August 08, 2006

How I Became a Meat Eater

Every time I drove my car under an underpass, I’d have fantasies about turning the wheel sharply into the concrete wall. During my 40-minute commute, I played Bowie incessantly—Ashes to Ashes, We Could Be Heroes, John I’m Only Dancing—and I’d cry for no reason at all. Although I told the people I most trusted that I was unhappy, nobody believed me. Every single person told me that I was simply young (true) and having cold feet (false) about my impending wedding. I wanted to an escape, but I didn’t know how.

This was such a dark time that I don’t really remember a lot about it, or even all that much about Byron, except for my constant point loss and his continual critiques. From the mundane to the extreme, he didn’t like it when I:

• wore my hair curly
• wore my glasses
• wore mini skirts
• wore pants without pockets
• drank beer
• read trashy magazines
• ate licorice

I’d been a vegetarian the whole time we were together, and although he was a carnivore, he would not hear of me eating meat again. He didn’t like my tattoos, didn’t like it when I dyed my hair black, didn’t like the short stories I wrote. He was anal about everything but sex. That’s not true—he was anal about sex, too, but not into anything back door or kinky. Sex had to happen in a specific lights-out, minty-fresh sort of way. And the longer we were together the less frequently, and more lifelessly, we made love. We never, ever fucked.

Yet, although I seemed unable to please him, he didn’t want me to change in any way.

When he was upset with me, which was often, he would refuse to speak, to acknowledge my presence at all. He had other cruel ways of punishing me, but the silent treatment was the worst. I’d grovel, trying to figure out how to make him happy, ultimately feeling like a failure nearly 24 hours a day.

I’m not trying to justify why I cheated. I’m just telling my side of the story. Because unlike Byron, Connor adored everything about me (including my zip-up pants with no pockets, which he said made my ass look amazing, and my black hair, glossy and gothic). He started by sticking little notes on my coffee cups when I went downstairs to buy java. “You look beautiful,” he’d write. Or “God, you’re so damn sexy.” I didn’t believe him right away. Byron never told me I was beautiful. If I asked him how I looked before an evening out, he said I was fishing for compliments, which in his view was a major sin. I stared in the mirror and saw the wrong hair, the wrong glasses, the wrong makeup, the wrong everything.

Connor saw something else.

He asked me out on a date, knowing my situation, but not worrying about it. We met up for a movie and sat next to each other. We were both careful not to touch one another, yet accidentally, his arm brushed mine, my leg brushed his. Flickers of electricity flared through me. The tiniest touch was enough to make me shift in my seat, immediately aroused. I saw not one frame of that film. Over beers afterwards, we played that same game, his foot touching mine under the table, mine brushing his, until finally, on the cusp of exploding, we retreated to the parking garage and made out like long lost lovers. Connor couldn’t keep his hands off me. He cradled my face in his strong hands, kissed me so firmly. He didn’t touch me too hard, didn’t want to leave marks that I wouldn’t have been able to explain, but I felt from that first moment that I was his.

After that, it was all over. Every day, we met up somewhere at the office building, on the loading deck in back, in the kitchen of the café, in his car, in the parking garage. Every second we were free, we found a way to meet. I remember standing in front of him on the loading dock. He had on black jeans and a white T-shirt, and he leaned against the concrete wall of the building, looking at me. I ran my hand down his flat stomach to the crotch of his jeans, could feel how hard he was, how much he wanted me. He titled his head up and closed his eyes, and let me stroke him. “You’re gonna make me come if you keep that up,” he said, his voice harsh.

“I know,” I promised him. “I know.”

I felt as if I were on fire all the time, and suddenly Byron’s critiques began to roll off me. I found that I didn’t care much if he wasn’t talking to me. Silence was better than constant critiques, than losing another ten fucking points. I didn’t care if he hated my outfits. I was no longer looking for his approval. I was no longer dressing for him.

I’ve never been into handsome. I’m much more of a Billy Bob Thornton than a Brad Pitt sort of girl. But Connor was a modern James Dean, blonde and blue-eyed and almost angelic, the kind of stunning that makes people turn heads. I didn’t want him for those reasons. I craved him because he saw something in me, even at my most beaten down, and he went after me. I have a photo of him following a night of no sleep. He’s wearing black jeans and no shirt under an open blazer, and he’s smoking a cigarette, but barely, the butt dangling from his lower lip. He has that insolent fuck you look that has always made me wet in a heartbeat.

The longer we were together, the more bold I became. I found ways to avoid sleeping in Byron’s bed. I’d stay up late, watching TV and drinking tequila, which I hid in the cupboard behind the unused vinegar, because Byron didn’t like it when I was tipsy. I made sure that he was fast asleep before I curled up on the sofa and made myself come, thinking about Connor, picturing his hard body on mine, his mouth on the undercurve of my neck, his strong hands holding me in place, never letting me go. I envisioned him fucking me, cuffing me, binding me in place. And when I told him my darkest secrets, he didn't run away. He didn't look at me with pity, as if I were demented or broken. He simply said, "I know. Of course, I know what you want." A dark laugh. "I knew from the first time I saw you."

Connor wrote me sexy letters, he called and talked dirty to me when I was in the office, feet away from Byron. He brought me trinkets, a leather cuff-style bracelet that I wore every day. One afternoon, he confessed his own daydream he’d had, where we went to a Hollywood tattoo parlor and he watched as the man inked a design on me that Connor had drawn himself. He wanted to own me, to mark me, and I felt as if I were melting as he confessed each frame of his fantasy.

We went downtown early one evening, when I was supposed to be running an errand, and I got my ear double pierced, sitting on Connor’s lap while the clerk did his job. Feeling how hard Connor was in his black jeans. Christ, we were well-suited for one another, our fantasies melding. The only thing working against us was time. There never was enough.

I look back and wonder why in the hell Byron insisted that we move forward with the wedding. He must have known how unhappy I was with him. And yet I stayed, physically, but mentally I was already far away. I wore my pants without pockets. I wore my glasses when I wanted to. And I became a meat eater. Oh, yes, I did. Connor and I met for lunch at a steak house, and I remember the pleasure of cutting into the rare flesh, of eating bite after bite. Of him feeding me from his plate. Nothing has ever tasted that good.

It took a long time for someone to rat us out, but ultimately another lady in our office must have seen Connor with me, and she told Byron. (I’ll say here that I hold no malice toward her.)

I came back from a tryst with Connor to find Byron livid, ready to confront me. I don’t think I said a word. I had no defense. When Byron and I parted, he took all of my keys from my ring save my car key. He took the two house keys, garage key, two office keys…. Almost all of our friends were his friends. I remember feeling free, but terrified. Yet when he asked me for his ring back, I gave him the ultimate fuck you, pulling it from my red leather change purse rather than off my finger.

He called me a cunt, and I suppose I deserved it. But honestly, I had become such a remnant of my former self, I was nearly unrecognizable. But I knew what I wanted—I didn’t need a man with positive future prospects. I needed what I’d had once before, someone who could look at me and see who I really was. Someone who wouldn’t laugh or scowl or turn away in disgust when I confessed my darkest fantasies.

Someone who had a brush, and a belt, and a set of cuffs and was not afraid to use them…


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