Monthly Archives: September 2014
There are days where I don’t want to remember. I wake up in the morning in my Los Angeles apartment, blocking out all the steps that put me in this place in my life as I return to consciousness. My bed has shied away of its former red sheets, now draped in deep ice blues and warm chocolate browns. There is no one sleeping next to me; no one except my dearest laptop, the source of my creativity.
Yet at this time of the year, as Rosh Hashana comes along, I turn on my trusty bedmate and put on Idan Raichel’s “Blessings for the New Year.” And after his voice blasts in your ear like the shofar sound, the sound of a traditional rabbi’s twirling voice gives the blessing for the new year, calling out “Yom Hazikaron” — or the day of remembrance. And I so desperately want to forget.
There are the days where I sit in my car where I want to remove from my mind how hard I’ve cried, how deeply I’ve loved, how much I’ve struggled in recent years. On a day where I’m supposed to remember everything, I just want to perform one of those treatments from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, waking up in the morning and feeling nothing, knowing nothing of what happened over the past weekend, the past six weeks, six months, even going back two and a half years. Just… nothing.
Yet every year we are commanded to return. Go to our temples, pray to our G-d, tell him to remember us for the Book of Life in the coming year. Yet at the same time I want to climb up to G-d’s throne and challenge his/her dominance. Why does the Lord Almighty does theses things to us? Force us to endure broken hearts, soul-squeezing obstacles and frustration beyond compare, and then come back in repentance and hope?
Every year I’ve prayed for a better year. Things were difficult every time, fighting for survival. How long could things be so difficult? How much could I lose? Each Rosh Hashana, standing in temple as the lights on my grandparents’ memorial plaques shone across the room, I prayed for good things: a loving relationship that would lead to a good marriage and a family of my own; a good job that would give me financial security; the health of myself and those around me. Every year I stand before G-d asking for these things. And every time I find a year has gone and these same prayers are there, but with heartbreaking twists.
As my body sways and my mind calls for G-d to remember me in his Book of Life, there are times where I approach the throne with the disdain of how this deity can make me a play toy. Yet I can’t turn my back on my spirituality because I know it and love it so deeply. Where I want Hashem to put a helmet on my head and say, “Let me forget, because tomorrow I can wake up blissfully clueless and find a better path without the clouds of the past in my eyes.”
The image of Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes into my head. There were two people there who did everything in their power to forget: Removed items, wiped memories, explained what was happening to their friends and families and how they were trying to ease the pain. Yet as all the characters in that universe learned, you can’t simply forget; the universe will find a way to remind you, to pull you back in. Rosh Hashana is ingrained in my blood; I feel it calling me, my body preparing to come before the Almighty. This is the day I have to remember, despite what life has brought to my doorstep.
And I remembered last night as I sat across the table from my friend Audra. Sweet Audra, who made it her job when I got home from Israel to keep me awake so I would fall asleep at a regular hour, who sat on my couch on the two-year anniversary of that horrible night that I was so desperate to forget and shy away from. I had only known her a year, but it was like she had been there the whole time. I wanted to forget a lot, but I didn’t want to forget her, particularly when singing “Jack and Diane:” “Yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”
And then I talked on the phone with my friend Rachel, who had known me for so many years, and we laughed as I talked about the cricket that had taken residence in my room and how I was starting to act like Liam Neeson in Taken (“I don’t know where you are. But I will find you. And kill you.”). And we laughed despite our tears of years of never-ending changes of jobs, loves and homes; we remembered despite the heartbreak, and as I longed to hug my friend, there was no way in hell that I wanted to forget.
The circumstances make us want to forget, but it’s the people that call us back to remember: My beautiful friends and their incredible souls, going home to my mother’s table for Rosh Hashana dinner, hugging my cousins during our traditional family lunch after temple services. And my grandparents’ memorial plaques wink at me from across the temple, but their love, sealed upon the Tree of Life outside the sanctuary walls, where they engraved their eternal devotion to their children and three granddaughters, is there too.
