Something some find so wonderful and appealing is a word alone that causes my heart to race and my brain to jump to fight or flight mode. Don’t get me wrong – love is something I crave more deeply than almost anything on this earth. To be held and to hold someone who loves me..who I love? Thats kind of my dream.
More often than not I dislike cuddling – my body tenses up, my senses become heightened, and I become painfully aware of my breathing as I try to breathe at a steady pace so whoever is trying to show me affection doesn’t notice that I feel trapped. But the thing is when I genuinely feel a connection with someone I want nothing more than to hold them and yet letting myself feel that kind of intimacy is a different kind of pain, its a reminder of how much I deny myself what I want.
I don’t feel like I’m allowed to fall in love, for one I’m a sex worker. Now, before I get the “sex workers can have relationships and love!” bit I know that to be true – its just that specifically I can’t. Having another person touch me when I’m in love (or like) with someone is hell for me and in the past I’ve always chosen love over money, right now what my family and I need is money….but where do I draw the line? How long can I deny myself the things I’ve wanted my entire life? How long can I run?
*Cue Moulin Rouge’s Elephant Love Medley*
C: All you need is love.
S: A girl has got to eat.
C: All you need is love.
S: Or she’ll end up on the streets.
C: All you need is love.
S: Love is just a game.
C: I was made for loving you baby, you were made for loving me.
S: The only way of loving me baby, is to pay a lovely fee
This was one of my favorite movies in middle school…actually several of my favorite movies/novelas/books growing up had a SW as a main character. Perhaps I always knew I’d end up here. But back to my point.
The heavier layer is the fact that when the man I loved killed himself two years ago I almost died. That isn’t an exaggeration. I was on my way out as I’d had a history of depression and PTSD which I’d struggled with managing throughout my life- but I managed, when this happened any desire I had to push through dissipated. I had written letters out to those closest to me while trying my hardest to write in ways that would clear them of any guilt, but who was I kidding? I knew there would always be guilt when you experience that kind of loss. Loved ones would answer the phone in a panic anytime I called and I knew they were half expecting it to be me saying goodbye before offing myself. Friends didn’t want to leave me alone. I cried in public and didn’t care who saw. I got drunk and screamed at strangers, the ocean, the sky. I felt too much while feeling a pit of emptiness in my soul.
For six months I was a shell of myself, the worst version of myself: cold, cruel, with no will to live and no faith in people. Only until a year after his death did I start to see traces of myself coming back. Now I’ve healed, but its left quite a bit scar tissue on my heart.
I barely survived that, I’m terrified that another heartbreak will kill me.I’m aware that isn’t logical but its exactly where my anxiety induced brain runs anytime I feel an ounce of myself want to hold someone who isn’t paying me. Sex work in a way protects me from being able to meet someone I could love its my own twisted form of insurance on top of the money being great I get to have an excuse not to emotionally connect.
But what do I do when it happens anyway?
I met a man on valentine’s day. I was in the mood to get out and explore on my own so I went to Santa Cruz to his show. He came to say hi beforehand, its not often I feel anything for men anymore, but as soon as he spoke to me my body felt pulled toward him. As I watched him perform I realized that he was incredibly talented. One of his songs made me cry which is essentially soul porn for me. We met up afterwards and I immediately felt comfortable with him I wanted to let my guard down, but refused to. My hesitations were completely my own because everything about him told me that he wouldn’t judge me for any of my complicated choices or my heavy life story. His energy felt warm and welcoming if I could bottle that feeling up and carry it with me I absolutely would, I’d probably be a much better person if I could feel that all the time. We made out and that was all I was still doing my celibacy thing and he wanted to wait as well. He left. I felt happy to have met him.
We talked almost every day after that. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel anxious or like running. I didn’t feel like he’d intentionally hurt me. I didn’t feel like he’d ever hit me or lie to me. I didn’t even feel like he’d ghost even though we’d only met once. I felt like I could trust him – what!? We made plans to meet again. Finally the day arrived and I drove out three hours to see a man I’d met once..I still have to laugh just typing it out because its completely out of character for me. I got there and holding him felt different than how most men hold me it felt nervous, unsure, but safe. Usually when men hold me it feels like possession, hunger, and entrapment.
We went to the party he was playing I mingled while he worked. Anytime I stood by him I felt that pull to touch him and feel close to him, but of course that wouldn’t be appropriate. At one point I was standing with him and he said something along the lines of “you’re really beautiful- like I can’t believe you’re into me…. because I do ok for myself I’m not a bad looking dude but you’re on a whole other level of beauty. Part of me is still like did my friends put her up to this!?” I laughed and felt extremely flattered that he appreciate my beauty so much I joked in return “your friends probably couldn’t afford to hire me for this! its like 5k a night!” he immediately reacted “is that how much it is?” I could feel my expression change – I hated people asking how much I made, I opened my mouth to speak and he said “don’t answer that – that was a stupid question I’m sorry I hate when people ask me that” I smiled again and felt happy to be in the company of a man who openly called himself out. A white man at that. I thought of all the time and energy I’d spent trying to teach defensive white men why the things they said were inappropriate and felt an immense relief when I thought, perhaps this one won’t drain my energy after all.
When we got back to the hotel I broke my celibacy streak and I did so happily. He was gentle, something I wasn’t used to in my personal life. Its odd to say, but I felt inexperienced. I can’t remember the last time I felt that. I couldn’t simply ‘go through the motions’ even if I wanted to. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more.
When it was time to leave in the morning I felt sadness and I couldn’t put my finger on why. We said our goodbyes and as soon as I got to my car I cried. For a few minutes as I drove I was confused, where was this all coming from? I’d had a great time. I was happy!
Then suddenly I realized: I felt something while we made love. No, I’m not saying I’m in love with a man I’ve met twice. I’m saying I felt something as in I let myself feel a connection instead of blocking it out and dissociating. And that alone hasn’t happened to me since A’s death.
I felt overwhelmed and pulled over to sit by a creek. I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings and I suppose I didn’t need to know. I just sat there overwhelmed. I was unaware of the effect this would have on me it was beautiful, healing, and heartbreaking.
I only know one other person whose ever lost a partner and the first time she experienced this she screamed at the man the next morning and kicked him out, her reaction was anger. I didn’t understand why until now. Its strange enough to watch time pass by as we grieve, heal, and move on with our lives. Its another thing entirely to actually feel something for someone else no matter how small the feeling may be, in these situations it can feel monumental in the timeline of moving forward.
I hadn’t thought of A much these past few weeks perhaps if I had I would’ve been more prepared…then again if I had been thinking of A so much it probably would’ve meant I wasn’t ready.
In a way I feel that this was fate. I could’ve met this man a year ago but the experience would’ve been completely different. I wouldn’t have been ready to feel anything. I probably would’ve gotten too drunk and fucked him out of boredom. I feel as though fate said “You’re ready it won’t be easy, but you’re ready and you deserve to see that. You don’t have to keep denying yourself, at least not because of this. Not anymore.”
Maybe I’ll see him again. Maybe I won’t. I’m enjoying it and taking the moments we do have together as they come, looking beyond that would dilute the present. Destiny has been kind to me this year and I trust that what’s meant to happen will and what isn’t won’t.