By now I’ve been in New York for exactly one year. I’ve fucked five separate men in my old apartment and one in my new one, where I’m writing this now, sitting by the bay window overlooking the backyard. Every so often, a stray cat slinks through, yowling at the moon.
Was it Aristotle who said: poetry expresses the universal, history the particular?
The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen.
In the last twelve months I’ve quit one job, started another, and finished the first draft of a book. I’ve thrown up six or seven times, once at Boiler Room and once at Friends and Lovers. I’ve cut ten inches off my hair, changed my glasses, and gone blonde, the physical changes outpacing my visual memory at a speed I’ve never experienced before—when I try to picture myself, I’m stuck somewhere in late May. But it’s September.
The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history, with metre no less than without it.
The trouble with writing about sex is that you’re writing about sex. Somehow you have to make all the things come out of it. Sex is a subject wet with allusions. It drips with associations, your memories mixing with mine as you read along. It’s not just about how my wrists are tied (red cotton rope, three wraps around the wrist, two in between, a square knot to keep it close, red rope always red)—but why restraint. Not only the way we fucked but why I did it, why you, why me.
In writing these letters, I’ve asked myself each week: what is the duty of the sex writer? It goes beyond titillation or description, though both are useful—never underestimate the power of being seen, a pain or pleasure represented. Hearing a voice that sounds like your own, that speaks to your particular brand of loneliness. But it’s impossible to write a diary that will satisfy all comers. Each notation I make is a mark in my book, not yours. And yet I still hope they add up to something coherent and true. A reflection of the state of sex in the 21st century. If poetry is the universal, and history the particular, then is erotics the bridge between?
I don’t know how you fuck. I only tell you how I do it because I hope it’ll make you feel less alone. A memoir becomes a tricky thing when you try to make art as you live it. Time isn’t linear. Stories are, and this, I should tell you, is a story too. Even if all the facts are true.
Even if she chances to take an historical subject, she is none the less a poet; for there is no reason why some events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of the probable and possible, and in virtue of that quality in them she is their poet or maker.
A few years ago, I was sleeping with a guy, off and on. I was too young and I was pretty sure I loved him; I knew, if anything, I loved the way he tongued my asshole. So I wrote about us. Of course I wrote about us. And I was determined to write us—long before it ended—an ending.
But I’d be lying if it wasn’t still alive in one sense or another. That’s the way life works: it happens all at once, and it keeps happening, and I set the words down.
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