Aug 22 ● BY Raina K. Puels
girls just wanna have fun throbs through the bar. you & your girlfriend & her boyfriend dance & kiss. she’s so sexy with her big red hair. he’s so sexy with his bare chest covered in tattoos & sweat. you two share a special trust through the transitive property.
now a disco ball lights up a familiar face across the room, a guy you went to college with you’ve been crushing on forever. he’s dancing to madonna with some blonde girl. now he’s dancing with you. you feel delicate under his big hands, like he could break you. now your girlfriend hip checks him out of the way. she’s between your thighs smelling of lavender & pine, you good baby? you know this guy? you are good. even better knowing she’s checking on you out of concern, not control. you shiver thinking of the partner you recently split with who thought it was hot when you dated women & an assault to his masculinity when you dated men.
now your college friend returns. drunk on autonomy, you stand on tiptoes & yell over billy idol into his ear, can i kiss you? you enjoy his beard tickling your face, but then he’s biting your lip much too hard. you’re reminded of all the other men who have bit you much too hard. then he goes home with blondie & you eat pickles in a bodega with your polycule. everyone kisses goodnight.
now it’s halloween a couple weeks later. you’re at a party with college friends costumed as a goth cat. all you did was put on some ears & wear more fishnet than usual. now he’s pressing you against a wall in a bedroom. you’re again enjoying his beard & big hands. your black lipstick is all over his face, combining with his drawn-on whiskers. he’s also a cat. he tastes like beer & you worry you’ll taste of blood if he bites any harder. he pushes his hand down your pants. slides, no shoves, a finger inside you. you don’t really want him to do that, didn’t tell him he could do that. when he tries to take off your skirt, you push him away, & he sways. he turns his big sad eyes toward you, just so you know you’re incredible. you could laugh at his transparency.
now you’re brushing your teeth & wiping off the black smudges around your mouth. now you’re in another bedroom sitting on the floor, making out with a boy dressed as a jazz cat. all night he wore a beret & carried around a saxophone. now his props are discarded & you fill his hands. he also just brushed his teeth, so the kisses are mintyfresh. you like his lithe body, like how his earring glints in the low light. you’ve wanted to kiss him for a while, but haven’t because your ex would’ve called you a slut & playing the role of poly girl tamed was easier at the time.
now he asks if you want to move to the bed & you tell him, yes, i’m open to oral but nothing more. he thanks you for being explicit about your boundaries, & you’re reminded of how much easier it is to advocate for yourself before the touching starts. now you’re between his thighs. now you’re swallowing his cum when he says, wow i can tell you do that often. a year later you’ll finally ask him, was that a compliment, or a slut shame? & he’ll say, most definitely a compliment. though in the moment, it doesn’t feel that way.
now he’s asking, can i go down on you? you say, yes, but he’s missing the mark. you’re full of shame that you still, still can’t give someone sexual directions, not even your girlfriend, though you’ve addressed it in therapy & have written yourself countless notes that say things like, tell your partners what you want!!! you beat yourself up until you dissociate, coax his head up to let him know you’ve had enough.
now you’re in an uber home at 4 a.m. & feeling deflated, deflated as fuck. from twenty feet away you’ll feel tethered to yourself like the pink balloon tied around your wrist when you were four. you followed your mom into the basement to do laundry & kept bouncing the balloon on the rough ceiling. she said, if you keep doing that it’s going to pop. you kept bouncing, bouncing the beautiful pink balloon. when the inevitable pop came you burst into tears, looked at your mom & said, i’m disappointed. now you wonder: was it your fault, or the ceiling’s?