Me and a God

Me and a God

We weren’t sure we should tell you. I even asked my mom. She thought your ex should tell you but then I told her you were no longer on speaking terms. I thought it best to tell you in case you ran into them somewhere… We’ve known for a few months. We didn’t think you were in any shape to hear his news… He’s not happy, he’s scared… We thought they’d get married first… He thinks he’s getting what he wants, but it’s not going to go like he thinks. It’s going to be a shitshow…

My ex’s girlfriend is pregnant.

My friends think they are reassuring me when they say this relationship is doomed to failure. That is of no comfort because it is just as likely that it will not fail. Our marriage failed because I finally had the means to escape. I had a job and family in the area. If I didn’t have the means to escape it would have ended later, but it would have ended. The fact is that I couldn’t take it any more and as hard as it is now it is better than being with him. What is unfortunate is that I went from him to nothing-a full year without even so much as a man flirting with me. Then I got pinged in November by a man who thought I was interesting. Last Monday he dumped me. The following Friday he texted me saying we have great chemistry (we do) and if I wanted to try spooning and cuddling without “venturing into sex” to let him know. At the advice of a friend, some of the best advice I’d received in a long time, I slept on it. In the morning I texted him asking, what are you hiding from me? He said he wasn’t hiding anything. When we spoke one last time that evening, it was all about him. I had a feeling in my gut that I shouldn’t take it any further. At least it only took me five dates to figure it out. The last one took three months. I’m a feeler…

For someone who claims to be a feeler, I said, you have remarkably little regard for the feelings of others.
I’ll feel this later, he said.
No, you wont.

This is how it ends, he wanted to be friends and again I said no. I told him to go. My ex wanted to be friends and, in the end, I said no. The ex-boyfriend before him wanted to be friends and I said sure. Even after we split we were able to finish each other’s sentences, but in the end I realise he used me ill just like the others. They all say the same thing: you’re strong, you’re amazing, you’re brilliant, you deserve the best, you’ll bounce back. I am all those things but I still bounce back to nothing. I go back to being totally invisible and that’s why all of this hurts so much. That my ex bounced from woman to woman to woman, always having someone to take care of him, with little effort. I have had to manage everything myself. I have taken care of everyone else in my life and no one is willing to care for me. I don’t think I need to be taken care of, but I would like someone to care for me. That would be a nice change.

Tony Robbins said that relationships are places to give and it is not about what you are going to get out of a relationship. I’m always leery of financial gurus, particularly those who offer relationship advice. The part that stuck in my mind was when he said a relationship is where you give. He inferred that a relationship is not a place where you take. I found this to be utterly ridiculous because to me a relationship is a place where you share. It’s something you nurture and grow, or at least that’s what I thought. Maybe it is a place where you give without the expectation of getting something like respect, friendship, companionship in return. I don’t believe in love any more. Love is fleeting and ephemeral. I don’t believe in god any more either. God cares more for the welfare of those who do me ill than he does me. Coming from a religious family, this is not easy to say, but even my religious sister agrees that this is all a bit much. She asked if I wanted her husband to give me a blessing. At first, I thought why not. Then I thought, from whom.

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The Saddest Music in the World is in Your Head

The Saddest Music in the World is in Your Head

My divorce became final a year ago yesterday. On December 3rd of 2015 the divorce decree arrived in the mail. Sometime in early November of last year my ex-husband phoned me and he sounded pissed. They lost our filing, he said, that’s why it’s taken so long. They have to reconstruct our July filing from the April initial filing. You mean to tell me, I asked, that we have been married for the past three months due to a clerical error? Tell me you can’t see that humour in this? The Clerk of the Court was most apologetic and a week later she phoned my ex to tell him that our filing had been reconstructed and the papers were on the judge’s desk. The week after that she phoned to say the judge was taking time off before the Thanksgiving holiday and that our filing would be signed before the month was out. It’s still on my refrigerator a year later.

My therapist asked me, since I had been thinking so much about my part in my divorce, what WAS my part in the breakup of my marriage. (In no particular order)

  • I did not love being married. I’m not sure I even liked being married.

    All of a sudden I went from making my own arrangements and looking after myself to making all of the arrangements and looking after two people and I hated it. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden it was my job to do, well, everything. I thought we were going to be a team, and we were at first, but then I became part of a unit.

  • I mourned the loss of my independence and freedom.

