Sunday, July 31, 2011

Intimate Workplace Touching

I got a massage a couple days ago and the massage therapist was a man.  In the past when I have gotten massages, or any other service that involves another person touching me, I have always made sure that the person was a woman.  A couple days ago, however, I was desperate and the only opening available was with a man.  I wasn't sure if I would be comfortable, but once I was on the table with my eyes closed, it didn't matter to me anymore.

Some professions require very intimate touching, like being a massage therapist.  My job, providing in home care for adults with disabilities, also requires intimate touching that took me a little while to get used to.  I'm not a touchy-feely person, but that doesn't matter because it's different when you're at work.  

The touching I do on the job is drastically different that any touching that happens outside of work.  The clients I work with need assistance with bathing, dressing, waste management devices (like uroscopy bags and incontinence briefs), and transferring from a wheelchair to a bed.  I get very up close and personal and one of the reasons why I think that I am good at my job is that I am able to perform these tasks while being distant and professional, but still friendly.

Outside of work touching is very different for me, and not just for the obvious reasons.  When I am with an intimate partner (I don't really touch my friends- a topic for a different post), the physical contact is mutual.  We are both getting pleasure out of it and are acting on mutual affection.  Nothing I do at work is affectionate- that would be wildly inappropriate.

While I was getting the massage a couple days ago, it really struck me how different touching is outside of a professional setting.  The massage therapist was touching me in a way that past lovers had touched me (though much more skillfully) but it was... different.  The only things he got out of it were money and the satisfaction of doing his job well.  And that is what I get out of my job too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Physical Manifestations of Bad Memories

My mom's therapist told her about something called the "anniversary effect".  It's where one starts to have negative feelings around the anniversary of traumatic event.  It makes sense- the memory of those types of events are triggered by the date they occurred.

Two days ago I was two years sober and it was not a good day for me.  The last day I drank was horrible and painful.  Even though it lead to something so good for me, the memory of that day is still painful.  I was expecting to be more irritable, sad, ashamed, and angry- and I did feel all of those things.

What I was not expecting was how my body reacted.  Starting on Monday night my back started to cramp up until I developed a knot between my shoulder blades that was so painful it was hard to move my head.  The joints in my hands ached and my leg muscles became very tight.  Now, I'm not an athletic person (or even particularly active) and I spend a good deal of time hunched over the computer, but this was different.

The last time I drank I got alcohol poisoning and almost died.  It took weeks for my body to recover from that.  And I think my body remembers what that felt like, and is "celebrating" the anniversary of that night.

I got a massage because the pain was bad enough to make it difficult for me to drive (try merging onto the highway without looking over your left shoulder- not fun).  I explained the pain to the massage therapist but didn't tell him that I was two years sober that day.  I was afraid I would burst into tears just saying it out loud.  As he was working the knots and tension out of my shoulders, back, arms, and chest, I felt the pain being squeezed out of me.  Not just the physical pain, but the emotional pain.

Later I went to an AA meeting and someone who was celebrating 31 years sober talked to me after the meeting was over.  I had shared about how crappy I felt and she told me that it was a good thing to remember how bad it was.  That I needed to remember so that way I wouldn't forget why I got sober in the first place.  She told me that the birthdays would get easier as time went on and at around 20 years they wouldn't be hard at all anymore.

Yesterday the pain was almost completely gone from my body and my heart.  I told people about my sobriety birthday and received the congratulations that would have stung too much the day before.  I am proud of myself and even though the last time I drank was painful, I'm glad that it happened.  It got me here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Turning Point, Part 2

Trigger Warning for abortion (at times graphic) imagery. Part 1 can be found here.

