Bodies that Don’t Fit / Ronnie Gross
Excerpt from “Bare Bone”, Pardes Publishing House, November 2019 (Editor: Eli Hirsch)
Translation from Hebrew: Shira Levy
Translation Editor: Sandra Fox
One night, I invite over a guy who lives nearby. The purpose of the meeting is clear. Over the past few years, I’ve occasionally sent out text messages to initiate similar situations, which always begin with a man – sometimes too excited, sometimes only a little; at times finding it hard to hide his enthusiasm, other times less so – knocking on my door. I’m never scared of these strange men, despite the risks involved. In private, women-only Facebook groups, members exchange tips about casual dating apps; If your date is bound to end at your place or his by the end of the night – a risk one can’t avoid due to the purpose of the meeting – one can at least protect oneself with the following precautions: meet in a public place. Share a photo, the name and phone number of your date with a friend. Tell someone you trust about your plans for the night and ask her to check in on you at a predetermined time. And tell the guy up front what you will never, ever do under any circumstances, in clear, straightforward terms. The groups’ more intense members may even disclose their expectations explicitly, stating “I don’t have sex with men who won’t go down on me,” for instance.
I myself have never taken any of these precautions.
But this time, I text him, “Call me – I want to talk with you first,” because I know I’m far from my home base. Here, in the middle of nowhere, we’ll be enveloped by darkness and spend the night together. Maybe we’ll cuddle all night and wake up together, squinting as the late morning light enters our eyes, one warm foot touching the other under the covers. No, it’s not estrangement that scares me. Back in the city, I hasten to get my male visitors out the door, explaining in a pleasant, polite voice that it’s better this way – preferable and advisable, even. There are no exceptions; it definitely isn’t personal.
But it is personal. I only invite a small number of men who visit me to spend the night.
Before he arrives, I move about slowly, examining my life through his eyes. I scan the small living room and bedroom, as if looking at them for the first time since I settled into the space with just a few possessions. Someone else’s eyes inspect the objects lying about, their placement towing the fine line between a cozy mess (an open book, its cover facing upward; a small wooden table covered with a floral tablecloth; an old wool shawl tossed in a corner), and the kind of disarray that hints to a loneliness bordering on neglect (a stack of week-old dishes in the sink; a pile of pillows piled on only one side of the bed). Undressing before a shower, I stand in front of the mirror and examine the little things that my body may reveal in the morning light: after a quick head to toe examination (this is not a time for thorough inspections, I can’t handle those right now), I decide not to shave the two-week old stubble on my calves, though I do apply some concealer on a pimple I was tempted to pop, now healing on my chin.
“That was fun,” he says, turning towards me. His eyes dart around, catching my gaze every so often. We are together in a small room, dimly lit by a gas heater, which spreads a pleasant warmth; we didn’t bother to move to the bedroom as we started touching each other on the thin mattresses stacked in the living room, the sheets beneath us now wet and crumpled, pillows scattered. I lay stretched out on my back, my head resting on my folded arms, my breasts out in the open, and my armpits, which I haven't shaved for even longer than my legs, exposed. I tried to hide them earlier, as he took my shirt off and I held out my arms to embrace his smooth back. A short silence passes between us. He’s sitting calmly above me, half leaning on the wall, half leaning on his arm, one leg folded beneath him and the other angled over my stomach. I sneak a side glance, admiring his arms and his broad chest, as if admiring a grand mountain, seemingly near yet far away in the distance, as if looking from a vast open field, my body relaxed under the sun. He seems to put no effort to being strong but is strong, nonetheless.
“Our bodies fit… don’t they?” he asks. “Yes,” I answer in a small voice, barely managing to make a sound, knowing it’s dangerous to agree with things like “That was fun” or “Bodies that fit.” I narrow my eyes, avoiding his glance, but he is not discouraged as he tries to capture my gaze. When we were having sex, I noticed his eyes searching for mine. I returned the look for only a split second and then quickly turned away. “I mean, you know how it feels like when it just doesn’t work?” he continues. I try to hide the smile threatening to take over. “Of course.” My smile encourages him, and he smiles too as he lays down beside me, burying his face in my stomach. “You probably know better than I do,” he concludes. The smile melts off my face. “I’m not sure I know any better… but yes, I do know how that feels.”
He’s right, of course: I know well – better than he does – the meaning and implications of bodies that don’t fit.
