fantasy / reality issue
he has a heart, it sticks
by mr. b
by xanthia hallissey
an interview with cindy gallop
try it, you might like it!
by alex pesek
by alex pesek
by hugo schwyzer
when reality becomes a dream
traveler, take heed!
no work friday
by sarah handelman
by sam mead
new age darwinism
angles of repose
by lindsay toler
by jordan parshall
by matt pearce
Alone, within our imaginations, reality is completely within our control. We create. We believe. It exists. But outside our heads and beyond our creative domains, we find that reality isn’t quite so simple. What we perceive is only part of what happens. What we think is just another perspective. And what we want might not even matter. Reality is a negotiation between us and the rest of the world, and we can only be sure of one thing: our imagined realities are true for us and us alone. When we begin to think with our emotions and desires, clarity is even harder to achieve. In our sexual and romantic relationships, we share ourselves with others, and we expect our realities to be shared as well. We want moments to hold the same meaning and expectations to be on the same page. We want our partners’ understandings of us to be as intimate as their relationships with our bodies and as profound as their effects on our feelings. But no matter what we see, feel or hear, we remember that it’s actually impossible to know. These shared realities will always be susceptible to fantasy. The Fantasy/Reality Issue is a collection of stories that reflects on this existential conflict in our romantic and sexual lives. Each submission gives us a unique look at how fantasy/reality shapes our understandings of sexuality and love and how it influences our relationships. Some share experiences of fantasy being an obstacle in their sexual lives: one man writes about how his girlfriend’s supernormal climaxes literally ignite the bedroom, another writes about how his preoccupation with future masturbatory fantasies precludes him from being in the moment. Others share stories about fantasy launching them, for one brief moment, into Hollywood caliber meet-cutes and too-goodto-be-true relationships. From one story to the next, we see that fantasy/reality work in tandem to produce each and every experience we have—and that clarity, while oftentimes desirable, might be a little overrated. Welcome to BODYTALK. 6
work by mr. b
was about to come when the unmistakeable odour of smouldering plastic filled my nostrils. I ignored it, passing it off as an olfactory hallucination: Neurons firing randomly in pre-climax excitement. My pulse thumped at my temples. The smell
grew stronger. Was I having a stroke? My blood still surged, unheeded, through my limbic system, whipping up another wave of neuromuscular euphoria and crashing gleefully through my cells, willing me onwards. It wasn’t until I heard the fizzing, stuttering, insectoid t-t-t-t-sounds that I opened my eyes to discover that we were screwing next to a burgeoning electrical fire. A noxious blanket hung over us. Sparks tickled my ankles. It was time to consider the alternatives to carbonizing in ecstasy within a blackened skeleton of mattress springs. In one swift movement, I ejected myself from vagina and bed. My feet sank into the pale bisque carpet. I gazed thoughtlessly at the simmering AC socket and said something useful like "There's a fire," before clarifying the source of ignition for my still-prone, confused and sighing partner: "I think you, uh, came on the socket." The dark glistening on the tattered flock wallpaper bled down towards the floor, past the socket’s shattered plastic frame. It dripped freely onto the exposed mains circuit and danced with the current, birthing sparks that leapt ecstatically from the three-pronged fascia. I remember the first time it happened — pausing epiphanically as I turned my head to investigate the mysterious, warm wetness on my right foot. I stared at the chipped pink paint on the bevelled dresser corner that sat square and unimportant, 90 degrees from my feet. I hadn't kicked over a glass of water or dipped my foot into an abandoned bowl of cereal; the source of the fluid that dripped from my ankle lay underneath me, and she exhaled noisily into a goose-down pillow. Her name was Sophie, and she was a Squirter. Or Gusher. Cummer. She-jaculator, Spitter, Flusher. With regard to female ejaculation, any colloquium you settle on is likely to be unfairly derogatory. The release of fluid during sexual arousal has been reported in a variety of surveys and studies to be experienced by anywhere from 10-69 percent of women. Accounts of the volume of liquid released also vary considerably, from tiny, bodytalk 9
indiscernible amounts, up to as much as a pint. Similarly, the pressure with which the fluid is ejected varies widely from woman to woman. Sophie would place at the higher end of the scale on both accounts, possessing an Olympian talent for ejaculation that would have served her well should she have decided to pursue a career in the murky world of the Pornographic Male Fantasy (in which most depictions of female ejaculation are faked and exaggerated, as per the industry norm). Female ejaculate (commonly known as ‘squirt’) is clear, odourless and, despite origination in the paraurethral ducts and expulsion through the urethra, distinct from urine. It has been found to contain glucose, trace amounts of urea and creatinine, as well as the delightfully named prostate-acid-phosphatase, which is also present in male ejaculate. Unlike men, women can ejaculate and urinate at the same time, so although the two fluids are different, it doesn't necessarily mean your love-nest is going to be pee-free. The prospect of emptying your bladder all over the bed (or floor, table, sofa, etc.) is understandably unappealing to many women and can be a source of anxiety for those who naturally ejaculate during intercourse. Sophie had no inhibitions or hang-ups regarding her ejaculation, and neither did I, as far as the actual in-the-moment fucking was concerned. It was enjoyable to experience such an intense physical manifestation of pleasure. I’m sure many a male fantasy features female ejaculation as a measure of a man’s carnal prowess. Well, you can forget that. Sophie gave as good as she got, knew what she liked, and at no point did I succumb to the illusion that I had suddenly acquired some orgasm-summoning superpower. Although I wished to be a supportive and understanding partner, I couldn’t shake the impracticalities of frequent sex with someone whose climax proffered a similar experience to a front-row seat at Sea World. When dried, her ejaculate — a pleasantly innocuous combination when freshly released — would often assume the unpleasant aroma of stale urine. We didn’t talk about it. I assumed that she could smell the various dark patches on the bed linen. Without any practical solution in mind, besides waterproof sheets, which I had no intention of employing (research female ejaculation on the internet, and you will find yourself bombarded with advertisements for these), it seemed redundant to mention it. 10
Instead, I began to make covert adjustments to our sexual routine. I avoided having sex at my apartment. I bought more towels. I developed a technique of spur-of-themoment preparation: as clothing was removed, furniture pushed aside or books slid off the bed, I would hurl a towel onto where I guessed we would be engaging in coitus. This only saved me from having to wash the sheets or scrub the carpet. The incalculable angles of our fornication defied preventative measures. Shoes, lamps, instruments, laptops, AC sockets — nothing was safe. There are only so many places you can hang sex-drenched towels to dry. Gradually, my attitude shifted to one of resigned stoicism — if I wanted to have sex with Sophie (which I did, for at least a little while longer), I would have to deal with the minor inconvenience of a regular laundry schedule. The day that we started the fire was my last day in that apartment. I’d already moved out all my stuff. Every room was empty. My housemates were gone. The bed was undressed, and September sunlight trickled through the lacy fractals of the net curtains. Sparks from the socket landed on the carpet and raised tiny polyester pyres. As with most household quandaries, I decided the best course of action was to call my father for advice. I explained that I had “spilled water” into (into?!) the plug socket, that it was at this very moment on fire and any advice he had for such a situation would be very much appreciated. He told me to turn the circuit off at the fuse box. By the time I found it, the fuse had already tripped. I climbed down, naked, from the rickety kitchen stool and sprinted upstairs, fire blanket in hand. When I reached the bedroom, the fire had fizzled out. We nudged the bed towards the wall until it hid the singed tufts of carpet, then collapsed back onto it, both of us gazing wordlessly at the ceiling. Sophie’s orgasms had quickly become part of my everyday sexual life. I no longer thought to keep a fresh towel at the bedside or tried to restrict our fucking to her single bed. The sex was messy, but I liked it. Besides, my new apartment had fire extinguishers in every room.
