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Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 23

I’m not going to lie to you here: I’ve had sex with a lot of men. And I do mean a lot. 103, to be exact. I’m the type of person who has such a terrible short-term memory that if I don’t document information, I’ll never remember it in the long-term. That’s exactly how my little black book of men I’ve slept with got started as an adult. I’ll never forget when I slept with the one hundredth man, either. Well … maybe I will. I mean, it wasn’t particularly special, nor was it even really that good. He was there. I was there. We talked about his job for like an hour before anything ever even happened, then he came about ten minutes later and I finished the job by myself because he was breathing so heavily that I suspected any additional work might throw him into cardiac arrest. That part I will likely forget.

Still, it’ll be hard to forget the occasion, if not just the man, simply because it had been my 100th partner, and that felt like something worth bragging about. Therefore I immediately made sure that Gwen knew what had happened on a Marco Polo chat, to which she proclaimed, “We shall call him Centennial Man!” Although that name lasted only a few minutes due to the fact that her son had heard her say this from down the hall and had sent her a text message saying, “What are you guys saying about Ten Tentacle Man?”

Most of the men, however, I could remember pretty well, while others were harder to recall. Some were in groups of three, some were in groups much larger. Some wanted to skip the kissing and hand-holding, others were more inclined to cuddle afterward and follow-up hours later about getting together again. Some wanted to be tied up, others wanted to tie me up. From one man to the next, there was at least some tiny uniqueness about them that made them stand out to me in my head; but if it hadn’t been for that one quality that was so nearly unnoticeable, they’d have all looked the same in a police line-up of undersized dicks and bad personalities.

But — Jesus, I’m blushing — there was this one guy that was unmistakable as I think back on him now. His body, his thick head of hair streaking into sexy shades of silver in some places, the thickness of his calf muscles on otherwise scrawny legs, the way he put his certain hands on me — sure he wanted me as I did him, but gentle enough to assert his nervous hesitation — all of those things stood out about him. Not just one small feature or aberrant quirk. No, no. This man was a man. Sweet and gentle, sexy and dominant, giving careful whispers containing unwavering words. And since I’d been with him, he was all I needed to think about for arousal to set in and goosebumps to ascend from my flesh. Just the very thought of his legs wrapped up in mine — hair brushing hair, toes tickling the bottoms of feet — was enough to send my body writhing around and rising upward from my mattress.

He had a name, but we’ll call him — for now —  Pistachio — simply because Gwen has always wanted me to name the men of this column after different kinds of nuts. And in spite of how badly I wanted him to then and how much I often still yearn for it now, he never made love to me. His name never blotted the pages of my little black book, neither in ink, nor blood, nor semen. But in the days since we almost had — probably should not have, but nearly did — I didn’t have to turn my attention to pornography or imagine illicit scenes of ravenous men clawing at each other’s backsides to get off.

All I needed to get myself to climax — and often very quickly — was to think about how he’d touched me and — if I was lucky enough to last that long — how he would have.

The story of how Pistachio came into my life will come later, but here’s what is important to know now:

“I want him. To put himself. Inside of me,” I told Gwen on her back patio one evening.

“Boundaries, Anthony,” she told me as she took a hit off of her bong. Of this much she was correct: Pistachio was not single and he certainly should not have had even as much physical contact with me as he’d had several weeks before. That’s not even accounting for any emotional contact that may have existed between the two of us. “If he were single, I’d encourage you to go for it. Until then: boundaries.”

I groaned and kicked my feet like a petulant child in the hammock chair in which I hovered above the ground. She was right: sleeping with Pistachio now would not have been the right thing to do. Had it been my boyfriend getting intimate with some other guy, I’d likely have a four-part Snapped special dedicated to me and my own verse of song in the “Cell Block Tango”. But the question wasn’t whether or not I was going to engage in an affair with a man I knew had a partner already. I certainly would not. I’m no fool; those situations never benefit the mistress (master? Nah. Mistress has more zeal) in the long run. After a year of pining after an asexual, a few wasted months with a man I called by the wrong name in bed, and at least 102 other sexual encounters I’d rather not explore again here, I’d learned my lesson:

Anthony Ramirez would wait around in the wings for no man. Anthony Ramirez stood in the spotlight and made them sulk in the regret at the loss of their chance with the star.

