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The First Man I Grinded With photo

In high school, all of my friends would grind on me during school dances. Even in college at clubs. They would pull me in and push their hips into mine and I would hook my fingers in their hip creases and move their bodies. I think they felt safe to be provocative without having their boyfriends pressuring them to have sex. I wouldn’t do that to them, and they knew that. I danced like that with a lot of girls. The only boy I danced with was my friend Tannyr. We were both out and found comfortability and seclusion in each other. When we were together, we were the normal ones and everyone else was weird. I found the safety in Tannyr the way my friends found safety in me. I never danced with men. I don’t like to. I don’t like when they automatically assume the dominant role, not even knowing who I am and the way that I would lead my friends bodies in to a junction with mine. They assume that I am a damsel in need of strong hands to guide my body to the rhythm. I’ve always been the lookout for creepy guys wanting to dance with my drunk and beautiful friends. I hate when they come up from behind, like wolves. Slobber hanging off their jowls, coated with the blood of their last meal. I hate even more when they circle, waiting for the perfect moment to move in. An eagle circling the skies waiting to snatch a snake from the water.  

That was the method he chose, the circling. Made sure I had enough space to drunkenly shake my hips to Depeche Mode under the strobing lights. I felt happy to be dancing alone. I’ve had an urge the last couple of months to go out by myself and this solo dance was a test to see if I had the confidence to be alone in a crowd. Plus, I hate the unsure dance circle that forms when you’re dancing in a group. I like bumping my hips against other hips, quick embraces with no responsibility. So, when my friends said they wanted to leave at 1:15am, I protested their early night and I parted from the group, told them that they could go home, and I’d make my way back. I danced alone in the crowd.

Not alone for long. I noticed him and his stare as soon as I moved into my spot on the floor. I know when I’m being watched, socialized to always be ready to be watched I’ve an innate sense of the difference between feeling watched and being watched. And I knew I was being watched by his eyes. I can’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy it a little. The performance of femininity having an actual viewer. Like when an artist sells their art. His eyes payments for the hard learned lessons on how to move so hypnotically and beautifully. I was drunk enough to soak it in, not caring if the eyes were male or not. He swooped in front of me and I looked into his eyes. I couldn’t look too long. Not out of nervousness but I knew if I looked too long, I’d realize that he was just a man. I wouldn’t be able to pretend he was more or less.

I don’t know what he touched first: my hip, my hands, my waist, my shoulders, my ass. We were together, embraced, dancing, touching, moving, feeling.  I keep my gaze everywhere but his eyes. As long as I didn’t process the owner of the sunken milky whites, I could press my hips into his. I could let my hands be enclosed by his. I could let my neck be occupied by him. It felt so good. Letting myself be touched without inhibition. To be close with another human being. He nuzzled his face into my neck, into my hair. I could feel breath, quick and steady, on my neck. The breath moved to my ear.

My name is Will.

I wished the words were some sort of concerning auditory hallucination or was a part of the song that I hadn’t recognized until now but when I felt the breath travel from my neck to my ear again, I couldn’t deny it was him.

What’s your name?

I told him my name was Karl. I wished I would’ve given him a fake name.


I nodded and he laughed. Did he think my name was funny?  Does he know I’m not here for him? He breathed into my ear again.

You’re very beautiful, Karl.

He looked at me and I felt obligated to him, indebted to his compliment. A compliment that felt cliché and flat coming from his lips. An hour earlier, a charming woman called me beautiful and my insides felt like glitter and glue. When he called me beautiful, it felt like someone telling me my mother’s name. Love to hear it but it’s something I’ve always known and don’t need a man to reassure me of it.

I felt the need to ask him something back. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to know anything about him. I didn’t need to know what his favorite color was or if he liked the music or if he comes here often. I didn’t need to know anything. But guilt of not reciprocating his interest overpowered my not-needing-to-know-ness. I couldn’t let him feel unimportant; it’s my job not to.

I asked him how old he was.

I’m 31.

Maybe I imagined it, but my mouth felt sticky and sweaty, the way it felt when I would throw up into ice cream pails my mom left next to me when I was sick.

How old are you?

I told him that I was 22 and he smiled like he knew something that I didn’t.

I could see more of him coming to fruition and had to look away before he became solid, fully formed. I could place any story, any gender, any personality onto him if I kept my eyes averted. If I didn’t look, he could stay a glittering mirage of a human.

More touching, more dancing.

He took my hand and spun me around. Already dizzy from the tequila and orange juice, I returned to his arms like we were newlyweds on the dancefloor for our first dance. I amazed myself by how easily and willingly I accepted his touch. I didn’t wonder why me, why he chose to put his hands on me. I looked good and alone. I’ve never been attracted to a man or his touch besides a celebrity crush or curiosity about a friend or two. Even the way I dressed that night—suit vest with no bra, baggy jeans hanging off my hips, my keys clipped to my belt loop by a carabiner—was to silently tell the world which side I fell towards. When I was a girl, I was repulsed when men—always older—wanted me, wanted to touch me. That sticky and sweaty feeling in mouth was there every time my stepdad drunkenly climbed into my bed and cuddled me despite my urging for him to go to his own bed or when the neighbor boy wrapped me in his arms at a concert.  But here I was, letting this man wedge his knee between my legs and hold me tenderly. I wedged my knee between his legs so I wasn’t the only one with a kneecap in my genitals.

More dancing, more touching.

Someone behind him checked their phone and I saw the time. 1:36am. I thought about what would happen when the bar flicks the lights on and everyone scatter like roaches. Would he want me to go home with him? Would he want to come home with me? Would I want to go home with him? Would I want him to come home with me? I want to try things, see what I liked and didn’t like. Maybe I overlooked men. Maybe the feeling deep in my gut was wrong. I played out the choices in my mind.

If I go home with him, and he shows me where he lives and I pretend that I’m not disgusted. Disgusted by the beard hair in the sink and the lack of decorations. He’ll probably want to have sex with me. It could be fun. I haven’t had sex with a man and maybe this is the time to do it. I’ve already disregarded the icky feeling his hands left on my clothes, what more could I disregard? Could I be like every other girl? Could I let him have me, my body? Could I keep myself after giving myself to him?

If he comes home with me, then he’ll know where I live and what my comforter looks like and what hand soap I use in my bathroom and the people I love so much that I have pictures of them on my fridge. He would met my cat and her cantaloupe colored eyes and he might not realize that he is in the presence of the greatest being on earth. He would see the little origami sailboat my niece made me and he would not think I owned the greatest piece of art on Earth and he would mistake it for a child’s drawing. He would see the stuffed cow I sleep with every night and judge me.

Or maybe he wouldn’t do any of that. Maybe he’d see the jingle bells I keep on the back of my door as a makeshift alarm and I think I was clever. He could see the ceramic pig that lives on my bathroom shelf and create some story about how I love pigs. He could see the jungle of plants surrounding my windows and assume that when I care for things, they blossom. Maybe he’d fall a little bit in love with me.

I hoped he wouldn’t. I wouldn’t give him the chance.

His hands were getting handsier. He kissed my neck and ran his palms down my back and around my butt and back up my back, then down my arms and interlocking with my hands. I kept my eyes locked into the sticky bar floor but I could sense him watching me, the same knowing as when he first took me. A feeling crept through my body, starting at my toes and working it’s way up my thighs. Disgust and dread and daunting. I didn’t want this anymore. I looked into his eyes and he became a man. I couldn’t deny it anymore, the spell unbound. I couldn’t shake the aversion. There was nothing about him that attracted me to him besides the fact that his touch felt good to my depraved skin.

I needed to get out. I need to leave. I pulled back and told him I had to go.

You’re gonna leave me all like this?

I smiled sympathetically. He expected me to care about his half boner and I didn’t expect him to care about the layer of sick he left on my skin. He tried to get my number, I talked him into letting me go with a snapchat. I didn’t mean to but I typed in my username wrong and I’m grateful for my drunken typo; I would never have to see this man again. I handed his phone to him, patted him on the shoulder, and tore out of the club. The cool air hit my face and I leaned against the side of the building. Sweat drying on the small of my back, right where his hands were just. The entire interaction replayed in my mind on double fast-forward and a nervous cackle came out of me and grew. Alone on the sidewalk, I howled at his seriousness and my willingness and the feeling of his budge on my knee and the breath on my neck and his deep-set eyes and the affirmation of what I already knew.

How fun and horrible it is to pretend to be something you’re not.