Thursday, October 18, 2007

Making space

I'm telling Chris about the dream about him, how hot it was how I felt like I was carrying him on the strength of our relationship. He seems kind of disengaged, earlier he ate a surprise jalapeno so he's been irritated, an allergic reaction. He says I don't usually like listening to people's dreams, but I listened to most of that. I can't help thinking that he’s actually irritated about what I'm saying, but I still have so much more. I say I have something to tell you, and that dream was an introduction, and I look Chris right in the eyes because I want to look away, instead I create a flair to my gaze like this is also performance: it's something that's hard for me to say, I mean maybe it's obvious I don't know I mean it's not anything negative -- I can't believe I just said that, when my mother asked if I was going to say anything negative -- cross that out, I'm just wondering if this is a good time to tell you something, or if I should wait.

Chris is lying on the sofa in my faux living room, the faux part is because there's only one room I mean I have another sofa sitting right across from the one with Chris on it, and I'm sitting on the other sofa. I say well, in this project of trying to regain a sense of liberation in my own sexuality -- maybe that sounds distant, to call it a project, when I'm talking about my life. I say well, I'm not necessarily suggesting this, but you're the person who I feel most physically comfortable with, intimate and safe and there’s a sexual dimension that's playful and fun and so sometimes I think that maybe we should have sex, that I want to have sex with you. I'm looking right at him again, I'm studying his reaction and he sits up, this is late for him he's getting tired but he sits up anyway.

It feels weird that we're sitting on opposite sofas, physically so close but in different surroundings -- behind me is the skyline, I'm on the floral loveseat; behind Chris is my apartment, she’s on the long floral sofa that I brought with me from the last apartment. I say actually, I’ve thought about having sex with you off and on, for the last 15 years it’s happened really and then I think about it for a little while and decide no, it wouldn't be a good idea, but I never tell you about my thoughts so that's what I'm doing now -- I just wanted to let you know. Maybe one of the reasons I think about it is that the only time I think I felt liberated in my sexuality, excited about all of the possibilities was 15 years ago when we first met and I’d just moved to San Francisco and in some ways it was easier for my practice to match my ideals, especially sexually. And you and I were having sex and it was both casual and intimate, I didn't see any reason it would stop it felt so joyous and filled with possibility, then I went away to the March on Washington, where I met Zee and I wrote to you about that but for me that was just another exciting sexual possibility and so I didn't understand when I got back and you’d found this boy who seemed so boring it's like you were a couple. Now I understand that's what your pattern was, that you went from one relationship like that to the next but at the time it just seems so alien I didn't know why we weren't having sex anymore. I mean, I want to make it clear that I'm not suggesting we have sex now, it's just that you know how I hold things in.

I'm studying Chris for his reaction. I can't tell if maybe I'm shaking a little bit, I mean I was shaking at the beginning now I think I feel calmer. Chris says you don't want me to answer, right? I say no, that's not what I'm looking for. He says I'm glad you're talking about this, all of these things, it's inspiring to me -- over the past five years you haven't seemed content with your sexuality and then you'd keep going to the same places like Blow Buddies and it never seemed like you had a good time. I can tell you shut yourself off to flirting -- sometimes it seems like your boundaries are too rigid, I'm glad you're thinking about all of this.

I say it's just that I've mastered sex in certain areas -- sex work and public sex environments -- but anywhere else I'm too nervous about crossing people's boundaries. Chris says it sounds like sometimes you don't know when someone's flirting with you. I say you're right -- I don't have any idea, I sit there waiting for someone to make the move and even if he makes it I can convince myself that it's about something else entirely, maybe he likes my look but that doesn't mean he wants to sleep with me or maybe he’s just being friendly because I'm so friendly or maybe he’s actually straight. Chris says I’m dealing with similar issues now, since I haven't been drinking. I say that's hard for me to imagine, you’ve always seemed so good at cruising. He says but now it's different, since I haven't been drinking.

I say the other thing is when I first moved back, that one time we had sex -- do you remember it? Chris says yes, I was really drunk we went in that alley by the Powerhouse. I say well I wasn't drunk, I mean we had sex in the alley and it was weird because it was like having anonymous sex with your best friend, but do you remember when we went back to my apartment and then you were begging me to fuck you, you were saying please fuck me, please, and I was like what is going on -- no, Chris, it's time to go to bed. That's when I thought oh, I don't think we should have sex.

Chris says yeah, that's when I realized I didn't want to have sex with any of my close friends, I mean with any of my friends there's a sexual -- a sensual -- dimension but I just don't want to risk the friendships. I say for me that's complicated, because obviously that's the choice I've made in my life and it's allowed me to have really close friendships, I mean that's what I’ve prioritized. Chris says yes, but your boundaries are too rigid, one-size-fits-all. I say but I don't know where they make sense and where they don't, like for example I generally have a rule that I don't have sex with anyone who I'm doing activism with. Chris says that seems like a good idea. I say but then what if those are the majority of the people who I meet who I feel some connection with? Chris says it just shouldn't be one-size-fits-all. I say but you just said it sounded like a good idea. Chris says I'm glad you're thinking about all of this, that you're opening yourself up.

I'm so glad Chris is able to say what his boundaries are without saying whether he wants to have sex with me. I don't want the importance of our physical connection to be invalidated or imbued with sadness. What matters isn’t attraction it's about making space where we can express ourselves. I'm so happy about the ways in which we interact, the ways we're making space for one another. Chris says I'm really tired, I have to go home. It's past his bedtime, suddenly it seems extra-special that we’re having this conversation even with opposite sleep schedules.

One more thing, I say -- one of the parts of my personal project of regaining a sense of sexual liberation is that I write a lot about it in my blog, because part of this process is about making myself vulnerable. I'm really excited about the writing I’m doing, and sometimes I can't tell how people are responding, I mean I'm guessing that often it seems like too much to respond to. But people write to me -- the other day, I got a letter from someone who said that I've changed the way she thinks about queerness, love and sexuality, that she’s also a sexual abuse survivor and that it’s a source of strength for her to read about how I demand accountability from my parents in all of these ways -- and that's another part of my blog, that I want to create the possibilities for other people to also express their vulnerability, and this helps me to also feel safer.

This is where both Chris and I look a little teary-eyed, I say mostly I write about myself, but I might write about this conversation and since I'm not writing it as fiction, I mean it's non-fiction it's immediately out there and I wanted to know whether you wanted me to change your name if I write about you. Chris says no, that's okay. I say well you let me know if you change your mind, and I go over to his sofa, I mean the sofa in my apartment that he’s sitting on. I sit next to him and kiss his neck and I can't tell if he’s a little more physically distant than usual or if that's just because he's tired, I'll have to remember to ask. We kiss goodbye and when Chris leaves I'm really tired like always, but relieved too and calm.


grantatee said...

oh, like chris i feel inspired too... by your authenticity-- how on this quest you are really going for connection and making space for all of yourself to be involved.

i think it's so great that you were able to have this conversation, and that you made eye contact too.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Grant, thanks for the support -- I'm glad you feel inspired, and yes eye contact -- I always try to have eye contact, but at the most intense moments it's always tempting to look away, inside or to the exterior...

Now if I could just do something about this global warming humidity drama terrorizing my sinuses...

Love --