And I will remember. The pain throws the love into relief, searing into me and branding my body with scars that indicate that I belong to G-d, that I will keep breathing and that despite the awful things that have happened. There are gifts that have been bestowed upon me that cannot be returned or blessed enough. And I will still pray for a loving relationship that will lead to a marriage and family, a good job that will give me financial security and the health of myself and those that I love despite it all. Because there is more to life than simply forgetting.
Rosh Hashana is my favorite time of year, as the summer fades and my family comes together again for hugs and smiles of the Jewish New Year. I called my mom in excitement and asked her if she was making apple jelly. It’s traditional in my family to have it with our round challahs over Rosh Hashana dinner and lunch.
“I can’t this year, honey,” she said with that somber tone. “It’s just such a long process, and I get tired so easily.”
“Well, why don’t I do all the work?” I said. “You can sit there and tell me what to do. And I need to learn anyway.”
“Yes. Yes you do.”
It was the tone of voice in that phrase that caught me. In the Jewish year of 5774, my mother was confronted with her mortality. I sat in her hospital rooms and kissed her bald head, watched her go from doctor to doctor and forced myself to see her mastectomy scars. Even though her hair was growing back in a soft peach fuzz and her tests looked positive, she was now thinking of a time that she wouldn’t be here to make apple jelly for Rosh Hashana. And remembering how that every day for almost six months, she thought she was experiencing a series of last events in her life.
“Mom, you’re not dying,” I said. “You’re getting better. The doctors have told you that.”
“I know, but I have to pass these things on,” she said.
“You will.” But deep inside of me, my heart started ticking like a clock, wondering how long the countdown would be until death finally had his way took her away from me.
How could one year make everything so different? I stood in front of G-d on Rosh Hashana last year by myself, not knowing how the days after would change me. How that call in the chill of February shook me, her voice wavering as she said, “I have breast cancer.”
It crashed on me like a fast car, shifting everything in my body. I took up freelancing in fear of being tied to an office, not knowing where my mother’s treatment would end up, putting myself in serious financial danger later on. I left evening plans and my friends behind, rushing back to Thousand Oaks with an overnight bag whenever my mom had go back to the hospital due to complications. I couldn’t date or have a relationship with anyone; after all, how would I introduce a guy to my family and say, “Hey, this is my mom. She’s got cancer, you can tell by her bald head”?
In July, six months after her diagnosis, we were told that my mom was much better but not in remission, because her type of cancer was the type that could only be kept at bay, not go away entirely. But even as results looked positive, the fears washed over her, the mortality constantly questioned. The friends asking about my mother’s condition dwindled, hearing that she was improving. But then the problems begin, because even after the bad event is over, you have to live with all the ramifications of what just happened to you. And in my mother’s case, the fact her breasts were gone and she was taking a hormone pill that may be less difficult than chemo, but still gives her good and bad days.
And then there was the rest of us: My father, who had put aside all of his job searching to be my mother’s caretaker, who had shown tremendous strength of character that he always had but my mother possibly couldn’t see; what was to become of them as a couple, and him as a man who had plenty of his own issues to take care of? My sister, who lived at home and had to see my mother nauseated and broken, changed my her wound dressings and gave her antibiotics twice a day through a port; could she find the strength to grow despite the circumstances? My cousin, who had lost her mother and her father in less than two years, and now whose aunt, who was the closest relative to her, was sick; how could she hold on as all the people she loved were suffering or dead? And then me, who was somehow removed in living away yet in pain and angry as hell, having to hear about the issues later and having the excuse of “you’re not here” used; how could I keep my independence that I love so desperately while being tied to my family that made me feel like they didn’t want me?
As I got off the phone with my mother, I saw the flash of my phone’s wallpaper: Jerusalem, overlooking the Western Wall. My sweet, beautiful Yerushalim. I took that picture in March as the stones echoed the Muslim call to prayer, the church bells rang and the men sang at the Kotel loudly. I stood with my friend Brad as he told me how he came out there the previous Rosh Hashana, seeking meaning beyond his regular existence. Finding what he was looking for.
