I deserve jazz quartets

my dear

 

I went to see my dear.

For three nights, my body slept soundly in the warmth between my dear’s arms. We kissed foreheads. We laughed. We entangled our naked bodies and talked deeply about our affections.

I am not in love with my dear. I do believe that he is reluctantly, helplessly in love with me.

He once stunned me with his work in labor unions and spoke of his idol Rep. John Lewis not with starry-eyed whimsy but with determination to live a life that would make him proud. Now he only fantasized about promotions and luxury high rises.

During this visit, my dear earnestly called me a revolutionary. Smiling, he confessed his selfish desire to be close to someone whom he believes will change the nation. I used to feel similarly towards my dear. I would tell him, when you finally run for office, I’d be honored to serve your campaign. This time, I simply smiled back.

Yet another man who novelized my ambition to compensate for his lack.

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious yuppie, I was listening to an NPR special with Branford Marsalis, a jazz musician, on my walk home from work when I became intensely agitated with my dear. I remembered finding that hole in the wall blues bar in Chicago and sharing in the pain and joy of the live band together. I thought about his continuous complaints about DC’s lack of beer gardens during my visit.

I care about my dear. I enjoy time spent with him. We revel in rapturous sex together.

I am not in love with my dear.

I deserve a man who introduces me to jazz quartets. Then perhaps I will be in love.

the ecstasy of imagination

my dear

 

I lay in bed with another virgin last night. We did not have sex. We’d gone on a date the week before, and my overwhelming impression of him was nice. He treated me to dinner with perfect unassuming Mid-Western manners and a sweet, relaxed smile. His profile reminded me of a mentor I’d idolized and romanticized as a freshman in college, but he lacked his ferocity.

Being with him felt easy. He agreed with my politics, but did not take a specific interest in them. He spoke plainly and openly, but did not seem like he had need for secrets or hidden traumas. He adored his older sisters.

Of course, there is nothing objectionable about being nice. Nice. But so often nice is simply uninteresting disguised in decorum. Just as I recognize that virginity is a social construct and should carry no value judgement, I realize that nice virgins cannot satisfy me at this point in my life.

In less than a week, I will be in Washington D.C.

“Look me up if you’re ever back in Chicago.”

“Let me know if you move, I guess.”

He did not let me know when he moved.

Thanks to the beauty of the social media age, I figured out the location switch eventually. I was not shocked. My dear always aspired to be politicking in D.C. but I had expected at least a heads up.

Months later, I got my update from the source himself via Snapchat at 2am.

He’d switched phones and lost my number. He apologized. He charmed. He conjured the places, the thoughts, the feelings of our summer love. He offered a place to stay and a tour should I ever find myself in D.C.

My co-workers had been planning a trip for the Women’s March after the inauguration and the possible end of American democracy as we know it. I had my reservations about the march (mostly its neoliberalism), but the lure of my dear enchanted me.

In less than a week, I will confront the one lover whom I had ever truly, deeply loved.

I do not believe love to be unconditional or permanent. My love flashed in July. Now, I believed it to be living in gently shimmering embers. They could reignite with a gentle breeze or easily smolder out. As my departure approaches, I fear my love inevitably will expire.

My dear and I have always danced around our feelings for each other. In our recent sparse conversations, we’ve stepped dangerously close to saying something about the other that we might actually mean. Yet I wonder if our distance-induced imagination has brought us nearer to disclosure without bringing us nearer to truth.

I once read that people revert to the haircuts of their glory days when they are unhappy with their life. Despite all common sense telling them that three-story Farrah Fawcett bangs no longer hearken to golden goddesses, they insist upon living their own angelic delusion through the hair.

I am not unhappy with my life, but I recognize that the past few months have been rather unfulfilling. I have spent most of my energy on organizing reactions to the inane bullshit (e.g. mainstreaming of white supremacy and proto-fascism) currently consuming American politics. I am searching for a job that I hope will become a career. I do not feel intellectually stimulated by those around me. I have not been sexually stimulated by anyone in a while. Being drunk loses its appeal without my riders to indulge drunken adventures.

I am stable. I laugh. I do not suffer. I have goals, and I succeed in them. My life is nice. But I am not madly in love with any bit of my current existence.

Daydreaming about my dear allows me to fall in love and revel in the ecstasy of imagination. My mind replays a near perfect image of my dear – one without the harsh inconveniences and complex torments of concrete interaction. Our bimonthly playful texts and calls fan the embers. Brief contact gives us just enough distraction and encouragement to continue the fantasy without too much information to dispute any of the assumptions with which our minds take the liberty of filling in the gaps.

How deep are those gaps? Have we both filled them with the same stuff?

In less than a week, I will be in D.C. in the arms of my dear. I will either shatter our separate deliriums or confirm a shared reality.

