Oh, child… I feel dizzy, like I’ve had a couple of punches to the head. Love always makes me feel that way. Love likes to rough me up and leave me bleeding in alleys. It’s cool; it’s all consensual, that’s what I’m into. If my life doesn’t scar me I assume I’m not doing it right.
There’s this girl. I know, I know, another one? This is a different girl, even though the story has some marked similarities. Listen, I used to be really bad about falling in love with straight girls, okay? I’ve gotten better; I try to only let my infatuations get out of hand with the willing these days.
This girl is even harder for me to talk about, because the way I feel about her is so hard to put into words. I felt it from the second I met her – like a dislocated limb pushed back into place, a sense of recognition so acute it was painful. She didn’t feel the same, or she hid it well; I used to joke that we became friends because I interrupted her reading and refused to go away until she talked to me.
She’s always hidden how she feels well, from everyone. I’ve seen more than anyone else, but I have this particular blind spot where people’s feelings about me are concerned. So does she. Our blind spots intersect very neatly, such that we’ve been missing one another for a lot of years.
For so many years I’ve been crying thinking of her, of what I did to her. Nothing ever hurt as much as losing her. I went through plenty of heartbreak in the intervening time, with people on whom I had more claim and more right to grieve – people I lived with, slept with for years – and none of it cut deep enough to really hurt me. I couldn’t understand why for a long time, but now I think I do.
When I walked away from her, I gave up on that part of myself. Not consciously, I don’t think – I never swore off dating women, I went on identifying as bisexual, even fucked a few women over the years, but no one more than once. There were no women in my life at all for more than a decade. I’ve got a couple of female friends now, but that’s new, just in the last year. For about sixteen years I just avoided women entirely. Until she came back into my life, I thought I couldn’t feel that way anymore. Maybe my parents were right, maybe it was a phase. Everybody looks at women like that sometimes. Everybody has a bi phase in college. Settle down and get married to a penis-haver like a good girl.
Obedient creature that I am, I did get married. In fact, she married me – just not the way I hoped when I was sixteen. She was the officiant at my wedding. I needed her to be there, couldn’t imagine getting married without her. I never dreamed it would cause her pain – I’d concluded when we were nineteen that she wasn’t interested, that this bone-deep hunger I feel around her was entirely one-sided. That didn’t do a damn thing to make it go away, mind, but I’d long ago got comfortable with that ache.
It makes me feel foolish, in the best way, that it takes so little, the merest hint that she wants me around, and… god. My head feels like it’s on fire. It’s such a strange kind of tenderness I feel – more visceral than precisely erotic, because I had forbidden myself to think that way about her, and so every innocuous touch always hit me like a live wire. I remember one morning when I was about fifteen, waking up at a sleepover on the floor, with one arm around her. She was wearing a t-shirt that had ridden up some, and my fist was resting against her bare belly.
Slowly, so slowly, I spread out my fingers to lay my hand flat on her skin. Just that. It wasn’t a move, I didn’t have anything else in mind, I didn’t even know why – why I needed so much to do it, or why I felt such shame and self-loathing when I did. It felt holy – her skin as cool as marble, so still I could feel her heartbeat, the morning sun spilling over her shoulder. I lay there and felt adoration ricocheting through me, like a swallowed bullet, tearing up my insides with the effort to keep still, to preserve this moment for just another breath. And yet I was so ashamed. I felt sure it was wrong, I was wrong somehow. I knew I was trespassing, and I didn’t know why.
I never stopped thinking about that. I never stopped waiting for the day when I could be close to her and feel like she wanted me there. That’s all I ever wanted – to be with her and know that I’m welcome, that in her eyes, I belong there.
I recall every time I’ve touched your skin
and my skin prickles with the memory,
holding my breath to keep you next to me,
feeling the fragile moment stretch and thin
Your pulse is a cacophony under
my fingertips – it makes me want to weep,
to be so close to something I can’t keep –
drowning in my own heartbeat, like thunder.
For a moment I imagine a tree
growing from my sternum, up through your spine,
millions of roots between your heart and mine
finally able to see what you see –
roots that only grow deeper over time,
roots that will always bring you home to me.