A Totally Gruesome Document Detailing a Relationship: Journal Entries, 2012

I FEEL LIKE we’ve lost a lot of steam in this relationship.

I don’t want to be a novelty item.

The other night, while we were talking about union organizing, with our opposing viewpoints, I was searching, stammering, for the right word, and you gave me this look: it was like there was steam coming out of your eyeballs. You looked like you hated me. Like you wanted me to die, because I support unions.

We are boredom associates.

A relationship should make you feel better about yourself.

You said there was a risk to having sex like we do, that it becomes fucking, not intimacy. Totally loveless. Parts, not people.

The first kiss is when you drop me off and say goodnight.


We were having anal sex and it hurt.

I don’t mind anal sex when it’s done right, I usually enjoy it, but it’s not something I crave with any daily regularity, so I was resentful and annoyed that you went there, after we had just done it that way the night before. Anal sex had become part of our rut, and I was quietly simmering, angry that you didn’t seem to care about our rut.

I, on the other hand, had addressed our rut in an offhand manner.

Our sex life had been incredible, but now it was formulaic. Why? How can passion be lost so quickly? Where does it go?

You stopped kissing me.

Here is our sexual routine:

Take your clothes off.

I put my clothes on the loveseat that you had moved upstairs in better times; times befitting the transformation of your bedroom into a lover’s boudoir: antique mirrors, four-poster California king- sized bed, two reupholstered foot stools, and my own set of white mahogany dresser drawers, filled with my neatly folded bed shirts (your cast off button-downs, which you put away, ironed and starched, shoulders-squared, military-style), and lingerie I brought from home. We’d been together only two weeks when you bought me a toothbrush and put it the bathroom. The gesture made me nervous, something so small, yet so rife with expectation, and not a cheap toothbrush. You told me you loved me two weeks into our relationship, while we were having sex. I felt embarrassed for you. I told you it was ok, I understood, you’d gotten caught up in the moment, though you never took it back. Sixty-year-old man as stereotyped teenage girl. It was a very human moment.

Take your clothes off.

Which also means my pretty bra and underwear, which I would like to showcase, but you couldn’t care less about. I used to attribute this to the fact that you’d been a hippie, the real deal, a relic from the winds of San Francisco hitting the East Coast in the sixties. You don’t undress me. It is understood that I undress myself, though you know I would prefer it if you did.

Bend over, spread your legs, I want access. 

Earlier in our relationship, you had asked me my favorite sexual position and I said from behind. I thought you were gung- ho on doing it this way because of my answer. I was wrong. It turned out to be a serendipitous response.

Wait: before entry, you need to get hard.

I drop to my knees and suck you off. Sometimes it takes work to get you hard. You take Cialis, which I imagine is totally normal for someone your age.

The first time we had sex, you had a hard time getting it up and said, “I’m so embarrassed, this has never happened before.” I remember thinking, “Almost a year without sex, and here I am, splayed and naked, foiled by the devil impotence!” The dress I’d been wearing earlier that night, I’d gotten online, second- hand, from a pin-up hula-hoop Satanist. You, who had no prior experience with impotence, went downstairs and got your cock ring.  I hope I don’t sound mean, I don’t want to be. I hope I don’t sound bitter, I’m not.  It must be an incredibly embarrassing thing for a man to address, especially so early in a relationship.

You’re always talking and directing. Once intimacy left the relationship, talking and directing took over, or maybe your want for talking and directing pushed it out.  No more spontaneity, no more creativity, and we had been so creative, and spontaneous. It’s funny; I never knew I cared so much about intimacy. I suppose I’ve always been lucky in having it.

Is that cock hard enough for you, baby? Suck my nipple. I want you open. Easy access. 

Uh-hum, uh-hum. I contributed to the rut. I thought I enjoyed submissiveness. I didn’t know it would become my only role.

This was the problem when the anal sex hurt.