Frankly, I am not sure which I fear more.

chicago hey arnold

slutdom

 

A bead of sweat dislodged itself from the strands of hair near my ear, traced my jaw bone, trickled down my bare heaving breast, and splatted onto his cornflower blue sheets.

I peeled my hands off of his tattooed shoulders and leaned back, wiping my hands down my neck. I breathed heavily and moaned, “It’s so hot.”

Ricardo grunted back in satisfaction. He gripped my hips and pressed them further into him. His head resting on the mattress and his dark eyes dreamily tracing my body above him, he seemed entranced by the heat.

“No, like – fuck! – can I open a window?”

The corners of his mouth pinched Ricardo’s bearded face into a small smile, and he shrugged. I rose shakily and attempted to shimmy the old window open. White paint crumbled into my hand. Like the feverish waves vibrating towards the tiny attic’s pitched ceiling, my desperate energy jammed the frame up. I leaned my naked body out, searching for cool relief. Sounds of splashing water and children’s laughter filled the bedroom. Fanning myself, I looked down the small alley between the row houses. A fountain of crystaline water sprayed from a fire hydrant, reflecting the hot sun into a rainbow of light. Kids shrieked gleefully and ran through the spray.

Their celebration traveled up to my window. I gripped the bottom of the frame and leaned back, crouching down and giggling. Ricardo rested on one elbow and gave me a lethargic smirk.

I flashed him a devilish look, “Someone popped a fire hydrant.”

Leaping through the forceful stream of water, I watched the baby blue of Rick’s dos Santos LA Galaxy jersey turn navy and stick heavy against my body. The refreshing droplets gave gloss to the sticky sweat on my arms. I twirled and sent a joyful spray of water beads in all directions. Two little girls peered down from a row house window and waved frantically. My laughter roared, and I waved back.

It was my third date with Rick, my first time having sex with Rick, and my last time seeing Rick. When I remember that day, I am overwhelmed with a wave of colors and emotions. I remember the unbridled shrieks of those kids upon experiencing the ecstatic shock of the cold water. I remember childish freedom, and I almost forget Rick was even there.

my habit of taking lovers

manifesta, slutdom

New York. Chicago. DC. Pittsburgh. Cincinnati. Akron. My list of pop-up lovers reads like a mildly successful Midwestern fashion label.

While I certainly am no stranger to humping and dumping, I tend to collect men like jewels in a cigar box. You may only take them out and wear them on special occasions, but sometimes you lift the lid, admire their sparkle, contemplate which is your favorite. Other times, the thought of them sitting there, safely awaiting your return is enough. My relationships with my lovers are always built on a confusing conglomeration of varying emotional connection, transiency, and great sex. True to millennial form, we often leave schools and jobs for other schools and jobs. Relocation is our life blood. I never intend to begin a prolonged courtship with these men, but I suppose I prove hard to let go and our circumstances unforgiving.

The beauty of my laundry list of lovers lies in its opportunism. Should I find myself visiting any of the above cities, I will have free accommodations, a local tour guide, and nights filled with glorious moans that will wake the neighbors  – but not my neighbors.

The great frustration of long-distance lovers lies in their gelatinous boundaries and delicate power maneuvering. Negotiating visits requires one partner admit their desire and wait for confirmation from the other that their arrangement has not changed. Afterwards, we forgo communication about future expectations and instead offer trite condolences. Life is mysterious. Never say never. Until next time. You know where to find me.

To seek clarity in the relationship would risk discovering difference in our needs and jeopardize the sanctity of our sexual paradise. Lovers should revel in hedonism. We allow no cathartic practicality or regiment. We suspend reality.

These problems aside, the arrangement works just as intended on most occasions – passionate and harmonious love-making, pleasant conversation, and a quick “see yah sometime, probably” before we both go seamlessly on with our lives. If emotions become entangled along the course, the drama at least feels extravagant, cinematic, and worthwhile. Lessons are learned.

I’ve read think-piece after think-piece about millennial hookup culture (as if I, a millennial immersed in so-called “hookup culture,” need an outdated explanation from do-gooders) and determined my practice of taking lovers is a superior form of engagement.

One night stands have their purpose. Those drunken nights after run-ins with ex’s. When all of your friends have peeled off with someone on their arm and your drink is only ice. I get it.

But I know sex’s potential to be a much higher art. Lovers learn each other’s bodies and relish in the power of touch. Each rendezvous brings lucid bodily pleasure and the thrill of imaging oneself as an opulent Roman courtesan in a smutty historical drama. While I may not love them romantically, my lovers and I have developed genuine friendships. In my uncertain, ever-changing polyamorous life, commitment is not only unwanted, but utterly unfeasible. I have stumbled into a life of lovers, and I appreciate the variety and fullness of love I’ve since learned can be possible. With the faults and uneasiness that may come with it, I have discovered friends, pleasure, adventure, and even some bounds of my own love.