After we move to the bedroom, I lay on my back in total darkness as he penetrates me once again. There is no position I love more than laying on my back, letting the man I’m with look at me from above and set the pace as I watch his chest rise and fall. I touch his arms, which are straining to hold him up as he moves back and forth. I move my fingers up and down his neck and back, continuing to the lowest point I can reach, my nails digging into his flesh. I raise my head and bite into his shoulder and neck.
I once hesitantly told my therapist that all I really yearn for is to sleep with a man I desire as I lay on my back while he is on top of me. I only realized this was what I wanted as the words rolled off my tongue. Although I had been going to her for most of my twenties, I had, until then, successfully avoided talking about sex. And then suddenly, this truth came out. I was embarrassed: How boring could my ultimate sex fantasy be? So extremely boring. When I realized that the fantasy had a lot to do with love, not only sex, I was even more embarrassed, and decided to never speak of it again.
Truth be told, I envied him, just as I had envied others before him. And yet I never thought of myself as a woman who envies men. In college, I was confronted with the outdated psychoanalytical theories that assumed that I, as a woman, was not a whole being. I rejected these Freudian theories with disgust: I had never felt a yearning for this so-called “wholeness.” Later, to my great relief, I would find out that women had deconstructed, analyzed and reassembled these theories, paving an alternative path. As I sat in class back then, however – a young student hardly aware of what lay ahead of her – I did not know of these women, who were beginning to set things straight: no longer an envy of wholeness, but rather wholeness onto itself.
My wholeness was made clear to me in every possible way, and – as opposed to other students, who found this to be an exciting revelation – them being complete, at this very moment, and with no reservations – I accepted this wholeness with the same equanimity in which I accepted the most basic truths of the world. I believed that I always felt this way and that I would always feel this way.
But as years went by, I found my boundaries dissolving and my sense of self easily injured, ready for the penetration of men only in times of great emotional strength. Nowadays, every time I get to bed with a man, it is a subtle act of calculated risks. “Is this normal?” I wonder during moments of self-reflection.
In college, two whole years during which I didn’t sleep with men quickly went by. I remember the ease with which I then gave up on sex, as I made space for other, more pressing and important issues. I survived a serious accident, my family, a deep depression. I was sometimes able to write, and always able to work, pay the rent, buy healthy food for myself, cheap food for the cat. I was able to cultivate delicate friendships and to achieve the deeply serene, fragmented love of platonic relationships.
Occasionally, periods of abstinence resurface and linger. During these times, the distance between me and sex feels endless and unbridgeable. Men stop showing up at my house, and I stop showing up at theirs. It just happens. I never yearn for my sex life to disappear, but I am also admittedly unsurprised when it fades away, unsupervised. It has a life of its own, my sex life, a will of its own.
Three years ago, just before my most recent period of abstinence, I was laying on a massage table, covered in white sheets, my body loose and relaxed. “Breathe,” said the therapist, “Breathe as deeply as you can.” I started seeing this mind-body therapist in order to figure out some deep-seated personal issues. I wanted to try and let go of fears that I only knew of indirectly, fears I had only experienced through the discovery that I had been once again swept away, for days and sometimes weeks, into a dark sea of sorrow. In the dimly lit room, a bright curtain over a small window letting in only a sliver of light, there was nothing but the table I lay on and a small wooden bench stacked with a stack of clean smelling, loosely folded white sheets. The sheets made me feel good: I believed that where clean sheets are replaced with cleaner sheets after every session, nice, clean things happen.
“Breathe,” said the therapist. I did. “Deeper,” he said. I tried, but wondered if I could breathe any deeper, suddenly feeling pain throbbing in my legs. They feel like two marble pillars, I told said to him, stone-cold. I yearned for rest and relaxation. I wanted heat to run up and down my body. I wanted to want nothing. “Move your legs,” said the therapist. A sudden, electrifying pain pierced my body from my fingertips to my stomach, spread through my pelvic bowl, and lingered there. Breathe, the therapist reminded me once more, placing his hands on both sides of my belly button. “What does it feel like?” he asked. “Where is the blockage?” And for one clear moment I felt a line forming between one pelvic bone to another, splitting my body in half.
I stopped breathing. The therapist’s voice continued to prompt me, but now was muffled, as if it were passing through cotton wool that was packing his mouth. I focused on the tiny dust particles spinning around slowly within the ray of light streaming into the room through the window. At the edge of my feet, my fingers were dead, numb things. Where is it all blocked? I could barely hear the therapist’s voice. And I knew at that very moment everything was blocked in the middle, unsurprisingly in the same place from which at other times, I derive pleasure.
