Category: belonging

cuddle

People cuddle people. Animals cuddle animals. People cuddle animals. I’ve watched enough cute puppy videos to see the comfort it brings both human and non-human to snuggle up to something else warm and breathing. It’s interesting to see that need for safety, security, and stability in another type of creature. When you think about it, you realize that need spans across all cultures, religions, and species.

I know I’m generalizing. Not everyone is affectionate or wants physical interaction and that’s okay. I still struggle with whether or not I’m that type of person. I’ve always liked the idea of touch but in actuality, it makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been starved of touch for all these years and this is my new norm. Maybe I have just romanticized how therapeutic touch can be and maybe I made it more transformational than it really is. Or maybe I’m just naturally distant. Or maybe I’m just selectively affectionate.

But with the emerging popularity of weighted blankets and the undeniable adorableness of otters holding hands, there’s something to be said for being close. In the animal kingdom, it’s mostly instinct. Survival has a lot to do with it. Safety in numbers. But is it just about the body surviving? That closeness must encourage the head and heart to survive as well. It’s not just a physical need but a psychological response. Maybe when these animals get close to another willing creature, it lets them know they are worth surviving.

That instinct must extend to humans as well. I wonder if that’s where my desperate need to cuddle comes from. When I was cuddled for the first time earlier this year, I felt special for the first time in my life. And for a man who always feels worthless, it made a difference. I felt I was worthy of touching. I was worthy of getting to know. I was worthy of surviving too.

But now that it’s gone, it’s also made a big difference. And I wonder if I was wrong about being worthy of survival after all.

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degloving

It’s always been a layer of fat covered by a layer of fabric. People were kept at arm’s length to lengthen their stay. No one could ever get inside my brain or beneath my body. I was closed off from the world because I thought it would be easier for everyone. I shrank down so as not to get in the way. But I only ended up diminishing myself.

It’s like I’ve always been shaking hands while wearing gloves. Only feeling the vaguest sense of shape and grip. Basing all my life lessons on what I’ve learned through leather. I was satisfied enough, knowing that I could come and go with dulled senses, unencumbered, and see others off to continue their journey in the same condition.

And then someone came along and thought it best to slide the glove off my hand. To want to truly touch me. And when it came off, my hand was pale with paper thin skin and nerves still new to the elements. And when we shook hands for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the raw feelings. Like a lightning bolt blasting through me. Tactile information flooded my system, buzzed my brain, and jolted my heart into motion once more. It was the silk of skin, the hills and valleys of veins and wrinkles. The warmth, a soft pulse inside a palm, the quiet buzz of life. It was terrifying and electrifying and once I became accustomed to the feeling, it was addicting.

That’s when I began to understand how other people craved the touch of one another. There is so much more to people than a general shape and perfunctory pressure. There were hidden details, secret sensations, invisible chemicals that danced between skin, signaling something inside me to no longer shrink, but to expand.

It’s like quenching a hidden thirst, feeding a long-dormant hunger. How could I not want to continue when I never knew this kind of nourishment existed? I couldn’t see it as greedy or abnormal. The only oddity here was never knowing this was an option.

But as much as I wanted to continue to consume each sensation, the one who removed the glove decided it was best to slide it on again, unable to cope with the possibility that my skin might be as healing to them as theirs was to me. They only reached out once more, not to wrap their arms around me, but to shake my hand goodbye.

As much as I wanted to shrink again, as much as I wanted to concede to concealing myself, I knew it was no longer a viable option. The glove was suddenly suffocating. The skin-to-skin was too pure, to real to repeal from me.

Still, it hurts to think about what my hand might have to endure to feel skin again. To experience all of the wind and rain, the ache of winter, the burn of summer. The needles of rejection stabbing my fingertips, the jagged edges of a broken heart slicing my knuckles. My skin isn’t tough. My nails aren’t armor plated. But the seasons are changing and I think I should as well.

