The word that came to mind when
you made that sound,
he said, was
I shuddered. Agony. The word pierced me to the core, and I looked down, unable to meet his eyes, betrayed by the sudden evocation.
Agony. Used to mean a suffering of immeasurable depth. It fit the circumstance, key smoothly sliding into lock – at least superficially.
Agony. Why did the word elicit such a strong reaction?
And then I realized. Because that, at its simplest, at its purest – that is what I crave.
He finished securing the rope. Knelt down, level with my head, beard brushing my cheek. I felt the heat of his breath against my skin and turned my face, eyes closed, towards him. The rope burned its tendrils into my calf, clenching down on jeans, skin, muscle. Friction against friction.
I breathed through gritted teeth:
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Sometimes I can’t breathe because there is too much air and my lungs can’t expand to make room for it all.
Sometimes I find the world so painstakingly beautiful…
Sometimes I am so excited my heart and stomach hurt
Sometimes all I want is the taste of chocolate on my tongue
Sometimes I am in love with each person I pass on the street
Sometimes thinking about the summer sun is more beautiful than the real thing
Sometimes I need to touch another person’s skin
Sometimes I can’t stop flexing my hands and looking at them, silently awed by their engineering
Found in a college sketchbook, and there is no date because I never date things properly. Written sometime between the fall of 2008 and spring 2009.
It’s been a whirlwind of a month. I keep expecting it to be mid-September already, but it is still only the end of August.
In roughly chronological order:
- Packed up and left Seattle on August 19th, two weeks short of my original plan, so that I could
- Pick up my brother from the airport in San Francisco, because he wanted to visit schools and crash at my place.
- Arrived back in my SF apartment a whole 45 hours before my brother’s arrival.
- Since the subletter in my room was still there through the end of the month, I stayed in the living room – along with my brother – with a car still full of my belongings that I had no room to unpack yet,
- Bringing the population of our 3BR, 1B apartment to 5 people. Cozy, but surprisingly not as chaotic as I feared it would be. My housemates were amazing about dealing with all of these moving pieces, and so warmly welcoming to my brother.
- Spent 3.5 days shuttling my brother back and forth between SF and Berkeley, as well as two trips to Noisebridge and a visit to the (misnamed) Buffalo Paddock to see the bison.
- Climbed. Barbequed with the Programmer. Climbed some more.
- Ate a lot of Mexican food. Drank a lot of Mexican Coke.
It’s finally calmed down around here for me to actually think about the fact that I’ve just returned from spending two-and-a-bit months living in Seattle. To reminisce and reflect on my summer.
There are currently a lot of questions rolling around in my head concerning my Seattle trip, but they are being put gently to the side for the moment while I realign, finish unpacking, and try to bring my life back into some semblance of order. There are also friends to catch up with, a new Citadel location to visit, climbs to climb, and work to finish.
Plus, one of my housemates just got Bananagrams, and the other is racking up all kinds of outdoor climbing gear, so, you know. I’ll be a little busy.
But, no fear! I do plan to write more, soon.
And I love you all.
I was 7, perhaps, or 8. Maybe older; time has faded some of the relevant facts, but others stand out the starker in comparison. My mother is sitting at our dining table, and it is late at night. She’s just come home, and others are seated around her: an aunt, and my father.
I’ve only passed through the dining room on my way to my bedroom. My aunt turns to me from where she has been listening to my mother talk of her night, and asks me, in Chinese, “Aren’t you worried? Your mother was just in a car accident!”
I shrug, keep walking. The shrug is more out of shyness and discomfort than anything else. Behind me, I hear my mother tell my aunt, also in Chinese, “See, she doesn’t care! She doesn’t care what happens to me.”
I kept walking, not looking back, and closed my bedroom door behind me.
I’ve never talked to my mother of that night, but it continues to come back to me at random moments, like tonight. You see, what I never told my mother, my aunt, or my father, was that I did not know the Chinese phrase for “car accident.”
I thought that my aunt had told me that my mother had been in heavy traffic. In my mind, that explained why she’d gotten home so late, and so I summarily dismissed the matter from my mind.
There are many things one might draw from this memory. I’ve gone through them all. But, tonight, I just wanted to record it here. A small scrap of a memory, but significant all the same.
It was the beginning of second grade. My mother had signed me up for an after-school program, which I was highly dubious about and expressed little enthusiasm for. I think I cried and stomped my foot a lot the first day I had to go. But the arts and crafts drew me in, and I loved my after-school teachers. I would end up attending that program until I was in my early teens.
This is where I met him – I’ll call him the Writer. He was a strange, quirky boy, with odd habits and beliefs. He had an amazing imagination and read voraciously. We got along quite well.
