living room

the philosopher

I’d been lying on the philosopher’s bed for hours each day inspecting the walls and ceiling of the living room. The bed, pillows, and spare items of clothing scattered themselves across the floor, on the bookshelves, and under the desk. Gravity pulled all of the items into the single room. All of the shit populated in the living room. All of the shit was pulled inward. Like entropy, all of the shit grinding together. Sweat dripped down my neck from the friction.

We had moved the bed into the living room a few weeks ago to take advantage of the only A/C unit in the apartment. Six days ago the philosopher flew out west for a wedding. I haven’t turned on the unit.

Confinement to this tiny room alone affected the imagination. The room changed very little as it accumulated new discarded items, producing the feeling that the world outside of the room’s walls could contain anything. I chose to believe outside is Chicago or New York City instead of the shitty small town from which all of my loved ones have already fled.

Each time I lie on my back, I spread my legs then close them to watch my stomach wiggle. I’ve been eating one to two meals a day. First, in New York, it was a matter of money. Now, I am still unemployed and broke, but I also lack motivation or hunger. I do not eat because the idea of eating, like so many activities, does not seem worth the energy required. I am not satisfied. I am not unsatisfied, and staring at my stomach sprawled across the bed almost makes me content.

I have a beer for dinner. The empty fridge offers little else. I flop onto the bed and begin to feel tipsy. The philosopher sends me pictures from the wedding, but no message. I have another beer, this time one that the philosopher had bought. I text him.

i cant do this
what? cant do what?
live with you be with you

The philosopher flies back tonight, and I had offered to pick him up from the airport. He has my curling iron in his checked bag from New York, so I’ll keep to the agreement.

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happenings since last post

Uncategorized

Between March and now (somewhat chronologically):

  1. The philosopher told me he loved me. I replied, “I think I love you.” and eventually said the whole damn thing without clauses
  2. I filed an assault charge against my ex
  3. My ex dropped out of college
  4. I acquired two B.A.s
  5. I started looking for jobs that will begin my career
  6. I moved in with the philosopher
  7. I was diagnosed with HPV that might be pre-cancerous or cancerous
  8. My ex was found guilty of dating violence and sexual assault
  9. I started making plans to get a job and an apartment with the philosopher in New York City
  10. I went to New York City to interview for jobs and the philosopher accompanied me

…okay, up to speed.

really doing this thing

the philosopher

 

The philosopher and I often enjoy rough sex. He throws me onto the bed. I push back, and we link arms like we momentarily decided to give up the sex for a martial arts spar. Eventually, I flip him onto his back and pin him down.

He grabs my face and draws me down to him.

“You’re so beautiful. You’re so beautiful.” His eyebrows furrow. His blue eyes show no sign of worry, only intensity.

I orgasm for the first time with him inside me like this.

It was unseasonably warm for February, and the 60 degree breeze from the open windows caught and carried our sounds of ecstasy.

 

I lie between him. His long legs stretched out on either side of me, our books on Maoist revolution and anarchist geography split the center.

“Ohhh, no, no, here’s my shit.” I led him into the gallery of 1930’s American folk art. I wandered off to find my favorite contorted bodies of magic realism, and he lingered in front of a mustard canvas with a dark navy square. I circled back to him and brushed the tips of my fingers across his back. He grinned.

Surrounded by friends and intimidating academic types, I sat on the floor rather than remain standing at the front of the room. The performance space lacked a stool. I knew if I stood I would shuffle uncomfortably or try to lean back and misjudge the space between my ass and the brick wall behind me. So, I charmed the crowd with my boldness, and I sat. I read two poems. During the first, I focused on keeping my voice steady while my words struck at old traumas. I felt the audience lean in towards me. Laughter surprised me during the second poem, a sardonic retelling of a bad relationship set on the landscape of a bad america. I sped through the laughter on the first line that incited it, but became more comfortable with the idea that my audience was entertained and later paused. The philosopher beamed at me and vigorously squeezed my hand as I rejoined the audience and seated myself next to him.

Our Sunday morning-afternoon-evening spillovers now include bagels and lox, reading articles in Jacobin, and staring – nose to nose – while gushing about our adoration for each other.

Yesterday, I had a revelation.

We have been referring to each other as one of our “partners” for a few weeks. I expressed my non-monogamy early to the philosopher. While he felt he was not capable of having more than one partner in his life, he accepted my ability to embrace a different relationship structure. “Partners,” I asserted, acknowledged my own queerness and my anarchical philosophy of relationships.

Yesterday, the philosopher referred to our partnership as “dating.” The word sent me into a smiling, frantic, and breathy spiral of closing a cognitive gap.

“We’re really doing this, huh?”

He stared at me with confusion and concern, but an almost bemused smile, “You’re gonna freak out and never talk to me again now, aren’t you?”

“No, no,” I reassured him, then actually admitted it to myself. “No, no, no. Everything is great. I want to see you again. I just…” I trailed off, then asserted again, this time hoping I’d believe it, “We’re really doing this.”

The philsopher’s smile widened, as did his fearful eyes, “Yes, I’d like to keep seeing you. That’s what a partnership is.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Wow. You’re right.” My head spun. “I guess I never realized that this meant seeing you like… indefinitely.”

He laughed at me and kissed my forehead. “As long as we keep agreeing to that. For the foreseeable future, I suppose.”

“Woah…” I gaped and shook my head, eyes circling the ceiling, “Wow.”

“Are you okay?”

I took a deep breath and centered myself. I placed my hands on his cheeks. We were seated on his elegant sofa – him, feet planted on the ground, and me, straddling his legs and facing towards him with my knees tucked on the firm eggshell cushion. “Yes, I’m okay. You’re great. Our partnership is great. I want to continue spending time with you here and there… indefinitely.”

He stroked my hair contently and sighed.

I broke my cool again, “Woah. We. are. really. doing this thing.”

“Ugh, shut up.” He laughed and kissed me, and we tumbled back into happy conversation.

enigma icon get over yourself i’m just living

slutdom

 

Last year, my friend directed a body positivity art project that was published in a small feminist magazine. When she asked me to participate in the project, I had just left an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship, came out as bisexual, and began to view monogamy as something inherently oppressive in my life. My weight was fluctuating. My ex’s friends harassed me, late night texted me, and threatened me.

When my friend told me she was looking for people to strip down and talk about their relationship with their body, I knew that the project would expose a lot more than my naked self. I knew it would challenge my comfort and force me to process emotions that I hadn’t yet uncovered. I knew it was what I needed.

Today, my roommate burst into our apartment with news. The frat boys who live next door had found out about the project and declared their mission to find “my nudes.”

I never hid my nudes, darlings.

In fact, I’ve gone home with one of the aforementioned frat boys multiple times, and each time – for one strange reason/misunderstanding/whiskey dick or another – we haven’t had sex. He’s had (and has) the opportunity to see my naked body, live in the flesh.

But he can’t pass that around as a spectacle to his friends.

Today, the philosopher informed me that he received an email from his building about noise complaints. The warm weather this weekend required open windows and a little-rowdier-than-usual afternoon sex. The philosopher says he likes my moans.  I admitted that I never even recall making them – they just happen. I blushed, but I will continue to walk the halls of his building with my shoulders square and my eyes raised.

Last weekend, several of my ex’s fraternity brothers cornered me at a bar to attempt to humiliate me on the basis of my political views and sexuality. Later that night, one of their girlfriends tapped me on the shoulder and tried to hug me when I turned around as if she was a friend. They hovered around me the entire night, watching and jeering. I was not entirely unbothered, but I laughed and I danced anyways.

– Y’all wanna talk about me sooooo bad! – 

When I walk into leftist circles younger than me, I feel the gaze of the room land on me. I hear about my name in the barista’s mouths at the local hipster coffee shop. I see people that I’ve slept with lower their eyes but smirk as I pass. I smile.

Growing up, my mother taught me, do not speak unless you are spoken to. Respect your elders. Keep your head down. 

I did for years. I silently endured. It never stopped anyone from talking. Never stopped men from taking. Never stopped elders from dismissing.

After my break-up, I became muse to my sex goddess, vampy feminist savior. She rolled her eyes as I writhed around with embarrassment after sloppy one-nighters or tinder matches.

“Did you want the sex?” She asked. I sighed, Yes.

“Did you hurt anyone?” No.

“Get over yourself. At least steal his headphones for the walk home next time.”

I was her work in progress. By summer, the art monster was born.

I am unbothered. I am shameless. Y’all keep talking, calling me whore / leader / icon / mysterious / intimidating. Positive or negative, y’all keep talking, and I’ll keep living. Living ethically, but unapologetically. Living art monster.

thoughts on my comfort

manifesta

 

My apartment is cold. Six of the open tabs on my laptop contain half-completed cover letters with dates hovering in the top left margin ranging from December 14th to January 16th. I am drinking orange juice because I blame a perceived fogginess on lack of citrus and Vitamin C. I have five unopened text messages from four friends. I previewed the texts as they flashed on my lock screen. I will not reply today.

I am a nester. My bed contains no less than five pillows, five blankets, and a stuffed panda at any given moment. While I embrace minimalism and anti-consumerism in all other aspects of my life, where I choose to roost for the day accumulates an embarrassing array of comforts.

Today, I have nested. Blankets. Space heater. Coffee. OJ. Phone. Notebook. Pens. Candles. Trail mix. Soundcloud. The Weeds podcast.

I did not go to my classes. I did not go to work. I canceled my plans for tonight and instead plan to remain on the couch perhaps until tomorrow morning.

Comfort sometimes appears debilitating. As a white, cis woman, I actively resist using Audre Lorde and bell hooks quotes to validate my inaction as revolutionary self-care. Self-care is important, but by purely existing I am complicit in violence against women of color, trans women, and gender non-conforming folks – to only list a few marginalized identities that I do not possess. The fact I can even afford to simply lock myself inside my apartment is incredibly privileged. My silent existence is not revolutionary, it is oppressive.

Nesting is different from comfort. When I nest, I buckle down. My nourish myself bodily and mentally. Today, I created an introductory reading list to help radicalize liberal feminists into leftist feminists. Today, I reflected on my trauma, on the ways I’ve been abused and how it informs my social positionality and my activism. Today, I listened to incredible black artists share their stories. Today, I geared up for a tomorrow full of fight and resistance.

Today, I am nesting in my comfort, but tomorrow I will do my best to give that up.

The philosopher and our ritual

the philosopher

Sunday mornings seem to include a new ritual. Half-awake first sunlight kisses melt into 2pm round twos. A rejection of bourgeois morality, he says as he pulls me close, pulls me bubbling with laughter back into bed at noon, pulls me away from my draining work and into an invigorating conversation.

My philosopher is absolutely enamored with me. He is older – a fact that means little to me. But he is stunned by my sharpness, and the novelty of our age disparity and rival intellects increases his intrigue in me. He discloses his affections in short, self-conscious bursts of authenticity. His smiles brim until they erupt into playful jabs and shameless compliments.

He amuses me, and he comforts me. I find myself gushing Hallmark flattery between disagreements on prefigurative politics. I giggle girlishly and snort out guttural howls. I dominate him intellectually and sexually, and he returns the favor. I allow him to teach me. I am honest about my social adeptness, and I forgo manipulation or power games. I am unintentionally emotional.

He confesses he never expected a connection like this. He asks permission to make me pancakes next Sunday.

I warned him.

Early on, I told him, I don’t do relationships.

Later in a political conversation, I expressed my belief in anarchist self-ownership and free love.

Sometimes he made comments about not wanting to like me as much as he did.

Last time we were cuddling in bed, I stared him in the eye. I bit the edge of my lip, then pulled the trigger, “Hey, real talk for a second.”

His eyes widened nervously.

“I cannot have autonomy over my body and my emotions without being non-monogamous.

There it was.

He said he’s never tried a non-monogamous relationship and he gets very attached. We’re both moving away in May. He’s applying to PhD programs, and I’m searching for a job in DC. He doesn’t want our friendship to end catastrophically like his other relationships. I explain that I have friends and lovers in cities across the country. I still care very deeply about those whom I have developed meaningful connections.

