The days are getting shorter now and the nights longer. It’s dark when I get up for work in the morning and there’s hardly a trace of the sun left in the sky when I get home. It’s getting too cold for the jacket that I wear, but I’m not ready to give it up because I love it and it fits me like a glove. The wind comes along and I turn in on myself and I like the struggle against the cold.
I said goodbye this week to Laila, who is on adventures of her own on the west coast. I said goodbye to Aurora too. The seasons have changed and summer is gone and with it the days of loving from a distance. It felt heavy to let them go, but it was the right thing to do for them and for myself. I know who I am and it’s not someone who can love part time from afar. I know who they are too and I’ve no expectation of flowers blooming out of season.
Veronica and I went on a little road trip today, leaving work early together. We drove far outside of the city talking about sex and love and how removed the golden fields that we passed felt from the part of the city we live in. I snapped pictures of pink leaves against grey skies and I had no doubt that summer was over. I hugged her goodbye before I slid out of her car and into the rain. Cars were lined up, stopped in traffic at the corner near my apartment and I looked at our her though my own reflection in the glass for half a moment after the door closed between us. I crossed the street behind her and her car hadn’t moved when I looked back over my shoulder.
I took the elevator up the handful of floors and glanced out of the window just outside of it when the doors opened. The sky was dark, the sun having gone, but stretched out below me lights flickered and glowed for as far as I could see. Autumn isn’t a day on a calendar to me, it’s a feeling like the one that I had today. It’s rain against the windows, leaves falling from the trees and the appreciation for the light of day when you realize it doesn’t linger for nearly as long any more. Seasons change and summer is over, but I always knew that it wouldn’t last forever.
The five off us sat in the dimly lit bar, the walls of which were lined with rows and rows of books. Mila carefully folded the sweater that Madison gave her to wear so that she didn’t get it dirty, exposing her tanned, tattooed shoulders. The shirt she wore underneath it was bright yellow and more fit for the California sun than it was for autumn in eastern Europe. She wore knee high socks and tiny black shorts, showing off tattoos which all seemed to have a story behind them. She speaks slowly and carefully at times and I found myself hanging on her words because her insights and comments were clever.
Mila is a beautiful girl and I get the feeling that she’s looked at constantly but listened to less intently, so she fucks with people a little bit just to see who is paying attention and thus who is worth paying attention to. She made strange statements and weird references about puppets in shop windows and dystopian movie-esque strategies for finding the friend we were looking for. There was a darkness to her humor that borders on sardonic and every comment she quietly made drew me in a little more.
We’d met her in the hotel lobby to get a cab and when Mila joined our group I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’d seen her around for the past few days, but I wasn’t exactly sure who she was or what she did. We all climbed into a van together with seats facing each other and I sat opposite Mila, watching the streets from my backward facing position and listening to the comments she made as the old city slipped away. The driver dropped us in a spot where we were supposed to meet a friend, but in finding ourselves under a bridge rather than on top of it, we had to find him before we could cross it. Standing on the cobblestone near the bridge is where I really saw Mila for the first time.
The four of us found our way on to the bridge and found Sam under one of the arches that soared above it. Together we walked the length of it, crossing over the river looking at the old city as we weaved through tourists, getting to know each other with questions along the way. We stopped for a picture beneath one of the bridges arches and the sun fell slowly from the sky, burning the clouds a bright pink as the day slipped away. I looked up at the arches that towered over head and when I brought my eyes back down to the bridge, she was looking at me, turning away when my eyes met hers.
We stumbled across the book-lined bar while looking for a place to eat and stopped inside. Sliding into a booth, I ordered a Makers Mark Manhattan on the rocks and Mila ordered Becherovka, letting me have a taste of it after describing it to me. It had a hint of anise to it, which is a flavor I very much enjoy but rarely share in common with others so it was another reason to appreciate Mila.
Mila is polyamorous and has a partner that she is very much in love with on the west coast. She’d spent the day with an industry friend and I’d spotted them holding hands on more than one occasion as we walked through the old city, but it felt less like there were boundaries in conversation and flirtation and more like we were all having interconnected moments.
I was getting to see Madison outside of work in a way that I really enjoyed: I appreciated her friendship already and in a lot of ways she reminds me of my little sister. Brian and I talked about the people that we both knew in common in the industry and I talkedto Mila about movies, rattling off ones we thought each other should see. I listened as Sam talked about being excited to go home to his wife and kids after so many days away from them and liked the bashful smile that crept onto his face when he said that he couldn’t wait to be home with them.