    I really liked being single. It’s like Tom Waits said, “Goin’ out when I want to, comin’ home when I please./ I don’t have to ask permission/If I want to go out fishin’./And I never have to ask for the keys.” Granted, I was in one of the greatest places in the US to be single-New York. Don’t get me wrong, New York can be tough. Most of my fellow grad school recruits left after the first  year. I loved it. I became a New Yorker. I found my neighbourhood. I found my family. I went to the opera and the theatre and sat in the cheap seats (Family Circle). I stood outside of Irving Plaza and listened to Sleater-Kinney. I went to the Fringe Festival and Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric theatre. I volunteered at a film festival just so I could hear Andre Gregory. I went to baseball games with my fellow librarians. I had a great life and I gave it up when I got married.

    Being a virgin, I didn’t crave sex like I do now; I didn’t know what I was missing. Even mediocre is better than none.

  • I stopped talking to him.

    This is what I do when I do not see a point. There was no point in telling my parents I was sexually assaulted because, what were they going to do? There was no point in telling them about the daily humiliations and indignities I suffered in school because there was no point. We argued about the same things time and time again. Finally I gave up, which brings me to my next point.

  • I gave up.

    Winston Churchill is credited as saying, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” Well, you know what? I did.  I gave up. I pulled up stakes and followed him around the country. I let his quest for a career overshadow my established career because I thought I could get a job anywhere. For the most part, I was right. But I was tired of the uphill battles. I was tired of asking him for a more equitable distribution of household labour only to be met with I know we fight about this a lot. I was tired of telling him he hurt my feelings only to be met with it wasn’t what I said it was how you took it. I was tired of the incessant negativity. I was tired of being told that what I felt was wrong.

  • I turned him down for sex a lot.

    I am not the type of woman who punishes a man by withholding sex, unless that is part of the consensual dynamic of your BDSM relationship-then oh! Otherwise, it’s mean and childish. Besides, why deprive myself of the pleasure. That being said, foreplay was fast and sloppy and the sex got boring. It also hurt like hell. It is hard to get excited about something that causes tearing, burning pain every time you’re engage. He knew it hurt and he tried to accommodate me, but it didn’t work. Oral sex felt great but I couldn’t move the way I needed; he’d pin down my legs. The more I fought the more he resisted. And he was always in a hurry.

    Sex became another source of mutual frustration. He wanted sex all the time. I found the sex to be wanting and I’m sure he did too. While he had no trouble initiating, it was very difficult to get him to respond. He wasn’t very vocal and he wasn’t verbal. He never told me something felt good unless I asked. If he didn’t like something he didn’t tell me what would make it better even when I asked. If I was having fun that was fine with him, except I would have had more fun if he enjoyed it too. Consequently, after 10 years of this I think I am lousy in bed and why would any man get involved with a woman who’s a lousy lover? I wanted to enjoy sex. I still want to enjoy sex, but it’s been two years and two months. It feels like I am watching a ship sail away.

  • There were times during my marriage where I was frustrated and resentful.

    One fine Saturday afternoon I found myself standing in the kitchen. Laundry was going in the washing machine. I had just finished putting groceries away. I had emptied and filled the dishwasher and set the timer to go off in four hours when the laundry would be done in the washer. The house was a mess, particularly the kitchen. My ex was nowhere insight. I am living the feminist dream, I thought. I’m doing it all. This was a typical late Saturday morning for me.

    Fed up with being in the car with him and him asking me, do you know what your problem is, I decided to minimise my alone time with him by grocery shopping alone. I would get up at 6:30, take a quick shower, and leave by 7:00 grocery list in hand. I was usually home by 9:30 or 10. Sometimes he was just getting up, at the very least he was still in his bathrobe getting himself a cup of coffee. This was typical for us. I would have been up for hours when he was just starting his day. Then he would ask why I was so tired all the time. One day he asked me to write down my schedule for the week. He was floored when he learned that between work, other commitments, and housework I was booked solid from 7am-10pm Monday-Friday, 7am-9pm on Saturdays, and from 8am-7pm on Sundays. Seeing it on paper in front of him he saw what I had been trying to tell him for years-that I never catch a break. He helped around the house for a week. Then it was back to the same routine; me doing the work alone and him asking why I was so tired all the time.

  • While we did discuss many things before we were married, we didn’t discuss everything.

