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.
Monthly Archive: August 2016
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.
“Inside I still feel like the 23 year old that wanted to be your fuck toy” she said, her eyes a little wild and a little lost.
We have a long often tumultuous history, Aurora and I. We’ve spent as much time being enemies as we have being friends and only in the last few years have we been able to stand to be in each others presence.
Six or seven years ago, we had a very strong attraction and Aurora first presented the idea to her boyfriend at the time that she wanted their relationship to be open and more specifically, that she had an interest in me. Admittedly at the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about polyamory and the situation imploded spectacularly when (I learned much later on) her boyfriend gave his permission to her and then told me something entirely different. I felt betrayed and misled by Aurora, particularly because her boyfriend was a friend. He gave me the impression that she’d been dishonest and I was furious with her about it. She got the impression that I’d just played a game to see if I could get her to do it and she hated me too.
New Orleans is a small place and when you have the same circle of friends, it can feel even smaller. There was a palpable tension in the air after that and we couldn’t stand to be around each other. We were all in a band together and I stopped going to performances when I knew she’d be there. When we were forced to be in the same room, the animosity was undeniable and one or the other of us would find a reason to leave as soon as possible.
A few years ago while I was visiting New Orleans, we ran into each other and agreed to meet and talk. It was then that we discovered that we might both have been mislead by the same person and that we’d wasted years loathing each other. Even then, we were both a little reluctant to believe it and we harbored some distrust that would take us until recently to let go of. There was a sense of danger in talking to her that meant we kept a respectable distance while we decided if we really could trust one another again. I didn’t always mention to her that I was coming to town on some of my previous trips to New Orleans and I only told her last-minute that I’d be there this trip, feeling that maybe it was time to really put the past behind us.
She messaged me on Facebook days before my trip and we added each other as friends there, eventually trading phone numbers so we could text instead. She offered me a lift from the airport, but I declined, not sure I was be ready to see her and wanting to get acclimated to being back in New Orleans for at least a few days before I did. It wasn’t until the day before I supposed to leave that we finally made plans to see one another and even then I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect.
We agreed to meet for lunch at a Mediterranean place on Frenchman street and I took something of a farewell walk through the French Quarter on my way to see her. It was hot outside, even with the overcast skies, and I could smell the rain looming somewhere in the distance. I hadn’t seen her in almost two years when I spotted her through the window, standing close to the door. Her hair was shorter than when I’d seen her last and it has vibrant pink streaks in it now. Being face to face to her the familiar feeling of danger crept up on me but it was accompanied by fascination, which I hadn’t let myself feel for her in years.
She was wearing a shirt that hung long enough to nearly eclipse her tiny shorts and cowboy boots that seemed a colourful contrast to her pink hair. Aurora is a curious mixture of brash and vulnerable; she rarely holds back when speaking to me, even if she makes herself blush with the things that come out of her mouth. She often looks at me with equal parts want and contempt and I enjoy it. The look on her face when she saw me seemed determined, though I was unsure what of just then.
We took a seat at a far table and quickly found the playful tone of conversation that we’d shared in the past. There was a hint of trepidation behind it all, but also a feeling like things had changed, become unstuck and could move forward. We were deciding to trust each other as we sat there, even if it hadn’t yet proven wise to do so. Looking across the table at one another, the tension between us felt like it’d switched from push to pull. We flirted a bit and then she rolled her eyes at me as if she didn’t yet believe that I meant it.
“This is going to be like all those other times when you get me turned on and then don’t do anything, isn’t it?” she said, and I laughed, because we do have a long history of tension without payoff. All the buildup we had years ago was destroyed by a misunderstanding and though that was a long time ago, I didn’t feel her question was unfair.
“Want a lift to the airport?” she offered and I accepted. We agreed to meet at the friend’s apartment that I was staying at, because I needed to pack up and say goodbye to them before leaving. The we parted, we hugged goodbye and I had a feeling that she had something planned for the ride there.
She picked me up in her SUV and announced that we had a bit of time to kill, asking me where to go. I knew she already had a plan so I put the decision on her and we headed to her apartment. There really wasn’t much extra time before my flight, but I agreed to it, wanting to see how things would play out.
We pulled up in front of her apartment and sat inside the car for a moment when she told me we didn’t have time for games today and invited me inside. She was forward and also uncertain and I hadn’t decided myself just then how far I was willing to let things go.
She seemed nervous and a bit out of sorts as she led me inside, apologizing for the mess. She kicked off her boots and walked across the floor in mismatched socks, her shirt nearly hiding her tiny shorts and giving the impression that she’d already started to undress. She stopped in the middle of the room and faced me; I put my arms around her and all those times we almost kissed but didn’t were behind us.