HE HAS A HEART, IT
STICKS by XANTHIA HALLISSEY
e’re in that place you think I like. Simmering around the picnic table, leaning back on chairs with no support. I’m pouring the last drops of milkshake from a metal canister, wondering about running a spoon around the base.
I consider sticking my hand in to scoop sweet rubble from the bottom. Your words, sitting on the table like you’ve always wanted. You don’t notice my hand inside the canister. You don’t worry about the waitress balancing too many mugs. You don’t sense the chair falling to its knees when a lady knocks it. You want to finish your story. Carry on. We’ve had this conversation before. Always here, against this backdrop. Meeting on a friend’s suggestion. Remembering how to talk for the first time in years. Your mouth pressed against my ear, feeling it. “This can be our place,” you say, pouring fizzy wine into plastic cups. I smile through a strawberry. Lying between empty punnets and foil packets, your hand tracing patterns on my wrist. Teeth showing. “Look, a kite!” Whipping out of control. Losing it. A
child in a pink puffer jacket runs after it. “She looks like me,” I say. And you’re up! Racing through uncut grass. Arm out stretched trying to catch the string, wanting to save it. I meet you in the air.
You want to tell me something. You’ll do it later. You’re on stage playing guitar. Quick,
quick hands. I’m in the crowd smiling so much my foundation cracks. Someone squeezes my shoulder. You and he are meant to be. Music in my ear, I turn around too late.
And we’re off! Stirring the next batch of punch at a friend’s party. Pouring it into
plastic. I’m wearing green, feeling yellow. Where are you? I see you. Talking to someone else. Whispering in her ear. She folds into you. You look at me. You shrug.
Suddenly my dress feels tight, it digs in to my ribs. My skin hurts, I need to sit down. I find the edge of a sofa, wine sloshing on my arm. Someone taps me, soft breath
whispers in my ear. I always thought you and he were meant to be. I turn fast to see no one crying. Tiny beads of milk drip down the metal canister. Slowly, determined. I look up, beyond the white metal table and your half-forked cheesecake. It’s so plain it hurts. I look at your mouth telling me it’s sorry. Gridded shirt flapping over your chest. Your heart performing a beat you’ll never understand, traveling through sleeves and wondering if you can. Feel something.
I don’t wait for you to finish. I don’t long for any special pause. I hit the canister back on the table. I hit you with my voice, I know you won’t hear it. “This is the worst milkshake I have ever tasted.” And I make you watch me go, leaving that place you think I like because you never asked. Laugh out in pain. Pretend I’ll never love again.
always here, gainst this ackdrop Weâ€™ve had this conversation before. Always here, against this backdrop.
when reality becomes a dream
cuando la realidad se hace sue単o by todochocolate
’ve always dreamed about a relationship with someone different, original. Like everyone else on some occasion. Like you. You imagine that you meet in a park while you’re reading a book and they come over to talk about its author, or on a
train, when the unexpected spill of your coffee catches their attention — well, that of the entire car. You draw a singular face, probably exotic or, at the least, from another culture, from another country. You lose yourself in future trips where you discover their roots, their mystery, their origin. You live day by day, from one city to another, today here, tomorrow there. You dream about a life without arguments. And while you’re imagining, you go on nibbling on the normal. The days go by. Then, you feel like you’re missing out on something amid so much fantasy. You decide to stop dreaming, you choose to live in the present. All of a sudden, that person who works next to you, who has studied with you all those years, or the fling from one night turns into your steady partner. They are from your country, like their parents and their grandparents, like yours. Trips do not discover their past or their story, but write your current one. The mortgage arrives, the “I do,” the kids. And, every now and then, you notice a lump in your throat because the dream hasn’t become a reality. But sometimes, someone is lucky. I’ve been lucky. You can be lucky. And even reality crosses the limits your imagination put up. You don’t meet between a bench and a book but while you’re waiting for your suitcase to come out on the baggage claim belt at some airport. They are from another country. You live through seasons, in this city, in that country, in that continent. You argue, yes — of course — but seldom and you move on quickly, with normality. And all the I never’s of the past saturate your present. One day you find yourself, without looking for it, in a beautiful and difficult long distance relationship, like those you always rejected. The first night you go to their house — or they to yours — you don’t launch into each other as soon as the door is shut, but sit down before two glasses of wine to talk about everything and nothing. Later, of course, the rest follows. The one-night stands, those that you had given up little by little, no longer seem attractive at all. You realize that sex isn’t the same without love. You listen to yourself saying — and feeling —one “I love you” after the other. A shiver runs through you when they whisper it into your ear, quietly, or when it escapes from their lips while they wash the dishes. And, every now and then, you notice a lump in your throat because reality has become a dream.