Earlier, you’d asked me to bite your cock. Chew on it, you said. I guess I chewed with a gusto, because you told me that I was hurting you, so I stopped. When you tried to jam your cock up my ass for the second time in as many nights, I was already stewing with resentment. It was part of what I meant when I told you to stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was like you were fucking me like that so you wouldn’t have to look at me. My saying stop was a deviation from the script. The leitmotif of our sex life has become I take what you give me. I follow your direction and honor your script. You’re allowed to say stop because it hurts, but I’m not.

Early in our relationship, during the honeymoon period in which you presented yourself as a warm, funny, loving, text all the time, think I’m the smartest, most beautiful, best piece of ass you’ve ever had all the time person, something similar happened. We were having sex, and you accidentally jabbed me in the ass, full force. Searing fucking pain. If the job of comedy is to help us come to terms with tragedy, I felt that I understood the entire trope of prison jokes completely. This was while our relationship was still in its infancy, when it still had passion and intimacy,  and you’d stopped immediately, because that is what you do when you hurt someone, even someone you care about only a little bit. You stop.

Last night, I told you that you hurt me, and we broke up.

It’s funny when things come full circle, and you can tie it all up in a neat little bow.


One thing that might be hard for me to think about, that might trigger nostalgia in me for our relationship, is your glasses. I’ve always had a thing for Indiana Jones, ever since I was a little girl, and you always reminded me of Indiana Jones, erudite Professor Jones in his university classroom, with your glasses on.

You said poor impulse control could cause you problems. You said if the permission was there, you might take advantage of it, and told me an anecdote about rough sex where you threw your ex-girlfriend across the room. You said there were no hard feelings, but it was a revelation to you, that you needed to watch yourself.

When did you first decide I wasn’t the person you idealized? (There’s a part of me that wants to live up to all expectations, even the unrealistic ones.) The night I took too much Xanax and got sloppy? When I stammered in the union conversation? I felt you getting resentful toward me. Still, you wanted to see me and fuck me and be with me all the time. Maybe it’s your depression and uncertainty about your future. Maybe it’s our twenty-five-year age difference. What hurts the most is the rejection. Underneath it all, my worst fear is, like everyone else’s, that I am unlovable. My second worst fear is that I am like everyone else.

The loss, a month ago, of the compliments, the affectionate texts, the kissing. When I mentioned it last night, you wouldn’t address it.

“How come I felt closer to you at the beginning of our relationship?”

“I have no answer for that.” Pause. “What do you suggest we might do?”

“I don’t know. I can’t be in a relationship with a person who doesn’t want to kiss me.”

No response.

When the kissing stopped, at first I assumed it was some domination game. Did you want me to beg you? Did you want to see if I’d put up with it?

I had mentioned it once before and you’d acted like you’d just “forgotten” and went out of your way to kiss me for the rest of the night, then the next day, back to no kissing, and now you knew what you were doing, and how it made me feel.

“Don’t do anything rash,” you said to me on the drive home last night.  Then, “I’m going to be sad, but I’m not going to beat myself up over this.”

Suck and Fuck had become a mantra. For some reason, you decided that I loved to hear you say it and would ask me to repeat it back to you.  Strangely, five years ago, right around this time, Henry and I had broken up (you told me you didn’t want to hear anything else about Henry after you accidentally read a short story I’d written about him. “I don’t want to know any more than I need to about your ex-boyfriends,” you said) and he was driving me home after what I’d stumbled across on his computer: Suck and Fuck. It was the subject line of one of the emails in his inbox.  He’d been messaging transsexual prostitutes on Craigslist, looking to hook up with them. I like to suck and fuck, he’d written, as a way of introducing himself.

The full circle of things that don’t work out.

It’s worth noting that when I started crying at your kitchen table, I heard you rounding the corner, and thought for certain you were coming to console me. Instead, you just walked on by. I can hear the Dionne Warwick song in my head as I write this.

Earlier in the night, you’d said something, offhandedly, about a friend who was dating someone, who in your opinion (but not hers) was beneath her.  You said something about “any port in a storm.”

Is that what I am to you? Is that why you’re with me, despite your coldness? Am I any port in a storm?