In the chilled wind whipping at my black dress and sweatshirt, I found my redemption. Torn away 15 years previously as a child, now standing in the Holy Land as a free woman. Never thinking I would see it again, not until I was old and gray, experiencing pure joy that took two years of suffering to achieve. Yet for the two Friday nights I was in the country, lighting five candles on Shabbat instead of the traditional two: For my father’s strength, my mother’s health, my sister’s compassion, my cousin’s innocence and my inner peace. Carrying them with me wherever I traveled, dragging them along in my heart like the bright pink suitcase I stored my baggage in. Hoping my prayers would get closer to G-d now that I was in his kingdom.
Each struggle rushes over us, but it’s amazing what we pick up sometimes. I saw my mother let go of a lot of anger holding her back. My cousin grew closer and truly became our sister, which is what I hoped for her after her mother died. My sister shifted and found a new voice for herself beyond the day-to-day doldrums of a seven-year hellhole job. My father rekindled his love of theater and Shakespeare. And I claimed my humor as an outlet for the creativity and insanity inside of me that needed an outlet.
So this year I will stand before G-d next to my family in temple, as the Cohanim, the descendants of the Jewish priests of old, call out their blessings and I embrace my family under my father’s talit. It will be tinged with remembering how we thought we might not have it again; how it felt to hear it at the Western Wall on Shabbat, echoing 2,000 years of my ancestors; and how Rosh Hashana is more than my mom’s apple jelly and round challahs. It’s the fact that we never know what life will deliver us tomorrow, but we will face it head on, together.
When the #WhyIStayed hashtag came up on Twitter, I decided it was time to find some relief for the pain that would rise in and then wash over me. I put out seven tweets the night I discovered it, sighing as domestic violence survivors across the internet shared alongside me.
Because he said I could never live without him. And I believed it. #WhyIStayed
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
I wish I didn’t have to carry those seven years around with me now, where sometimes I find myself so desperate and practically clawing at the ceilings in depression. Where I would ask why I couldn’t have been a good girl and stayed with my ex and everyone around me has to yell, “No!” in order to get me to come back to this place and time. It’s a place where I look as fine as most people can be, but I am still fighting a battle that no one knows about.
He made me believe that no one else would want me for a relationship, only sex because I was fat. #WhyIstayed
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
We met at a rabbi’s house in college. I was the weird, far girl who was too loud, ambitious as hell and spoke her mind. My sister got all the boys, and I was the weirdo. He was desperate to get married, and it really didn’t matter who came into his path. After being rejected by a boy who I had a crush on a few weeks earlier, I wanted to be in a relationship so bad. And here he was: Buying me flowers, taking me on dates, introducing me to his mother, holding my hand. I wasn’t alone. And everyone was so happy that we were together.
#WhyIstayed: All I kept hearing from my friends was, “You’re like the perfect couple!” So I thought it was just me.
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
There we were, married and lovely, this couple who was the centerpiece of a community. Whose dinner table you hoped to be invited to, as she was an amazing cook and fun host. Who loved that married girl, the girl who was fun without being overbearing, who was instrumental in getting people together and sharing warmth and love. But behind closed doors, he made her feel small and tackled her to the bed, calling her a fucking bitch. Other times, it was just yelling at her when she would get sick, and when they would have an argument and he wasn’t winning, he would tell her that she was living in a fantasy world. A concept he knew she hated, because while they were dating she told him. She gave him a weapon against her.
Despite our marriage counselor calling him out as abusive, he cried and swore he would change. And I wanted to stand by him. #WhyIStayed
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
Maybe a part of me always knew that he was abusive. No matter how many times he would shout to the universe that he loved me, I didn’t believe him; it was like a liar who was trying to cover up the ultimate falsity. A simple request of telling him to talk to me respectfully was met back with yells of, “You’re censoring me!” If something bad happened, like a car accident, I would force myself to have a crying fit or panic attack so he wouldn’t come after me.