We sat together on the deep leather couch in the middle of the dimly lit room, only having met a couple of hours before. In front of us a woman with dark flawless skin and long hair straddled the wooden pony; her wrists were tied to the front of it and the tail that plugged her trailed out behind her. The man she was with touched her gently before starting to spank her and I alternated between watching them and watching Veda’s reaction to what was happening.
Ian was convinced that Veda was my type and suggested that we go to see her at the strip club she was dancing at before we headed to Kinky Salon. In the upstairs VIP bar, Veda joined us for a drink and as is tradition with Ian when I visit New Orleans, he paid for a lap dance. Veda led me to the back and danced for a handful of forgettable strip club songs but what kept catching my attention was the collar with the lock on the front of it that she wore and I found myself wondering as she danced if there was any merit to it. The timer counted down and when the last song ended she stood and faced me.
“Thank you for being a willing participant in that lap dance!”.
“I like your collar” I responded.
Veda is clever and I have a feeling she takes a good deal of pleasure in seeing how much sarcasm she can pass off as sincerity. She has a beautiful smile that probably blinds most to the wild that hides behind it and I’d be willing to bet she leaves a lot of people feeling conflicted and confused by the way that she speaks to them.
After the dance, we told her we were going to a play party at Kinky Salon and she immediately expressed interest in coming with us. Ian paid the fee so she could leave the club early and we met her at a dive bar around the corner so she wouldn’t be seen leaving with us. I saw her through the doorway in street clothes looking like a very different person than the one that I’d met and I liked the contrast.
We took a cab to her place so she could get changed into something appropriate for the event and she asked opinions about what she should wear. When we got to her place Ian and I stood outside in the humid night air waiting for her to change and when she came back, she was wearing the tight red dress and black heels that I’d voted for. She climbed into the back of the cab next to me and we were on our way.
I’d been to Kinky Salon before, the organizer being a friend who always extends an invitation. When he found out that I would be in town for this event, it didn’t take much to convince me that Ian and I should at least stop by. Veda wanting to come along seemed in keeping of the experiences I’ve had of them in the past and I was happy to have her with us. We arrived just before midnight and were given a tour of the venue.
We grabbed a drink and went back to the room that Veda and I both seemed interested in, Ian having gone out to smoke before joining us on the leather couch watching the spanking over the wooden pony. Behind us a woman moaned and the three of us turned to see what was happening. She was tied down to a bench with her legs spread, wearing nothing only rope, with a vibrator being pressed between her legs by her partner.
Veda raised her eyebrows and said that she’d come hoping to feel something. She said she felt nothing at all lately and she wanted something that would make her feel alive, but the only thing that she felt watching people was envy that nothing excited her the way those moments excited them.
I listened to her tell me about the things she’d been doing that had made her feel nothing and a song came to mind as she spoke, the lyrics “watching me is like watching the fire take your eyes from you” running though my head as I watched her lips form the word ‘nothing’.
Her knees were turned toward mine and her hands were clenched in her lap as she watched the spanking happening in front of her. We’d only just met, but I got the impression that it isn’t that she doesn’t feel, it’s that she doesn’t feel in moderation. There is something about her that is very all or nothing and I watched the walls inside of her climb as we sat there in the dark.
“What does make you feel alive?” I asked her, but it was too late, they were already up.
“Being choked to within an inch of my life. Sex, while it’s happening.” she said, without the slightest hint of enthusiasm.
The scene in front of us came to an end and we wandered through the halls, peeking into rooms as we passed. In one of them there were people playing with electricity and that caught Veda’s eye so we stopped to watch for a moment. A man kissed a woman and I could see little sparks in the dark as their lips touched, the current passing through him to her.
Nearby were three rooms with sheer curtains and we peeked into each of them on our way down the hall. The people inside of them were tangled together and some of them looked back at us, giving me the impression for an instant of not knowing who was the watcher and who was the watched.
When we left the party, Ian caught a cab home and Veda and I made plans to go elsewhere.
“Make sure you look after her” Ian said before we parted.
“I’ll look after him“ Veda chimed in response.
I wasn’t sure she’d seen me waving hello as she passed behind me, so I turned to put my drink down on the bar and felt her arms slip around me from behind. I turned to face her and wrapped my arms around her too, both of us squeezing tight.
Cécile and I have known each other for years and have spent time together in both Amsterdam and New Orleans. She’s very direct the way that the Dutch are sometimes known to be, often changing subjects without segue, but she’s always warm and always sincere. I think sometimes people don’t know quite how to take her, but I adore her for the reasons others find her hard to figure out.
