A Conversation With God: Vignetted.

I wrote this as an answer to “If God asks you on Judgement Day, “Why didn’t you believe in me,” what would you say to him?” on Quora. It is the companion piece to this. Enjoy.

~*~*~

“AAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

I shove my chair back and stand up, enraged. The drink in my hand becomes a missile: I launch it across the room, over his head, and the glass shatters against the wall opposite me. Whatever had been in it, I could not remember now, sprays the wall, dripping down. I stare at it, watching it change colours as it slides towards the floor.

I could not remember what I had ordered, how it tasted, even if I liked it. But, it sure was beautiful on the wall.

I had been sitting across from him for what felt like a moment, but also forever. Ages had come and gone, civilizations risen and fallen, while we sat across from each other, conversing.

Or just a moment.

Maybe I had been a baby in my parents’ house in the eighties but a blink of an eye ago.

Maybe the planet had froze, melted, froze again, melted, froze again, melted, and was nearing another ice age in the time we have talked.

I watch my drink creep down the wall.

“You’re a fucking asshole.”

“What?”

“You fucking heard me.”

“Chelsey, sit down.”

“No. I prefer to stand.”

He sighs. crossing his legs. He did it just like my dad used to: he would cross one ankle over the other knee and lean back, locking his fingers behind his neck for support, and usually smile, or at least look soft in the eyes.

God looks like my dad, but not the way my dad looked when I saw him last. He has a darker, fuller head of hair, and an older style of glasses that is trendy in the late teens of the 21st century, again. They were sitting low on his nose, but his warm brown eyes were still looking through them with his head tilted back like that. His shirt was a baseball shirt that he had made with iron-on letters that said “Still Awesome”.

Not God, my dad had made the shirt.

God was wearing my dad’s shirt.

He wears athletic socks. The coloured bands at the tops could be seen on the leg raised, uncovered from where his jeans rode up.

He looks like my dad used to look when I was very small.

I think he did that so I wouldn’t be afraid of him.

“I did it because it was an easy, comforting image in your memories. I like how your dad presents.”

“That is super creepy.”

“Omniscience is pretty creepy, yes.”

“I’m not buying the relational pitch.”

“So, back to what I was asking you, if we could? Why didn’t you believe in me?”

“Have you seen what it’s like?”

“Of course.”

“Well, forgive me for my skepticism when my understanding of your conceptual existence is based on principles of unconditional love and shit, because like, I’m serious, have you really seen what’s going on out there… down there? Here? Where are we?”

“Unconditional love, you say. We’re in a bar. I thought this would be an easy, comfortable space for you.”

I look around the room. It has metamorphosed from an indiscriminate room into a more intimate space. The lighting is warm, and the furniture looks soft and inviting. There is a fireplace where the wall my drink was decorating had been. The technicolor liquid now drips off the mantle, pooling near the bases of candle holders. There are beautiful moving pictures in ornate frames on the walls with little signs next to them indicating titles, artist names and prices.

God is an art dealer, I think to myself. As if he’s got nothing better to do.

“I know what would be better for me to occupy my time with, Chelsey. Back to the question at hand.”

“No, but… never mind, don’t distract me,” I took a few breaths in an attempt to calm my nerves; talking to God is stressful. “I think probably because I don’t get it.”

“What do you not get?”

“I don’t get why we exist, what we’re supposed to be doing, why we are so prone to the destruction of others but ultimately also ourselves, what we’re supposed to do now that “judgement day” has come. Honestly, can you come up with a better name for this? Whatever this is? We people have made bad art about it for too long and it is totally loaded.”

I looked around for a bartender or wait staff to get another beverage. One happened to be sitting in front of me already. I don’t know when it got there, but it may have been immediately after I threw the last one at the wall. The mantle?

I pick it up and gave it a stir with the little drink stick poking out the top. It has cherries skewered on it. When I put it to my lips it tastes like almonds and strong, complex whiskey.

“Did you just make this drink appear?”

“Yes and no.”

“……..”

“You made it appear, but it’s the same one you had before, so, um… do we need to have a time-space continuum science lesson right now?”

“Probably but I don’t really have time for that.”

“I assure you that you do.”

I take a breath to cry out and start to raise my drink-hand to a throwing position; I pause. I wonder how many times I have thrown drinks at the wall since we’ve been here.

I can’t remember.

“That was the time-space continuum lesson.”

“Oh for fuck sakes. You’re impossible.”

“I assure you I am not, nor have I ever been.”

“Well, you are obviously devoid of compassion, because we are suffering! All of us! Existential pain is universal, and it is relentless.”

“Is it, now.”

“YES. Every single person that is in existence on Earth is hurting, one way or another. And it is because of YOU.”

“I assure you it is not.”

“You do nothing to stop it!”

“That doesn’t make me the cause.”

“You might as well be.”

“That is not the same.”

“Dad… fuck, no, you’re not my dad.” I squint my eyes shut and press my fingers over them for a moment as if somehow, the image would change if I wiped it off my eyes.

When I open them again, across from me sits my wife. My heart skips and I relish for a moment just being with her, in this strange place. I allow myself to pretend nothing has changed, and we just came here, to this bar, together to get a drink. Maybe we’re travelling somewhere together, and decided to duck into this space next to the venue where we were seeing some electronic music. Maybe it was in Berlin, or New York.

That would be nice. I miss her.

She looks like when we met: bangs perfectly in place, hair swept to one side and blown straight. She is wearing a charcoal pencil skirt and sleeveless dark-toned blouse she had sewn herself. She always looks completely immaculate, even when we’re just at home doing nothing. Her eyes are soft; this is an expression I associate with her concern, because she worries about me more often than not.

“Love…”

“Don’t call me that! You’re not her!”

As if she had never been sitting there at all, and I had imagined it, he is now Ray.

He pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, lit one, while running his hand through his thick hair, like he used to do all the time while he drank, smoked, watched television, whatever he was doing. His moustache twitched at the corners as he smiled his strange, artificial smile at me and my stomach lurches.

Ray sexually assaulted me when I was eleven years old.

I stare incredulously.

“Yeah, great. Great choice.” I lean back and look up at the ceiling. This is incredible.

“Well, I mean, you seem to not want to speak to an image of someone you love, so how about one whom you decidedly do not?”

“This is pretty fucked up, if I may say so.”

“You are still not answering my question.”

“Look, if you’re so god damned omniscient, you know why I didn’t believe.”

“It is the only thing I cannot know.”

“What?”

“I can see everything, except what you think of me.”

I smirked.

“That must be frustrating for someone as self-indulgent as you.”

“It is not ideal.”

“Well, that makes all of us.”

“Hm. Interesting perspective.”

“Oh, come on. You don’t think all the garbage we made up about how you made us in your image, in the context of your inability to see what we think about you, doesn’t make for a hysterical paradox? Wait, how did you even know I didn’t believe? I didn’t tell you that. Did I?”

He bounces the ankle of the crossed leg in the air, adding an air of annoyance to his posture.

“You did. And you tell me eventually what you think of me, now, but apparently not today.”

“What, did I hurt your feelings or something?”

He uncrosses his legs and stands, towering over me.

“You told me, and you’ll tell me again. We will be back here when you do.”

“Is this about the time-space whatever again? Are you seriously leaving because a little person made fun of you? What a joke. God has a fragile ego. I mean, I’m not surprised, but also, really? And like, look at you. How the fuck did you think I was going to handle facing my childhood molester? Did you really think that was going to prompt me to tell you anything? You’re fucking lucky I am more resilient than, say, clamming up or going into shock, or something, because then you’d be fucked. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything at all. You have got a thing or two to learn about how to have a conversation in which you have an agenda.”

I suddenly lean forward, snatching the pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. I free one from the package, lighting it with a matchbook that appears in my hand as soon as I think it should, and take a long drag.

Cloves.

Of course they are clove cigarettes. Leave it to God to be ostentatious like that.

“You know, I haven’t had a cigarette in 5 years. That is how fucked up the world is, and you know it is your responsibility. We actively murder ourselves to cope more often than not.”

I sit back, annoyed but also smirking . I am suddenly pleased I did not throw my new cocktail across the room. I pick it up and take a sip, lifting the cherries out of their bath and sliding one off with my teeth, smug. It is amazing how ranting at God can leave you so conceited. I feel brazen, capable of saying anything.

“You know what I think of you? I am let down. Disappointed. This scene, here, you and me, was poorly executed, never mind your whole little human race project. Good fucking luck getting any references after that shit show of a venture.”

The look on his face softened. His lips don’t move but I hear him. I hear him not in the way we hear people sitting across from us, their voices projecting directionally toward us.

I hear him inside of me. His voice reverberates through my bones, as if the sound is coming out of me and also the walls around me, the furniture, the air may have even caused it. The cacophony of sound makes me want to cover my ears, but it won’t help because it is everywhere. I feel it in my hair, the individual follicles vibrating from the tone. I feel it in the blood cells that are syphoning through my heart.

“Thank you.”

Everything dissolves. Consciousness, the bar, God, it all disappears. I am sitting at a laptop, writing a short story about an encounter with a supposed deity, and thinking about whether to grab something at the grocer before going home to have dinner with my wife.

Dear Chelsey: A Letter to My Previous Self.

Dear Chelsey,

Hello. I know, I’m surprised too. We have read lots of time-travel lo-fantasy, and we always wondered what we would be like when we were older.

Here I am. We made it this far, and we’re aging okay, despite our best efforts to self-destruct. Lucky us. It is a good thing we’ve eaten pretty well over the years, even with all the other toxicity we’ve subjected ourselves to. Hopefully we quit smoking soon enough, and have curbed our inebriation choices to a livable frequency and quantity. I’ll get back on that yoga train soon, I promise. This winter was really tough on us, so we’re being gentle and introducing a self-care regimen slowly.

I am pleased to be able to offer you some insight. I hate to say it, because this may come across as “I’m so glad I’m not you”. But I’m really glad that I am not even a moment younger than I currently am, and look forward to being older and having more experiences to draw from. They really knew what they were talking about when they said, “wait until you’re older”, or “listen to your elders”, or whatever other anecdotal advice some older person tried to give you over the years that you probably took with a grain of salt. Salt is a very important grain to take, but it helps to listen too, and we didn’t know that then, as most younger people overlook. We’re getting a better grip now, thankfully, and finally. It is so hard to listen to advice when we’re young and wilful.

We are going to be thirty-five this year, if you can believe it. That’s a third of a lifetime, done. Half, if we’re feeling not as optimistic. I tend to lean on the optimism end of the spectrum, or I try.

You’ve been through a lot, already, haven’t you? I’m pretty sure you were reeling from the things you had been through by the age of twelve, let alone where I am at thirty-four. I assure you, at each of the junctures I am going to acknowledge you at, you were tired. I think we’ve probably been tired our whole lives, and because we didn’t know any different, we just kept plugging along, kept trying, kept telling ourselves we were lucky it wasn’t worse. Now, I have learned about things like trauma-bonding, codependency, and how bad the things you have been through were. We used to talk ourselves out of that. We laugh when we’re nervous, and when we’re scared, because we want it to not be as bad as it is, or are trying to make light of our own struggle.

We gaslit ourselves for years because that was the way others taught us to treat ourselves by treating us as such. We know better now, but slip up from time to time and try not to be too hard on ourselves when we do.