“I’m not going to do anything, Gwendolyn,” I sputtered through gritted teeth. “I just need to do something to tide me over when I get lost in these thoughts about him eating my ass and drilling me like an offshore BP rig.”

Gwen sighed.

“That is … I didn’t need you to be that descriptive.”

Chance — a newer addition to my friend circle — offered what was probably somehow the most annoying and yet most sage advice one could get. “Do you have feelings for him?”

“I don’t know! My penis certainly does. Not to mention, there’s always the …”

“The what?” Chance asked cluelessly. Clueless was sort of Chance’s thing. He was an extremely talented production designer and Montrose personality, but at the end of the day he was still a twink in his late twenties with holes in his cognition the circumference of the bottom of a bottle of poppers.

I leaned in and whispered, “You know … the … the hungry butthole.”

Chance’s jaw dropped.

“I thought you were a top!”

“I mean normally, yeah; but Pistachio is just one of those guys that you see and you want to make him feel like a man.”

“Gross,” Chance nearly gagged out.

“It’s not just the hungry butthole, though!”

“What else is there?!”

I leaned over the table and looked around to make sure I wasn’t within earshot of any old women or small children. “I want to put his penis in my mouth and suck his soul out of it like I’m trying to get to the bottom of a milkshake.”

“Well, in this scenario, you would be the bottom of the milkshake.”

I threw my hands up. What about this was no one understanding?

I. Was fucking. Horny.

“Are we even sure this is just a sex thing?” Chance asked as the waitress popped by. “Can you give us a sec?” he asked her without looking up as he signaled her dismissal with the upward point of only one finger. “Because it sounds like you’re catching feels.”

“I don’t know, Chance! It’s a little hard to be that introspective when all I can think about is how introspective he could be with my anus.

Chance shrugged, clearly not that interested in the details of whatever else I had to say on this matter. “You could always sleep with someone else.”

“I don’t want to sleep with anyone else. I want to ride him like I’m training a horse for the Kentucky Derby while I call him daddy until he’s so orgasmed-out that his hair turns completely gray and he comes down from the bedroom looking like he’s just spoken to a burning bush.”

Chance’s eyes widened and his ballcap nearly fell off of his head.

“My best advice: jack off.”

I let out a sigh as the waitress rounded back to our table. I had been masturbating on the matter for weeks. It wasn’t enough. Or maybe I wasn’t doing enough. I didn’t know.

“Can I get y’all anything else?” she asked politely, albeit a bit frightened by Chance.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “A milkshake.”

The way in which I came to think about my intimacy with Pistachio was nearly always the same. It didn’t necessarily happen at a specific time nor were my urges and fantasies necessarily concerned with what else I might be doing at the time. Still, the process of thought always began the same way.

It could have happened when someone approached from behind and was wearing a similar fragrance, or if someone gently laid a hand on my shoulder, or if I fell into bed in exactly the right position. But the thoughts started with his arms around me, his breath hot against my forehead, his fingers grazing skin over my lightly freckled shoulder. Then it fell into my fingertips, which gently touched his waist, then up to his chest, spinning gold out of chest hairs and playing Ring Around the Rosie along the perimeter of his areolas. It was the impression of my lips against his skin, my nostrils taking in his aroma — good cologne with just a hint of sweat. My legs wrapping up inside of his and his toenails scratching the skin of my feet like the paws of a puppy. The sound of him moaning as he wrestled with his conscience about whether or not to take the next step haunted me like an undeparted spirit seeking finality to its unfinished business.

But that’s what we had. Wasn’t it?

Unfinished business.

So much unfinished business.

Because that’s where it all ended. With gentle kisses on his chest and erect, untreated penises and the knowledge that we had done the right thing by doing nothing at all, even if instinct — maybe just carnal, maybe part emotional — was to keep going.

It ended, most usually, right there — with me dozing off to sleep as I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me, too. With me wondering in what way and just how much he loved me. With me wanting to never leave that bed, never leave his side. Usually that was enough to bring me to climax, smothering myself with a pillow to drown out my screams.

