I know that I am a crazy person, because Dig and I are supposed to hook it up on Sunday when he gets back from Fire Island, and when I haven’t heard from him by noon, I am convinced that he fell off the ferry and drowned. He will be found with a half-composed text to me on his phone. The harbor police will contact me, and I will always wonder What Might Have Been.
“I don’t like this,” I tell a friend. I am returning a pair of purple Timberland hiking boots at Century 21 because no. Sometimes I try to buy things to cram in the man-shaped hole in my life, but I just got my credit card bill from Paris, itemized proof that euros indeed are real money and also that I am an incredibly irresponsible person. I am such a child; every day that I don’t cash in my pension and go buy a bunch of candy with it is a minor miracle. Similarly, my emotional spending is profligate. I don’t like this at all. I want a dimmer switch for my feelings, instead of the toggle I am stuck with. I’d like to dial it down to thirty percent of this craving, this need to talk to Dig and to bask in his attention as he reflects my adorability back at me. It’s too much.
After I’ve gotten my $80 back for the purple hiking boots, Dig texts and I restrain myself, barely, from asking if he fell overboard and then following this up with questions that zombie-Dig would not be able to answer. We shuffle some plans together, and he comes to get me later that afternoon. I still can’t get over the fact that he waits for me beside, not inside, his car.
We have yoga plans and we have dinner plans, but mostly we have plans for him to come over and meet the rabbit, to finally spend the night at my house and have a bunch of sex with me. He packs a bag that is so heavy that as I experimentally hoist it, I wonder out loud what is in it. I will later find out: screwdrivers, a flashlight, a pair of pajama pants, and a big bag of marijuana which he had hoped I would smoke with him.
I get that not everyone understands recovery and my whole abstinence thing, but I am still surprised that someone would bring a bunch of pot into my house without asking. The baggie looks as out of place as chainsaw on my coffee table.
I suspect he wanted me slightly impaired, and I don’t blame him. It’s always awkward and weird, bringing someone into your house for the first time, knowing that you are about to take your pants off in front of them. It’s not that I mind being naked in front of someone else, it’s that awkward moment of hopping around on one foot, trapped in your outfit. It’s taking off your socks and how your feet are sweaty and there are red sock-lines around your ankles. It’s seeing another person naked and having to act all blasé, and not be all so THATS what your dick looks like!
When I was five, I was dying to see a naked man. I stalked relatives and drew myself pictures of what I expected a penis would look like. My visualizations were a little off; I got the phallic shape, but I thought it would have rings around it, like a ribbed condom. Also, I did not know what testicles were, so when I pictured a naked man, I envisioned all meat and no potatoes. This error would persist until my sister and I found a glass in our babysitter’s wet bar that featured a man wearing an old-timey bathing suit that disappeared when you held it up to the sun, revealing his flaccid, heavily-furred anatomy to my deep fascination. Armed with this enhanced understanding, I went to school and told my fellow first-graders that I saw an actual naked man in the girl’s bathroom, describing his penis with terrifying accuracy. This started a complete panic at my school and for the next few years you were only allowed to go to the bathroom with a buddy, which always seemed foolhardy to me. If there was an actual pervert in the school bathroom, wouldn’t he be twice as happy with two first-grade girls?
Anyway, I still love to see naked people, but I always get a stomachache before the first time I get naked with someone, and my stomach starts cramping as soon as we walk into my building. Dig chuckles nervously as I show him around the three recently-scrubbed rooms where I keep all my shit. I tried so hard to make it look like I’m a normal person who dusts and washes dishes with some degree of care, but when he takes a glass down from the cabinet, it is broken. Everything I own looks ready for a street-rumble. My rabbit chews on the bars of her cage, feral-eyed, but when I release her, she streaks straight under the bed, lodging herself under the place where some truly bad sex is about to go down.
Dig takes his clothes off, and with each item that he removes, I am suddenly, horribly, terrifyingly less attracted to him. It’s like a magic trick: the Vanishing Lust. By the time he takes his pants off, I know I have made a mistake. But you can’t have someone come upstairs and when they take their clothes off, tell them that you changed your mind. Or maybe you can, but I personally can not. The only way out, it seems, is through.
He is a nice person who wants to please me, but I never noticed just how teeny his hands are until he puts them on me and starts doing his thing. He asks me if I want to remove my necklace, a tiny brass shovel with my initials engraved in it that I bought myself when my blog turned six-months old. I stubbornly tell him that I never take it off, and as we get it on it digs into my chest, in which my heart is banging like a sneaker in a dryer.
How did I let this happen? My only conclusion is that I clearly have some highly specific form of mental illness. How else can a man look so utterly different to me in the span of just of a few hours? Just this morning, I was involuntarily hugging myself with excitement, and by moonrise here I am making warding off gestures and feeling like I can’t breathe. Why?? I wish there was some clear explanation I could point to, as I now pedal backwards away from Dig, the stone-cold nicest man I’ve ever made love to. Something is clearly wrong with me. Maybe there is a whole bouquet of tumors in my head, and an MRI could give me the answer. I want Oliver Sacks to take a crack at explaining it for me: the girl who mistook a man for a boyfriend.
Nice or not, Dig doesn’t comment on my naked body, before, during, or after sex; I can’t understand why some men are so taciturn this way. This is like going to someone’s house for dinner and saying fuck-all about the food, indicating that you think it is horrible. Silence gives contempt. I like my body but I know a lot of guys will think I am too skinny, too muscular, too rangy and weird. We sneak looks at each other’s anatomy, poker-faced, mutually pretending this is all no big deal. He puts his clothes on after, and I leave mine off. I’m not attracted to him anymore, but it is still important that he is attracted to me, and I follow him around the apartment naked, persistent as a street vendor. He doesn’t comment. He does not compliment my body, no matter how many different ways I drape it across the furniture like a stolen watch.
