Arioso

by Stephanie on December 17, 2009

Sometimes in this sultry climate, when the words won’t come, in between the storm-shadow, the rumbling of thunder, the pouring rain outside and the drumming of water on the shower curtain, my concentration begins to slip. I know it when it starts, the way you know the scent of home. And then there’s that hot rush from below my belly, sliding into my blood, slipping through me like a drug, hurtling along my spine. And my heart pushes, urgent against its cage, and I suck at my teeth, my bottom lip, my tongue, and I think of a train ride home, my skin still singing from the song of his, and sticky fingers, a sticky mouth, birds’ nests in my hair—my mother used to call them that, and I’d see hundreds of shapes pouring out of the tangles and into the sky, like the geese shrieking against the burning sunset—and my arms tingling, legs shaking, hands trembling: here, now, you. I was surprised the whole carriage couldn’t taste my sweat.

Or of oranges plucked from a tree at 3am, spitting rain, tram tracks and electric lights, and another woman’s bed. (I never told him, but I found myself then.)

Or of those who didn’t want to talk about it but preferred instead to talk it out; who wanted to hear the words expelled from my mouth, staccato blasphemy: ‘Fuck, suck, cock, cunt. Does that make you feel good?’ (Face forward, kitten. I want you on your knees.)

And there again—bee-stings on my cheeks and things rough to touch, like skin on bark, a man’s chin inside my thigh—a dirty angel face, a beautiful beast. (When I draw, it’s trees: haunted, leaf-bare skeletons, curling branches. There’s more in my head, but that’s what comes out.)

And then there were those stories that made girls like me believe that love and sex made you feel the same way; that a declaration changed the world; that a couple of words were comparable to being pressed up against a wall with a tongue in your ear. Or limbs and fingers and hair, gasps and laughter, knotted together in damp sheets. Or binding someone’s arms because that’s what they asked for. Or coming home after a sleepless night with sore breasts and bruising between your legs, but still so desperately wanting, wanting, wanting, and not able to touch yourself for the pain.

Or was an orgasm the moment when the universe shifted? An escape from yourself; an embrace of yourself. A little bit of another person. A little death; a little life. Rebellion. (Touch me, and we’ll see.)

And every time I think I could make a choice to last a lifetime, I grow some more, learn some more, see the possibilities expand. And sometimes I think I might find enough comfort in a glass of red wine and a drunken stumble into a stranger’s arms—maybe a little taller, a little older, a little further away—because after all, it’s mostly chemistry, and everyone looks good in the dark. But even when it means nothing, it carries weight. Perhaps no more than the heat of your breath—just enough to maintain the push—but weight, nevertheless. Minute momentum.

So I won’t close myself off and I won’t hide, but one way or another I know what I’ll be left with, which is exactly the same as I’ve always had: the world in my head, an open window, and a cool breeze on swollen skin.

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