SOME NOTES ON RAVISHMENT
Capricious Magazine 2013
what a relief to be nobody and hold your hand in the middle of the night
There is a discipline to falling out of love.
And another one for falling in.
And still another for stopping one’s self from falling in.
And yet another still for staying carefully in the hovering-in-between space whose shade extends, blurry-like and hazy, from the out-of one love and the maybe-in of another, maybe because that’s the hovering. And it takes a discipline to stay there.
These disciplines are not all the same. They do not weigh the same, they do not feel the same, they do not take hold with the same force or emerge as the same shape. You may be someone who finds one easy and another impossible. But the disciplines are all there and, like any discipline, each one can be learned. I know.
If it is September and you have somehow been gifted a portal out of a crushing past and into a strange warm land far away where agave blooms everywhere and there are palm trees and humming birds and almost always a deep cerulean sky up above and craggy brown mountains in the distance—if this is you and you have made such a narrow escape, you may need to cut the last ties by working with the discipline of falling out of love.
You will drive in your strange new car to your strange new job and you will write notes to yourself about what you have learned as you marvel at the fact that falling out of love is, for you, a discipline.
You will note that few songs on the radio sing of it—that most wallow in exactly the phase you are now learning to clamber out of. You will note that when you hear a certain piano intro and then a trembling woman’s voice croon the words I heard you will move your hand like lightning to the radio dial and press scan, a button which fast becomes your friend. You will put away huge numbers of your cds and skip large swathes of the tracks on those that remain. Music, you see, is not neutral.
You will never open the box of things your old lover gifted you, you will bury it deep in a borrowed closet and forget that it exists. When you wear clothes that she gave you that have become too integral to your wardrobe to now retire, you will not let your mind remember that she gave them to you. You will claim them as your own and refuse their history. You will laugh often and say yes to all invitations. You will not judge those who may try to woo you. On the contrary, you will cultivate gratitude for their kindnesses and their attention. You will not allow your mind to wander three thousand fantasy miles away to what your old lover and her new lover are doing or how they are feeling. You will not allow your mind to wander back to three months earlier or even before then to try and suss out when exactly the lies all started or how long it was that you lived in them. When your mind does wander, you will gently but strictly bring it back—you will say no, this is not good for you, this is a discipline and I know what’s best. You will not mention your old lover, ever, and when she is mentioned to you, you will smile politely and go to the bathroom or some other place where you can avoid further mention. You will never, ever play What Goes Around Comes Around—not the one by Justin Timberlake or the one by Lenny Kravitz—and allow yourself to think that the universe is a punishing place.
You will never, ever wish her ill.
You will never, ever wish for her apology or her regret.
You will never, ever do this; you will not do this.
There will be one indulgence. When it is night and you are driving with the windows down and hot air rushing in and you find yourself almost alone on the open road that is the freeway and Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball comes on the radio, you will allow yourself to turn it up as high as your tinny speakers go and you will screamsing along and you will let yourself taste your own tears and you will know deeply that this is an indulgence and a choice and not something to which you are being submitted, that this three minutes and forty-three seconds is something that somehow you are needing or wanting, for yourself. And this knowing will give you the space to let your mind wander to the strangeness of a woman’s voice singing a line that you know is All you ever did was wre-e-e-ck me but that sounds so much like All you ever did was ra-a-ape me. This will get you thinking about other things and will eventually lead you here, to some notes on ravishment.
This is the discipline of falling out of love.
But really it is a discipline of a different kind that interests me.
What calls me to it now is that hovering-in-between discipline, the one belonging to the strange and shadowy space that extends somewhere between the old and the new, between the no and the yes, between the once was and what could be and that has, as its foundation, a Maybe. A may be at its core.
There is a famous story of a scrivener who, when asked to perform a particular task (“...namely, to examine a small paper with me...”) replies to the consternation of the other, I would prefer not to. He utters it repeatedly: I would prefer not to. It is neither a refusal nor an acquiescence and much has been written on the strangeness of its teetering positionality. There is a famous philosopher who writes on contingency as being the capacity not to be, the power not to exist—a hovering between being and not-being, a something that wavers, balancing on many tiny points at once, waiting, teetering between coming into being and being forever wiped out of its possible existence, out of that particular moment in time when it might have emerged.
I am interested in that teetering.
And in the discipline of remaining there for as long as one possibly can: hovering, wavering—contingency—the capacity not to be.