I’ll never date a much older man again. As pathetic as it sounds, it pains me that I do not have the power of Anna Nicole Smith.


The pain I feel is not of heartbreak, but of rejection and scam. So many things about you are repulsive to me now, but they were always repulsive. The hairdresser who started to cry after you berated her for making you wait for your appointment. The constant reminder of the cost of your Nordstrom shirts. ($80.) How many times in different company did I listen to you tell the personal shopper story? There could be sweetness, but it fell away. I tried to always be sweet.

If you were to call now, I’d be disassociated from my feelings. My anger would be dissipated; no, I’d just be disconnected from it. The time to stay away from the phone is now. I have Xanax brain. It wouldn’t be that my feelings had changed, they’d just be misplaced.

I could be so many things if the little nagging, treacherous voice inside my head would just STFU.

“Tragic hoes.”

I thought I wanted to be degraded, but I wanted to be degraded with love.

You wanted me to talk during sex and what came out was, “You hate me.”


It’s not my birthright, my job, to school old men. I’m not the revelation that comes along in their twilight years to melt their cold, cold hearts. My vagina is not a last chance saloon.

I said once that my advice to you would be to have sex with a “fat” woman and love a child. I said it like I was joking, but I’m proud of myself for having said it, because the sentiment is true. I could tell that it resonated with you, because you were speechless, and you’re never speechless. Courtney Love said in an interview once that after she and Kurt got married, she encouraged him to have sex with a model, because she wanted him to enjoy the cliché rock star spoils of success, because they had both (but Kurt especially) come from a community that had made its identity on rejecting all of that, disavowing the whole rock star thing. What she was saying was that she wanted him to feel free. That was what I meant when I said that to you. That you need to do something, experience something, free of any phony pretenses. Just you and the other person, not you, the other person, and the politics of what it means to be a man. At your age, you might not have that much time left.


I don’t understand. When I was young, it seemed like men (boys?) used to fall in love with me all the time. Girls (women?) wanted to be my friend. I was smart and witty. What happened? I lost my imagination. My belief in magic. I got frayed.

After Henry and I broke up, after I found the Craigslist emails on his computer, in a moment of weakness, I texted him:

It kills me that you can resist me, I wrote.

He texted back: I can’t.

But he could.

He had also gone inexplicably cold.


Henry used to say all his ex-girlfriends were crazy. You say all your ex-girlfriends were alcoholics.

Beware of any man who puts all his ex-girlfriends in the same ghetto.


I want a man who will chase after me. You tripped over my baggage, when it could have been easily navigated by more agile feet.

A definitive mark of maturity is the last time you told someone to eat shit and die.

The problem with this relationship is that look on your face.


He said nothing, just sat there impatiently like he was deigning, stooping, limboing low to spend time with me, a drama queen. He kept reiterating it was a spontaneous act to come see me. He said it so many times it was obvious it was anything but. He’s not as smart as he pretends to be.

I think I’m becoming repulsive.

The TV was on in the other room, and I heard a character on a sitcom say, “any port in a storm.” The writing on the wall is a warning. But why do I still want to see him? Why didn’t I just ask him to leave? Why do I tell myself it’s only to make sure it’s over? It’s drugs. I’m trying to recapture the high of him.

I have a strong desire to take a shower in the dark.

No country for old men except my vagina.


I went to Planned Parenthood this morning, convinced my IUD was coming out, and afraid to go anywhere near the hard black plastic thing emerging from my vagina. I was afraid of my own organ, Germaine Greer would not have been proud.  It was his cock ring (a small, tight elastic, not the spiky, dinosaur-looking things that my punk rock friends used to have). I told the doctor, thank you for everything, you are beautiful, but I will never be coming back, I will be switching OBGYN’s immediately, out of shame. She said don’t be embarrassed, young lady, I’ve found all sorts of ephemeral objects in vaginas—shampoo bottle caps, erasers. She thought the cock ring was part of a condom, and I did not correct her. I’m not going to bother telling him. He’d probably be pissed I didn’t retrieve it from the hazardous waste receptacle.