We saw each other daily after school. He taught me how to play chess, including the four-move checkmate I remember as the Blitzkrieg. I drew pictures and concocted drawing games for us and the other after-school kids to play. He wrote short stories – dark, strange stories that often fell into the category of horror or detective thriller. We pored over video game magazines that he brought in; took turns at beating levels and bosses on my black and white Gameboy. We may or may not have reenacted character moves from Mortal Kombat on the playground.
There was a certain period of time wherein our friendship solidified and strengthened. Sometimes, we would simply walk around the school track, just the two of us, talking about nothing at all. Yet we never saw each other outside of the school grounds, never went over to each other’s houses.
So, as we grew older and outgrew that after-school program, we saw less and less of each other, unless we happened to be in the same class for a certain subject. What had seemed like such a close friendship suddenly became awkward and uncertain. The Writer had his friends, and I had mine. There was no overlap, despite the fact that we were both social outliers.
Had I been better informed and more self-aware at the time, I may have realized earlier that we were both kinky. At least, all my memories of the Writer lead me to believe he was (is?) very, very kinky. Besides his short stories involving naked, writhing women in caves, there was a natural power dynamic underlying our early relationship – except that I was often the one chasing him around the playground, trying to catch him and pin him down.
I would have also realized that our mutual awkwardness were telltale signs of the crushes we had on each other, rather than signs of a faltering connection.
Now, almost a decade later, I can’t help but wonder where life has taken the Writer and whether he has had any kinky relationships. We are still tenuously connected – in that we are friends on a few social networks – and it is exactly these sorts of connections that keep me from deleting my social media accounts altogether. We’ve even corresponded once or twice, tossing around ideas of a creative collaboration with his words and my artwork. Nothing’s come of those brief exchanges yet, but lately he has been on my mind again.
I wonder if I should ping him again – perhaps when I am next back on the East Coast, where he still lives. I wonder if I should even attempt to meet up with him, to see if he is at all the person I remember him to be. I wonder if I would be disappointed by our meeting, or if perhaps I’d see a familiar, mischievous glint in his eye and feel some of that old chemistry again.
Given how busy my life already is these days, it seems foolish to even be thinking of this. But, given that the Writer is my longest-standing crush, it seems sad to leave such a cliffhanger in my past. Either something might still spark between us, and at the very least I’d regain a lost friendship, or we will both have changed and branched off in completely different life directions as to be incompatible, even as friends. But, whatever the case, at least there might be some resolution to this chapter of my life.
This is really hard to write, and it’s a little raw at the edges, but if I’ve learned anything these past few months, it’s that getting this out in some form is always preferable to keeping it in.
I realize that I do not have the best background for understanding polyamory, and my past relationships did nothing to improve that understanding. But perhaps unraveling some of that baggage will give me a better foothold for parsing out why I continue to have the issues I have with all of this.
What immediately comes to mind is my first relationship with Tim. After discovering the existence of his fiancée through her finding out about me and writing to me, I then found a letter she had written to Tim on his computer. It was heartbreaking, and the realization that I had caused that level of anguish to another person – unwittingly, due to my naivete – was, and still is, hard for me. I saw myself, the outsider, as an intrusion, wreaking havoc on this existing relationship, and loathed both being the outsider and the effect I had had on an innocent party. I despised myself for it, while simultaneously despising her for the anguish her existence now caused me.
Of course, the main force of all my anger was directed at Tim; for (among many things) his manipulation of my trust, and also for tingeing the discovery and budding growth of my kinky side with lies and deceit. It still angers me how strongly my subsequent relationships have been affected by this experience. I truly believed I would never wear another’s collar again, nor would I submit to another and call them Sir.
But the hardest realization for me to come to terms with, which subsequently branded a new fear in me, was that my connection with him, our relationship, had always been that tenuous by its very nature, had always been necessarily secondary and easy to dismiss to preserve his primary relationship.
Whatever initial impression I might have had regarding poly was colored very strongly by this. I read others’ blogs and forums discussing poly, and while a part of me was curious, intrigued, another part of me shook my head in disgust. All I saw was poly being used as an excuse to manipulate multiple people at once. In poly, I saw the effects of hurt and pain magnified with each additional person involved, each additional line that connected one person to another. Drama seemed inevitable, and drama was the last thing I wanted to endure.
Now, it is four years since I left Tim, and I find myself suddenly with the opportunity to change that view very drastically. Since becoming involved in the Boston rope scene and then moving to San Francisco, I have seen examples of stable poly relationships, though I admit the majority of them still look like a train wreck more often than not. I saw people cycling through new partners and culling out other partners as quickly as clothing, I saw statuses change so often it was hard to remember who was with who, and I saw all of those connections as superficial at best.
I recognize that this works for some people, that they and their partners handle it well, and that they have a different emotional capacity for it. I also recognize that I am not one of those people. So, while I was being exposed to positive, working examples of poly families and getting to know and become friends with many of those people, I still didn’t believe I was “one of them,” so to speak.
