We were in love, he and I. Deeply. Desperately. The more I loved him, though, the sadder I got. The sadder I got, the less I began to feel that love inside me. At one point, I even thought I’d fallen out of love because my chest rang hollow where the love should have sat. I did not know that love requires presence.
Intimacy is an exchange
Intimacy with a capital ‘I’ is by nature an exchange. For love to be requited, to be deserved, to be felt, you have to look it in the face and bare your neck to its blade. I felt his caresses, his kisses, the care with which his eyes roamed my skin, light and loving. And I wondered why I could not do the same. I wondered why my kisses felt stunted, hurried. As if they were longing to go somewhere, somewhere else, looking for a patch of skin on which they could belong.
Little by little, my skin died. He tried to awaken it, softly, then forcefully, but he could not elicit a response from what was not there. His fingers touched air, slid over plastic, while I looked on from behind dead eyes, cold and unfeeling. He entered me, I swallowed him; it felt pleasurable, but it was not pleasure.
It was only when I realised we must make love that my long-slumbering femaleness woke again. It uncurled like a flower in spring, hot and full and thirsty. I truly touched him now. My fingers, my lips, feathering over the soft hair on his skin. My kisses, raising goosebumps, and my tongue, raising moans and bucking hips. I wanted to touch him as he touched me, no longer watching, but being.
And under that exchange, I flowered.
Soft sighs steamed from my lips, shivers followed his fingers down my spine, shudders racked against his thighs. I was melding and floating and soaring.
“It is so good to see you smile,” he said. “I wondered if I could ever make you happy again.”
That word, that silly, funny word rolling in my head. Happy? Happy? Do orgasms make you happy?
“They give you a serotonin high. Isn’t that what your medication does too?”
My love, my sweet, sad love. The man who couldn’t understand why I chose to run a razor over my skin. My friend who could have forsaken me when I didn’t speak to him for days. The angel who fought for me, against me.
Was I happy?
Was I loved?
It was a simple word, it came tumbling from his lips as if it had been lying there, in wait. It dropped down my neck and slid between my breasts, praying that my heart – the heart that hadn’t responded to “love” and “sex” – would soak up its small, simple vow.
The little drop fed a little seed in my heart, a little seed long forgotten in the swamp of sadness. That little seed grew and grew until it sent its roots deep into my veins, suckling them with its nectar of life. Now we did not have to make love. Now there was a little of him in me, no matter what.
I nurtured the flower of our intimacy within me, conscious of its delicacy, treasuring its impermanence. We found meaning in our flower, meaning we had created for ourselves, which is the only true way for meaning to exist. And when the petals dropped, we bore the pain with quiet grace, for it was nought but a consequence of our love.
Through a haze of blood and sweat and tears came the fruit of our struggles. Sweet and small and armed with the certainty of being loved. That sweet fruit, born of a little seed that our intimacy brought to life, we named her Hope.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here