If it is November and your life of many swerves has been dealt a new one in the form of a stranger whose smell is like nectar and whose eyes glimmer like yours do and you shock yourself by having the darkest longest nights tangled up in this human with few words but so much to show you, and you thought you would prefer not to but here you are and you thought you would prefer not to but here you are, then you are in the discipline of the hovering. And it will be tricky to stay here. If you are a sex-bonder, it will feel almost impossible. But there are ways. And you will learn them.
Certain things you intuit without being told: you do not sleep with her on weekdays. On weekdays, you work. When the glut of fucking comes on the weekends you rationalize it by telling yourself (and others) that you have nothing to say to this person but that the universe has surprised you by handing you a human whose smell you are hungry for and whose body makes you forget all things. You will rehearse this like a mantra: that you have nothing to say to her. When you are telling this story to yourself and to others, you will conveniently forget that before you knew her teeth, you knew her words and that you liked them. You will forget the private pleasures she gives you when she sends you songs that make you smile with familiarity and that, even from a distance, can make you sink into your skin. You will call what you are doing fucking—this is important—and you will speak of it as if it were not precious.
You will tell her over and over again that you are single; you will insist on this and bat away any worry that you might sound like a stubborn child. You will engage all other flirtations, you will continue to say yes to all invitations. You will not tell her the stories of your family. You will not tell her the stories of your loves. When she smiles gently and schools you with her honesty or with her kindness, you will not thank her or gush with gratitude. You will wonder often at what she will teach you that will hurt. You will wonder often at what she will teach you that you will take into the next lover, and the next one after that. You will imagine your ending with her often. You will not imagine staying and you will not imagine future. When you clutch her skin because you think you might disappear from the pleasures she is giving you in the darkness of the night, you will not speak her name. You will never ever speak her name. You will address her only as You and she will do the same.
Finally, because you do not tell these things to her, you will write notes to yourself about the little deaths she gives you. You will write about these shudders that make you tremble and shed the skins of lifetimes, like she is there for this, like she has come to you to shake you down, bullet you back into your body—and give you the space to see it all without smothering you into something that you are not. You will write notes on ravishment and you will try and put into words the strangeness of a term that means both violation and rapture, a taking that teeters between what is wanted and what no one wants at all.
You will write notes. They will read like this:
in the morning light of monday, i am sober and the sun is up and so is the shade that usually covers her window and i start to fuck her and she instructs me to enter from the side of her underwear instead of letting me just take them off (because we are in a hurry because it is a monday) and i bring her to a peak of some kind but she pulls my hand away and i am not sure whether she is stopping me or if she’s finished and we lie there, both aware that it is monday and that we already hesitated so protractedly that it is now nearly noon and that we should probably not be fucking but instead she seeks me out and smashes into me with her fingers, her breath on my face, her teeth clenching the skin of my arm as she takes me...and suddenly i am on my back and she is kneeling up and i think i have never been so open and i have never been so filled and there are flutters of pause but nothing that could possibly take a deep enough hold to stop me or slow me down and so it is that she brings me, rising, into a pleasure that makes me too feel as though we have crowned, like something has been blessed, reigns...and we are together, moving, and she is breathing like i am, moaning like i am, sighing like i am, making a space between us where pleasure lives—the joy of having holes and fingers and filling them and fucking them...
i lie back and for the first time in a long time, tears collect behind my eyes and i curl into her neckline so that i can see the freckles on her collarbone, each one, because this morning i do not want my tears to show, i do not know her well enough, and so i lie very still and then i slowly shut my eyelids closed to push the water back down and in that moment, i notice this: like dust, so fast kicked up, like sediment that has been there for eons, like when tiny particles float into a beam of light so that you can see clearly what usually is invisible, i see these tiny specks and they are fluttering. and i am surprised to realize that each one of these specks has a voice and that the voices clamor for my attention and they are clamoring this: you are too ugly for that pleasure, you moan too loudly, like an animal, your 36-year old lower belly jiggles when you are fucked in the worst, most unattractive way, your pleasure is disgusting, this person just had to witness it and surely now will be repelled, repulsed, your face is too big, your body too awkward—and the chorus goes on and on: a kind of self-flagellation that has shame, humiliation, the smallness of one’s pleasure or the bigness of it, maybe even generations of my women’s history, inheritance, at its core. but for the first time i am not shrouded in the stories. for the first time, lying here on a monday morning when i should have been at work but am instead curled up, post-fuck, into the collarbone of a stranger—on this morning, the voices do not smother me. they are simply dust particles kicked up and swarming and i watch them swarm—each single particle as it fluffs and flutters in the sunny air of the morning’s light, glinting. and i marvel at how, with voices such as these, taking pleasure such as ours is not easy, is perhaps even a radical act, a feminist one: queer sex between two strangers who sleep together and fuck and are figuring out what else is there and how to be...