It’s okay that the things that happened to us were bad, even if they weren’t as bad as some of the other things other people have suffered. It’s okay to have been hurt, and to have been unlucky in some cases, and to feel that. We are lucky in a lot of ways and have a lot of privileges, but those do not mitigate the hurt we have been subject to, and glossing over those hurts isn’t helping you move through them, so let’s stop that together, okay?

I’m going to go over some things that have happened, and are going to happen to you, and what I think would have helped you if I had known these things when they happened to me. I will refer to your age at the time of the event, or the instance, so we can keep straight what we’re talking about. That should help this be less confusing.

There may be an overarching theme to the information I am going to give you, but we will see if that emerges while I compile this letter. Who knows, this might even narrow down to one succinct piece of advice.

Let’s start early.

When the girls in your early elementary classes are not being kind to you, don’t worry about it. You’re a curious, communicative, amicable being; you want to talk to everyone, and have done since you gained the ability to speak. Your parents let you run wild at parties and other social spaces, and you made friends with everyone. This is not the way school is going to work for you, and it’s not really anyone’s fault. A bunch of kids are mashed together, coming from differences they don’t understand yet, and they can be mean, unfortunately. These girls are only going to be around you for a couple more years, and then you will find different friends that are nicer and much more supportive. They are probably just trying to work out if they have any power, just like you. There are differences between you and them that have to do with things you don’t understand yet, like class privilege. It doesn’t feel okay at the time; the rejection is palpable, and what you don’t yet understand is that you fall in love with girls. Their disinterest is more hurt-filled than you, or they, understand, because all the Disney movies show girls falling in love with boys. Try not to let this silence you. Keep being yourself, and don’t change so they like you. They are not going to like you anyway if they don’t want to, and they are not a representative set of how women can be in your life. Further, stand with the people those girls are mean to besides yourself. Those are your allies, and you will remember them until you’re me.

Your dad is going to go away for a little bit and you’re going to have to move house when you’re still quite young, at seven. It is not your fault, even though your words were an integral part of how this came to pass so suddenly. This is for the best, and he is just doing what he needs to do to be happy. He will be an amazing father because he is a happy man. He met his soulmate; she is going to be a wonderful support system for you later, so trust him. He will be back, and he will be a really solid parent for you, as will she. They will mitigate a lot of the damage done to you by others in your childhood life, and set you up with some of the skills you will need to navigate hardship. Through this, and through their examples of survival, you will learn profound resilience.

Your mum getting sick, diagnosed when you’re ten, is going to impact a lot of things in your life. She doesn’t mean to be angry at everything all the time. She can’t really help it. She wasn’t socialized to be able to deal with how angry she is at her circumstances very well, and is very resentful of how, now, she must rely on others to take care of her quite a lot. The betrayal she feels by your dad is going to go on for a long time, because it’s a tangible thing to blame. Try not to take that personally, or feel the need to defend him. It will just turn her anger on you, and that’s not really all that helpful. She sees him in you, and can’t not see him when she’s really mad. She mixes this up with all her anger about her illness, and it just compounds and fills her with vitriol. She has been dealt a hard hand, and can’t help but lash out at the closest people: her children. She can’t handle the injustice of it all, at times. Her body is failing her and she’s livid about it, but that doesn’t mean she gets to treat you badly.

You can leave, and you will. When you are ready.

Speaking of Mum, she is going to betray you.

Be ready, my dear. This is going to shape parts of your character, and be a shadow within your personality for the rest of your life.

This thing that is going to happen is going to shape a lot of how you engage with people, unfortunately. Let it wash over you; she is not the way all women are. Try not to let that betrayal shape your perspective of women in general, because you will have strong, supportive ones in your life much later, and you will love them very deeply, as they will you. Trust them, even though the first one to influence you was not trustworthy, as it turned out. I know it will be hard, because the imprinting that occurred with this betrayal is going to be a mountain to overcome, but you can do it. Women will be some of the greatest loves of your life, so start climbing that mountain. It will be so worth it.

Now, let us talk about your relationships with men.

Your first sexual experience with a male person should have been much, much later than it was. It’s not your fault; he’s a broken human, and he didn’t know not to touch children, for some reason.

Oh honey, I’m so, so sorry.

You need to be tough, and at the first sign that he may touch you, scream and tell someone immediately. He will start with just an escalation of affection, which feels really weird but you’re eleven, so you don’t know how to process it.

Stop him.

It will get worse, and he will keep going, keep touching you, escalate the sexual nature of the contact until you stop him. This is horrifically unfair, because you are eleven and no child should have to learn how to fight a grown man’s sexual advances off of them at that age, but you will have to fight him off. You will have to snap him out of the drunken haze that has allowed him to think this is acceptable. Tell people who are safe, and you will know who is safe deep in your heart, until someone listens and helps you. Don’t listen to your mum this time; don’t let her silence you. She is internalizing the responsibility of his actions, and she’s afraid of him, and what he will do if she tries to get him to leave. She doesn’t know how to get him to leave, or if she would be okay if he left, so she acts out of fear and tries to shove what happened down and away, tries to make it disappear.

She demands of you that same burial. She demands that you forget it happened, and ignore it.

Don’t erase yourself.

Tell your friends’ mums, or your dad and stepmum, or both. Just don’t be quiet. The silence will eat away at your soul worse than the impact of the assault itself. It will erode your personality, change you permanently, though not irreparably, but that will take years. I know; four years of quiet almost kills you until you are not quiet anymore, and you find support and retribution. You are so brave, and that bravery saves your life, even if you didn’t realize it at the time.

She does not understand what the silence, the suppression, and the lack of advocation by her, for you, is going to do to you. Years later, she will say so. She will not verbalize any understanding of what happened for you before she dies. Your peace with her will have to be made within yourself, without her.

Yeah, I know. This world is like, really fucked up sometimes.