He says he doesn’t want to stop seeing me.

I tell him to think about what he wants, what he needs, what he can give, and what he expects from me. I tell him I cannot give him a monogamous relationship. I’m not sure I can give him any formal relationship at all.

I break the tension with a quick peck and a confession, “I think you’re pretty dope, and I don’t want to stop seeing you either.”

Somehow moments later, we’re laughing and wrestling and roaring again, but it’s 3pm on a Sunday and eventually work calls.

“You hate pancakes, don’t you?” He asks me with a mischievous grin as I dress.

“Yes, but I like the idea of pancakes.”

He laughs, “Of course you would.”

“I’ll bring apples. I like pancakes when there’s a 4:1 apple to pancake ratio.”

So, now our Sunday morning ritual of Marxist sex and playful politics that drag into the late afternoon includes coffee and apple pancakes. It seems a little too quaint, too domestic, and – most worrisome of all – very enjoyable.

I feel the unspoken, intangible mysteries that keep us separate dissolving, and I struggle to know when to stop the erosion and when to slide unabashedly into the sea.

I warned him, and he disarmed.

I warned him.

a shocking remembrance and a new day

the philosopher

I always sleep on my side. A solo spoon uninhibited yet nestled in the freedom and warmth of my own body.

Early Monday morning, I woke with a gasp and threw the clammy, almost suffocating arms of a strange body off of mine as I jolted up.

Stark eggshell walls towered from the dark. The blank confines loomed inward with the judgement of a stacked jury or the immobilizing silence of sanitized hospital waiting rooms.

Nauseous and delirious, I felt I had been here before. Deja vu like a dream sequence when the familiarity of a place strikes at your core but the picture is warped. I felt I had been here before but, not quite here. Somewhere I recognized that fact, but my heart punched at my every nerve. It punched at my reality and insisted that history was repeating itself. It’s sinister whisper echoed, you let yourself fall back into the trap. He’s back. You’re back there.

My frenzied gaze narrowed and scanned the dark. I searched through night, desperately waiting for my eyes to adjust to the blackness. I scrutinized the details of the room. I focused in on the features that emphasized its differences from that room where I spent so many hours under his control, estranged from my own home and my own life. I grasped at the navy blue comforter on the bed and sought out the white stripes. White stripes were absent on the navy blue comforter on that bed where I had lied helplessly, exhausted on my back after telling him I wanted to be done and it hurt, and asking him to stop yet the thrusts continued.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” The new man frantically asked me with furrowed brows. I flinched away from his comforting hand reaching for my shoulder.

Then I turned towards him and wrapped my hands around his face. I stared at his features. Narrower nose. Wider eyes. Curly hair. I rubbed the scruff on his jaw line and took a deep breath. Not him. Not there. Not back then. You’re here.

“I’m okay now.” I told him.

I hesitated but he searched my eyes for understanding, “I’m sorry. That was so unexpected. I haven’t slept in someone else’s bed in this town in a while. I thought I was somewhere else. With someone else…”

I paused, “Who treated me badly. But I’m not and everything is okay.”

The concern remained on his face, but his eyes widened sympathetically.

I managed a smile and nodded. “I just need some space. I needed to place myself here. I’m okay now.”

“Okay,” he kissed my cheek, and I lay back down. He gave me space. He rubbed my back before closing his eyes and effortlessly drifting back to sleep.

I spent some time searching the room, breathing, and repeating, Not him. Not there. Not back then. You’re here.

Not him. Not there. Not back then. You’re here.

That was more than a year ago.

He’s long gone.

You’re safe. You’re here.

I fell asleep and the next time I woke up, I was curled into my own body, uninhibited, and nestled freely in a space shared by two people. I rolled over and smiled at the sleeping man beside me. His dreamy eyes fluttered and the corner of his mouth inched up on the left side. I beamed and planted a kiss on his prickly cheek.

It’s a new day, and you’re living in the present. Here.

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.