I can’t tell you what happened.
If I were to detail the event, list its stages, the sensations and the feelings, what I said, what he said… It would be like narrating a car-crash. The moment metal kissed, the sound of the glass shattering, the nanosecond of engine roar, the eon of silence in which the airbag did not deploy, the sense of awe as the steering wheel broke my jaw and crushed three ribs, and the relief of feeling pain and knowing I was alive.
This was not a car crash. Though I am in pain and infinitely glad to be alive. But still, the first thing I feel is sadness. As if I’ve just been summarily ejected from the garden of Eden.
I don’t know how long I’ve slept, but it’s dawn when I wake. The muscles along my sides ache as I attempt to roll over. But his thigh is wedged between mine and the semen has stuck us together like a post-office mishap. Not like superglue. I know a concerted effort on my part would free me. But then, all at once, I can feel the deep, warm wrongness of the cuts on my shoulder. Hotter than the other places his chest meets the skin of my back.
He is breathing into my hair – thick, moist breaths – deeply enough to prickle my scalp. His hand has been left, in a moment of unconsciousness, on my hip. And yet something in his dreams has made him curl his fingers enough to ensure a soft grip.
I inhale and there is a dull, sore throb in my cunt. My labia feel like my lips, swollen, the tissues are sulking at having been rudely used. Maybe what is binding us together beneath the sheets is not cum, but blood.
I’m scared to look, but I pull away the sheet in increments, annoyed at my squeamishness. Sometimes I wish I were a different sort of person; someone who refuses to know. But I always want to know. Everything. That’s why I’m here, and why I hurt. Why I feel like a mutilated angel: relieved of my wings and my womb.
No. That sounds like a tragedy and this is not. Have you ever noticed how dawn can do strange things to your emotions?
I am happy-sad.
I move slowly. The day’s heat has already crept into the room, my inner thighs are sweating, and the unsticking is effected with no drama. I roll over onto my stomach, prop myself up on my elbows, look at him.
Sleeping, he is the stranger who moves me to tears: childlike at the crook of his mouth and aged at the corners of his closed eyes. The masculinity of his beard bristle wars with the fragility of his lower lip. There is a smudge of dried blood on his cheek where it hollows out below the bone. More streaks rusty on his chest, flaking now, like watercolour. And lines on his forehead for all the years he has worried. Sometimes I want to smooth them away with the tip of my tongue. But not today. Today the lines are so absolutely right.
When he wakes, will he feel like I do? Like an exile from the garden? Will he damn me for reaching for the fruit? Will he be ashamed of his nakedness? Will he want to cower and hide, now that I know him so completely?
Part of me wishes I felt that way: ashamed. I should be. Smart, adult, well-educated, stable women don’t go where I went last night.
But I am not ashamed. Instead, I dread how he will look at me when he wakes up. So, I don’t wake him with a kiss, or slide back between his out-flung arms, and nestle close to his body. There are times when touch can bridge the gap that silence cleaves, but this is not one of them.
Last night, our silences cut bright white lines into the void. Last night was a bell jar. Last night, I consumed him like a mantis eats her mate while he ripped off my wings. Our hunger consumed all the world’s oxygen, and the glass creaked and pinged under the pressure of our frenzy for more. Last night, his exhalations were the only air to be had. Last night, I wore myself like a new skin. And he disrobed me, revealing my monstrosity. Folded back all the civilities, licked his lips, and bit my soul in two. Like the devil I always sensed he was. Last night, I my cunt spasmed to the rhythm of his gasps.
Now, his breathing has changed. His jaw moves, as if he’s chewing his way into the world. I lean my chin on my clasped hands and wait, all my aches forgotten in a moment of abject terror.
“Hey,” he says. His voice rasps through his parched throat.
One dark eye opens, then the other. Then they both close again. My nails dig into my skin. I know he’s thinking, remembering.
When he opens them again, there is a distance in them, as if he’d been staring at a far horizon streaked with the red and gold sunrise in his mind.
“Are we good?” he asks, and slides an upturned palm towards me across the soiled sheets.
I don’t take the hand. The hand is not enough. Wincing at the soreness, I push myself into his flesh, bury my face against his neck and drink him in. Because sometimes, touch is far more eloquent than words. And this is one of those times.