There is no sex without love. I let a stranger roll my body atop his while I watch the way my hand looks on the mattress. And my hand does not feel like mine and I don’t feel anything at all. Love is there because it’s not there. Where there isn’t anything at all is where a love that meant everything used to live. I feel lips on my neck and I breathe because I’m alive. And the stranger’s breath is hot on my neck but there is no fire because there is no love to ignite a spark. Love’s presence is in its absence. The nothingness is what I wish wasn’t love and what I know it will never be and what I don’t want to believe it will never be again.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
We hugged goodbye and his hand lingered on my arm before he turned and walked home to her. His fingers brushed my wrist and I watched him go. I thought about how I knew better and how much it had taken me to learn. I thought about slipping up and I thought about falling. He was a rock’n’roll cowboy who had tripped me with his gaze.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
He said, “Whenever I’m talking to you, I never want the conversation to end.”
It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me.
Later, as we walked towards our separate trains home, he turned to me and asked, “Are you walking intentionally slowly?”
I nodded. “I don’t want the conversation to end.”
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
We ate at a Subway somewhere near the north end of Union Square before going to Beth Israel. It was a Sunday night and it felt like a last supper. I wished there was wine instead of Diet Coke. In fact, I had eyed the pub next door before we entered Subway. A glass or two of wine would have calmed me down and helped me deal with my second emergency room in one weekend. However, I had figured it wouldn’t help my case if the doctors smelled wine on my breath.
As I picked stale bread flakes off the edge of my sub, I asked you if you remembered how we used to have breakfast at Subway when we first started dating. You remembered. Well, not breakfast really -- just a first meal, around one or two on Monday afternoons, after having spent the morning lying in bed together.
“I think I first realized I was falling in love with you at that Subway by your apartment,” I smiled.
I could still see it, the two of us sitting at a table in the far back, by a window. September sunshine streaming in and soaking us in light. You in your t-shirt and basketball shorts. Me still wearing last nights’ clothes. My hair tied up in a bun on the top of my head because it was still greasy and unwashed from last night’s sex. You had reached across the table and taken my sunglasses and put them on. I told you your head was too big for them and that he was stretching them out. You looked at the Marc Jacobs label on the side of the sunglasses. “I like nice things,” you commented as you handed them back to me.
Then somehow we had started talking about The One. I gave my standard line about how I think there are a couple right people for each of us and in the end it just comes down to timing – two people who are right for each other being ready at the same time. You agreed but you said you thought there are more than just a couple right people. Your theory was that there are 500,000 right people for each person on Earth; it’s just a matter of how many of them you meet. I thought this was crazy. And by crazy, I mean I thought it was horribly unromantic. You said that if a person were to visit every city, village and remote location on Earth and meet every single person, that person would meet 500,000 people who were right for them.
I hated you for saying that. And that’s when I realized I loved you. I thought of the men I had once believed I loved – who maybe I had loved in a way at the time – but there in that Subway, looking across the table at you, I already loved you more. I could believe that it was good timing. I loved the person I had grown into more than I loved my former selves, so maybe because I was more right, you were more right for me. But, honestly, I didn’t truly think that was it. You were just right. You were wrong about the 500,000 thing, but you were right.
“Our first breakfast was pizza and yellow Gatorade,” I smiled at you from across our current table in the Subway on 16th Street.
“That pizza place burned down,” you replied.
I nodded and took a sip from my bottle of Diet Coke.
You watched me as I placed the bottle to my lips. “You still take such tiny sips!” you laughed. “They’re like half-sips. I don’t know how you ever drink anything.”
“I can’t help it. I have a tiny mouth.” I placed a chip in my mouth.
“And I see you’re still putting yourwhole finger in your mouth whenever you eat chips. You’d put your finger all the way down to your stomach, if you could.”
“Well I want to make sure the food gets there.”
Right then, we were how I liked us best.
I didn’t want to leave Subway. I also wished I hadn’t eaten Subway. It was not the kind of food one wants to re-taste and I felt so sick that I was sure I would do just that very soon. Nevertheless, you took my hand and we walked towards Beth Israel. It was already dark outside and the streetlights shone like the forgotten halos of fallen angels on the snow.
As we walked along, I could see the silvery illumination of the Empire State Building in the distance. Then I looked up at your face. I could still see your face as it had been the first time I really saw you. It had been 5a.m. on a Wednesday morning. I was squinting at you through tired eyes that were just sobering up from a night of unnamed shots, beers, and a Long Island Iced Tea. You were sitting with me on your couch, a cushion of space between us. You were looking at me like I was an angel, but the look on your face made me feel like you were the one who was an angel. I had said, “I’m not going to kiss you. I’m tired.” And you had just sat watching me.