    I didn’t realise that before one gets married one needs to discuss absolutely everything with one’s future life partner. We discussed children, my career, his career, my keeping my name, the things I thought were important. He wanted two children. I didn’t want children until I met him. I thought he was someone with whom I could have a child, one child. We compromised on a child and a cat. At first I proposed that I keep my job and he travel wherever his postdocs took him. I made more money and thought I would act as the anchor. His disagreed and said he thought it would be bad for us to be apart so early in our marriage. His mother followed his father around Europe with his studies and I think my ex felt I should do, or want to do, the same. I didn’t but I acquiesced. My logic was simple; with my degree and skill set I should be able to get a job anywhere and for the most part I was right. I hated it and was miserable. We both were. All in all my career didn’t take much of a hit and I have yet to encounter an interviewer who didn’t understand that I picked up stakes for my husband’s fledgling career. They don’t call it the two-body problem for nothing. We didn’t discuss housework because I didn’t think it needed to be discussed. I assumed he would help. After all, my father packed his lunches and did his own laundry. When my mother worked afternoons, he tried to make dinner. I remember one night he even tried to make cookies for us. My father is not a feminist. He was just a normal guy looking after his two little girls as best he could, afraid he would lose us like he did his son.

    Before the wedding, we had three counseling session with the Rabbi who married us. In these sessions we discussed the usual things: our attitudes about children, money, the future, building a life together. The most glaring difference was in our attitudes about money, which came as no surprise. he came from it and I did not; it was that simple. He could, and often did, go to his parents for financial assistance, especially when we were trying to have a child. His parents were willing, even though his father was reluctant. I couldn’t ask my parents as they simply didn’t have it. I look back at the cost of our wedding with guilt. Our wedding wasn’t extravagant, but now that the marriage is over that money could have gone to better things. Like many things.

    As time passed it was as though those conversations we’d had about marriage, family, the advice we received from the Rabbi about money and working together, and career never happened. He couldn’t understand why working was so important to me. In his mind, I seemed suddenly indifferent to children with each failed injection or implantation. Instead of the seven-year itch it was like seven-year amnesia, except it happened around year five. The man I met and fell in love with became the man with a boot on my neck. I don’t know how it happened but I know I let it happen.

     

One Little Year

One Little Year

Augustus: What were you thinking tonight, my dear? Ah, of poor Drusus. Yes, yes, yes. I , I was thinking of him tonight too. Rome cannot afford such a loss. Ah, I pray to the gods that these boys will be as noble and as virtuous as he was. You mustn´t dwell on it. I mean, a year has gone by and that´s quite long enough for grief, now. More is not the Roman way, you know. Musicians, play us out! Let us have music to take us to our sleep.
Antonia: A year. Is that all it is? One little year? -I, Claudius.

On November 30th my divorce will have been final a year. Over the course of the past year I have been slowly and awkwardly settling into the rhythms of life as a middle-aged, single woman. I go to work. I go to the gym. Once in a while I go to a class at the Wine School of Philadelphia. I go to the Mutter Museum and the Art Museum on occasion. I go to choir practice, although I must admit I’m having a hard time of it this semester. I’m thinking of taking next semester off. Most of the time, however, I am alone; reading, knitting, cooking, cleaning, talking to my cat. Early in my divorce friends took me to the opera, the orchestra, and the theatre, but that doesn’t happen so much now. I go to services and sit with my friends where before I sat in the back. One particularly lonely Friday night I confided to a friend that I felt out of place. He said come sit with us in Row J, who cares if your late. I was raised that if you are late you sit in the back. My parents were acutely aware of appearances. But he was right who cares if I’m late. They say that in your 40s you stop caring about what other people think and in your 60s you realise no one’s watching you anyway. In my teens the pressure to please my parents was immense. An impossible task as their happiness was a moving target. In my 20s I didn’t care much about what other people thought because I didn’t have anyone to please. That changed when I married. I had a husband whose happiness was also a moving target.

We barely speak anymore, my ex-husband and me. When we first separated he tried to treat me like a live-in girlfriend. He offered himself for sex once. No, I said, Just no. I’m sure that was more for his pleasure than mine.He pinched my nipples once. I smacked him. He swatted me on the ass once. I yelled at him. He called me his babe once. I told him off. I told him he needed to stop phoning. Before that he would text me or phone me at least once a week. One week he phoned me every day. My ex-husband has become like a dandelion that has gone to seed. When I speak of him, and I still do sometimes, I’m sending the seeds aloft never to return.

