Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Landslide

"Do all of your friends date each other?"

I have to think about the answer to this question, because I'm not really sure what to say. Does it seem like this from the outside? Probably. Is it hard to explain to people who live primarily in the straight community? Very.

I cough up a long-winded answer. "No, not all of them. I have many friends who are just that and have never been more. My girlfriend jokes that we make friends by sleeping with other people. It's common in the queer community to keep friendships with ex's though, so a lot of my friends have dated each other. But I think that's a testament to friendship. I don't look around and think of my friends as simply "people I used to date." I think of them as people I have had intense and amazing friendships and relationships with, people who I love and respect enough to want to keep around. Friendships I didn't want to lose when the romance ended."

Her response is quick. "That hasn't worked for me."

"It doesn't work for everyone. And there are some of my ex's I'm not close to. It sort of depended on how things ended. There's also a cooling off period, I mean, you don't usually jump from a serious relationship to an immediate friendship."

"I just... She wants to see me, she called me to say she was cleaning her room and found something for me. I told her that she knows where I live."

I feel my big sister side coming in. "You're leaving the country, possibly for years. Give her a chance, find some closure."

"I don't need closure."

I try not to be condescending, but it probably comes off that way. "You don't? It sounds like you still care. You telling me this says to me that you still care."

She looks off in the distance and rolls her eyes. "She went to Brazil for study abroad, and she was supposed to find herself, learn something, and she came back just as ditsy and flaky as before. She accomplished nothing. She had all that time to find herself, and she blew it. It's like she doesn't know how to learn, how to grow up."

A thousand thoughts at once. I want to respond to her accusations, but the truth is it's her pain, anger, and frustration that is speaking. To love someone and not have that returned, to know someone and realize they have so much potential and yet aren't using it, to miss someone. "I miss you" might be the hardest three words to say, right up there next to "I'm sorry."

I look at her and I hear myself, and I want to go back and not say the same things she's saying. I'm hundreds of miles and years too late. I want to scream, "I SAID THE SAME THINGS, AND I WAS AN ASSHOLE." I railed against my ex, too. I did it because I missed her. I did it because I loved her still, and I couldn't say that, so I coughed up every criticism I could find.

Instead I take on her "finding herself" accusation. "First off, the idea of going to another country to find yourself is so class-related it's horrifying. And personally, that's a life-long journey. I've had so many times in my life where I had to check in, where I had to check out, where I had to see if I lost my left tit under the couch. Seriously, though, it's not that easy. It's ok to be lost. I'm not sure the idea of 'finding yourself' is even possible. And you're not in her head. You don't know what she learned, what she didn't. Maybe she didn't learn the things you wanted her to learn, but that doesn't mean she did it wrong."

She not a big fan of my response. "Well, there's definitely a learning curve, and she's behind it."

"Well," I try not to bite back, but I am, "We're not all on the same timeline. And yes, some of us get to be behind the curve."

I leveled this criticism at my ex, too. Fuck. Nom, nom, nomssss eat all my words. She totally made me eat shit years later, when she jumped way ahead of the curve and I found myself "behind."

I start again. "Are you going to see her?"

"I'll see her at my friends' weddings."

"What does that mean?"

"I'll come home when my friends get married. She'll inevitably be there. I'll have to see her even if I don't want to."

I think of my best friend's death. I think of a good friend's recent car accident, which has hospitalized her for a recovery that may take months, if not years. The friendships I still regret walking away from in anger. I remember the week before high school and college graduations, when I was riding on a high of getting OUT, being DONE, forgetting that the post-grad diaspora would spread my friends to the winds. Forgetting that we may never be in a room together again.

I know what it feels like when anger makes me righteous, and I also know what it feels like when guilt and pain make me regret. I have a feeling I will learn these lessons over, and over, and over again. She will, too. She'll probably learn them in different ways than I will, and maybe she won't miss her ex's the way I miss mine. Maybe she won't miss lost friendships, maybe she'll chalk it up to the past and move on. And maybe her ex will come to say, "I'm sorry," and she'll cough it up, too, because missing someone hurts.

The landslide will bring it down.


Monday, February 18, 2013

They Told Me to Take a Streetcar Named Desire




This is incredibly interesting, and I definitely think she is on to a lot of good stuff here. If you've ever struggled with balancing sex, romance, and security in a long-term relationship (see: everyone who has dated someone for over a year or moved in with a partner), then you can benefit from this.

It Rode Us All the Way Down to New Orleans

My favorite things in the NOLA interwebs as of late:



"New Orleans on Saturday night, the Big Easy at her best. Her French Quarter shines all the way to orbit." 

-Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, currently living in space aboard ISS as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34.
(Photo taken from space, shared on Twitter)



Anonymously posted on Facebook, and reshared more times than I can imagine. The bead tree on St. Charles during Mardi Gras. 


The Marine Corps band in a parade during Carnival 2010 getting crunk. This video has been recirculating!


That which is made of comedic gold.




You Could Run a Red Light

My lips are buzzing with the friction of pressing against hers. I wish I hadn't stayed so late. I feel the pull, the need to write. But it's freezing. I hate the cold. I hate the idea of going home without her. I hate the idea of waking up without her.

The lights on front porches wiz by as I drive down Carrollton toward my drafty house. 

************

I feel her hand slide around my waist, and I catch myself as I trip on the brick sidewalk. The cymbals crash only a foot or two away. We slide quietly behind the crowds lining the street for the parade. In the dark glow sticks light the street in random places, interspersed with porch lights. She leans toward me as we stumble awkwardly as one. "I'm not used to asking for what I want."