“It’s okay that this happened,” I said as we walked along. I was still watching your face. “I’m going to be okay.”
You didn’t say anything. We walked up the steps into Beth Israel.
I found Craigslist’s missed connections page open on your computer on a Saturday morning in May. You said it was just a fantasy. But did you feel you had missed something? Were we missing something? I flew to Chicago that night. We didn’t speak the whole time I was gone. The first day, I didn’t even miss you. By the third day I missed you, but I was too stubborn to say so. Is that when you decided you wanted to see other people? Did you see someone else and stop having eyes only for me? Or did you miss me and wish you didn’t? Or maybe you just didn’t? What are you looking for? What didn’t I see? Am I missing something? And what about our connection?
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
In New York, they call police stations precincts. You and I went to the precinct. Well, we went to my designated precinct, which happened to be in East Harlem. So we took a taxi deeper into Harlem than I’d ever been. There was a Christmas tree at the precinct. It was decorated in silver and blue tinsel. You commented that the Christmas tree at your office looked worse. I realized that this was the first Christmas tree I had seen this season. Beside the tree was a box for donating coats for the homeless. It was a miserably cold night. And the cold seemed to have followed us into the precinct, where we sat on a concrete bench, behind a metal gate, beyond which were office desks, police, and the Christmas tree and the box of coats. The cold felt like it was coming up out of the concrete bench, up through my coat and my jeans and into my bones. I shivered and said to you that when this was over we should donate coats. I knew we each had old but still perfectly warm winter coats that we no longer needed. I had every intention of doing this, as I said it aloud. I was convinced it would feel good to help someone else – warm, maybe it would feel warm.
A man sat down beside us on the concrete bench and asked if we knew the time. I checked my phone and told him. He was shivering too. I wondered what he was there for. I was there for you. At least, you were the only thing in the world that would ever inspire me to call a Special Victim’s Unit Detective, take a taxi into Harlem, and go to a precinct to attempt to report a rape. I didn’t need to have it on record. It was already in me. There were bruises on my skin. That was enough.
What I needed was for someone to lie in bed and hold me, someone to go with me to the movies and tell me jokes and laugh even when I told bad ones. I needed someone to look at the bruises on my hip and hug me until I felt comfortable enough to cry. You had cried two nights before. And I suspected you had cried more than that, when I wasn’t there to see. You had said you couldn’t go on as long as the person who did this got away with it.
And so there we were, at the precinct, waiting to talk to the detective. It was exactly two weeks before Christmas. I think you thought reporting the rape would make it better. I didn’t think so, but I wanted you to be better. I also wanted you to hold me at night, instead of turning onto your side and whimpering and demanding not to be touched. I wanted to be touched. I wanted to be normal and pretty and happy and not raped.
You held my hand as we sat waiting for the detective. I was rambling, telling stories about my childhood, Christmas, whatever came to mind. I have never been comfortable with silence.
The detective was a large, sturdy, Irish woman with a shaved head and a single pierced ear. She led us through the metal gate, passed the Christmas tree and the box of coats, past the desks and the police officers who didn’t even look at us. I looked back at the man who had asked me for the time, before we turned a corner into a stairwell. Upstairs, we came to a room that was familiar even though I had only ever seen such a place in movies. It was one of those small windowless, wall-to-wall concrete rooms with a single florescent light hanging from the ceiling, where detectives question people (suspects?). She told you to wait outside.
Inside, the room was oppressively hot. The detective sat at a small folding table. I sat across from her. She told me she had heard about my case from the nurse that had been on duty when I went into the ER three nights earlier. I felt betrayed by the nurse. I felt like the detective had judged me even before I had decided to report the rape. And as I set about telling her what had happened, I began to feel like any sense of strength or righteousness I had left was being put on trial. She asked me to tell her everything I ate the day of the rape. She said I didn’t eat enough carbs. She asked me how much I drank. She said repeatedly, “I like to party too.” I stared at her earing, her shaved head. I pictured her in a Metallica t-shirt and acid washed jeans with a gage in her ear. I pictured her doing lines. Before going to the precinct I had put on my pearl earrings and changed into my new cashmere sweater, because I thought it was important to dress respectably when reporting a crime.
The detective told me how things would proceed if I decided to go ahead with pressing charges. She told me she would take my case, but that I had a little to no chance of winning it. She told me again, “As a woman, I understand. I like to party too.”
I wanted a drink.
She told me to take the rest of the week to think about what I wanted to do and then to call her Sunday afternoon. It was Wednesday night. She gave me her card and I slipped it into my wallet.