Even though I keep a running list of all the men I ever slept with, I have a hard time placing the long periods in which I wasn’t touched by a man between two names on the list. The distance between each name in the document, saved in my Gmail drafts, is identical (one line, enter), yet the time that went by between the men (two months, six months, a week or two years) is the unknown in which I kept on living. Living, and occasionally crashing against men’s bodies. Sex as a young woman wasn’t rewarding, but rather a bit dull. I wanted love and settled for a lot less in the hopes of obtaining it.
“You’re just a hole, waiting for me to fill you up”, says Harry Dodge, a transman, or a butch on T, depending on the moment, to his partner Maggie Nelson, who writes about herself, him, and the two of them together. Nelson’s book, The Argonauts, opens with a confusing, frantic paragraph, in which her falling in love with Harry is described, “… the words, I love you come tumbling out of my mouth in an incantation the first time you fuck me in the ass.” From then on, she invites her readers to join her on a turbulent journey through their love story, which is connected to bodies that cannot be classified into familiar genders, souls that cannot be sorted, words that fail us and a body that fucks, gives in, and fails, only to return to us again and again. “Just don’t kill me,” Maggie says to Harry in a dank hotel room, shortly after they start dating, as he unbuckles his belt.
I believe her. When she writes, “I am interested in ass-fucking. I am interested in the fact that the clitoris, disguised as a discrete button, sweeps over the entire area like a manta ray, impossible to tell where its eight thousand nerves begin and end,” I am immediately convinced. The next man I have sex with is invited to fuck me in the ass, much to his surprise and delight. Everything happens with an ease that takes me by surprise. I experience a kind of pleasure which I have never known before. But even before I try it, I have no doubt I’ll enjoy it, because I believed Nelson right from the very beginning of her book, in which she describes the painful, yet so very natural devotion to Harry, that came to her after a long period of extreme isolation, long walks during sleepless nights, and bouts of creativity. “I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away,” she whispers to Harry at night in bed, and tells the reader, me, and me alone, “If one does one’s solitude right, this is the prize.”
Is love a prize? I’m doing the solitude part. Am I doing it right? I doubt it. If one day my life will be the kind of life in which I wake up day after day next to a man I love, I could then say, in retrospect, “I did my solitude right.” At the moment, I have nothing to show for it.
The need for evidence: How will I ever know that love exists? How could I have known that sex can be pleasurable when I was younger? “As soon as my sister and I got out of our / mother’s house, all we wanted to / do was fuck,” Sharon Olds writes. I left my mother's house, which was abandoned and bare, at the age of twenty. Many years later I still didn’t know how to find pleasure in men’s bodies. But as time went by, I learned how to do so, mainly thanks to the proof that other, older, more experienced, and less compromising women bestowed upon me. Olds is one of these women. She taught me about power, and about the possibility to derive pleasure from it. Indeed, I discover how to enjoy sex the day I discover the trick of power. Before, years went by from which my body remembered nothing about the sex I had with men I was totally and completely infatuated with. Where was I when I slept with them? It’s hard to say.
Nelson’s book teaches me that my clitoris spreads like a manta ray throughout my entire inner rectum. I am excited by this image, and the discovery that the enjoyment of anal sex is (also) a result of something physical, real and tangible, that touching it arouses a pleasurable response.
This is important because it is evidence: In my life, there have often been attempts to convince me that I feel good, or extremely bad, in the name of some intangible principle with unsatisfactory reasoning. When, at nineteen, I felt the cancer spreading throughout my body long before it was diagnosed, many doctors, and not only them, explained to me that the pain I was feeling had to do with my unstable mental state. Even though my mental state was far from being stable at the time (I was only a few months into my mandatory army service, and only started to discover that I don’t know, and have no wish to know, the system's rules), I knew and insisted that my chronic fatigue and the constant itch that settled under my skin, like fire ants digging tunnels in my arms, to use Nelson’s world of images, were not a result of depression.
Even then, in my lonely inner world, with no voices such as Nelson's around me (“Empirically speaking, we are made from star stuff”, she writes, and I’m grateful to her for these little clarifications: stardust, a manta ray in the rectum), I knew that there are voices that embark on the everlasting, uncompromising quest for small details that can eventually come together as a big, clear, echoing picture.
I also knew that as opposed to these voices, there are those who thoroughly tell lies, with great self-conviction, regarding how we exist. When doctors examined me with doubt, repeating that medical tests’ results are always right and, in my case, negative, I learned to question any claim for objectivity. Years later I learned the power of fragmented, partial knowledge from another woman, Donna Haraway, who penned, “Feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge… In this way we might become answerable for what we learn how to see.”