We said goodbye to Sam and the four of us that remained hiked up the hill looking for the old castle, getting lost along the way because we were more interested in the conversations we were in than in sightseeing. Madison and Brian talked ahead of us, Mila and I trailed behind just a bit.
We talked about polyamory and how it worked for her. She hadn’t asked yet what my situation was, but she openly shared that she and her partner were very much in love and that one day she wanted to have kids with him. She told me that it wasn’t always easy to navigate the complications of seeing other people and she admitted that she sometimes tested his patience a bit.
“He puts up with a lot from me” she said, sounding grateful that he did.
“You don’t want to have kids, I take it?” she asked, turning the question toward me.
“I do, with the right person who also” I said, admitting it out loud a little shyly. “Do you?”.
“I don’t want kids just for the sake of having them, I want them because I’m with a partner that is so special/great that I want another of them in the world” she answered. She spoke about life, love and relationships with such candor and related to one another so instantly that I found myself wanting to take her hand in mine as we walked and talked.
“So there isn’t anyone that you are seeing?” she asked, sounding a little surprised and maybe a little sad at the thought of it as we stopped on the side of the hill, looking out at the lights and an abandoned Starbucks that looked out of place and out of time.
“There are two people actually” I answered and I thought then of both Aurora and Laila. Mila’s lips turned up at the corners in a smile and we were quiet for a moment.
We talked about the cold north where I live and she smiled when I told her what February was like here.
“I want to come to visit in the dead of winter” she said, and I could picture the snow swirling around her when she did. I could imagine the winter wind catching her long dark hair, making it dance as it collected flakes of snow. I could imagine the cold all around us and the color it would bring to her cheeks. The look in her eyes made me feel like she was imagining those things too.
Summer seemed to resurface in September and then vanish again overnight. The unseasonably warm weather broke last weekend when fall finally arrived and I’ve been enjoying cooler evenings this week. I sat in front of the open window last night, thinking about how I’d spent the past few months and I realized that it was nothing like I might have imagined for myself. I lived my life very differently this summer than I have in the past and with the turning of the seasons I’m looking back and looking forward, gauging where I’ve been and where I’m headed next.
Aurora reappeared and is now a part of my life quite unlike anything I expected. We’ve gone from hating each other to being wary of each other to suddenly being fixtures in each others lives. I’m not sure what the future holds for us and we are both reluctant to define anything, but we are happy to be a part of each others lives again. She called on me the other day after having a mishap with another lover and I was happy to be there for her as she is for me when I’m feeling troubled. I think we’ve both surprised each other with an unexpected tenderness between us after so many years of tension.
Hannah and Harper where both gone as abruptly as they appeared in my life. Hannah I knew wouldn’t be able to live with what I do for a living, so that came as no surprise. Nor was it that the thin thread holding Daniel, Harper and I together would snap once Laila was gone. The damage was done the night of Laila’s going away and despite one last-ditch effort to fix the tension that bloomed out of it, there wasn’t enough reason for us to do anything other than say goodbye.
Laila moved away just as we were really growing close and though we’ve spoken every day since, I can feel the miles between us. We text or Skype as often as we can, but she’s off living a different life in a different place and it isn’t always easy to find the time for each other three times zones apart.
Arianna and I settled into friendship, supporting each other via text as we both have our own adventures. Neither of us was really all that ready to start seeing someone seriously when we met; she is unsure about continuing with polyamory and I’ve been seeing other people. We aren’t in the same place in our lives, but we can understand and relate to each others situations which makes for some fantastic conversations that are incredibly open and honest. We have plans to see each other this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.
There is someone else that I’ve been sort of seeing too. Someone that I’m cautiously optimistic about, but haven’t yet written a word about yet. Someone that makes sense in my life and who is beautiful and adventurous and strange in just the right way.
“I’ve got a girl for you” Veronica texted me from Greece while they were on vacation together. I was a little reluctant, but Veronica knows me so well and I trust her implicitly. I might not have given the time of day to someone else wanting to fix me up, but I listened to her and I’m glad that I did because It’s her friend that I’ve sort of been seeing.
Veronica’s friend and I have gone on a few dates and messaged each other to share stories and pictures of our travels while we were both away. She curled up next to me and fell asleep on my couch while we watched a movie the day before she left and it felt comfortable and right.
The one cause for concern that I have with her is that while she knows what my role is presently in adult entertainment, we’ve yet to have the talk about my time performing. I’m not certain how well that will be received and I’ve gotten the impression that she might have made relationship choices before based on the connections to politics her family. Veronica has told me to worry about it later, but I’ll be happier when it’s out in the open because I’ve been down roads like this one before.