iempre he soñado con una relación en pareja diferente, original. Como todo el mundo en alguna ocasión. Como tú. Te imaginas (me imagino, o imaginaba) que os conoceréis en un parque, mientras lees un libro y se acerca a hablar de su
autor, o en un tren, cuando la caída inesperada de tu café llama su atención —bueno, y la de todo el vagón—. Dibujas un rostro singular, probablemente exótico o, por lo menos, de otra cultura, de otro país. Te pierdes en futuros viajes donde descubres sus raíces, su misterio, su origen. Vives el día a día, de una ciudad a otra, hoy aquí, mañana allí. Sueñas con una vida sin discusiones. Y mientras imaginas, vas picoteando lo normal. Y pasan los días. Entonces, sientes que te estás perdiendo algo entre tanto fantaseo. Decides dejar de soñar, eliges vivir el presente. De repente, esa persona que trabaja a tu lado, quien ha estudiado todos esos años contigo o el rollete de una noche se convierten en pareja estable. Es de tu país, como sus padres y sus abuelos, como los tuyos. Los viajes no descubren su pasado o su historia, si no que dibujan la vuestra actual. Llega la hipoteca, el <<sí quiero>>, los niños. Y, de vez en cuando, notas un nudo en la garganta porque el sueño no se ha hecho realidad. Pero, a veces, alguien tiene suerte. Yo he tenido suerte. Tú puedes tener suerte. Y que, incluso, la realidad cruce los límites que puso tu imaginación. No le conoces entre un banco y un libro, sino mientras esperas a que tu maleta pase por la cinta de recogida de equipajes de cualquier aeropuerto. Es de otro país. Vives por temporadas, en esta ciudad, en ese país, en aquel continente. Discutís, sí —claro—, pero poco y lo superáis rápido, con normalidad. Y todos los <<Yo nunca>> del pasado emborrachan tu presente. Un día te encuentras, sin buscarlo, en una bonita y difícil relación a distancia, de las que siempre renegaste. La primera noche que vas a su casa —o a la tuya— no os lanzáis el uno al otro nada más cerrar la puerta, si no que os sentáis frente a dos copas de vino, a hablar de todo y de nada. Luego, por supuesto, lo demás. Los tíos de una noche, de los que ya habías desistido poco a poco, no resultan atractivos en absoluto. Te das cuenta de que el sexo no es lo mismo sin amor. Te escuchas diciendo —y sintiendo— un <<Te quiero>> tras otro. Te recorre un escalofrío cuando lo susurra a tu oído, bajito, o cuando se le escapa de sus labios mientras friega los platos. Y, de vez en cuando, notas un nudo en la garganta porque la realidad se ha hecho sueño.
take heed! by sarah handelman
We know the code of flight: beware of the stranger sitting next to you. The person with whom you share that one armrest could be the Blackberry’d businessman, a new mom and baby, or the fattest dude you’ve ever seen. We flick through the possibilities like the magazines and books we bring with us. We adjust our carry-ons, we close our eyes, we scroll through our iPods. We make these empty movements simply to kill the time we spend waiting to see if the empty seat next to us will fill, and who will fill it. Most of the time we prepare for the worst: the smelly, loud armrest narcissist. Because these days, dreaming of sitting next to an empty seat or — even more insane — a nice, attractive person, is up in the clouds. So we watch. We wait. And when the mystery traveler does sit down, we are faced with a choice: say hello or say nothing. For fear of how I might have to spend my 2-plus hours in the air, most of the time, I stay silent. I haven’t always been this cynical; I once participated in standard in-flight dialogue. Airplane Boy changed all that.
I was snacking in La Guardia Airport — my first layover in a series of terrible flights from Camden, Maine to Kansas City — when I saw him. He was a mix of Nantucket red, denim and a mop of thick chestnut hair kept at bay by a panama hat. Legs crossed and half-smiling, he read a book by Tom Wolfe and didn’t look up. He was New England Summer. I tried to shirk the daydream, but a fantasy was already mounting. Maybe we’d be on the same flight. What if he sat next to me? What if. What if. What if?! I boarded the plane en route to D.C., but it wasn’t until the second terrible leg of my journey, when I was bussed out to the tarmac of Reagan National and loaded onto the teeniest plane ever, headed towards home, that I saw him again. Having relinquished any lingering romantic notions, I settled unsuspectingly into my seat. I read The New Yorker. I thought about taking a nap. I wondered whether I smelled like B.O., or if it was the old guy across the aisle. As I debated how discreetly I could smell my armpit, Airplane Boy smiled and sat down next to me. My stomach lurched; I regretted my airport snackfest from earlier. I found myself pretending to be engulfed in a story about Sibelius. In reality, I could barely finish a sentence. I only managed to read The treetops meet in an endless curving canopy over and over until it seemed like a good time to turn the page. My eyes drifted down and right. He was not hogging the armrest. He pulled out his book — Oh no. There was only a certain amount of time before it would be too late to say anything. It was a small chance to turn my mental la-la land into a realized state. I had a choice. Say hello or say nothing. A friend once told me that people do strange things when they’re in new places. They make friends they wouldn’t normally make. They make fools of themselves more often than not. They smile more. They cry more. Even more curious is what happens when people enter the world between destinations. Gas stations, train stations, airports; these are fleeting venues — permanent places to travel through. They are the staid dumping grounds for those in transit. The 20-something-year-old lovers clutch each other, their noses meet and sloppily they sniff up the snot that smears across their wet cheeks. They whisper quiet goodbyes between salty kisses. Although only one will get on the plane, they both leave each other and their unidentified liquids — tears and unapproved toiletries — at the gate. Everyone always wants to keep it together for the goodbye, but somewhere between checking bags, the Starbucks kiosk and security, the airport terminal becomes our emotional landfill. But, these theatres of transit are also where lives are picked up — again, never again or for the first time.
“I like your hat,” I said, surprising myself. “Thanks,” he smiled. “How’s it going?” And so began the greatest plane journey ever. But for the first three hours, the jet didn’t move. We unraveled the stories of our lives with such rapidity that the flight attendant’s apologies for the severe delay barely registered. Up until Airplane Boy, the best things I had experienced on an airplane were warm cookies on the now defunct Midwest Airlines. He represented a real version of my deepest, romantic imaginings — a living vision of what I thought was my type: Tall, slender, funny, friendly Jewish Brooklynite; freelancer and 826 volunteer with a Liberal Arts degree. I was sky-high and we hadn’t left the ground. Although there is little research to back the claims, many air travelers report that while in flight they experience heightened emotions resulting in unexplained tearfulness or hysteric laughter. It has been suggested that eyes produce more tears to compensate for the dry atmosphere. Due to varying pressure, there might also be a sudden change in the reception of oxytocin, the love hormone. People get emotional on planes. Everyone wants a scientific reason to validate irrationality. But when we are launched thousands of feet into the sky, at a rate faster than the speed of sound, protected only by a lap-belt, shouldn't the "comfort" of knowing that if all else fails, at least we can breathe oxygen from a contraption that resembles a crappy school project and jump into freezing waters with our floating ass-cushions be enough of a reason to unabashedly wail and cling to the person sitting next to us, fatty or not? For the three hours the plane was grounded and for three more hours in the air, Airplane Boy and I tiptoed around the idea that we were living a realized fantasy. The heat and pink from my cheeks radiated like after-sex glow. I wondered if you actually had to do-it on a plane to become a member of the Mile High Club. When we landed in Kansas City, he had my e-mail address. Our goodbye was a beginning. That night when I logged into Hotmail, Airplane Boy was waiting: “So I found my car and made it home around 1am. And the whole time I was thinking about the cool girl I met on my flight. What are the chances? Most of the time it’s a huge greasy man drooling on me.” Based on a mutual (but not surprising) love, which most 20-somethings I know possess, of playing board games and watching Woody Allen films, we went out the next night to play board games and watch Woody Allen films. I’ve now been on similar dates, but this night — this date — had never happened before. He brought a board game to the tearoom (and, like, we totally met in a tearoom!). He drove a convertible. We got lost on the rough side of Troost. There was innocent nuzzling. The night slipped from our control. bodytalk 25
When we finally drove away in separate cars, he pulled over and motioned for me to do the same. I don’t remember opening the door or getting out of the car — it was as if Airplane Boy lifted me through the window. In the middle of the empty Sunfresh grocery store parking lot, he kissed me and gave me the strangest compliment I’ve ever received: “You’re asthmatic,” he said. I kissed him back. The good thing about plane rides is that even the long ones don’t last forever. Can you imagine how dry your skin would be? The meet-cute with Airplane Boy was set in a surreal world where you can start drinking at 9 a.m. and sleep whenever you like. In movies, the plane is portrayed as an emotional carrier — a hurtling container where love is impulsive, airborne. The trouble was, we were both on that flight for very real reasons. Summer was ending, and I had to move back to college. Airplane Boy had a one-way ticket from Brooklyn to Kansas City. He was six years older than me. Lung cancer was killing his non-smoking mother. He wanted to be with his family. In the weeks that followed, we hung out, and we had fun. I am an ardent saver of emails, and looking through our exchanges — five years later — I am transported back to that Sunfresh parking lot and sweaty walks on August afternoons. I question my choice of orange trousers. One night after meeting up with his brother at a recording studio, we got stoned with Tech9 and a bunch of other rappers. But unlike the natural high I reached on our journey through the sky, I remained grounded. I understood stuff with Airplane Boy would never be real. When you start something with your feet already off the ground, it’s hard to ever land.