But when it didn’t, when I couldn’t let go and let it end there, when the fantasy drew me in too deeply, he rolled on top of me and slipped his fingers between mine. He tore away my clothes with his teeth, and he kissed my chest and tummy as I relinquished self-consciousness to the earth who gave it to the gods to vanquish. And I wished to press my fingers into his skin, but I couldn’t, for he held my arms back against the bed by my wrists as he tasted me, held me in security yet yearning for him to cling tighter still. And when my briefs slid off, he slid his tongue down the inside of my right thigh, his eyes cast up toward mine, as he pushed my legs apart at the knees and drifted further down between them.

Ecstasy. Ecstasy unmatched by any other feeling I’d ever revelled in took over then. In my head he touched me in a way no man ever had before — with uniqueness unlike any of the 102 men that came before. They were nothing now. They didn’t even exist. It was him. There was only him. Men around the world evaporated into thin air, puffs of smoke gone up like boiling water from a stove, and all that stayed behind was us — he and I — now one being joined by flesh and spirit and heart. Our movements were commands — motions of a magic spell that’s rhythm sent strong and steady ripples out into the universe to make change. He was the Devil, and I the Witch made to worship him.

And when he finally accepted entrance into me, I wasn’t just feeling him in my mind anymore. The premonition of what could have been turned corporeal, even there in my bed alone. I needn’t even touch myself where I imagined him touching me or slide my hand down to my pubis in order to orgasm. This was a man who touched me telekinetically from afar, who I felt pressed against my skin when he wasn’t there. This was a man who now not only touched the mind, grazed the body, but who grappled the heart and squeezed until all the blood inside it was drained and wrung out and replaced with a feeling warm as liquid gold and much more beautiful.

This was literally the man of my dreams. The first man I’d ever been intimate with after I’d been raped by some stranger — even if all our advances never amounted to anything more than subtle intimacy and loving exchanges. This man was the only man in the entire world — the first and maybe the only man in a sea of dangers I’d been drowning in for so very long — a man who had the power to put me in his arms and tell me that he loved me and make me feel safe with the ease of a newborn child taking their very first breath.

But this man of my dreams, this man who took my pain and buried it in the earth to be recycled into euphoria — he had never been mine. Not to begin with. Not even that night in bed. Those short moments were stolen from another, even if they’d never turned to sex, and I was the thief who’d come in the night to take them.

Still, I thought he should’ve been — mine, that is. And maybe I still think that. Because even after climax — a screaming, writhing affair — I always found myself crying. Crying to live it just one more time, even if nothing more took place. Crying to realize as I rolled onto the pillow next to me that his chest was not there to lay my head upon. Crying to know that, it was true, he’d never been mine, and that he may never be. Crying myself into dreams of him and I and a life so happy in a way I’d never known before.

Chance had been right before — this wasn’t just about sex. This wasn’t just a fling between two people who only thought they knew about one another. So I had to stop masturbating and I had to learn to curb my thoughts away from him when they approached the borders of territory still uncharted. At least for now, while he belonged to another.

Because I was falling in love, and about that I could do nothing while he maintained a partner.

But that last time I ejaculated, thinking of my fingers running through that thick, silver hair as I clung to him behind me and he kissed my neck and nearly left his skin in rapture of the love we could have made, I told the empty air around me, “I love you,” hoping that even though he was nowhere to be found, he would somehow hear me, and wake from sleep, and think of me.

I had slept with 103 men in my life, and he was not one of them. But by God if there ever came a time when I could just be held by him again without hurting another person, I swore then and there that I would.

No Strings Attached

Grindr Tinder no strings attached gay sex dating

Are Grindr and Tinder ruining good sex and preventing gay men from meaningful relationships? 