"What do you mean?" Something about the inflection in her voice tells me that this conversation isn't an easy one. She's been toying with this thought, trying to decide how to say this out loud.

"Like, sexually. I'm not used to voicing the things I... that I want. What I think about." 

I want to coax this conversation in the right direction, but I'm not really sure how. "I get that. Did you have something specific in mind?"

"Yes." I have no idea what thoughts this nerd-themed Mardi Gras parade could have possibly brought up. Ha. We have just seen every Star Wars character, along with characters from Dr. Who, Star Trek, a pile of horror films, some fantasy films, eh... Alien, Men in Black, you name it. So whatever she has in mind, it's probably interesting. 

But as I often tell her, I have no doubt that anyone who reads as voraciously as she does has an (over)active imagination. I just have to find the key to verbally unlock her fantasies. 

*************

"I left that relationship, and I had an identity crisis. Everything I loved, everything I poured my heart into, had gotten wrapped up in the toxicity of us. I heard over and over again that the things I most cared about were the things about me that repulsed her. And we did so much damage to each other. There's a million things I never should have said, never should have done, and so much trauma that she inflicted, too. Our sex life became a fucking mess. At the time it didn't feel so bad, but looking back, it definitely was. I still feel like a lot of things about me are broken, and I hate that. It's not your job to fix it, but I can't help that you will run right into it sometimes."

She stands up, shifting off the couch to open the door and light another cigarette. "I know, baby. We all have our baggage. And when my ex and I split, I was the least sexually confident I had ever been in my whole life." 

"I just... I don't want to make the same mistakes again. I think I have hesitated with you in so many ways. I liked you too much." I look up from my dead focal point on the wall, right into her eyes. "I still like you too much. And I've come to fear my own sex drive, the damage I can inflict. I've come to fear how strong and brazen I crave to be. I never wanted to overwhelm you." 

She blows the last of the smoke away into the cloudless sky. I pull the blanket tighter around me, hiding from the cold, hiding from myself. She pushes the door shut and sits next to me, and I cradle my head into her lap. 

"Talking is hard." I'm trying so hard not to cry.

She laughs, and I look up to find her smile. "I know." She takes a piece of my hair and twirls it through her fingers, making a single curl. Her voice is gentle. "And I've definitely found some of your triggers."

I'm genuinely curious. "Like what?"

"Well, sometimes you apologize profusely for coming everywhere." I flash back to the first time I did this with her, and the pain is fresh again. I hate myself for criticizing my ex for doing the same, and I get that my response furthered her trauma instead of healing it. The mistakes I made at eighteen are painfully the ones I am destined to repeat at twenty-five, except this time, I'm on the other side of the fence. Christ. I have a feeling I know how the conversation would go if I called her up out of the blue and told her this. But I have enough self-loathing for the both of us. As my girlfriend is quick to remind me, most of the pain we inflict on others is not intentional, but it is pain nonetheless. It is too late to change my mistakes. I can only heal myself, and that starts with learning to communicate.

"That wasn't her fault. That's mine." I don't know why I'm defending someone who isn't even there to hear it. 

She twirls the hair the other direction. "I figured it was just a part of being self-conscious."

"It is. There are certain positions that will always trigger me. I don't do them well because I will always be too self-conscious." 

"Like what?"

"Like sitting on someone's face. For some reason, I find that intensely vulnerable  and I hate it. I may want it, but I lose the desire quickly because my self-consciousness will win out over my desire."

I can see her filing away this information, silently but carefully.

"You know, I didn't realize how much I was holding back until Max came into town. We were talking about relationships and sex and dating, and it just hit me. It felt really overwhelming. But it was there, in black-and-white, and I think having to really admit that out loud was the first step to figuring it out."

It's funny, this may be the absolute sexiest conversation I've had with her in eight months. And yet, we are fully clothed. I remember something I read recently about sex in long-term relationships, how it is a balancing act between the need to feel secure with a partner and the need to be surprised and stimulated by the same partner. I need to go back and read that. I think it's also a process of balancing your fears and inhibitions with the desire to explore and experiment.

I realize that every serious conversation I have with her, I start with my heart so intensely sitting in my throat. It feels like I am choking on the words, coughing up nonsense and fear. But instead of falling, instead of flailing my arms as the abyss rises around me, she pulls me in to catch me. 

I hope I do the same for her, but the truth is, I'm not sure I'll ever know. 

I do know that this is the right door to walk through. Confessing my fears to her has never left me regretful -- only relieved. It takes a lot of fighting through the haze of fear. But I'm getting it. I will get better at this. It will get easier. Maybe I will make fewer mistakes this time, or at least, I will make different ones. That's probably the best I can hope for. I'm not under the illusion that fairy tales exist or that love cures. But I have to believe I am capable of learning and change.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh, Please, Mister Father Tree


I wrote this story years ago, maybe when I was in high school, maybe when I was in college. It's hard to tell, because I write stories and leave them in poorly marked, unspecified files for myself to try to find years later. (Don't ask me how my photos are stored, ugh). But this story has to be at least six or seven years old. Some things have changed since then, some haven't. The sentiment of the holidays both as an intensely painful time and as a time of joy sticks with me to this day. 

I leave you with this story, but I hope that if it rings too close to home and too true, that you find something about the holidays that you love, and keep it close by for comfort. We all get to write the stories of our lives, for better or worse, and I hope to keep writing better futures. 

