Between love and madness

Girls in their summer dresses we all know about, but what about boys in their summer bathing trunks? Him, in particular, his long-legged body, not hideously six-packed in the current style, but elegantly constructed – beautiful even, in an antelope kind of way. His smooth olive-tone skin tanned to an almost non-Caucasian pitch, and my own much lighter skin burnished to a red-brown by incessant and patient exposure.

He always wore the plainest of business suits, black or navy, not a man to take sartorial chances – or risks of any sort, really, except in bed, where he kept leading me forward, closer to the precipice, that moment where you drop off the boundary of your own precarious identity and into someone else’s terrain. “Do I own you now?” he used to ask me breathlessly after some particularly entwined bout of lovemaking. Neither of us tended to speak much during sex, except for his habit of punctuating the silence with cursory yet infinitely flattering statements like “Someone should bottle you” after he rose up from nuzzling me below. So the ownership question came out with the force of a mission statement, one I signed off on. That summer, at least, he owned me. What was the point in pretending otherwise?

Who can forget a summer swimming in sex? Even now, far from those days and that sort of abandon, I have only to conjure up that time, more than two decades ago, to feel cramped with longing, a sensation of something dropping deep inside of me. That was also the summer I was introduced to a kind of sex I hadn’t yet let myself in for, either because it wasn’t available or I wasn’t. Nothing to do with nipple clamps or threesomes or licking honey off a prone and naked body – none of that would have appealed to me then, as it doesn’t now. No, it had to do with the way he took forever about gliding into me and the way he pushed me into new positions, and new submissions as well,

not overtly of the S & M kind, but with a subtext that always hovered around the issue of power, intimating at the unspoken questions: How much do you want this? and What are you willing to do for it?

I can still recall, as though it happened yesterday, walking out of the ocean that Saturday, aware of him studiously pretending not to watch me from where he lay on his towel, conscious of the way the brief dip had made my already conspicuous nipples stand out and the way my wet, slicked-back hair brought out the angles of my face. That was the summer my body was quite something in a black one-piece. I’ve always preferred the subtle eroticism of one-pieces to the soft porn of bikinis, but sometimes I wonder if these were the kind of preferences that drew us apart in the first place. That, and his wish to toy with me, not in a good, tantalizing way – although he did that well too – but with a steely withholding style that made me madly in need of sustenance, like a hungry baby looking for a breast.

For a while, I was willing to do anything – bend over with my head on the bed and my posterior high in the air, for instance, so that he could approach me from underneath. I liked neither of us seeing the other’s face, which is often taken to be intrinsically demeaning and developmentally arrested, but which I found to be the best way of getting past the endlessly scrutinizing aspect of sex.

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Between love and madness