I don’t want to settle for salutations experienced through stitched fabric. I want to replicate that real feeling over and over again. I want to extend my hand in hopes I can feel human once more, that someone will come along with a firm handshake, see my glove on the ground, and grip me even tighter.

vignettes along a vein

I’ll miss the glow of your cheek when you smiled. The thunder of your voice when you laughed. The rhythm of your moans when you…

The scene sets over me like a picnic blanket gently floating to the ground. Your ocean eyes danced in the light of the television, a hunger haloing your irises. Your grin, so wide and wild, pushed up prescription lenses. Your hand found its way to the underside of my arm, running your finger along the veins at my wrists.

There was the awkwardness of initial attraction and cautious approach. It was the pressure of your lips, the warmth of your saliva, the shield of smoke that clung to your hair. It was the fear of moving upstairs and the safety of the dark when we got there. It was the paralyzing adrenaline the first time you put your hand in my underwear and wrapped your fingers around it.

It was my first time with you, with anyone. Scared as all hell until I felt the soft tug, the slow reveal, the gasp of admiration. You ran your finger through the clear liquid and brought it to your mouth. The undulation of your wrist. The waves of nerves that rolled over me like the tide of the ocean until I felt lightheaded.

The fear, shame, tease, and craving for more swirled inside that one concentrated cluster. The heat of your mouth, your two hands working in unison. An onslaught of feeling until shortcircuiting, going numb before climbing higher, swelled with loaded senses and disbelief unfolding before me.

Trusting you with all I had, putting it forward in your palms and feeling assured you would not harm it. Your fingers all over my chest, your mouth at my belly. Gentle kisses, a tickling tongue. Grabbing hold again, your finger running along another series of veins.

Deepened breath, the smell of exertion seasoning our bodies. Moisture rolling off your forehead, me running my hand along your smooth silhouette. Disconnected from thought and apprehension, diving deeper into the realization of occurrence, laughing at awkward changes in position, focusing again on your smile, the purse of your lips, your eyes scanning every emotion, plunging forward with abandon, tongues tap dancing together between two sets of smooth lips, building up layers of pleasure, growing, trembling, cascading.

Learning to coordinate limbs and lungs, scaling to higher planes. Blocking out the world to concentrate on the slippery sounds, the unparalleled sensations, the rush of breath magnified in my ears, the dizzying throb of my heart.

Perspiration perishing fantasy and rebuilding rapturous stimulation in its stead. I did not imagine it would go like this, a tangle of emotions and movement, a buzz of fear weaving between a heaving chest, my body lit up, my limbs uncoordinated but determined. A rustling of hair against smooth sheets, spread out in the open, locked away from the world and locked into each other. It was both unremarkable and exhilarating, everyday hands doing extraordinary things. There was no crescendo of music, no divine revelation. It was grounded in sweat and scraping teeth and muscles that grew tired and all the wonderful explosions in between.

Feeling the rush of pride from making you shudder with my mouth, your body rising and quivering beneath me. I felt strong, powerful, sensual in the moments when you grabbed my hair and pulled me in further. I never knew I could affect a body and bring about a pleasure that bloomed so beautifully. The soft exhalation, the quiet tremors, the goosebumps that spread along your legs and spread a smile across my glossed face. You closed your eyes and let me take you there with my teeth at your back and my salt on your lips, with my brush and your canvas, filling in the lines I’d fantasized about long ago.

I think I’m damn good at this.

I could be naked with you, red marks along transparent skin under an even swirl of hair. You did not turn away but put your hands everywhere with a tender grace. You nurtured my body, put my mind at ease, and took charge of my curvature, making great effort to fit it all in.

We could examine each other without distraction, comparing and contrasting textures and temperatures, playing doctor about twenty years too late. I’d never seen it up close. It was a scientific study, a once forbidden door you allowed me to open whenever I wanted. And I allowed you to touch me wherever and whenever you wanted. My cheeks reddened each time you marveled at it, molding and shaping me with your lithe fingers.

Falling so far into you, reaching nirvana on a firm mattress, sprawled out with no clothes and no more fear of judgment. My head flying away from the moment with only reflection reeling inside me under the covers, covered up with you wrapped around me in a sleepy encore. More lips, more eyes, resting up and failing to resist round 2. And 3.

My body can achieve miracles.

I think I will miss that freedom the most, the permission we both granted each other to lean in for a kiss, to reach over for a handful, to allow each other to have free reign over our vessels. Because for a while, I thought I belonged to you. And I was happy to give you want you wanted.

It wasn’t just your body but the body of work I wrote in my mind, ideas to tease and excite you, planning scenarios where I could place my hand in yours, where you would lean in and rest on my shoulder. Sensual times when I could perfect the flick of my tongue, to get to know your needs and never take you for granted. Simpler times on your couch with pizza and a remote, sleepy times with slow back massages in your bed. Quietly and wholly just sharing each other, relying on the other one to give not only physical pleasure but emotional support. Not only removing clothes but removing walls, pulling back the cloth and the cage and feeling the pulse of partnership penetrating both of us.

I hate that you closed that door, that I won’t see your bed again, that once I finally found my comfort with you, finally started to feel good about what I could do with you, to you, and for you, you took it all from me. I gave you my body and you only gave me a goodbye. All the plans and excitement and fondness has faded. I can’t imagine giving myself over to another.

I’d easily relinquish each release if it would release you from your own hell. We couldn’t be further away from your bed and I often fear I couldn’t be further from your mind. I’ve waited patiently in hopes that something would change. That maybe you’d see that we could have been good for each other.

But with each passing day, that hope disintegrates and it dawns on me that you don’t want anything to change. You’re perfectly happy not having me in your life. With no explanation. No regret. And no remorse. I want to be strong for you but you must not have realized how weak I always was. I’m too vulnerable, too exposed. I want to cover myself up again but even if I did, I’d still feel utterly and shamefully stripped.

tunnel (di)vision

“I can never get out of here
I don’t wanna explode in fear
A dead astronaut in space…”

-Marilyn Manson, Disassociative

”The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart…“

-Florence and the Machine, Cosmic Love

I still picture your face in my mind. That perfect night when you gave me that perfect smile that conveyed more than words ever could. There was a whole galaxy in your grin. A whole universe of longing orbiting your eyes. The gravity of your heart pressing down on mine. For the first time, it was a weight I didn’t mind bearing,

I still think of you every day. My torso trembles in tandem with my phone. My parched eyes drink in your words. I still savor your touch. The rush is still just as real as it ever was. But for you, the wonder has waned. I’ve accepted it but I’m not ready to release my feelings. Not quite yet.

I keep your face behind my eyelids to remind me of the time you adored me, this pale stranger with a dark sense of humor. That’s when you were still curious about my character and the contents of my head. We stood by my car, us learning, me planning, you drawing closer. The excitement of a fresh heartbeat. The thrill of newfound opportunities.

Together, we looked up to the atmosphere like we were discovering some uncharted something. It was creating fluffy creatures from the clouds and soldiers out of the stars. Connecting new dots and forming figures of faith and fortune in the sky. It was about making sense of the world around us, leading each other to conclusions of closeness and contentment. Your sweet words were like satellites spinning around my soul and I felt like I was floating.

Cloaked in midnight, your smile was a tunnel directed toward me alone. And I was too caught up in the constellation of feelings, too starstruck to see the plight at the end of that tunnel. You were in a world of pain that I could not penetrate or perish. I took your hand in hopes of helping you heal. But you loosened your grip and left me to hurt instead.

Did you ever ponder the gravitational pull of my own pain? How I needed you as much as I thought you wanted me? Did you notice the satellites stray off course? Or did you only have enough strength to stare down your own demons?

I had hoped to feel the swell of your heart but only found a division there, a widening gap that I could not seal. I felt bound to you but you blasted off like a rocket. Now I’m left with a black hole in my chest, pulling in reminders of you and burying them deep down inside, a mix of good memories and melancholia.

I wish I had that smile back. I wish I could see that face again, just once more to burn into my memory. There was such purity there, an innocence. A face that opened up my whole world.

It was cosmic once. Now it just feels like comets crashing into me.

something blue

”Something’s missing in me
I felt it deep within me
As lovers left me to bleed alone
Down here, love wasn’t meant to be
It wasn’t meant to be for me”

-Flyleaf, Missing

”When you close your eyes even then your eyelids are beautiful
for so long there have been traces of you in blood vessels inside my skull”

-Showbread, I Want to get Married

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a wedding with an old friend. I didn’t know the married couple and all the attendants were new to me but the friend needed a plus one and borrowed me for the occasion. You see where this is going. I just needed to find something blue.

Despite my anxiety around crowds, especially crowds of strangers, I figured it would be a change of pace. A chance to do something different, to ask off work, and dress up a bit. I just hoped I’d be able to squeeze my binge-eating butt into my old slacks. I did…but barely.

The ceremony itself was fine. It was simple, inside a simple church with simple decoration. No blue sashes or neckties. No blue in the flowers. Just a red-faced toddler sitting in front of me and a bellowing baby sitting behind me and they both screamed in unison just as the ceremony began and continued their commentary throughout because my life.

Despite my current situation, I didn’t feel too bitter or sad about seeing two flesh become one. I was pretty unaffected witnessing the standard union of two people, in love and full of life. It happens every day. Life goes on. Good for them. The only discomfort came from those slacks. But one moment did stick out to me. The pastor read a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that goes:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Having never been in a relationship, I wondered why I’d never been able to find my own plus one. How had I made it 32 years while God made sure I remained lonely? If He had allowed such a declaration to be included in the good book, why have I always been denied the privilege?

While the ceremony was about 30 minutes, the reception went on for three and a half hours. And it was mostly held outside. No blueberries in the fruit plate while the newlyweds went off to be photographed with family. No blue ribbons adorning the arches. Why do people in the south insist on having outside weddings in the middle of summer? I was drenched in sweat and wanted to leave but the girl I went with wanted to stay for the cake cutting and to try to catch the bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, the cake was one thing this big boy was looking forward to but in this case, I’d rather have air conditioning than confections. I was a good sport, however, and smiled and blotted my face and tried to inconspicuously unstick my bat-winged balls.

And when it was cake time, I eagerly got in line. No blue fondant. The lady serving the cake cut off the smallest piece possible for me. Oh, sorry ma’am, I thought I was gonna be able to get more than a few crumbs that fell off your knife. I looked at her, thinking she would realize the error of her ways and cut off a little more for me but she just stood there so I quickly dipped out and ate the slice in three bites.

It was a little dry.

Turns out, the bride wanted to wait until it got dark outside so she and her husband could walk out under sparklers. Which meant more waiting, more forehead blotting and being the iPhone photographer for everyone else who knew each other and wanted to blow up Instagram with high school friends in rolled hair and pretty dresses.

Even the girl I attended with drifted away for a while to take pictures with former work friends she hadn’t seen in a while. I looked around me and saw everyone with someone else. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Wives and husbands. Best friends. The caterers and photographers doing their jobs. Everyone with a purpose. I stood by the wall, unsure of what to do with myself. And I felt like there should have been someone next to me. Someone to help me up, to keep me warm, to defend me against my own self-destructive thoughts. Someone to make me feel like I also had a purpose. But the only thing that ever stands next to me is an empty void and that void only reminds me that I don’t have a purpose.

Night fell but the heat did not wane. It penetrated through the dark and doled out more sweat for me. All the single ladies gathered around the bride. As she flung the bouquet into the arms of an overzealous 20-something in a billowy yellow dress, I realized I had found my something blue. It was me.

God knows my heart, knows I have a lot of love to give, and yet I always stand alone. Sometimes I think I’m getting close and despite my hesitations to let anyone near, I do because there’s always the faintest hope that maybe my person has finally come, that this could be the one to turn it all around. But they only turn me in the direction I’ve already traced too many times. And I wonder why God would tease and punish me in this way. Denying me is one thing. This just feels deceitful.

I’m not saying I’m more deserving of love than anyone else but I do think I need it more than most. I can’t do life by myself. I can’t conquer my demons all alone like this.

The ache never really goes away. Sometimes it gets easier to deal with but it’s never defeated. Do you know what it’s like to see the world through glass, to feel others through gloves? To live life for bitter and worse, to endure sickness and hell, to forever be separating until death does me apart?

To be one strand already broken?

I do.

dogged self-deprecation

I get very confused about people and how to relate to them. What’s the difference between flirting and just being nice? What’s the difference between standing up for myself and just being a jerk? I haven’t always been so out of sorts. I used to be well-liked. And I used to think I had a grasp on grafting myself onto others. Then depression settled in and I withdrew my social self from the world. And instead of experiencing people, I just observed them. And by the time I wanted to step back into human relations, it seemed too late.

I think the best way to understand humanity is through both research and relation. I only achieved half of that. And that’s why I think I have some knowledge of correct and appropriate behavior but not enough to be successful in having fulfilling relationships with others. It’s that experience I lack, the on-the-ground research of getting to know and love and trust other people.

It’s hard to put myself out there because I’m insecure. I’m 32 with not much to show for it. I know we all have our own timeline for achieving goals in life but I have more potential than what I’ve produced. And this feeling of knowing I’m better, more capable, than what I’ve accomplished makes me very hard on myself.

It’s true that I hate who I am but unfortunately, it’s not self-contained. It seeps into conversations I have with other people. Long-term acquaintances are familiar with the inner insults I hurl at myself. I don’t even think about it. I’m so used to putting myself down as a self-defense mechanism and form of humor that it comes naturally to me. In my fear of being judged, I try to beat others to the judgment, pointing out my flaws in a funny way so we can all relax around my receding hairline or chuckle at my chunky body.

It’s usually when I meet new people that I become aware of how easily, how quickly, and how viciously I tear myself apart. When new acquaintances ask me to tell him about myself, the flogging floodgates open right up. It’s only after the conversation is over and I can reflect on the car ride home or before I go to bed at night the ramifications of my self-flagellation.

I want to be accepted but I also know I have several mental and emotional issues that could be off-putting. So I always have this need to explain away my crazy. But I over explain and end up making things worse. Instead of staying, people scatter and I’m left confused and lonely. I have to wonder if I should start keeping more things to myself. I always find it refreshing when people are open and honest. And so I try to be open and honest as well. And I never realized that other people could find that unattractive.

Should I change who I am and how much I share in order to keep people around? Or should I stay the same and hope that someone accepting will eventually find their way to me? It feels like a balance because you want to better yourself but you also don’t want to bend over for anyone else. How much change is too much? When do you go from improving your relations with others to compromising your personality for them?

I just wonder how I can be charming without charring my character. How can I make jokes without making myself the punchline? I’m sure it would be easier if I liked myself more but how am I supposed to do that? From the outside, it might seem like I’m well-adjusted and have a lot going for me. In some ways, that’s true. But only I can see the real me, the small squishy parts on the inside, the place where all the self-doubt and anger and despondency live and flourish. And it’s hard to like the person those qualities belong to, even when it’s yourself.

But I do understand that doesn’t have to be the case. And I suppose that’s at least one step in the right direction. And maybe one day, if I can get myself aligned with love instead of lashing, I might actually make a friend who will want to stick around.

everybody wants to be dead

For the past several months, I’ve been listening to a podcast called Suicide Buddies. It’s about two comedians who research and discuss famous suicides. And they tell a lot of suicide jokes.

It’s crude. It’s not PC. But that’s my kind of humor. And I listen mostly for the great rapport between the two hosts of the podcast. Those guys just crack me up and that in itself can lighten my mood when it goes dark. The podcast is definitely not for everyone and I can see how it can be triggering for some. But they don’t make fun of suicidal people or suicide itself and certainly don’t try to trivialize it. One of their aims is to destigmatize suicide and talk about it in an open, honest, and funny way.

I think it’s safe to say most people have had suicidal thoughts in the past. But no one wants to talk about it. It’s the same reason why people don’t want to go to therapy or even discuss their problems with friends or family. They don’t want to seem crazy. No one wants to feel weird or be shunned for their innermost maladies. That’s understandable. But I’ve just never been that way.

I’ve been pretty open about my suicidal thoughts. Well, maybe suicidal is too severe of a word. I think about dying a lot. I think about being dead. A lot. There’s hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think about having my head bashed in by a heavy object or being riddled with bullets until I’m just a smear on the floor. When I stand back and look at the mess I’ve made of my life, and the mess I’ve made of relationships, I think it would just be easier to be obliterated. But as far as actively taking my life, I haven’t thought much about it. My parents co-signed on my student loans so I’d hate to leave them 50 grand in debt. So for all those who are concerned, don’t be. Not yet anyway. I’ve still got a few years of payment left.

I’ve talked with a few friends and acquaintances about their brushes with suicide. I get it. I empathize. And we talk about it. And I hope they feel better afterward, for being heard and for not being judged. Because I’ve been there too. And I’ve wished someone would have been there to listen to me. So I try to be the listener. I always try to be the listener.

And I make my own jokes about it. I don’t try to hide it or deny it. I think in some ways, it’s just a part of me. There’s a darkness there that has been with me for so long it’s like it’s own limb now. I almost feel like I can’t go about my life without at least addressing it to others. ‘Cause I know they can see it, like a giant lump in my throat.

And I hope my own talk of suicide and wanting to be dead doesn’t get others down but helps them to face their own thoughts of death and dying. That having these thoughts may not be normal or all that healthy but it does happen and it’s doesn’t mean you’re crazy and it’s probably more common than any of us think. But we’ll never know the full scope because no one wants to talk about it. But talking about it could be just what some people need to lessen the severity of their struggle. At least momentarily.

Back to the podcast, the hosts have talked about their fight with mental illness, the years of therapy, medication, and other methods to quell their suicidal tendencies. And through all of that, they still struggle to this day. For the most part, they are better. They still slip up. They relapse. And they are far from cured. But they feel they have a better grasp on it than they used to have and that in itself can feel like a monumental victory. And they aren’t the only ones who continue to struggle. I’ve read about celebrities with access to anything they’d ever need to achieve mental improvement. And some of them have had tremendous success. Some have had moderate. And some haven’t seen much success at all.

And it makes me wonder if these people have access to the best resources and still can’t shake their depression, how am I supposed to get better with nothing more than my diary and a bag of Doritos?

It all feels pretty hopeless a lot of the time. There are degrees of depression. Certain kinds can be treated in certain ways. And maybe some can’t be treated at all. And it’s not always this Lifetime movie madness of staying in bed for weeks at a time or constant crying. Sometimes it’s more subtle. It’s the kind of depression that digs deep and lives inside your bones. It doesn’t disturb your daily functions. It just settles in and lets you know it’s there to stay. It’s like a continuous buzzing in your ear, a lash in your eye, a punch in the face at every step. It’s not an outward curse. It suffocates invisibly.

And until you’ve been there, you’ll never understand. It’s easy to scoff at suicide, to say it’s selfish or a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hate that phrase. It comes from an assumption that depression doesn’t lodge into your lungs and doesn’t stay with you for months, years, decades. But it does. It’s often unyielding. But until you’ve reached that point of complete hopelessness, looking at your life and seeing a landscape of agony as far as your pained mind can imagine, to feel as though death is the only relief to all the pain that courses through you each day, you’ll never understand.

But it would be helpful to try, to not be so quick to condemn but to make an effort to empathize and offer help in the form of listening or just being there as an anchor when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control.

