I woke up to crescent moons of dried blood and a terrible pain this morning. Because my head is always a balloon floating about a foot above my body, I noticed my fingernails caked with blood first. I spend my nights mostly blotto these days…just feeling around in the dark for my vodka & hoping I don’t bump into the memories I am trying to avoid, all of us locked in the same, small, carbon black room… This morning, I feel like pure, unadulterated grade A shit &, so at first, I was unsure of where the blood came from.
Then I felt the pain….between my legs. I know I had bad dreams last night, but I must have also hurt myself in my sleep. Ironically, the vodka never really takes the dreams away; it just allows me to fall into them easier, because otherwise I fight it…it’s like punching the tar baby, knowing escaping is futile…especially the more you struggle against it. The vodka is essentially a comfortable fall backwards into a cradle made of nettles. But between my sleep issues & my slippery eel drunkenness—I have been waking up to alarming things. Recently, I woke up because I was cold & realized I was completely naked. I had been having a dream that I was a child and being forced to undress for them again, I apparently complied even as an adult, vulnerable even now.
This time, however, I dreamt my uncle was trying to force me to blow him. He was undoing his pants. I played the lotto, took my shot. I scrabbled frantically on all fours across the floor, trying to get to the door. Splinters in my soft, pink fingertips. My tender knees banging down recklessly on his filthy floor. In my dream, I could hear myself think, “You’re going to do it! You’re going to get to the door this time!” Only to have his cane come down hard, the mark of stigmata on my hand. His booted foot kicking me between my legs…the noise I made in my dream was not my usual high pitched yelp. It was a scream that came from a deeper place in my chest, a dark place…Pain like a red chiffon scarf released and unfolding in the air, floating down to cover me in my fetal position. It feels real. Without a doubt, it is somewhere I’ve been. In my dream, I try to hold myself–tamp the pain down with my hands…but I am pulled upwards by my little arm as I whimper. This morning, I woke up to blood & pain &, when I gingerly go to the bathroom to check, I realize I have torn myself to bits down there with my own sharp little fingernails and I have no recollection of it.
I think I need help.
It’s ironic because for a minute there, I thought I might find my way out. I thought I might pull it off. Happiness. I saw J. this weekend and had an epiphany that J. actually values me and sees something in me. As we were leaving the hotel, I was telling him about how when we were growing up, we weren’t allowed to cut our hair. We wore out of fashion clothing. We looked like a cult of home-schoolers from a fundamental religious sect. He laughs and says, “Your childhood sounds like it was definitely….” He flips through a mental Rolodex of adjectives for a minute, searching for a benign one….then settles on, “unique.” I reply, “My childhood was something.” There’s an edge to my voice and he is starting to lose me to my past…but he looks at me, and I swear it was almost pride on his face, “Yeah…but look at how you survived it. And all that you became out of it. You are definitely a survivor….” I felt something in me soften. My shoulders relax from their position of hunched up anger. My fists lose their shape, rock turning to paper. I put my sunglasses on to hide my wet eyes. He looks at me, smiling broadly, “Those sunglasses are funky.” Shoulders start to tighten again, “Good or bad?” “Good. Definitely good.” “Oh, thanks.” Hiss of air from the mouth of the balloon. Again, he just stares at me for a minute with this look on his face, like he can’t believe his crazy luck I’m standing there smiling at him, “Your style. Man. Where do you get that?” From my own fine madness.
Our night together was low-key and wonderful. We went to Nail Creek, my favorite bar…also where we first met. He tells me to order a few drinks to celebrate International Women’s Day and all the hard work I’ve been doing at work & home. I oblige. He orders a Utica Club beer, a hometown favorite. The brewery that makes it is in the district I live in. J. loves it. I, however, liken the stuff to pisswater. I pound a couple of well-iced gin & tonics while he talks. A lot. I am happy to listen. He teases me that he’s going to see Peter Frampton in the fall for his farewell tour and that I will NOT be invited to attend due to the fact I do not appreciate good music. “Good,” I reply, snarkily. We talk about other concerts we’d like to see. I’m getting giggly at this point, which is his cue to ask for the check. As we walk out to the car, he tells me this anecdote about Kennedy giving a speech in Berlin & saying, “Ich bin ein Berliner”-which means “I am a Berliner”…but could also be interpreted as “I am a jelly-filled donut.” In my googly-eyed, muppet-like state, I burst out laughing. J., delighted by my joy, yells, “I am a jelly doooonnnnuuuuuut” with his fist raised in the air. I like this man. I like him a lot.
We drive back to the hotel & watch some lousy tv, which is really just a prelude to a different show, the one we are the stars of…Still, it’s nice. His hands never leave me. He lightly traces my neck with his fingers before looking for the knots in my shoulders & back. Little hard lumps of clay in my back are worked out, flattened back to a latticework of strips & stripes…Transforming globes to maps. I can feel him watching me, gauging my state of relaxation, but I don’t look back. I just make vinegary commentary about what is on the tv. I am rewarded by him laughing the laugh he uses when he finds something really funny. “A-ha! A-ha!” In this moment, it feels easy to smile. I look back at him & give him a small, close-lipped coy smile that he recognizes as me letting go.
We have sex, after kissing for what seemed like hours. I was in no rush. Because I can’t always consistently feel during sex, kissing is far more intimate to me. During sex, I try hard to stay present, to look up at him, to connect. At the angle he is above me, I know my eyes look big, blue and slightly pleading. When I am overwhelmed by The Everything Happening Around Me, I feel myself turn my head away and bite him squarely on his bicep. He doesn’t even flinch this time, having been the recipient of such a show of sudden aggression before. He just wraps his hands in my hair till I let go. After he finishes, he lays on top of me, kissing my head, face, neck with such sweet careful affection…He rolls off and gently tells me, “You’ve got some nice eyes there, Rox.”
Rox. He calls me Rox. It is what I call myself when I am talking myself down off a ledge. Ironically, no one else calls me that except my mother.
As we lie in this sanitarium-white king-sized bed, he wraps my arm around his body. He kisses my arm as punctuation to his sentences. He tells me about all the places he wants to take me in the summer, in the fall. “You need to go to Tanglewood. You would love it there. It’s so beautiful, surrounded by mountains.” Kiss. “We’ll go this summer. I’ll take you.” Kiss.
This summer. I wonder if I will still be alive by then. It seems so far off. There’s a lot of nights between here and then & they have gotten so dark. And I am not well.
It seems unfair for him not to know this, but it is crueler for him to know the truth. Someone is going to get hurt either way.
Ich bin ein TROUBLE…
Later, he wakes me up from a nightmare, catching it early by the sound of my shaky breathing. He shakes me roughly by my hip & I gasp myself into upright consciousness. I fall back asleep easily, knowing he is there…knowing he won’t let me stay back there. I mostly sleep till morning. The next morning, we laze about in the bed before going to get brunch together…As we get ready, I make joke using a literary reference he doesn’t get. He tells me that I’m smarter than he is. I have spent a lot of time in the loving company of men who are much older than me–I have never had one tell me that I’m smarter than him. If anything, they always want to teach me, mold me, upgrade me. But J. recognizes some wily bit of me as being intelligent….and if we had had more time, I probably would have jumped him again then and there, just for thinking so kindly of me. After brunch, he kisses me good bye and says he’ll be in touch regarding plans for our next visit. Before I even get home, there is a text telling me it was great to see me, as always. For most of yesterday, I am happy with secrets. He likes me. This could work…
But then came this morning, after a long night of fear unravelling reason…waking up to an answer I don’t like when I ask the universe why there is blood on my hands.