I think I already knew I wouldn’t call her. I couldn’t call her. And I think I knew too that my choice not to call her would mean the end of whatever was left between me and you. Or maybe it had already ended. Maybe it had ended the second you saw the nurse in the ER draw vials of my blood or saw her collect my underwear as evidence. Or maybe it had ended long before that and that’s why you couldn’t bring yourself to roll over in the night and hold me and I couldn’t bring myself to go through with pressing the charges for you. Or maybe you couldn’t hold me because it hadn’t ended and that’s why this hurt you so much. And I just couldn’t press the charges no matter how much you said you needed me too, no matter how much I loved you.
In the taxi that was taking us away from the precinct and Harlem and back to my apartment, I told you that I needed a drink first. I told the driver to stop at Eighty-Eighth and Third. I told you I wouldn’t be able to sleep without something to calm me. What I meant was that I knew better than to expect you to calm me. Also, I think I wanted to delay the inevitable moment of watching you crawl into my bed and turn away from me onto your side and insist your stomach hurt and that you needed to be left alone. After which I would lie down beside you and watch you and think about how this hurt more than anything else.
On the taxi ride to the Italian restaurant where we were going to go sit at the bar, I kept making sarcastic comments about how the detective had told me that she too liked to party. I hated her. And I hated myself. There wasn’t enough hate left over for the person who put me in this mess in the first place. That was the problem.
The look on your face and the feeling that hovered between us when I told you I couldn’t go through with pressing charges broke my heart. And not in a cliché way. It really broke my heart. It made me sure that I would never be capable of loving anyone as much as I had loved you ever again because this hurt so much that it really did cause something in me to break.
At the Italian restaurant we sat at the bar. I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir. You ordered a Peroni. The old Italian bartender was watching the Knicks game on TV. You pointed out Woody Allen sitting courtside. Woody Allen was our first shared loved and our lasting one. If I had any faith left, I would have thought it was a sign or a small gift from God. I commented that Woody Allen says that if he could choose between never watching sports again and never watching another movie, he would choose sports. (Something about how sports are the real theater, maybe?) I didn’t have it in me to recite my favorite Woody Allen line from Annie Hall about how life is divided into two types of people: the horrible and the miserable. And the horrible are the death, the blind, the terminally ill. And the miserable is everyone else. “You’re lucky that you’re miserable,” Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton’s character as they stand in a bookshop where he has just discouraged her from buying a cat book.
I thought then that I should take you to see Woody Allen play his clarinet at the Carlyle next Monday night. I thought that would be a chance to un-break everything. I pictured myself wearing a new dress and you seeing me as beautiful again, as opposed to someone who has been bruised. I pictured you smiling.
But we wouldn’t go to the Carlyle to see Woody Allen Monday night because I had to go to my last graduate class ever. Though, really, the class seemed so trivial to me at that point. Everything seemed trivial except for the bruises on my skin and the look on your face.
I ordered a second glass of wine. You had another beer. We weren’t talking, just staring at the TV and listening to the people at the end of the bar converse. They were discussing existential philosophy. One of them said she read Camus in college.
The wine was heavy. I felt a bit light headed. I wished I hadn’t felt I needed it. I don’t want you to agree with the detective, that this is all my fault because I like to party. I didn’t want you to look at me sipping my Pinot Noir, wishing it was magic, and see a sad, stupid woman who drank gin and tonics and went out dancing and then woke up burning, sore, scarped and bruised. I don’t want either of us to think about choices. I don’t want you to think what I think, that regardless of how it happened, I betrayed you.
Back in my apartment, you and I laid in bed. You sang Frank Sinatra, “My Way.” And you cried. And so did I. And when you fell asleep, I sat up in bed and watched you. In the morning I watched you walk down the stairs until you turned a corner and disappeared.
I don’t think you need to spend a lifetime with someone to share a lifetime worth of love with them. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you just felt bad for me and I was just pathetic and so you did what you thought was your duty until you felt you had done enough. But I still think that loving is the only chance anyone has at redemption for the choices we make and what the world makes of us.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I told her, “You don’t want to be like me. I don’t want to be like me some days. Like when I’m sitting in bed alone, drinking wine out of the bottle, listening to my favorite Shania Twain songs, too tired to write and too anxious about nothing in particular to sleep. Or when I’m someone's easy fuck. I’m difficult in all the wrong ways.”
We sat on his couch drinking white wine and listening to Wilco like they were Buddy Holly and we were Don McLean. He said, “You’re in love with me.” I said, “If you keep saying that, I’m going to start thinking you’re in love with me.”
So we went out for more wine and whiskey and we sat outside a bar on the warm summer night, drinking and watching skin and bone sweethearts pass by.
When the last call came we were in his bed laughing at Saturday Night Live. I was wearing his boxers and his head was resting on my shoulder while his dog slept at our feet. In the night he put my arm around himself and linked his fingers with mine.