A part of me prayed he would just give up and leave me, even though I knew that he never would. Yet I wanted to be like my grandparents. Together forever. Through thick and thin. Support my husband, because that’s what women do for their men.
I volunteered for domestic violence centers, so there was no way that I could be a victim. #WhyIStayed
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
I didn’t believe that it could happen to me. I was a good feminist, supporting my female friends and volunteering for domestic violence awareness. After all, my ex claimed he was abused by two previous girlfriends, so of course I supported him by supporting this cause. I recorded video of testimony of this, which is stocked somewhere on my computer still. There was no way he could do it to me because it was done to him, right? The first time I figured out that he was abusive was two months after the divorce, when I hung out with a guy friend and told him some of my stories, which were relatively tame. The first words out of his mouth were, “Wow, he was abusive, huh?”
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
Then came that night after the baby shower. As I saw him throw a tantrum over a bill and run around the house hitting things, I sighed, as I was used to it. It was a regular occurrence by now. But I didn’t have to be used to it. And any child that I brought into the world wouldn’t be used to it. And if he hit that child, I could never forgive myself. It was my job, even before that child was born, to be a good mother. So I had to figure out what I was going to do.
When I told him I wanted a divorce, he became erratic. My friends caught him checking my text messages and he listened in on my phone calls. He called my family and friends and tried to get them to convince me to stay. There had to be precautions placed at work. I felt scared sleeping next to him, as I wasn’t sure if I was going to wake up the next day. And when I told him I didn’t love him anymore, he said, “I don’t care if you love me or not, I am never letting you go.”
I had planned a safe house, just in case there was a worst-case scenario. I had to think about who I was going to, and it was planned to the tiniest detail: A friend who was not in the Jewish community, and outside of Orange County. Where he didn’t know where she lived, and he would never expect I would go. I never thought I would have to use it. Until the night she set up a bed for me on her couch, with my red duffel bag poised at the foot of it, and we were watching Goodfellas, trying to collect what the hell happened that night.
I remember how people called me after the divorce and were crying more than I was then. Maybe I wasn’t crying because I was scared. Am still scared, although I am much better at hiding it now. Almost three years later, though, and the littlest rock in the boat can sometimes cause me to capsize.
There is the ebb and flow of being okay versus having to center myself and hold on until the feeling passes. Three years later and his family is still trying to find where I’ve gone, adding me on LinkedIn and then asking me immediately where I live. But it’s not the physical concept of my ex that’s the problem. I know I can rule any room that he’s in and deep down know that my conscience is clear in the abuse. It’s the mental issues that shake me.
Three years later, and I still struggle if a guy I’m dating wants me to sleep over; in the rare event that I do share a bed with him, I’m awake half the night. There are certain words, phrases, even people I meet who look like or have similar mannerisms to my ex and trigger my fear responses. When things aren’t going according to plan, those questions of how my life would have been plague me. Yet when my fingers go to the keys and I write about it yet again, that inner voice inside of my head that always acts as an outstanding asshole sighs, “Aren’t you over this shit yet? No man is going to love a broken basketcase. You’re never going to find someone who loves you, just like he said. Get over yourself.”
Deep down, I’ve wanted to forget, but I can’t. I remember sitting in a room where a rabbi was talking about relationships and I was the one who brought up the question of domestic violence. His body visibly squirming before changing the subject showed me the proof: That although I love my faith, this community views it as an “over there” problem. We can’t have it here because we’re too rich, too upper class, too… whatever. It reminded me of getting out. When so many people turned on me and I had to face the darkness and realizations as an individual apart. Imagine my surprise when a rabbi liked several of my tweets.
Even though I’ve written about it, I didn’t want to exploit myself as an abuse victim because I didn’t want that to be all that I am. I’m a writer, a comedian, a dreamer, a woman beyond those seven years of my life who loves to laugh and be social. The #WhyIStayed hashtag was so important because I could hide myself on Twitter; most of my friends aren’t there. I could emote in private and feel the comfort of an anonymous universe catching me.