When I left the waiting room I didn’t come back until it was all over.  The first thing they had me do was pay, five hundred dollars.  Then I peed into a cup and they ushered me into an exam room.  A nurse came in after about twenty minutes and told me that I didn’t have chlamydia or gonorrhea.  She said that they wouldn’t have been able to do the procedure it if I did because of the risk of infection.  She took my blood pressure and my temperature and told me to undress.  She left and another nurse came in to perform the ultrasound.  They do the ultrasound to determine how far along you are because that affects how the procedure goes.  I laid down on the exam table and put my legs in the stir-ups.  They don’t do the kind of ultrasound where they put jelly on your stomach like on TV, it was an internal devise.  She said it’s so they can get a more accurate picture.

“You are six weeks and five days along,” the nurse said, pulling the ultrasound wand out of me.

“You can tell that exactly?” The wonders of science.

“Yes,” she said without emotion.  They are all business at the Planned Parenthood and that is why I like them.  “Do you want to keep the picture?”

“Um, sure, I guess.”  I still have the ultrasound picture, buried in a drawer with the framed picture of Matt that I used to have in my room. It was a gray square with a small gray oval.  The oval had two little circles in it, making it look like a peapod.  I wasn’t expecting to feel anything when I saw it but my heart sank when I saw the little peapod on the piece of paper.

The nurse explained how the procedure would work and the aftercare involved.  She told me to get dressed and go to a room at the end of the hall to speak to another nurse about birth control.  That nurse gave me a painkiller and explained the importance of not getting pregnant again right after the abortion.  She asked if I wanted to have two free morning after pills or one month of the pill.  I chose the later and she brought me to another room to wait for the painkiller to kick in.

The room had four other girls already waiting; I chose the chair closest to the door.  The girl sitting across from me had a large frame and a huge mass of thick, curly black hair.  She was wearing a striped sweater and was holding several pieces of paper in her hand.  The girl sitting two seats away from her was very pale and had her knees pulled up to her chest.  She couldn’t have been older than fourteen.  The third girl, sitting against the wall opposing the door, was looking at me so I did not look at her.  The girl had very red hair and was flipping through a women’s magazine that she must have brought herself.  There were no other reading materials in the room.

The walls of the room were adorned with posters in English and Spanish about teen health clinic hours and birth control workshops.  I read the posters in an attempt to pass time, wishing that I had the magazines that were out in the waiting room with Matt.  The different types of birth control were briefly explained and illustrated by a smiling cartoon woman.  A woman who did not have to worry about coming to this room because she takes the pill or has an IUD. 

“A little late for birth control information, huh?” said the girl who was looking at me.  I smiled and shook my head. 

“Like that stuff even works,” said the girl sitting across from me. “This is my fourth pregnancy and I’ve been on the pill since I was fifteen.”

“Really?” the pale girl said, uncurling her body.

“Yeah, my man must have magic sperm or something.” Everyone laughed and I felt a little of the tension that had been in my shoulders for weeks relax.  The girl put the papers that she was holding down on the chair next to her and I could see that they were ultrasounds.

A nurse appeared in the doorway and motioned to the girl sitting next to me reading the magazine.  She got up and followed the nurse out of the room.  There was no clock in the room, no way to tell how long I had been there.  My cell phone was in my purse in the waiting room and none of the other girls had anything with them. 

Another girl was ushered into the room and the conversation stopped.  I leaned my head up against the wall and counted the days.  Six weeks and five days ago.  I needed a calendar.

Another girl came into the room and the girl with the ultrasounds was called out.  I wanted to know how much time had passed. It felt like time was going slower and slower until the seconds crept by like days.  I wanted to walk out of the room and pretend none of it was real.  Another girl left the room and another came in.  She sat down in the seat directly next to mine.  She looked over at me a couple times and I looked away.  I slumped down in my seat, uncomfortable after sitting in the folding chair for so long.  A nurse appeared in the door and looked at me.  I looked up at her and she didn’t say anything for a moment.  My arms and legs went numb and I could feel sweat starting to form around my hairline.  “We’re ready for you now.”

