Someone slept with me, but didn’t love me. He rolled over and checked his phone while I lay naked on top of his bedsheets and, when he opened up his messaging program to answer a text, I put the blanket over myself. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be naked anymore.
Three years before that, I was in a bed in the windowless basement room of a boyfriend who was in medical school. He was my boyfriend because it would have hurt him if I said anything else, but we were never going to last very long. I didn’t love him. He would pat around under the blankets after orgasm and try to find my hand to hold, and I would pretend to be asleep.
Five years before that, I was breathing heavily in the back of a good-looking senior’s Honda CR-X, barely able to move and wondering why I hadn’t lost my virginity in a roomier car. This time, neither of us loved each other.
We had sex eight times, each time in the back of the same car, or — weather permitting — in a field next to it. Each time, we made conversation for about twenty minutes after everything was done, and each time we told each other we would hang out soon. To this day, I’m not sure whose benefit those exchanges were for.
Don’t have sex with someone you don’t love, or at least, don’t sleep with them. Don’t lie next to them and drift out of consciousness while they breathe in your hair and think of a way to tell you how beautiful you look without bothering you. If you’re going to have sex, be like the guy with the CR-X, who always drove me home promptly enough to remind me that this wasn’t going to be anything more than what it was at that moment.
I used to think that I should have sex because it was what people do at a certain age, if they like each other a certain amount, and now it sometimes feels like a chore. When that man rolled over and grabbed his phone, I wondered why I was still here, lying under a cracked ceiling, the same girl with the same insecurities from the back of the CR-X. Only I was older, less resilient, more easily damaged. You would think that you would get stronger in love as you grow up, but you only realize more and more what you have to lose.
Sometimes I think about that boy whose hand I wouldn’t hold. I hope he’s found someone’s hand who wants to hold him back.
None of us are good people, I don’t think. Not him, not me, not the boy who probably traded in his hatchback for something more practical by now. But we can try not to hurt people. We can try not to hurt ourselves. We can do something out of love and not out of a desire to get it done.
For now, we can just sleep alone.