Making a Point in a L-Triangle
First published in 5 Quarterly Review, Summer 2014
You only come over when you want—which is never when I invite you. It’s been ok, because I was and still am in love with you. Since I just said that, you won’t want to come over now, but you will want to come again. You always do. Just looking at each other compresses the walls. Breathing in with plastic bags on our heads. Nothing but suffocation. I am the one you torture and are tortured by. If I were a boxer, my nickname might be: “The Tormented Tormentor.” Partially-fulfilled and never treated with impartiality, I am so objectified that I know what shapes feel like. I’ve felt your dirty thoughts touch me. I exist whether you like it or not—and whether she likes it or not. I know too much about you for us to sleep together without it ruining everything. If I didn’t know you, we could just do it and move on. I could move on. I tell myself that’s what went wrong. I say, “We should have.” That’s what I mumble when I’m standing in lines, when I’m waiting for something unimportant.
I’ve seen us threaded in the racks of the magazines in the back corner of a bodega. We rip and tear at each other and the glossy pages, while the owner ignores our reflection in the convex security mirror. (It’s the bodega on Havermeyer street with the nice Indian guy who’s obsessed with cricket. He’d rather watch the game on his small TV set instead of two idiots going at it next to rows of chips and candy.) I’ve seen us in big sporting goods stores, in those tall, dark, skyscraper aisles of running shoes. How many miles have I ran because of you? The facebook photos of me with medals from half-marathons. They’re for you, babe. Look at my body, tan and toned, and change your mind. In my fantasy, we’re on the ground after knocking over hundreds of boxes of Nikes and New Balances. The contents of the boxes and their lids are everywhere: shoes, sheets of tissue paper, and wedges of tissue paper that are uncomfortable enough to stop and remove from underneath us, before resuming and trying to keep quiet.
Then, of course, there are all the bathrooms: airplanes, restaurants, bookstores, libraries, and even friend’s apartments (these usually have bathtubs too). Whenever I wash my hands, whenever I look up at the mirror to see the stalls and the surfaces behind me, I think of us wasting it. All these spaces we keep leaving absent. We aren’t the only things left untouched you know. There’s shower curtains to be pulled, potpourri to be spilled, doors to be closed or left open, handles to be grabbed, tables and desks to be mounted, rocking chairs and ordinary chairs to be pushed on and pushed off of, rugs, tile, and hardwood to lay, land, and finish on. Never once do I think of us in a bed with sheets and pillows. Sex with you would be—will be—something with a hard edge. This whole thing with you is regret—or something like it—which makes some sense, but not much. Every moment where it might have happened was when I found you to be unattractive. You’d look as desperate as I felt, and it would ruin my desire, like coughing right before a kiss—which actually happened to us once.
Last weekend, you said, “I wore this for you.” Did that mean you wore this for me to take off of you? Was that the type of exchange you were going for, when you left your house and went looking for me at parties wearing this? This being an outfit of nothing but black fabric, exposed skin, and a stain of red lipstick that looked like candied vinyl. You grabbed my hand as I passed. I wanted you to notice me not noticing you—you did, but then you grabbed me. That was beyond unfair. Acquiescent: rarely for others, but always for you. I felt like a page of Braille. I received your fingers without protest, without anything short of submission. You needed to touch me, so of course you were entitled to. I stood there and took it and felt metallic. “Just let me touch you,” you said. Your fingertips were already moving up my forearms, then to my shoulders, and then back down to my waist. Your hands landed, lifted, and landed again and again. Your touch felt like a winged insect. Mercutio said Queen Mab’s wings were “of a grasshopper,” but you’re more of a “nightmare” than a “dream.” So, I guess your wings can be “of a hornet.” When I try to touch you, you always move away. Should I get a net?
You’re never frozen by me. That ice—that inability to resist being manipulated only happens to me. Your fingers squeezed into mine, and just like that: we were outside. Zippered flesh. You didn’t want to be seen. You still saw the world beyond our interactions, unlike me the dumb deer who glazes over in the beam of your headlights, your body, your smile. You wanted to do something to me and the ability to write it off, to hit me, to keep going, and to finally isolate “us” beyond something meaningful. “A physical sexual thing.” That’s what we are, but somehow, still, that’s all we aren’t.
That night, I thought, “How strange! Being used for the first time is almost enjoyable, but it’s not.” I couldn’t even let you do it, because you really wanted to just throw me out. Do me, undo me, and be done with me. I knew you wanted me. I know you still want me sometimes, but I don’t care. (I do.) If you want to keep me, then I’ll move again. Then I’ll come and be there, or here, or wherever. But, not until that happens, and it might not happen.