I will forever refer to him as Airplane Boy, but he has a name. Gradually Lucas and I lost touch. Our chain of e-mails lasted only a few weeks. When his mother died, the papers printed her obituary. I thought of the brief moment when I met her. Who is this girl? I imagined her asking. It must have all seemed so silly to her. In retrospect, I liked Lucas a lot. Much more than he liked me. He went to visit a friend in Durham. After that, our friendly exchanges became weird, strained. Just as quickly as he sat down next to me, he left. Lucas and I haven’t spoken in years, but I have become friends with his brother, Tyler. Not too long ago, on the busy back deck of a bar, he told me that Lucas was engaged to the friend he visited in Durham. I wonder why Tyler even thought to tell me. That plane ride with Lucas was a hundred thousand years ago, and the kiss in the parking lot is now so far away I forget how it happened. Everything about Airplane Boy feels like a dream. When I think back to that flight, I cannot recall our conversation. No phrase has stuck. What happened with Lucas was transient, and after things came and went, I began to approach new people with a controlled optimism. I tried not to fantasize at first sight. Gradually, I was unfazed by guys in panama hats and adorable noses. I proudly finished sentences and stories in The New Yorker. Our parents tell us to never talk to strangers. These days, I never talk to strangers at high altitudes, even when that stranger is a New England Summer. Because I’m finding that life is better when you’re watching Woody Allen movies. It’s a bit strange when you feel like you’re in one.
by sam mead
er legs were tangled in the duvet and she had pushed aside the pillows, choosing to rest her head directly on the mattress. I hate to say it but the light was golden; roaring through the panes and pooling on the sheets as late afternoon
breathed gently on the back of evening’s neck. I sat on the wooden chair at my desk, beside the bed, looking out of the window at the workers who were tearing down the building across the road. The loping claw of the yellow machine grasped and yanked at the steel beams of the old roof; I gritted my teeth as I heard them tear. ‘Come and lie with me’ she said. I pretended I hadn’t heard and kept on looking out of the window. She was silent. I heard raised voices outside, they sounded as though they were coming from directly below my window. I stood up, placed my palms on the cool plastic of the sill and peered down. Two men were scuffling on the pavement. ‘Look at this’ I said. Her cheek was rested on her bicep now and half of her lips were pressed against skin. Her eyes were almost completely closed. ‘What is it?’ ‘They’re fighting...Well, they’re about to fight, I think.’ By now, I had manoeuvred myself so that I was sitting sideways on the desk, with my torso twisted toward the window, getting as close as I could to it so as to gain a better angle on what was directly below. bodytalk 29
‘Who’s about to fight?’ she said; the disinterest in her voice was palpable. ‘These two guys’ I said. ‘They’re having some argument and now they’re pushing each other, I think they’re going to fight.’ She groaned and turned away, showing me her bare back. The back is quite sexless, I thought. ‘From this angle, you could be a boy’ I said. She didn’t reply. I looked back down at the men. The intensity of their confrontation had diminished and they had stopped pushing. They still spoke loudly, but the harsh edges of their previous tone had been softened and it was now clear that they were attempting to form a resolution. I kept watching in the vague hope that things would flare again and there would be more to see, but it didn’t happen and so I returned my gaze to the demolition across the street. The yellow machine continued its work, yanking the steel strands like a giraffe pulling leaves from a tree. ‘Why are you so obsessed with people fighting?’ she mumbled, still facing away from me and toward the wall. ‘I’m not obsessed with it at all’ I replied, ‘but if it’s happening, it seems a shame not to watch.’ ‘I see’ she said, ‘and you’d rather sit staring out of the window at two men fighting than lie here with me?’
I sighed, gently frustrated by the question, the answer I had to give and the repercussions that would arise from it. I could only be truthful. ‘Yes. At this point, having spent all day in bed, I’d rather look out of the window.’ There came an especially loud crunching sound from across the road, I looked and to my delight, the yellow machine had finished pulling down the roof beams and was now smashing down the red brick walls of the structure. I marvelled at the ease with which the machine’s huge talon swiped the brickwork and sent it tumbling, as though it were not bound together by mortar, but simply stacked up without adhesive. ‘You should watch this’ I said. ‘It’s amazing.’ She didn’t respond. Then she said, ‘You haven’t made me come yet today.’ I looked at her back and replied, ‘Well, I’m sorry for that.’ She turned over the top half of her body so that her shoulders were flat on the bed; her legs were still facing the wall, her right arm stretched out toward me and she dropped her head in the same direction so that I could now see her face. I noticed the way her breasts rolled outwards with curvature of her chest on either side, like grains of sand sliding off a dune. She looked me in the eye, ‘You fucking should be’ she said. Then she turned away again. Over the road, the yellow machine had stopped moving and I saw its driver climbing down from within and walking away, leaving it frozen and heartless on the concrete. The workmen began to leave the site in their cars and vans.
come on my
an interview with cindy gallop by alex pesek
In 2009, brand-builder Cindy Gallop hit the stage at the TED conference to discuss something much different than her usual business. In a talk that didn’t even scrape 5 minutes, Gallop presented a blunt but necessary analysis on the ramifications of porn on sex: that without healthy dialogues about sex, porn becomes, de facto, sex education. In that talk, Gallop, who adamantly labels herself “proporn,” launched her website, makelovenotporn.com, and advocated that audience members and anyone on the web promote open discourse on sex. Since then, Gallop has released a book (also titled Make Love, Not Porn) and expanded her website. I had the privilege of chatting with Cindy on Skype from her New York apartment, where I asked her about the talk, the weeks after and her plans for the future with Make Love Not Porn.
