|That week, while my creative coaching client was collaging through her blocks, I made this. Both a staircase and a trapped butterfly, seems about right.|
It should be said, friends, that my almost-year-and-a-half dry spell was a literal dry spell as well—I’ve always been the squishiest, but there was a while when I was so dry that I thought I might be starting menopause. I could just have stocked up on lube, but the idea of always having to was something I wasn’t ready to face, so I got by on spit and determination. From the moment I met J, the dry spell was over. I came home with soaked underpants every time, wetter than in all my adventures. It felt like a reunion, like a second chance at being alive, to be coursing with so much life, to be opening up like a flower. That’s why, no matter how it ended up, I’m glad I let my hoo-ha make the decisions for a while—that part of me (literally and figuratively) has been neglected for so long, I’m glad I didn’t begrudge myself a perilous treat.
When I met him, I was in a delicate but thriving state. It was the first time in my adult life that I could say I was truly happy to be single. I was teaching poetry in my pretty apartment, spending lots of time with my friends and at church, and starting to have faith about where I was going. However, back in February I had to resign from the school district due to acute stress disorder, and I’m still pretty jumpy and prone to panics about once a month. The fact that J. was triggering space issues seemed like it was partly due to my own recent and distant past, but typing the story to you makes it seem less likely that that was so. I am still brokeny, but I think I was scared of him because he was (unintentionally, I’m almost sure) scary—sometimes it’s not that deep.
Anyway, the day after our beautiful but ill-ended flower date, he sent a text apologizing and citing grief. I conceded that not everyone can be besties with their exes the way I (somewhat unhealthily) am with Sweetie. (Currently she and I work at the same three-employee store, she’s my boss, and we spend about an hour each morning processing my feelings about various things. All this with a person I once jumped out of a car to get away from. I know.) I told him to give me some time, that I’d have to do some soul-searching, so we went to radio silence and a love poem proceeded to pour out of me in a way that hadn’t happened in a long time. I felt jangled but fired up. I made art all day that day.
(When I second-drafted the poem with my friends in poetry class, I noticed that it accidentally implied that I wanted to have babies, including feeling the vibration of his Apple watch as “Another little heartbeat.” and, seeing the children in the flower garden wearing glow bracelets, responding with “I want one” meaning but not really meaning the glow bracelets. I hid it pretty well before I posted it, but still, I was like, nicely done, subconscious! Got it.)
Anyway, maybe latent baby-wishes were what inspired me to give him a chance, or his prowess at planning dates, or the cuteness of his texting style. (It was the first time I’ve dated with emoji involved, and I can’t overstate the adorableness of a good morning sunflower rainbow kissy face…) Maybe (probably) it was just plain lust and curiosity. That Sunday, I took a beach trip by myself, to clear my head and make the right decision, and I knew (I always know things best in the ocean, even if it is with a bathing suit on these days.) that if I let him go, I would always wonder if there could have been something real between us. Also I have to admit there was the stupid “What if this is my last chance?” feeling that comes from being socialized to think of myself as ancient at almost-forty-one.
When he asked me a couple days before the date what I was in the mood for, I very brazenly and honestly said red meat. He sent me a couple of menus for fancy places I could dress up for, with very grown-up prices, and I thought, “Is this what regular dating women get all the time? I should start expecting more from life.” That was the central lesson of him, and I hope I can see it through.
The day before our third date, I had an enormous panic attack. The first week of classes is pretty much the only busy time our college bookstore job is stressful, just because of all the extroversion and sometimes-getting-trapped-behind-the-register it requires. The one rude kid on our super-adorable campus found me and I found myself with a pounding headache, unable to work or get myself home. A kind coworker brought me to the campus infirmary, where the nice nurse asked me why I had neither a therapist nor meds. Reasonable question. I got some good rest before the date, but I carried a residue of fear under my pretty black polka-dot dress. (Hello again, red satin heels!)
As I followed my GPS to the suburbs, everything started to look familiar, especially when I turned onto J’s block. Remember way back whenSteampunk Guy pulled over on a quiet suburban street for car sex? THIS RANDOM OKC GUY’S HOUSE WAS THE HOUSE WE PULLED OVER IN FRONT OF. J was one of the nice people I was trying not to wake with my sex yowls three summers ago. I didn’t know if that was a good sign or a bad one, but I’ve never been more sure that my love life is a labyrinth. So where had I returned to?
I can’t overstate my delight at being properly dated, to be out in the world being shown off in a fancy outfit, being treated like someone who’s someone instead of a dance card afterthought. I ate rare filet mignon and felt like an animal, like a sexy lion, like a woman who’s thoroughly alive. He ordered a good pinot with the inauspicious name “Writer’s Block” but I seem to be overflowing with paragraphs nonetheless.
The conversation turned again to his writing, which was a tricky subject. He’d told me before that he wrote erotic novels, and I (somewhat hypocritically) was scared to read them—I had a feeling we wouldn’t be able to go on if I read his stories, and probably I was right. He confirmed that “Well, let’s just say it’s not all consensual.” I didn’t ask him who in the stories was not consenting to what, only told him I was now A. Scared and B. Too tipsy to flee.
“But sometimes someone just needs a little…push…”
Okay, so this blog wouldn’t exist if that weren’t a little bit true, but I didn’t like hearing it from him. “That’s not up to you. It’s not up to you to decide what someone else needs.”
He rightly pointed out that he’d written it, not done it, but still, I felt so let down and sad. “I just want there to be one guy, one guy, who wants a real person next to him in bed.” Yes, there have been plenty, but I was having tunnel vision, heavy with the burden of trying to keep myself not-raped. In the do-over version, this is where I have the waitress split the check, wait around a bit to sober up, and grouse about it to my friends at brunch the next day. But as he paid the bill, the conversation simmered back to happy somehow and I admitted that what I wanted most in the world was just to tear. Him. Apart. I was getting in that pool, and no stupid thing he said was going to stop me.
Next time: Big moon, hot sex, more stupid things.