Minor Star by C. F. Lovett
i spent a lot of my adolescence thumbing through discards from my mom’s book club—mostly novels about romances between divorcees and the new men in their second acts. if you are what you eat, i was destined to mimic those paperback plots.
my marriage—a good one, for the most part—ended at twenty-six and i was fixed in ambient terror for the next year. so after that hard heave around the sun, i hitched my wagon to a new star. a minor star, sure, but he had a blue checkmark, a ring light in his living room and fervent teenage fans.
this is a sophomore album, this is a moon landing. this is all theatrics. this is about wanting to fuck someone you hate.
it isn’t snowing the night before christmas eve but imagine it is and that fat flakes are falling in the glow of shop windows. this is my story. please also imagine a soundtrack as i near the restaurant with a bag of last-minute gifts. maybe a song that begins with a violin and then goes: words are falling from your lips like christmas to my hips so dangerous the strangest feeling of being. we kiss cheeks by the entrance and i can smell the star’s cologne even before he removes his coat. he’s in a teen drama i don’t want to watch and looks younger than he is: handsome, neighbourly, castable. he’s convinced i should be his and i’m convinced of nothing. what are you doing later, he asks when the plates are cleared. i want to go home. nothing.
back at his hotel, his touch sparks no heat but i climb on top of him out of duty. a few months from now he’ll say this drove him wild but i’m just trying to move things along. he pulls off his sweatshirt to reveal two chains around his thick neck and a smooth chest. now i’m paying attention. a glimmer of gold; i’m affected not at all and then all at once. reader, i remove my dress as if to say yes.
i like you too much, he explains on the hotel bed when things wane and then stop. i put my clothes back on then place his hand on the bare skin between my ripped tights for a moment and leave.
rapture when he really does fuck me for the first time. my first memory of the new decade is hunger on my sheets. frank bidart writes:
the night we found we were starving, what
i’ve always known i’m greedy, i’d just given up on a full meal. i’m a bottomless pit. i don’t want mild weather, i want the wallop of a storm. i long to be outdone by someone else’s desire for once so i left my marriage in search of it.
i found it here: covered in sweat, he fucks me like he hates me. he watches me while he does—i’ve never had a lover so present. careful, someone might hear. as soon as it’s over, we begin again. once, with my nipple in his mouth: please don’t move or i’ll cum. days and days like this in the darkness of my room, while outside, it begins to snow for real.
his face looks elongated when he’s above me which i think distorts and emphasizes his beauty and by now i’m certain he’s beautiful. it isn’t just me though, thousands say as much on the pictures he posts online.
he flies home and sends me pictures of his cock from his shower while i wait in line to renew my health insurance. he asks me to respond with photos of my open mouth. leonard cohen says it’s an aspect of a lover’s generosity to be in two places at once. the star returns to toronto and texts precise instructions for how he should find me in hotel rooms. i obey, except for once when i don’t and he leaves me cold and alone on the bed and i don’t know where he goes. we pocket the scented soaps from the bathrooms.
back and forth across that frozen country: when i get sick on a plane, a flight attendant presses ice on my wrists.
we are wrapped around each other. once, on his couch, i ask him to slap my face and we both like it. one night he hits me with his belt, over and over, then touches me gently. he calls me the rude things i ask him to. he wants to pretend i’m his prostitute which works because we’re both certain i’m here to please him.
i marvel over his body, his broad legs, the pulse in his neck, the precious metal around it. i could spend hours playing with him and i do. once i ask him to make love to me and he says no. fine, we won’t call it that.
a scene from his apartment: afternoon light is falling through the parted curtains and i’m reading to him aloud, too aware that an actor knows good inflection from bad. it’s jeanette winterson’s written on the body:
you said “i love you.”… you did not say it first and neither did i, yet when you say it and
when i say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them.
that dam breaks by february. i did love him, i did.
we work through his filmography but i’m bored when he’s not on screen. i say someone in love with him should make a movie starring only him so he can be worshiped by a camera like he deserves. make it an hour long at least. no supporting actors, no distractions. you should do it, he says. okay, i answer, i will.
he’s been sick for years and is getting sicker. a time-lapse of his naked form would show it shrinking and there would be no way to slow its decline. i understand illness; the body is humiliating. i cook him soft foods, hold him gently and tuck him into bed.
love is humiliating. he always wants to touch and the bathroom is the only place i can be alone. when i take a bath, he asks if he can join. the answer is no but he opens the door and walks in. if i kept a diary he would read it. once i try to leave and he is furious then reminds me that he’s sensitive. i’m all in, he says, are you? sorry, i’ll stay. i exit the browser where i’ve been looking at flights. we look at engagement rings. i’m already housebroken. i’m also afraid of the unknown.
i’m still someone else’s wife. my husband—my best fair-weather friend—never crowded me like this, did he? but the star reminds me just enough of what i left behind that i’m grateful for a second chance. an economist who teaches financial literacy to football players who come into money fast and young says: there are many ways to blow a sudden fortune.