---------------------------------------------------

         I believed in Santa Claus until I was thirteen. That was the year my father left, and winter came colder than I ever remembered. I don’t know if I hugged him goodbye. Years later that night is all a blur. He had a late flight, and my last vague memory was him standing in our dimly-lit kitchen with his suitcase. He probably tried to force me to hug him. I don’t know when he decided to leave, just that one day he was there and the next day he wasn’t. My mom didn’t drive him to the airport – he called a taxi, probably the only one in our little Mississippi town.

          When he left, there were no eggshells or rooms to avoid. We could be too quiet or too loud, we could play on the computer late, we didn’t worry about food disappearing from the fridge.

          But there was no one lying next to my mom in the big king size bed. The dog took to sleeping there, and now, years later, no one can say it isn’t her spot. I remember being small, teacake-size, and snuggling in between my parents in the morning before school. The alarm would go off a few times then they would shove me out, toward my room to get dressed.

          The psychiatrist asked me once if Christmas made me miss him. I don’t remember much of my father around Christmas, except maybe once or twice he lifted me on his shoulders to put the angel on top of the tree. But we always decorated with my mom and shopped with her. I don’t remember that much of him during the rest of the year; I don’t know why she would think Christmas was so special.

          The year he left was different, because I decided if I was old enough to manage without a father then I was old enough to not believe in Santa Claus. It wasn’t really a rite of passage – not like my first kiss, or my first period, or the first time I stayed home alone in the dark. Those had already passed. Funny how they meant so little.

          Now I lie in bed, wishing I could sleep as soundly as my girlfriend next to me. The lights go out, and she’s down faster than a kid on a snowboard. It’s Christmas Eve, and we’ll spend tomorrow with our separate families and hopefully shove an hour together near the end. They’ve never met, which is ok, because I doubt I could handle them all together. Christmas, and all the alcohol that comes with it, would make it even more interesting.
          We’ll go through the day tomorrow, thinking of each other every moment, but in reality forgetting she exists. It’s the game we play with our families, because they would so much rather believe we were single and straight. Or married and straight. Just straight. It’s Christmas so they won’t hassle us, unlike normal days. We’ll all gather around the tree and exchange presents and drink until we’re smashed; the lesbian thing will disappear faster than the turkey burns in the oven. Everyone will be nice, super nice, asking how work is and telling me all the uber-exciting things they have done lately. I’ll talk about how the pipe in the bathroom under the sink leaks sometimes and how boring the Christmas party at work was. I won’t mention how we had great sex last night or how she woke me up with mistletoe and hot chocolate. I’ll forget how she lit all the candles in the house to remind me of Christmas Eve church services when I was a kid.

          I wonder what my father would do if he met her. What would he think of the whole lesbian thing? (as if it were a phase, a sidebar from life) When I was younger, and angrier, it would stir in me to call him and yell: “Guess what? I’m gay.” It’s just too hypocritical though. I swore it wasn’t about him, my life didn’t wrap around his goings and comings – or lack of them. My sexuality wouldn’t depend on it either.

          Even at Christmas I can’t forgive him. I’m not sure it’s about forgiveness anymore. Is that Easter or Christmas? Christian holidays, dear me, I can’t seem to keep track. All these people running around, saying, “Think of the Baaabbby Jessssus,” as if he would open his eyes in some stroller and ask, “So how are you really doing?”

          No, Christmas is about little boys who count if they have more presents than their sisters. It’s emptying your bank account for people you haven’t seen in years. It’s cards from relatives you thought were dead, roasted turkeys and hams and every animal possible, the Rockefeller tree with some Rockettes in mini skirts doing high kicks.

          This year the big thing is the debate between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” because the latter is more politically correct. The truth is, no saying will make up the injustice of all the non-Christians who are bombarded by gospel music on the radio, the television, in stores, and seeping out of the very air. We haven’t named Hanukkah as a national holiday (nor any other Jewish religious holiday), but for some reason we recognize Valentine’s Day. Schools, workplaces, and d├ęcor are not based on some sort of “Holiday Season” but rather Christmas – Santa Claus, Jesus, and red and green stuff. I even know Jewish and Islamic people who give presents on Christmas. Not that I think any day is a bad day for presents – if we gave more, maybe we would need to take less. Or hate less. But it seems so… dominate-culture-ish.

          My girlfriend hates Christmas, mostly because of the hype. And she hates wrapping presents. Hates it more than getting out of bed at 4 a.m. or doing the dishes. Then there’s the money thing, how even when we pull the rent out a month early, we get dangerously close to the hole come January. We’re barely out in time to pay taxes in April. I miss being young – kids usually get back more than they spend on others. Adults… not so much.

          I’m going to try to go to sleep now. I won’t think of tomorrow (and our silences) or my father or Santa Claus. I’ll dream of sugar fairies and plums, or was it the other way around? It will all be over by tomorrow night, when we’ll be back in bed – money spent and gifts unwrapped and tummy full. I’ll let her lay her head on my chest, while I wrap my arms around her. We’ll give each other the crummy things we need (and maybe a few we don’t). But it will be just us. And life will begin again, for another 364 days at least, the way it is every day – work, rent, friends, food, illnesses, birthdays, the rest. My father and Santa Claus will go back to the places they belong – the history of a child’s memory.

          At the end it is not the imaginary, a fat man with a sleigh, some reindeer, and the world full of children to deliver presents to, that carries us along through the Season and the year. It is the problems of our society, the delights and downfalls of family, and the banality of everyday life.