Again, it differs. It’s a bad day. A horrible week. A tumultuous year. It’s a cranky minute, a desolate week, a half hour of agony. It’s self-harm, crying fits, bad moods, desires to die, cravings for food or sex, binge-watching television and screaming at a loved one. It’s about releasing, pushing the pain out however necessary to feel better. Sometimes it’s about actively killing yourself. And sometimes it’s not about wanting to die but just not wanting to be alive anymore. It could be so easy, like a light switch. How can that not be tempting to some?

I’ve just never seen the harm in talking about self-harm. Sure, it’s not the best topic to bring up at a baby shower or wedding reception but between close friends and family, I think it’s beneficial, might even bring each other closer. It helps for the one listening to get a grasp of what you’re going through and provide a new perspective on your journey. Who knows, they might have been there once too. Might even be there now. It might help for them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. That they don’t have to leave. That they can stick around for a bit longer and talk it out.

first kiss

The impatient heart, a drumbeat that bursts forth for attention. Eyes tracing your lips as you read aloud. Soliloquies and serenades, speeding through the verse to get to the verdict. Watching your mouth ever so vigilantly as it moves nimbly to enunciate every emotion. Fingers tap and dance in agitation, the mind races in anticipation. Watching your pupils scan and jump in tempo with your tongue.

Finding distance a distraction, skirting my way across the couch, my hand covers the page. You look up, accidentally aligning yourself with my mouth. Your eyes, once vibrating, stand stone still before glistening in an impish twinkle.

Tapping into a tapestry of thought, navigating paths of pondering, of desire, of planned action. The awkward initiation of an advancing smile, pressing into a personal bubble. The shy shame, the unapologetic hunger, the delicate acceptance of action. A nervous giggle gives way to a galvanizing stare. Brilliantly blinded by bold blue hues. Your rods and cones crash into mine, rendering me paralyzed in predilection of your face.

Hands appear behind my neck to stroke the bristle between ears before pulling forward. I close my curtain eyes, queuing up a crescendo of sensations. The smell of mint and honeysuckle, the slick feel of the fabric of your shirt, hearing the rush of wind and breath. My stomach jumps as the acid rushes forth in sync with the excitement. Nerves ignite, skin bubbles in anticipation, an expanse of goosebumps that give way to feeling illuminated. The dizzy hits my temples as space fades between foreheads. Two pairs of smiles slice through nerves in expectancy of the rushing reverie.

Drunk without a drop of alcohol. Sober with serotonin streaming through my system. Lids closing, heads tilting. The hesitancy of direction. Stopping to savor the delicacy of impossible stillness. Sharing shallow breath. A moment hung in time. One thousand years condensed between lips before the unbearable urge pushes forward into plush softness. Infused nerves. Face awash in ecstasy. Sinking into the skin of another, pushing past pretense and plans, ascending above the couch cushions and concerns of rejection.

Swapping saliva and sympathies, extending safety to each other in the warmth of arms and chests. Sinking further into the valley of escape, skimming the surface of peace and acceptance. Melting and conforming, shaping and building, a pliable tongue across a bristly beard. The starving need, the satiated gratification. Turning over and telling me

you don’t have to leave tonight.

melatonin mouth

That melatonin mouth, those sleepy slits for eyes, the way your drowsy digits distract from the divots in daydreams. Running from cheek to chest in figure eights. Seeping into couch cushions, a frail mixture of suspension by fear and being grounded by the contentment of forever.

Cocooned in a warm satisfaction of touch, of breath, of bone and heart. Grasping at shirts and scents. I close my eyes as your words pour over my head, making way toward the inside of my shirt. I clutch at them, hold them aside, afraid of what they mean for me. They sound so familiar, a clone of compliments, a ghost of past gratitude. But the words always fell out and then fell flat. Semantics never solidified into serious sentiments. It was all a study, a well-worn phrase meant to subdue or temporarily satisfy. The lips they came from left so soon afterward.

And here I lay, those same sounds sliding toward me. The fear bubbles up, the familiar foul temperament of mistrust. Yet the words flow, so sleepy, so sweet. Hands guide them to my chest, massaging away the meanness, the masochistic monster inside. Gently pulling him aside, making way for the words that lost meaning, the syllables and sentence structure that no longer sway me, that always skimmed the surface but never settled. But this is a different mouth, a different hand, a different body holding me for the first time with an intimidating ease.