“It’s so good to see you!” she said, broad smile on her beaming face.
She ran her hand along the shaved sides of my head and I loved the feel of her fingers as they traced the scars there that I forget about until my hair is short enough to see them. She took my face in her hands and smiled at me, studying my face.
“You’re really beautiful” she said and kissed me on the cheek before nodding in the direction of the man she’d come into the bar with. “That’s the boy”.
I’d seen him in pictures from their trips together, but hadn’t met him before. She’d taken him home to Holland and to visit family in France, which I knew meant she was serious about him. I liked seeing her so happy.
We talked for a little while about their trip, including the fact that she’d thought of me when walking past the place in the Red Light District where I’d lived for a little while. She ran her fingers along the side of my head while talking and the ease and familiarity of her company and her touch fed into my feeling that in coming back to visit New Orleans, I’d come home.
“The last time I saw you, you had a lot of sadness in your eyes. I don’t see it there now. That’s good” she said and her smile made me smile. She hugged me again and then went to sit back down with her boyfriend.
They left just a little while later, but she stopped to see me on the way out the door. She wrapped her arms around me tightly when we hugged and kissed the side of my head as we made plans to see each other the following night.
“You’re beautiful” she said again, her eyes bright and warm, her fingers reaching out to touch my face as she walked backwards toward the door before turning to disappear down the steps and out into the humid night.
A familiar song came on the jukebox and I looked up to see the bartender smiling at me. She’d put it on, knowing that I’d sing along with it and we mouthed the words to each other from across the wood and copper bar. I ran my fingers along the same places Cécile had, feeling the scars under my fingertips and enjoying the unevenness of the three small places where I’d been cut and stitched years ago.
“Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you”
– The Cure
It’d been some time since Harper and I had last spoken. I’d asked her to meet me and she’d said she wanted to speak to Laila first just to be certain that it was alright; for one reason or another enough time had passed since that was supposed to happen that it sort of became awkward that we hadn’t spoken about it again. Saturday night she wrote to me and after apologies on both sides for being remiss, I asked her if she’d like to meet me so we made plans for the following day. She sent me a text early in the morning and we agreed to meet at noon to grab iced coffee and go for a walk together. The walk from the coffee shop to the park gave us time to talk a bit and we fell easily into a rhythm with one another as we looked for a quiet place to sit and continue the conversation.
It was a warm day and we found a place in the shade, laying down in the grass next to one another. I watched bee’s circle flowers nearby as we talked about books, feminism, sex and sci-fi. Deep green blades poked up next to her pale skin and when she rolled over on to her stomach to look at me, I noticed the shape and style of her glasses and then the pretty eyes behind them. She said the name of an author out loud as she gave me a recommendation on something that I might like to read and I made a mental note of the title The Dispossessed to look up later.
Harper is someone who I find interesting in a number of ways, her intellect and perspective being high on the list of reasons why. Her candor about sexuality and the way she expressed the freedom of choice and communication in polyamory also made an impression on me. The reason that I asked her for book recommendations is because I felt certain that she’d give me suggestions that I was unlikely to have come across on my own and she did not disappoint.
Laila is seeing Daniel, who is seeing Harper. Harper and I talked about moments that we have in common via the people we are seeing, as seen from opposite sides of the same situation. It was nice to be able to have another person to relate to about some of the challenging things that can come along with polyamory and at the same time be able to celebrate with them the better parts of what it’s brought into our lives.
People streamed past us on their way into the park as we asked each other questions while laying languidly in the Sunday afternoon sun. Harper moved down the hill just a bit, chasing the sun as the shadow from the tree behind us grew longer. We turned up toward the sky and I watched as the few clouds that dotted the otherwise clear sky floated by in no real hurry to get anywhere. I looked over at her and I thought to myself that she seemed like she’d slipped out of time; she felt strangely like she was from the past and the future all at once. There is something about her profile that makes me think of the 1920’s, but I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what it is about her. Her way of thinking though, is anything but old-fashioned.
We left the park in the early afternoon and went out in search of food. Sitting across from each other in a tiny restaurant, we ate empanadas and talked about music. She assured me that her taste in music wasn’t cool, but I knew lyrics to songs from almost every band she mentioned so I’m inclined to disagree with her. She is a bit of a mystery to me despite the things we have in common and I like that she isn’t an easy read. I sat across from her, appreciating her company as the conversation returned to poly relationships and the people that we share in common. The time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to go.
When we’d finished I walked with her back to where she’d left her bike and said goodbye there, wandering off into the city by myself in search of something new for my apartment. With an orchid in hand, I headed home, thinking about the conversations that we’d had and looking forward to more of them.