          But in the morning, I will awake and whisper, “Merry Christmas, beautiful, I love you.” I will push myself to be positive, to remember why it is worth waking up. The forced silence and the pain of remembering will go to the bottom of the closet for a little while. And she will be there. She’ll be there, and we will both be ok.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Matter How They Tossed the Dice

I used to think lists and written goals were silly, an overly bureaucratic waste of my time. I'm not really sure when this changed, but I find that I am so much more focused and self-aware when I set goals. It still feels weird and slightly unfamiliar, but so does not having them. The last few weeks I find myself collecting ideas and thoughts about relationships, reading things that I want to carry around, finding methods I want to put into practice. I'm creating this list, knowing I will add and edit it over time, to remind myself of what I find important. It uses feminine pronouns because I'm dating someone female-identified currently, but I think this list goes for anyone. Most of these will take daily work, and I will fail repeatedly at all of them. But failure is not a final answer, simply an opportunity for learning.

Things I strive for in our relationship:

1) To actively listen to her, to try my hardest not to interrupt, and to provide a response that fits what she is asking for. Not to split my attention. To remember that most, if not all, of what she says is important to her. I want to be present, and active listening is a huge part of that.

2) To determine whether she is asking for a sounding board, emotional support, or advice, and to provide what she needs without my own opinion or assumptions. To acknowledge her feelings, even if I don't agree, and to recognize that those feelings are valid and important to her.

3) To be honest and open with her. I struggle often to talk about my own feelings, and thoughts may roll around in my head for weeks or months before I have the courage to say them out loud. I will work on overcoming my fears about being emotionally vulnerable so that I can open up to her. I will talk with her about the things that are important to me, to us. I will work on acknowledging my mistakes, my baggage, my shortcomings, and my fears.

4) To always support her autonomy, her desires and dreams, and the things in her life that are important to her. To acknowledge and respect her friendships, her relationship with her family, her dreams, her hobbies, and her work. To give her ample freedom and time to cultivate all those things without my interference and often, without me. I want my girlfriend to always have a life outside of me, and I don't want her to have to check in, verify, or ask my permission to act on her own. I do not need to know where she is constantly, what she is doing, or who she is with. I will respect her privacy, and I will never violate what is hers -- her texts and emails, her online accounts, her journals or writing, her private correspondence and conversations. I will respect her space, her routines, and her relationships with other people. I will exercise no control over what is hers, and I will recognize that her life is not "mine" or "ours."

5) To always make time for her, to do things which she enjoys (even if I don't), and to enjoy time with her without expecting it. To thank her, praise her, and acknowledge what she does for me. To do small things that please her. To show my love to her through words, actions, and time.

6) To respect her sexual boundaries, to keep exploring within our sexual relationship, to ask for what I want without fear or shame, and to treat sex as a privilege, not an expectation. To remember that sex is not a quid-pro-quo exchange, and that we both want and need different things at different times. To receive her requests to not engage in sexual activity at a given moment with grace, not with surliness or frustration. To be conscious of how she feels and responds to my sexual energy.

7) To forgive and forget. To fight fair. To respect when she needs to walk away and take a break, and to ask for the space to do so, too, if I need it. To verbalize what I need and what I want when I am upset, because she cannot read my mind. To apologize when I am wrong or when I hurt her. To never revive an argument or mistake if it has been settled and forgiven. To acknowledge my capacity for mistakes, and to try my best to never act out of passive-aggressiveness toward her.

8) Be mindful of what she does not like, and respect that we desire different things. For example, if she does not like gifts, then refrain from buying her things.

9) To never promise anything I can't provide. See: forever.

10) To respect our agreement to have an open relationship, to act within the boundaries we have set, and to give her the space to act on her attractions to other people. To acknowledge my jealousy and my insecurity, but to remember that I cannot let these feelings overwhelm me or affect how I treat her. To always be honest and conscious of the feelings and needs of my lovers. To take steps to protect everyone involved and ensure that I act in ways that are consentual and respectful.

11) To really take this idea to heart: That commitment, instead of being a promise for a future, can be a devotion to radical deep presence, with longevity as a by-product.

12) To remind myself that my crazy is mine -- she does not know pain and history if I do not tell her. To acknowledge my baggage and unfamiliar, uneasy, or painful feelings when they arise. To allow her the ability to rewrite the script, and to talk with her when my past affects us. To release my fears, anxieties, and pain when possible. To remember that she is not my former lovers, and to try my best not to assume her actions and reactions will be the same as theirs. To remember that she has her own pain and history, and to do my best to support her in working through her own baggage.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I Think I Could Understand

I'm perched on the bench, half naked, sunburned, and sandy. I'm not really sure what the protocol is this house. Do we group shower? Do I race everyone who is staying here to their bathroom? Do I shotgun a beer and wait my turn for hot water? I'm along for the ride in a group of fifteen people, but the sand in my crotch is starting to annoy me. I need answers, people. I need them now.

"Ok, Mallory and I call the outside shower. Who wants to come with us?" Three more people jump in, but Ashley leans over my way. "Do you want to shower with us? Please?" Eh. I want to get clean, not wait for five people to use up all the hot water. I'm contemplating how to turn her down gracefully, when Jordan looks across the group and catches my gaze. "Do you want to come shower with me? There's one upstairs."

The question catches me off guard. We're all friends; it shouldn't surprise me. I feel the most comfortable with her, even though I've known several of this group much longer. I jump at the offer and supress the small, fluttering feeling deep down. "Sure. Ashley, that's a lot of people in one shower. I'm going upstairs with Jordan."

Ashley makes a pouting face. Christ, maybe I made a mistake when I agreed to split a hotel room with her. The others had booked this house months in advance for our beach trip. I screwed around, waited too long, and jumped at whatever was available. We'd only been around each other six hours, and her need to have my constant attention was already wearing me thin.