Go to counselling. Even when you think you feel better, keep going. The days you think to yourself “I think I’m okay today. I wonder what there is to talk about?” will be the best sessions. Those sessions really get into your emotional process, and what you need to be healthy and safe. Keep going.

When your “friend” offers you that bag of drugs in trade for a money loan, think about what you are doing. This decision will evaporate a year of your life, at least, and turn you into someone you don’t recognize. Those particular drugs are the sort that erode a part of you that determines morality. You need that part, so stop using as soon as you can. You will come out of it okay when you’re ready, and you have the strength to overcome this particular bout of addiction, as you will overcome many, but your dad will age about twenty years watching you do this and he really needs that lifetime bandwidth.

When that charming boy you met in a drug-fuelled, or alcohol-fuelled, haze wants you to go to that party with him, or that bar, or his house in that cab, consider your options. Please, don’t listen to him. He doesn’t care enough about you and he will show it time and time again with his actions. Watch him, don’t listen to his words, and believe what you know in your heart to be true about him from watching his actions. He doesn’t see you. You are merely a shade, subtle, in his hero story. This is not good enough.

This particular piece of advice was offered without age or timeline, because it happens so many times, I cannot count them all.

Your dad is amazing. This means you trust men to support you emotionally and take care of you when you are too wrecked to take care of yourself, and they will not meet that bar more than most of the time. Approaching your relationships with men with some skepticism as to their ability to meet you where you are at is very prudent, and you will be alright regardless. You will survive them all, and you will leave them all on your own volition, because you should and you will know when to get out. They aren’t good enough. Whether they become such later is irrelevant, because the damage they are doing to you in their negligence is not worth it.

In fact, This is a key tenet to be mindful of: watch what people do. Don’t listen to what they say all the time. They will tell you stories with their actions, and those are so much truer than the words they say. Watch for the people who do exactly what they say, and keep those close to you.

Have sex with men if you want to, but be sure to check in with yourself and confirm that you actually want to. Do it for you, not because they want you to, or you think they will like you more if you do. They won’t. They’re taking your life-force from you if you’re not into it, and you need that to survive. You could be reliving past trauma by engaging in sexual situations you don’t one hundred percent want to be doing, and that’s hurting you more than you know. You are sensitive, particularly about sexual things, as a result of your history. Stay on top of using protection, and if they have a problem with that, leave. You will get lucky, but there’s no such thing as too cautious. This will fail once, and particularly devastatingly, but again, you are lucky: you live in a country that has legal and safe abortion access. You catch it early, and it is like it never happened.

Your body needs to carry you through your life; treat it with reverence.

It will take you until the time of this letter being written by me, by future you, for you to realize the trauma you have subjected yourself to by having sex with people you aren’t completely into. This will happen over and over again for years. You will have lots of great sex; you will be very into a lot of the people you are intimate with, but there will be as many, if not more people that you’re not. You are a sex-positive person, and this will conflate with your desire, which will lead to a lot of situations that are more “I guess, because I should be into this” than “fuck yes”. “I guess” isn’t consent. The people you were having sex with should have known based on your body language, your intoxication, your hesitancy prior to their coercion, but they went ahead with it anyway. That’s on them, so don’t beat yourself up about this. You are responsible for yourself, but you are also only fifty percent responsible for the interactions you have with others. You are also a conventionally attractive woman, so people are going to chase you. Your boundaries have been historically shaky, so it’s no wonder that sometimes, particularly manipulative and toxic people get in close with you. You get better and better at dealing with this every single day, and I am hopeful that I will continue into the future to get even better.

Here is something very important about that, something that I wish I had known so much sooner than ago:

People getting close to you and your not seeing their negative impact on you until it’s too late is absolutely not your fault.

How other people push you, push your soft spots to see where the weaknesses are, how they covertly cross boundaries in order to get what they want, how they don’t check in, how they take what they can extract from you, how they steamroll over you: that is entirely on them.

People who prioritize egalitarianism, and who care about you, will not do this to you.

You’re not going to find your people until you are in your thirties. Your social nature, the way you easily get close to people and the way you are always growing and changing will lead to you cycling through a lot of social circles through your teens, twenties, and beyond. You will manage to keep a few people for the duration of those years, but most of them will come and go. In your mid-thirties, you will still see some churn, but there will be a core network that challenges you, and nourishes you. The people who are close then will value everything you are, and you won’t have to change or try to muffle any aspect of yourself with them. You will be valued for your headstrong, intense nature and the depth and ease with how you feel. Let that shine, and they’ll be able to see you in the dark. The people who want to take advantage of you will not even try anymore because you will terrify them. They will back away from your fire, as well they should, because you will incinerate them if they get too close. Too often over the course of your life you have been made small and quiet by others, and not only was that an assault on your state of being and your psyche, it was unjust.

You are valuable, and so are your thoughts and feelings.

A thread seems to have emerged, as we both suspected it might. Alongside that of “watch what people do, and see if it lines up with the words they say”, the other is “don’t let people silence you”.

Don’t snuff yourself out your fire. Do not be quiet. Deafen them all with the sound of your voice. Do it to protect yourself and to support people who are struggling in your community.

Be as emphatic as you love, with all of your heart.

Much love to you,

Chelsey

An Open Letter to My Next New Sex Partner.

Dearest Future Lover,

I do not know if we have met yet. You could be a total stranger. Maybe I walked by you in the street a couple of times before eventually smiling and stopping to chat briefly. Maybe I met you on the internet, using some sort of dating website, and have read your whole profile and combed through all the questions you answered to glean some sense of you who you are. Maybe you paid for my coffee because you were in line before me and wanted to do something little to get my attention. Maybe you were listening to something I recognized because your headphones were cranked up so loud I could hear it while sitting next to you on public transit, so I asked you what else you like to listen to. Maybe we both got stuck at an intersection with our bikes as traffic got redirected, and started talking. Maybe you are completely unknown to me currently.

