I escaped to Saratoga to be with him this weekend. On Friday morning, I show up at the door of the Victorian house his apartment is in…I am dressed in my new 1-size-smaller black skinny jeans that I have tucked into my kick ass little ankle boots and a baggy plaid shirt with touches of lace on the shoulders. He smiles at my slightly-kerfluffled-by-the-drive appearance. I always appear as such to him after driving to see him. He finds it cute, my traveler’s discombobulation. He welcomes me in, puts his hands on my belly, almost protectively, playfully tugging the hem of my shirt upward as he kisses me. I lean into the affection. I take my bags to his bedroom, freshen up in the bathroom….Then I meet him in the kitchen, where I casually lean backwards against his stove, flirting girlishly, as we chat. Once again, I find him gently placing his hand on my belly, and drawing me near. Lodestone & iron, recognizing each other by sheer attraction.
After our brief orbits in his apartment, around & towards each other on some sexual trajectory, he takes me out to a sushi place for lunch. It is hard to swallow, hard to chew—even though the tuna roll is deliciously tender on my tongue. While he’s eating his food, he looks at me like it’s me he’s tasting. Feeling hot, I try to stabilize by making jokes, teasing him. After mercilessly teasing him for a bit, he finally growls, “I am going to take you home and swat you on your bare behind for that.” He says it loud enough that the woman component of the elderly couple behind us hears him & drops her fork in shock. I put my hand on my neck, look down and say, “Oh my” with a slight smile. I suck water up my straw like I’m taking a drag on a cigarette….
I don’t remember him paying the bill. I don’t remember the drive home. I just remember pulling him towards me by the sleeve of his wool sweater on the couch. I knead his thigh, hungrily, as we kiss. He pays special attention to my neck & I am coming undone. Finally he says, “We need to relocate.” He grabs me by the hand and drags me towards the bedroom. For a minute, I freeze. I am thinking about the last time I was here…the disaster that was summoned up in his bed. But it’s light out. It’s him. It’s not too fast this time. There’s nothing to fear.
He performs magnificently like the young brash boy I imagine he once was…taking control and entering me roughly over and over again till I am rigid with the pleasure of it, back arched into him, hips rising upwards. I actually make an effort to open my eyes & make eye contact with him while we’re connected. Making eye contact is difficult for me even in non-intimate situations, but even more so in bed. For years, after he was finished assaulting me, out of shame, my uncle would close my eyes. His fingers heavy on my eyes like Charon’s Obol, dirty pennies paying the ferryman to take me to the far side of Acheron… To this day, I still have difficulties with plugging in during intimacy…..but I am trying. I shyly open my eyes and look up at J. He sees me & immediately smiles at the connection. I close them again, embarrassed…but try to occasionally look up at him, as I cup his face gently in my hands. He works me over for an hour, till finally he releases his warmth inside of me and pins me to the bed with his body. Joined still but spent, he kisses my face and neck. I cling to the feeling of well-being I feel in that moment. Later, we nakedly laze about in bed, looking up to see what concerts are coming through various local venues. Then I show him a video of my daughter being sassy. He busts out laughing, harder than I’ve ever heard him laugh before… She…threw…her…LUNCHPAIL! Ohmygod. Play it again.” His response makes me laugh. We watch the video 5 more times, laughing till we’re wiping tears off our faces. It is so dear to me, his response. So. Fucking. Dear.
He asks me if I want to take a walk. “I have a few things I want to show you.” It’s 50 degrees out, unseasonably warm. He gives me a tour of the neighborhood he lives in with his slightly acidic commentary. “This is a hipster bar…in order to enter, you must be a douche.” “This is an overpriced seafood bar—rich, old people with lots of free time eat here. Check out the price points. Yeah, your mom.” “If you like mediocre sandwiches, this place makes the best mediocre sandwiches around.” “This is a white trash bar. You have to use a fake id with a name like Britney or ‘Tiffani with an I’ on it to get in.” To me, everything looks nicer than I can afford or belong, even as he jokingly maligns them.
He steers me around another corner, past a woodwind shop still decorated for Christmas. “Here. This is what I want to show you.” It’s a bookstore in an old bank. I look inquisitively at him. “Come on, let’s go in.” Immediately upon walking in, I see a glass case of first editions & rare books. To my amazement, they have a complete set of the Oz books…they are old and the covers are so lovely. I put my hand on the glass, as though I can trace Dorothy from my side. J. smiles at my obvious delight. He shows me around the shop. It is the most fantastic place I have ever been. There is an endless maze of rooms, claustrophobic with reading material. Books in haphazard, toppling piles on the floor. Wall to wall rough hewn shelves, labeled with oddly specific categories. Ship building, Asian Cuisine, Jewish Athletes. Some of the rooms still look like the old bank vaults. J. leads me into a room of old books. It is the most amazing place I have ever been in. The books are all extremely old. We are surrounded by leather bindings, gilded lettering, ornate covers. Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare….I trace the author’s names with my fingertips, gently cradle the books as I open their covers…They smell old and otherworldly. J & I are both excited when we find a particularly beautiful edition or an author we love. After a bit, he gently tells me they’re probably ready to close & after a brief conversation with the owner, who bemoans the “tourists,” we leave.
