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On Return.

He is the second organic chemist I have fallen in love with.

I am not really in love with him, but that sounds much more romantic. I wasn't in love with the first one either.

Perhaps, more accurately: he is the second chemist I would have liked to have fallen in love with. Both chemists charm me, are handsome in their peculiar ways. But mostly, I fetishize their scientific brains. My father regularly reminds me of how I have wasted my perfectly good brain, and although I am proud of my accomplishments--published books, awards, tenured by thirtyfive--I agree with him. I should have been a scientist. I could have done something great. Instead, I only make culture: I change it. But I could've done something great.

On my first date with the second organic chemist, I tell him about how I feel that it is a shortcoming of mine that I am not attracted to women. It's a line I recycle. I say it all the time, not just to potential lovers or partners but also to friends, sometimes even strangers. Of course he asks me why and I say something about how I think I would have a fuller life if 1 also desired women, like I'm missing out on something. Everyone assumes I'm queer, I explain to him, because I am a feminist. We are holding hands but have not yet kissed, and he is from Romania: none of this is important, just details and accents, like how bright Mars is tonight--so red, all glow. Tonight, although we have only just met, maybe because we have only just met and there are no stakes, no reason to withhold or regret, I list out my insecurities and the failures of my past relationships. I tell him that I philosophically believe in polyamory, that my past two relationships have been poly, but none of us had acted on it. I tell him that it is a philosophical and ethical alignment alone because I am entirely too insecure for it, how I am naturally monogamous. I explain how each of my previous relationships has compounded my insecurities and how I have invited abuse and neglect. I bend to any partner's desires because I lack confidence. I know I deserve better but I don't actually believe that, either. He sleeps in my bed that night, and we do not have sex. I am still in love with another man, and although we are no longer in a relationship, I am by nature, as I have said, monogamous, if only I could parse out ray own logic.

Days later, he says he's been thinking about my openness to a poly arrangement, if I would consider a third.

"I'm not interested in women," I say.

"Yes, I would want it to be another woman," he says. "Have you done that before?"

Eventually, I agree to it.

That night, he asks me why I said yes. Then he tells me that we should not be in a relationship but would like to remain friends. He reminds me that I had repeatedly insisted that I have no desire for women yet would be willing to make myself uncomfortable to accommodate his pleasure. "I am learning about you," he says. "I am a scientist. 95% of my experiments fail. There is nothing romantic about being a scientist."

About her own heterosexuality, Marguerite Duras writes, "What is desirable is that nature be followed. Everywhere. That what is natural extend itself, because women today are not in their natural state. Women must behave more and more naturally in their daily life. Insolently."

I have spent my entire adult life capitulating to male desire in order to avoid rejection, and in so doing, entered spaces of discomfort and made my body into a place I loathe. I have spent my entire life begging men to love me. I have made myself passive. Every single time, it has been a losing strategy. When I was eighteen, I rebelled against my parents by refusing science for the sake of art. Science would have been easy for me, natural; art was the struggle. Now, more than twice that age, I must re-learn insolence. I turn to accept rejection.

No, I return.
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Title Annotation:Marguerite Duras on love
Author:Hoang, Lily
Publication:Interim
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 1, 2018
Words:708
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