I guess just to give our readers a little context, because not all will know who you are, how do you go from being Cindy Gallop: Marketing Consultant to Cindy Gallop: founder of makelovenotporn.com? One thing people should know is I’ve spent 25 years working in advertising, marketing and brand building. So I’m a combination of someone who’s naturally very action-oriented, combined with the fact that I’ve grown up in a job and a role that is all about making things happen. So when I come across something I feel strongly about, I do something about it. And that’s where Make Love Not Porn came from. Because, as I say in my TED talk, I date younger men, I encounter very directly and personally the behavioral ramifications that identify makelovenotporn.com. I went, “Whoa, I know where that’s coming from. I want to do something about that.” What was your mindset like when Make Love Not Porn was coming into being? At the time, I had no idea what Make Love Not Porn would become and the response it would receive. I just went, “if I’m encountering these problems, then it’s pretty safe that a lot of other people are as well, and I want to tackle this if it will help everybody.” I know from the ad industry that it’s never just what you do, but it’s the way that you do it. So I put makelovenotporn.com up two years ago with no money, with a very 34
clear idea in my head about how I wanted to go about this. I’ve chosen to attack it in the particular way that I think I’m best suited to, which is try to find a way to infect what I’m doing into popular culture, in a way that makes it entertaining and more compelling, so people don’t see immediately what I’m doing, which is social advocacy. When I put the site up on no money, I said to my designer, I want this to be inspired by the world of hardcore porn. I don’t want the slightest whiff of education or public service announcement about it. So take my design and base it around porn, which he did, and it’s sort of cheesy, but still cool. The second thing I did was I made it funny. I wrote it by myself and made it deliberately light-hearted in order to defuse the awkwardness and embarrassment that exists around this whole area. So that’s how that all came about. I think you’ve definitely made it clear that this honest, if not explicit, language is key to helping address sexual desire or sexual issues. Do you feel, though, that some people respond negatively to explicit language in a way that might keep them from talking about sex? People are not discomposed by explicit language. I recommend that anyone watching my TED talk differentiate between the immediate audience responses you get a sense of, and what happens subsequently. Because I have to say, I was very nervous before I did that talk, for a couple of reasons. The first was that I had no idea how this would be received; we literally launched it as I walked on stage at TED. I talked with a few people about it, but I had no idea how it’d be received at all. Secondly, I made a deliberate decision to be extremely graphic in my talk, because I knew for that audience at TED, it was going to take that to get them to understand how serious this issue actually was. So it’s safe to say that 30 seconds after I began talking, you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium. If you listen to the audience reactions, when I utter the words “Come on my face” the first time, there is dead silence because nobody can actually believe I said what I just said. And in fact there was one person on Twitter who tweeted at the time that it was surely the first time the words “come on my face” had been uttered on the TED stage six times in rapid succession. And so there was very definitely stunned silence, awkward laughter, embarrassed laughter, but after that, for the remainder of TED 2009, everybody came up to me, and just said how great they thought the talk was and how blown away they were by it. bodytalk 35
Who was coming up and having conversations with you? Everybody ranging from young TED fellows—one TED fellow ran into me in the lady’s restroom and said, “Oh my god that’s exactly what happened with me and my boyfriend”—and lots of parents saying, “I’ve just talked about this with my teenage kid.” One of the TED cameramen, when I was back in the auditorium the next day, called me over and said, “I virtually forgot to do my job yesterday. I was so engrossed listening to you, I forgot to operate the camera.” So the response was amazing. And the response subsequently has been extraordinary because even ahead of the content that I put out there, people were blown away by the fact that I stood up on a stage in public and said what everybody knows and nobody ever talks about. And interestingly, that actually makes people feel able to talk to me about it in a way that they never had done with anybody else. How have people continued to respond to you since you left TED 2009? When I say the response has been extraordinary, on zero promotion, makelovenotporn.com gets 3000 unique visitors per day. When anybody posts my TED talk anywhere high-traffic, that number goes up to 10 or 12 thousand. And as for global promotion, with zero funding, it gets views from 180 countries in very interesting configurations. So, two months ago, the second highest source of traffic to makelovenotporn.com other than the US was China, and I have no idea how or why. Currently the next highest source is Turkey, the fifth highest is India, the seventh and eighth are Indonesia and Malaysia, and I get emails literally every single day from people young and old, male and female, from all around the world. People pour their hearts out to me over email. People tell me things they’ve never told anybody else, they write me essays about their sex lives. So actually, there might be that initial moment of shock at the explicit language, but the straightforwardness absolutely breaks down the barriers and it enables people to connect and talk about it. And what I’ve also heard from a lot of people is actually, “Your site enabled me to have a conversation with my boyfriend or girlfriend about what we’re going to do to have a much better sex life.” If you boil the message of Make Love Not Porn down to one thing it’s: talk about it. You know, what I’ve always explained to people is, the issue here is not porn. Porn has always been there, always will be, and I’m pro-porn. 36
you "...everything starts with you, and great sex is born out of mutual exploration."
The issue is the complete lack of an open, healthy dialogue around sex and porn in
our society that would allow people to bring a real-world mindset to the viewing of what is artificial entertainment. That’s what I’m trying to help.
That kind of brings up two questions that I have: one of which was, being pro-porn, under the obvious observation that some of what porn does can poorly influence our sexual habits, how do you compensate your support of porn with your hesitance about its potential affects? And also, do you know how people in porn feel about it? I’ve acquired a whole network of people who have reached out to me spontaneously saying “I love what you’re doing, I want to help.” A very significant number of those people have reached out from within the porn industry. Generally, Generation Y within the porn industry. Gen Y in porn is like Gen Y anywhere else: they’re entrepreneurial, ambitious, questioning and challenging the old world order and wanting to create the new world order. So, 20-something porn stars reached out to me wanting to help, and as a result, I now have a number of friends within the porn industry. When I say I’m pro-porn, that does not mean I’m supportive of everything that goes on in porn, and there are very, very murky areas of the porn industry that I deplore. But the interesting thing is that I look at porn also as a businesswoman, and see that it’s a business that is struggling at the moment, in the sense that it’s gotten so big it’s gotten conventional. Porn now has norms and rules and conventions, which is why much of it is so repetitive and boring, and why as a business, because it’s tanking, its model is being destroyed by the advent of free porn online. Porn production companies are doing the same thing as everybody else: they’re ripping each other off. And that’s a very interesting opportunity, and it’s the same opbodytalk 37
portunity that exists in every industry sector, when all the big boys are doing the same thing as everybody else, they can’t reinvent their way back. This makes the market wide open for disruptive innovators, and I intend for one of those to be me. With the huge response to Make Love Not Porn, even though it’s my secondary venture, I feel a huge personal responsibility to take it forward in a way that will make it much more far-reaching and effective. People have pointed out to me that our popular culture does in fact include sexual dialogues, often citing Cosmopolitan Magazine as an example. At the same time, Cosmopolitan gets a rap for being avantgarde or unrealistic. In popular culture, do you think this is disruptive, or do the dialogues brought up by Cosmopolitan add positively to our general conversations? Well, the issue with Cosmopolitan is that everything they run is geared to sell the magazine. They are absolutely playing on the fact that everybody agonizes about sex, and everybody wants to improve their sex life and everybody wants to be better in bed and have a great time with it. The issue is that there aren’t enough of these dialogues to give a fully rounded perspective. I deplore a lot of Cosmopolitan’s coverage. I think it was the New York Post who took a Cosmopolitan feature about how to please your man in bed, and basically stopped a whole bunch of people in the streets and said, “So what do you think about this idea?” and the responses were hysterical. So for me, the reason I say it’s all about talking to each other, is that everything starts with you, and great sex is born out of mutual exploration. The fact that every single person is different, and that you’re different with every single person, is what’s so exciting about sex. You learn something new every time. It’s a whole different experience, whether you’re having a one-night stand or you’re having sex in a committed relationship. So you know, I think it’s sort of entertaining to read things that give you fresh ideas or interesting perspectives, but at the end of the day it’s about trying stuff out yourself, talking about it, seeing what you think. Nobody has the right to tell you that this is the way you should do it.