You could be a friend. We perhaps have known each other for some time and there’s always been a bit of flirting or sexual tension between us, but we think our friendship is more important than attempting to be sexual, so we waited a while, joking around sometimes about how funny it would be if we hooked up, all the while each of us wondering what the other look like naked. Or maybe it is more deliberate than that, and when we became friends it was because we made out once and it was okay but we decided not to pursue it for some reason, until we did. You could be someone I have already been spending some time with in that sort of way that suggests that one day, we might kiss or something. You could be a person who is in my social network, and that I know will simply enjoys casual sex, as I do, so after a while of circling each other a bit socially, we decide to give it a shot. You could be a close friend to me, historically platonic, but then something shifts.

You could be working right now, in which case you should probably read this later, because it may distract you. You could be at the park with your dog. You could be playing video games, curled up on your couch in pyjamas. You could be at the airport eating a sandwich while waiting on your flight that has been delayed. You could be just getting to the good part in a book that has been dragging for a little while, but you must finish it because books are supposed to be read completely. You could be sitting at a coffee shop listening to a podcast over an espresso. You could be driving.

Please don’t read this while driving.

Your gender is not certain. Your physical appearance is a mystery. Your intent is not yet known. That being said, I would like to tell you a few things, and ask for some as well. I hope you are okay with hearing this, and that it is welcome information. The ease with which you read this may be indicative of whether we are well suited for each other. Or maybe it will be extremely hard to read, but that doesn’t bother you because you like challenges and doing the hard things, like I do. If it doesn’t make me a bit uncomfortable, or teach me a little lesson about myself or the world or you, or spark some reflection or some introspection, it won’t have my attention for long, if history is to tell us anything.

If you are reading this, we have decided to do some sort of sex thing with each other.

Sex is so subjective. I see it as any act that the individual considers sexual. Yes, I know: it’s a really broad definition. That is intentional. Sex can be a solo act, or an act with another person, or multiple other people, if it’s been consented to.

Consent is a big deal.

Trying to sex at another person without their consent is, categorically, rape.

Every single time.

Which brings me to my first request of you, new lover. I know this is probably implied, but I can’t help but put it to words anyway, for clarity and so later, if there is a misunderstanding, we can start with this as a basic Hard Rule.

Do not rape me.

If we can manage to get through this and the rest of our sexual interactions without a rape occurrence, I’m sure we will be able to sort out any other misunderstandings or miscommunications. I know it seems a bit excessively overt to put in such stark terms. Forgive me for starting at the very bottom and placing solid, blatant foundations of this metaphorical house I would like to build with you. This piece of the structure has been overlooked too many times for me to skip it, assuming we both know. If we are not so explicit, the chances of violations occurring grow.

It is not personal.

Which brings me to my next request.

Please, if you can try not to take this personally. Sexual interaction is very personal; that is not being overlooked here. By personally, I mean that if I’m being a way, remember that it’s not about you necessarily.

The curve is getting steeper, I know.

I have been having sex with people for years. There have been a lot of good moments and a lot of bad ones. Many moments of fear, and some joyful ones as well. I have felt embarrassed, appreciated, bored, inspired, depressed, ecstatic, disappointed, satisfied, anxious, relieved, grief, elation, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, empty, full, restrained, autonomous, and every other high or low. I have laughed until my abs hurt and there are tears in the corners of my eyes. I have cried a lot. I have laid there, dissociated, wishing it was over, and also wanted it to go on forever. All these things occurred before I met you, and before I started to think about sex with you. I assure you, the things that have happened to me and how I am now because of those experiences combined with who I am as a person and my character are why I am behaving the way that I do. The ways I respond to you and your desires or the thing you’re into have nothing to do with you as a person, or your character. I showed up with like, thirty-four years of baggage to this sexual exploration party, and I am asking you to rummage through the suitcases with me. I’ll show you mine; I hope you will show me yours?

Which brings me to my subsequent ask.

This is a big one.

It is big for me personally, and it is huge for most people who are socialized as women. We are sometimes, a lot of times, fed lines about how whatever we need emotionally and communicatively is too much, unreasonable, overbearing, or high maintenance practically as soon as we can understand language. We hesitate to “burden” people with our processes because oftentimes, we are met with an eye roll, a glazed look or a dismissive gesture. I have experienced this so many times, named it, and now recognize it starting so sharply that I recoil. If I am going to engage the person once I’ve seen it, there takes a very special combination of rest, a good mood, maybe a full stomach, hydration, and perhaps also the right time of the month for me to feel compelled to confront in the moment of occurrence. That is to say, the stars have to align and I have to be up for the task, because if every there was a thing I am activated by, it is this.

I usually don’t.

I retreat. I withdraw into myself and quietly ghost away from the person’s rejection, sometimes so smoothly that no one notices my exit. I retreat from conversations, from parties, from emotional space, from the lives of some, even, if it is extreme.

So, this big ask really has to do with my emotional wellbeing alongside my sanity; my continued presence is hinging upon your accordance.

Do not gaslight me.

We are probably going to miscommunicate. That is totally okay, and I encourage you to ask me questions about what I meant. That way, we can talk about it and figure out what we both want, and how those wants overlap and can be met. Ask me about what I’m thinking and feeling, please. I will try my best to also ask lots of questions to make sure that the things I perceive line up as close as possible with the things you intend. That being said, sometimes we’re going to read a thing completely differently. We may even not be able to agree on what happened.

That’s okay.

No, really.

I’m begging you, please, allow me to have my experience that is different from yours. Both of our experiences can coexist. No one has to be wrong. We can accept that one person saw the thing a way, and the other one saw the thing another way, and we can talk our way past that, and learn more about each other in the process.