Online dating has transformed romance into yet another product of the digital age in which we live. Just like ordering a pizza or looking for shoes to match the season, people can now find a customizable lover through online dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. These quick taps on our phone screens have created a new etiquette in dating where the individual connection has been replaced with a single swipe to the right and a nonchalant “what’s up” sort of intro. With instant connections on the rise, it seems as though the lengths of traditional relationships have shortened, as well. With many people bypassing the work of a relationship, they’ve now sped straight into an expedited sexual connection. This creates different types of connections that occur within this new era of social media speed-dating, whether people are out looking for Mr. Right, Mr. Free Booze, or Mr. Right Now. The latter has become the most common, due to our newly-adopted, quick, digital attention span. Hook-up culture has made it possible for people who are only exclusively looking for no strings attached sex to enjoy sexual satisfaction without the connection of another human being’s emotional attachment. As the idea of monogamy dies away, this placeholder has become a common trend. Soon, will everyone be left single? Is it possible that these unemotional and pure lustful relations could be deteriorating the traditional relationship titles of boyfriend, husband, wife, girlfriend?

Grindr is one of the largest hook-up apps. Most of these hookups are strictly “no strings attached.” User’s profiles can be straight to the point, announcing that they are looking for a right now rendezvous. Terms like hosting, travel, DDF, blow-n-go, and many others have generated a brand new language in gay dating. It breeds an aberrance not before experienced in dating: people giving out their addresses, sending genital photos, and looking for gratification without attachment. Instant connections are something that our current generation of gay men use as a means of courting. Yet, no matter how much of a connection there may be through our cell phones or online, is it as good as meeting someone new in person? With marriage equality being only a few years old, the definitions of gay relationships are just being reconstructed as society is now accepting them, especially as we enter a renaissance of relationship titles and gender roles.

Furthering this hindrance in our community is the unveiling of racism in online dating. Pride parades give the illusion that gay culture is open and inclusive. Yet profiles on Grindr show a population of those who maintain prejudices and subdued racism. Profiles which identify as discreet want to make a connection, but would rather nobody know of their orientation. Chappy, which fancies itself the “anti-Grindr,” introduces profiles that are combative of prejudicial taglines: masc only, no fats, no femmes, no [insert various racial prejudices]—which has the least to do with human connection—and rather allows users to only seek sex. Is this our old-world, subliminal heteronormative thinking? Are we still existing under the subconscious belief that homosexuality shouldn’t be placed on display in a heterosexual world? There are many reasons men want to remain discreet while looking for sex, such as the thrill of anonymity, being married or in the closet, or perhaps coming from a culture where homosexuality is still looked down upon. Perhaps being gay still is still not completely normalized, and these individuals do not feel comfortable showing their sexuality as a relationship to society. It extends beyond aps, though. Some married gay couples still remain in the closet. As much as being gay no longer seems to be a big deal, Main Street USA would still be uncomfortable with two guys holding hands or showing affection in the public, as has been made clear by the uprising in disapproving opinions during the current presidential administration. Gay stigmatization still exists, even in the dawning of 2018.

This type of atmosphere is inducing a population of men who are seeking male sexual attractions, but removing it from the forefront of a greater portrait, keeping everything out of society and into the bedroom. The down-low Casanovas typically are looking for someone who is masculine and doesn’t fit the stereotype of gay identification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. Conversely, it would seem that the act of no strings attached encounters provides an easy way to bypass societal stigmatization while being able to fulfill sexual gratification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. When a person has multiple partners without an emotional attachment, most bypass safety screening and are open to believe a person’s status for only knowing them within minutes, jaded by their own lustful desire. This alone begets sexual irresponsibility, especially when people fail to disclose their status with disease, drug use, and preventative drug use (i.e. PrEP).

Yet, unprotected sex is on the rise. And with that, these factors make such preventions even more necessary.  Taking the precaution allows a person to feel safe, even when taken without the availability of a condom., Still, PrEP is only used to deter HIV, and leaves gay men open for other diseases. Other health risks are involved with attachment-free sex. For instance, online dating now serves as a digital bathhouse, connecting men who are only looking for no strings attached sex. Like bathhouses online hookup apps help users who are seeking anonymous sex with more than one person to frequent, perhaps to fulfill some form of fantasy. These environments are often free of supervision or provide little only for the purposes of preventing drug use. Therefore, they serve as a breeding ground to spread virus and disease for individuals who do not use protection. Which the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein has noted “Because these are closed pools of people in limited geographies [using dating apps], it means that infections can spread more easily.”

