a group of similar things or people positioned or occurring closely together
I imagine you and I in surrealistic sexual reverie. The glans of your penis presented within wet muslin. Strands of your beard transform into finger-tendrils which explore my labia as your head is bent to my cunt. I close my legs, pop your head inside with the sound of trodden bladderwrack, caress your penis within the material as your lips mouth devotional love.
Tom’s eyes are bleary because of me. He will find each evening an immersion in cold torpor with my return an elliptical orbit blasting love like electricity throughout his senses. I see him scan the lecture hall, identifying me. Although he hides this identification by gazing at each female student in turn, this is simply to ensure our love remains secret. The lecture begins once he’s positioned me in his thoughts.
When I lick my fingers to turn the pages of the accompanying text they are already wet.
Tom’s psychology would paint me as an aggressively sexual female, a textbook case of promiscuousness, with all my mannerisms, contact and focus determined by excessive sexual conduct. He would hide my diagnosis within the dictionary definition of promiscuity as being not only frequent but indiscriminate sexual behaviour. Yet again this would be a mask to conceal the relationship between the two of us. That there is nothing indiscriminate. We are in love, and it is but a quirk of fate that the relationship is polygamous.
Confrontation is looming. No doubt they are thinking of ways to declare what we already know without jeopardising their tenure or – in Tom’s case – current relationship status.
As Tom’s voice continues throughout the lecture I imagine him watch me contort David’s body in a paroxysm of intimacy.
Holding their fingertips as they remain motionless I run across a buttercup field, extending their fingers in sexual elasticity, the psychology of the gesture mirroring the growth of love between us and by literal extension the movements within their trousers.
That morning, in addition to my emails sent from my anonymous address, both Tom and David received Valentine’s Day cards and individually made cup-cakes with marzipan hearts topping pink icing.
It is the 27th October.
David’s expression is gloomy when I see him standing by the coffee machine. He affects disinterest as I approach his shoulder, wait for him to make a choice. When one of his coins slips from his grip as he presses it against the vertical slot, I catch it before it hits the floor and touch his fingers as I return it to him.
Just for a moment he allows a flicker of understanding into his eyes.
I imagine him allowing more than a cursory glance at my body as we stand in close proximity, but he somehow manages to contain the gesture. My heart pounds and my face flushes: all the natural exhibits of love and excitement. His mouth opens: perhaps to make contact. But as if speaking our mutual desire would kill it he only says thankyou; then David leaves without remembering to discharge the coins he has already input or to select a beverage. In his wake, it is I who satisfies the machine, and when I drink the coffee under the oak tree in the courtyard I imagine it is David’s semen trickling down my throat. The only bitterness is taste and not emotion.
Tom has not answered my email.
David’s response would be jerky if written on the page.
I love them both for their discretion.
What makes anyone believe the person they love is in love with them, I respond to Tom in my essay on erotomania. Isn’t that just wish-fulfilment? I write in the confidence that he will read between the lines. That only he and he alone could understand the psychology of my emotions.
1. have sexual intercourse with (someone)
2. damage or ruin (something)
Emily if this is you then you have to stop.
I love that you used my name!
Passing Tom’s office the previous afternoon I recognised the white envelope that had contained his Valentine’s Day card in the wastebin. I scanned the empty corridor casually, then entered and closed the door behind me. The card was also in the bin. As was the cake. I smiled. Even in the confines of his office he took great pains concealing our forbidden love from the rest of the world.
More than anything it is the way he protects me which causes me to love him all the more.
On this occasion I am unable to sneak into David’s office, but I wonder whether his curiosity was ever roused by the scuff marks which appeared on the seat of his leather chair. Whether that morning, a few months ago, he opened his office door and detected a scent other than that which he was used to.
The university will go through the motions of warning or expulsion, of refuting the singularity of our love, of assigning different tutors wherever possible, of attempting to stifle the indescribable joy which visits each of us upon the other’s presence.
They could even suspend them from office.
These tragedies are within their command.
But they cannot prevent the image cascade:
My face beatific as I kneel and take each of them in my mouth. My smile erupting a daffodil petal texture. Clouds pouring from their orifices dissipating in a bright pink sky.
Our sofa-cuddled humour.
The shared ecstasy as they stand, clinging to each other, staggering under the motion of blurred fingers.
A surrealistic montage of psychological potency: David’s penis wedged against my anus as Tom pulls a sugarmouse from the hollow of my thighs. A purple glitch of meadows and nobility on horseback. Bare ankles leading to adventure. A string of family laughter as fresh as conception. An exotic emotional flush.
Everything together at once. A clustered fuck.
Our love blossoms in the quiet places, at the interstices of reality and imagination.
And it’s impossible to dampen the sea.
Andrew Hook’s most recent publications are the short story collection Human Maps (EibonvalePress), and Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel: a personal analysis (RoosterVision).