He was one of my favourites when I was in my early twenties because, whilst most guys were instructing me gruffly to shut up and turn over, he was guarded about his body but not about his mind. The first time I tried to kiss him I lost my nerve and ended up biting his hand instead. “I know what you mean,” he said and bit my hand back too. He didn’t smoke and his hand tasted of soap and apples. It could have been a child’s hand, but I was glad that it wasn’t. He opened his mouth even wider and slid it around my clenched fist like a primeval reptile.
He moved up to my arm and bit it so hard that I had bruises for days. When we did finally kiss it was so intense that I had to steady myself against a slimy nightclub wall, like a scene from a terrible rom-com. Only, all he said afterwards was that he didn’t want to come back with me. He used to make me want him so badly that I once punched a door.
We’d meet up about once a week and he’d tell me about girls he’d met when he was out drinking and the things they’d do and, in a perverted and very foolish way, this made me even more attracted to him. There was a girl who forced him to watch as she took a San Miguel bottle and started masturbating with it. (He just felt stupid. It was kind of violent). And another girl who became a girlfriend, and then an ex-girlfriend, because she insisted on getting her other female friends involved whenever they had sex.
It wasn’t that the words weren’t true, but said out loud they sounded ridiculous.
If it was any other guy I’d have presumed it was some kind of male fantasy that he got off on retelling, but, with him, it was something else. He was so candidly honest that, rather than making himself look better, he seemed to want to make himself look worse. He said that he hated his body and that he didn’t deal with these things well. “These things, meaning sex?”, I asked him. He nodded slowly. “I think about my big white body and it puts me off.”
I tried not to be offended when he’d casually suggest other people I should sleep with, guys who he’d describe as better than himself, who were more deserving and had thicker hair. He said he’d be jealous, but that he could only blame himself if it happened. Over all other qualities, I admired his ability to be so chivalrous with his self-loathing.
I assured him that his body was fine, more than fine. But it didn’t help. I still tried to have sex with him anyway because I was under the misguided impression that I might somehow cure him of his neuroses. When I made a move he just looked at me wide-eyed and said “you’ve got my cock in your hand”. It wasn’t that the words weren’t true, but said out loud they sounded ridiculous. I took it as a sign of discouragement and took my hand away.
But I kept going back. I don’t mean my hand went back, but that generally in the months that followed I’d go back to him. Every time I’d had a few drinks or was out after a festival I’d find myself calling him. I think we only had full penetrative sex once but he meant the most to me at the time. Even though it was difficult and exasperating, he made me laugh more than anyone else and when we spoke about our lives nothing, ironically, was censored.
SARAH LESTER is a writer, editor and social media specialist with a background in social anthropology. She lives in London.
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