When the handsome, nice, normal guy kisses me, I say, “stop.”

He says, “why?”

This is the question. This is always the question.

The answer? “Because I don’t want you to.”

But they never believe us. Or they do believe us, they just don’t care. What we want is beside the point. They are a beast. They are a rogue. They are seducing us, against our will, while we try to squirm away. They kiss us too hard and it hurts. They fuck us too hard and it hurts. They laugh with their friends about damaging our pussies. They laugh at their friend’s joke about trigger warnings or about rape. They are afraid of being called a pussy. They are more afraid of being called a pussy than they are of being a rapist. They are more afraid of being called a rapist than they are of not raping women, and so they don’t rape women, quite.

But when she says, “stop,” they still say, “why.”

I always think I can make him change. That guy. I think that the sensitive, kind, caring person he is when we are alone together still exists somewhere underneath his armor. Even when he is around his friends. Even when his friends joke about hurting women. Even when he laughs along.

I am Luke Skywalker. I am telling my sister, “I can change him, I can turn him back, to the good side. I have to try,” but I don’t know why I have to try. I don’t know why it’s my responsibility.

I don’t know why he expects me to carry his emotional weight in addition to my own. I don’t know why I apologize when that weight gets too heavy.

Being around him makes everything hurt. It makes my pussy hurt with remembered pain and with the threat he represents of pain to come. When I move towards him, he moves away, says in so many words that I am being unwomanly and aggressive and disgusting and inappropriate. When I am away from him and I finally relax, he steps towards me, because I look vulnerable, “so cute,” there without him, not needing him, not wanting him near me.

He likes me best when I do not want him. He feels safest around me when he does not want me.

I try to appease him. I look cute but not sexy. I play-act vulnerability when what I feel is rage. I smile through flinty teeth. I laugh with metal screws in my throat. When we fight, he calls me crazy. When we make love, he laughs at how much I want him. When I tell him, “there are bricks on my chest when you’re around,” he tells me he does not know how to take that. I think, ‘how many ways are there to take that,’ but do not say so. I am too afraid of him to tell him what I am thinking.

He will leave me, this man. Every time. He is Henry the 8th and I am Anne of the Thousand Days. He loves me so long as I make him feel like a man. Eventually, I make him feel reduced, small. He says. I shame him. When I speak, he hears only what he is doing wrong. He does not like to be told what he is doing wrong. He does not really believe that he is a person who could possibly do things wrong.

He will leave me. He will find someone thinner, blonder, less self-respecting. She will smile back every time he smiles at her, reflexively, the way her mother taught her to coax an aggressive man down from the ledge. She will wear stiletto heels and minidresses and all his friends will slap his back and praise his masculinity. He will forget that he ever knew there is a difference from the sexuality you perform and the sexuality you feel. He will forget there are cracks. He will get used to being someone’s daddy and lover bother. He will purchase a monthly subscription to viagra. He will buy hair plugs. He will buy one Armani suit and then another. He will buy her black Victoria’s Secret lingerie. She will wear it, still with that smile.

She will not come when he fucks her. She will tell him it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t need to, it’s fine. He will feel guilty relief. They will go to bed wrapped in each other’s arms even though he will not be able to sleep that way. She will. Sleep is the best part of her day.

Three or five or eight years later, she will leave him. She will sleep with his best friend or with her painter friend or with her boss. Her lover will fuck her without reserve, and she will discover pleasure for the first time. She will do whatever she needs to do to leave her husband. To start again. To chase this dream she’d forgotten all about when she hit adulthood and started wearing stiletto heels.

They will share custody. This woman will buy ankle-length hippie skirt and widow’s sweaters and headbands. She will laugh again. She will be unrecognizable. She will be happy.

Maybe the new man will leave her. Maybe not. Either way. She will be happy.

Not because she earned happiness through suffering. But because sometimes suffering can be slipped off as easily as stiletto heels. Or uncomfortable nightgowns that he thinks he should find sexy and she thinks she has to wear. Or conversations that never happen because he never finds the words.

Maybe someday he will find the words. Until then.

Anne of the Thousand Days, that’s what he makes me. Beloved until I trigger him or upset his delicate internal balance between rage and grief because when he lets himself feel, that is all he can feel. He is the most unhappy person I have ever known. His emotions are bricks. He is always looking for a woman he can con into carrying his bricks around for him. His sadness is the sea and his rage is a desert. Always there is too much salt and not enough water. He reaches inside and comes up with handfuls of dust and burning.

My affection is choking me like water so I try to give him some. Try to fill his empty belly. I have so much to give. He wants none of it, unless it’s on his terms. Unless he is the one in control. Unless he can feel like the puppet master, manipulating my strings.

Every time I turn him on when he has not given me permission to turn him on, he hates me a little more. Every time.

I apologize until my throat is as burnt dry as the desert inside him. I try to remind him that he used to be a human being. He blames me for making him this instead but I know better. I know better now.

I’m just a girl trying to be a superhero and save myself.