and the world is a funny place to find one’s self in a desert full of light and sand and sky and space and sage green and nopales and agave and brush pines and fire warnings and somewhere in this borrowed house it is too late, the fire is swallowing up all pastness into the right now of it or of last night when she looked at me thickly, said she wanted to put her whole hand in me, then got up slowly from the bed, looking at me all the while, and got lube. our first time, fingers and our owness up until then. and i had to move the bed covers down, knowing i’d spray all over her and them like a fountain and we don’t live here and this house is her friend’s and i felt like i didn’t want to make anybody angry by ejaculating, still don’t totally understand how it’s not gross, this spurting sex i have all over me and this morning and this afternoon and this morning i realize i had dreams last night of wanting to become pregnant with her, by her hand shoved so far up my cunt that i can feel her like she is gripping at my heart and yesterday when i walked with my back towards her house and i saw a vision of myself bringing food down to a lower sitting platform, i was picturing bringing food to my own kids like it might have been and this morning after i told her about the pregnancy dream we slept again and when she woke up she told me she’d had sad dreams and i asked why for a long time but i knew the answer already because my stories are insidious enough to slip quietly into other people’s dreams and i knew this and she told me that she’d been with someone else and i drove up in an escalade with tinted windows and a fitted on and she knew immediately that she’d hurt me and she felt sad because it hadn’t been what she’d wanted to do at all and she tells me, her head buried in my neck, that all i said was, that’s not cool, M., that’s not cool.
and when the sun goes down beyond the jagged ridge of pillowy stone hills, the temperature here drops maybe eighteen degrees. maybe.
on a street that slopes sharply upwards and then down and has been called a terrace for the one who is crowned, there is a corner house with thick wooden stairs leading up that are pock-marked and stubby like fingers and they look like they might have been left over from the beams laid down to cross the tracks that trained the railways and now they have been cut up and stubbed down here, all higgledy piggledy and my heels tap them and click clack up their craggy surface to the door that my lover leaves open for me when i come so that i can find the back bedroom so dark there is always a candle glowing and otherwise no light hardly air at all in the room and there i recognize her—when i cannot see her face, when i can only smell her smells and feel her skin and where she takes fleshfuls of my arm inside her mouth and leaves me with purple black bruises that eventually crown a yellow ring of healing above their blue and black, a crown i smile at in the mirror when i am alone because she has made me her crowned one from the wolf bites her pleasure takes.
then riding her huge cock too big really for my hole but she said, you’ll get used to it and i took it like a champion and fucked her besides, surprising...and that was the first time i cried that she could see, heaving a release in tears and breath, embarrassed and then thankful for her no-words. no words at all. just a holding. and then making out and then fucking all again but with fingers this time and then we made a snack and then we went to sleep, i think.
simone’s: what a relief to be nobody and hold your hand in the middle of the night
and so it is. i have become a chronicler of orgasms.
These are some notes you will write to yourself as you hurtle from one discipline to another and sometimes back again as you most assuredly shape-shift from a was into a may be.
And then your friend whose name means lover of wisdom and who you love because she is wise will suggest that you write a piece on boundaries and you will think to yourself only of sex, because that is what you are thinking about—or of fucking, as you have determined to call it. And it will interest you greatly as you watch this fucking you are doing fuel your thinking that there was a time when English was a primordial soup that was still being siphoned out, one dialect or strain or phrase from another and you will find that there is a root sound, an essential link, and it is rabh or labh (the book you rely on is careful to point out that, once, little distinction was made between the two) and it means to take, seize, and in the soup are words that will surprise you. Syllable is one—letters taken together. Narcolepsy is another—to be taken or seized by sleep. Raptor is another—the taking birds, the ones who seize. And then come the ones you know: rape, rapture, rave, ravish, enrapture, ravage, rapacious—all sliding in and out of one another before they are each their own.
Desire is a seizer. She takes by force. To stave off her advances requires the strictest of disciplines. And, too, the strictest discipline is required if you are to open to the way that she will ravish you. Ravage you. To hover in between these two pulses of yes and no, to teeter prolonged in the realm of sheer contingency will feel impossible. But it too is a discipline. And it can be learned.
I am nobody but I know.