I followed her to yet another exam room and she told me to undress.  I sat down in the thin, paper hospital gown they gave me and stared at a calendar on the wall.  I’m glad they had a calendar, I guess I wasn’t the only girl who wanted to count the days since conception while they waited for it all to end.  There was a radio playing unfamiliar soft rock songs.  I couldn’t feel the painkiller and that worried me.

I maintained my composure until the song “What’s Love Got to Do with It” by Tina Turner came on the radio.  My eyes started burning and a lump rose in my throat.  What does love have to do with this? I thought and a couple tears escaped my eyes.  There was no love in that room.  I was alone.

After what felt like an eternity, two nurses came in and started setting up the equipment for the procedure.  They asked me how I felt and I told them that I didn’t think the painkiller was working.  The looked and each other but didn’t say anything.  The had me lie down and the doctor came into the room.

They put my feet into the stir-ups and I started to sweat and shake.  One of the nurses, a large Mexican man with effeminate mannerisms stood next to me and the other shut off the lights in the room, except for a large bright spotlight aimed at my spread legs.  My breathing got shallow and I asked the nurse next to me if I could hold his hand.

“Sure, hon, now don’t forget to breath.”  I gripped his hand tight but felt like I couldn’t get a breath.  I’ve heard many other women talk about the noise the machine makes, and how scary that was for them.  I don’t remember the sound the machine made, just the unfamiliar soft rock songs playing in the background.  It hurt, it hurt a lot.  I tried to breath and I dug my fingernails into the nurse’s hand but I couldn’t catch my breath.  I started to hyperventilate and they stopped the procedure.  The nurse put his face close to mine and told me to open my eyes.  I did but all I could see was a dark shadow of a face and I could hear the music and everything was swirling around me.  “Only four more minutes, ok?  Only four more minutes.”  I nodded and looked back at the ceiling.  I tried to imagine that I was lying on a beach listening to the ocean, like how I do when I’m at the dentist, but I wasn’t lying on a beach.  I was lying on my back in East Oakland having a baby I didn’t want vacuumed out of me while I listened to soft rock. 

I did love the baby despite my best efforts not too.  I never doubted that getting an abortion was the best thing to do, but it was inside of me.  It affected my body and I could feel it and I was attached to it.  I came to understand why women who were unsure about what to do would keep the baby even if it wasn’t practical.  I never regretted my decision, not even for a moment, but I felt a tremendous sense of loss.

After the procedure was over they turned the lights back on and there was a flurry of activity.  The doctor left right away and the male nurse kept holding my hand while the other nurse took my feet out of the stir-ups and cleaned up.  “Don’t sit up yet.”  He gave me a reassuring smile and I started to cry.  I laid on the table and cried for awhile and then the male nurse had to leave and the other nurse told me to get dressed.  I sat up slowing, sobbing, and started to gingerly put my clothes back on.

“Are you sure this is what you wanted to do?”  I looked at her and thought Well, it’s a little late now.  I tried to calm down and was able to turn my sobs into desperate breaths and hiccups.  As we walked out of the room I glanced into the trashcan by the door and it was filled with bloody paper towels.  That her, in a trash I thought and my body went numb.  The nurse lead me to another room that had a row of lounge chairs separated by curtains.  She gave me a glass of water and some tasteless cookies.

There were other girls in the other lounge chairs but I couldn’t see them.  I could hear them talking to nurses, and they didn’t seem as upset as I was.  Maybe they were and were just better at swallowing their grief.  I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breaths, evening them out.  I was covered with a thin layer of sticky sweat and I wish Matt was with me.  But they didn’t let visitors into the medical areas.

Another nurse that I had not yet seen came over to me and asked how I felt.  I don’t remember what I said, but she seemed satisfied with my response.  She gave me a painkiller and an antibiotic to take later in the day and walked me out to the waiting room.  I scanned the chairs that lined the wall but I didn’t see Matt.  My pulse quickened and I went outside to the wide mall-like corridor that connected the different offices.  I saw Matt sitting on a bench, bent over with his head resting on a cup of coffee.