Then, I met Max. What started as an experimental, short-term service relationship with a start and end date has become something much, much more significant, and I am still reeling a bit from the transition. Although it’s now over a year that I’ve been in this evolving relationship with him, it still feels very new and raw – undoubtedly due both to the physical distance and our individual time constraints and schedules.
I am so deep in this new, foreign territory that I can’t even identify the horizon – the smooth, clear line of balance to aim for. It used to be easier, during those first few visits, when the bulk of our time together was only with each other: focused, intense, and deliberate. It was also easier because I saw myself in the very specific role of play partner and service submissive.
I should have realized, by Shibaricon, that those roles were no longer accurate. I should have known it when I dropped almost all other commitments there to spend more time with Max. When it was all I could do to force myself to go to the workshops I had planned on attending, rather than the ones he wanted to attend and the ones he was teaching.
Even despite all of our prior time together, the promise of more to come in the future, and the intensity of our connection, I really didn’t anticipate falling. So. Hard. In love.
Writing that was more difficult than revisiting my relationship with Tim. There is a lot of fear in that statement. Whenever I find myself resenting our distance or the time I don’t get to have with Max, I am afraid. I’m frightened by how much I want him, and by how much he fulfills a part of me that I have been deeply craving. The service, the rope, the sex, the D/s – they all fit so well with my own kinky makeup. It’s the closest I’ve come to finding someone who complements my kinks this way.
At first, the fear was rooted in the possibility of loss – of finding such a close match only to have it end, a short-lived play partner relationship with some nice memories and nothing more. Though honestly, those memories would still be very nice, and I cannot imagine leaving this relationship on anything but amicable terms. I cannot envision a future where I’d think back on my time with Max with anything but fondness and love.
No, the fear has evolved into something quite a bit more complex and poly-related. I’m not even sure how to explain it clearly, but the main idea is this: it seems only fair for me to have my shit together and figured out before embarking on this kind of journey into non-monogamy – fair, that is, for Max and his other partners. And yet, every time I find myself in the same space with Max and another partner, I automatically relegate myself to that post of outsider, never sure of where, exactly, I belong, and always, always hesitant to step on toes and disturb established patterns and habits.
Perhaps it is as simple as having been raised in the binary culture of heterosexual couples that makes this so difficult. In dissecting all of this with Max, I’ve come to see the number three as a highly destabilizing factor. “Three” seems to require so much more effort, vigilance, external and internal awareness, and communication, and creates such a divided focus, as to overwhelm the poly beginner. Not to mention that my only prior experience with this has been as the nonconsensual third of a main couple’s relationship. That experience has amplified being with Max and one of his partners into the fear and belief that my very presence in their space is an unwelcome intrusion. And so, in those situations, I withdraw, step back, and build distance between myself and Max.
This is an all-internal issue. All of Max’s partners, all of his extended poly family that I’ve met, have been nothing but warm and welcoming towards me, and I could not ask for a better role model for learning to navigate the poly world. I also have the added benefit of genuinely liking his partners, making it simultaneously easy to want to see them happy as well as more difficult to request time to spend with Max alone. I want to spend all of the time I can with Max, while simultaneously wanting him to spend time with his partners. I see the joy in his eyes and in theirs when together, and I want them to have as much of that joy in their lives as possible. And I want Max: all of him, 100% of his time, focus, and energy. I want him with the same ferocity and intensity that he expresses in his desire to own me.
I am greedy for his time, and I am able to rationalize some of that greed because of our distance. The reason is two-fold; being 800 miles apart makes me cherish any time we are in the same vicinity all the more, and makes me want to guard that time jealously. It also prolongs the timeline of the different stages of our relationship, so that it was only at Shibaricon (our sixth encounter, but nine months in real time) that I found myself becoming fully immersed in the “new relationship energy” that made me want to clear my schedule for Max. But when it is not just the two of us, alone, I am afraid of the destructive nature all of that greed and desire also holds, of the baser emotions they elicit – when it is not joy I feel at seeing Max with his partners, but jealousy and resentment.
Add in the inherently unequal nature of our relationship and the fact that Max is my only partner, and the equation becomes exponentially more complicated.
What it comes down to is figuring out whether or not I can do this, and do it well; whether it is fair to be going through this learning process and developing these skills – with all of its bumps and bruises and missteps – with Max and his family, knowing that it will inevitably cause waves; and whether or not I will have the self-awareness to understand if I am holding on to something I cannot sustain or manage, and holding on to the detriment of everyone involved. And to be able to let go, if that’s the case.
At this moment, despite my tendency to catastrophize things in my head, I don’t believe it will come to that. My motivation for doing all of this digging around in my head, after all, is so that I can figure out how to make poly work for me and thus continue being a part of Max’s family. And if part of that means revealing more of my vulnerabilities and imperfections than I am comfortable with, and risking more honesty and communication rather than less, I will do that.