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July 26, 2022 photo

Without you, every day stretched out impossibly, every hour an eternity. I scrambled to find new ways to spend my time. I couldn’t figure out how to dodge the deluge of memories. I would be walking on a dirt path or driving to a café when suddenly I’d recall the euphoria of you inside of me, the warm orange light cast over us, your room a tranquil pool I was swimming in. It was heaven. I wondered why I would ever give that up. I neglected to remember the details—that our sex was only a mere blip of pleasure and elation, and there was much more complicating it. I wished that was untrue, that we could just exist as intertwining, ravenous bodies, together in perpetuity.

You were soon turning thirty-three. I daydreamed about ending up back at yours, kneeling before you and making you feel good. Just like you were always there for me if I needed you, I wanted to be there for you when you yearned for pleasure. I wanted you to count on me—if not as a lover, then at least as an object for your using.

This was just a fantasy, though; I didn’t think it would come to life. However, the day before your birthday, I had a panic attack out of nowhere, coming on as I was finishing reading Toni Morrison’s Sula. I hyperventilated in the safety of my bedroom, then sat on the back porch for a cigarette and only became dizzier. I needed to escape, but I didn’t know where to. So I called you.

I speculated, aloud, that my anxiety was due to a manuscript I’d been working on and everything I’d been unpacking within it. “I thought it was helping me,” I said, “but now I feel even worse.”

You congratulated me on my book deal. I wondered if you knew you would be a character. You asked what it was about and I don’t remember what I said. But you told me to not write about the heavy stuff that was making me have a breakdown. 

“Don’t lose your mind for three thousand dollars,” you said.

“Why not?” I said. “I do it every day for free.” 

You told me to make my book experimental, the kind of thing that people had to pay attention to because it’s so different. But I didn’t tell you that that’s what everyone is doing. You mentioned Charlie Kaufman, and I was too afraid to admit that I forgot who he was and what he did. I looked him up quietly as we spoke and realized what you meant, kind of. 

We talked for a half hour, interspersed with bouts of lightheadedness and relief. I felt like I was in limbo between two dimensions, slightly lingering in dissociation while coming back to earth. 

“I need to be sedated, put down, tranquilized,” I said. 

“Is this horny talk?” you said. 

I said I was doing an impressive job of suppressing my urge to seduce you over the phone. But then you said you missed fucking me, and that my voice turned you on. I was amazed by your loss of control, your weakness, and I wanted to take advantage of it, foolishly believing that, for once, I was the one with the power. I told you I’d been considering asking if you wanted to see me on your birthday because I had a fantasy of making you feel good. 

“I mean… I’m not gonna reject birthday sex,” you said, sounding almost flustered as you launched into a ramble about wanting to be morally right and not wanting to hurt me. “I want to do it, you want to do it, the question is should we do it,” you contemplated. I didn’t want to think too deeply into it. I felt more emotionally detached and like I could handle it. 

The next day, I bought a bottle of wine despite my desire to be sober. I was going to break my self-imposed rule for you. I was writing about you so often then, and this would render many of my words inaccurate, about how we were over and I’d seen you for the last time, though I had known it wasn’t really the end anyway. This is part of why I never know how to write the ending of a piece—when does anything really end? How can I document something so fluid? Why do I want to capture life into words so badly, like trying to catch a lightning bug in a jar? Am I holding it hostage, taking away its magic?

I searched “fishnets near me” online after ravaging my room for a half hour looking for a pair. I only found one, but you’d ripped them, and it wasn’t a small hole; it exposed my entire ass and leg. I remembered writing about the moment you did it, when we were broken up and I hated you and I reflected on it with contempt. The act of your hands tearing the cloth was suddenly violent and antagonistic in my memory, though it turned me on at the time. That’s why I was in my room, looking for a pair—I wanted you to do it again, to want to fuck me so badly that you can’t wait to take them off.

After giving up on the fishnets, I glued on the acrylic nails you liked, which I hadn’t bothered wearing since I’d last seen you. I decided to wear my blue and pink skirt with a white Simpsons tank top I figured you’d find funny. I left right when my GPS told me I would arrive at eight, the time we agreed on. I drove fast, speeding in the left lane with my windows rolled down and music blasting.

I parked across the street and texted you that I was there. I waited for you to come down and get me while a breeze kept lifting my skirt. I backed against the wall and tried to hold it down. A man gave me a patronizingly forgiving smile. When you opened the door for me, I immediately noticed how much your hair had grown, and I felt a surge of warmth and excitement. You mumbled while we went up the stairs, explaining that your friends got you so drunk the night before that you fell asleep in your shoes. You were painfully hungover, constantly on the verge of throwing up because you hadn’t eaten anything. You sprawled yourself out on your bed when we were into your room, and I sat cross-legged next to you, unsure of whether you wanted me to lay next to you and give you affection. I assumed you enjoyed the space I put between us. You said you felt nervous about me being there. I said you shouldn’t. You put your hand on my knee and I felt myself getting wet already. I was not fully recovered from my panic attack the day before, and I was running on only a couple of hours of sleep, but I felt safe in your room, protected by the familiar texture of everything. 

