You’ve heard me tell this story before — via text, first, and then too-loudly in the library, later at dinner in the company of some mutual friends after I’d had a chance to polish it a couple of times, iron out the bits that don’t need to be there and tighten the timing on successful lines.
The story about the girl you sort-of-know from friends-of-friends, about how we’d bumped into each other at a shitty bar, her mentioning a distant boyfriend, many drinks, and the two of us on the (cold) tile floor of her friend’s house, her quietly asking me to choke her out, and my less-hesitant-than-I-suggest-to-you compliance.
I’ve told the story to you, and I’ve told it to a couple of others, changing inflection to suit the audience. I learn early on that my fratty man-friends are most receptive to the story without embellishment; they prefer me to simply describe the thing and lament the fact that my hand left a bruise the following morning, so that they can laugh and offer their own contribution to the Interesting Sex Encounters talk. Lady friends tend to be less at ease with stories about sex and violence, specifically violence to a lady, and I spend more time describing my discomfort at choking the girl out — thence to how awkward it will undoubtedly be when I see the girl again. Gay lady friends mostly laugh, although less at my having to switch between left-and-right-handed choking as my shoulders got tired, and more at how weird hetero sex is. Gay dudes are uniformly unamused.
I have seen the girl who was into being choked a few times since. It hasn’t been that uncomfortable.
You’ve disappointed me by not asking me why I keep telling the story.
It isn’t about scoring points. I mean, that’s unavoidably there — if you’re telling a story about having had sex, there’s point-scoring. It could be an unintended consequence to your turning an intimate moment into a barroom punchline, but it is a consequence anyway. And it’s a shitty consequence, and it goes some way to making you a shitty person. Which, alright, yes, fair enough. But the shitty result isn’t the result I’m looking for — or at least not entirely.
Let me put it this way: if you find yourself on the floor of some stranger’s apartment, reeking of booze bought from a bar you told yourself you’d stop going to, on top of somebody you don’t know terribly well and indulging their sex-favor request by strangling them gently, there’s considerable risk that you’re going to stop and ask yourself how did it come to this?
And I mean, yes, thinking about it was probably my first mistake. If you don’t count all of the mistakes that came before that. But once that knee-jerk self-awareness comes into play, the only possible way that the above kind of situation can be made bearable is by turning it into some kind of story. And to be a story it needs an audience — hence you.
Although there’s a matter of diminishing returns — how many times does the story about the girl and the choking need to be retold (a little different each time) before I feel like I’ve asserted some agency over the situation? How large an audience do I need before I’m done? Why couldn’t I just tell my cat?
So I guess more specifically, then, the ‘you’ here is less the generic 20-something with an appetite for stories about dumb shit, less even the 20-somethings with such appetites that I’ve actually spoken to, than it is the girl who was, or is, into being choked. It’s an apology for turning you into something of a narrative — an attempt at explaining that it’s really, truly, not just a matter of taking a relatively intimate moment and cashing it in for cheap, boozy laughs, but that I can’t not turn the things that happen to me into stories. It’s been observed that experiencing your own life through episodes and story arcs isn’t healthy — life doesn’t have chapter breaks or hiatuses, or it’s not supposed to — but I will be goddamned if I know any other way of experiencing life that doesn’t make me bored or miserable all the time.
Turning you into a story is as close as I get to taking some kind of control over stuff that happens — and I mean arguably it’s also as close as I’m likely to get to folding you into my life in a meaningful way. Although feel free to call bullshit on that last bit.
If it helps, I wasn’t narrating things as they happened.