Used Up, Felt Up, Messed Up

jenny downing
jenny downing

Frankincense was burning because the woman at the new age shop told me it would bring me to a level of higher consciousness. But the cedar scent was more of a stench and I was leveled over my covers, sinking rather than rising. Tears glossed my cheeks as they streamed in a constant flow. I tried to twist the situation into a positive interaction with a potential boyfriend as I focused on elevation to this holy ground of clarity and stinky incense:

We had sex which was good because that means he’s attracted to me and we’ll have a great sex life. 

No, I wanted this so bad because I hadn’t slept with anyone in almost a year and people in movies react adversely to that length of abstinence so it was about time. 

How hilarious that I woke up in Astoria. What a great opening chapter for my misadventures in dating book. 

I told my friends I was fine and he was hot because I wanted to believe both things in a moment I couldn’t. But on those covers I remained cemented, forcing my eyes to stay wide because I feared facing something unsettling against the backs of my eyelids. If I shut my eyes, my worthiness for love would shut down too.

But I blinked and blinked and blinked. Every flutter presented a montage of mistakes taunting my mind in strobe light fashion. A few wobbly steps. The used up pleather of a cab’s back bench suctioned to my bare thighs. A man with an angry face mouthing something angry at me. My date with his hand up my blue skirt, wiggling his fingers under my panties. An acidic wave crawling up my throat and falling out my mouth. Hot water pricking my back. Penetration and concentration on the flickering fluorescents of the outdoor lamps until I sobered up and could hear the words “hussy” and “slut” being hissed into my ear.

We rode the subway the next morning in silence and split without eye contact or goodbye. The churning and gurgling and pounding were more than a bagel and Gatorade could cure. I felt as used up as the cab’s back seat where I got used up, felt up, messed up. I could have thrown up again but cried instead, leaking regret and stupidity and humiliation. When he left me like he didn’t know me, I froze like I had walked into a wall. My breath seized as my ribs caved and something began to rot inside my gut. I’d rather my heart burst from my chest for relief rather than endure the transformation to stone.

What I wanted after a year of loneliness where the only source of connection I could muster was the cool, calming surface of my apartment’s hardwood floor on my left cheek, was someone to kiss me on the train platform as tourists and strangers whizzed by like shooting stars.

Everyone told me not to drink so much next time but I told myself not to expect love next time because my idiocy wasn’t worth the shooting stars. I thought I’d find new love by putting myself out there, by hinting at blooming body confidence by wearing a skirt without tights in the lingering humidity of early autumn, by leaping in front of Cupid’s freight train barreling down the tracks (I thought it would stop for me, but it crushed me instead). It wasn’t the extra wine he dumped in my glass that invited this, it wasn’t my acceptance of his date that welcomed this. It’s not okay that he surveyed the situation of my short skirt and stammering on about whatever thoughts I had lost in that wine as his advantage. He did right by sliding me into a cab but was wrong in his sense of direction. I should have been heading to a close friend’s couch and not to a borough where my internal navigational system would be worthless.

I’m neither a hussy nor a slut for the short skirt. My bare legs are not your easy access routes to what is up and underneath. You can’t touch me there unless you mean it. Because fuck, I’m worthy of love and emotion and connection deeper than your dick can go. And now I’m rising rather than sinking atop my covers, twisting a negative interaction with a bone fide bastard into a positive course of education, revelation and budding strength as the Frankincense burns out for the last time behind me. TC mark

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