What’s important is revealed under dire circumstances, otherwise it’s confused.

The girl was sad. She felt beaten down. She felt she had tried and was a good catch. Yes, she had her baggage, but she was redeemable, like a plastic bottle at the bottle return. She was a good project, with a reward on the other side. Loyal, attractive, loving, fun in the sack.

If you are sixty, on your own, not a widower, not gay, nor recently divorced, chances are you might be insufferable.

I asked the million dollar question, and got the five-cent answer.

In a traumatic situation, you focus on the object—the gun, the knife—not the person behind it.


ARGOSIES: an abundant supply.

The night my dad died had been a shitty day, an abject lesson in no matter how bad things are, they can always get much, much worse. It was the night of my high school’s Christmas Ball, which was like a winter prom, but open to the whole school. My junior year, my girlfriends and I had started importing our love interests from New Haven, the freakier-looking, the better, and this was in the ’90s, when letting your freak flag fly still took dedication and ingenuity. Kids today have it so freak-easy, and as a side result, children no longer point and whisper, and old women don’t clutch their pocketbooks. My date was a sinister boy named Andrew, who looked like a living, breathing corpse, and wore his hair in a million skinny red braids, which sounds horrible now, but at the time, I found to be alluring. He’d come in on the train from New Haven, and came to school with me the day of the dance. You used to be able to do that at my school, bring your friends with you, if their parents wrote a note giving permission. After lunch, someone pulled the fire alarm, and Andrew was taken from the class he’d been in with me. The whole thing was a set-up: when Andrew and I had gone into the principal’s office that morning to drop off his note, it was obvious that the way he looked absolutely put the principal on edge. Andrew was handcuffed and taken to the train station in a cop car. The police stayed and waited at the station until the train physically left to make sure that he was gone. I remember hysterically throwing myself onto the floor of the girl’s bathroom, and writing FTW on my backpack in red magic marker. Of course, I still went to the dance. My friends and I had put so much effort into our crazy outfits, and they still had their freaky dates to go with. When I got home that night, my mother was standing in the kitchen, crying. My father was dead.

For a young boy, dead dads destroy dreams. For a young girl, they shape future lovers.


He thinks about salvaging our relationship in taglines, slogans, like you see on movie posters and DVD covers. Movie man/action hero speak. What would you be willing to do to save the best fuck of your life? Sometimes when he’s thinking these thoughts, he thinks he hears the faint toot-toot of a Klondike whistle: Save the cunt, save the world! 

Greatest quotes:

After seeing a picture of me from high school: “It’s probably good you weren’t attractive when you were younger. If you were attractive then, you might not be attractive now. You might have used it all up.” (This is an example of male beauty math.)

“Today you’re the best-looking girl in the room, but this won’t always be the case.”

“I wasn’t attracted to you because of your beauty. Oh no….”


A young girl is crouching by a bridge. Below, a man and woman find sexual congress in the dirt. The young girl has never seen such a thing. She’s not naive, she’s read books. The man’s ass rises, then descends. The woman’s hands dig into the muscles of his ass. The young girl is so lost in the scene, she can’t look away.

Tell me what you like the most.

What it is that gives you hope.

What leads you to lock your legs and get out of bed in the morning?


I know why I am attracted to older men.  I like the banter. It’s the way I used to talk to my dad, to my grandfather. I sit down on their couch, put the dirty soles of my shoes all over their clean table, and they play cards, and I say dumb, silly things, and try to be shocking. I’ve found a way to stay a kid forever. Or at least a little while longer. So I sleep with it.


