There are two types of people we encounter in life: those who just brush up against us and those who leave a more lasting impression, a mark on our hearts, a bruise on our souls. As I assess myself, I wonder if I’ve ever left a purplish pigment of permanence on anyone.
I keep thinking about relationships, about where I fit in with friends, family, and co-workers. I feel like I’ve always coasted, always went right along with the majority’s opinions and decisions. I agreed and blended in so as not to be a bother. My face blurred into the next chubby-cheeked chap next to me. I listened and I loved and at some point maybe I was also loved but I could never seem to hook into anyone, to be outspoken and outstanding enough for someone to want to stay.
Life opens up and unfurls upon all of us, introducing a series of new sensations, situations, and salutations. New friends and opportunities can lead us away from those we once held close. It happens. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We should all strive to expand. But sometimes the strings of connection cannot withstand the widening of knowledge and experience. And they snap. We realize some people are not in the same space we are and we have to make the difficult decision to move on without them.
Some have moved on from me. And I’ve moved on from others. And I accept that. But what I do wonder is if these people think about me as I do them. Some have managed to come in and make a mess of me in a very short period of time. Others have lingered without leaving much of a dent.
It would just feel nice to know that I’m worth thinking about. That I’m missed when I’m gone. That someone wonders where I am and what I’m doing.
The sadder thought is that while these people were my bruise, I was their brush. I think I overthink things. And I overestimate people. So few come around that I get attached too easily and get too excited at the new prospect of a friend. My expectations are too high and ultimately everyone will fail. And I will go away to save myself from more pain but I always ponder about it long after it’s over. What if I made a mistake? How could I have dealt with it in a healthier manner? And the more I think, the more they imprint on my mind, the harder it hurts, the more bruised I become. I do it to myself and I know I’m only making it worse.
But I can’t help it.
And I think and I wonder and I think and I wonder. And while I want to move on I can’t because things usually end unresolved. I know I’m a mess in the head and trying to explain myself usually gets me nowhere so sometimes I don’t even bother. But I want them to know. But knowing won’t make a difference. So I hold it inside me and it cuts me up.
I do it to myself. No one else’s fault. I guess it would just be nice not to have to experience it again and again. That I could feel good about the people in my life and those who have moved on. That I could get myself in order so that I won’t have to worry about lasting impressions and echoing goodbyes.
Have you ever just clicked with someone?
When I was visiting my college friend and her husband in Atlanta, I was floored by how open they were to complete strangers. If they had questions, they walked right up to people and asked them. They chatted with our servers, made conversation with our Uber drivers, and did not seem shy with anyone at all. All I could do was stand by and be amazed at their ability to converse.
I wanted to talk. I wanted to share a genuine smile, to give a compliment, ask an open-ended question. I wanted to elicit a laugh, to leave a good impression. I wanted to have that connection with another human being, no matter how small. But despite my best efforts, my mind just doesn’t work fast enough to form a thoughtful word and before I know it, I’ve exchanged greetings and goodbyes and I’m left wondering how I scored.
I really want to be good with people. But the problem is I just don’t like people that much. But I am fascinated by them. They are simultaneously the most basic and the most complex creatures. Most humans want love, connection, safety, and security. That goes across the board. But the way in which they obtain those things is where it gets interesting. And confusing.
I haven’t had that many great experiences with people. I don’t have any long-term friends. Never been in a romantic relationship. I don’t fit in with my family. And I’ve worked in customer service for well over a decade. If that doesn’t sour your view of mankind, nothing will.
I think people have the potential to be great but most of them just suck. Especially me. I don’t give people enough of a chance. I make snap judgments and can be too quick to cut someone out of my life. I know there are good people out there but I’ve been dropped so many times that I just expect people to give 20% before crapping out. But does such an assessment make me an ass?
Maybe I’d be more inclined to have a genial response to a welcoming hand but I just haven’t experienced that alleged human connection, love, dedication, and care.
And I just really want to.
I could learn a lot from people. But I’m put off by them, thus I don’t want to interact with them, thus I never learn proper people skills. So when someone cool does come along, I can’t capture their attention. I can only bumble around like a butthead.
