After dinner, we took a walk in the woods, during which we fell into several more conversational rabbit holes of incompatibility. The first draft listed them, but it felt nitpicky and boring. I don’t want to be any more like his million-paragraph blog post about the girl at Coldstone Creamery who accidentally put nuts in his sundae than I already am. Plus, the shaky conversations didn’t stop us from falling back into bed, where the real crux of things happened.
J, in times when he could get beyond his self-doubt, felt like a present and thorough lover. It’s hard to discard the times when he took my hand and placed it on his heart afterwards, and there were times when I certainly (thought I) felt our whole beings being celebrated, where pleasure ran the show and overcame everything. But he also needed an incredible amount of praise, and that’s coming from me. Even when I was smiling and wailing and near-crying with pleasure, he constantly made this “Mmmm?” sound that I figured out meant “Am I doing a good job?” which I thought was already apparent. As I rolled though orgasm after, he asked over and over for confirmation that I’d arrived. He chimed on the phrase “my partner’s pleasure” to an almost Rain Man degree, but after a while it could feel like I wasn’t a partner at all, but a flushed and naked approval machine, a sweaty mirror. It was a kind-of-terrifying glimpse into what it must be like to fuck, well, myself.
Anyway, so after our walk we were back in bed, snuggling and making out and trying a few new things. He sat on top of me and put his dick between my happy boobs, played with my nipples, and, intermittently, my clit. I’d told him I like having guys come on my chest, and I loved having him up there, pinning me down, doing this good-kind-of-humiliating thing. I liked looking up at him the most, at his soft brown animal eyes, and I liked his hard dick in my hands and thrusting against me. He didn’t come, but I didn’t really think about that, just moved on to the next cuddly position, stroking him lazily while he petted my arm and kissed my forehead.
But then his entire energy just…froze. He got up to go downstairs a second, and when he came back up, he was almost like a ghost. He lay down rigidly next to me on the outside of the bed and said, in an impatient voice, “I feel like I’m doing you a disservice by not letting you do blow jobs.”
“What? No. I told you, I only want to do things that you feel enthusiastic about.”
“But you were disappointed that I didn’t come on you. I have trouble coming sometimes and (ex-wife) used to get mad about it.”
“But we were just playing. I thought we were just having fun together.” I’d known he was obsessed with my orgasms, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he was worried about his own.
“It’s just, I can’t do my favorite thing.” Meaning, in case you forgot FOR LIKE A SECOND, sex without a condom.
I just started to cry. “I was having so much fun, and you feel so good to me. I thought we were in this together, but somehow it’s not enough for you. We’re not on the same page.” I knew in that moment that just as he blamed his ex for their entire failed marriage, he’d ask me to shoulder the blame for anything that went wrong between is. It was what I predicted would happen when he went off on her after our flower date. I was that girl who couldn’t do anything right.
I felt so sad and hurt and little. I wish I could say I told him to put his pants on right then and go, but there were four torturous hours after that, trying to talk and fuck ourselves back into a connection. (Still with a condom, of course.) Though they were sad hours, I’m glad we tried everything, and I’m glad that we were the kind of honest you can be with someone who is no longer a prospect. When he told me he never wanted to get married again, I told him I could only be in a relationship that had hope. I admitted how lucky he was to have already had his children, how difficult and sad it can be to long for a family at this age.
Just before we finally admitted that he had to go, he lay there on the bed and sang the most awful Harry Chapin song (Pause to Google Harry Chapin and see if he’s still alive so that I might hope to someday punch him in the face…drat.) about a broken barfly and a fat, ugly waitress who decide to make their empty, broken lives better by settling for each other. I am both fascinated and livid that this is a thing that happened to me, but it really helped me to understand that he and I lived in such different worlds.
When I met him, my life was anything but empty—it was full (it is full) of poetry and friends and flowers and art. That’s more and more what it looks like, the further away from the bitterness and grief of divorce that I get, and I can hope that he’ll end up someday in a similarly more lavish landscape.
To him, sex narrowed down to such a tiny seconds-long pinpoint of pleasure, and it made me feel so grateful for all of the confident and generous lovers and players who showed up at my face with condoms and lube and gloves and everything they needed to help keep us safe, who took their penises’ ups and downs with adult aplomb and fucked my whole body with their whole bodies. I remembered Mr. Sweetheart, who tried to be my first anal at ten minutes to midnight at Nude Years Eve, couldn’t, and then spent the evening dancing and fucking and cuddling like the best and happiest of souls.
While lately I’d been dismissing this project as a source of pain and loss, that night as I tossed and turned and mourned J’s departure, I was filled with a bright, golden love for all of the characters who came to me with such generosity, care, and abandon. I knew I could no longer try to divorce myself from all I’ve learned, that painful as they sometimes were, my adventures made me strong and part of the world in a way that’s important to share.
I was proud, too, that I’d been willing to give him everything, to put on the special underpants and trust despite my misgivings and fear. Because I was having these epiphanies on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, I got curious about the holiday and in my cursory research, I read somewhere that this is a time when god is particularly accessible. I had the crazypants thought that the way I was feeling, with the special underpants and the flowers by the door and him still finding fault, might be the way a benevolent creator would feel sometimes about all humans. Not that I’m saying that I in particular AM god (though Spinoza sais there’s nothing that isn’t) (also I think everybody is) but that it might be helpful to look for the ways in which the universe welcomes us, lavishes us with gifts, the ways in which god is always wearing the special underpants for us. (It should be noted, also, that J. wore special underpants that night for me, too—they were silver boxers and I’m sorry I left then out of the story so far.)
So that’s how a guy with an upsetting fetish for not wearing condoms made me want to take down the deeper barriers that separate me from god, and myself, and others. It doesn’t make the heartbreak any less, but I could not be more grateful.