Thoughts swirl around as I follow Jordan up the tiny winding staircase with my bulky bag. I also feel a sense of trepidation getting naked around someone for the first time. The sun has long ago burned through my buzz; there's no alcohol to smother my anxiety. I set down my things in her room, awkwardly rummage for clean clothes and shampoo. I don't know why I'm even worried about this. We're all friends. Right? Right. And it's not weird that I'm just showering with Jordan, right? And it's not weird that the girl she is dating is my ex-lover, right? And it's not weird getting naked with someone you barely know?

I stumble around her and turn the hot water on. She climbs in behind me, and I turn half away, trying to be polite and not stare at her naked. She looks different than I expected, but I suppose no one has ever looked naked the exact same way I imagined. She grabs around me for her soap, and we laugh. It hits me so intensely out of nowhere: I want to kiss her. She is so brutally close, so very naked, and when she smiles, I feel like a deer in headlights.

What the fuck.

No, really, S. What the fuck.

I scrub my face and dart out of the front end of the shower. I never touch her. When she hops out a minute or two later, I keep my distance, turning my back to her and pulling my clothes on too quickly. "Hey, Jordan, do you mind if I take a nap in your bed? Driving from NOLA and the beach just zapped my energy. I'll set an alarm, and I won't be long."

"Sure, no problem." I drop eye contact as soon as she looks at me. I crawl into the rented bed, wishing there was a bigger comforter. I want to hide from my thoughts, from the remnants of my head cold, and from my exhaustion.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The plates clang against the stainless steel sink as Mallory washes up. I throw the last bowls of cheese and taco meat into the fridge, grab an unclaimed beer, and disappear through the glass door into the darkness. The porch lights are off. I can actually see the stars. I want to leave, walk down to the beach, feel the surf and sand washing over my toes.

I don't hear Jordan come up behind me. She slides her arms around my waist, and I almost jump out of my skin in surprise. She's much taller than me. She rests her head against mine, her chin near my ear. She says something, but I don't register it. My skin is aflame with the unfamiliar feeling of her touch. It feels... good. Scary. Soft. Confusing.

"It's gorgeous out here. Wow. I wish we could see the stars like this in New Orleans." I hear her this time, and my throat releases long enough for me to respond. "I was just thinking the same thing."

She pauses. I like the feeling of her silence.

"What's the plan for tonight?" The words fall out of my mouth. My anxiety needs to fill this space, even though everything else craves it.

"Everyone's getting ready to go. Some bar they've been to in past years, down closer to the bridge. You coming with us?"

"Sure. It's not like I have somewhere better to be. I'm up for whatever."

The door pops open fifteen feet away from us, and I hear Ashley's voice. She pulls away immediately. "I'm going to get ready," I hear my voice echoing inside my head. I run inside to dig up my shoes. All the feelings are racing in circles. My waist feels foreign where she touched me, the trace of her touch following me through the house. What does this mean? Is she hitting on me? I suspect so, but I don't want to believe it. I don't know what I would do with it. I... fuck. I can't stop smiling at her, and I pray that the dark hides it.

What the fuck am I doing.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Hundreds of women linger through the entrance, around the stage on the beach, crowding at tables in the bar, milling in crowds. It's a veritable lesbian smorgasboard. I remember my ex's story about taking her roommate to a lesbian bar for the first time. I hear her voice saying, "Do you want chocolate, vanilla, strawberry? Whatever you can want, it is in front of you."

Our group immediately gets separated, but I try to cling to my best friend in front of me and Jordan behind me. I lose both, and wander a few minutes looking for Jordan. It's a bit intimidating being surrounded by so many women. I can potentially fuck most of them, if I make an effort at it. If I wasn't so painfully horrible at picking up women in bars. I have no idea why I'm making such an effort to find everyone I came with. But my anxiety kicks through my sobriety. I can't handle all these strangers. I can't handle the thought of going up to any of them, starting a conversation, putting in the effort.

I run into Jordan as I come around a corner. We're both totally lost. "Fuck it," I shout over the deafening crowd. "Come dance!" I find the nearest picnic table facing the stage, and we climb up. She looks unsure. The song changes, and the rapper onstage starts into "I Put On for My City." Immediately my heart leaps to NOLA. I'm screaming the lyrics and shaking my body, because this song is everything I want for my city. She's laughing with me, and I stop thinking and stop worrying so damn much.

A security guard pulls me off the table, and I don't even care. We skirt the crowd, looking for the group and a place that feels comfortable. She points out the bay, which looks formidibly dark and hidden from the lights of the stage. "Come see it with me?" I pull her forward. I want water, big bodies of water. I want my feet in the sand.

We stumble through the sand, down some very steep steps. The water rises almost to my knees. I can hear the music from here, but it's nice to be far from the crowd. She puts her hands on my hips, and I grind against her. It would be incredibly romantic to kiss her under the moonlight, standing in the bay, in our own little world. But this thought terrifies me. I can't turn back to face her. I pull myself out of the bay, back toward the bar, unsure how to even look at her. "Let's go find the group."

---------------------------------

I'm circling the pool table like a shark, looking for something, anything. I'm not very good. She crosses my path, catches my eye, and slides her hand across my ass as I pass. Yeah. There's no missing that one. I write off every doubt. She's hitting on me. I lean over, line up my shot...and miss. Fucking figures. I don't even care.

"You're playing with fire, you know that?" I finally have a few more beers in my system, and I'm no longer so unsure. I can stare her down, if I want to.

"I know."