Just like back then, when my body aches nowadays, the ache is proof enough for me to head out in search of the source of that pain, cultivating humble aspirations of finding a cure, even when experts claim that they have no findings to support my pain. “You are not a normal case,” a grey-haired MD once told me dryly, uninterested, while looking through my medical records. In his immaculate clinic, its walls adorned with yellowish diplomas, its furniture wooden, dark and heavy, I left behind a considerable amount of money for a ten-minute consultation, after which we came to the conclusion (that is, his conclusion, in the name of science and science alone) that nothing was wrong with me, that years of pain were simply a discomfort I had to put up with.
In a break with my past, when I find pleasure in my body now, I point to whatever is giving me pleasure and ask for more, even if society would prefer that I find it elsewhere. People would prefer that I try harder to find love, as a wider scheme that should be aspired to, a framework to contain, one hopes but cannot guarantee, sexual pleasure. I don’t oppose love when I advocate for pleasure; it’s just that I still haven’t found concrete proof of its existence (one that I can give my own personal account of). I mainly know what love is not. “Fear is not love, dependence is not love, jealousy is not love, possessiveness and domination are not love, responsibility and duty are not love, self-pity is not love, the agony of not being loved is not love”, Jiddu Krishnamurti said. He was right. I tried all of this out on myself. I’ve experienced a great deal of fear, dependency, and self-pity. I’ve experienced excruciating pain when a man I wanted didn’t want me back. Even during the most delightful moments — a hand caressing a warm, sleepy back in the early morning hours — and the most painful ones — nerve-wracking hours and days in which I waited in vain for a message or sign of affection — I knew: this isn’t love.
Nelson teaches me what love is; Olds does not. As I read The Argonauts for the first time, I was consumed with jealousy. Maggie and Harry’s relationship seemed to be unattainable between a man and a woman, and I am a woman who is attracted to men. Is Harry not a man? He is, but not only. Maggie’s prize wasn’t only to fall in love, to give herself over, to trust the person who affirmed their worthiness of the trust she felt for him. Rather, she was granted a relationship in which the erotics contain the familiar and utterly arousing shades of power, with a person whose power, the power they utilize, belongs to her too. When Harry says, “You're just a hole, letting me fill you up,” the ironic nod to power is most present. The men I sleep with can’t choose to refrain from the execution of power, and therefore I too don’t always get to choose how to participate in the game.
I can’t just ask the men who enter my bed for what Nelson describes. It seems as if I can’t ask this of anyone at all. That’s why I can’t write about love, but only about other things. Maybe someday I’ll be able to speak with great clarity about sex with a person I love who loves me back. In the meantime, I speak of the kind of sex and pleasure that does not stem from love, but also not from anything that love is not.
In the elusive realm of pleasure with random men, I learned that my body can give in, that I can enjoy anal sex not only because the man kneeling behind me is stronger than I am, effortlessly stronger, but because he uses his power just to the extent that I ask him to. It isn’t the use of power but its very existence — “Just don’t kill me” — that gives me pleasure.
Harry lets Maggie in on a secret: “guys are pretty nice to each other in public. Always greeting each other, ‘hey boss’ or nodding as they pass each other on the street”. Harry first discovers this after he starts injecting T and has breast removal surgery. Now men think he’s a man.
I am as taken aback by this secret nod as I am moved by the longing to be included in it; I’m never around when men signal each other in this way (If I were, if any woman were, it would take the edge off). Women aren't friendly to one another in public, Nelson observes. This is true; sometimes older women look me over when we pass each other by. Every once in a while, they look and then immediately turn away. Sometimes they linger as if they can’t take their eyes off me. When I’m in an aggressive mood, I return a long piercing stare, as if saying: I’m onto you. This is a power that stems from knowing that whoever was looking at me acknowledged my power to attract men. This is the power, one might say, that women hold. When will the tables turn? When will I be the one who can’t turn away, caught in the merciless eyes of a younger, prettier woman?
Nelson explains that women have no need for the friendliness men express towards one another, since their friendliness translates to, “I mean you no violence”. Olds writes about her seven-year-old son’s birthday in her poem, Right of Passage:
"The guests arrive at our son’s party
they gather in the living room—
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? —Six. —I’m seven. — So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other’s pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six
[…] My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice”.
