I still wake up short of breath. The Doxycillin helped. Doxy, my respiratory dance partner. After a couple weeks of this, I can’t help but imagine that when my last lover hurt me so very badly, something in my chest shattered, infecting my lungs.
The other night I went out with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time; she has been a professional sex worker here in the city for the past 11 years and is one of those fierce women — beautiful, wealthy, powerful in her professional life, well-known, and respected as a sex educator. We got dressed all sexy for each other and went to that old man bar all the sex educators seem to go to these days and had beer with whiskey back.
My lovely friend — I’ll call her Ophelia. We both realized that we’d been through bad breakups simultaneously, and clinked glasses. I told her about what ended the relationship with toxic boy; about him seducing another woman in front of me and walking in on them in bed together. That I dated him for two months but no one knew; he told me not to blog him, he kept out of public photos with me, didn’t want his photo on my blog. That he’d give me little presents related to my life/work but I couldn’t blog that he gave them to me — even once told me to lie and say they were from someone else. I told Ophelia about all of this, and she understood. She especially understood why I let this happen to me; her situation was identical, having dated someone who wanted to be with her, but then wanted everything that made her *her* to change.
Ophelia is an icon in her realm; while I’m a sex blogger, a sex writer, sex educator, and a very public one at that. And we both *get* boundaries. But I write about my life *and* my life’s work — which is to normalize sex and change the cultural conversation about sex, at least in my generation. And I’m not ashamed of what I do.
I told Ophelia, it’s as if these boys — they’re attracted to the persona, the passion for sex culture, the attention, the notoriety, the outspoken and frank nature of the way her and I relate sex to the world, the openness — that’s the spark. I live and breathe sex and blogging and everything that goes with it. It’s oxygen. Ophelia and I are both public sex personas, which is what attracts people, but then they want to get rid of that. A killing jar is designed to preserve the insect’s apperance.
She knew exactly what I meant. I explained that in truth, maybe part of me felt like I should accept his shame so I let him hurt me — but that I’d realized that I can never make this compromise again in a relationship. I said, anyone who dates me from now on, this is it. I’m not hiding myself for anyone. *This* is the fucking package. But mostly, people like toxic boy, when we settle for the thing like that which fits uncomfortably, is a stopgap to fill an emptiness, obtained in moments of haste. Imagine the solidarity of frantic shoppers who buy things on sale, and that’s part of why women like Ophelia and I could bond on how we could allow people ashamed of us to get so close sometimes.
Another whiskey back, and I confessed that I knew I needed to dump that guy for a while; also, my friends had been telling me so. I told her, he had sort of just turned into this toy. She said, ‘But your toys shouldn’t hurt you.’
As my chest has tightened and restricted, and made me slow down my life, I’ve reflected on all this, and every time I visit the photo album in my head of painful moments the images get clearer. Ego suffocates. I got a box of my stuff in the mail a few days ago from the toxic ex-lover. Hacker Boy came over, and the box had been sitting on my table for a few days. I didn’t want to open it. I asked him to open it for me. He did, and in it were things of mine, and a letter, which he told me he didn’t want to read and handed it to me. The letter said that toxic boy ‘had no idea why our relationship had exploded in Ontario’ and that he’d be fond toward me when we see each other at public functions. No mention of my feelings, or what he did. Nothing of value lost.
Sick in bed last week, Hacker Boy, as is the custom now, comes over and makes me soup. He brings his laptop and long limbs and all-black, and he writes code while I rest. He asks me endless questions about what my life was like when I was homeless and living on the streets for four years as a teen; no one has ever asked me about this time. He asked me when the last time was that I got in a fistfight.
About five years ago, I was at a party in the Mission District with all these punk bands playing. It was a ‘destruction’ party, where the residents were moving out and the building was being torn down, so everyone was invited to help destroy the house. At a certain point, I picked up a hammer and with a few quick swings, opened up a hole thorugh a wall with the claw-side. The guy throwing the party kicked me out for it. Thinking ‘whatever’ I went out front and sat on a car in the midst of all the outside smokers, sitting on the hood in my little plaid schoolgirl skirt, pigtails, motorcycle boots and ‘boys lie’ t-shirt — drinking whiskey out of a bottle by myself and just watching everyone.
Two homeless guys, crackheads, walked up with a shopping cart full of bottles for recycling. They stopped and started throwing the bottles at the building. In the streetlights the bottles arced up, high to the second level, and popped like flashbulbs, raining broken glass down onto the partygoers nearest the building. A guy I vaguely knew said, ‘hey, stop.’ The crackhead responded with, ‘we heard you could destroy stuff at this party’ and threw another bottle, and then another while hipsters scurried away. My friend walked over and I saw the men change. Their eyes became sharper, skin shiny and backs rigid with an awful aura, the kind electric with violence. One moved behind my friend when he got close enough and I thought, oh fuck, he’s in trouble and no one here is doing anything. So I hopped off the car, and got in the middle.
I got a black eye.
But the minute the swinging started, a bunch of guys ran over, I think, because a girl was involved. I gambled on that.
The next day I went down to the SRL shop, and Mark made me laugh and took pictures of my eye.
I think we all wonder and imagine what we’d do in a fight. I have been in fistfights since I was a kid, and still I often imagine circumstances that lead me to having to defend myself, or attack someone. In the fantasy, time slows until the air is liquid. I don’t know why, I can’t explain why I’m on my way to this place, but I have to act. I see myself fighting with cruel precision; the fantasy is always deceitfully erotic. It’s an eerily beautiful moment in which I am always the hero.
Is this the architecture of delusion, or the mechanics of survival?
Last night we sipped sake at my kitchen table and I told my Hacker Boy about the conversation with Ophelia, about being the butterfly in the jar. He held perfectly still for about the space of a breath, looking at me in a new way, with a sharp sense of accuracy suddenly absent of hesitation. I *felt* that look. He stood and set his glass of nigori on the table, and mine. Taking my hand, he led me into my bedroom and sat me on the bed. One at a time, in silence, he took off my boots, then each stripey sock. He slowly pulled my arm warmers off, and lifted my dress over my head. I watched his eyes.
My bra and panties came off like the last veils. I sat completely naked in the perfect airless quiet, looking at him standing in front of me, tall and black-clad. His eyes never left mine as he pulled off his shirt, combat boots, pants. Long and lean and pale and feline, he crept up my naked body until entirely on top of me, pressing his weight into my chest, down the whole length of me.
I remember last night like this: lips barely touching, eyes to eyes, his big hands hold my face and pull my mouth to him in deliberate increments. The kiss opens and pulls the breath from my lungs, and he inhales deep, slow and steady. Our lips lock in a tight baroque seal and I exhale every last bit of air into him until there’s nothing left in me but madness. His skin is hot on mine. A kiss with no air, making my cells scream at the slashing second of suspension between breaths. I hiss deliriously into his mouth. A swtich flips, and he exhales, breathing slowly into me, and I draw deeply. We do this for forever, or a few breaths, until there’s no oxygen left.
The experience is buried in my chest.
I didn’t ask him if I could blog this.