Why must love always end up such a vulgar thing? Sluicing water from my shoulders and breasts in the shower, the morning after I have exhausted myself in passion’s embrace, I wonder why desire must always mutate into a carnal eradication of every last one of humanity’s noble intentions. No matter how gentle, no matter how tender it starts out, once desire gets going, it’s just not pretty anymore.
If love is gentle, if love is kind, desire is not, I think, turning off the water and stepping from the shower. It is not sensitive, thinking only of itself, wanting only the best for its object. It doesn’t care — it just doesn’t care — about what the other wants. It just is. It arrives, it grows, it becomes, it is. No, there is nothing pretty about desire. And there is little that is noble in it.
No flowers, no pastels, no caresses, no softly lilting music filling the lover’s ears. I take my towel from its hook behind the bathroom door and pat myself down, feeling the tenderness in my shoulders that’s come from two days of lovemaking. There’s no scent of lilacs, no mewing of kittens. Desire is made for something different. It’s foreign to the world of romance. It’s lost to the “feminine”. It simply is.
And with it comes a rage that wells up from the center of my being, that merges and grows with desire, propelling me into an abyss of violent, fantasy. Do I hurt so badly? Am I so repressed and knotted from the pressures of the day-to-day, keeping my nose clean, making sure I don’t step on any toes, offend the wrong person, dance the wrong dance with the wrong person… I examine the bruises along the side of my neck where my lover held me too closely. I smacked myself hard against the bedside table, too, and I’m black and blue in unexpected places. I finish drying off and pull on my robe, thinking…
I spend my days being:
tactful, and oh so
My good behavior has many rewards. But there’s also a price to pay. I examine myself in the bathroom mirror, swiping at the steam-covered glass. I pay a price.
I pay with the rage that comes when I am aroused the point of distraction, and my distraction has nowhere to go… with the venom that rises in my gut when I am cast into the thoughts and deeds of someone not quite male, but hardly female, and I have no words to describe myself and there is no one who recognizes me in that skin… with the rocking-catatonic depression that overtakes me when I am full of everything I am told I should not be, cannot be, and still cannot deny that here-here-here is something that is uniquely mine and thoroughly so, not to be denied or imagined away or excused…
That rage seethes at the uncooperative nature of my cats, at the willful ways of traffic, at the unexpected plans my lover involves me in…
That venom springs to my tongue at the slightest provocation in the safety of my home, where I’ll suffer no socio-economic consequences for my outbursts…
That rocking-catatonic depression suffuses me, late at night, when I’m hours behind my required REM’s, two weeks in a row…
And alchemy mixes that rage-venom-trouble, with my drive, bringing me to the point of explosion.
And as I open the bathroom door and walk into the hall, I know what drives the rapist, the murderer, the suburban violator who slips quietly through the cracks of decent society, his heart filled to bursting with black, black rage, his children unaccountably disturbed, his wife walking on eggshells she didn’t break. I know what drives the robber barons, the oppressor, the exploiter, the power-lusting power-mongers who give no thought to the earth and sky and seven generations down the road.
I know what it is that has got us all in this mess, and I know, if I had the power, I’d be as much to blame as any man.
Is this how I’m really built? I pad into the kitchen, looking for a bite to eat. I’m famished, and thirsty too. The refrigerator is full of food, though, and I take what I want of cold cuts and juice.
Do I hurt that badly, that I must vent my desire with all the might of rage, to the detriment of my love?
It backs up. It stops up. It builds up and has nowhere to go. I make myself an open-face sandwich, stacked with meats and cheeses, and bite into it, relishing the feel of cooked flesh parting between my teeth. Ravenously, I chew and swallow, bite-chew-swallow. It seethes and boils just below my oh-so-acceptable surface and layers like shellac over the surface of my skin. Layering, building, conglomerating, filling my pores from within and blocking my organs, my breathing, my movement, filling and layer and building, under the cautious surface of my female body. The drive, the potency, the power, the force… wild and irate and salivating for abandon. Abandon that’s not permitted. Abandon that’s not acknowledged. Abandon that has no name in the universe this woman’s body inhabits equivalent to the man’s world my body inhabits. I swallow my last bite and drink the last of my juice. My belly is full, my body is tired, and I think of returning to bed.