I may not cherish my lovers in a romantic fairytale capacity, but – conventionality be damned – lovers do indeed love, and for that I am grateful.

my life appreciates a good allegory pt. 2

high school boy

{pt. 1}

I circled the parking lot, scanning the long rows of abysmal one-story apartments. Their sad grey brick appeared equal parts pay-by-the-hour motel and work camp. No “1B.” No “1B” under the garish street lamps of the apartment buildings across the street. My car teetered on the crest between driveway and pavement when I spotted two more buildings tucked behind the first set of rentals. Wooden-clad, they rose two-stories with relative dignity.

Clicking off my headlights, I stepped out into the cold night, tucked my gum in its wrapper, and picked up my phone.

“Come outside.”

“Turn around.” His voice rang twice – once tinny through the cellphone and a distant echo from a wooden balcony on the building behind me.

The studio apartment housed a couch against one wall, a bed against the other, a Dexter poster, and a grey cat. The cat leapt from the single cube of kitchen counter to perch on the arm of the couch. It stared at me.

“Come here, you.” He placed a hand on my cheek, and I eyed the bed cautiously. Catching my gaze, he chuckled, “He said I could have sex in it.”

He lived with his girlfriend’s sister. The room belonged to a friend, a former member of his band, who was visiting family for the holidays. He offered to watch the place and feed the cat.

Pulling off my sweatshirt, he lowered himself onto me, lowered me onto the stranger’s bed. I had dreamt of grabbing his wrists and leading his hands to my breasts as I choked him, rode him, used him since that ill-fated Thanksgiving coffee date. He pulled off my leggings. Fingers tracing lace, slipping under lace. I bit his lip.

The jackhammering fingers returned. Six years and reportedly ten women later, this boy had truly evolved very little. I stopped him, guiding his face down my body. There he had little skill as well, but could do little damage.

Enough. I pushed him onto the bed and searched for what I drove a half hour to fulfill. He wilted in my hand.

“You’ll have to blow me.”

I withheld my scoff and eye roll. I did not have to do anything, but I had come too far to give up. The only man to ever disrespect me such, he thrust into my mouth and nearly shouted in pleasure. I clawed into his hip bones, carefully considering the power of my teeth.

Enough. I straddled him and bit into his neck instead. Reaching beneath me, I searched and had to stroke again. And again.

“I’m sorry. I can’t,” He finally conceded. “It’s just… it’s you. I’ve wanted to sleep with you since high school.” He sat up, “It’s a lot of pressure. I’m just so nervous.”

I stared blankly for a moment before my well-taught reflex to comfort men for their own failures took hold.

It’s you. You. Too intimidating, too ferocious, too illustrious, and too insatiable. Too far beyond reach.

Three months ago, I unwittingly slept with a damn virgin and earned the drought I had hoped to banish this night. Since the night of the curse, I held three other men in my hand and in my bed and – for reasons besides lack of desire – none delivered. Now, this man revealed exactly why. I was too much, and they too ill-equipped to admire, much less compete or satisfy.

I lay in bed next to him while he played his fingers across my body like a child. He gleefully reminisced the near past moments of his tongue in my ass, lauding the act with a sense of accomplishment. I shared my current state with many great women. My infamy was defined as my sexual body for men to possess. I was not a woman. The men I had brought to my bed in the past three months only saw a trophy yet they used its brilliance to stare at their insecurities. Recognizing inadequacy, they backed out of its acceptance but claimed its success.

But I was a full woman, and even in casual sex I deserved to be loved as a woman.

a note on goodbye

my dear

– AUG 1ST –

“Look me up if you’re ever back in Chicago.”

I smirked and stared at my shuffling feet.

I loved his eyes although they weren’t particularly large or complex in color. Anatomically, I suppose I loved the muscles surrounding his eyes – the fibers that pulled together the intensity of his gaze. To fall under their scrutiny brought the danger of perception. His eyes understood deeply. His mouth served with devotion and spoke not a word of their insights. Mouth had no need to speak further.

Like every electric moment with my dear, I became a muse under the study of his eyes last night. Now, I shrank away from their cruel exposure. Head bowed, I found myself speechless, unsure, afraid. Desperate to stay just one more touch and eager to run before heartbreak burst onto my cheeks.

“Let me know if you move, I guess.”

We did not embrace. We did not kiss. We did not goodbye.

We could not.

And my heart has remained all the more heavy for it.

Introducing my dear

my dear

This is the story of the only man I’ve ever loved in my admittedly young life.

 

 

Summertime Chi, aaaahhhhhh.