"We'll both get burned."

"I'm aware." She turns away with a sheepish look, and I wonder if she's weighing her options the way I am.

We make another pass around the pool table as she leans over to shoot. I run my hand down her shoulder, across her hip, down her ass. She turns just as I finish. Her face is inches away from mine. "Where are you staying tonight?' she asks softly.

"I don't know. At the hotel, I guess."

"Stay with me."

I don't think the full weight of this offer has hit. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Absolutely sure?"

"Yes." Ok, S. Stop questioning her consent, she clearly knows what she is saying.

I realize I am holding my breath. "Ok."

---------------------------------------------------

I peel the contacts out of my eyes, and try to shove them in the plastic container. She's lying in bed, waiting for me. I'm still not sure how we got here. What am I doing? Oh, right, contacts. Brush teeth. Fuck someone else's girl. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The freak out in my head needs stifling, immediately. It's 4am, my car is on the other side of the island. I don't have any options left. I chose door one. Time to do this.

The tension and my anxiety feel like walking through a fog.

I turn the lights off and climb into bed half dressed. I reach out to find her. She's there. Waiting. I kiss her, and it feels distant and unsure and apprehensive. She pulls me underneath her. I'm grateful someone else is taking charge right now.

---------------------------------------------------

I hear her breath, in and out, in and out, in the bed next to me. It's extremely early. I'm an emotional trainwreck. I want to reach out for her, but it's done. It's over. There's no touching in the morning. That's reserved for couples and established lovers. We're far from either.

She rises, and the bed creaks. I pretend to be asleep, because I don't want to face her. WhathaveIdonewhatwillhappennowwhatwilltodaylooklike. I don't want to get out of bed, ever. I close my eyes, pull the sheets up, and fall peacefully back to sleep.

----------------------------------------------------

It's almost 3pm before she speaks directly to me. I've kept myself low and quiet all day, alone with my thoughts amid the thousands of people camped out on the beach. She's running back to the car, and she asks if I will come with her.

I feel myself almost shaking. I try to keep my anxiety under control. I need to talk to her. I have to talk to her. I'm terrified to say anything. I'm still swimming in the anxiety in my head when she starts talking. Her voice cuts my thoughts. "I'm going to tell her. I can't lie about something like this. I hope that is ok with you."

Her tone tells me I don't have a choice. "I would, too, if you didn't," I reassure her. "I think it might go over better coming from you. Who knows."

We discuss her, her lover, the possibilities. What will the fall out look like? What are we most afraid of? I let go a little and spit out my fears. I don't want to lose friends. I don't want the shaming. I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't... I shouldn't have. I don't regret my actions, but I do. I don't want to see her hurt, but it will happen. We weigh our options and try to plot what the next few days will feel like. And then she asks me the one question I wasn't prepared for:

"What happens between us now?"

My brain short-circuits, and I totally stop all activity and thought. WHAT. I don't even know how to fathom this question. I let the doors open up a little. I imagine her kissing me again. I remember the way she felt, the way I craved her, the way I wanted to keep fucking her again and again all night. It feels like my brain is exploding. What does this mean? Can I tell her this? Can I say the truth? What is the truth?

A piece comes out of my mouth before I can chase it back. "I don't know. I would sleep with you again, if you would let me. Past that... I don't know."

But in my head, something else is chattering too loudly to ignore.

You love this girl, my brain says. Even if you don't know her at all. You will find this.

And the rest is... well, I suppose, history.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back to Black

She slides her arm around my waist and pulls me in to whisper into my ear. "Come home with me." I vaguely register this thought. There's something about the darkness of the bar and the shadows of candles glancing off the bricks that has enamored me. I swirl the ice cubes through the whiskey in my glass instead of responding. I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere. We have the rest of the night to fuck, and there's no doubt in my mind that it will happen. I've been planning that part for a few days; at this point I'm just letting it unfold. Letting myself enjoy seducing her. Learning things I didn't know about her. Testing her boundaries. The chase is always half of the fun.

The pianoman wraps up one song and launches right into another through the applause. I recognize the tune on the first notes, and I turn my back partially to her to sing with the strangers crowded around the piano. Otis Redding always reminds me of life in Mississippi; specifically, this song takes me back to running on the banks of Deer Creek during the Christmas festival as a child. But by the second verse my mind has wandered to you. I remembered a moment, recently, when I was texting you about the music I was listening to at work. We discussed Redding. I don't know if I could love a girl who didn't love him. For a moment, I wish it was you with me, because you would know the words. You would look so incredibly beautiful in the candlelight. You would wrap your arms around my waist, and I would lose myself in you. Forget the bar, forget the world, forget my intentions or my past or... I do when I kiss you. I get lost. I sink in you.

But it's not you here with me. I know wherever you are, whatever you are doing at the moment, that you are surrounded by the people you love. I'm sure you're having a fabulous time. I'm being incredibly selfish, wanting you at this moment, when you'll be home and in my arms before I can blink. 

The song ends, and I return my focus to her, checking back into the moment. Again and again, I repeat the mantra: stay present. Be here. I promised myself that I would before I picked her up, even before I called to ask her to come out with me. If I'm going to sleep with her, I'm not going to spend the whole night thinking about where else I could be. It's not fair to either of us. 

------------

I lift off my side just enough to run my hands across her hip, down her thighs, across the small of her back. I don't remember how the conversation has started, or what words brought us here -- the whiskey still seeps around my brain. 

"I don't like to talk about my feelings. I don't like to talk about myself, honestly, but there are moments when I let loose. I'm the most honest during sex, for some reason. People ask me the craziest things during sex."