“Hey, I’m sorry, I couldn’t handle sitting in there,” he said when I approached him.  “That took a long time.”

“Yeah, I was sitting around back there for awhile.”  We looked at each other and felt the weight of the day.

When we got into the car he asked if they would be billing me.  I told him that I had already paid, that it was the first thing they had me do.

“I thought that’s why I came,” he said tersely.  He fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a handful of one hundred dollar bills.  We had already agreed to split the costs.  “How much was it?”

“Five hundred.”  I think I was almost whispering.  He handed me three bills and started the car.

“Don’t worry about the change.”  His voice had softened but he didn’t look at me.  I wished I had brought a friend instead of him- a woman- someone who would have been gentler with me.

He stayed with me for the rest of the day, working from his computer and smoking weed with me.  I sat on the couch and watched game shows on TV.  At the time I thought that it was nice of him to stay with me.  Later I came to resent the fact that he sat across the room instead of holding me and telling me it was going to be better.  Megan was right, they don’t hold you if they aren’t your boyfriend.  When Matt left that evening I gave him a long hug but he didn’t hug me back.  He kept his arms down and tensed up.

Megan came over to see me that night and that’s when I started to feel better about the whole ordeal.  She made me laugh and brought me chicken soup.  She was there for me more than anyone else during all of it.  I talked about it with her everyday for two months, from when I started to worry that I might be pregnant to when the hormones finally died down a few weeks later.  Megan is not one to talk about feelings but she did for me and I wouldn’t have been able to handle the situation without her.

The next night my dad was in town and we met up at an upscale restaurant in San Francisco for dinner.  I wanted to tell him what had happened the day before but I didn’t because that’s not the type of stuff I talk about with my dad.  Instead I guzzled expensive wine and we, ironically, talked about strange medical procedures we had had before.  I wanted to tell him about the waiting room with the other girls and the soft rock and the big, effeminate, Mexican male nurse who held my hand, because it was all so strange and funny in a way.  But I didn’t because it would have just made us both feel awkward.  When I hugged him good bye I gripped him tightly.  It felt good to be held by someone who loved me, even for a moment.

I thought the worst was over but I was wrong.  I wasn’t expecting the sense of loss I felt after the abortion.  A few days after the procedure I flew home to the East Coast to visit my family before the summer term started at school.  My mom knew what was going on and she was so supportive.  She had an abortion when she was thirty and she didn’t tell anyone and she said that it was awful.  That she would never want me to deal with it alone. 

A day or two after I got there I lost it.  I started hysterically crying, curled up in my mom’s lap like I was a little girl.  Asking why, why, why over and over again.  I shook and I couldn’t breath and I was pouring sweat.  My mom stoked my hair and said, “Let it out, baby girl, let it out.”  I cried like that for a long time, maybe an hour or so, before I got quiet.  My breathing evened out, though it was still shallow, and I stopped shaking so violently.  “Don’t worry, sweetheart, you’re not alone.”  And she was right, I wasn’t alone.  I had my mom, my sister, and Megan, but I didn’t have Matt and I resented that for a long time.  But he wasn’t my boyfriend so he didn’t have to deal with this part of the whole thing.  He gave me a ride and three hundred dollars and that was all I was supposed to expect.

Looking back I can see how much he struggled with the whole ordeal.  He started binging on alcohol and drugs and stopped hanging out with our friends as much.  I think he was ashamed.  He stopped drinking a year later, after got he arrested for driving drunk in an unregistered car.  I would see him at meetings and we would talk about the program or our lives but never about the abortion.  We never talked about it again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Turning Point, Part 1

“So the test came back positive,” the nurse said as we walked down the hall to an open room.  She was referring to the pregnancy test that I had just taken and I thought she would at least wait until we got to the room before she told me the results.  I felt my head get light and a cold feeling washed over my body.  “It says here that you want to get a vacuum aspiration?”

