Monday, February 18, 2013

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.

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