I didn’t lose sight of myself during the course of this summer, but I’ve made an effort to be more aware of the way that I perceive and deal with many things. I needed a little distance from the recent past in order to have better perspective on myself and what I needed and wanted of others. In the year before I found myself guarding a wounded heart in a way that wasn’t good for me or those around me. I became the rock that waves break against, when all that I really wanted was the ocean.
Here I find myself in late September, thinking about the blur of summer days that are now gone. I’m waiting for the leaves to fall, watching them as they turn red and gold before the branches that they grow from let them go. I can feel a change of season coming in me too.
Aurora came to visit over the long holiday weekend. It’d only been a few weeks before that we’d reconnected in New Orleans and she took the first opportunity that she could to come and see me.
She arrived late on a Thursday night and I took Friday off, making my three-day weekend into four so that we could spend time together. Storms were delaying flights the night she arrived and she landed late in the evening after a long day of travel. She sent me a message from the cab line to tell me that she’d be seeing me soon.
September always brings the notion that summer is over, but standing outside waiting for her cab to arrive, it felt like it hadn’t gone anywhere. Clouds hung low in the night sky, illuminated by the lights of the city and the few minutes that I waited stretched on because of the anticipation. My street was all but empty and I spotted the cab from a few blocks away when it turned the corner and headed slowly towards me. I caught a glimpse of her in the backseat through the front windshield as the car pulled over to the curb and let her out.
I took her bags for her and hugged her tightly before we headed upstairs to my apartment. She told me about her day and I told her about mine. She showered when we were upstairs and climbed into bed with me, falling asleep on my chest even though she was fighting to stay awake just a little bit longer.
Her visit was full of interesting, vibrant moments but there was one in particular that we were both waiting for, both wanted, both needed…
I dreamt of you last night. We were in my old apartment, years before I ever actually knew you. I was sitting on the couch and your were laying across it, your head in my lap, looking up at me. I kissed you on the forehead and brushed your hair out of your face, pushing it back behind your ear which I ran my fingertips along the edge of before squeezing the lobe gentle between my forefinger and my thumb. The light outside seemed like autumn and the small lamp in the corner of the room made your eyes sparkle in its dim light. You looked at me and you were happy and I was happy too.
I’d slept for just a little over an hour in two days when I got home from New Orleans and Laila’s going away party was just a few hours after my touchdown. I was in a haze as I spoke to the woman next to me on the plane, as I collected my bags, as I climbed in a cab to go back to my apartment.
When I got home, I emptied my suitcase and started a load of laundry, counting the number of munutes before I’d have to leave again. I had just enough time to shut my eyes for half of an hour and laying across my bed in the afternoon sun, I fell asleep fast and hard. I hit snooze twice when my alarm went off and then forced myself out of bed and into the shower, where I found that my hot water heater was out again. The spray of cold water helped wake me up as I shivered and washed away the feeling of airports and travel.
Laila texted me that she was running late for her own party and that she’d meet me at my apartment on the way to Daniels and we could go together from there. We grabbed a cab and caught up on the way, not having seen each other in a week.
Laila had been gone the weekend before and was leaving again the next day on another short trip for a friend’s wedding. We had just that night to see each other before she left town for the weekend and then a couple of days when she got back on Sunday before she left again, possibly for good.
Laila is moving to San Francisco to take classes in coding and she’s had this plan for almost as long as I’ve known her. She might be gone for a few months or she might be gone for good, it all depends on how well things work out for her there. She’ll be staying with another one of her partners while she’s there figuring it all out.
We were the first to arrive at Daniel’s and the three of us set to work in the kitchen chopping and peeling vegetables for dinner. Laila was making a vegetarian shepherds pie, so I chopped beets and sweet potatoes while she sliced cucumbers; all of it happening in the warmth of the kitchen while I moved back and forth between states of lucidity and what felt like dreaming. The sound of the knife on the cutting board, the whirring of fan blades and their soft voices speaking sweetly to one another as summer crept through the open door all made my head swim just a little.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on another continent or something?” Harper asked, being the next to arrive.
“I was in New Orleans and I just got back tonight” I explained and she was gone again.
I found myself alone in the kitchen for a moment, slicing vegetables and thinking that it might be the last time that I saw any of the people who were there. Laila was the common thread and in my sleepless state it felt a bit like that thread was unravelling.