Although I will say I miss sex like crazy-like crazy. I don’t miss sex with my ex-husband at all. I miss an idea of it: smooth skin, soft hair, light caresses, laughter, the vulnerability, the excitement, the familiarity, the curiosity, begging my permission, granting permission, licking, biting, sucking, losing myself, letting go, the weight, the gravity. Thinking about it now…I’m in my office.  My sister told me it’s a form of self-pity, that I am dwelling on what I don’t have. It’s not. I don’t feel sorry for myself because it’s the one thing that I don’t have. I don’t have bookshelves either but I don’t think about them all the time. It’s a longing and a need and a desire for a connection with a man.  She has always been one who prides herself on her superiority and self-denial. She’s very Victorian that way.

Single middle-aged women who actually talk about life post-divorce seem to be in two camps-the ones who date and the ones who don’t. I haven’t, as I have been going through the hard work of rebuilding my life and my self. But I haven’t experienced many of the rituals I read and hear that many single middle-aged women experience. I don’t have a group of single, middle-aged women friends with whom I commiserate. I don’t have teenage children telling me it’s time to get out there. No one has tried to set me up with a friend or a relative. I’m being warned off online dating even though it seems to be the only way people meet. I’m thinking it might be time to dip a toe in, just a toe, fully prepared for the likelihood that I may not get a single response, much less one from a man who is under 60. I don’t really care if he’s white collar or blue collar or clerical collar. He doesn’t have to be Jewish (because that worked so well the last time). I have my own place and my own income. I don’t need a man to support me financially. I just don’t want a man who thinks he’s going to sponge off me. I don’t care if he’s tall or short, I like eyes at a level. I like big men and am a sucker for dark eyes, the darker the eyes the closer to stupid I get. Thin would be an interesting change of pace as would blue eyes, otherwise I don’t care. Adherence to basic hygiene would be an improvement as would basic social graces and table manners. I don’t need overprotective or jealous and I certainly don’t want to get married again.

There’s A Light

There’s A Light

At my last session, my therapist sat back in her chair and said Y’know, you remember a few weeks ago when I said you were an attractive woman but you weren’t exactly sexy? You haven’t brought it up since. Why’s that? (I found her question a little strange as she also told me I have to pick a direction for future sessions and I chose the emotional abuse rather than my self-esteem.) I have brought it up, I told her, just not with you. I told her what my friends had told me: it’s being comfortable in your own skin, that she’s wrong, that it’s subtle, that it will emerge as I come out from under the shadow of my ex-husband. I told her I actually got checked out by a young man who, as far as I could tell, wasn’t homeless. It was subtle. I noticed his head turn as I walked by and when I turned my head he was looking over his shoulder at me. I smiled and kept going. Maybe they’re right. Maybe the shadow is lifting just a little. Maybe I’m not as invisible as I thought. Then I had a horrible week.

When I have bad weeks, I often chalk it up to external factors: the weather, my messy apartment, my ex found someone new almost immediately, my hyperprolactinemia. Wanting to die was something new and different. I texted one of my oldest friends, who has been through this twice, and I told her I wanted to die. I wanted all of this to end. I feel guilty and ashamed when I do this to her. I text and phone her at other times too, when I am not down, and we have riotous conversations. She is getting a law degree and a masters in pastoral counseling at the same time. She said, Don’t you want to see the woman you’re becoming? Don’t you deserve to meet her? Besides, don’t give him the satisfaction. The first two are why she will be an exceptional counsellor. The third is why she’s an exceptional friend. Every once in a while she will send me a job posting in Seattle and tell me to move out there so she can take care of me, take me dancing and to Korean spas, and introduce me to a community where I will find my house submissive. Every once in a while I think I might accept her offer, but my life and my self-made family are here. Besides, I’ve packed up and started over enough times and while this time it will be for me on my own terms it’s still packing up and starting over someplace else. I have another friend who sends me job posting in the DC area so I can move closer to her and she can take are of me.  In the end, it’s not that I don’t want to be taken care of, it’s that I need be able to take care of myself. I need to find my own strength again. I need to clean my apartment.

This past Saturday I was  heading back into my complex having purchased sumptuous provisions for Shakespeare in Clark Park when I noticed two young men behind me also heading for the door. Being a civilised person, I held the door open for them. One of them made eye contact. I had seen him at the pool and at an owner’s board meeting. He bought his place around the same time I bought mine. He is a powerfully built man with a massive upper body and what can best be described as a Persian beard. What I learned that afternoon was that he has large black eyes that are full of mischief. Maybe he wasn’t used to having a slight woman in an outrageous straw hat hold the door open for him, but I think he liked it.

