Making Love like Peonies
It started the moment I opened the door to The Famous Author’s apartment and saw that for three months I was going to live in what felt a palace. The Good Feeling starting blooming in my body, and it’s been opening up ever since.
We were born to feel good and succeed. If we weren’t, why do we cry when we see starving children? Why do we look away when we see a homeless person ask us for a dollar or why do we hand over the dollar, aching that we don’t have a house and a car and a job to give, also?
I want to write about making love with the self. What I really mean is that I want to write about what I do when you aren’t in the room.
I never really understood orgasm. It made no sense to me—it felt that if I went there I would blow apart. Why would a person want to do that? It was so scary, such an out-of-control feeling, the more and more open I became, the more I wanted to shut down and stop. I felt like a hose that was trying to run the ocean through the length of this energy body that I was, a narrow place of controlled excitement. So contained. How can you run what feels like infinity through what feels like a thin metal pipe?
And orgasm with someone else in the room? Forget about it. That stuff is private. A flower doesn’t bloom with another flower right on top of it, so why would I?
I am not a quitter, and so I have been practicing because, truly, just as Emily Dickinson said she knew a good poem when she felt the top of her head blow off, I’ll know when I’ve found someone worth staying with when I feel the same. Namely myself. I’ve got to want to stay with myself before I can want to stay with someone else.
What I notice is that the closer I get to orgasm, the more I can feel each cell in my body stretching and waking up. I am 5’10” and 144 pounds, and there are a lot of cells in this package. Stretching and waking is work! It takes so much focus and dedication! I find myself drifting away from myself, getting halfway up the mountain and thinking that maybe it’s good enough, the top of head still firmly screwed on. Better luck next time.
I am such a lousy date. Mrs. No Butter on Your Popcorn.
I want to be better, so I’m sticking with it. I’m making myself go more slowly, feel my own hand as if it is the hand of the holy inviting me to open just as the rain falls on the flower in soft blessing.
My question to myself is where do I put all the good feelings as I start to petite? My body is used to handling the emotions I feed it, but it doesn’t know what to do with sustained joy. I know how to run misery through this body. I know how to run grief. I know how to run dissatisfaction. I know how to get small, how to contract, how to say: not this body, not this life, not this day.
I have learned to pack these Good Feelings into my toes, my feet, up my calves. I have started to teach the Good Feelings that they can go to more places then my pelvis. They can go to my ears. To the insides of my elbows. We walk around with these bodies we fill with food and air, but, boy oh boy, do these bodies love to stretch and feel.
The peonies have started to bloom in Boston. If we caught a heart in mid-explosion, it might look like a peony in full flower. Those boisterous ruffles of life ever happening until the bloom overreaches itself and begins, petal by petal, to fall to the ground. I am trying to peony myself. I want to feel until my petals fall away.
La petite mort.
The other day I was doing Feldenkrais exercises and I felt the space between the back of my heart and my spine. I felt my heart laying close to my spine, kissing it. It felt dark, like myself was kissing the ocean floor or the center of the universe. It’s something I can carry with me now, this dark kiss.
Feeling good feels better than feeling bad. I don’t know when the seed got planted in my brain that I was supposed to feel bad, that feeling good wasn’t respecting my past or my story, but by writing my book and making friends with Pam Cordano, a fellow adoptee and wild thinker, by stopping almost everything I had been doing and starting over, by not eating sugar, by not dating willy nilly, by not over-spending, by increasing my tolerance of a life marked by relaxation and connection more than one steered by anxiety and singularity, I have found hope that I can let the top of my head blow off, that I can be a flower in the rain.
I am writing this piece while sitting in an alcove of a coffee shop on Newbury Street. An older man with black sneakers and a bright blue Ralph Lauren down jacket sat down and told me he’d been looking for me his whole life. We talked for a bit and I asked him if he was in the mafia. He said he was in the Dunkin’ Donuts mafia and that he was the one who blew holes in all the donuts. He said if I wore makeup and had clean feet he might want to date me. I told him I was wearing makeup and that just because I was wearing Birkenstocks didn’t mean my feet were dirty. He told me a joke: You know what they call sex on the moon? Outercourse.
If I had been writing about letters, would a postman have sat in this alcove with me? If I’d been writing about dogs, would a vet have taken seat? This old man will never water my flowers, but it’s fun to share the space with a mouthy Boston guy with a diamond pinkie ring who complains that he’s old and it’s all downhill from here while telling me he drives a Rolls Royce and that when he stands on his wallet he’s 6’4”.
I had my first real kiss when I was a freshman in high school. I’d never had a tongue in my mouth that wasn’t mine, and the feeling was, at the time, gross. I’d touched tongue tips with friends when I was young and we’d freak out at the weirdness of it, but it’s one thing to lick the end of a battery and run, and it’s another to linger, to invite another into your private self and explore the darknesses of each other.
The second kiss was much better. By the third, I was hooked. The right tongue—for every tongue was not made for every mouth—was so delicious.
To lose yourself in sensation can be a drug used to escape reality, but it can also be a massive celebration, the thrill of jumping from one side of the world to the other with no guarantee of safety.
It takes patience to let go. One layer of tissue paper at a time, one breath, one step closer to trust. This is not a time to hurry. The best part of getting older is the slowing.
Let go, sweet girl. Let go.