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There I am, sitting on a shelf, covered in dust and coffee-stained pages. You’re intrigued. You’re the type of person who likes the smell of old books. The type of person who welcomes fear as curiosity. You like the strange. You like things with depth. You like me. So you take a risk and open me…
I shutter. I was once so uninhibited with touch, so receptive to a man’s edges on mine. To feel his callused fingers softly lift my chin, to have them trace my jawline to the back of my head. A heavy breath fogs my mind as he tugs on my hair and pulls me into him, his beard brushes against my skin. Poison. His stone-grey eyes meet mine one last time before his tongue dives into me.
That was before I found out. The sexual identity I held so close disappeared with the mention of one word: herpes. In a world so eager to define women by our dismembered pieces — torso, breast, leg, lip, pussy — it was always difficult to accept myself as a sexual woman. But now? I am a sexual woman with herpes, and I can’t even bear to look below my waist. The very thought makes me nauseous. The girl who once prided herself on her collection of lubricants, vibrators, and restraints shoves the box to a soon-to-be forgotten corner beneath her bed.
Once a week, he reminded me of the shadow of myself, the ghost of my body. He called me at 2 am on Wednesday nights. He spat on his fingers and told me I was wet. “He still wants me, despite this,” I whispered to myself. He thrusts and fills me from behind. He tells me how tight my pussy is while I stare blankly at the wall. I am silent. I saw a more descriptive picture of my sex life reflected through that wall than I did through him. All summer, he continued to fill my body, stuff me with whiskey-slobbered fingers. And I’d comply. I gave consent every time. I made myself a body, a hole, a living sex toy — the one thing I never wanted to be to a man. I belonged in the box under the bed now, too.
I realized the value he placed in me the night he left. He didn’t even cum. I was raw with scabs, and he left. The man who infected me just spat me out. No, he didn’t even swallow. He couldn’t. He never dared to look into my eyes the way he sliced open my legs. Each held truth, but only one had a voice he wanted to hear.
I am alone, where I should’ve been all this time. I look at my battered reflection and pour myself into a winter hurricane. Slowly, I emerge from my darkness. I reassemble myself piece-by-piece. A leg, an elbow, a stomach. A tongue — a voice. My fingers grasp the pen and I bleed…
I look under my bed and see that box. The one I never thought I’d reach for again. I was hesitant to unearth what once gave me pleasure, a word so unfamiliar to me now. A word I’m still not sure I deserve. I pull back my hand and look down at myself. Cobwebs. My eyes shift upwards, and I’m faced with the wall. The wall that stared me in the face all summer while he fucked me. The wall that gave me more depth than he ever did, more than he was ever capable of. The wall I cried into the night he left. The wall that made a woman out of me. Blank slate.
I reach between my legs. “This, is how you learn to cum. This is how you begin again.” I drape my fingers over lace webs that cover folds of shamed flesh. Spiders crawl down my leg.
Emily Depasse graduated last May with a Bachelor’s degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Salisbury University. During her senior year, she added an English minor, as her love for words was rekindled through a creative writing course. You can read more of her works by visiting her blog at http://eldsoul.blogspot.com/ and her thought catalog at http://thoughtcatalog.com/emily-depasse/.