I cannot re-form myself to the specifications of a world that has no name for me that it can say out loud. I cannot adjust my attitude to the guidelines of a cosmos that has no way of recognizing that these attitudes are me, not just mimicry of what I think a truly free individual would do… not just some outburst of hormonal imbalance… not just some would-be mannish rebellion seeping into the life I lead. I cannot re-make my heart to the strictures of this world.
I return to the bedroom, where my lover still sleeps, submerged in the stuff of her dreams. Her head is half covered with one of her three pillows, and the covers are pulled close around her neck.
I say nothing of my rage to anyone — not even my lover. It’s my lot, not hers. I tuck it inside, surround it with the pearly lacquer of etiquette, bury the grains of irritation in a wash of overt civility, layering, layering, layering my aggravations, until they become attractive and precious pearls of civility. I own my rage, and I avenge myself. For love, even for desire. I avenge my outer compliance with inner bullheadedness. I avenge my apparent cooperation with inner revolt. I play the games, follow the rules, make my life seemingly harmless to the rest of the wary world, and I embrace their “values”, gaining no value from them at all. On the surface, I am nothing to be ashamed of, intimidated by, or hidden. I push the hair away from her face and kiss her lips lightly. She stirs and murmurs, then falls back into deep sleep.
So I avenge myself with subversion.
For one of the most subversive things I can do in this world is fall in love with another woman. And I have.
I fly in the face if the ones who say NO before they have even heard their options, and put my arms around my lover in a tight, protective embrace. All weekend, I pulled her to me and relished the feel of her full, soft skin against mine, the press of breast to breast, the feel of breath on cheek, on neck.
With every bone in my body, with every breath of my lungs, I did my best to spite the ones who proscribe and prescribe behaviors on all others but themselves, and made love to the woman who is all I have ever needed, nevermind that they think she is too old for me or too short or too heavy or too loud. Nevermind all that — I’ve taken her to my bed and delight in her company. If only lying with her side by side, reading long into the night, I know delight. I relish her to extract my revenge.
Climbing into bed beside her, I disrupt the rest of the world who have no imagination, who have no concept of how love mixed with desire eclipses all venom, all ire. I spite them and flaunt what I have before them, even if they have no clue what I am, what I do.
I defy living a death like theirs — the death that says I dare not follow what is in my heart. I follow the voice that calls, that commands, that will not let me sleep at night, till I heed it, follow it, live true to it with every fiber of my being. I obey the commands of the Unseen within me that will not let me compromise my walk, my talk, my way of moving through the world, for the sake of others’ comfort margins. I choose life. I love fiercely and defiantly twice a day – Once when I rise in the morning, and look over at my lover… and again when I lie down at night. Beside her. Always beside her. I pull off my robe and let it drop to the floor.
It’s the only way I know how to avenge myself on a world that would make me invisible, that would pretend I am not here and convince me of it, as well. As I pull covers over my own body, I think that making love to my lover may be the only vengeance I have on the foolishness that spends more than its share of time telling me I cannot, should not, must not, dare not, in a thousand ways, on the tips of a thousand unimaginative tongues. Love and desire may be the only way to drown them out.
But I can drown them out. And I do. When I am with her, I spit in the face of all who would detract from me. I save my soul, I stand my ground. This is no sensitive give-and-take. This is a wild flying in the face of all who say I am wrong to want this, am wrong to like it, am wrong to pursue it with a passion.
I can, I must, I dare, I do. I settle into the warm hollow of the bed and lay my arm on my lover’s thigh.
I am a dangerous woman, and I love profoundly.