Hopefully, as society continues to wrap its hivemind around the acceptance of gay culture, the need for discretion and unsafe practices will dwindle. Maybe some day people will even be able to express their sexual orientation without the stigmas that come along with being gay, eradicating the need to hide your face behind your phone screen. Still, bathhouses, hook-up apps, bar meet-cutes are often seen as gay rites of passage. While clinically discourageable if not practiced erring on the side of caution, many gay men look at them as a part of the lifestyle, something their friends have all done that they wish to experience, or even just a good story to tell. After all, apps like Grindr have also made it increasingly easy for people to meet for sex. It’s the intention of the app, with many men just have chest pics as their profile picture, whether that be to remain anonymous or simply to attract sexual partners. And yet, while there are people who claim they are looking for a relationship on these apps, for the most part, it would appear that most are only looking for sextheir Mr. Right Now rather than their Mr. Right.

Poem: How It’s Done

How it’s Done Safe Sex Gay Poem SP Mulroy
Photo by Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen

how it’s done

after Sharon Olds’ “Sex Without Love”

If you’re smart, you do it safely—
you will wear the barrier, a second skin
that fits your vulnerable hungers
(and with practice) it will glide

on to you, natural as sweat
and calculated. Serpentine
the scales that you must grow
to tangle limb and teeth into another.

Fingers slither between fingers, laced
in hair and violence and in need, and this
is how the warm bridge builds itself
from wooden ritual and necessary glue.

As in sculpture, muscles swollen
to a stone intensity, and warm rain
weeping from your faces leaving
no mark. Unlike sculpture, muscles

melt, and the embrace is transient;
colossal wreck, the bare and boundless
limb and heaving chest, and sudden
strange departures. Still, no void

where nothing has been taken, nothing
filled, and if you have been listening
and careful, you’ll have worn your armor
and can rest, untouchable. Amused.

Do you believe me broken? Bitter? Vandalized?
Ask yourself, then, what is lost in lieu of risk.

Follow SP Mulroy:

Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Website (Under Construction)

It Happened to Me, Too

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 12

Less Than Butterflies is a regular sex column that follows the real-life sexual encounters of its author, Anthony Ramirez. In this case, unfortunately, the encounter was non-consensual and the story contains information that may be triggering to the readers. While it does not outline in graphic detail the sexual assault itself, it does speak about the events leading to it and that followed. Reader discretion is advised. 

I swear to God I predicted it. Or maybe I jinxed it. I’m not sure if this is one of those things you can Beetlejuice—as my friend Hope might say—but it had been on my mind a lot lately.

After all, just the weekend before I’d been sober at a bar where a friend was hosting karaoke when a man and his “wife” came stumbling out onto the patio shit-faced. The man tumbled directly into me, spilling some of his drink on my shirt. Then, as he reached for leverage as not to fall, his hand fell below my waist and cupped my genitals. It may have only lasted a few seconds, but it could have lasted an eternity as far as I was concerned. Hell, it could have lasted two eternities. How long is an eternity, really? Sure, he let go, but even as he did so, his hands fumbled around my torso, thumb grazing my nipple through my shirt.

I wanted to push him off of me, uncaring as to how drunk he was, but I stood there immobilized, frozen. In the back of my head, I could hear the nails-on-a-chalkboard-like chirp of a cuckoo clock, something I’d not heard in nearly half a decade. His wife, a woman boasting some sort of eastern European accent, grabbed her husband (albeit too late) and pulled him away from me, spouting off nonsense about how she’d put her stiletto through the eye of anyone that her husband ever laid his hands on, regardless of what the case was.

Was she blaming me? I’d been standing there alone smoking a cigarette when he’d bounced out the patio door like a Weeble, wobbling and falling into me. Besides, if she couldn’t tell that her husband was clearly a flaming homosexual, she had more problems than I could roll out onto the table for her.

That was the first uttering of Beetlejuice.