Slowly filing away a lifetime of fastidious downfalls, excavating a heart once buried in stone. The newness of calm, the excitement of eliciting emotion, winding down the days with someone who cares to know about mine. How do humans have the capacity to bend and mend each other, to crack some and caress others, to be chosen to be fixed, to abandon when bored, to want to stay despite the struggles?

Pain stretched as long as the days I lived, an oasis of degradation. I never knew how far down it dwelled, how unreachable I was until now. Because now I have been touched, a hand grasping for me, words ushering in a blinding possibility to be a person. To feel lifted, light as air, no longer burdened by the weight of my own head, my own soul, my own desires to destroy myself.

I just don’t know what this means. And I don’t know what this feeling is. I guess it should be transformational.

Your hand grows tired as your body shuts down. It finds its way wrapped around me before settling, a warm heat on my stomach. Should I loosen my grip on this group of words, to allow them to join you in nuzzling up next to me? What if it’s time to let them go, to allow them to resonate again? Can it really be true this time?

Can we ever really know?

I feel you fading beneath me. Your breath hitches, the familiar jostling of your heart signifying sleep. One last exhalation precluding a final thought before bed.

“I could get used to this.”

I’m taken aback, struggle to understand, gutted yet guarded. I want to believe you. God, I really do.

‘Cause I think I could too.

smokescreen

You blow your smoke in my direction, a dragon’s fire giggle that seeps into my shirt. Stray smiles set against a backdrop of binge-watching wizards and warlords. Analyzing and summarizing relationships, reactions, and reclusiveness. Discussing the dance of desire and apprehension, digging deeper into each other’s motivations for laced fingers and fast heartbeats.

Smoke blooms around our heads, mandarin and mango, long lashes and laced fingers. Hypothesis preludes playfulness. Setting faraway thoughts into action, making moves to make myself human. A robot racing to become a real boy.

And with your head in my lap, you break through years of isolation and deprivation. To feel the weight of your body is to feel the gravity of humanity, to tap into the basic needs of every person: safety, security, stability. I hold your head in my hands but you hold my very being up and pull me from the dregs of depression, if only for as long as each episode runs concurrently. Falling away from the stressors of jobs and jabs, bosses and bullies, we are willingly secluded together, embraced and braced for impact.

Using hands to separate strands of hair. Using words to parse past regressions. Using hearts to find each other in a world of obstacles, disappointments, and decay of all hope. But that hope still shines like light through a pinhole, tiny dots of fitful faith in the face of years of erosion.

Awkward and hesitant, comfortable and confident, settling onto your chest, hearing the pump of blood, feeling the cymbal crash of your heart, curious to decode its contents. Time transposes reality, shifting from minutes to hours in the time it takes to exhale. And trepidation turns to tranquility, dreams from the past pivoting into a pleasant surprise.

Bodies begin to relax as awkwardness drains away and is replaced with a safe sleepiness. Your breath trips, deepens, then deposits itself into the air like so much smoke. I catch you crossing over, falling into a haunt of dreams. And I, for the first time in my life, catch a glimmer of how things could be. How I thought it would never be.

It’s not a fantasy of falling in love. It’s the privilege of falling asleep in someone’s arms, to have someone willing and wanting to fall asleep in mine. To be allowed the simplicity of touching skin. To feel secure in my own. To be intimate in a way that few people are. To be emotionally tied while loosening the binds of sadness. To feel real and solid instead of vapor that dissipates. To open up to others and to myself.

Are you still watching?

I’m no longer occupied by the television screen prompting us to carry on. I’m much more focused on the smokescreen between us, hoping this might last more than one season.

Ensured that you’re stable in your slumber, I slip away to my own bed. And when I slip off my shirt, I catch the last fume of your smoke. The aroma brings you back to me, just for a moment.

As if you were watching me fall, too.