Do people still feel like your arguments are an affront to porn? I’ve spent quite a lot of time having to correct misconceptions, even about what I’m doing, because with sex and porn more than any other area, people’s responses prove the truth about the saying “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” One of the things I really have to explain is that overly porn-influenced behavior, ironically, is usually driven by the best of all possible motives and not the worst. By which I mean, we all get enormously vulnerable when we get naked, sexual egos are very fragile. People find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the person they’re having sex with while they’re actually having it because they’re terrified of hurting their feelings, putting them off or derailing the entire encounter. But at the same time, you really want to please your partner, so you will see, from any cues you have, how to please them, and if the only cues you have are the ones from porn, those are the ones you’ll take. So it may be misguided, but it’s driven by the right motivations, so the best way to address that is to ask them what they like. Experiment, and get there together. That’s what I advocate. It’s like working out what kind of food you like to eat; we all experiment there. Some people say, “Oh wow, there’s this new Indian restaurant in town.” You know, you’ll try something and there and say, “Oh, that’s a bit hot, I’m not going to eat that again.” It’s totally accepted. We all experiment with food and different tastes to get to know what we like, and it’s the same thing with sex. It can be enormous fun, or you can go, “Yeah, that wasn’t really for me, and now I know.” Who else, if anyone, is spreading these kinds of dialogues in the public domain? Are there positive, dominant voices out there, or do you feel these conversations are largely coming from individual efforts? There are some great people in this area as well. The issue that they have, and this is specifically why I’ve done it a very different way, is there is a limit to how much influence you can have when you are attacking it under the aegis of sex education. Because once something is capped as education it becomes boring, and it can become a lot more detached. It’s enormously crucial and critical work, and no one would like more than me to see the entire sex education system in this country overhauled, but a lot of people attacking this area are doing this as sex education, and that unfortunately is limiting.
we all have sex well, we're all doing this. we all have sex.
Social responsibility is dreary, dreary, dreary. You wont get anywhere with this until you can find a way to embed it into popular culture, and it becomes as entertaining and compelling as everything else there. And that’s what I’m trying to tackle. There absolutely great organizations, but they all struggle, so what I would love to do is to find a way to mix all of that together into a movement. If I can try to crack the popular culture thing for everyone else, I can help embrace everyone else within it and help everyone else’s cause as well. As a kind of departure question, in an ideal world, how do you see sexuality developing, and what would your work – combined with the work of others – do for our perception of sex, sexuality and porn? God, I mean, it’s anything you want it to be, as long as everybody’s enjoying it, and nobody’s harmed by it. Fully consensual, enormous fun. In an ideal world, sexuality is personality. Our sexuality is a fundamental part of what and who we are. The way we kind of hide it and get embarrassed it really, really blurs that. It’s as much a part of us and our personalities as any other aspect of what we like and what we don’t like, what we’re good at and what we’re not good at, and if people are able to see it like that, in a much more healthy and down-to-earth way, that would make it real different. It’s so funny how society encourages and insists that we hide the sexual part of ourselves. It’s always so shocking when there’s stories running in the paper about this politician, or that person, or “good god, they might do this.” Well, we’re all doing this. We all have sex. Where I want to take Make Love Not Porn is I want to socialize sex and porn much more in a way that nobody is managing currently. I believe I can do it, because I’ve helped start to break down the barriers in helping people talk and think about these kinds of things. In an ideal world, sexuality would just be one part of who you are. It would be openly acknowledged, talked about, be as interesting as any other aspect of how and who you are, and responded to accordingly, if you know what I mean.
try it, you might like it! by alex pesek 42
ore than a year ago, I wrote about my disgust for the concept of anal sex. It didn’t seem right to me, it didn’t seem enjoyable, and though I hardly admitted it at the time, I had an actual fear of it – the invasiveness, the pain, and ultimately, the fecal matter.
One of the first questions I had in response to my writing was whether I had even
tried it, and of course my answer at the time was no. To say I was even familiar with it would have been a stretch; when I watched porn, I would immediately close the screen when people started rimming or getting near the area I was convinced was not a natural sexual organ. Beyond having something internally telling me, “No, that doesn’t seem right, doesn’t seem like pleasure,” I had wholly taken on the role of moderator. My own self-policing became a process of ensuring I never liked it, would never like it even if I eventually overcame my fears. Even my writing, what I considered at the time to be liberating, was a form of distancing myself from that which I considered to be an affront to more than just my immediate sexual life. It was a safety net to dislike anal sex. Ensuring that no one access that part of me, precluding those desires from infecting my more innocent reaches, kept me young and kept me in control of myself. It was a way through which I could continually articulate the boundaries of my sexuality, the extent to which I was familiar with myself and willing to be familiar with others. But it was a safety net, even a barrier. It felt like a contradiction to everything I promoted, everything I wanted people to feel empowered to be. Here I was, on the front lines of sexual freedom and openness, of communicating one’s sexual thoughts and desires without judgment, of experimentation without fear, of dispelling sexual rumors. Here I was, doing what I could to remove the shame from sex, the stigma of being openly sexual, but unwilling to embody any of that myself.