the pandemic sets in so i don't go home. i vomit in his toilet most afternoons. i take pregnancy tests even though it’s too early. he puts his hand on my stomach and we calculate our savings. you probably are pregnant, but even if you’re not, i want you to be, he says. the idea of my breasts and belly swelling with him turns him on. to me, his cum inside me seems like the ultimate sexual act and i’ve already begun my delayed journey toward erotic absolution, so what the hell. okay, i say. when he does it we cling to one another and it feels exact.
he’s admitted to the hospital. we’re allowed to meet only in the lobby where we aren’t permitted to touch. for both of us, recently deluged with contact, the lack is a jolt. i keep my ringer on to answer his calls in the middle of the night. he cries. my pelvis aches. someone suggests an ectopic pregnancy. i talk to his family on the phone. it goes without saying that i’ll be his full-time caretaker when he is discharged. i’m afraid to catch the virus that might kill him. we’re both losing weight. don’t tell me when you take another test, he texts from his hospital bed, i can’t handle it. okay. i start to bleed but keep vomiting. i go to the emergency room and a young doctor reaches a hand inside me. i picture the star asleep a few floors above the examination table. poor thing.
the climactic conflict is complicated and also a little boring. one crisis is manageable but two means the audience must either divide their attention or decide which matters most.
in short, the star is angry because now i am his mother-saint who shouldn’t reveal her own pain but i do. the morning he comes home: i go back to the hospital where a technician hands me a jellied ultrasound wand to insert myself, return to clean his apartment, fold his laundry, arrange flowers and prepare more beige meals. i can barely stand. he really wants me to jerk him off—his built-up cum spills out thick like glue—but otherwise recoils from my touch. i want to cradle him. i’m an ugly creature in his house, a fixture on his couch, a tally on the prison wall. an insidious nurse. in times of great stress, hate can ricochet off one thing and land on another.
the next night, in his bedroom: he’s high on painkillers and i’m looking out the window. he always had a distinct bodily scent about him but now it has a new, medicinal edge. i’m quiet and it makes him angrier. fuck you, he spits. i leave the room. he yells something that he meant to be cruel but it falls flat.
(in a moment like this, think of the man as a little boy: once he took me to his parents’ house and showed me his boyhood bedroom full of trophies.)
we agree i should go. i wear a mask on the plane and spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel room, sick with regret and writing an apologetic letter. i admonish myself. for what? everything.
he writes to his fan accounts and tells them to remove pictures of us. bloggers that posted photographs i took of him: instructed to destroy the evidence. or maybe he gets his manager to do it. either way, post-orgasmic clarity rushes in and i sober up. how swiftly idolatry curdles into embarrassment, how all of a sudden.
a month later i receive an e-mail of inspired length. he details my worthlessness in just over three thousand words. there’s a reason everyone loves me and everyone has a problem with you, he writes. his attack is missile-grade but to be fair, he doesn’t know that i’ve stopped wanting him to strike. one line of the diatribe is pretty good writing.
some plunderers will ignite a village on their way out just to make rebuilding impossible. and if the match won’t light, they’ll urge the villagers toward self-immolation instead.
when the poet robert lowell wrote of his then-wife lady caroline blackwood, he described her as a deficient, lusty mermaid who dined on the bones of her winded lovers. in winterson’s sexing the cherry, an insecure husband thought his wife so dangerous that he chained her up like a falcon. having finally had enough, the bride says:
i was none of these things, but i became them. at night, in june i think, i flew off his
wrist and tore his liver from his body, and bit my chain in pieces and left him on the bed
with his eyes open.
he looked surprised, i don’t know why. as your lover describes you, so you are.
i was none of those things. but if they write us this way, why not commit to being bad and dedicate it to the lord? father, i don’t want forgiveness. excommunicate me from that church.
do i dare speak ill of the dead? who am i obliged to protect?
i shower three times a day with the faucet pointing somewhere between hot and cold. the air-conditioner blows in hot air while more heat rises from the rest of the building and gets trapped in my new sloped-roofed apartment. i hesitate before boiling water for coffee. the internet seems to lag in the swelter.
the mouth-smell in my mask reminds me of sex. i go to the museum alone and a painting of jean the baptiste’s severed head on a platter makes my chest swell. today it's raining and dark in my room. i unplug the fan for the first time.
placeless desire finds a home in recent memories. did i ever bite his jaw? how many octaves did i fall to get here? because i know the intensity of his hunger, i wonder how many times he’s cum thinking of me since i left. i remember where he keeps fresh bedsheets and exactly where to reach for oil in the dark.
i read that theme parks in japan have banned screaming on roller coasters due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus. a newspaper advised readers to “please scream inside your heart.” wanting to fuck someone you hate must feel like that. does it? i’m asking you. anne carson writes:
love and hate make in combination make an irresistible enemy.
if your bedroom is also too warm in the afternoons, slide open the window. make your body into a bird. i’ll come too.
i can’t tell if you want to hit or fuck me, i’d say in the sky.
you really want to hurt me, don’t you? i take his hand and wrap his fingers around my forearm and tell him to squeeze. i can’t recall if his nails are long enough to hurt me. his body is both as i remember it and how i desire it at once; again, this isn’t real.
he says something rude but i can feel him getting hard. he hasn't shaved because i liked his face like that. i smell honey. smoke. he grips harder. a cosmic fuck, just once. desire is parabolic and this is the natural way down. this was never about you.