I spend a lot of time alone. Most of my time is spent transporting myself from one destination to another. In the mornings I wake up at 7:00 AM and press snooze on my alarm. The alarm goes off again 15 minutes later, which allows me exactly 15 minutes to put on clothes and get out the door by 7:30 AM. I pry myself out of bed. This is the most difficult part of my day. Getting out of bed feels like actual torture. I have always been this way. Even as a child I had a hard time waking up in the morning. The cold air outside my comforter feels piercing and hellish, despite living in Los Angeles where the temperature almost never goes below 60 degrees. Every day when I wake up I swear that I would pay any amount of money to sleep for just one more hour.
I make coffee, pour it into a glass jar and take it in my car with me. I have gone exactly three days without coffee since age 13 and they were some of the worst days of my life. I drive a black Ford Expedition and the air conditioning only works sometimes. I drink my coffee while driving down the 10 freeway, eastbound. I listen to pop radio, or sometimes I listen to Sam Cooke songs from a CD that has been in my car for three years. Driving by myself has recently become one of my favorite activities.
I have grown to appreciate being alone. I used to hate it but now I need it. My desire to be by myself at least ~80% of the time is the downfall of most of my relationships. It’s not for any specific reason except that I am hyper aware of how other people might perceive me in any given social situation and I am free to do whatever I want when nobody is watching.
I am productive when I’m alone. Not when I’m lonely, of course, but when I’m alone and content with being alone. That is, when I’m not craving or pursuing any kind of relationship, I can write whole novels or clean my entire house. To be content with being alone involves a kind of fear. I have to be afraid of letting someone know me. Which means that these periods of productive aloneness usually come after having recently been wronged by someone who I felt close to. My contentment with being alone stems from a temporary distrust in humanity and a vague but omnipresent feeling that everyone is out to hurt me.
So, after I get off the freeway, I am usually almost finished with my jar of coffee. By the time I arrive and park my car, I’m completely finished, and if I’m not then I drink the remaining (now lukewarm) coffee as fast as I can, because I was supposed to be there at 8:00 AM, and by the time I park my car it is 8:05 AM. Luckily, I work for my dad, so I can always use ‘years of neglectful parenting resulting in lingering emotional trauma’ as an excuse for being five minutes late.
I put my key in the door and I am immediately handed a crying infant. My dad leaves for work and the infant’s mother (my dad’s wife) leaves for yoga class and errands. The infant continues crying for the next 15 minutes. Sometimes less, never more. I hold her against my chest, with her tiny head over my shoulder. I bounce her up and down. I cradle her in my arms and walk around the massive empty house until she calms down. Then I give her a pacifier and put her in her crib. She vomits on herself and falls asleep. I will clean the vomit when she wakes up. I go downstairs and make coffee.
By the time I arrive home at noon Daniel has already gone on his morning run. Or at least, I assume he has, because he is in the shower and his running shoes are on my bedroom floor. While he showers I make the bed. Making the bed isn’t something I normally do but I would like him to think I’m the sort of person who makes her bed regularly. I am only trying to not let him see me at my worst.
Daniel makes me happy, which is something I can’t say about most people. I have been infatuated, sure. Definitely codependent. I have even been deeply, painfully in love. I’ve experienced heartbreak and trauma and boredom. It’s important to me that I experience extremely negative emotions as well as extremely positive ones and everything in between. True happiness caused by the company of another human though, is rare. The kind of happiness I’m talking about is uncomplicated. It comes easily and feels comfortable. It’s the kind of happiness that stems from a mutual understanding that all people are separate entities who will never cross any distance, conceptual or otherwise, to be closer than they are at the moment when their bodies are pressed together. It comes from accepting that you will only know the thoughts of another person at their whim when they decide to express something to you, imperfectly, using language.
My relationship before I met Daniel was with a person who was loyal to me during a time when I desperately wanted to feel desirable. He hit me the first time we had sex and gave me a bloody nose, then wouldn’t let me wash my face. This was a period in my life when I had begun wanting things like that. I felt as if, not only would he accept me at my bloody-faced worst, but he wanted me that way. Which ended up working out well because I wanted me that way too. I didn’t want to try anymore. I didn’t want good sex or good friends. Drugs weren’t even appealing. I was ready to give up entirely, and if I was going to give up, it’s only fair that the person I’m dating should want someone who has given up. I became comfortable with letting him see me at my worst.
I asked him to stop having sex with me after giving me the bloody nose and he did. I fell asleep in his arms that night and most nights after. I never washed my face and he never apologized for hitting me because he knew he didn’t have to.
Daniel never hits me during sex. Not being injured during sex might be normal for most people but I have spent a large portion of my life requesting violent sex from people who are unsatisfied with themselves and with me. It’s not so much about the violence itself as it is about the power dynamic. I am the object, you are the objectifier. Not with Daniel though. He interacts with me in a way that says ‘This body has value,’ rather than ‘This body belongs to me and I will do what I want with it.’
What I never understood until recently is that, unfortunately, your body belongs to you and nobody else. You can give other people permission to touch your body or insert themselves into it. You can put food and drugs in your body. You can mutilate your body or ask others to mutilate it for you. You can be overly cautious with your body. You can feel, temporarily, as if your body has become an inanimate object that exists solely for the pleasure of another person. For someone who hates their own body, any one of those things can feel freeing, but you will never fully unload the burden of having a body onto another person. You can never say ‘Here, I don’t like this body very much and you seem to like it a lot, so take it away from me.’
I have tried to do that anyways though. I tried so hard. I thought, maybe, if I no longer had control over what was being done to my body, then I could somehow no longer feel responsible for it. That was a short-term solution.
My body doesn’t belong to Daniel. No part of me belongs to him and no part of him belongs to me. We are two people who are each wholly responsible for maintaining our own, separate lives. We enjoy the company of one another, and are inclined to spend time together for that reason, but I know that I can never unload the burden of owning my own body onto him so I will never try to.
When Daniel gets out of the shower, he walks into my room wearing only a towel. I ask him about his run while he gets dressed and he tells me a story about a homeless person approaching him when he had taken a break from running to catch his breath. The homeless person offered to teach him witchcraft for $5. He politely declined and now Daniel may never know witchcraft.
That night, Daniel and I decide to take all the drugs we have; two pills of Morphine, four pills of Valium, one pill of Xanax. I have been repeatedly advised against mixing benzodiazepines and opiates but anything feels okay in small doses. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
This is his last night in Los Angeles. We planned our drug binge so that he would be hungover on a plane and I would be hungover in my house. After this he will go to another city to finish some things he has been working on, and I will stay in Los Angeles to finish some things I’ve been working on, then we will meet in New York the following month to show each other the things we have been working on.
In basing our well-being on goals and ideas instead of relationships, we are able to maintain something that has room to grow. We spend time apart, then make plans to meet in a city where nobody knows us and focus on loving each other. We slowly, almost imperceptibly, learn to be productive in the company of one another, then fully integrate ourselves into each other’s lives. We grow affectionate, as individuals who recognize one another as independent entities with our own perspectives on the world.
Most importantly though, when I wake up next to him, I am able to get out of bed without pushing snooze on my alarm.
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