I understand that I need to work on things. I’m flawed and frazzled and often stutter and sweat when nervous. I have trouble continuing conversations, finding interest in others, picking up on social cues and niceties. I’m a huge mess and therefore I can’t always be surprised when I feel left out of the crowd. I know I’m not always a lot of fun to be around. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to fix it.
I’m wondering how I can break the cycle of simultaneously wanting people and pushing them away. I suppose I should just practice. Just talk to people. Ask questions. Show care and concern. Maybe I’ll figure it out. Maybe the skill of learning to connect will come to me. All I know for sure is the connection itself will not. That is something I will have to make happen.
I’ve waited for years for someone to come along, to care, to be in my actual life. I’ve wanted that feeling of finding my people, of discovering my complement. It hasn’t happened. It doesn’t mean it won’t. But with every lost chance at a friend, it does become harder to carry on, to finally experience that immaculate connection I’ve craved for so long.
I feel you coming closer to me. A heartbeat that quickens and deepens with each step. Your face leading to a trickle of excitement, a pinprick of nirvana. Gliding to the floor, cradling yourself next to me in a silent, semi-conscious stupor. Turning over, my nose brushing your mouth, black circles expanding, blood branches rushing to compensate your exquisitely crafted face.
A hazy vignette hangs over us, dream-like in the notion of you finding me, a mass of mess on the cold tile and molding me into a man again. Hoping to remain locked inside this lucid dream in order to replay this scenario until it sears into my head.
When I close in and pull your lips apart with my tongue, I want you to move toward my mouth, push forward and kiss back. When I trace lines on your skin to write love letters on your legs, I want you to run your nails over my shoulder blades to write me back. When I cry into the crook of your arm, I want you to wrap your arms around my neck and hold me back. I want to look into eyes like teeth, salivating for a single sovereign kiss.
I wonder about your journey as I make plans to be your destination. I want you to set forth and secure a place with me. I want to be encapsulated by your presence, to braid my bones with yours, to live knowing I will die loving you.
We need to love just as much as we need to be loved. I want to care for you as my own, to raise you higher and rake you down. I need the approachable animal, the amiable assault, the hurricane of spirit pounding down on me. I want to be tied to your tongue, healed by your hands, cemented by your ice-blue eyes.
This warmth is foreign and your touch shouldn’t feel as good as it does. I’m as scared as I am serene. Sirens slice through the candles and conversation, warnings of wild fights and fears of decaying. But the blaring blurs into a hum at the base of your throat, an inescapable moan, a penetrating penance for past punishments.
I’d become accustomed to pain. Persistent papercuts that pervaded all my parts. Slugging through the day with open wounds and worry of another tomorrow. Now here, lying on this cool floor, I am flushed with chemicals. My spine is tapped. And with you sliding from me, swelled, spent, sweating, I finally know about comfort.
I can see us lying in those supple sheets, your hand running up and down my bare chest, your lips brushing against my neck. I can feel the tingles and tickles charge through my body in the orange light. I can envision these pillows like portals carrying me out of my world, my mind, my self. I can fantasize taking you with me, this place we’ve carved for ourselves in the early morning hours, a space without alarms or algorithms. An alcove of absolution.
We are perfection, free from guilt and insecurity. We are all the oxygen, all the rush of blood and water. We are connected to the creatures that fly and furrow. We’ve tapped into each other and all that surrounds us, grafting onto gulls, gears, and ground. I could stay here forever, reckless in responsibility, oblivious to obligation. Nourished by you alone. I could get used to my heart pumping anew, filled with a forgotten joy in the face of a long-abandoned possibility: that love could touch me. That love could last.
I can imagine it all, each blade of grass and each strand of hair, all made presentable for you. But it’s all just in my head, a vision unraveled in times of respite. Perfection was possible but yet you remained unattainable. As much as I wanted you to hold my heart, I could never find a way inside your mind. You shielded it with smiles, distracted me by drumming your fingers along my spine. I was guarded, kept away from the cancer thriving inside you. It deteriorated your ability to be close, to fuse yourself to a future with me.
