We were against the wall in the foyer of his apartment. I was wearing a black mini skirt, an off-the-shoulder burgundy top with flared sleeves, and my favorite pair of boots — black, high-heeled, and thigh high. In Lana Del Rey fashion, I had done my hair up real big, beauty queen style. The lipstick painting my mouth matched my blouse and the color that would form on the bruises he’d leave on my backside and in between my thighs later.
Fuck it, I was dressed to kill, though we weren’t going anywhere.
Underneath that futile outfit, I was dressed for the real occasion. I had unironically whored myself up for him, as I did often back then — corset with eye clasps at the front and ribbon that tied at the back, stockings, lace thong, a garter belt, already wet.
In his living room, on the couch he sat, blunt in hand, bottom lip tucked under his front teeth. Me standing before him, the latter half of his Madonna-whore complex. Slowly I unwrapped myself for him, letting him take in the black lace and silk he was unworthy of.
Fuckkkkkk, I thought. I could not understand how I had let myself get back to the place I swore I never would again.
But it made sense, didn’t it? Me, not a woman, not a soul, only an acquirable entity. He said my name, he called me love, called me baby, but what he was really thinking was skin, body, somewhere to play out his fantasies. I was something he could earn. My long-waged campaign against the physical aspect of our relationship, friendship, whatever we were, could come tumbling down if he battered those waves against my walls high enough.
We’d lay there after, wine drunk, high, speaking of futures that would never come to fruition, him throwing out subtle promises we both knew would never become anything but broken, imagining alternate universes. His only goal was to wrap his fist around my throat like a greedy serpentine, get me on all fours, paint me like a Pollock piece, and end up inside my eager mouth.
He was that one person that I always came back to. He was the person I would always forgive, despite the cruelty, the selfishness, the silences, the wars, the storms, the heartbreak; despite himself. That’s who he was to me. That wasn’t love, that was suffering.
What we had wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t good for the soul. It was not at all beautiful. What we had was a vice with a creeping insistence. All the poetry I wrote, all the words we spoke, all the ways I let him have me, they were all sacrilege. What we had wasn’t love, it was an addiction.
My body emanated such yearning. There was almost an elegance to the longing. When I didn’t see him, I almost felt sick; I was deprived with the visceral sustenance. I’d see him, feel his hands on me, taste his mouth, be tied up at his mercy, and suddenly I was well again. But every moment spent with him never felt mine. I sometimes questioned even its reality. As the moment was happening, I knew it would be taken from me; I knew he would be taken from me.
I’d be forced to retreat back into the shadows. We’d go back to only having contact with each other during business hours, or during times when he could keep it hidden from her. And there I was again, waiting with the withdrawal.
We were both unwilling to be weaned off the drug. It was years, on and off, of this.
Love was always irrelevant. He did not want me, no, but he did not intend on ever letting me go.
In retrospect, I don’t think it was about him and who he was a person, I think it was more about other pain. It was about the loneliness, the trauma, the dark and strange things I carried. He gave me new ways to be understood, but what I didn’t see then is that they were all through sex.
I was wrong, it wasn’t that he saw my demons and still loved me, it was that he’d take his whip, beat them, fuck them, pound them out of me. I’d lay motionless after, watching them fly out and dance around the ceiling. I was fucking high on him, on lust, on sex. I was delirious.
High heels off, I was feeling alive.
As much as I swore I loved him back then, and as right as it sometimes felt, I would always, always, always, end up feeling used and dirty afterwards.
It was easy for him to tell me he loved me while being inside me, when we were alone or in the dark. But could he love me out in the light of day? Would he ever rest his hand at the small of my back in public? Hold my hand crossing the street? I don’t think he could. And would I want him as vehemently as I did were it not for the constant state of longing? Would I dream up a life with him were it not for his unavailability? Could I open up to him were it not through sex? No.
The thing about true connections, relationships, the one, is that the framework always has to be love; pure, unadulterated, unprocessed love. Him and I were merely animals reacting to one another’s scent.
He liked seeing me reduced to body parts, encased in lace and silk, held together by his ties or belts — his projections of sex and what he saw me as. He’d watch me, not the person, but the doll, the whore, the answer to some question I couldn’t hear.
It may have been his hands tying the knot behind my head, but I put on the blindfold myself. You can’t truly love without letting yourself be seen. Him and I just saw what we wanted to see in each other. I thought if I let myself be whatever he wanted me to be, he’d love me properly. He thought disguising his human addiction for me as something pure could keep me tied to him.
I blocked his number. I deleted the messages, the emails. I wrote One Last Poem after Sandra Cisneros. I got sick with the withdrawal. I made and left new lovers. I bought new sheets, new lingerie, new lipsticks, things he would never touch. I met people whose names he would never hear. I drove by that bar one day and I did not feel anything. I heard that Joni Mitchell song and I did not cry at all.
I realized he wasn’t wrong when he held my chin by his thumb and said, “You deserve the world.”
I realized it was more than he could ever give me.
I see him now; this city is populated with hundreds of him. Which is to say, he no longer takes up any space here.
I used to wonder if it was raining where he was, too, on days it poured. It feels like a lifetime ago.
It rained last week, a deluge spawned from black and angry clouds, and for the first time I honestly craved someone else’s arms, someone else’s hands stroking my naked back; it was real want. Nothing of that flavorless chase that came with him and after him.
I used to think he was what poetry was all about. These days I don’t think of him.
I don’t think of him at all.