 

– JULY 3RD –

I watched him gawk around the beach and walk past me again. I set down my book on Marxist cultural critique that I had so been looking forward to reading when he strolled up. I imagined his impressed eyebrow raise at the title. I would casually mention how I worked with one of the contributors to Jacobin Magazine. Which wasn’t exactly true, but it was permissibly close to truth. Yet here he was, bending his neck around as if he wanted the whole beach to know he was searching for a woman he’d only be able to recognize from her three tinder profile pictures.

I had five very accurate and recent pictures on my tinder profile. I expected better. I texted him.

{take 10 steps to your left and look towards the water}

I watched him execute the 10 steps and still confusedly scan the beach. I was perhaps 12 feet in front of him, and his eyes cast the 40 feet to the water’s edge. I prepared myself for the worst.

{dont move. i’m coming to you}

 

– JULY 4TH –

A weathered-looking black man wearing a Cease Fire t-shirt approached me while I waited on the steps of the Art Institute. I’d watched other people, in groups and alone, scoff or ignore him. I had hoped he’d wander my way. We chatted for a while about his involvement in the organization, and I shared my disgust regarding the injustice of their funding cuts. During our conversation, I saw the face I’d been waiting for emerge from the crowd crossing Michigan Ave. We made eye contact quickly and I smiled, but returned dutifully to my conversation with the Cease Fire volunteer. My dear waited next to us patiently, nodding during the appropriate times in the conversation. I thanked the volunteer for his service, and my dear did as well, wishing him the best and a happy 4th.

Two beautifully mischievous toddlers ran about and squawked at each other as my dear spread a blanket across the grassy hilltop. It wasn’t Navy Pier, but we had decided we liked our little spot near the lake. The view of the fireworks would be just as clear.

I couldn’t contain my excitement about witnessing the toddlers’ antics. He watched me sweetly as I laughed. His gaze was narrowed and intense even when he was happy, more so when he was amused. When it bubbled up, his laugh was deeper than mine and resonated warmer. His laugh was throaty as if a old man smelling of tobacco and chuckling while sagely watching the folly of his babies’ babies.

Upon the first firework burst in the sky, every person on the tiny hilltop stood up.

I groaned, “But if we all sat, we’d all be more comfortable and able to see!”

My dear’s laugh bellowed, “Those words would only come from an organizer.” And so we sat, curled into each other just so and dangerously near to touching.

We talked about gun control and sushi. He kissed me at the bottom of the L station before we departed to our separate lines.

my life appreciates a good allegory, pt. 1

high school boy

He said he’d always remembered. The street lights blurred through the windshield. I turned in the passenger’s seat to orient my body towards him, traveling sideways in delirium.

“In the water, your boobs were so soft. You told me you’d put lotion on them. I always think about that.”

I blushed for the feminine mystery my sixteen year old self was unable to cultivate and the primal simplicity of this man’s thoughts. Turns out, he really hadn’t evolved as much as I’d thought. Six years later, and he celebrated me by disclosing his memory of caressing my breasts in his parent’s pool.

“When I texted you, I knew we’d either have gross sex or never talk again. I didn’t expect to be perusing museums with you and your friends.”

That damn ornery smile, fake-offended guffaw, “Gross sex? Ouch, okay.”

“I mean – ” I began.

“I get it. I get it. It’s me. Hell, everyone thought I’d be sleeping in a van down by the river by now. I thought I’d be sleeping in a van down by the river.”

“Your mom’s van?”

He peeled his eyes of the road to match mine, both twinkling in thinly-veiled desire. I initially shrunk away from mentioning his parents. Now well into adulthood and living on our own, harkening back to days of sneaking around and the wholly unsexy angst of high school felt bizarre. Nostalgia entranced us. The reference had too much power to ignore, and he knew precisely my intent.

“I didn’t want to make a scene in front of your friends, but I was shocked when you said you’d only had one person in that minivan.” I drug out my words, asserting my control of the conversation’s tempo and letting him remember our bodies sprawled across the gutted interior of that Honda Odyssey.

“You were the only,” He leveled.

Hmmmm… I cooed contently, returning to my forward-facing position in the car. I stared out the window. One beat, two beats, three beats.

“So,” he began, faking hesitancy, “is that gross sex still on the table?”

My instincts never fail me.

“Darling, you have a girlfriend. A point you brought up with me almost immediately last time we met. Truthfully, I’d only texted you for a quick fuck.”

He expelled some strange, exasperated protests, but I continued.

“Then, immediately, girlfriend. And I thought – well, it is him. Girlfriends clearly never mattered before. But you kept talking about her, so I backed off.”

More strange, gurgling half-words before he began vocalizing his plans to bed me. I’m turning around. Are your parents home? What if we pull down that old back road? Where we dented your car’s roof – you remember how to get there?

And I beamed proudly. I always win the long game.