We are undressed parallel bodies and everything begins spinning. It has been a long time for me and I wonder if it’s going to be like riding a bike. I know, that’s the lamest comparison. But I guess it is like riding something, just a human instead of a cold mechanical thing. Though sometimes they feel oddly similar.
I think people come flooding back in these moments, that maybe each time we have sex we’re bringing along people before too. The way he touches is from what he learned with Kristen. The way I kiss still tastes like Aidan. We find ghosts in our bedrooms.
But I find this a comforting thought, not a morbid one. Not Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze romanticized Hollywood bullshit. Not American Horror Story cringe factor. Just comforting.
People stay with us. They leave permanent markings that inform even the most basic human interaction. Memories are woven into our very existence. We can’t separate them. They’re popping up when we least expect.
The boy who kissed me on Coney Island appears in Danger Dogs served on street corners in Los Angeles.
The girl who spoke your name followed by a stuttered “I love you” exists in me.
They appear in unanswered stories. In chapters you want to finish but never got the chance.
I close my eyes and fully give myself permission to be there with him. His body is like my first love, with broad shoulders but a slender frame. “I love skinny boys,” I awkwardly tell him in the bar, not realizing this was a dumb thing to say and he straightens up. I back peddle, the bumbling idiot I often am in the company of men I’d like to carve into my heart.
“I don’t mean you’re skinny. I just mean I hate those meathead types. Jacking off to how much they bench press. I hate that shit. I like you,” I’m digging my own grave.
“I think you’re perfect.”
He gets on top of me and I catch my breath long enough to ask if he has a condom. He pauses and looks at me like a pug, cocking his head to the side. It suddenly feels like I’m back in high school and everyone is staring at me, even if it’s just the two of us.
Did I do something strange without realizing?? Did I just accidentally spit out facts about sharks or that I’m still in love with my ex or that I drink wine out of coffee mugs because I’m afraid of breaking glasses?
No. Not this time. I just asked that we use protection. Not a grand request, really. Invincibility has never been a mindset of mine. I jump to worst cases quickly. Hear whispering voices of cautionary tales from friends who didn’t. “I WOULDN’T BE A GOOD MOM RIGHT NOW!!” I think of shouting. Bite my tongue instead.
He clears his throat and says he doesn’t. He goes back to kissing me, my body now tense. I pause and can only seem to muster up an almighty, “Oh. Well. Um.”
“Are you not on birth control?”
Another pause that sits uncomfortably, one you could fill with sand or whatever the fuck they put in those little timer things.
We are clearly candidates for partners with the best communication.
“That’s weird,” His voice drips a judgement I’m confused by. I didn’t realize not being on the hormonal pill was means for thinking I’m some kind of freak show. Another fun thing to add to the list, a snide remark I make, but only in my head. I can’t seem to vocalize any of this. And for a girl always speaking her mind, I don’t know why I’m so paralyzed.
I suggest we go to a store to buy condoms. He says he doesn’t really want to leave. And there we are, naked, and I feel something I haven’t felt in a long time. Pressure. Internal pressure. I know I do not owe him anything, but I can’t seem to say no. I can’t seem to say, “I don’t know about this.” I can’t seem to decipher why I still want him to like me when he has made me so uncomfortable and vulnerable with all these multiple layers of nudity springing forth.
So we have sex. And I lose myself in him. Because it’s good sex. I’m talking really good sex with his strong hands, and mouth, and ability to make me forget my own loneliness.
But it is the night before Thanksgiving and I need to baste a turkey in the morning. I make a joke about him basting me. His laugh fills me with a warmth that, for a little while, blurs the memory of anyone before his bed. He is all I see. But I decline the invitation to spend the night. I drive home and anxieties find me along the way.
I set my alarm for 7 am so I can stop by a pharmacy first thing. I have never done this before but I assume it will be easy. I am a grown woman. But for some reason I feel like I’m sixteen and unsure if getting Plan B will get me in trouble. I am reverting. I am afraid and nervous and the very antithesis of cool and collected. My phone rings and I have barely slept, still awake on touches.
I rush to the local drugstore and head straight to the pharmacist. She says, “Happy Thanksgiving!” And I smile. Awkwardly. Inform her that I need Plan B and to peel potatoes. She tells me it is over the counter. Oh. I slink off and grab it. I get in line to buy it, creating different scenarios in my head if the cashier were to ask. He’s my fiancé and the condom broke! We aren’t ready to be parents! Nobody cares. I remind myself. You’re the only one thinking about this right now, I tell myself.
And there she is. My ex-boyfriend’s mother. She has the same rounded nose as her son. The same gentle eyes, love for podcasts, and soft-spoken nature. Our eyes meet and she cracks her face into a beautiful crescent moon smile. And suddenly, it feels like I’m back home again. I have found peace and I want to hug her, to go back in time and finally make things right.
Until I remember I’m holding a box of Plan B on Thanksgiving morning. She sees it. And I want to die and crawl into a hole for 10 years. I try to shield the label with my fingers, but there’s no point. She saw it. I imagine her calling my ex and re-telling the story.
I look tired. I always look tired lately. Dark circles have found permanent resting spots beneath my eyes and I’ve gained stress-weight. All things I don’t need my ex to know. I’m supposed to look better, rested, someone he sees and goes, “Damn, why didn’t we just fix things? She’s my knockout, my everything.”
But I’m not. I’m standing in line with my ex’s mother. I am buying Plan B after sleeping with someone who made me insecure.
I want to tell her I’m trying to fuck away sadness and it isn’t working. I am not working and things in my brain don’t make sense. I want her to hug me and tell me it’s okay.
I want her to tell me I’m okay.