Then came a Facebook status about the Ray Rice case. “Isn’t it clear that she elbowed him first?” he said. “She provoked it.”
I watched as my friends started blowing up at him (with good reason). And then one of them messaged me. “You have to say something,” she said.
Normally I would say no, but deep down, like how I knew my ex didn’t love me, I knew she was right. She knew I was a survivor through some of our personal talks. And as a survivor, I couldn’t let victim blaming go quiet.
So I owned it in a way that I never had before. Yes, I am a survivor of abuse. Yes, that has prevented me from getting close to anyone in a relationship over the past three years. Yes, I am still trying to fight against my fears through my art, whether in written word or comedy.
But no, you do not know a relationship from a simple video. You don’t even know what mine was from my words or my tweets above. What you see from TMZ is a woman being knocked unconscious and dragged callously from an elevator, and then later becoming his wife. What you see here is a woman who left a horrible situation that is still trying to come to terms with it. You never know anything until you see it behind closed doors; I’m just trying to let some light in.
I am one face of the one in three women who are or were in abusive situations, whether non-violent or violent, across the United States. And #WhyIStay here is because I am breathing and will do anything in my power to stop it from happening again. If I can help one person with my story, it will be worth it. And in the meantime:
— Reina Victoria (@reinavictoria18) September 9, 2014
“Forgive? Sounds good. Forget? I’m not sure I could. They say time heals everything, but I’m still waiting.” — The Dixie Chicks
I sat at services on Saturday morning next to my friend Rachelle as the rabbi began to deliver her sermon. “This is the month of Elul, of love,” she said. “As we approach the High Holy Days, this is the time to open ourselves up and this is the time to forgive, although we are afraid to because we are protecting our hearts.”
It was words that my mind let pass into the day as I continued along with my busy LA life. But then Tuesday, it hit again in the form of a message.
The sender was a guy I went out with almost two years ago, back when I was still living in Thousand Oaks after the divorce. We had coffee, had dinner, had a good time filled with honest conversation… and then he proceeded to never call me again. It became awkward as I came back to Los Angeles and found out that not only does he go to the temple that I like to go to, but he also tried to get me to have sex with him on several occasions. Brushing him off, I kept going, but now here was this message asking me, in light of the upcoming Jewish holidays, to forgive him for his horrible past behavior in the hope of becoming real friends.
It made me pause. If I have learned anything from my past relationships and friendships with men, it’s that it is a rare occurrence that they apologize for nasty behavior. It’s a matter of pride, and to ease my way with many of them, I have always had to say the first sorry. A man who can find the strength to apologize for his misdeeds is the strongest man of them all, and is worthy not only of respect, but admiration and love.
Yet through this guy’s nice, flowery words, I didn’t trust him in my gut. His behavior over the past two years did not make me want to admit him into my inner circle. How did I know where his motivations were? I was well aware that he had crushes on several of my friends, so having him on my good side would be advantageous to him. In my mind, the sense of being more of a turnkey was overpowering, compared to the idea that I was someone he actually wanted to develop a human relationship with.
The rest of the day, through my work and other goings-on, I kept coming back to the note, to that notion of forgiveness. I remembered that afternoon with him in his bedroom, his ear against my chest. As I let him lie there, my heart beating faster because I hadn’t let anyone that close for a long time, I thought about a different boy. No matter whose bed I laid in, he seemed to follow me, and my mind to this day has been unable to shake him.
He was one of my best friends, my road trip partner and the person who knew my darkest secrets. After my divorce he was my brightest hope even while being the embodiment of my fears, and the only one who could break my heart — which he did very successfully. Over two years later, he has never apologized and I have not forgiven him.
The concept of letting anyone else that deep into my inner world again was nothing more than a fantasy. Until that day when I let this other guy’s ear against my chest. It was the first glimmer that maybe, just maybe, I could be close to someone again without fear of them hurting me and that even someone as messed up as I was could be loved and cherished. That didn’t go according to plan either. The hurt didn’t come until later when he saw me as just a way to get laid fast.
