Part OneThere are some things in life you will never forget.
For as long as you live, the black of Her eyes will color everything you see. Her voice, Her laugh, will echo in your quiet moments, a sound your ears will always strain to hear in a crowd. And Her touch.
How could anything compete with something you still can’t quite understand? How could the grip of Her hands, so tight and unforgiving on your wrists, on your ankles, on your throat, on your heart, feel both possessive and freeing at the same time? How could the bite of teeth, the lick of tongue, and the suck of Her mouth devour whole, while feeding something deep within? How could the dig of Her nails feel like they were tearing into skin to get to soul?
That’s not something easily left behind.
But, if the last year and a half have taught you anything, you must learn how or you will never move forward.
So answer the ad.
Tell yourself it’s just a joke—a fake, a dare—if you have to. Just do it.
When the ad answers back, don’t flinch at the sound of her voice on the other line. Don’t stumble through the questions. This is what you’ll want; remember that.
But don’t beat yourself up, when you fail. You’re not perfect and you’ll be fairly sure, by her knowing tone and calm patience, she’ll have probably heard worse.
When you schedule a time to meet, show up. Don’t hide in the corner.
If you can, try to look like you want to be there.
You want to be there.
Be prepared, when you see her; it will hit you hard.
You’ll have chosen that ad because, while she won’t look like Her—no one could look like Her—there’s something about the flash of teeth in her smile or the glint of her eyes that reminds you of a memory your mind cannot let go.
When she wants to negotiate, let her have whatever she wants.
Don’t wonder why she frowns at this. Don’t try to read the second thoughts that flash like red flags through her eyes.
When she looks at you incredulously and asks if you have any limits, pause. Take the time to think about it.
Because you do.
As the past burns your skin like a brand, tell her. “I just need something to change.” Living like this is your limit
She’ll look at you, her dark eyes distant and sharp as a saber. “I’m not a shrink. Or a doctor. I can’t fix you. No problem you have right now in your life can be solved in-scene.”
You’ll know that. You may not want to, but you will. Shrug. “I’ve been to therapy and doctors. Had them check me up and down. Inside and out.” Turns out, they can’t fix you either. You will learn that, after endless tests that inevitably come up inconclusive or advice—exercise, diet, talk—that won’t help. Whatever. “That’s not what this is about.”
She will arch a perfectly shaped eyebrow at you. “Then what is it about?”
Think about this. This is important. Drop your gaze and focus inward, mentally touching all the empty space within. Don’t be afraid; be more honest with her than you’ve ever been, even with yourself. “Learning how to live with being broken.”
You’ll hold your breath, while she thinks. You’ll wonder what you hope her answer will be. When she nods, you’ll know for sure. “I can work with that.” The words are not Hers, but the rejection you feel in the casual tone and tilt of her head, however wanted, however asked for, will feel fresh.
Set a date, a time, and a place to meet. For real.
Excitement will mix with terror in the moment. It will feel oddly comforting. Triggering a part of your brain that has been craving something it couldn’t name. That feeling will sustain you, consume you, for the days to come.
When the day comes, don’t show up an hour early; it will look desperate and obvious as you sit in your car in the empty parking lot. Just waiting with an anxious foot tapping in time to your racing thoughts next to the gas pedal. Don’t do that to yourself.
You cannot control the world, your therapist always tells you, just how you choose to live in it.
So choose to live in it.
Because, want all you want, the past cannot come back.
She is gone and you need to find out who you are without Her.
So enter the early morning café.
You’ll see her, seated in a booth in the back, a steaming cup of sweet-smelling tea in her hand. Join her. When she looks at you sternly, meet and keep her gaze. Until you can’t. When the weight of it makes yours falter, don’t feel bad. “Have you been good?”
You’ll have followed her rules—too afraid not to—but it will have been hard.
You may hate porn. But you need it.