The orange light only burns now. You’ve left long ago but I still allow myself to take a semblance of you back to that sanctuary with me. I don’t know if I’m soothing or searing myself by doing so. But it’s comforting to imagine us together. I sail right past the painful realization that love has never been with me after all. I’m unaffected. It’s nothing new. I choose to focus my thoughts elsewhere. It’s healing to think of the possibility that your hands could be real, that your mouth could have been the best thing to happen to me.
The alcove is empty now. I often sit there alone. And I think. And I pretend to know how people carry on with each other. I go through the motions. I plan our partnership. And I know it’s all for naught. But not for me. It feels as natural as your smile sinking into mine.
locking eyes and mouths and hands
a body once a fraction
grafting onto another
whole numbers and whole milk
steamed in styrofoam
aroma’s leading to a lingering stare
a laugh in tune with the tempo
a simple smile in line with my intentions
weaving into the worries and wonder
of two minds and hearts and heads
blankets and coffee and bedroom candles
plush pillows next to velvet hearts
going to bed beguiled and waking up a wanderer
summer’s skin reveals laugh lines
like the winding road of two travelers
a journey of cataclysmic fights
and celestial peaks of passion
puppy’s breath and paying bills
wilted roses and renewed vigor
promotions, property, and pedigree
pushing forward and pulling closer
old boxes and new box springs
fall skies casting out red and brown confetti
crunching beneath oxblood boots
with scarves and sugar plum lip shine
walking to a quiet cafe
to converge over caffeine again
reminiscing on regal handshakes
and a first brush with heavy breathing
thinning in frame
and frame of mind
but sharp in recollection
of dates, deeds, and determination
intertwined and realigned
married in law, meshed in time
waiting with an old dog nearby
for another glimpse of grace in your eyes
each passing season illuminates
a life spent in luxury
lacking in gold and loneliness
and pinning down a particular action
to find reasons to alter shirts and genes
and recalling why I wanted you to stay
sincerity, security, strength
a head hard enough to fix me
a tongue nimble enough to tease me
a soft heart with a sharp wit
hands ever extended to help,
praise, and pursue
peeling back the years
and plumping up memories
leading back to that single night
and the first blush of reverence
found in that simple smile
in a simple spot
to meet over a simple steaming cup
”Sex is the one thing, more than any others, that makes you feel human.”
”Remember, your children can’t praise the Lord if they’ve got genitals in their mouths.”
-Nudist Colony of the Dead
I remember walking into my first college class, looking at my classmates, and thinking, “I’m probably the only virgin in this room.”
That was over 10 years ago and every time I walk into a new room filled with people, I still think the same thing.
Living in a small, religious town, I learned early on that the true “F” word was fornication. Sex before marriage was about the worst thing that could happen to you, besides being gay. That sentiment echoed through the church pews and school halls. But as I grew up, my friends realized other people’s genitals was about the best thing that could happen to you. Even the most devout got dicked eventually and their stringent sexual views began to relax.
Except for the gay thing. That was non-negotiable.
But it’s easy to change your mind with a hand down your pants. I never got that opportunity so I was able to hang onto my shame over sex for much longer than my peers. And the interesting part was I actually didn’t mind it that much. Although preachers and parents warned of the religious ramifications of sex, they also lauded the beauty of intercourse between two married people. And that was the message I chose to hold close.
I actually wanted to wait until marriage. I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic and the notion of me and my future wife saving ourselves for each other sounded pretty special. We’d be the first to have that intimate connection, to reach that milestone in pulsating unison. And so not having sex was not a big deal because, at the time, marriage was not on my mind, therefore sex was not either. But just because I’d made a no-copulation commitment to a stranger didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by sex.
I used to be a great listener and great friend. My classmates came to me for counseling. I heard all about their relationships and through their confessions, I learned that sex not only changed relationships but changed people. And it didn’t necessarily change anyone for better or worse. But it did feel like there was more at stake. Emotions were either heightened or deadened at the point of penetration. Some people could turn off their heads and hearts while others’ only grew heavier.