I sat down in a chair in the room and took a minute before I answered. “Um yeah, that’s an abortion, right?”  I was starting to sweat and I wished I hadn’t come alone.  The nurse has brassy blond hair and a solid build.  The room was small with posters depicting female reproductive systems; one poster had an illustration of a pregnant woman whose stomach had been peeled open to show the fetus.

“Yes, the procedure is called a vacuum aspiration.”  She didn’t not say the word abortion at any point in our conversation.  Even in a private room at the Planned Parenthood that word is taboo.  The nurse explained the procedure and I made an appointment.

I didn’t cry in my car like I thought I would.  In truth I didn’t really find out that I was pregnant that day, I had known for about a month.  I always told people that there was no way that I could be pregnant and not know, that I was too in tune with my body to not know that something that major was going on.  I had taken several home pregnancy tests and they had all come up negative or inconclusive but I knew.  I starting having nightmares where I was slowing killed and eaten by piles of babies and that’s when my therapist suggested that I go an get the official test, to be sure once and for all.

I stopped at the liquor store on the way home a picked up a twelve pack of beer.  I knew it was going to be a twelve pack kind of night.  I cracked one open when I got home and chugged the whole thing standing in my kitchen.  I set down the empty on the black and white checkered tile counter top and tried to ignore the pile of dishes that I should have done days before.  I opened another and went into my bedroom to call the male contributor to this situation, Matt.

I never called him the father because I was never a mother.  We were not parents, we were two drunk people in a very unfortunate situation.

I told him that we needed to talk, urgently.  He came over an hour later and we went into my bedroom.  He was only a couple inches taller than me and ten years older.  One of those guys that stopped maturing at twenty three.

“So, I’m pregnant,” I said when we sat down on my bed.  He pursed his lip and nodded tensely.

“Really?” He sounded like he didn’t believe me.

“Yes, really.”

“And I’m the…”  He didn’t finish his sentence.  He never called himself a father or me a mother either.


“You haven’t been with anyone else?”  He was getting angry.

“No, no one.”

“Are you sure?”  Hope flickered in his eyes.

“I’m very sure.”  In truth I wasn’t sure.  Around the time that we had last been together I had a black out where I could have been raped.  I was pretty sure that I wasn’t, but not as sure as I would like to have been.

The weekend before I conceived started out innocently enough.  There was a trapeze performance at a bar near my house, none of my friends wanted to go so I went alone.  I stood in the crowd, watching lithe girls twist around long strips of silk, sipping a beer.  I ran into a couple people I knew, friends of friends, and I went to another bar with them.  I drank tall cans of Papst Blue Ribbon and we danced to cheesy pop music.  I felt good knowing that I could hang out with people I didn’t know very well and still have a good time.  Not be nervous or shy.

We all went back to one of their houses and started doing shots of vodka and cocaine.  The last thing I remember is staring at myself in the mirror, a line of coke cutting across my face, and thinking How did I get here?

I came to walking around in West Oakland somewhere.  It was daytime and I didn’t have my jacket that had my cell phone and wallet.  I found a street that would lead to my house, my new house, I had moved the week before.  I was hot and still wasted and it took me a couple tries to get home.  I keep my house key in my pocket in case I ever get mugged but that morning was the only time that habit proved useful.  I finally found my house and drank some water, found cigarettes in my room, and went back outside to smoke.  My nose and throat hurt from the coke, but I wasn’t hung over, yet.  One of my new roommates came home while I was smoking and I asked him what time it was.

“It’s ten,” he responded as he walked past me with his girlfriend.

“Mother fucker.”  I put my head in my hands and tried to figure out when I had blacked out.  How many hours I had lost.  There really was no way for me to know.  I tensed my vaginal walls but it didn’t hurt so I figured I probably wasn’t raped.  Looking back I am amazed that I didn’t realize that having to figure out whether or not you were raped wasn’t normal.