 

Splendid Isolation

Splendid Isolation

Tell me more and then some.
The way that you feel and then
When you told me that old sweet story
And you’re through, start right in again
I’ve made that old mistake
Know the awful ache
Of a heart that’s been double-crossed
The waiting’s been so long
Hard to believe in
If I’ve missed by guess, happiness is lost.
Billie Holiday

When I tell people I am planning for an extended period of involuntary celibacy, they laugh. They think I’m kidding. It sounds like I’m planning an extended holiday from sex. In today’s sexually saturated world surely there isn’t a person alive, much less a woman, who couldn’t get some anytime she wanted if she tried. Anyone, that is, except me. Now this is nothing new to most men, apparently. Over the years, I have had more male friends regale with tales of striking out. Philip Roth has made a career chronicling the sexual exploits and frustrations of men. The same can be said of Miller, Mailer, Updike, Allen, Cheever, Bukowski, and countless others. Recently, The New Yorker reviewed a Web series called Lonely and Horny. The premise is as follows, “each episodes runs between eight and ten minutes, and, within that span, tells the small story about Ruby’s increasingly desperate, and aggressively pathetic attempts to score with women. Ruby is enrolled in a ‘The Game’ style pickup-artist course taught by Josh… who appears to find his own class despicable.” Wow. Sign me up.

Where the Lonely and Horny for women? Trust me, we get lonely and we certainly get horny. Where’s the story of the young woman who’s invited along on dates where the couple insists she’s not a third wheel? Or the one where the older, prettier sister sets a young woman up on blind dates with men who agree solely so they can get closer to her older, prettier sister? Tell me the story of the young woman who set up a profile on Match.com only to get three responses and one date in two years. I got it, how about the one where the guy tells her she’d better change her mind about children, and fast, or “you’re gonna be alone for the rest of your life”. Then  there’s the you should grow out your hair, unless “you want to be alone for the rest of your life.” Or I may have to fuck you from behind because you look like a guy. Then there’s maybe you shouldn’t be such a  bitch or “do you want to be alone for the rest of you life?” Where’s the show where the heroine gets a phone call at 2AM from her codependent friend whose date has just literally run away from her, abandoning her somewhere in Brooklyn. Where’s the one about young woman sitting in the bar watching the men flirt with her friends as they ignore her completely. How about the one where the middle-aged divorcee watches middle-aged men flirt with young women and ignore her completely. That one where guys tell her she’s too good for them, where’s that show? Where the show where the guys tell her she’s the Yankees and guys are bush league?

Our modern, echo-chamber media is full of brash, ballsy women who do what they want, who they want, when they want. Single life is complex and complicated and personally and sexually rich, and sometimes it’s lonely. To that I say, huzzah! It’s about time! Women I know being represented fairly and without judgment on screen in shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Girls, Broad City, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Mindy Project, and others. In these women I see my brilliant feminist friends making our way in the world. But I don’t see feminist me. I couldn’t get laid if I tried. Perhaps now, so soon after the divorce, is not the time to plunge headlong into sex. It’s only been six months, after all, and he still takes up a great deal of space in my brain. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting what I want when I want it. He treated me like shit for nearly a decade and yet he finds someone. She’s nice. He seems happy. He gets what he wants. What goes around does not come around for him.

People tell me it’s too soon. I need time to heal. They tell me stories of how they found someone better the second time around. They tell me of five-year dry spells. Or that someone will come along when I least expect it, when I’m not looking, when I’ve given up. That once he takes leave of my head, those qualities that attract other people will emerge resplendent. I hope that is true. I want that to be true. But if experience has taught me anything it’s that I’m not sure I’ve ever had those qualities straight men find attractive. At best I am an acquired taste. That the best I can hope for is, as Warren Zevon put it, a life of Splendid Isolation, where “I don’t need no one”. That I am going to spend the rest of my life being “awesome” a “rockstar” a virginal object of veneration revered for her wit, wisdom, independence, fearlessness, badassedness and not a deeply sensual, loving, passionate woman. I want a man who thinks I’m intelligent and sexy. I want a man who isn’t put off my my fierce independence. I want a man with some fucking table manners. I want a man who appreciates good hygiene. Think those two are funny? You should meet my ex. I want a man who will do what I say and fuck me into next month. I want a man who will be mine. I want a grown-ass man. There’s more and more and then some, but not here. Not now.

I want more and then some
Oh how you feel
And then you done told me
about a million times
How much you love me
And then you’re through
Start back in again
I’ve made the same mistake
I know the awful ache
Of a little heart that’s been double-crossed.
The waiting’s been so long, so long
It’s hard to be believing
I thought I missed my guess
I thought that happisness for me was lost”
Nina Simone

I’m in for an extended period of involuntary celibacy.

