fucking hell

I have been thinking, more than I think is safe, about a man I had sex with before leaving the bay. As I left his apartment, he kissed the top of my head. I hugged him around the middle. 

He is 35 years old.

“That’s quite young,” he said when I told him my own age, 26, over drinks. He looked a little like he was about to choke, forced the remainder of his alcohol down the appropriate pipe. I shrugged, probably, said something flippant. I thought about Matthew, at the time we dated, 28 to my 20. That distance felt greater, more prescient, because I felt young, then. There was a lot he did not share, presumably because he respected my innocence. I was aware there was a lot I did not know. 

I am still aware there is a lot I do not know. I do not feel young now, though. I do not think much about me is still innocent.

“She sits here, with this soft voice, legs crossed. She is not as sweet as she makes herself out to be,” Yanna says one night after I have moved back home. She is a little lit. We are all a little lit, and our tongues are thus looser than they would otherwise be. The thing is, since moving home, I have been working hard on not making myself out to be anything. I am used to living my life in other people’s heads, fully and truly believing that “self-awareness” meant being aware of the version of myself that existed in other people’s minds, molding myself into whichever version of me I thought they would find most palatable.

“No wonder you’re so tired all the time,” my brother said once, after watching me interact with a good friend, far more pious than me. At church, I was one Cam. At work or with the homies, another. I did this shapeshifting intrinsically, without much regard for how I felt or the toll the shifts took on me.

“You get better at that sort of thing,” the man said, shortly after I’d recounted my tales of woe, all the tiny endings that finally amounted to my leaving, “as you get older.” He was talking about advocating for myself, I think, telling people “no” and “fuck off,” when necessary, but it felt like he was saying, “You get better at being yourself, as you get older.”

The realization, when I moved home, that self-awareness is about understanding myself — my mind and my habits and my triggers — not how I appear to anyone else, was revelatory, in a lot of ways shattering. Here I am at the beginning, again. Here are all the things I still do not know.

“That’s the nice thing about Oakland,” the man said, “everyone’s a bit broken.” I do not remember what I said to make him respond this way. I thought of Judas on our first date, him similarly answering something I’d said with “I’ve struggled with depression a bit the last year, too,” me similarly not having any clue what I’d said to elicit that response.

Is my pain that obvious? I wondered. The sudden awareness that it must be, of course, it must be, alarmed the hell out of me. I thought I was better at hiding than that. I thought I was being who you wanted me to be. Then he kissed me and I wasn’t thinking about being anyone or anything.

“You’re sort of a nervous person and you mumble probably a bit more than you know.” How many times have I trailed off when I thought no one was listening? How many times have I cut myself off when I didn’t want to be heard? How many times have I shrunk when I didn’t want to be seen?

“It’s actually a good thing I’m leaving,” I tell Jacob during our last porch sit, one day after sleeping with this man and one day before leaving the bay. “He would fuck my life up and I would let him, gladly.”

“I don’t think anyone’s ever thought that about me,” Jacob says. I have seen the numbers his Twitter pics do and know for certain this cannot be true, but I appreciate the melodrama, his commitment to the bit. We are eating Dreamsicles on my back patio. The moment already feels like a memory.

“We’ve got a few things in common, it seems,” the man said. I was straddling him on the couch, somehow having moved from beside him to atop him without consciously choosing to do so. I kissed him between words and he let me. “We’ve got. A. Few. Things. In common.” Each word was delicious. I enjoyed his patience more than I think is safe. 

Meatta says that I’m “good at cosplaying an elder.” My best friends in the bay are older than me by a decade, at least. I remember sitting on the patio a few months ago, a friend telling me that maybe she’s a bit more dependent on alcohol than she’s wanted to think, me running back the last two years, the days that turned to evenings, the evenings that turned to days, utterly unshocked. Unphased. She poured another cocktail. I took another drink. In that moment, I understood that we are the same. Here is a trait to understand, mitigate.  

“Alcoholism,” the man said. Having accepted this truth about me, it felt less jarring for him to see. I had just downed my third glass of prosecco. Hedonism, I thought. I kissed him. Perversion. He sucked my upper lip. My hands were in his hair. He lost his train of thought or pretended to. I enjoyed every bit of him more than I think is safe.

“I know I’m brilliant,” he said, in response to something I said about him being self-deprecating. We had somehow made it back to bed. It did not feel cocky, him saying this, because it’s true.

“I know you do.”

“What can you hope to gain by texting him?” Chamomille, my best and oldest friend, asks when I am back home. He is still in the bay. She is one of a consortium of Capricorns who love me and plot to ensure I make sound decisions. I often see their logic and rebuke them anyway, to their dismay.

“I know this is cliche,” I tell her, “but I am very turned on by intellect. I want to climb inside his head. I want to lick his brain.”

“I want to follow you on every profile,” he said the morning after we slept together, my second to last day in the bay. We were doing the scroll, me having made and presented coffee, him having assembled himself into a semblance of a person. I smiled. I enjoy being seen by him more than I think is safe.

I text him when I am home and he is still in the bay. I am too anxious to be myself. He is not the person I have fabricated. The conversation is underwhelming, disappointing even, almost. He tells me who he is and lets me decide whether to believe him. 

I believe him.

I think this is safe.

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