It will build rapport and trust.

It will be amazing.

We will both open to each other and be able to see each other’s imperfect perfectness; the cracks in the pavement we have been padding along, barefoot, and stepping carefully around. The curled edges of our story book pages that are fingerprinted and torn a little from thumbing too quickly to get to the next chapter. The pieces of ourselves that we have haphazardly glued back together after smashing; a beautiful, uniquely shaped and coloured glass that slipped out of our hands as we were making an attempt at washing it; so slippery, but really we just didn’t have a good grip on it.

I have smashed so much of myself to pieces and glued me back together.

I want to be gentle with the parts of me that are still drying after some ongoing repairs. I hope to be kind if you have some pieces that are still waiting to set, too.

I hope we can reciprocate that.

Thank you for your consideration.

Fail? On Changing Relationships.

Relationships changing, or ending, is often perceived as a failure. Typically, an intrinsically higher value is placed on the romantic or sexual relationships we have with other people, and when those things change to be not sexual or romantic, it is usually considered a downgrade in significance. That “demotion” is often perceived as bad, or as something broken. I am skeptical of this because whenever I have felt inclined to extract myself from a connection, or change it, things have gotten better. Sometimes this happens immediately, and sometimes it takes a little while for the improvement to set in, but there is always something that makes the whole process a net-positive. So, what failed?

When the end of the agreed-upon terms of a relationship comes, I am quick to apply a light switch metaphor: we are on, right up until we are off. Or, we are off until we’re on. The more I have experienced this switch, the weaker that comparison is for me. It feels more like hitting empty on a gas tank: an emotional vat that fuels the ability to keep going in the reality around you as it is. My brain has traditionally recorded the moments things change, I suppose, I can call to mind these transitional points very clearly. They are seared in my mind’s eye, easily accessed. The impact of them is probably something to do with their clarity in my remembrance. Strong feelings, good or bad, seem to be what we hold on to. Moments of change also seem to stick. So, when a relationship is at a point of major shift, there are ripples in the mind and the memory.

It starts in my fingertips, kind of tingling. It works its way up my arms and forms a tightness around my chest, in my lungs, around my heart. In an attempt to relieve the constriction, I will probably take a deep intake of breath. As I exhale, there’s a sort of release that occurs. It feels like the blood coursing through me is cold, suddenly, and draining away. It is as if I have suddenly realized that the well from which I draw resilience is empty save for a drop of energy reserved for whatever exit strategy is deployed. If I close my eyes for a moment, the blackness is comfortable and familiar because there’s nothing inside me anyway. I can see the edges of my shell, bare, exposed and a bit scarred from the strain of trying to keep the connection from breaking. I feel hollow and devoid of care. This is usually past the point at which it would have been a comfortable thing to leave, because if I had done this sooner I would have the energy to deal with the fallout of the separation. I am usually kicking myself later as I struggle to put one foot in front of the other, or complete simple tasks such as making myself something to eat, or being punctual.

I’m always early except when I am surviving on fumes, if anything. The level of strain is indicative in how late I am.

I could have ended it when there was something left in me, and this would all be easier. Since I kept on until I was completely done, there’s nothing to help me cope with self-preservation after. I’ve probably lost weight, and I’ve probably been sleeping a lot more, or a lot less, for a while. My skin probably has less colour than usual, which is laughable. I am pretty pale already.

I know this feeling well enough that I can recognize the onset, now. I used to be surprised by it as words escape my lips and I hear my own voice echo out of me, foreign. I would hear myself speak and think, did I just say that?

Oh.

The words are in language that represents termination, and usually served very deadpan, or cold. When I reach this point, I haven’t got any time for warming them up anymore.

“I can’t keep doing this.”

“I need you to get your things out of my house.”

“I haven’t been happy in ages. I have to go.”

“Wow. You should probably go.”

“Um, I’m leaving.”

“Get off me.”

“I’m not happy and this relationship needs to end.”

“Get out.”

“I don’t want to be with you anymore in this capacity.”

“I am not going to marry you.”

“I need you to stop.”

“I need to stop.”

“This isn’t working.”

“Really? Okay. I don’t want to keep doing this.”

“We’re done.”

Sometimes I say nothing. I just turn on my heel and walk away, or I hang up the phone. In particularly avoidant moments, I’m walking down the street on a (preferably) overcast day with a coffee in my hand, and I just stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk, and think. Hm. I then will pull out my phone and delete some contact information from it, check social media, and continue on my way.

Sometimes I just cry. There aren’t any words, just sobbing and tears streaming and mascara running lines downward over my face to the corners of my mouth, until I try to wipe away the stains and leave streaks across my cheeks. I’ll find them later when I next meet a mirror. The sudden crying is typically alarming if I’m in the presence of the other party, which is indicative that they have not noticed as the relationship they have with me has become untenable for me to continue as it is. They don’t see me. I’m invisible. Salty tears and smeared makeup under my red eyes, and suddenly I appear to them and we sometimes don’t know how we got here, and where all this salt water is coming from.

I thought we were happy together. Did they think we were happy together? Do we remember?

I thought this eyeliner was waterproof. It says it is on the packaging.

Sometimes that feeling isn’t represented outward by anything at all. Things are just different between me and the other person now. That is strange, when there’s nothing to say or do but just keep on in this alternate way, unexplained differences in speech, contact, familiarity. A slow, silent withdrawal that is barely noticeable until i’m just not around anymore and the other person is wondering when that began. I have been on the other end of that, too. The text message sits unanswered, and they’re just not there anymore.

Maybe they don’t even notice we’re gone; I for them, or them for me.

