I mean, yes, we are on a bed. Of course, we are on a bed because this is a fantasy and because beds mean rest, and intimacy and love.
It’s a swirling white puddle—big billowy duvet and overstuffed pillows with the cases falling off in places where we’ve clutched the fabric too tightly. I’m spinning.
Light is gushing in from the wall-sized window to our left where, if we tried, if we opened the curtains more we could spy on the whole city. The sun rays are hazy and bright and highlighting little pixels of dust floating in the room, and it looks like snow is falling. The hollow bass of a stranger’s footsteps outside the door makes patterns in our ears. I can hear your breath over the hushed television set. We’re silent.
You’re flopped over on your back, arm under your head, back perched up a little on the pillows, and I’m on your chest, resting, finger-painting circles on your shoulder. Your other arm is on my back which is bare and here, in this reverie, I don’t seem to think or care about all the nastiness this exposes in me, the self-loathing, the vulnerability. You notice that my skin is soft (that’s what other girls tell me) and you say, “Wow,” and rub the hill between my shoulder and neck unconsciously, till it goes numb in that spot from the tickle and just becomes a part of my breath.
And your glasses are on, incontestably.
I’d love to look up at you from that posture. My chin on your stomach, my eyes blinking from the shifting light, hair all around me messy like a lion like it has always been. And you go “What?” softly with a simper because you’re still, adorably, nervous with me.
“Nothing,” I say and beam at you.
I can’t take my stupid eyes off your dimple that tries to hide behind some five o’clock shadow, and how you have like one crooked tooth in your otherwise faultless mouth, and it sticks out the left side of your smile like a crease, and your brown eyes behind those perfectly framed black lenses, and I just have to kiss you, kiss you, kiss you right now.
You can’t handle my affection. I mean you can. I don’t mean that as an accusation. I mean that you look at me like you don’t know where it’s from or why it’s there, and how did you get so lucky? I swear to God I can feel your lips on mine in these daydreams, what they must feel like, what little cavities exist on their surface that make them so different from every other pair of lips on the planet. How those small valleys fit impeccably with my sliver of a mouth, which you don’t mind—you think is cute. I don’t give a shit what you think as long as you stay here, please.
But it’s only a blip, a dot on a plotting chart behind my eyes without regard to what I am supposed to be doing, and then it’s gone, and I am here again, behind my telephone at work, shaking myself out of it.
My friend, when I tell her this later in the spirit of vulnerability, she awws and says,“You want intimacy!”
I blush and say “What? No.”
I didn’t know this was intimacy; intimacy is for adults and not dysfunctional, large children. My therapist says my how I have grown, but I don’t know if it is growth that when you walk by me, I can feel the blood behind my knees? I didn’t even realize I had veins back there.
I’m not trying to get down on myself. It’s just mildly unavoidable when the couple of drinks I had last night lowered my inhibitions enough that I allowed them—along with my burdensome impulsivity—to steer the way.
So when you pointedly looked at me and said, in response to someone else’s question, “Yeah, I might be moving in with the girlfriend soon,” (emphasis on girlfriend) my visceral reaction was a diluted form of devastation, followed closely by a series of behavioral modifications I needed to make instantaneously in order to rescue myself from the perilous storm of social misinterpretation I suddenly found myself in the midst of.
First on the agenda: flirt with that other guy serving drinks instead, the one who had too many buttons undone on his dress shirt, his white under-tee beneath peeking out at me, testosterone-borne hairs shooting out indiscriminately like roman candle sparks from his chest.
Yes, because somehow that will make it better that you, the man I am actually interested in, intellectual and witty and clever to boot, rejected me. In a rather masterful way, I might add—harsh but swift like a tetanus shot. It stung cold like metal on bare skin but then faded, and the comprehension of your words rose to my consciousness. I am the better for it, and maybe now we can work together again.
When I was young, I read a lot about out of body experiences. Richard Bach was a hero of mine. He wrote about metaphysics, which I pretended to know a lot about. It’s certainly possible that ‘metaphysics’ is just a term conjured up by wannabe-pretentious-literature-nerds like myself to intimidate the general masses when employed in everyday conversation. By wannabe-pretentious I literally mean that I am not knowledgeable enough to convincingly feign pretentiousness; you’d be able to detect my vast ignorance from a mile away.
Anyway, I think about how I acted last night, and it reminds me of Bach’s writing on his first attempt at an out of body experience.
He was with his wife on their bed, and they had spent three years learning how to be conscious of themselves during sleep to control their spirit, or whatever they called it and made it leave their bodies temporarily. I remember how I pictured that scene in my mind: their backs on the mattress while their spirits, kind of translucent white-blue, hovered above them peacefully, connected by some sort of supernatural umbilical cord to their abdomen.
Bach said they would suspend their souls over their bodies like that for a while at first, just for practice. Then eventually they could really control their spirit-selves, and they flew, hand in hand, towards their ceiling and out their rooftop and around their city and eventually the whole world, like Wendy and Peter Pan.
Today, I feel like that stupid blue spirit connected to my own damned belly button, levitating knowingly above my last-night self, wondering what in God’s name had gotten into me, how I can possibly after all these years and all this damn work fall into the same tired old traps that I always have.