In a backwards way, it was my dirty little secret. Deep down, I was adamantly nonsexual. I didn’t let people in. I didn’t let people try to pleasure me or try to help me break down my fears. The reality of anal sex to me, what in my mind I believed anal sex to be, was hardly reality. Yes, first times bottoming do usually hurt. Yes, it happens in your ass. But I could support nothing beyond that with fact. My overblown, fantasized concept of what anal sex was had no relevance to actual sex. This isn’t to say that any hesitance about something sexual is falsely conceived, or that my original qualms about anal sex should be discredited. I was feeling something natural, not just foreclosing the idea of intercourse for external reasons. But it is to say that my fears became resolvable for me through re-conceiving my ideas of what sex really was “in reality,” whatever that was to be for me. Sex for me didn’t have to be the rough and mechanical kind reproduced in most gay porn. Sex for me didn’t have to be anything other than what it would be as it unfolded. Beyond that, it didn’t have to be everything sexual educators said it had to be – it took me a few drinks to get to the point where I was unhinged from my paralyzing, analytical side enough to let someone try. And I don’t think that makes my experience illegitimate. I didn’t have to go all the way (in fact, I didn’t, and still haven’t). But I tried it. I took a step forward within my sexual psyche, and I did it by releasing my grip from the reins a little bit. I had to trust someone, I had to realize sex was a mutual act that was made even better if I wasn’t being bad cop about any unwanted advances. I certainly have room to grow, and certainly have held on to much of my old fears. But even these steps for me have been huge in accessing some kind of reality within myself and with others. I’m done with disallowing myself fantasy and pleasure. I’m done with putting a lock on my sexuality. I’m ready to grow.
shooting tape by hugo schwyzer 46
What’s hotter? The sex we have, or the sex we remember having? I was 17 when I lost my virginity. I’d started masturbating at 12, in the first feverish rush of pubescent desire. Night after night, I’d lie in bed, thinking about pretty classmates, fantasizing that I was watching them undress. (I was fairly unclear, to be honest, about what ought to happen next.) At 14, I discovered my first porn magazine (Penthouse), and spent hours jerking off to the centerfolds and the stories in its infamous “Forum.” I had a few dates but was a shy kid. I’d kissed two girls by the start of my senior year of high school and nothing more. I was an awkward, dorky, twitching bundle of longing. And then, thanks to some mutual friends with a discerning eye for matchmaking, I met Michaela.
Michaela and I went to different high schools and could only see each other on weekends. We’d have sex in her bedroom on Friday and Saturday nights (she had a blessedly liberal mother), go to the beach or the movies on weekend afternoons, and spend Monday through Thursday talking on the phone. During our time apart, I’d masturbate every night to the visual memory of what she and I had done together the previous weekend. Sometimes we’d have phone sex, but, more often, I’d jerk off to the arousing images in my mind. These memories were more exciting than porn could ever be. Thoughts of Michaela’s naked body popped into my mind while walking to school or sitting in class, unbidden and almost unbearably arousing. Thinking about what we had done mixed with excitement about what we’d soon do when we saw each other again. The straight A’s I got my senior year say more about the lenience of my teachers than about my intellectual focus. My mind was elsewhere. Michaela and I had been sleeping together for about two months when I noticed something. We were having sex in her bed on a Friday night, and I remember a thought suddenly popped into my head: I’m gonna love jacking off to this next week. Huh? I didn’t stop what I was doing with my girlfriend, but I remember my own surprise at myself. Michaela and I were sexually inventive and open by the standards of American high school students in the mid-80s. I told my friends the sex was great, and I meant it. But at 17, as randy as could be, I realized I got more physical pleasure from masturbating to the memory than from the actual sex with my girlfriend. Sex with real people is messy, and not just physically. Michaela and I fumbled, as people do, and sometimes we hurt each other. Like so many young men, during sex itself I spent a lot of time worrying about my own performance rather than focusing on connecting to the person I was with. All of that detracted from my pleasure – but all of that could be “edited out” in my masturbatory recollections. Michaela and I had a lot of hot sex with each other, and, eventually, with other people. I had my first ménage a trois with her and a guy from her work; later, she encouraged me to “do everything but” intercourse with one of her good girlfriends. Though I’d started senior year as a virgin, by the time graduation came, I’d had quite a rapid learning curve. And though Michaela and I broke up when I went away to college, I took with me my now-extensive collection of “movies” – all of which lived in my head. For years and years, through a very high number of one-night stands and a halfdozen long-term relationships, through three marriages and three divorces, the pattern didn’t change. Whatever and whomever I did, the real thing was never as hot
as the subsequent recollection. By the time I was in my later 20s, I had a term for what I did when I had sex: “shooting tape.” Living in L.A., I got the term from my friends in the TV industry. It fit what I did perfectly. I realized that I thought of the actual sex with other people as “raw footage”, and myself the director, the camera operator, and eventually – crucially – the editor. The finished product was what I had in my head when it came time to have sex alone, free from pressure and anxiety. The fear and the fumbling were on the cutting room floor; what was left was an exquisite highlight reel better than any porn video – and better than any reality itself. I think masturbation is wonderful. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fantasy. But I will say that for so many years, my relationships suffered because I preferred both to the messy reality of connecting with another human being. It was only at 35, divorced for the third time and scared that I lacked the tools to ever connect intimately, that I began to take a hard look at how “shooting tape” had impacted my life. In my next relationship, with the woman who became my fourth and (God willin’) final wife, I tried something different. I gave up masturbating. Not because I decided jerking off was a sin. But because I wanted to try being completely present with her when we were having sex. I decided I’d only give myself “permission” to masturbate when I was sure that I wasn’t using sex with this woman I loved to create new material. The results were almost embarrassingly immediate. And predictably, I was more present and connected. Even if my wife didn’t notice, I did. The tapes are all still in my head, of course. Outside of the movies and the tragic reality of brain trauma, most of us don’t have a delete button on our memories (the theme of the wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). I’ve got decades worth of “video” that I “shot” with a great many sex partners. Some tapes are more memorable than others. But while those tapes still exist, I don’t bring them out often. I know better. Fantasy stops being healthy when it becomes something with which our real-life lovers can never compete. And no real lover can compete with the carefully edited erotic images in our minds. If I’m going to stay fully present with my wife when we’re sexual together, I need to be present in mind as well as body. That means not replaying old tapes of past lovers – and it means not seeing the present experience as a mere opportunity to produce a hot new video for future private consumption. If I want a passionate now, I need to keep the images of the past tucked away. But I also need to remind myself not to bring a mental camera to bed. I’m the best husband and lover I can be when I stop performing, directing, and editing. And start being present.
boyfriend by lindsay toler
am in two relationships with the same man. Mike lives in a punk-rock bachelor pad in mid-America, where he eats sandwiches,
drinks too much and works occasionally. I live on a tiny farm in Eastern Europe,
where I teach health, write constantly and work my ass off. We are different, and we are in love. This month, we’ve been together exactly 4 years, though we’ve only spent a quarter of that time in the same place. For 12 months, we lived in the same college town and took the same classes. For 21 months, we lived apart, traveling to see each other — once a week when we lived across the state and once a month when we lived across the country. And for 15 months, we’ve lived in different countries, in different hemispheres. When you’ve been apart this long, you create a new boyfriend in your head to keep you company. It feels like tearing, like you’ve split yourself in two, turning inward to the warm, soft corner of your brain where he lives when you can’t move into his arms or his bed. But he isn’t real, this boyfriend in your head. He looks real, he talks real, and unlike the real thing, he is always there. I can feel him, growing stronger in my mind. I walk home alone and crack a joke to him and smile, happy. I share my life with him. I stopped needing other people eventually. I’ve almost forgotten how to handle a person with complex emotions and a history I haven’t invented. At first I thought I was growing stronger, learning to depend on myself for everything – even love. But that isn’t real either. Sometimes Mike, the real Mike, says things so different from what I thought he’d say that I get angry, like he betrayed me. He goes off-book, and his reaction is always smaller or bigger or angrier or happier than I’d rehearsed. I hang on his every word, waiting to feel the connection I can find instantly with the version of him in my head.