There is sometimes something left. Pieces of why we were connected don’t get sloughed off with the tears and I have to figure out what can be salvaged. I usually want to remember why I love someone and hold onto that, somehow nurse it back to something positive and functional, even if the connection doesn’t look the same. Usually. I don’t believe that people are inherently good or bad, it is just that sometimes the things they want and do and the things I want or am doing myself no longer align. That’s okay. I want them to be happy.

But, sometimes the withdrawal and need to remove the self is so absolute that everything goes.

He was yelling through the phone at me.

I pace my living room, the carpet soft under my bare feet. I hadn’t put on the stockings he liked yet, and I was supposed to be leaving to catch the train in about 5 minutes if I was going to be punctual. I can feel the garter clips brush against my legs as I move, hanging unattached. My hair is up off my neck temporarily in pins so when I take it down, the curls will be softer. He prefers it down. My makeup is half done: I had been lining my eyes with charcoal in the mirror of my bathroom when my phone lit up. I had seen it out of the corner of my eye on the kitchen counter, only because the rest of the lights in the house were out. I keep my phone on silent, most of the time, and he hates that. He doesn’t understand why I don’t want to be able to answer whenever he calls.

I am late.

I was nervous about this as I answered the phone because he will know I have not left for the train yet. He always wants me to be where we meet first, because I should wait for him for a little while, to show I am committed, and because he should never have to wait for me. Unacceptable. It was really warm out, even in the evening, which he liked because there wasn’t any reason for me to cover up. He would probably prefer I walk around naked, actually, with nothing between me and the world, or him. Exposed and vulnerable.

He had called to give me shit about the date I had been on the night before. He wants to know why I hadn’t answered when he had called before, because didn’t I want to make sure he was doing alright, and why wasn’t I checking in during the date more? Did I have fun with this new guy (what was his fucking name again? right. fuck, what a dumb name)? Was I going to see him again? He didn’t say that was okay. He should make me ask permission to go on dates, and then maybe I would behave better. I was lucky he even let me go. Why did I even want to go on dates with other men when all I needed was available to me from him? Wasn’t I happy with him, wasn’t I grateful? He thought I was going to get over this whole non-monogamy idea once I had a taste of submitting to him, he said. I listened to him go on for a few minutes, and then listened to him talk himself into the reasons why what he wants from me, and for me, was more important than what I want for myself, and how he knew better what I needed.

He thought he knew best what it was that I needed.

That was the moment.

I heard the alarms in my brain. I heard them, finally. They had been going off for months, and I finally heard the frequency that had before been untraceable. It was like tuning a radio. I had been mentally turning dials and then the sirens were sounding and they were just at a wavelength I could not hear before, until suddenly there they were. I wondered how long I had been ignoring them. I stopped pacing and went out onto my balcony, shutting the door. There was a pack of cigarettes out there, and I took one out of its cardboard enclosure, lighting it with a book of matches that was sitting with it. I had left them out here earlier, and would have forgotten them when I left the house. I wasn’t going out, now, so that was fine. I could sit out here and smoke all night, now, if I wanted. I took a drag and allowed the smoke to fall out of my mouth as I spoke, my eyes trailing the horizon and the outline of trees. I heard trains in the distance.

“I’m not coming.”

“What?!”

“I said I’m not coming. I don’t want to see you tonight.”

“Yes you are. We’re meeting in an hour. Why haven’t you left yet?”

“I said, I’m not coming. I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“Wait, what? Hold on, honey, this has gotten out of hand.”

“That is correct. It has. I have to go.”

“But, wait a minute, I didn’t say..”

After I hung up the phone, he called me twenty-six times and left six voicemails. He also texted incessantly almost all night. He begged and pleaded with me to respond, giving reasons related to the dynamic we were in as well as how I owed him that response. He deserved my engagement and attention. It was ridiculously unfair that I was not calling him. What the fuck did I think this was, anyway? I am lucky he cares so much because this is not how these things work.

I responded to nothing.

We talked a few days later after he texted asking if I had gotten my period, and I informed him I was terminating the pregnancy. I found out the day after I hung up the phone on him.

I saw him one other time after that. I ran into him at a bar and he told me he had orchestrated our entire relationship with the intent to push me into telling him no. I felt like a toy that had been batted around by a very malicious animal.

It took me several years to figure out that a lot of what he had told me simply wasn’t true.

I had a friend over for dinner a little while ago, well after this all had occurred. They said they had run into him and asked about me, and he had said I was doing very well and taking good care of myself. They told me this, and I stared at them blankly for a minute before smiling and replying, “yeah, that’s true, but he doesn’t know that. We haven’t spoken in years.” My friend was quite puzzled.

I was not.

The further away from him I am, the better I am doing, and I think that is what constitutes progress and growth.

Success, even.

Somebody That I’ll Never Know.

The venue, with house lights barely that could be considered dim, was buzzing with energy as the performance got underway. The floor was lined with row upon row of assigned seating, with space near the stage for standing room. We were all standing anyway, despite having seats assigned to us. The seating was for jackets or purses. This sort of event comes with the expectation that once the act comes out, everyone is standing and remains on foot through the concert. I love these shows; the ones where nothing can keep you from swaying or moving your hips a little, because who sits idly through Gotye?

The first time I heard “Somebody That I Used to Know” I loved it. I romanticized it, listening to it on repeat. I’ve since listened a lot harder to the lyrics and taken a different perspective. This song is about entitlement, and not respecting a person making their own choices about their participation in the life of another person. This is precisely what I was grappling with as I stood in that concert hall, listening to a live rendition of that song. I had left my autonomy in the hands of someone else, and as a result I had a small collection of cells growing inside my uterus, and within a few days they would be removed.