Since last February, I watched myself dramatically change. With my mom’s illness and my financial stresses of building a business, every bad thing that happened dredged up memories of the past, sometimes in relief but mainly in regret and stress. Emotionally, I was far from ready for what the universe was bringing to my table, and swallowing it, I could feel myself choking.
Even though there were people reaching out to me in the darkness, my trust began to dwindle and city living was making me hard around the edges. As I rose to take the stage in comedy, my skin got thicker and it deflected the pain, but only for minutes at a time. Although I had my friends and loved them, the idea of letting them into my struggles was abhorrent to me. I feared them yelling at me, telling me all the horrible things about myself that I kept telling myself already, and then abandoning me to wallow by myself. So I hid, and the pain drove me to the brink of insanity.
Then, over a month ago, I saw that boy who broke my heart at a party. His voice was slightly tinged with desperation as he called out for my attention, but I had no words left for him. I embraced him, allowing myself to feel the beauty of his body against mine, and walked away. I wouldn’t let him get close again.
Later that evening, he would approach my friend Bryce to talk to her. She was the only one who I pointed him out to, so of course she would report to me later. “He was really nice,” she said.
Those simple words gave me pause. I had forgotten that about him. My memory kept the horrible things about the past between us: Him calling me selfish and drama, pushing at me when I was so weak after the divorce. The cruelty of a boy who didn’t remember what it was like to go through hard times, and would rather be cruel and throw me away than to deal with whatever was going on in his head. And how I wasn’t the only one who he did that to.
But I forgot about the boy who, whenever I called or asked to talk to him, would always pick up the phone or call me back within two hours. Who knew my most intimate secrets and somehow gave me back my voice. His beautiful deep baritone voice that was so quiet and calm, yet could cut through any fear or doubt in my head. Who made me laugh and brought out my silly side to make him grin. Who was ethical and brilliant, debating me in fun and without malice. And whose murky brown eyes would relax when he looked at me, as his body leaned in and his head cocked to one side, a soft unforced smile gracing his face; it was a smile that seemed to be reserved only for me.
It was the pain of my past that was causing me not to forgive, because forgiveness means letting it all go. It also means throwing aside the same pride that the one who is seeking the forgiveness does. Often it’s harder because we are tearing scabs off of wounds and making them fresh again for the person who sliced us open, causing even more hurt in order to heal. I want to forgive, but can I?
As Elul falls away and we come into the Jewish New Year, I’m not sure if there are any answers for me. My fingers pause as the cursor blinks in front of me for that guy who sent the message. What words do I have for this man who is seeking my forgiveness? Do I really have anything left inside of me that is soft and malleable after everything, that can defrost my heart and trust someone despite the wrongs? Can I accept that he is only human and forgive, and can one day I let go wholeheartedly?
I may not know the solutions, but I know where to start, and I put my fingers to the keys.
It was three hours of conversation that led up to it, but it seemed like an eternity at the same time. I had put down my cold beer on his dresser and my hands began to fidget in the red light, staring out the window at the flowing trees. “I don’t know how this goes now…” I said nervously, but I didn’t need any more words anyway. His long hands found me and his lips soon caught mine in a kiss.
One hand was running through my hair, the other at my waist. I wrapped my arms around his neck and my back arched. We broke apart, his hands cupping my face just the way I like a guy to do after his lips are on mine.
“I’ve wanted to kiss you from the minute I saw you,” he whispered softly. “Standing at the microphone…”
The lights were fluorescent a few hours earlier as I took the mic at the Eagle Rock sandwich shop and began working through my material. I saw him in the back during my set: brown messy hair and beard, bright blue eyes, with a tall and lanky build.
He went up as well, but decided that comedy wasn’t his flavor; he preferred the beat of his drums. We stood outside for about an hour talking with another comic. Eventually the other comic left and this boy and I were left to ourselves. We walked towards my car, and as I arrived I asked, “Where’s your car?”