The following Monday, I’d been invited to an exclusive party at a new bar called Victor at the corner of Montrose and Richmond. Joining me as my date was my friend Taylor Kyle, whom I never saw much of since he worked all the time and lived all the way out in Cypress. We stayed at the party for a short while before heading over to Guava Lamp to catch another friend’s singing competition. After we left there, Taylor and I traveled up to the Room Bar in Spring to catch a few drinks before last call, where we met a few other friends I don’t often see.

When my friend Jeremy joined us on his way home from work, the three of us were having a nice little reunion of sorts. But on my neck I could feel eyes from across the bar. It took everything in me not to turn and look to see who the eyes belonged to, and eventually I conceded and turned upward. Staring directly at me was a man I’d seen at the bar a few times before. He was a bit pushy, I’d heard, but harmless nonetheless. Still, his glance was invasive and the smile he bore was nothing short of predatory as he drilled holes right into my skull with his gaze.

The others noticed it after a while, as well. A girl named Kelsey who worked at the tattoo shop next door kept catching my eyes and mimicking his face as a joke, which at first did make me laugh. Taylor told me not to pay him any mind, and Hope shrugged him off as nothing more than some pervy old man who hung around the bar to look at boys. A moment later, Jeremy and Taylor both had to use the restroom, and went together, leaving me sitting alone at the end of the bar. Hope asked me if I’d keep an eye on things while she ran into the back cooler to grab a bottle of liquor she’d run out of behind the bar; and in that moment, the man staring from across the bar took his chance to approach me.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced before,” he told me, that ghastly smile curving into an ugly, crescent shape. I didn’t turn to look at him as he ran his hand across the small of my back before introducing himself and asking me my name.

“Please don’t touch me,” I muttered out in breathy, broken fragments.

“I’m sorry,” he said, although he never took his hand off my back and traced his fingers up my shoulders and around to the back of my neck. “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very cute.”

I was frozen, again. Every muscle inside of me tensed as if they were exercising and my breathing quit completely. I may have given him my name—I can’t really recall to be honest. What I do remember is hearing the bathroom door open behind me and the laughter of both Jeremy and Taylor coming from the bathroom. As they approached, I was finally able to untense and to exhale. And from behind I could hear the man asking Hope if he’d done something wrong once she reappeared behind the bar. I couldn’t tell what she was saying to him; but for the rest of the night I sat in near-silence turned away from both Taylor and Jeremy. No matter what I tried to change the thoughts in my mind to, no matter how I tried to distract myself or get drunk, I couldn’t stop feeling his thick, invasive fingers trailing me all over my backside.

A few times Jeremy and Taylor would ask what was wrong, and Taylor was sweet enough to put an arm around me and ask if I needed anything. But the two of them were not the problem. They’d done nothing wrong at all. I was just stuck inside my own head, where cuckoo clocks resounded like a child banging pots and pans together so loudly that I couldn’t stand to direct my attention anywhere else.

That was the second mention of Beetlejuice.

On the ride home, Taylor was drunk, and I was sober enough to drive as I’d not been drinking much at all that night. I was finally able to engage in conversation that was lighter, that didn’t send me into hysterics. And I did my best to apologize for coming off as a dick at the bar earlier.

“What was going on with you?” Taylor asked me as we were driving down the highway back toward Cypress.

I knew that if I chose to share it with him, if I chose to let him know that there was an actual person somewhere inside this cold, sarcastic shell I put off for the world to encounter, I wouldn’t be able to unshare it with him. But I also knew that there was a good chance he might not remember me telling him, at all … or, at least not in great detail. And somehow, that comforted me. I needed to get it off of my chest and to breathe a bit easier. What I did not know, however, was that by telling Taylor Kyle that I’d been raped by a friend at 19-years-old, before I’d come out of the closet, before I’d even really accepted myself as a gay man, I’d be uttering my third Beetlejuice conjuring.

And in not knowing, I shared it with him. I told him about the person I’d called a friend who took advantage of me. I told him how I had only recently begun sharing that story, because it only recently seemed okay to do so, and why it scared me to ever come forward in the first place. I did not, however, tell him that when I was reminded of it, when men groped my dick on bar patios or when strangers complimented me and ran their hands across my back I often heard the sound of cuckoo clocks drumming in my mind. It’s one of the very few things I remember clearly about that night: the old-timey cuckoo clock that hung on the wall and rung the hours as they passed both before and after I was raped.