Bookends

Bookends

When people marry they think it’s forever. Theirs will be the union that defies the odds and stands the test of time. They will weather all storms, take on all comers, and live in marital bliss until they pass away (love never dies) holding hands in adjoining hospital beds. Their bodies will always be beautiful and perfect and never fail them. The sex will always be spiritual and hot. Their children will be model citizens. Best friends to the last.

“Old friends/Sit on a park bench like bookends…
Can you imagine us years from today/Sharing a park bench quietly/
How terribly strange to be seventy…” –Paul Simon.

I didn’t think of forever. I couldn’t picture us years into the future. For me, getting through the day-to-day was enough. The future was for other people. This is not to say I don’t plan at all. The circumstances of my upbringing have made me a compulsive planner. I always have a plan.

My first friend got married at 17, practically a week after she graduated from high school. She was divorced at 18 and had her daughter at 20. The next clutch of friends married at nineteen. Some marriages survived, others didn’t. I remember sitting between two friends who had just returned from college on winter break, each discussing what she would borrow from the other when she got married. Where had my friends gone and who were these changelings? The next group married at 21, then 23, then the last at 25; the last except for me. I was 34, long after my family and friends had given up hope.

My mother was at a loss. She asked when I was going to get a boyfriend like my friends. Why didn’t I have a date to the prom like my sister? (My sister is the only person I know to go to two senior proms without having repeated a grade.) When I was 19 my mother asked if I was a lesbian. I asked her what if I was? Her response was to say she would throw herself off the nearest bridge. When I would come to her for hugs she would say you’re too old to get love from your mother. You need a boyfriend. My relationship with my mother has always been complicated. It’s as though because she’s my mother she thinks she knows me when she knows nothing about me.

When I was 21 I fell very much in love with a friend of a friend of mine. He was tall and solid with long fingers and large brown eyes. He was quiet and shy to the point of endearing. I had friends who claimed to hate him because he didn’t talk. We talked all the time. One afternoon he phoned me as he watched a little boy on his Big Wheel ride up and down the block. He’s so happy, he said, he nearly put his Big Wheel under a car. I wish you could see it. I tend to romanticise him and make more of our situation than it was. I fell in love where I was his rebound relationship. His girlfriend had left him without explanation and just like one of my wiser friends warned at the time, when he needed a shoulder I was there. At the same time he was my first love and my introduction to the adult world of intimacy and pleasure. My sister and I learned about sex fairly young-we were shipped off to a sex education class taught by a nurse practitioner organized by a group of parents-sex was not a topic of conversation. Our mother saw sex as a duty, an obligation, a means to an end. (If she didn’t actually see it that way, she certainly didn’t let on.) Intimacy was never discussed and pleasure was not even on the radar.

He wasn’t my introduction to the adult world of sex. That came much earlier. When I was nine years old I went to school one day and during a private music lesson my teacher told me to sit on his lap, unzipped the fly of my pants, and reached inside. He told me he was making sure I was breathing properly. He was very quiet after that. I felt small and strange and ashamed.  There was a lump in his trousers. We sat in absolute silence. I was never alone with him again. His attention didn’t waver, it changed. He teased me about my clothes and my hair. That I wasn’t a teacher’s pet told me there were others. When he was caught a decade later I learned how countless those others were. I came home that day a different girl-one who stopped talking. The silence of that afternoon infected me and I’ve been silent ever since.

An evening in May started with me sitting on the roof of a red Nissan Sentra in the pouring rain giving the brunette man in the driver’s seat a come-hither glance through the windshield. Charlie Parker played through the open windows as he slipped behind me. As we listened, he softly, almost imperceptibly, kissed a drop off my neck. We’d been friends for long enough that he knew everything and hadn’t run screaming; instead reassuring me with patience, gentleness, and we don’t have to do anything you don’t want. That night holding him in my arms, caressing his neck, his back, his shoulders-feeling that mass, that heat, that gravity-I felt a connection to my own body I had never felt before and have struggled to find since. And then he did something extraordinary. He began asking my permission, barely above a whisper. May I kiss your throat? May I touch your leg? May I touch your thigh? I consented time and again, and then I gave the orders. That night changed the dynamic of all our future encounters. Then one day he said, I care about you very much but I can’t do this anymore.

I hate that a man took my connection to my body from away from me. I’m angry that I have to fight to get that connection back. It saddens me that I stopped feeling that connection to myself in my marriage. My natural state, it seems, is to glide above the surface or disappear beneath the waves.