I was sitting cross-legged on your bed peeling a blood orange. I carried them around in my bag, blissfully cold, all throughout the winter. I longed for them all year and when their short season came, I’d eat nothing else, spending ridiculous amounts of money at my co-op to satisfy my yearning. My hands always smelled like their peels and my mouth constantly craved their sharp, sultry burst.
I offered you a slice, which you refused. “I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with those. They taste just like regular oranges.”
“No, they absolutely do not. They’re so much better.” And before I could argue further, you smashed your mouth to mine. Your kisses were as dark as my oranges.
I thought about this today, peeling my first blood orange of the season. My desire for them has not abated. I thought about our kisses, how full they were, how we’d sometimes kiss for hours till our mouths felt tender and bruised. We’d kiss until my blood was near boiling; when we didn’t have words for each other, we had kisses.
Kissing you was like kissing all the things I hated about myself. My selfishness, my vanity, my inability to give you up. There was nothing pure about our feelings for each other. It was too much, always. Too hard, too hot, too cold, too loud, too silent. Never anything in the middle.
We spent hours of the night hurting each other; you’d slam me against the door and pin me there, biting at my neck and my ear where the skin is the thinnest. I’d wrap a cold metallic cuff around your wrists and chain you to your bedposts and torture you in all kinds of ways, wax down your chest, my hand to your mouth to stifle your shout. Some mornings I’d wake up with bruises and I didn’t know how they got there, but I was proud of them, watching them blossom and fade from dark purple to ambery yellow as the days went by. I wore them like jewelry, as bracelets and chains.
And some nights, my temper heat cranked high, I’d pack my things, take my toothbrush from the cabinet and tell you I was leaving, this was done for good, this was so over, there’s no use. When we weren’t hurting each other in the safety of your dark sheets, we were doing it out in public, out in open space. But I’d come back to your bed because I always did, because I was helpless, crawling back to the beating red and black center of your heart.
I had to keep you. I had to prove to you, to me, to everyone that I could make it work, that I could win, that we could keep it together when it was never gonna do anything but fall apart.
But sometimes you’d look at me and your eyes would go all liquidy soft and you’d tell me you loved me and whisper it into my neck and bury your sadnesses and your troubles and your pain down deep in my body. And I would take it, encourage it, hold it and keep it and roll it into my own.
“Go to him/stay with him if you can/but be prepared to bleed,” Joni Mitchell once sang about Leonard Cohen. You always said we as a pair were as flawed and fucked-up, as many shades of dark and light as a Leonard Cohen song.
Our relationship would never work unless one of us bled, and I was the one doing all the bleeding.