"What's the weirdest thing anyone has asked you during sex?" 

I don't even hesitate to answer this. "If I believed in God." She laughs, the sounds bouncing off the tile and columns of her room. "I was so shocked by the question that it took me a minute to even answer. And then we had a super intense metaphysical conversation in bed." 

"I want to ask you something." 

"Anything," I tell her. "Here's your one chance. You can ask me anything in the world you want to know." I grant this of anyone I sleep with. It's a bizarre gift, I suppose. I never think much of it until the moment it happens. Sex puts me in a mood to expose anything and everything. 

Her thoughts race through the silence. I wish I could get in her head. "I don't know what to ask." 

I lean in, pulling myself up so I can look down at her. My teeth find her collarbone, and her body moves with me as I bite her. "What do you want?" The question comes low and soft, and I realize it's my favorite to ask. 

Instead of responding, she pulls me in to kiss her, and I reach my hand between her thighs. She bends with me, flows with me, so easily. I tease her, threatening to touch her labia, but never quite getting close enough. She bucks against me, begging with her body, trying to force my hand, but I'm too fast. 

"You like to be teased don't you?" She murmurs her agreement. I've been in top space for hours, and her response is intensifying the desire. "You like to be pushed, you like to be topped. I bet you even like to be spanked, too." She nods against me, and I kiss her one last time. "Flip over." 

Her ass is so perfectly smooth. She's got the kind of skin that any woman would kill for, and the kind of curve to her ass that makes me swoon. I lick my finger and slide it over her labia, checking to see how wet she is. I warm her up with a few light spanks, then lean forward over her. "Do you know what a safeword is?" 

"Yes." 

"Good. Do I have to make you use it to know that you will, or do you know your limits well enough to use it when you need it?"

"I'll be ok." 

"Don't feel like you have something to prove to me. You don't." I still hesitate because I haven't fucked her before. Because we've never discussed this. I sense she has little experience with d/s, and I don't want to test that theory."

"What's the safeword?" 

"Red," I respond without thinking. 

I spank her, hard, rotating from left to right, beating a rhythm then stopping just long enough to make her question my next move. She takes it without kicking back, and I'm impressed. If we were at my house, I'd probably tie her up and pull out a flogger on her, just to see if she likes it. I wonder for a second about what is in the room, but there's nothing I could beat her with. Plus there's something deeply personal about being spanked. I like the sting of the palm of my hand, the intimacy of skin hitting skin. 

When she's red and a little raw, I shove two fingers in her cunt and fuck her, hard, opening her up. I slide two more fingers into her ass, and don't let up until she can't handle it anymore. She comes once, almost twice, before she pulls away from me. It's fast and dirty, but by this point, we're almost three hours in, and I'm starting to feel the pull of my bed. I'm not sure her body could take it much longer, and something tells me she isn't the type to keep lube handy. 

I pull myself up next to her, but this time she turns toward me. "I know what I want to ask." 

I can't see much of her in the dark, but I'm not sure I'd want to see the intensity of her eyes right now.

"How did you know I like to be spanked?" 

My head swirls for a minute. I've been dominant my whole life. It's such a sixth sense at this point, I have trouble explaining it in terms of her actions. "It's something about the way you respond to my ordering you around. The way you don't resist anything I ask of you, the way your body responds. It's my job to read you, to test what your body wants, to push you a little. Maybe it's because I practice BDSM. Maybe because it's pretty obvious you like to be topped." It feels uncomfortable to describe her actions to her, so I hesitate. I barely know her. I'm brilliantly failing at putting this into words. 

I can't read her response in the dark, and she hasn't moved or spoken.

"What do you think? What do you like? I want to know." 

She laughs, but there's something biting in her tone. "I'm just a submissive. I don't have options, right?" 

My response is firm, "No, I didn't say that at all. I have so much respect for people who submit. Many of the submissives I know are some of the strongest, smartest people I know. You can submit and still crave something, still want or not want something." 

You come to mind first, and the thought of you makes me smile. But I know many submissives who fit this description, and my response is defensive and protective. I hear it too often -- this idea that submission is weak, it's feminine, it's about not wanting control or not having the capability to have control. I think my response surprised her, because something in the air has changed. 

I leave the conversation there and pull her into a kiss. I'm not up for educating someone about BDSM at three in the morning, and there's a lot in that conversation that probably shouldn't take place when we're drunk and naked. "Can I fuck you again?" she asks when she pulls away. 

"No, it's time for me to go home." Puck's fairies have begun to lull me toward sleep. I have no desire to pass out here; I much prefer to be in my own bed. 

I don't know how to process my feelings yet. Fucking her has been fantastic, but I find that I don't want her to touch me. I don't want anyone else but you, and everything else feels like a waste of my time, bordering on uncomfortable and unwanted. I wonder if it's just a side effect of top space, but it feels different than that. I want to discuss it with someone, but I'm not sure who. I'm not sure what to say. 

I come back to reality, pulling my clothes and my jewelry back on long enough to kiss her goodnight and stumble across the yard to my car. These are questions for another day, a conversation for later. For now, I file away my feelings and my thoughts, and I focus on the drive home. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hallelujah

Somehow this blog keeps getting read and read and read, even when I am so painfully absent, even when I am basically non-existent. I can't explain it. I can't begin to understand it.

But thank you.