As opposed to men, the underlying violence involved in the mutual comparison of women is inward facing, leaving each one with her own baggage, whether jealousy or lack of compassion, designing her own private pain. Men hurt one another; women hurt themselves. That’s basic social psychology.
I share Olds’ obsession with power, and more specifically, the obsession of pointing to the power of men as well as to her own. She searches for this power. One might say that she finds it because she goes looking for it even among first graders. I am angry at her because it seems that she imposes on these little boys' lives with her obsession, but I am also grateful to her because she gives me the evidence I need. Like me, she is aware of her presence, which is perceived as aggressive: “a tall woman, stained, sour, sharp.” Olds is a woman created in the image of a man, as she puts it, a woman who fights men and fights to conquer men through sex:
“The men’s bodies
were like our father’s body!
hocks, flanks, thighs, elegant
knees, long tapered calves—
we could have him there, the steep forbidden
buttocks, backs of the knees, the cock
in our mouth, ah the cock in our mouth.
Like explorers who
discover a lost city, we went
nuts with joy”.
What drives Olds crazy? What drives me crazy? I return to the subject of jealousy. One early spring day, I sat on my balcony among the flowers I had planted in pots a day earlier. My body felt frantic, but I sat perfectly still in the surprisingly hot, stubborn, mid-March sun. I wasn’t ready for a heatwave. I exposed my legs in the sunlight, discovering their sickly white winter skin, adorned with zigzags of black hair, weak from lack of oxygen, yet still visible. I tried to relax in the company of a collection of short stories by a famous contemporary writer, but her stories bored me: they were all too truthful, too well rounded, too soft.
I masturbated to disturb the maddening calm. It didn’t work. Something inside burned long after the weak, unsatisfying orgasm. I meditated, expecting nothing. I baked cookies, protesting my attempt to change the course of things by adding yet another action to the sequence of mundane household activities with their faded, familiar beauty, the kind of acts I find easy solace in, telling myself I was able to add beauty to yet another crappy day.
The sun fell on my legs strong and dense. I examined my pale skin, the prickly hair. I examined the clusters of dark hair sticking out of my pink, lace-trimmed underwear. Good, I thought, or maybe, good enough. I picked up the phone and texted a few men. I put it down and waited. I stretched my hands upwards and yawned, catching a ray of light in my mouth. I laid a hand on my stomach, now completely warm, squeezing it, stroking it, and turned to check my phone.
One of them answered. I looked through the pictures in his profile once again. The look in his eyes was sly and hard to read. A wave of jealousy. What of? Of everything edgy and unorderly about him. Two hours later he was crossing the street, walking towards me. This time, the heavy heat tempted me to leave the house. I inhaled, trapped the air in my lungs and for a brief moment turned my head sideways, looking at the crowd of people waiting outside a bar on the sidewalk, sweating in their short clothes – I still had a moment to decide whether I would go through with it all – then I turned back to look at him. We smiled. The heat hadn't broken yet, but big raindrops started to fall. On the beach the sand was sticky, and the sea was a dark shallow puddle. We quickly got high and entered the water, losing balance and holding on to each other, colliding head-on, kissing without looking into each other’s eyes. He held my wrist in his hand and pressed. I pressed up against him.
There's sand in my underwear, I thought, as he took them off along with my pants in one swift motion, in his loud shared flat on Allenby Street. The light is too strong, I thought, as I took off his underwear. I dug my fingernails into his back. He penetrated me and stayed deep inside, then rolled onto his back, holding me on top of him. I gripped his throat and pressed. He grabbed my ass, my breasts, squeezing. I pushed my fingers into his mouth. He grabbed my face. Harder, I yelled. He asked if I was coming. I said not yet. Then come now, he said, and I did. A few minutes later he helped me fasten my bra and I left. At home again, I fell asleep immediately, like someone who had used her body, her power, as it was meant to be used.
Sometimes I’m tempted to think that I have a job to perform: to protect men from power, to dole out tenderness. Some of them are willing to admit that the secret manly nod symbolizes a border. A border that demands to be drawn, again and again, a border that defines their existence. A border that pierces me, that I try to dissolve when I bite into the shoulder of the man I’m with, when I look at him, all of him, as I stroke and scratch. When I sleep with them, I try to shatter that line between us, but the deal proves unattractive to both parties. In moments of truth, I revolt, protest, neither soft nor protective, while they participate as a captive audience, captive at their own will, taking everything I have to give, soft or hard, accepting or defying, dirty or polite, as long as they can later remember that it was taken. When a woman is penetrated, Andrea Dworkin taught me, “…the boundaries of her physical body are—neutrally speaking—violated.” Eventually, I discover that I haven’t shattered any boundaries, but merely redrew them.