Flash-forward a bit, and my day was going exceptionally well. I’d been busy work-wise; a radio interview, a work function, and had decided to round off my evening with a little karaoke at the Room Bar. A few of my friends were there, and Hope was all smiles behind the bar as she made drinks and poured shots. I wasn’t drunk when I arrived having just come from the aforementioned work event, although I imagine that by the time I was ready to leave, I was running on a strong buzz. Still, I didn’t want to spend the entire night getting smash-bag asshole drunk, so I left a while before closing to make it home, as the next day was set to be a busy one. I did make the decision, however, to visit a friend on my way home that I hadn’t seen in a long time who’d been asking to hang out for quite some time. But now as I reflect on it, all of that seems like nothing to me.

And I don’t mean that in the way as to say that it feels like nothing happened. I mean it to say that I can’t recollect a lot that happened in the moments after I left the Room. In fact, even being at the Room is a bit hazy. I can recall the songs I sang at karaoke. I can recall bidding everyone farewell and leaving, feeling fine. But the memory itself is rather foggy. I don’t think I felt foggy at the time, but trying to recollect on it sort of is.

I remember seeing my friend briefly—that is, the memory is brief—and I don’t believe the interaction was long. I remember telling him goodbye. I remember how tired he was. I think he may have even gone off to bed before I left. And I remember that, too—leaving. I didn’t at first, but now I can. But everything after that is just … black.

This is what I do remember:

I remember waking up the next morning in an near-bare apartment. In the middle of the floor, where I laid, there was an air mattress with no sheets. Across the room there was an old, ratty-looking couch. The walls were all bare and white as far as I could see, and there was no sign of anyone in the kitchen.

I wasn’t sure what was happening or how I’d gotten there, but from the moment that I jumped off the air mattress, I knew something was wrong. My head felt like someone had laid cement inside of it, and I fell down immediately upon trying to get to my feet. The room was acrid with the scent of disinfectant and it was cold. In fact, I could feel the draft against my thigh where I noticed a tear in my pants from knee-to-waist. As I finally put myself on both my feet, a sensation as if I was being split in half resonated from my anus. It hurt. And it hurt bad. My legs were sore on the insides of my thighs, as if someone had tried pulling them apart like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. I fumbled around in my pockets for my keys, but nothing was inside of them.

As I searched the room around me where nothing seemed to exist, I suddenly took note of some sort of table standing next to what appeared to be the front door. On it, all placed neatly as if done so by Mary fucking Poppins, I found my phone, my cigarette pack, my lighter, and my keys. Beside the odd table on the floor sat my shoes.

Snatching everything up, I took one last look around the room, then unlocked and darted out the front door.

More peculiar still was that the car was parked outside the apartment. As I raced down to it and jumped inside, I found that it was unlocked. The car was nearly out of gas—which made sense to me later when I realized how far I was not only from home, but from the Room and the friend I’d visited the night before—and in the passenger’s-side floorboard sat my wallet and my ID. When I opened up the former, however, I found that there was no money inside, nor were either my debit card or my credit card in their rightful place. For a moment I wondered why someone would take the cards and not the expensive Louis Vuitton wallet that couldn’t be traced back to me. But that thought was fleeting, as all of the thoughts were that went through my head while I navigated my way home. I tried tirelessly to call my mother, to call my best friend Gwen, to call anyone who could help me, but none of my calls were going through. The service on my phone was out; if I hadn’t been so good with direction, I might have had to stop at the nearest McDonald’s to use the WiFi to find out where the hell I was. But I knew the general area. Somewhere off of Airtex and I45. I’d been in the neighborhood before, but not for whatever reason I was there then.

I think for the first time since I was a child, I actually prayed on my way back to my mother’s house. I’m not sure if I was praying to God or if I just needed to hope that someone could hear me when I couldn’t speak, but nevertheless I carried on an inner-monologue asking for help, asking for the pain to subside, asking that I make it to my mother’s without running out of gas while I had no credit card.