“So what are you going to…” Matt glanced at me.

“I’m getting an abortion.”

“Ok, good.”  He looked relieved for a moment. “Are you sure you haven’t been with anyone else?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”  He nodded again.  We sat silently, staring straight ahead for a minute. “You know, I thought that you were just going to call me a slut and leave.”

“I want to, this is bullshit.”  He looked at me a couple times and started shaking his head. “I kind of feel like you did this on purpose.”

“Why would I do that?”  I was trying not to cry.

“I don’t know, to get attention or something.”  He wouldn’t look at me.

“That doesn’t make any sense, do you have any idea what this is like for me?”  The sensitivity to smells had already started and I woke up every day feeling like my breasts were on fire.

“Yeah, whatever, I should go.”  He stood up and turned towards me.  “Tell me when I should take you to the place, but I don’t want to hear about this everyday.”

“I thought you would be there for me.”  I couldn’t hold the tears back anymore.  He turned away from me and looked at the ceiling.

“Yeah, whatever, I should go.”  I wiped the tears off my face and walked him to the door.

“I’ll talk to you later.”  He didn’t say anything and closed the door in my face.  I finished the beer in my room, got another, and sat down on the couch next to my roommate Rob.

Rob would soon become a close friend.  I shared my previous house with five girls and now I was sharing with two boys.  It was different, but I was getting along with my new roommates well.  Rob asked me if I wanted to smoke some weed and I wordlessly agreed, taking a big drink of my beer.  He gave me a look while he packed the bowl and asked me if I was alright.  My lip began to quiver and I took another drink.

“I’m pregnant.”  His eyes widened and he handed me the pipe.

“Holy shit,” he said in his usual soft voice. 

“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“I thought you might be.”

“Really?  Why?”  I squinted at him and tried to think if he could have overheard me talking to my best friend about it in the past month.

“Oh, you know, the boobs hurting, you’re a little plumper,” he shrugged. “I have two sisters with kids.”

“I guess it’s more obvious than I thought.”  I finished my beer but I knew that I had to ease up a little.  It was still early and I had a friend’s birthday party to go to later.

“I guess that’s why Matt was so mad when he left.”

“Yeah, he didn’t react well.”

“Aw, that’s too bad.”  His voice was so low that I could barely hear him, but it was soothing.  “Well, I’m here for you if you need anything.”  I looked at him and saw that he was being genuine and I felt a little better.

Two days before I got the abortion I went over to my best friend Megan’s house to hang out.  Matt lived with her, and a few of our other friends.  He had fluctuated between being a jerk and being supportive in the two weeks since I told him I was pregnant.  He was always a lot nicer about it when he was on drugs.

Their house was a renovated Victorian that the landlord had owned since the 60’s.  The walls, ceiling, and trim were all painted different colors and there were tapestries and abstract paintings hung on the walls.  The living room was sprinkled with different pipes and bongs letting any guest know that stoners lived there.  The kitchen had two shelves close to the high ceilings that were filled with empty liquor bottles and the fridge was covered with pictures of the different people who had lived there over the years.  the backyard had a small deck, a hot tub, and a fire pit surrounded by makeshift benches.

We all sat around the fire pit in the back yard, drinking and talking.  It was nice to pretend that everything was normal, even though I had had to borrow some of Megan’s old clothes because I had gained too much weight to wear my own.  About six beers into the night Matt sat down next to me and leaned in.

“Want to do some K?” he asked quietly. “You know, and talk?”  I nodded and we went to his room in the basement of the house. 

The basement had cement floors with scraps of carpet covering it.  The walls were covered with graffiti, quotes and drawings of monsters and people doing drugs.  Matt’s room had an old futon on the floor and a couple sleeping bags that he used for blankets.  He had a dresser next to his bed that was covered with stickers that he got at music festivals and one of the drawers were filled with drugs.  He sold drugs, mostly weed and LSD. 

