The last time I saw the photojournalist, we scheduled a tearing apart.
I was so dazed afterwards that it’s been hard to find the words.
Even now, with a few months distance, I doubt I’ll be able to do it justice.
I wore a blue and gold dress for the occasion. Silk. It was beautiful.
“That dress is beautiful,” he told me, accordingly.
“I thought it was befitting a proper conversation,” I responded, slightly betrayed by the fact that by then it was all bunched up around my thighs, my black stockings more the highlight.
I planned to wear my hair down but, at the last moment, pinned it up high. On this he did not comment, but later did his best to take it down by grasping the single knot affixed the top of my head and pulling as hard as he could.
I was straddling his slim waist at the time, and enjoyed the tension.
When he finally relented, unsuccessful, I sat up straight atop him and removed the pins myself.
Long hair is a beautiful thing, in moments such as these. A very form of communication.
The loosening of my hair served as a transition between scenes.
We were, by then, moving from animosity and hurt towards connection.
So I took my time.
Prior to that night, the photojournalist had warned me about his propensity for anger. Hinted at it from time to time in his physicality. But that was the first time I experienced it in any kind of personal way.
And oddly, where I probably should have been put off, shrunken, I was instead fascinated.
This came in waves, between the crests of which I was in fact crushed.
But I just couldn’t help rising back up.
The interaction itself brought out so much life in me.
For a while afterwards, I couldn’t figure that out. For a while afterwards, I didn’t try. Just wandered my life in a state of wonderment. Careful not to speak of it, lest I disturb its memory.
And slowly, like impossible petals unfolding on a blind world, it dawned on me.
This was love.
Not the love in which I was trained to believe, not the love that was marketed to me.
But my love. My version of it.
The photojournalist screamed in my face about all the misdemeanors I had committed. He had never, before then, looked ugly to me. Not even for a second. Jeering at times, yes, but not this. This true unveiling of who he was. All his horrible judgements of me reaching a peak.
By all rights, the photojournalist shouldn’t have had nearly as much on me as he did. I’d been, I thought, very careful. But I suppose, in his quiet, serious way, he’d been paying more attention to the details than I’d realized.
Filling his library of me to bursting, only to come to this very place in which he could hurl the books off the shelves so that their pages would fall open in front of me and he could say, “Look at this! This is you! This is what you do!”
There were issues about which he was absolutely correct, and in these I felt more seen than I’d ever felt in my entire life.
But then there were issues so rooted in some combination of his own narcissism and damage that they simply didn’t belong to me.
“You wrote those stories yourself,” I wanted to say, but didn’t.
I guess because I was trying to protect him. Much, it turned out, as he’d been trying to protect me.
“Why have you been so polite, all this time, when these things were driving you crazy?” I asked.
It seemed a reasonable question.
“Because I fucking love you!” he shouted, and I thought he would throw over the table, he was in such a state.
I’ve been afraid for my safety around men, before. I’m familiar with the loss of control they occasionally experience.
But with the photojournalist, I somehow always felt free from harm.
Even when he was slashing me to bits with his words.
I don’t know if that’s rare, or special, or anything at all.
I do know that I miss him.
“We’ll see each other tonight,” he prefaced. “And then we won’t speak for a few months.”
“You’re dumping me?” I asked.
“Are you actually going to play it that way?” he smirked.
That night, the photojournalist needed to get angry, needed to get himself fired up, because in the shadow of being a person who felt forced to maintain perfect control, he was legitimately suffering.
About this, I’d been deliriously unaware.