This morning on my walk to work, I made my regular morning stop at a local convenience store to get coffee and cigarettes. When I got to the counter, there was a problem with the credit card machine, so I had to look in my wallet for money, which I hardly ever carry with me, as I used my debit card for everything. The change I had in my wallet was down to the dregs, so I put back the cigarettes, but felt obligated to pay for the coffee, as I’d made it according to my preferences. I dug around in my wallet and managed to come up with the $1.40, but I felt on the spot with other customers in line behind me, so I tried to be fast. I caught a flash of my lucky quarter in my wallet: my lucky quarter is a quarter that’s a quarter of a quarter; I’m not sure how it got that way, or where I got it, but it’s been my good luck charm for years. I gave the cashier my change and beat it. When I got down the street, the thought went through my mind: I didn’t just give her my lucky quarter, did I? I knew that if I looked, and found the quarter gone, I’d make myself turn around and go back to the store, and as a result, be late for work, so I made myself wait until I got to work to look in my bag. Of course, once I got there, I couldn’t find it, and started to panic. That afternoon, I had my annual evaluation with my boss. I had three poems under consideration at Highfalutin magazine. Without my lucky quarter, my world might fall apart. Maybe everything good in my life that had happened over the last few years had happened on account of that lucky quarter. I did not want to find out.

I called my mother, my Roman Oracle of Delphi for everything.

“Mom,” I said. “I think I may have paid with my lucky quarter at Henny Penny. Should I call and ask the counter person to look in the cash register?”

She said, “Don’t fret Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. Yet.”

No, she didn’t say that. She said that she had been in the same store that morning, coincidentally, and if it was still the same woman working behind the counter, she seemed nice. I reassured myself by imagining that customers would bristle at the sight of my quarter if she were to attempt to give it to them as change.

“Hello,” I said, after looking up the phone number to Henny Penny on my phone, “I was just in there and think I may have paid for my coffee with my lucky quarter. Could you please look for me? I hate to be a pain in the ass.”

She was nice, as my Oracle had predicted.

“I’m sorry,” she said, with sympathy that sounded legit.

“Could you look for me, if you get the chance, and if you find it, put it aside?”

“Of course,” she said, “but it sounds very distinctive, and I’m looking in the cash register right now, and I don’t see it.”

“Could I leave you my name and phone number in case it turns up?”

“Of course,” she said. She liked that affirmation. “I have a pen right here.”

The idea that my cosmic protection shield might be gone forever left me feeling incredibly exposed. Having a good luck charm is a lot like having a child, but a child that’s also a parent. You can’t imagine your life without it. You have to take care of your good luck charm as much as it takes good care of you.

My co-workers were starting to arrive and I felt weird frantically searching my bag in front of them, so I went into the bathroom and pulled down the diaper changing table in the handicap stall. The thing about belief in magic is that it actually creates magic. I was tongue-tied already, just saying “good morning” to my co-workers. I was starting to think it might be a good idea to just feign sickness and go home.

But then I found it, sliver of silver, quarter of a quarter, it had fallen out of my wallet and hidden itself behind a discarded gum wrapper in my bag. I chew a lot of gum, and no one could ever accuse me of being a litter bug.

My day could start anew, so many Armageddons averted.

I told myself I would find a new therapist soon.


I told him about the cock ring. I got shit-faced and found the humiliation of the situation to be too much not to share. We were getting along very well last night, which is another reason.  I felt a measure of familiarity and comfort. I asked him to spit on/strangle me. It was fun, but we’re both too complicated for loving. Things no longer seem that dire or desperate now that I’ve accepted this.  As we were leaving his house, the garbage man asked us if I was his daughter. He didn’t answer, and looked away with a grumpy look on his face. I don’t think he saw me turn toward the man and nod my head yes.


About Fiona Helmsley

Fiona Helmsley is a writer of creative nonfiction and poetry. Her writing can be found in various anthologies like Ladyland and the forthcoming Best Sex Writing 2015 and online at websites like Jezebel, Junk Lit, The Hairpin, The Fanzine, and The Rumpus. Her book of essays, stories, and poems, My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers, will be released later this year.
This entry was posted in Memoir, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Totally Gruesome Document Detailing a Relationship: Journal Entries, 2012

  1. Sean Murphy says:

    More than a handful of contenders, but this line goes FTW:

    For a young boy, dead dads destroy dreams. For a young girl, they shape future lovers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *