The pagans believe springtime is the season during which their god impregnated their goddess, thus producing an earth fertile enough to birth all of the fragrant flowers and trees, as well as the little creatures who feed upon them. Such abundance is sweet to imagine, even if at the moment believing in it feels terribly fragile, perhaps even dangerous.
We want to be held and we want to be set free. We want to be so close to each other we can’t tell who is the beginning and who is the end, yet all the while we can’t extinguish the gnawing need inside that wants to run through the streets and the fields and the galaxy all alone.
Sometimes when he touches me, I recoil like one of those tiny snails curling back into her pearly shell. I don’t know why this happens, I can only tell you it happens the way when a doctor knocks one of those little hammers against a certain spot on your knee, your leg nearly kicks him in the balls reflexively. I don’t want to kick my boyfriend in the balls but I suppose a part of me that I don’t quite have a handle on wants very much not to be touched.
One afternoon not long ago, I was standing at the stove staring out across the back garden, dead as it was and covered in the last of the dirty winter-into-early-springtime snow. The steam from the tea kettle was fogging up the bottom portion of the glass windowpane, blurring my vision and my thoughts into a kind of daydream about nothing in particular. There we were on a beach as the summer sun was setting across the electric pink horizon of my mind. The warmth surrounding us so intimately, as if the heat of every molecule of the last of the day’s sunshine was sliding and vibrating beneath the tan of our skin.
I’m jolted free of this daydream by his hands on my hips from behind, and suddenly I’m back at the stove in the kitchen in my socks and sweatshirt. I jerk away. It’s not that his touch is wrong it’s that it’s an intrusion. The violation feels real even though it shouldn’t because he’s the one I have invited in. He’s the one I thought I wanted inside and around me all the time.
He senses my disturbed reaction and moves away, apologizing as I try to tell him it’s not him it’s me, even though I know it’s actually probably all of them. All of the others who moved in much too close much too soon. The ones who come into your life and damage you sort of chip away at your sense of boundaries, your sense of movement.
I never could quite figure out if I ever knew when what I wanted became less important than what they wanted. Why I should shrink and they should grow bigger and thicker and harder until they were as big and thick and hard as they felt like being and in response I forced my fear to become a thing I thought I could conquer by acting like I wasn’t afraid. Like I wanted it even. Like it was all my idea – my body, my decision. If the world they created couldn’t be escaped, I would tell myself a different kind of story to try to make inhabiting it less upsetting.
Ever since I was small, they told me stories about men who shot their semen into women and they called them gods and goddesses and made it so that the act of impregnating was all tied to the seasons, the earth, the very existence of the world depended on the woman wanting to bear the heavy awful weight of touch rather than destroy it.
Sometimes when he touches me it’s like a scream. Like the parts of me that should go soft instead grow as hard and thick as the walls I wish would crumble to the ground.
Photo by David Todd McCarty