“My cock wants you. Badly.”
It’s 2:30 AM on a Saturday night and while most of the collegiate world is beginning to transition its drunkenness into one-night-stands, I’ve been asleep since 10. I leave my ringer on its loudest setting because I knew you’d call, you always did. My nightly weekend routine consisted of engaging in the not-so-secretive activities that women do before an anticipated sexual encounter: shaving my legs, massaging lotion over my body, smoking my eyes, and picking out the perfect set of lingerie—just in case. I wake from my haze and answer your call. I shouldn’t, I know I shouldn’t. You’re with her. I knew better. I made my way up the driveway as you emerged from a house that I never gained entry to. Throwing away the remainder of your cigarette, ready to light another, you jump in the passenger seat, roll down the window, and request that we stop at Taco Bell. Amidst your drunken chatter, all I can ask myself is, “Why.” A question I am still asking, four years later.
Date, friend, friend-with-benefits, other woman—these are just a few of the labels I’ve collected that one could affix to my forehead. I hated you the moment I met you (almost eight years ago, in case you were wondering). I cannot say the beginning of our story is one that I am necessarily proud of. We were both in relationships at the time. Still in high school, I was dating your then-college roommate, someone who you would later deem as one of your best friends. It was not until I arrived at college two years later, and ended that relationship, that our unexplored attraction reached fruition. Our sexual magnetism and my drunken divulgence permanently ended that friendship, and I never apologized, largely because I was so inebriated that I don’t recall the conversation.
Despite the mistakes made over the years on behalf of both parties, the one that troubles me most is the time I spent as the other woman. No one wants to be the other, no one roots for her. No one likes the other woman, she probably doesn’t even like herself. I know she doesn’t like herself, because I didn’t. The meaning of self-love was still foreign to me. Why me? Why don’t you want all of me? Why do you not want me like you want her? Why are you dating her if you’re fucking me? Does she know? Should I tell her? Why do I answer you? Why do I keep doing this to myself? Barred behind questions I would never ask you, my anxiety paralyzed me into a cycle that consumed me for longer than I care to admit. Occasionally, I would see your girlfriend on campus. Our eyes would meet, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit to her that you were still fucking me. I still wonder if she ever found out. Although that relationship ended, I eventually reached a point when I chose to shut you out of my life. I use distance as a coping mechanism to protect myself and my heart. I deleted you off social media, avoided your invitations for brunch, and ignored the occasional texts about how terrible my football team was. Although I shut you out, I didn’t quite let you go.
Two years and a positive herpes diagnosis later, I found myself on an inflatable air mattress with you. A mutual friend’s housewarming where we slept together, but didn’t sleep together because neither of us had condoms. After indulging in IHOP the morning after, you drove me home, and I told you to find a weekend when I could visit. My routine weekend visits filled me with much more than just sexual fulfillment.
It’s been one year since we reconnected. I’m living in your city now (or as you would claim it, your kingdom). A city I once hated, maybe a little less than my initial loathing of you, I am now thriving in. You lifted my confidence levels and guided me on a path to self-love following my herpes trauma. You inspired me to lead life outside my comfort zone and invest in adventure—even if that adventure was as small as adding a new food group to my repertoire. I am a stronger woman because of my experience with you, and clearly, not all of them have been so positive. You have not broken my heart once, but twice—as you left me for yet another woman late last August. Not only did I feel tossed aside, but those feelings from my time as the other began to resurface. One month and a letter at my doorstop later, I returned to you without hesitation. The only question I asked was, “Do you want to catch up?”
Society has this idea of an all-encompassing love that couples so effortlessly fall into without regard to flaw or fault. But love isn’t so effortless, not to me. A cumulative eight years of making the “wrong” decisions, revealing our faults, judgements, and the worst versions of ourselves. We’ve both done what we can to fuck up our potential. Multiple times. A true testament to forgiveness and understanding of one another’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. To me, that is a more intimate love than what is often portrayed, or even achieved by the standard marriage and relationships seen today.
Although adept at shutting people out of my life, letting go is an art I have yet to master. But upon reflection of our history, I am still paralyzed by the cycle of “Why?” This time around, I’m no longer afraid to speak. I refuse to be just another cigarette.