What Dig does make a big deal of is my rabbit, getting down on the floor to feed her a piece of kale. “Her cage could use some cleaning,” he says, drawing a hard look from me. I cleaned the fuck out of this apartment, rabbit enclosure and all, before he came over, but there is still some ground-in chaos here. Down on the floor with the rabbit, he can see all the shit I crammed under the couch. I would consistently rather read a book then clean out a cabinet, and over time, things start to feel out of control again. I had forgotten how mortifying it is to have people in your house. You can’t look in things, dude.
Or under them. Under my bed, everything is lined with diatomaceous earth to discourage any colonial bed bugs looking to set up a bed-bug Jamestown under my pillow. Although I swept it up before Dig came over, powder lines the metal bed frame beneath the mattress, and when he bends me over to hit it from behind, white powder goes spraying everywhere, the mattress like a giant atomizer.
If Sketch were here, this would have been comedic fodder for days. We would have tried to make the biggest dust cloud. We would have made dirty snow angels on the floor. But Sketch is not here, and in the morning, it is still Dig under the blanket with me.
Generally, one of my favorite things about having a man in my bed is waking up hours before him, and then propping myself up against his warm, inert body, while I drink a cup of tea and read a book, tucking my cold feet between his legs. I wake up in the morning and beside me, Dig’s eyes snap open simultaneously. He is ready for another round of terrible, dusty sex before he will get out of my bed and leave. He has a tendency to jackhammer, and I don’t know what is wrong with me that I can’t just tell him: I don’t like that or you are getting your sweat in my eyes. I say absolutely nothing. What am I going to say? I have been more or less speechless since he took his pants off. When a man pulls out the smallest penis you have ever seen, there is absolutely nothing you can say. You have to pretend it is ok, or else you are a terrible person. The penis is the teacup elephant in the room.
“How small?” one of my most adorable friends asks, her eyes wide and round.
“Like a crayon.” I am getting ready to return to school, as evidenced by bad dreams and a tendency to compare the size of a man’s anatomy to school supplies.
“Ugh, thumb dick?”
I give her a thumbs-up and a crooked smile, because what else am I supposed to do? It is the thumbs-up of a driver who has just gotten out of racecar after it barrel-rolls across the speedway and bursts into flames. I am OK, but it is not OK. The whole thing is depressing. I liked him so much right up until last night. Now I am mystified and uncomfortable with myself, and my rabbit seems to be looking at me in a judgey way.
“Hey, I’m learning things over here,” I try to explain. She stretches out in the diatomaceous space under the bed, just out of reach.
This is not just a line to placate my rabbit. I am learning things: how I want to be treated, the questions that I need to ask a man and the questions I need to ask myself. Also, that I am psychic. I called “kitten dick” two weeks ago; in the future, hopefully I will not doubt my own abilities.
He texts me the next morning to wish me a nice first day back at school, and I do not respond, sinking into silence, submerged up to my eyeballs in antediluvian shame. What verb would he use to name me, if our roles were reversed and he was writing this story? Flee, maybe. Or Flake; I am small, and I disappear easily. We hate when men pull this shit, but here I am, two days later, dragging my electronic feet. Finally I text him, days later, and my text is a mumble of apology and excuse. I thank him for being so nice to me, and say goodbye. Unsurprisingly, I don’t hear back, and I don’t reactivate any of my trusty dating apps. I shouldn’t be dating, the way that blind people shouldn’t be driving cars—this is not to compound their woes, but to protect all the men on the sidewalks.
The first time I had sex with Sketch, he took control of my body like a lifeguard pulling someone out of a riptide. There was no hesitation in this man. “I’m going to kiss you now,” he said. His body all prison-built muscle, his eyes locked hard on mine: I could see, barely, the shine off them in the dark. There was no part of my body he didn’t examine and comment on. He told me I was built like a lick of flame. Thirteen years ago. I wanted to read his entire life, I wanted to slice into him like a tree and count his rings. I wanted to see his scars and to show him mine.
His body was a delight, all hard angles like a jungle-gym built for me to clamber on, but it was always about his stories, even more than the pure physical perfection of him. Some of them were prison stories, populated by people with names like Lunchbox and Body Parts and Goat Boy, and the lengths men will go to in prison to eat a decent meal, or to extract justice from an unjust universe, or to try to give themselves a blowjob. But sometimes he just told me stories about his commute that day or a conversation he had had with his building super, who showed up wearing a sweatshirt Sketch had just thrown out in the garbage. Sketch was never not the most interesting and intelligent person I had ever met.
I’ve been looking for some motherfucker that engrossing ever since.
It’s been commented on: Tippy, why do you curse so much in your writing? It’s because FUCK is a bulwark against the encroachment of sentimentality. And maybe this is why I write so much about sex. Because it is easier to rhapsodize about a great orgasm, or hunt for metaphors to describe a recent encounter’s birth-defective penis, than it is to stand here naked and say that I am lonely and scared.
“We’re not going to tease you,” the man who runs my writing group reassures, while I wonder, as ever with every man, what he is getting out of it. I don’t fucking trust it. And so I write about things the way that a man takes his pants off for the first time, chuckling nervously, trying to act like it’s all no big deal, hoping you will not notice my inadequacies.