The subject of abortion is a controversial one. Is it killing a human being, or is it simply removing some cells that are the precursor to that person’s existence? Is it murder, or is it allowing a woman to choose whether her body becomes an incubator for 9 months? That last question isn’t even taking into consideration the impact that having a child has on her life, let alone her body. If she chooses to raise it herself, that is a life-changing trajectory that will mutate everything that happens to her onward. If she gives it up for adoption, she is still subject to the person she gave to other parents showing up in her life at one point or another, wanting to know who she is and why she made the decision she did. That could happen at any time, forever. The option that erases it having ever having happened is terminating the pregnancy, if the woman happens to live in a country where it is legal to have one. If they have access to medical care and resources to pay for such a procedure, should it not be covered. If they are able to access said medical care in clean and safe conditions and the procedure can be done without lasting harm to her. If it can occur without any blowback from family, social network, or society. If.

I am very lucky.

I live in Canada, where medical care is partially, if not fully, covered. I was able to sit in a clean, safe doctor’s office and wait for a nurse to come back from testing my urine sample and say to me “your test has come back positive”, neutrally, waiting for my reaction. I was able, as a result of my own upbringing, politics, and privilege, to stare her right in the eye, deadpan, and respond, “I am going to need the phone number of an abortion clinic, please” because those are available here. I think she then asked if I had not planned this, and I said that no, I had not. In fact, two contraception methods had failed in the process of this conception. Two. Contraception methods of which I had easy access to. Also, my self reliance had failed, but that was tertiary. When you are in an abusive power dynamic with another person, and he says, “we don’t have to use protection until you get your period, because you took the morning after pill”, you just say, “oh, okay” instead of checking into it yourself.

I check into it after.

My brain does a backflip. My heart sinks when I realize how far gone I was to just believe him when he said it was fine. You should have protected yourself from him, from all of it, I scold myself after; I still do. I didn’t protect myself. I did that thing I do where you let someone take the reins from me so I can just relax for a minute and someone else can drive.

I always do that with the wrong people.

My singular moment of reservation and self-doubt about my decision to terminate my pregnancy happened at that concert.

I was standing with my girlfriend and her other partner, listening to a wonderful performance by a set of talented musicians, and I caught some light from behind me out of the corner of my eye. I turned in time to see two smaller children run down the aisle, and a man following them, asking them in a loud whisper to please slow to a walk. Neither of them looked older than six or seven, and they were both adorable. They rushed up to the front of the hall, excited for the music and the show, practically tripping over their own tiny, padding feet in an attempt to get closer, faster. I thought to myself, isn’t it great that father decided to bring his kids to such an amazing show. Not a lot of parents would think Gotye to be a good or appropriate experience for small children, but the talent and the experience might inspire their own creativity around music. I think any sort of exposure to art is great for kids at any age, so i silently, mentally high-fived that dad as he breezed by after the two little ones. All I saw was a flurry of flapping jackets, excited voices, maybe some blonde hair.

Maybe I am imagining the blonde hair since mine is strawberry blonde, and his had been an ashy lighter shade. Our child would probably have blonde hair and blue eyes, based on his and my appearance. I wonder what gender they would be. Would they exist in the world around them or inside of their head, most of the time? I wonder if they would want to paint, or learn piano, or play soccer. Would they be more interested in boys or girls, or boys, girls and anything in between, like me? I wonder what sort of heart they would have. I wonder if they would be happy with the name I gave them, or if, like me, they would alter the spelling when they hit a certain teenage place that promotes arbitrary rejection of things assigned. I wonder if they would be a good friend to their peers, or a good partner. I wonder if they would grow to resent me, as I do my own mother, for something I did that I could never have foreseen affecting them in the way it did, and if they would be able to find a way to forgive me. I am only human, after all.

This thought stream lasted for about fifteen seconds, I figure.

I blinked and the children were lost in the crowd near the stage, the father gone as well. I rubbed the tears standing in my eyes out of them with the heels of my hands, wishing them away and to not give me away. I was not going to cry over some cells that had infiltrated my body, unsolicited. I was going to take another sip of my gin and tonic, enjoy the music, and get through the next few days. I was tougher than this, than tears over an invasion in my body, and I knew I was doing the right thing. To have a child right now was preposterous. To have HIS child, abhorrent.

No.

I was 6 weeks along. My lower back started to hurt a bit the day before the procedure, reminding me with its dull ache that my body was starting to adjust to its inhabitant.

I had found out there was a set of cells clinging on for dear life to the inside of me, trying to grow, four days prior.

That set of cells was going to be removed from me in three days time.

The last four days, and the following three, would be an alcohol and marijuana induced haze. I drank myself into a stupor each night, and spent most of the days stoned if I wasn’t working.

I did this to make sure I went through with it.

I knew that if I intoxicated myself to the point of memory loss, I would not back out because of the damage I was doing to those cells, as well as myself. I would be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other until I found myself at that appointment in three days. I would tell the on-site counsellor that yes, I have thought this through, and yes, I am sound of mind. No, this was not planned. Yes, I am sure.

Yes, I am sure.

A friend drove me to the clinic. I sat across a desk from a counsellor that had to ask me if I had thought through my decision, and how I was feeling about it. I gave her short answers. Yes, I am sure. No, this was not intentional. Yes, I would like to take this pamphlet about support services. No, I don’t need anything. Yes, I’ll happily put on that gown and put my feet in these stirrups while this nurse hooks me up to some pain medication. Yes, I can feel that. No, I don’t want… oh. Okay, I guess i’ll take another hit of the pain meds. The more, the merrier. Yes, I can hear you. No, I can’t feel that.

It was over in an hour or so.

I was high as a kite when I was guided back out of the clinic and to the car. We went to my house and watched “The Last Unicorn” and ate french toast.

I have not for a moment regretted my decision. I didn’t even think about it when the month I would have given birth passed. It wasn’t until more than a year after that I thought to myself, wow, I could have had a baby right now. Every so often I have reflected on how old they would be, briefly.

The reflections last no more than 15 seconds.