Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

Some Men Belong on a Leash

So Sad Today

So Sad Today

Smeared in shit and led through the town square.

Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

I was hiding from my most recent birthday for a weekend in a hippie compound in Topanga Canyon, when I found some out-of-print, new age books from the 70s about sacred sexuality. The place was hippie compound 2.0—less Manson family and wifeswapping, more AirBnB and everyone gets their own little cottage. The sex books, though, were relics from another time. Mostly I looked at the diagrams of dicks and labia. But one thing that stuck with me from the books was the idea of preserving one's lifeforce.

According to the books, your lifeforce can seep out in a variety of ways: through ejaculation, through anger, through drug use. What you don't want to do is lose all of your lifeforce, because then you will be dead. The books talked about the importance, for cis men, of sucking in one's ejaculate, instead of letting it out, so as to preserve one's lifeforce. The books also talked about the possibility, for cis women, of transforming one's anger into sexual energy. There were ten pages on that, which I couldn't follow past the first step: trying to inhale energy down into one's vagina. But I keep thinking about it.

Do I even want to transform my anger into sexual energy? Do I even need any more sexual energy? I feel like, already, I sexualize a lot of feelings that don't need to be sexualized: sadness, fear, boredom, self-doubt. What I may need, however, is more anger. I'm one of those people, who—as someone in a hippie compound might say—is not particularly "in touch" with my anger. I am especially not in touch with my anger when it comes to any form of rejection, or perceived rejection: particularly romantic. If I am angry, that means I care. If I care, I feel like a loser. But if I remain unaffected, then perhaps a rejection never happened at all.

With a few rejections (or perceived rejections), I have gone so far as to make it seem—in my mind—like the rejector never even existed. I call the rejector a fantasy, imaginary, a ghost, an apparition. And, while it is true that I have an immensely active fantasy life and a penchant for taking one beautiful quality in a person and seeing them entirely through that lens, these people are still real. They have bodies and voices. But I call them imaginary, because I am too sensitive to (possibly perceived) rejections to even face them. To be rejected by a fantasy is just me rejecting me. And I already know that I reject myself.

The problem, though, with blocking out people from one's past is that it makes it difficult to learn from one's mistakes. If you don't remember the pain of your mistakes, you'll probably make them again (I often make them again even when I do remember). But sometimes it is just too painful to sit with, as the hippies might say, "ultimate reality." Reality has never been my first choice.

For my birthday, my friend Susanna Brisk— a sexual intuitive—gave me a reading on a person who I have turned into a ghost. In order to do this, all I had to do was send her a selfie of, shall we call him, "the dead boy."

Susanna said that this person has ancient sexual powers over women. She said that he is a soul player, but not running a full-on pussy con, because he doesn't even really understand his own power. She also said that this is his only power. Otherwise, he is not an intellect or an artist or deep.

"You definitely have a connection," she said. "You are of the same tribe. But just because you had a past life thing doesn't mean it has to happen in this life. Think of him like Oz, she said. Don't be one of the winged monkeys. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

But she affirmed that his romantic power was strong.

"A real panty dropper," she said. "In past lives, women have jumped off of bridges for him."

"I am one of those women who jumps off of bridges," I said.

"No, you aren't," she said.

OK, so perhaps I am not a jumper. But I am a mourner. I've been lingering on the bridge for years with his ghost. Maybe even lifetimes.

"I would put that guy on a leash," she said. "Imagine you dominating him. That's the fantasy I would have about him and how I would let him go. I wouldn't say this for just anyone, but in your case, you should explore your anger more. Imagine he gets shit smeared on him and led in the town square on a leash and then beheaded."

"In a way I already killed him," I said. "I shut him out of my life."

"Yes, he is already dead," she said.

But he isn't dead. Not even to me, not fully. In my waking life I am doing well with keeping him shut out, not going there too much in my mind. But he keeps showing up in my dreams and I don't understand why. Like, I feel that the universe or god or the flow or chi or qi or Buddha or my subconscious or even the void—whatever is out there—does not want me to contact him. Like, I feel that I am on the right path by having no contact. So if dreams contain spiritual messages, why would the universe or god or the flow or chi or qi or Buddha or my subconscious or even the void prompt me to dream about him?

In these dreams we are never together in a sexual way. Rather, there's a reconciliation of friendship or a mending of fences in terms of our humanity. Sometimes there is hugging and crying, but there is no longer kissing or sex. Still, no matter the content of the dreams, I wake up crestfallen. I am emotionally hungover, craving contact, all day.

The haze of romantic obsession casts a funhouse glow.

In a recent dream he gave me a bunch of gifts. In real life he never gave me any gifts. But in the dream he gave me vegetables, a book, and a DVD of U2 performing in concert. I think the DVD is symbolic of a change in the way I see him. Like, when we were together, I thought his taste in music was genius. It was almost like he had invented genres or was playing the music himself. Now I see him as a human being like everyone else. Now I realize that his taste of music was in no way impeccable. In fact, there were some very embarrassing choices. I don't think he is a U2 fan, per se, but contemporary U2 would be indicative of this fall from grace.

When we put people on pedestals, or see them only as we want to see them, everything is elevated. One time I saw a selfie of him sitting on the toilet, probably taking a shit, and I was like, "Wow that's so primal and real." My friends were like, "No, that's fucking gross." Or what I perceived as his deep, sullen quietude may have just been moodiness. The haze of romantic obsession casts a funhouse glow.

In the dreams there is still some of the old pedestal-magic feeling. Susanna says that maybe these dreams are the universe's way of allowing me to be with him, without getting in the mess again of actually being with him. Are dreams that smart and giving?

In the dreams it is safe for us to be friends. There is a cathartic quality, in which I know it is right that we are making amends. Normally, I believe in honesty and forgiveness in waking life as well. But there are some people with whom friendship is not possible, because it is not safe. It will always lead you back to the bridge. Perhaps what is left unresolved in this lifetime must be resolved in the next lifetime. But in this lifetime I need him to stay dead.

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