We sat down on his bed and he pulled a bag of white powder out of his sweatshirt pocket.

“This is really good stuff,” he said as he put some on the end of his house key.  He held it towards me and I closed one nostril with my finger and snorted the K up my other nostril.  “So, um, when should I pick you up? It’s the day after tomorrow right?”

“Yeah.” I washed away the bitter taste in the back of my throat with my beer.  My sixth?  Couldn’t be sure, I usually lost count around the sixth or seventh. “I have to be there at eight in the morning.”

“Christ sake.”  He snorted a bump off his key. “Why is it so early?”

“I think they do a group of us at once.”  Us.  Girls that make mistakes.  I snorted another bump off his key and I started to feel it entering my bloodstream.  I felt Matt’s hand stroke my back.

“I’m really sorry about this.”  He look high and sad.  He kept rubbing my back and then he moved in closer to hold me.

“I’m sorry too Matt.”  I buried my face into his chest and we stayed that way for awhile.  I think I would have cried if I hadn’t been so high.

The first time I slept with Matt was only the second time I had ever been with a biological male.  I went over to his house to buy weed and to hang out.  When I got over there I saw that there was no one else home and I knew then that we would have sex that night.  We drank and smoked weed for awhile and then he asked if I wanted to go into the hot tub.

The moon was full and it was a warm night.  It was August and I had started hanging out with Megan, Matt and their roommates that summer because the friends that I made when I first moved to California no longer wanted to hang out with me because I got too drunk all the time.  So I made friends that drank more.  Their house was one block away from mine, stumbling distance.

After drinking in the hot tub for awhile I ran my foot up his leg.  He looked at me and I moved across the water and straddled him.  We kissed in the hot tub until we felt sick from the heat and we down to his bedroom.  I tried to act like I had done this before, that it wasn’t different from being with girls, but it was.  His face was rough and he had trouble getting it up and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do about that.

We slept together a few times a weeks for five months and then once every couple weeks for three months after that.  We were never officially together, he made sure that I understood that.  We did talk a lot, about our childhoods, families, hopes for the future.  I told him that I loved him a few times, when we were about to fall asleep and I was drunk.  But I was always drunk then, we were always drunk.

I got pregnant the last time we had sex.  That morning he told me that he thought we should stop hooking up and I agreed.  By that point we were sleeping together out of habit more than anything else.  I told him that I was glad that he was my friend and he said so too.   

“I guess we should go back to the party,” he said, pulling away.

“Want to smoke a bowl first?”

“Yeah, for sure.”  We smoked silently and finished our beers.

Two days later Matt picked me up and we drove to the clinic in East Oakland.  It was in a shopping mall that had been converted into an office complex.  The waiting room had several couples that were affectionate but me and Matt sat with our jackets and bags on a chair between us.  The softness that he showed me two nights before was gone.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Casual, Not-Boyfriends

"So is it like a casual sex thing?" my best friend Megan* asked as we walked to my car.  I had told her that I had started having sex with my ex-Not-Boyfriend again, after almost a year of no contact with him.

"Not really." I got into the driver's seat and tried to think about how to explain how I felt about Rob. "It's like I trust him, you know?  That's not casual for me really, but we're not like dating or anything."

A Not-Boyfriend is someone that is like a boyfriend in many ways; you have sex with them regularly and are good friends.  Not-Boyfriends are often within your social circle- someone convenient.  It's not monogamous in theory, but it practice it often is.  People only have so much free time and it is easier and often more sexually satisfying to go for someone that you already have a rapport with.  Finding new people can be tiring.  A Not-Boyfriend might even tell you that they love you "as a friend".  Always with the qualifier.

I hate the term "friends with benefits".  Sex is not a benefit of my friendship.  A recent article in The Good Men Project Magazine lists different types of "pre-exclusive relationships" but none quite fit what I call a Not-Boyfriend.  Lovers, maybe.