The words haunt, and I am awake long past when I should be. That is what words do. Isaac has passed and left me, thankfully, safe. I fear what it has done to so many others, and I cannot express my deepest sorrow and anguish to see my city and my region once again maligned in the national press. I am so fucking sick of people who say we should not live here. WE DO LIVE HERE. We are you. We are the people who came back after Chicago burned to the ground, after earthquakes leveled much of California, after terrorism shook New York, after hurricanes hit Galveston and Miami and Charleston.

We are people with families and homes and jobs and favorite restaurants. We feed the ducks in the park and we try to survive the violence and we try to contend with the politics and poverty that Louisiana breeds so familiarly. We harvest your seafood and your oil, we ship your imports, we dream your jazz, and we welcome you with open arms to visit us. And yet, you still go home and rant and rave, anonymously and online and in public and over radios that those damn people in Louisiana, in New Orleans, they live in a bowl. They live where no one should. They deserve to flood and to die and to watch their every possession become water-logged and molded.

Must be nice to sit atop the mountain and claim such loftiness. I hope you NEVER see the day when you face the loss of your home, your family and friends, the fear of a disaster -- man-made or "natural." I hope you never have to call for help. I hope you never spend your whole life paying taxes to a government, to a country, that doesn't see you as important enough to save.

Anyway. I could go on for hours. This is my city, and if you don't like it, then stay the fuck out. Thank you very much.

It's not assholes who keep me awake. It's not even the strep or the seven medications. It's a girl. Of course it is, you say, because what the fuck else keeps people up at night? Well, a lot of things.



You cannot destroy me and you will not hurt me, but you can keep me at arm's length. You can keep me in a place where I never get to know you. You can keep your thoughts locked inside your head, and you can fit me into a box that is convenient.

But I'm not sure if that's good enough for me.

I want a fighting chance. I don't want a leash, and I will give you a long enough rope to hang yourself if you choose. I will give you a long enough rope to run the world, twice, and I will give you the scissors to cut it any time you please, as long as you give me the same. I will give you space to run, and I will not follow. I don't want anyone to ever feel the need or the pressure to stay. I've been there, and I'm over it. It's fucking miserable. I want you to choose to open up to me, to choose what secrets you hold, to choose to come home with me. I don't care whom you fancy and whom you fuck. But when you are present, be there. Demand the same of me. Demand more of me. Demand something. Want something. Need something. You might not get it the way you want it. You might not get it when you want it. But ask.

I don't need a girlfriend or a wife. I don't need a bedmate or a roommate; I don't need a friend. I have the life I want, and I'm not looking for someone to complete it or change it or make sense of it. What I want is you. I keep coming back to that. I came back because I wanted a chance to get to know you. I wanted to know what made you tick, where you go when you are angry. What makes you wake up in the morning, and if you are happy when you do. Where you want to go tomorrow. What you dream about. I'm not asking to change you; I'm not asking to make sense of you. I'm asking for a moment when I get to listen. I'm asking for a peek over the wall.

And if that's too much to ask, I understand. You can say no, you can draw the boundaries. You can play elsewhere, and I won't come looking. But I will never know if I don't ask.

Just like you'll never know if I will wrap around you in the dark, if you don't pull my hand and see.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shake It Off

Once upon a time, there was a person with a crazy week.

On Monday, she was told the state department chair had suggested her program for cuts by the legislator, which would mean 5,000+ children would lose their disability services and she would lose her job on June 30th. She left this meeting insanely angry and ready to run over the legislature with a tractor. An hour later, she started a petition, posted it on Facebook, emailed it to about 100 people, and went home from work feeling terrified and heartbroken.

On Monday night, when she fell asleep, 3,000 people had signed this petition. Hope seemed...possible. But the fears lingered underneath.

On Tuesday morning, the media called. And they kept calling. The petition kept climbing, and thousands of people added their names. Her boss didn't know whether to fire her for violating HR policies or promote her for raising hell. Media reports poured in from across the state.

On Tuesday, when she fell asleep, 10,000 people had signed this petition. She feared her boss, she feared the future. But secretly her heart was exploding to see all those names, one after the other. These children were not voiceless, and they were not alone. They had 10,000 people standing with them.

On Wednesday, supporters from around the state called. How do we organize, they asked. What do we do? How do we make our voice heard? She organized a group from across the state to attend legislative hearings and testify with their children in toe. She tried to give advice; she tried to lead. She tried not to hear the doubts. She tried to Shake the Devil Off.

On Wednesday night, she tried to fall asleep. But with 16,000 people, the firestorm was overwhelming. Were we just pawns in a legislative game? Would we be successful? Was it better to err in action or inaction? Was the awareness alone worth it?

She stood in the shower, letting the water fall across her face, down her shoulders. She remembered the first child she ever met, a foster baby aptly named Chance. Chance was born drug-addicted. Chance had lost part of his vision, and at six months old, he was unable to hold up his head or roll over. He was delayed, and it was possible no one yet knew the extent of his needs. His doctor said he would never walk. When his grandmother came forth to adopt him, she told the judge that Chance would walk. She told him she believed in miracles, and she believed in this baby. The judge almost would not give her Chance. He said she was deluded; she was not honest with herself about the severity of Chance's needs. She said, FUCK YOU, and she took that baby home. She worked with him every day. She poured her love and her strength, and she advocated for Chance to get every service, every form of help this baby could get.

So to Chance and his grandmother... I have to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me to fight. Thank you for teaching me what hope, faith, and love are. It is the little revolutions that happen every day, the moments in between that aren't widely shared, that make up miracles.

Maybe the legislature and the governor thinks that we are pawns, but in the end, we are caught up in a world that is part choice and part chance. I think I made the right decision this week. I have a feeling I may never see the results, but I hope 16,000 other people do.