“That skirt is dangerous in my neighborhood,” you said. It was a compliment. It meant you liked it. You liked that it was so slutty that it was a threat to my safety. You could say it because I was tucked away in your room, a secure refuge. You were my protector; what turned you on was the power that gave you. It turned me on, too. I adored you, I ruminated, because you might’ve been the only person who was more cynical than me. You thought I was naïve. I wanted to believe I was naïve—that I still retained some innocence, some light. And I wanted to be looked down on, taught, guided, even if it was into darkness.

You were, as usual, broke, so I ordered us food on my mom’s credit card. You said you needed pizza and because it was your birthday you weren’t willing to negotiate. I got a salad for myself. When it arrived, you were instantly rejuvenated after the first bite. “Pizza power,” you said, and I saw the way your eyelids were no longer drooping and your back was straighter. You put on political videos and claimed, “I’m giving you updates from the dark side,” but I just tuned them out. Eventually, we decided on watching Jackie Chan’s Police Story, and I was entranced for its entirety, especially at the end, when the music cut out and a song was made out of the recurring sound of shattering glass as everyone fought. I don’t remember if it was during the movie or after, but it was around midnight that you joined me in bed, splaying your body out behind mine, rubbing my legs and imbuing me with a tantalizing pleasure. I was, at that point, drunk, but not to the point where anything was spinning. I kept looking up to the ceiling, wishing it would begin to rotate, but it only swayed slightly. You told me to put your cock in my mouth, and I did, and I was almost surprised by how big it was, like I’d forgotten. It was basically impossible to fit it all in my mouth without gagging, but I liked the challenge of it, and I was turned on by the choking feeling. You tried to fuck me sideways with us facing each other, a position so intimate I used to daydream about it, but so difficult in execution that I impatiently turned around instead and gasped when you were finally inside me, relieved and unbelievably ecstatic. I looked at you over my shoulder and you pulled me close and kissed me urgently.

But I was distracted—I wanted the all-encompassing euphoria of drunkenness, I wanted to reach the perfect amount of dizzy. I asked if we could take a break and you asked if I was getting emotional, a question that would usually offend me. But my aloofness was evident by my face. I asked if I could be honest—which I was surprised by, because this was the sort of thing I’d conceal. It made me feel shameful or dramatic. But I felt compelled to tell you, maybe because the book I was writing was teaching me to be more honest. I explained that I was wishing for more wine, fantasizing about achieving a certain level of intoxicated. “That’s because you’re an alcoholic,” you said. I said I knew. My head was in the crook of your neck. I felt freed by this confession. I mentioned a story I heard about Amy Winehouse winning a Grammy and turning to her friend and saying it was so boring because she was sober. I said this with your hard cock in my periphery, feeling simultaneously embarrassed and understood. I got on top of you and fucked you fast and unrelentingly. I was going to be your best fuck, like I always was. That’s why I was there, why I’d decided I wanted to see you despite the space I suggested months before. I wanted you to think of me as your slut—devoted and there whenever you wanted me. You asked if I missed riding you and I said I did. I said I wanted to make you come hard. When you did, I laid my head on your chest and watched the whiteness drip. You trembled and let out a moan that turned into an amazed laugh that I always heard when you orgasmed, like every time we fucked you were in awe of how heavenly it felt. You thanked me for making you feel good on your birthday.

Curled up beside you, I dreamt I was in a church, a service transpiring in the basement, but clamor broke out when a hurricane hit and flooded the place. Everyone evacuated and I announced, “God is not mad at you,” a casual joke about divine punishment, and I don’t know why I was the one making it.

I was happy when I woke up in the morning and was still there; I successfully broke my pattern of leaving unsatisfied in the middle of the night. I still gathered my things and tiptoed out before you woke up. I’d picked up my necklace from your desk, put it back down, and moved it a little to try to cover my tracks, as if you’d know what I did—left it there as an excuse to return. You wouldn’t know. I was always forgetting stuff. Chargers, underwear, my driver’s license.

Outside, a sixty-five dollar parking ticket was tucked underneath my windshield wiper, but I didn’t mind. I was imbued with an unexpected sense of invincibility, likely due to being hungover but not overwhelmingly so, just enough to make me emotional and grateful. I stopped at what used to be my favorite café, unafraid despite my skirt that was so short that bending over at all would expose my dark pink underwear.