Rob and I started hooking up when we were roommates two years ago.  We both intended for it to be a one time thing, but we started sleeping in the same bed every night almost right away.  He was affectionate in a way that I craved and he didn't hold it back the way that my past Not-Boyfriends had.  It was hard summer for me and it felt good to be held.  Don't get me wrong, the fucking was great, really fucking great, but the holding was something I desperately needed but could never ask for.

I am not a touchy-feely person; most physical contact outside of sexual relationships makes me uncomfortable.  Part of the reason that I enjoy sex so much is because despite my aversion to touching, I want to.  My skin will feel numb if it's been too long since I've been held or caressed or something like that.

Through this, my life was changing tremendously.  The summer that Rob and I started hooking up I finally stopped drinking.  I almost drank myself to death that summer and Rob was there for me through all of it.  The week I stopped I shook and cried and threw up and was overwhelmed with all the feelings I had been drinking away for years.  Sometimes Rob said the wrong thing and sometimes he said the right thing but he was there when I was too afraid to reach out to anyone else.

There can be many things that keep a Not-Boyfriend from becoming and Actual-Boyfriend.  Rob and I don't have anything in common.  He isn't in a place in his life where he wants a committed relationship and I often question whether or not that is something I could handle.  I have waves of love-feelings for him, but I am not convinced that we are right for each other.  I have always been a little in love with him, but not the kind of love that I have felt in my past actual relationships.

Yet, there is something inside of me that only stops moving when I am in his arms.  He has seen the worst of me and still wants me in his life.  That is not casual for me.  We are not on a path towards a relationship, but there is a connection that is different from one that I would have with a fuck-buddy.

One hot summer afternoon, when we first started hooking up, we were lying in his bed, covered in sweat.  He turned to me and said, "You know, I don't think other people would get it."

"Get what?"  Endorphins were still rushing through my body and I felt calm.

"Like, how it is with us."  He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my forehead.

"What do you mean?"

"It's different from..." He sighed. "It's hard to explain."

"I know what you mean."  I pressed my body against his, even with the summer heat.

*Names have been changed

Monday, July 4, 2011

Does it count?

Trigger warning for sexual assault

"It was weird, he was crying and apologizing for all this stuff," my best friend Megan* told me over the phone.  She called to because she couldn't wait to tell me about spending the night with the boy she liked.  They had hung out with some mutual friends and one, someone that I barely know, broke down. "He told me he was so sorry about when you gave him a blow job like when you were still drinking."

The hair along my spine stood on end.  I knew what night she was talking about.  One of my top three worst blackouts.  I knew that he was there that night but I have no memory of him.  The last thing I remember was staring at myself in a mirror with lines of coke on it, closing my eyes, and breathing it.  I came to walking around in West Oakland, a half mile from where I lived.  It was morning.  I lost maybe eight hours or so.

"Why would he tell you that?" My chest felt tight.

"I don't know, I guess because I was there." Her voice was tense and soft.

"I was totally blacked out."

There was a pause.  We both knew what that meant but didn't want to say it.  How do you respond to finding out that you were sexually assaulted over two years ago?  What do you say?  How do you feel?  Does it could as assault if you initiated it?  I did that a lot when I was drinking.  Does it count if he was wasted too?

I don't know how many times I've been raped/sexually assaulted/whatever you want to call it.  I was a blackout drunk.  Does it count as rape if I would have done it if I wasn't blacked out?  Does it count if I seemed super into it to the other person?  I wasn't a passed out blackout drunk.  From what I've been told, I would be animated and energetic and people often wouldn't know that I was blacked out.  What about that?

If someone else were asking me the same question I would, without hesitation, say that it counts.  That it shouldn't have happened.  That the other person was a predator and should have know better.

But it is hard for me to believe when I tell myself these things.  I don't want to believe.

*Names have been changed.