Others arrived, none of whom I’d really met before and all of them were colourful, interesting people. It can certainly be said that Laila’s life is as interesting and vibrant as she is. Everyone gathered in the kitchen to talk as Laila and Daniel made dinner and laid out the things her friends had brought for the pot luck.
The topic of conversation moved from sci-fi to philosophy to porn and in some moments I was too quiet, while in others I spoke too much. In my sleepless state I stepped carelessly on something Daniel was saying while giving my insight on a company that I don’t particularly care for in adult entertainment. I felt at times like I was dreaming and was often speaking before I realized that I was.
It was a good night and as people said their goodbye’s to Laila, I stayed in the kitchen and started to clean up not wanting to be in the way. I rinsed dishes and cleared the table as the conversation continued in the next room. While standing at the sink, I saw Harper coming back into the kitchen in search of another drink and I tuned off the water, listening to the drip slow as she approached.
She picked up the spatula and offered me a taste of the shepherd’s pie, which I hesitated to take, before giving in and taking a bite.
“You have a lot of shame, doesn’t you?” she asked and I laughed.
I couldn’t tell if she really believed it or she was trying to get me to argue to the contrary, but the fact remained that I felt no shame standing there with her.
We went together into the next room, but Laila and Daniel seemed to be deep in conversation, so Harper turned me around and we headed back into the kitchen.
“Let’s let them have their moment” she said.
I passed her and went back to the table to wipe it down and when I turned to go back to the sink, she attempted to get me to stop what I was doing by putting her hands on my chest and pushing me back toward the door. I let her move me at first before I dug in and stopped her. She was tipsy and I didn’t want things to get out of hand, so I was trying not to be too rough. She taunted me once, twice as she pushed against me and then I had her wrists in my hands and was backing her across the room until we hit the washing machine. She fought against me, insisting she could overcome me and then told me she hated that I was stronger than she thought I would be. We were incredibly close and the more she struggled the tighter I held her, pinning both of her wrists in one hand.
“I’m not going to kiss you!” she proclaimed.
“Who said that was even on the table? That’s awfully presumptuous of you” I answered, scolding softly but meaning it.
“I saw the look in your eyes”. she said, though she was doing her best not to let hers meet mine.
Whether I wanted to kiss her or not was irrelevant because we were at Laila’s going away and I was standing in her boyfriend’s kitchen. Being in an open relationship doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries and I wasn’t going to test them just then, no matter how many of my buttons Harper pushed.
“Let me go please” she said and I did immediately. “Thank you” she quietly but firmly replied.
She eyed me with smiling contempt and I wondered what it was that she was hoping to provoke me into doing or if she even knew at all. It felt like there was a reason, but perhaps in my exhaustion I was looking too hard for one.
“You aren’t switchy at all, are you?” she asked.
“No” I responded and she looked a little disappointed.
Daniel came back into the room then and I used it as an excuse to go find Laila. Standing in the doorway to Laila’s bedroom watching her pack, Harper passed behind me more than once, patting me on the top of the head condescendingly on one pass, so I turned around and did the same to her. Laila shot us a curious look and then the moment was past.
Laila gathered up her things and we were ready to leave, so she went to say goodbye to Daniel and Harper. Harper left them to it, walking toward me in the doorway and while Laila and Daniel were behind her, she smacked me in the face before giving me a hug goodbye.
I laughed, finding it entirely ridiculous that she’d done it and I could see over her should the look of uncertainty on Daniel’s face about what had just happened; he’d heard it but not seen it. The warmth of her hand print on my face and the vague ringing in my ears were bringing me back to the present and while I wouldn’t dream of letting most people get away with something like that, I smiled at Harper and she smiled back. I wrapped my arms around her in goodbye and she felt waifish and ethereal.
I was dreaming on my feet then; I felt wide awake but nothing seemed real. I hugged Daniel goodbye too and Laila and I headed back to my place to spend the night. The next afternoon she was catching a bus to go to a friend’s wedding and the plan was to spend the night and the next morning together before she left. There weren’t many days left for us and I was grateful for the time that remained.
On the cab ride home I sat close to Laila, watching as the car cut quickly through the streets. I looked at houses and street signs and lights as it occurred to me that I’d started the day in an entirely different place, surrounded by different people and living what felt like a vastly different life. The car windows were down and the breeze was in my face as little drops of rain splattered me and I found everything terribly amusing just then. Laila took my hand in hers and I looked at her beautiful smile, happy to know her, happy to have her, happy to be with her.