It wasn’t his technique. Though he definitely knew what he was doing and how to do it well. It wasn’t even the location—on top of a parked car in a darkened alley—though that was a fantasy fulfilled. It was his presence, the intensity of even his lightest touch, how we went from playfully flirting at the bar to dancing out of rhythm to Sister Nancy, his hands daring to glide below my waist, occasionally grazing my behind and then encircling me again. We somehow went from this teasing play to a slow dance that had me twirling out the door, down some rickety wooden steps and into the alleyway of some foreign city. Like I said, we did hit the bar first.
I’d dreamt of the moment we might talk, where I might let him know I was crushing, hard. We’d known each other for three months by then and I thought, I hoped that we both felt...something. I was always so self-conscious around men, especially ones who looked like him. As much work as I’d done to build myself up, to recognize my own beauty and amazingness, interactions with men always forced me to reckon with a voice that says a plus sized black woman isn’t desirable. Even when partners told me I was beautiful, when men actively pursued me, I still wasn’t fully convinced. I didn’t trust that their attraction for me wasn’t a fetish or the result of them relaxing their standards. My ex, the last person I’d been with before this night, had honed his ability to wound where he knew I was most vulnerable, often making “jokes” about my body, my hair, and what he deemed was my “emasculating intelligence.” So when this bearded, incredibly attractive man took the conversation beyond polite banter and invited me to join him at the bar, I knew he was just being nice. When we laughed and moved closer to each other, when we began to lightly touch, I thought he was genuinely friendly and, maybe, possibly flirting? It wasn’t until we danced that I stopped second guessing. I didn’t know what he was thinking but I decided not to care.
There’s an alignment that happens for me sometimes—while meditating, while running, and, yes, during sex—where my noisy, anxious brain finally quiets and a harmony between body and mind takes over. As we moved, trying and failing to match each other’s rhythm, an initial worry set in that maybe this wouldn’t work. Maybe we were meant to be two awkward friends with unexplored chemistry. But then we locked eyes and a smile spread from his face to mine and I just leaned into the moment and into him. What happened next were some of the most freeing moments I’d experienced before or since. Directly after I thought it was just some sort of drunken night, an experience for the books. But now I realize we were able to access something more.
We kissed quick and sweet on the dance floor before dashing down the stairs, away from our friends and closer to the summer night air. In the darkened entrance we kissed, harder this time, his beard itching my cheeks but I didn’t mind. But then, as we ran giggling into the street, we bumped into some folks we knew. They wanted to chat and I was almost ready to humor them. After a minute or two, with him standing behind me, he kissed my bare shoulder before tracing a trail up my neck to my cheek. Even in my drunken, horny haze I distinctly remember saying, in no uncertain terms, “We gotta go.”
We walked for a minute, arms around each other as we searched for somewhere to be alone. I saw him glance to his left before he softly pulled me with him into an alley. Safe in the dark, we were a fury of contradictions. Clumsy at first but then steady with each article of clothing removed. Rough against the hard brick wall and then the roof of the car, my arms at times pinned above my head; tender with kisses peppered often and everywhere. Crude when he said “I wanna fuck you so bad.” Soft when he stared at me openly and without wavering, when he would stroke my face and touch my hair. It wasn’t like any other “first” I’d ever had. He was aggressive and generous, asking me what I wanted and how I liked it. The gap I’d so often experienced between kink and intimacy was so easily bridged that night. I felt desired and seen, like the star of a homemade movie. I loved it.
We’ve had sex hundreds of times since then. We’re not together, not in any recognizable sense, and our relationship is bewildering and unnerving in good and, sometimes, really bad ways. But when it’s good, it’s really good. The intensity and the presence only grows as time goes on. It’s like a release, our sex a specific type of liberation, getting free alongside of someone else. I’m not as sturdy as I’d like to be, but I’m much better at quieting the voice that says I’m not good enough, not desirable enough; I’ve learned how to free myself from its hold, even if only temporarily. I can’t say those lessons were won because of him but, certainly, I’ve learned with him.