“Well, I took the bus,” he said. “But I’m going to be straightforward. I like you and I want to spend more time with you. So if you could give me a ride, I’d like to get you a drink.”
This is Los Angeles, land of indirectness and game playing, so I had never experienced anything this straightforward on these shores. So I took him up on it, and was led eventually led into the hills of Mt. Washington. And after much talking, beer drinking and laughter, I was ensnared in his lips, remembering what it was like to be possessed by kissing. It was truly a possession, and my stomach was on fire. I was left as a wide-eyed junkie, craving more.
The kiss is something that has been devalued in the hookup society. There are guys I know who refuse to kiss girls, even though they have sex with them. And to them, I say go back and practice your skills, because there is nothing more valuable. I am of the firm belief that the makeout is a lost artform; one that needs to be brought back for the sake of intimacy and humankind.
I’ve been kissing since the tender age of 14. The first one was with a boy named Jason at a Jewish youth group convention. The Eagles’ “Hotel California” was playing, I was looking pretty in my formal dress, and it was… slimy. I swore I would never kiss again. Somewhere G-d was laughing, because I’ve kissed a lot of boys since that point. (I have never kissed a girl, but I really never found a girl who I was attracted enough to kiss.)
I remember sitting with my friend with benefits at the age of 20, him moving my lips and spending hours teaching me to kiss properly as we hung out on his front porch with the dogs. As the years went on, I experienced many different sets of lips. All of them were different, from plump, pillowy lips to those that I had to coax to kiss correctly. Each one had its own flavor, and it was fascinating.
When life with my ex set it, kissing either turned into quick pecks or soul-sucking monstrosities. I remember feeling teeth against my cheek and more aggression than actual affection. At one point when things were really bad, our relationship counselor told us to build up intimacy by making out regularly. I was excited by this prospect and completely down for more kissing. Like the prospect of sex though, he shrugged it off.
My last birthday we were together, I got very drunk and proceeded to make out with him at the bar where we were celebrating, my long purple dress enveloping us both. Even thought I was inebriated, my body could still feel the reluctance in those kisses. I could feel him pulling away, but he couldn’t refuse because we were in a bar of all our friends and appearances mattered more to him than affections. To be with someone who couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasure of kissing… it was a matter of time before the destruction set in.
When the breakup set in, I was reintroduced to the kiss. Standing in the parking lot after my first “date” with a guy, and having him so close to me, his body present and standing in parallel with mine, I felt the energy flit in my stomach. And when his lips reached mine, I found myself in a state of shock and excitement. What had I been missing all this time? It was like music of the mouth, sensation and expression without a single word. It didn’t matter what happened later (which was he proposed marriage to me after two dates and I said no), but for that moment, I rediscovered the perfection that is the kiss.
There were a lot of frogs kissed since that day. Some boys were sweet and asked if they could kiss me (and for that, I thought, “For asking, you can have two.”) Some tried to be romantic and jar their way into my mouth when I didn’t want them there. There were horrible kissers who licked me so much that dogs would be standing in applause if they could manage it. And then there were those who were good, but got distracted by the other options that were available, such as the possibility of sex. The kiss got lost.
Yet after probably hundreds of kisses in my life, I never get sick of them. I sense more because of them and feel more elation in them than any sexual encounter could make me experience. I joke when I tell people that I never know if a guy is into me until his lips are on mine, but it’s true. As a writer, I am well aware that words can lie; bodies can’t. The body is just as important to read, because often you can find things that you need to find in its motions when the words fail. It starts when the voice ends and movement and sensation begins. And we all need to relearn this language — even myself.
As I kissed my open mic boy goodbye, him possessing me one more time with his mouth, I wondered if I would ever see him again. I’ve lived in this city long enough to know the answer was probably not; there are so many distractions and other lips in this town that most people refuse to settle on just one pair. But as I journeyed back out into the night, the scent of him on my body, I reflected on what my comedy teacher said: To paraphrase her, comedy certainly gets you some action.