Each time I sleep with him– with anyone– I am halfway through an essay before I kiss him good-night. The intent of this strange, open space, this blank page: To Keep Things Distinct. Here are my lives, unfurled; here are my lives, like three separate books I can open & shut as need be.
Sometimes, lately, in bed, alone, oh, the weight of it: Every Choice You’ve Ever Made Was Wrong. They pile up, cars on a highway, only slowly: the highway is covered in snow. & there they go: the wrong college, the wrong boyfriend(s), the devil I let in the front door when there was no back, the husband who turned away in the night, the desperate, all-consuming love for Hank’s father, the way it blotted out reason, the way it blotted out everything else, the openness of it: …And that is not done without danger, without pain, without loss, says Helene Cixous, Venerable French Feminist, whom I turn to for advice, for luck, like a tarot pack: old texts from college, underlined & yellowed from an overzealous highlighter, the pages kinked like my first real boyfriend’s hair, folded like hands in prayer, if you get close enough, you can smell it: fall 2000, spring 2001: possibility. Coiled springs. That’s happiness, by the way. The snow crash continues:
In bed with Z., I try to explain the differentiation of lust, realize that I’m also trying to explain it to myself. This, too, is to do with economy, with exchange: again, Cixous: “…infinitely charged with the ceaseless exchange of one with another”– With you, I tell him, it’s just so different. I have been here before, & often: my desire tied so terribly to my brain, my consciousness, the language, the talking dirty, subject desires object, you can have me, I give you this, the othering of him, of her, the detaching: even at the crucial moment, even to get to the crucial moment, the placing of myself somewhere else, some faceless, imagined lover in my head– sometimes two faceless, imagined lovers in my head, one man, one woman– doing unspeakably filthy things, & it’s less the things, sometimes, than the naming of the things, the words that push me over the edge. Not so, though, with Z.– it is of the body, wholly, a response that is pure. Away from it for days, sometimes weeks, I can talk myself out of it– how good can it really be? How can it really matter, so much? Is it worth this uncertainty? This teetering always on the edge? Is that, after all, what gives it such an energy? No matter, I realize, each time I’m back in his bed– no words necessary to get me to desire. It just is. When his hands are on my skin, language is, for once, secondary.
Which is the height of irony. Considering the venue I’ve taken our exchanges, the public display of affection, the way he once called me, after a long silence, & began discussing all the things he loved about the way we were, together– “I love how we’re nervous around one another, & then it all just goes away, & we kiss, we can just chill, & you take drags off of my cigarette…” He’s quoting me, at me, I think, with no small mixture of discomfort & delight. Does he know he’s doing it? Is his memory of our evenings together now tinged, or reinforced, or both, by my recounting them here? Does it matter?
In bed, alone, at night– here I am, again, following my heart, my wretched, foolish heart, mouthing pop songs in the car as I drive to work, to teach, for Christ’s sake, what could I possibly teach anyone, really– you say my name like there could be an us– & the snow crash continues, in slow motion, in the dark.