And when I arrived without issue, my mother sat on her front porch smoking a cigarette as she said something to me. Maybe she asked why I looked so bad; maybe she asked me where I’d been; I couldn’t tell you. Because when I finally opened my mouth for the first time since waking, a jumble of words fell out that were meant to sound something like, “I think someone drugged me last night.” And when my mother leered at me from her perch, I added, “I think someone ra—”

But I couldn’t bring myself to finish the sentence, because that’s when I lost all control. I don’t know that that’s when everything sunk in, but that’s certainly when it all came to the surface. In crooked fragments, I tried to relay the information I knew then and there. That my pants were ripped. That all of my money and cards were missing. That I was in insurmountable pain. That I couldn’t remember anything past being at the Room. And as I reviewed it all over-and-over again both verbally and in my mind, I began to understand what had happened.

For the second time in my life, I’d been raped.

And soon, I’d be in a clinic not having showered or eaten since the morning before where a doctor would put a large piece of paper down on the floor and ask me to disrobe in front of her. She’d take my clothes, and she’d brush through my hair, and she would swab me both externally and internally. She’d poke and prod me; and she’d find the new bruises on my waist and knees and tell me after having a thorough exam, it was not a question of whether or not I was correct about what had happened to me, but now a question of who did it.

And I?

I would be humiliated. I would leave there, and I would go about my business as the rest of the day carried on, unable to shake off the feelings of filth and embarrassment even after showering, even after throwing myself into a routine. And I wouldn’t tell anyone who didn’t need to know. Gwen, because I told her everything. My friend Ezra, because he’d been worried about where I was when I wasn’t answering texts because my phone wasn’t working. Lauren, who needed to know why I’d gone MIA on such an important work day and when I’d be back.

And although I didn’t break down over the next few days—not really, not as I should have; although Ezra came to stay with me because being alone terrified me, and didn’t mind sharing my bed or when I laid my head on his shoulder; although I’d wake up screaming and sweating every night since, I did my best to present myself as the person the world knew me to be.

But that’s just the very thing about it all:

I don’t know who I am anymore.

It isn’t like it was when I was nineteen and already carrying around so many secrets about myself that one more made no difference. This time, I am an egg that has been thrown with great vigor into a wall. And while the pieces of the shell are still here, still accounted for, what was once inside of me, what once made me who I am has been vacuumed out and has dripped away to somewhere I fear I may not ever be able to find it again. Nothing seems funny to me anymore; nothing makes me smile. Eating is an aberrant thought to me and showering is a task I have to force myself into. I want to stay in bed and hide beneath the covers when I am awake, but sleep as much as possible. I want not to be left alone for fear that someone else will find me and do to me what’s already been done, the unspeakable, unthinkable horror I can’t even conjure a memory of, but that haunts me still. I want to scream from my brain, but not have my skull quiver as it holds the sound inside of me. I want to not look at every man that passes by me with disgust as if he were the one who did this to me. I want not to question whether or not I brought this on myself by being a shameless, openly, sexually active person. I want the deafening silence of being alone to subdue. I want to not to need someone by my side at all times. I want not to wonder if I Beetlejuiced this by worrying so much about it as of late before it ever even happened. I want not to question why the men that I fall in love with want nothing to do with me, and yet there are men out there so sick and disgusting that they’ll go so far as to drug and rape me just to have sex with me—why I’m not good enough to fall in love with, to share a life with, but good enough to be raped by a stranger. I want not to feel like I can’t dress nice or wear makeup or wear something that rides a little higher or is cut a little lower just because some creep might take advantage of me. 

I want my life back. I want my heart back.

And though the time that has passed since I sat down to write this has been short—incredibly so by the standards of many—it’s the only thing that I can do to keep myself from going insane.

And it’s killing me. I feel it killing me. I feel it extinguishing my soul.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who I am.

What I do know is that I was raped, and now I’m walking around as the ghost of a person who existed before that cannot stop hearing the sound of cuckoo clocks beating against the inside of his head.