But I’m the one who left. I rejected the very-real man who once stood lovingly in front of me and opened his life. We’d have two dogs and fight over what to name them, we said. I’d paint one of the walls in our house bright burnt orange and we’d spend far too much time in front of the TV, occasionally holding hands. But in this settled life, I’ll never find what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl — traveling to new places, wrapping my tongue around strange languages and foods, tearing my roots up from the earth so I can reach my branches all the way to the sky. I am in two relationships with the same man. One I hardly know at all; the other lives only in my head. I can feel them yelling, pleading, begging me to choose one of them – to move into a small house where life begins, or to stay in strange, faraway places where the children ask with big, bright eyes what the rest of the world is like. I’m afraid if I don’t choose, there will be nothing left of me to give to either one. 52
but that isn't real either At first I thought I was growing stronger, learning to depend on myself for everything â€“ even love. But that isnâ€™t real either.
New age darwinism by jordan parshall
of repose by matt pearce
It’s always the moments of stillness I hang on to. I remember them for every girl I’ve ever cared about. They tend to resemble each other. A few frozen, soundless seconds when the music has stopped. It’s raining, snowing outside. She’s naked, or nearly. She’s gotten out of bed to take off her earrings, hit the repeat button, get a glass of water; or she’s asleep, her breath on my shoulder, a leg draped over mine. In either case, the light is falling over her face and her body in a way that startles me, unusual shadows splayed all over the muscles of her back, the profile of her face thrown in relief, and I’m awake, I’m stuck, I’m buried in these fleeting seconds of helpless adoration. Then it ends. Later, it’s hard to remember the things that happened after those moments. Presumably, she came back to bed with a couple beers, or I fell asleep, or we fucked, or we talked for a while about something that didn’t matter. Then, later, there were movies, or dancing, or more drinks, more talking, more music, more of everything. I’ve lost count of the good movies and great dinners I’ve had with the women I’ve adored. Long kisses, irrelevant arguments, the happy walks home — it all goes. Once the goodbyes have come, it’s the silences that remain. I’m unfaithful in a sense, because I only remember when things wheel to dark. We do this when we hurt. We contract to protect ourselves. We look back. It’s then that these moments reappear, still in the places I left them, like stars poking through the twilight.
WE BURN We burn like a fire, and then we are put out.
In Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose,” the aging protagonist, a wheelchair-bound amputee, lives out his days reconstructing his family’s history from old correspondence. He’s in his autumn, so he returns to someone else’s spring. “I want to touch once more the ground I have been maimed away from,” he writes about his lost leg — or maybe about the past, or his heart. He applies the Doppler Effect to life: There are those for whom life generates a furious racket when coming right at them, with promise and desire bringing the noise of their existence right up to a whistle; then there are those from whom life retreats, diminishing in pitch, leaving a trail of missed opportunities and waning expectations. Love is like that. It obeys laws of emotional physics under no one’s control. Insistent, impatient, clamorous when it comes, it chooses you, expands into your life like a nova, sets a whole universe into motion while you just stand there like a dumb fuck with your coffee and a newspaper. Before you know it, the world becomes a prism that can only be viewed through the incandescent lens of her, your girl, the one with auburn hair. But as happens so very often, there comes the tipping point: where the expansion slows, halts, reverses, cools, contracts. Smiles dim, sharp wits melt, time together slowly wanes. Tea dates seem so much less fun. Then, eventually, there arrives that pure clarity — it always comes — when it becomes singularly, sickeningly clear that no new life or love or motion can be breathed into this grand spark; no more nightcaps, no more hours or stars, no more wheeling about this happy delusion of promises and affection and impromptu trips to the park. We burn like a fire, and then we are put out. It’s all so much like a hallucination isn’t it? Love? In hindsight, the act is so consuming it barely feels real. An ex’s old apartment, with the green door and the eggshellwhite siding, which for a while occupied the center of my existence, now seems from the outside plain, and foreign, and immaterial. Staring at it, it’s hard to believe anything worth doing again ever happened there. I see her again, I look into her face, and nothing looks back. No one feels anything. The world has returned to its regular proportions. But we all crave a little magic. Those moments of stillness that came for me seem both so irreplaceable and unreal after they’re gone — and yet they remain, happiness visible. Maybe the heat that generated them has long been extinguished, but they still put out a little light, and sometimes that’s good enough. So I hang on. I’ve never been strong. Nothing wrong with that, I argue. I’m lucky in that I think life is still coming at me. But if it isn’t, at least I can close my eyes and pretend. bodytalk 59
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Gaze focused forward, body at the ready, mind just one step ahead, we take on each day and the unpredictable number of things that will demand our attention, hoping that we donâ€™t drop the ball. When we juggle multiple responsibilities well, people commend us on being flexible, adaptive, focused. When we donâ€™t, well, maybe we just need to reprioritize or cut out the fluff. In the context of our genders, sexualities and relationships, though, how adaptive must we really be? Where do our primary responsibilities lie? What about our identities and desires is dispensable enough to be fluff? The next issue of BODYTALK will explore who, what and how we juggle in our gendered, sexual and romantic lives. We want to hear stories about gender versatility, sexual compromises and multi-partner management. We want to learn how you multitask your professional, personal and romantic lives. We want to know just how many people you can do, love, crush and be. How do you balance what you want, what others want from you and who you must be? How do your desires and identity fluctuate based on audience and context? How much can you juggle before a ball has to drop? Tell us! Submit to The Juggling Issue at email@example.com by Wednesday, November 23. We hope to hear from you, your friends and your alter egos soon. <3 [If you need an anonymous address to send from, use bodytalkvoices@gmail. com, password: talktalktalk.] 60
The BodyTalk Art Department would like to thank the following contributing illustrators: Sam Taylor - page 8-11 www.samtayloranimation.blogspot.com Emma Trithart - page 14 www.emmatrithart.com Marcos Romรกn - page 22-27 www.hellomarcos.com Jordan Parshall - page 45 www.jpjopj.tumblr.com 62