I think I want to be single for the rest of my life.
I think I want to be single and write about him from afar.
I think I want to write about him from afar in posts no one will read because it makes me feel safe.
I think that being touched is an unsafe thing. What touches you, changes you. What changes you has the power to destroy you.
I used to close my eyes as a child and imagine the worst thing. When my mother was five minutes late picking me up I would imagine her dying in a car wreck. I would imagine how I would feel. I would let the fear and grief wash over me, and then I would steel myself against the emotions. I would change myself slowly into a person who could not feel.
Nobody looking would have imagined I was a sociopath. I was convicted of depression and bipolar and anxiety. When I threw away my meds at 16 I cried for months. I cried rivers of inappropriate tears. Our choir teacher left, and I cried. Seniors graduated, and I cried. Someone said something kind. Tears.
You cannot take me anywhere. I cry in our living room. I cry when people are kind to me. I have not had much reason to expect kindness. I have not had much reason to want to feel much of anything.
It’s funny. I looked at him and saw somebody who wanted to be touched, but he tensed up when I was near. So I assumed he wanted to be touched, but not by me.
I assumed he acted otherwise because he did not know what he wanted. Or because he was a trap and I was the girl silly enough to fall in, silly enough to impale myself and not in the good way, silly enough to think about sex when he was just watching the horizon and thinking about photographs or other girls. That he looked at me and saw some girl who had nice legs, which I do not.
We are a generation of ‘reach out and touch me.’ We are a generation of needing and bleeding and thinking sex will solve everything and we are wrong. I thought if I had him in my bed I could solve everything between my hands and my words. I thought if I could whisper maybe the right words would come.
The words finally have come. Many months too late, as words so often do. They came when I called them to me. They came when I went looking for them, in books written by old women. They came when I was willing to give up everything to find them.
I was always willing to give up everything for him, you know. For that boy. Only my own social scripts and my own social conditioning and all the ways this world taught me to hate my body told me, the everything I needed to give up for him? Was him.
So I gave him up. But he just thought I gave up on him.
That boy, the one I saw. The magic boy with the sun in his hands who shattered the icing glass, sang Judy Collins many years before I met him. I have been making lists of all the songs and all the books I wanted to share with him before I met him. He has been dating other women and sharing himself with other women and when he told me stories of his life I wondered how many times he had told them to other women, and I closed my eyes to the look on his face. I closed my eyes to the vulnerability on his face because I thought it was a lie, and then I got really drunk for a year.
Another lie. I only drink when I’m lonely.
Another lie. I only drink when I can’t bear it.
Another lie. I have been sober for nine months. I did not drink when I was near him, mostly. Except that once I had two shots and then I told him, I really need a brother.
I really do need a brother, really. I have no one to protect me. I have no one on my side. I have myself in a room with my father who is much bigger than me and with my mother who will not protect me and with my sister who is blonder and therefore more worthy of protection than I am. I am the one sacrificed to my father, I am the one tied to a post and left for the gods to take, I am the daughter who motives Clytemnestra’s revenge but I am getting too old to believe in fairy stories. My mother is never going to take revenge on my behalf. My mother is never going to save me.
That boy. I so wanted to be lovable for that boy. He thought I was light-filled as he is, he thought I was lovable for five seconds but he was wrong, and I had to tell him that before he made a huge mistake. I had to tell him. Before he kept going and kept loving me and was embarrassed by his mistake because me? I am too old to believe in fairy stories. I am a poor man’s Cinderella and he is not a poor man. I am fat and old and ugly.
I couldn’t talk to him for days. Sorry, I wanted to say. I am sorry I look like this. I am sorry you have to look at me. I’ll change. I’ll do anything.
There will always be women in this world more beautiful than me. And he built himself into a man who loves beauty and tender things, who touches tender reed women who touch him back tentatively like ghosts and he pretends to enjoy it and so do they. This is the cost of whiteness, is becoming a ghost. I thought he had already paid that cost. I thought it was worth it to him.
He found a ghost-girl, after me. Someone beautiful in all the ways I am not. Exactly who I would have picked for him, and I wonder sometimes what power we might have, all of us, that we are not aware of. I wonder sometimes if perhaps I am a witch after all.
He thought I was a witch. A wicked girl turning him on with a glance and a gesture, just to watch him squirm. He thought I was this girl who mocked his body behind his back with my friends when really I was this girl who explained breathlessly to anyone who would listen, I love him. He seems to like me. Obviously he does not really like me, right?
