Somehow I had convinced myself that one night stands must be life-affirming.
That they were proof of youth.
That they were a necessary rite of passage.
That they were the weapon of open and independent women. I wanted to be alive, to be young, to be open and independent.
I wanted to be a woman.
I hadn’t the good sense to shuffle out early the morning after. Because there isn’t a handbook, or a manifesto even. So there I lay – naked – examining streaks of light on the ceiling – thinking -ah, they make the loveliest constellations. They mirror darker patterns across my hips. I cannot bring myself to sigh: This is your life.
Cue derisive laughter.
These striped limbs of mine are pinned to the mattress by light years of inherited shame. My skin soaks in cold air, paralyzed by the weight of bodies of women stacked atop mine. Bodies heavy with history. Bodies past rigor mortis, limp and soft like moist bread. These predecessors press down on me, unfulfilled, wanting, dead – is this what it means to be a woman? To be unsated, to be unworthy – incapable of pleasure, of the love flitting about the cloak of eroticism?
This is your life.
The beams on the ceiling remind me of the trip here. The strobe lights bobbing and winding. I imagine they are hot air balloons underwater, sinking with the weight of bubbles. It took us an hour, millenia: what is the difference?
Here we are.
I tilt my head, move my body to the music.
It comes to me slowly and gets louder as it leaves me. The music, the bodies, the heat, the drinks coax me into their red and gold webs.
I am stupid.
I followed the protean baubles straight into history.
The past is past, I say.Think of the future, I say. The future, sure.
Anyhow, neither of us is willing to be the first one up. So this is one of the things grownups do so as not to speak; lie quietly, I mean. Another: stare hungrily outside windows, nod furiously when we realize we can’t understand each other.
Ew. This is your life.
What they don’t tell you: Breathing is not instinctive. To live, now, is to struggle to inhale. Look at this, here.
I take out my phone to avoid speaking. Seeing the notifications, I think: I am real, I am real, I am real. What they don’t tell you: This is life.
Only you can confess, This is your life.
This is my life.
I turn to say: What I want is to stretch out in bed, read our books together, be silent, sip masala tea, love warmly. I say instead: I’ll be going then.
I want you to try. I want for you to know that I matter. That my pleasure matters. I want you to try.