And just by growing up and living and being interested in people, I learned more about sex without actually ever experiencing it. It came pieced together from conversations, observations, and, thanks to the power of the Internet, research.
How is it to feel yourself falling asleep?
For me, it’s like I’m standing on a cliff to unconsciousness. I feel my feet hang halfway off the edge and look down into oblivion. Vertigo hits and I feel momentary nausea, like my stomach is being pulled into sleep before the rest of me.
There’s a lace-thin layer between eyes and lids. It’s in that portal between practical effects and faraway fantasies, that slice of time and space, that I am pushed into by the hand of exhaustion. I am plunged into the black before the bloom of a dream.
That’s where I see you.
You’re only there for the smallest amount of time, a greeter at the door to dreams. But you pluck me from the murky deep and help lay me down gently into an inky spot in the sky. But before you go, I freeze frame you in my mind and you’re the picture I choose to carry over with me onto the other side. It’s where we can be together, where I feel safe to explore the imagination that uncoils during boredom or a great need to feel something. It’s where I can act out the scenarios I can only sketch in a notebook when my eyes are open.
Being with you here, in this space carved out of the cosmos for just us, feels bittersweet, like a chocolate candy flecked with copper. It’s the only place I can see you idealized. And the only place anyone can see who I actually am.
You’re like a ribbon that weaves through my ribs. You push air into my lungs. You turn me from a corpse to a Casanova. I sink into a scene of me resting deeply in your arms, your hands running through my hair, my mind reprieved from the black that steeps into my skull every day.
The same hand that callously casts me into the abyss plucks me from your pulse. But your veins have worked on me. I wake up to a heartbeat. I pull a remnant of your face back into reality and use the morning sun to sear it into my memory. Sometimes it works. Most often it does not. But even when you slip away and pass through the portal again, I know you’ve been with me from the residual red on my chest and cheeks. And with breath on the blankets, I feel the push of blood again and the comfort of knowing you’ll call for me when I reach the precipice once more.
This is what being human must feel like.
Inspired by p.
these times are quite a ways away
running circles through your hair with my finger
sending strokes down your spine
that sprout seeds along your skin
a slight with a smile, a simple scene
sinking into a perfect passiveness
that plays out over and over again
until your ringlets become real
tucked in black
you can’t see me looking at you
looking at the screen
with lips that stretch into a smile
and eyes that wet with laughter
one among many, looking forward
hoping you’ll see me looking at you
with lips pursed to plunge
and eyes closed to signify
a scene cut short
to direct one of our own
the unbearable barrier between arms
craving the taste of sweet and salty skin
hoping to sink into a seat with you
and experience a climax of our own
before the opening credits
I’m ready to dive into the deep end with you.
I want to explore uncharted waters and the weight of your head on my neck.
The sun beats down on our bare shoulders. Diamonds skip across the water. Birds whistle in the distance as we douse our bodies and dunk our heads. We swim for hours, leisurely lapping past our lives and linking fingers to keep from floating away. We bask in the sun as the heat casts a halo around our heads and wet ringlets form crowns across our eyes.
I swim to the shade but your catch my foot and pull me back into the heat, out in the open with blushed cheeks and bruised knees. Course hair on rubber skin, the smell of plastic and pool chemicals as sharp as the sear of the sun.
There’s a gentle strength to water, the way it effortlessly lifts us up and takes the weight of the world off our shoulders. For as long as we are submerged, we are protected. We don’t have to worry a hole into our hearts or fear the next fall. We are always held up. But I have to wonder, is it the water doing the heavy lifting? Or are you?
We splash and smile in the summer day, the hours dragging along like a doggy paddle, plodding toward a break in the heat. The sun squints to a close and takes a swan dive into the dirt. The air cools but I’m not chilled. The sky forms a black veil over our heads to cover up our kisses.
I sail past the chlorine on your lips to find the sweet beneath the sting, sinking further into you, melting into your mouth. I am buoyant in your embrace. And for the first time, I can open my eyes underwater.
I can’t wait to see you again, without chemicals and without clothes.