When She’d left, you lost everything. Your home—because how could you stay in the same home as the man who’d stolen the girl who’d stolen your heart—your friend, and your heart. For a long time, for longer than you’ll want to admit, you lost the ability to function, dragging your body around like a zombie from bed to work and back. You won’t want to remember the long stretches of days where you barely made eye contact with anyone, your coworkers and fellow commuters uncomfortably aware of your aching soul. With each passing day, you noticed the berth they gave you widening as they silently and collectively waited for the broken bits of you to blow away, finally unburdening them.
The only solace you’ve had is porn. It lured you in and made you feel less alone, less unhappy, at a time in your life when you had next to no one in your life. It’s been your escape from a world that has done its best to make you feel unwanted. The doe-eyed digital performers with perfect proportions looked at you with want and welcome. Each pixelated pant and moan felt like coming home.
Until even porn, like everything else in the world, betrayed you.
Be honest, you should have seen it coming. There were signs that, in hindsight, should have scared you. When you spent hours scouring sites to find images and videos, looking for Her—for women with eyes or mouths or hips or asses that made you think of Her, who you could superimpose the smell and taste and feel of Her onto—you should have known something was wrong. When even those stopped being enough and your mind and body became accustomed to—began to crave—themes and acts your conscience quaked at, you paused and pondered at the path you were taking.
You let it take over your life. Let it become an obsession. Let it become bigger than the rest of you.
Let that fear lead you here. Like you’d said, you came for a change.
So look into her eyes. “Yes.”
Before she'd left you last time, she told you to stop. No more porn; not until you’ve stopped using as self-flagellation. No more fantasizing and fetishizing the past. No more Her.
It won’t have been easy. Your body—your heart, your soul—will revolt. Will want what it cannot—what it should not—have. You will feel lost without it. You will ache for it. Inside, you'll feel your desire, like this rigid, raw, ravenous thing. It will feel larger, harder, more powerful, than you. You will wonder what harm one time—or one more or just one more—could do. Stay strong. Because, even if it doesn't feel like it now, her rules have to be better than where you’ve been. You’ve been unhealthy with it, with Her, for too long and even you must realize you’ll never move on, if you’re not willing to leave this behind. “I wanted to, but I didn't break my word.”
Her eyes will soften and a smile will tug at her lips. “Good.” And, in her, you'll see something familiar, something you never thought you would again. Something inside will loosen, even as your body tightens. “Very good.” She’ll cross her legs and stare at you over her teacup. “Are you sure you want this?”
Her tone will be serious. Take it seriously.
“I'm not Her.” She won’t need to say it. Lord knows, you know. “Trying to replace Her with me in your mind isn't going to end well for either of us.”
Nod. You know. Lord knows. “You do remind me of Her.” She knew that, of course. That’s why you chose her. “But that's kinda the point.” You’ve carried the memory of Her with you for so long. Felt it weigh on your mind, your heart, your body, for so long. “I need to find...” What’s the word? “Boundaries.” You’ll need to build walls. “Between Her and me.” You’ll know it’s a strange request. But none of us get to choose what we need. “I don’t want you to replace Her; I want you to release me from Her.”
She’ll nod before pushing a cup full of tea your way. “Then drink.”
Do it. Let the spiced taste of it linger on your tongue and cling to your throat. Close your eyes and drink deep, listening to her laugh. “You know, usually I help people get their rocks off by indulging their fantasies, not the other way around.”
Carefully, place the cup on its saucer. “I appreciate any help I can get.” Shrug and watch while she takes the cup from you. “I just want to feel normal again.” Close your eyes when she sips from your tea, the act feeling odd and intimate.
She’ll laugh harder. “You may have picked the wrong ad to answer then.”
Curious, open your eyes.
And, somehow, some way, see Her.
Look into Her eyes. She’ll reach out Her hand to you. “Come with me.”
You’ll have no choice.
Follow Her anywhere She wants to take you...
Read Part Two Here