I know where I belong, in the social hierarchy. You learn these lessons, when you are a Jewish girl surrounded by white girls with the kind of money you can only dream of. When your parents lie to you and throw you out into the world to be eaten alive by the kids they tell you are your friends. All the horses that I loved were other children, once. Kids I played with and befriended by choice and loved, until my hands were ripped away from them and placed in little white girls’ hands.
I thought they hated me, these friends I loved and lost. I’m sure they thought I hated them.
These are the things white supremacy takes from us.
In the center of a forest where the sunlight dapples his sunshine face I am standing and he is waiting, and. In the meadows of my erotic self I understand where I belong, and I am not afraid of it. I do not close my eyes and picture him getting hit by a bus or knifed on a plane and think, what would I do. How would I survive. What would I feel.
I think I have been killing myself all my life in case I met him. I think I have been killing myself because that way if he was real, not just a childhood fantasy and imaginary friend born of loneliness but really real. That way, if he was real, I would be sure to die first.
Being alone has been the defining feature of my life. I have more in common with kids raised in foster care who learned to carry a knife in place of a smile and learned friendship is for suckers and hope is for losers who don’t know how the world works. I am exchanging letters with a woman who has lived in prison for the past twenty years and it is easier for us to understand each other than it is for him to understand me, sometimes.
Circumstances can tear away anything human inside a person. They can turn a lie into the truth. I hooked up with him. Squint, and you’ll miss the question mark. If no one gives you a choice whether they grab you or flirt or offer dieting advice or tell you you’re crazy or fuck you against your will, sooner or later, you start to think it does not matter and anyway. You do not matter. If a tree falls in the forest, and that tree is your boundaries and dignity and self-respect and sense of self and then, when the tree has fallen, other men come and piss on the bloody stump of you, what’s left?
A cavern where there used to be a person.
Fat Jewish girl, on display and more in common with the Hottentot Venus, than with him and by the way, she was also a girl, once. With her own name. Before they took it from her.
Men looking at me and reading sexual desire into the fact of my breasts and the curve of my hips like my very existence must compel me to want them. And him standing there, believing them, because after all I am a woman we are notoriously vain and shallow. After all we will want any man near us with the power to take us whether we want him to or no. After all we will allow men to touch us and grab us and take us over, and if we did not want them to, why did we let it happen? Why didn’t we stop them?
Like the difference between rape and not-rape is whether she stopped him. Whether she tried to stop him. Not whether she wanted it but whether she did ‘enough’ to convince him she didn’t want it.
She did enough, by not wanting it. Not wanting it is enough reason for him not to do it to her. She should not have to say no.
She has to say no if she happens to look like me. If her existence says yes, because she has breasts and because men want to fuck her. I am in a body that men want to fuck and that, they presume, means I have consented to their wanting me, just by existing. Men see my breasts and want to touch. Men see my mouth and they want in. The more I reclaim my body is the more I reclaim my sensuality, and men cannot see a wild thing without wanting to take it and tame it and have it as their own. Men cannot see a woman who reminds them of sex, without thinking what they would like to do to her. If she does not consent to these things they’d like to do, well then why would she go on existing in that body?
I have the audacity to exist in a body men want to fuck. He could never quite forgive me for that. I could never quite forgive myself for that.
Men do not understand how often women spend afraid. A man flirts with me and I am thinking, how do I make him back off without pissing him off or upsetting him or making it obvious I am rejecting him. A man touches me and I am thinking, how do I get out of this situation alive.
Never show them their mistake. That is the first rule of survival. When you are a woman and you are disabled and you are fat and you have no power. You have to do what you can to make it out alive.
I was trying so hard to make it out alive.
I was trying so hard to please him and make everyone like me and make sure nobody hated me and nobody attacked me and what did it matter what I wanted?
I went to bed every night and in my dreams I put my mouth where I wanted my mouth to be and in the morning I smiled tightly at him and waited for him to realize his mistake. And I very carefully did not touch him because I did not think he wanted me to touch him.
I very carefully did not slam him up against a wall or put my hand down his swimsuit in the goddam ocean because I have taught myself to be a good girl so bad men would not do bad things to me but it has never once worked.
Bad men do bad things anyway.
And not one goddam thing gets me like he gets me. Not one goddam thing reaches me where he does and I am not a stupid girl, and I am not making a mistake, and I am not crazy. Just damaged and this brain of mine too, because it turns out when you fall off many horses and you do not brake for concussions, they brake for you.
Still. I am an incoherent incomprehensible mess of hormones and sweat and sex toys that don’t smell like him and I am a pervert and I am a monster and I offered to let him fuck me without loving me first, but he said no.
I forgot to tell him I loved him. I thought that was obvious.