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Some Happiness Is Still An Amount of Happiness photo

I never see Russell differently, I always see him in the same light under the same sun. It’s been difficult lately, but we used to have so much fun. I wonder if he remembers the tequila shots and us moshing on the roof. No music playing. Just our bodies hitting into one another. I was hitting into him hard. Laughing. Eventually, I pinned him to the ground, suffocating him with my lips. He lets me win. That was one of the first things I noticed about him. That and his kindness. Later, I would notice the color of his eyes, the wave his hair takes, his self-deprecation, the size of his fingers, his attention, and where he was stuck.

I was always so drunk, I wanted to drink more. Days held the hours between fucks. And in those many minutes I told him many things, and he told me I talked too much. He couldn’t get a word in. I talked a mile a minute with the enthusiasm of a learning child who accidentally says a secret. Because I was saying secrets until I puked. Then I’d have another glass or two. He fucked me like violence, but only like it. And I liked it. I felt myself expand with him on the bed. It was thrilling not feeling the world might cave in.

It was transgression everything I spoke of in bed. All those memories of being a kid. He didn’t like memories of being a kid. He’d pushed the sheets aside and go brew the coffee. But certain things to me were essential to intimacy, so I said everything, and lingered on the things that never made much sense to me. Russell’s perspective was attractive. He wasn’t there when I was growing up, but now that my growing had mostly tapered off, he was so often deep inside of me. This made it apparent that I had grown into an attractive thing. Exactly what I wanted to be.

I told him that when I was five years old my pretend cheerleading was getting in the way of Dad and the TV. My Dad looked at me with those pom poms and warned, One of these days someone is going to beat you up for being so pretty. I told Russell I’ve been waiting my whole life for the day. But he didn’t want to hear me. He knew what it would look like clearly. The photos of his mom in the 80s shocked me when I saw them. She was so pretty.

Russell told me if he ever hurt me he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Without saying it, I knew he meant physically. I took that seriously and it was thrilling getting wasted safely. I felt so safe with him. Every time I was ready to lose me, I found him. We’d undress with no expectations and have an exorcism. The way I’d scream, I’d grunt, I’d throw guttural sounds of deep want. After panting, he’d say it sounded like you were dying and I was, in a sense, that was true. Russell could make a blood vessel pop under my eye or a red rash reaction flare around my neck down into my chest without ever hurting me. While being soft with me. When he’d mistakenly enter me too quickly or hit against my cervix it’s pain and pleasure simultaneously.

When he was young and got drunk, he got a little confident and I think he would fuck me as if he could smash the sadness that has crystallized inside of me. But now, I believe, it’s within the cells themselves. I don’t know that any amount of whitewashed YouTube yoga will be able to decode my DNA. When the sex was over, I’d often be a crumpled ball, and we’d see how close pleasure can look to violence in different lights. Too often he asked if I was okay, because I don’t think he was okay.

It’s funny how often alcohol led us to abandon all our defenses and have a great nights of fucking that I don’t remember too clearly because of the drinking. There are slivers of memory I can recall from those evenings. Some form a montage that brings the blood south quickly in places as inappropriate as the subway, and others come to me sharp. Sharp like when you’re walking on your apartment floor to put the pasta in the hot water and suddenly a deep directed incision parts the skin on your foot right under your toes. You look, and it’s the tiniest shard of glass almost as thin as an eyelash, from the drinking glass that shattered on the floor maybe seven months ago. You thought you swept it all up, but some pieces you didn’t see and just feel later.

He always put his hands on me so lovingly, but I can’t say he never hurt me. It hurt me. And I hurt him. It made sober conversations out of bed confusing. Not all the time, but enough times that we’d sit on the bed on opposite ends at the edge as if it were a ledge, shallow breathing, eyes averting, not really listening to what the other was just saying because we’re watching our words and our every move, when all we want to do is undo our buttons and lay on the bed in the midafternoon as our bodies composed of billion of year old star dust are warmed in the windowed daylight where we lock the door and can lie completely exhausted, naked, strung out, defenseless, seen as we always feel, but are not allowed to be, out there in this fucked up world the way it moves and has no time for you.

I needed to make it smaller, the world. Smaller. Just four walls and a bathroom. That would do. Just leave for a financially providing yet meaningless job, a walk in the park, a show every week or two. Our impression on the world would then be so small that maybe nothing would be expected of us, and we could heal in here. Live in here. There were some days I didn’t care if I died in here.