The point between the anger I feel as I face this border and my attempts at dissolving it — the place where I find myself knocking at their bodies’ gates, knuckles bleeding—that is where my desire lurks.
Only when I feel that I can say no can I say yes. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, I chat online with a group of women from around the world. Their faces appear on the screen before me, flickering, sometimes freezing when the connection is slow. A few are sitting in their living rooms in Europe, in dim daylight; others are in the United States, always in the early morning hours; a few are from southeast Asia, where the light is yellow and bright. Behind them are bookcases, sometimes a bed with a colorful bedcover or a sleeping baby. Among the group are also young women such as me. We don’t usually speak up, but rather learn about the life we can expect to live from the older group members, who do a good job of speaking in a way which makes it clear that in the past, not too long ago, they were walking in our shoes.
We gather at predetermined times to talk about life. During one of the meetings, someone hesitantly suggested we talk about sex, as if fearful of contaminating the fragile intimate space we created. Sex had been off-limits, but we were able to start saying something about it, half a thought perhaps. One of the women says she can only fully commit to sex when she has no doubt that her voice will be heard if she decides to say “no.” Something in me moves. On the couch in my living room my relaxed body suddenly tenses, my back arches: I can relate. Pleasure within a well-defined realm. The framework: “no.” Within it: “yes.” I contemplate this for a moment. “A stream does not know fear. A woman does,” Dworkin wrote. “The fear is fear of power and fear of pain: the child looks at the slit with a mirror and wonders how it can be, how will she be able to stand the pain.”
The pain. Bodies that don’t fit. The tip of the iceberg. Dworkin illustrated the entirety of this iceberg well. Through her work, I learned the possible and dangerous implications of sex with men, the ever-present threat of the body being violated, a threat that results in my looking for a “no” as a framework for “yes.” Otherwise, there is the possibility that I will die. Dworkin is right, just as Nelson and Olds are right. Together they outline the fusion of sex and power, within and against it, and its possible implications. On one end of the spectrum – violation, the complete destruction of your body and soul (otherwise known as death); on the other end – the most extreme pleasure, the pleasure that I can only experience while playing with men's bodies.
How will I endure the pain? It seems to me that this is the question I want to consider as much as possible.
“You need to stop playing this power game,” a good friend said to me years ago. She repeats this every once in a while: “It's not that he’s strong and you’re weak,” she says, “or that you're strong and he’s weak.” What is it then? “Release and drop it to the floor like a piece of glass,” another friend told me. “One day you'll realize that you can let it go and life will go on,” yet another said. And yet another therapist I started seeing in the early morning hours, when the city is still quiet, gently put her hands on my feet, and when the shortness of breath came and my airways tightened, she said, “You don’t need my help with what you already know how to do.” And even though I want to agree with her — what a wonderful world it must be, the world these voices describe, what a strange world –something in me resists. All too often, the game I wish to quit—or am being asked to quit—is all I can hold on to, even if it only contains shards of glass.
After the young man leaves, in the late morning hours of the following day, I fall into a deep, dreamless sleep until the late afternoon, waking up with a dry mouth and a thin line of sweat at the base of my neck. The day passes quickly. Before sunset I shower, brush my hair, and go outside to sit on a big rock surrounded by soft grass and cyclamens, at the edge of the hill which looks over a valley. The sun starts to set, and the cold starts to descend the hills and valleys. The sky turns from blue to pinkish-orange and then purple. I pull my knees to my chest, wrap them with my warm coat and lay my chin down on them. My landlord's two lanky golden retrievers walk up to me slowly and stand beside me like sullen bodyguards, observing the view silently with me. I smile at the open horizon in front of me. Soon enough I won’t have proof of what happened last night. The silence that hangs heavy in the air is broken when I suddenly hear someone crying. A few moments later I realize that the one who is crying is me.
Works cited (in order of appearance):
Nelson, Maggie, The Argonauts, Graywolf Press, 2015
Olds, Sharon, “The Sisters of Sexual Treasure”, Selected Poems, Jonathan Cape, 2005
Olds, Sharon, “Rite of Passage”, Selected Poems, Jonathan Cape, 2005
Olds, Sharon, “Why My Mother Made Me”, Selected Poems, Jonathan Cape, 2005
Haraway, Donna, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Feminist Studies: Vol. 14, No. 3, 1988
Krishnamurti, Jiddu, Freedom from the Known, Gollancz, 1969