Next he takes me to Sperry’s. Inside, it’s like being dropped into the 40’s. Around the top of the walls are odes to horse racing, painted in simple charming murals. The pictures of the horses & riders are back-lit by soft pink lights. Underneath the murals, there are tall banquets covered in exquisite leather. The wait staff and bartenders all somehow manage to look timeless. It looks like a place I imagine characters from a Salinger story would visit. Franny with her boyfriend before her nervous breakdown. Buddy rhapsodizing over Seymour’s poetry. Holden waiting for some girl that never shows. We sit at the bar. I order a gin & tonic & receive the best balanced gin & tonic I have ever tasted. J. orders a Manhattan that he is equally pleased by. He also orders us a charcuterie platter which we demolish-as he waxes poetic about Todd Rundgren, Amy Winehouse & the Shins. We lick at the salt of olives on our lips, let the sharp tang of Gorgonzola coat our mouths, savor the fatty meatiness of the mortadella. Somehow I end up with a second drink that I don’t need. J. debates having another Manhattan but ultimately decides not to. Finally, full, satisfied & just a trifle loose, we leave.
We start to walk home, but by now it is raining lightly. It feels good on our boozed up, dewy skin. We shriek as our feet splash through puddles, laughing at each other. This is the best day I have had in a while. In fact, it is the best date I have EVER had. I am flushed with happiness. Is this real? What punishment will I suffer for this brief blip of happiness? Because I know eventually I’ll pay. I always end up paying. It’s probably the second G & T taking over my logic, but I see a car coming & decide to do a test. I step off the curb in front of the car to see if God is ready to collect. I wait to roll up on the hood, make a spider web of cracks on the windshield…but somehow I don’t get hit. J. starts yelling behind me as I clear the street and hop up on the next curb. “ARE YOU DRUNK!? There’s no fucking stop sign there!” I reassure him that I knew I had time to cross, even though I didn’t know that at all. Luckily, in his alcoholic induced ADD, he is distracted by his left sneaker’s descent into a puddle & he quickly forgets the near miss.
When we get home, we laugh at our rain saturated appearances. I take a hot shower and get in pj’s while J. mixes a couple more drinks. We land on the couch & watch a couple episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s show, cuddled up to each other under a heavy blanket J. got from an army surplus store when he was 15 that he used on a cross country trip with friends that year. Such privilege like I have never known. I tell him stories about my poor, dysfunctional upbringing. He looks at me with something like pride and says, “And yet you turned out to be this cool, weird, bad ass.” I let my hand find his and rest within it. We eventually make our way to bed to snuggle up and sleep.
As we lie there, awash in each other’s heat, he asks if I’ve fallen asleep, as I’m quiet.
Me: No, just writing a dissertation on my own awesomeness in my head.
J: Haha. Niiiice.
A few minutes pass…
J: You’re awful warm.
Me: Yeah, working on that dissertation got me ALL amped up.
J (ruffles my hair affectionately): Let me know when you write your dissertation on BEING HUMBLE.
A few minutes later, he makes one of his odd little jokes & then says, “HA, I’m weird. Am I weird, Rox?” There’s just a slight nip of insecurity in the question. Like he already knows he is weird, but has become concerned that maybe he doesn’t want to be. I respond, nonchalantly, “I’m weird, you’re weird. And I like it.” It’s odd, but this is the last thing we say to each other before we fall asleep, bodies tetris’ed in perfect fitting shapes against each other.
Unfortunately, I am visited by relentless ghosts. In my dream, my uncle is watching J. & I having sex. He tells J., “Hit her if she ever says no. She’ll do it anyway.” J. doesn’t want to, refuses. My uncle tells him to tie my arms behind me, if he has to, that it’s ok to hurt me. In my dream, I’m shaking, but, to my great shame, also kind of turned on. J. keeps reassuring me he would never hurt me. My uncle finally tells him, “Just take her ass …roll her over and force her, like I do. It’s ok, she’s trash anyway.” Finally, J. gives in, rolls me over & I brace myself. I’m terrified, but… also ready. In my dream, when he thrusts, I am able to do something I can ONLY dream about: feel my body tighten up & then uncoil in an orgasm. My uncle smirks, “I told you she likes it.” In my dream, I start crying, completely humiliated. However, that crying expands out of this realm into real life, even as I sleep. All of a sudden, I feel my body tonic-clonic jerk. J. is violently shaking me awake, out of this thicket of terrible dreams. I fall back asleep only to be dropped back into the same net of horrifying dreams over and over. J. rolls over to his side of the bed and tries to sleep through it, my crying in my sleep.
The next morning, he admits that I kept him up with my nocturnal combat, before excusing himself. I hide my face in my pillow, exhausted & embarrassed. When I look up, he is crawling into bed with a scalding cup of strong black coffee for me. I push wild, red waves of hair out of my face, smile and take the cup from him. He settles in next to me, covers us up and rubs my back while showing me funny videos on his laptop. We wake up gently together.
I know one way or another, I will pay the price for enjoying this weekend. I imagine the bill will be itemized as such:
- lovely, delicate paper worlds kept safe within the sacred protection of an old bank vault
- Salinger-ian scenes of inspiration while sitting at the bar
- the careful sipping of one perfect G & T next to the snarkiest tour guide to ever make you laugh
- eye-opening hour of freeing sex that you can still feel in the low-slung swing of your hippy walk
- right comments said at the right time
- an evening stroll in the shape and form of a happy couple dodging raindrops
- the soundtrack to a winter sunrise found in our laughter
- one little dangerous leap of faith off a curb
Looking at this list, I can already tell I’m in debt over my head…
and, if we’re being honest, it feels pretty wonderful….