Russell showed me just how it could hurt. How love could hurt in a different way. A different way than it had. He would say sorry and I love you after the fights and those words summarized everything that he couldn't say being so bad with words as he would tell me he was, and I knew that he was. He would get so frustrated about not being able to explain how he felt that he just wouldn’t try until he was drunk enough to give it a try. I think my ability to articulate feelings was intimidating to him. It was one of my few easy-coming sober talents, but he’d be so kind in his offerings of, Let’s break up, or I’m always fucking up, or You can find someone better than me, and once, Okay, I’m a rapist. Fuck me! I thought that one was the sweetest and brought me to throw my arms around him. Hold his body against mine. Because what he did wasn’t that, but I didn’t want to do what happened either. You know how confusing sex can be. I felt you’d have to be quite humble and self-sacrificing to be able to call yourself that so readily. That’s not what he is or what he did. I had said no, maybe twice, but with no real conviction — not really. I wanted my lover to put his hand around my throat when we have sex. Spontaneously. When he wanted it. When I’m not ready. When I have to pee. And because I can’t say no, and I like things this way, I said no when I meant it that one time in the shower, but not in the right tone, with no resolve, with the want to be what is wanted. I said no as he turned me around enough to — Afterwards, I think it was the steam that made it difficult to breathe. He was so sorry. So sorry. And he was angry. But it was towards himself and that felt good to me. However, it was a little scary because I didn’t want him to feel too badly. It made me sorry for making him so sorry that I apologized, even though he told me I shouldn’t be the one to apologize and, frankly, I realize now that I never got the chance to articulate for either of us what actually happened in the shower. As if I even knew. Or could tell you now.

I’m sure Russell thinks he knows. Which is why I stopped telling him about the nightmares that make him so mad. The ones about my dad. They scared him. The violence of them. He told me I was fucked up crazy, and the problem with that is that it’s all true. I know dreams are our subconscious, but how could such violent scenes come from any place within me? Who could think such things? Things that would keep any person with a shred of human decency up at night, and yet I closed my eyes. It made sense to me that Russell was thrown off about sharing a bed with me. I was scared of me.

You might have a kink, but don’t tell him the fucked up places where these things come from. I learned that. I wouldn’t tell him about the man on top of me in my dreams, because he knew that man. He’d shaken his hand, and in an unspoken generational man-code he had signaled to that man that he would be gentle with me, knowing that all fathers want that for their daughters. He never questioned whether that man had himself been gentle with me, because, if he hadn't been, who would want to have shook that father’s hand? And what man doesn’t shake another man’s hand without evidence of a crime? And what man would want to look at the evidence, me, in that way. What has been Russell’s role standing between us on a bright sunny day? No, my dreams are for me. My mind’s relationship to my mind is my most sacred thing.

Even when I woke up screaming I would tell Russell it’s nothing, and even when I sweated through my slip dress he believed me. He had to. So he wouldn’t get angry. And in the morning when he touched my foot he thought I pulled away because of a rape dream I had, but it’s really just because my toenail was jagged and I hadn’t shaved because I had to be beautiful all the time because from Instagram we now know that beautiful girls are beautiful all the time. Maybe if I was beautiful all the time it would make the horrid things that had happened, (happened maybe), a little less ugly. If I was an attractive thing then my situation could maybe be seen alongside our culture’s romanticization of things. In Hollywood they place beautiful people in a dark scene. Even while I thought that, it was never lost on me that, most likely, and despite what we wanted to believe, Russell and I were a bit too immature for the topics presenting themselves in our lives. Which is interesting, because we’re now the same age my mom and dad were when they had me.

Gin gets me thinking about the cute little shits Russell and I were when we were younger moshing on the roof to no sound, just our own songs from our emo youth playing in our heads. Smiling. Kissing. Laughing. We knew we’d never hurt one another. I was sure the hurt he could cause me was something I could discipline. We liked it rough. We thought that made it all okay. But it was just a matter of time before these little games came to a devastating end. You can’t account for accidents. That’s the nature of them.

And if I could have just one thing, it’s that I never want to forget why we started playing these games in the first place. Because it wasn’t all about sex, despite everything always being about sex. With Russell, I thought I’d found somewhere safe. Someone safe. Maybe too safe.
All my clothes off wasn’t naked enough. There wasn’t a vulnerable position I wouldn’t take. He never hurt me even when he had me in the most susceptible way. I thought it would be erotic knowing someone so well. I thought it would hurt a lot more in the right ways. A danger that’s quite pleasant. I needed it to get more dangerous. I think I thought that it would get more dangerous if I just focused a great deal on him. If I knew him well, if I knew him deep, not only would the sex get better, but it would get more dangerous. The more secrets, whether told or assumed, I would know about him, the more I could comfort him. And the more I comforted him, the more I could reveal of me, because we can only draw understanding from our own experiences. And the more I revealed about me, the more he would begin to feel he didn’t deserve to be in me. That’s when it could get scary. Which is why he didn’t want to listen to me. A feeling of inadequacy which has nothing to do with sexual performance, but rather emotional vulnerability.