Because when you said that to me—when you sweetly informed me, and everyone gathered around you—that you were potentially going to be a dad, that this woman who you’ve been seeing since the divorce has children like really old crucially-aged children, and that you are seriously considering inheriting them as your own … My stomach lurched.
Probably because of the fact that before then—like right before then—I was leaning on the cool, varnished wood of your fucking homemade bar top, watching you squeeze the lemon spritz out of a peel and tenderly rub it around the brim of a whiskey glass, all the while making seriously otherworldly gifted small talk with buzzed strangers. Where did you learn to talk that way and smile like that with so many people around you?
I have a degree in communication, and small talk comes as easily to me as, well, metaphysics. I was studying you, and we were chatting and laughing, and you said—lifting your shaker out to the side away from the customers and sounding like a maraca— “You can tell a lot about a bartender by the way he shakes his drinks.”
And I, now pushing my full elbow weight into the mahogany colored plywood of the bar towards you, my hair wispy and sinful, replied coquettishly, “And what am I supposed to learn about you?” with the full on unafraid eye contact of a woman confident in herself.
And you, realizing your gaffe, said dumbly, “I don’t know.”
I should have known then oh this is just an act, a thing he does when he serves drinks.
Anyway, I eventually left, way too late, after having received many opportunities to do so earlier in the night and refusing to accept them for the desire to mend my bruised pride.
I drove home, Sazerac on my tongue and tears in my eyes thinking Goddammit not again how is this still happening.
I don’t mean like, “Gee, why am I attracted to men?” I’ve gotten over that, and I accept that this is going to happen, and as much as I wish it were true, I am not, in fact, asexual.
I mean that I, for the most part, know who I am today. I know that I am loud, and I know that annoys certain people. I know that I am very strange and like hyper-quirky—not in an endearing Zooey Deschanel way but a you’d really, really have to get to know me to understand the things I find amusing way. I think in general people need to have a lot of patience if they want to communicate with me. I know that I am really opinionated and have gotten to the point on certain topics where I just tell people from the get go “I’m sorry, but I am really ostentatious about this specific issue, and you are really very wrong, and honestly there is just no way I will ever in a million years [for example] accept people like Kanye West as a musician or artist.”
I know that I’m not traditionally feminine. I know that I get overwhelmingly passionate when I discuss things I care about and people get intimidated, and they often feel like they can’t get a word in edgewise.
I know that I’m broken and fragile, and in general, have a lot of healing to do and understanding to come to about myself to make progress. I know that I like quiet and peace and calm, and that most days I would much rather binge watch old sitcoms and pet my cat in the dark atmosphere of my tiny room than see any human person besides like my mom or my best friend.
I know these things now, at twenty-three, after a couple of stints in rehab and what my therapist calls a perpetually unstable life. I know them because I have taken time in the last couple years to get to know them. And I have learned that all this is okay, that it is okay to be purely myself, and not some contrived, manipulated form of her, created to garner validation and attention from the opposite (or, you know, same) sex.
So why, at the first hint of romance, do I regress? I mean why don’t I have like an internal Carrie Bradshaw override option where a guy rejects me, and I go, alright let’s make something funny of this, this is life, life is turbulent, this happens, it’s okay?
Instead I inched closer to the other barkeep like a freaking caterpillar, accepting the fact that when I ordered another drink from you, you said, “Oh, Jake is going to make this one for you” all encouragingly like please please start flirting with this other guy he is clearly into you, and I am not. I can’t be.
Jake didn’t stir the ice for the pour like you did, between what I think were your index and middle fingers, easing them round in a circle with just the slightest propulsion from your hand muscles. Jake, he stirred aggressively, like he usually is when he talks about injuring his back from lifting last weekend or any sentence he ever utters about sports.
“Calm down!” I told him playfully, motioning to the fat cylinder he held in his left hand that contained my drink, “You don’t need to be so intense! You can stir it gently!”
And he laughed back at me because he laughs at everything I say just because I am sort of funny, and he slowed his pace immensely to a rather hypnotic, circular lull and looked at me side-eyed and said brusquely,
“Is this better? Nice and slowly? Tenderly?”
Here he paused, and I looked at him and just like that, just like I didn’t only a little over a year ago exit a rehabilitation center that I had entered due in large part to sexual addiction, I fucking say,
“Feels like there is a bit of an innuendo bottled up in there, and I’m not sure how comfortable that makes me.”
But it was a comment drenched in sarcasm and topped with a smirk, and he side-eyed back at me again for a moment of silence while we just let the (fake) tension resound from our heads, jump off the walls, and nestle in our ears. It reminded me of when I was seventeen, and I pretended to be attracted to a twenty-two-year-old named Bobby much in the same way, just because he was there and gave me attention.
Later, I’m driving to my best friend’s apartment so she can tell me I am not just a big piece of shit, and I’m listening to my car’s engine almost give again.
What exactly about this situation made me cave? Where are the patterns and how can I break them?
Am I supposed to feel like a slut or is that just a natural side effect of the surreptitious consequences that come along with being a sexual abuse survivor?