I always have sex in the cities. I assumed my sexual preference was carried out by the sound of traffic, the honking of midnight horns, the frantic arguments of the lovers outside the window, the overly cheerful music of a car. Ice cream loads are approaching, I took for granted. Cities have always been a witness to when I want to make love and when I want to make love. My own window at night, glowing and golden, is the unblinking gaze of my neighbors’ fantasies as they give these strangers a glimpse of my body writhing under cotton sheets, my muffled groans, my joy and my shame. Even with the curtains closed, sex in the city is always on display.
* * *
As my husband and I prepared to move from Brooklyn to the countryside in upstate New York, I told him I would miss the seven coffee shops within a few blocks of our apartment, walking distance. anywhere, my group of friends. that I rarely see but feel they are all around, within arm’s reach, and all the other richness, richness, comforts that a city has to offer. The day before we left, we lay in bed, hugging and crying. It may seem contrived to mourn a city, but moving always entails some kind of loss.
What I didn’t anticipate was the difference in the way I experienced sex without worrying about being overheard, feeling voyeur and voyee simultaneously, seeing and exploring. Outside our cabin window – trees and their shadows. The first time we made love in the water, I was distracted by the silence. At this dense surge, my ears strain to listen for something, anything.
“Just us here,” said my husband, smiling. “So private.”
Soundproof chambers are rooms designed to eliminate reflections and noise caused by electromagnetic waves. No echo, no response. Visitors said they heard their own heartbeats, the sound of blood rushing, their bones cracking when they turned their heads. In short, you are the only source of sound that you will hear. 45 minutes is the record time that a person can stay in this state. The body craves feedback, so much so that it creates hallucinations to give us something to respond to. Across from Whole Foods in my old neighborhood of Brooklyn is a business that offers float tanks, a sort of desensitizing chamber. I’ve passed it hundreds of times, but never went in even though I was curious. After all, I always have the country.
* * *
Sex is supposed to be a powerfully personal experience, but like so many other things, we experience one thing in relationship to another. In that sense, sex is advertising, sex is food, sex is car insurance, and mothers in Alo Yoga uniforms; sex is expensive baby strollers, and Seamless, a rat that emerges from a trash bag with a chicken bone in its mouth. Sex is sublimation. In the city, sex is ambitious, so overwhelming. How many times a day do we have to do it? Sex is competitive. Sex is public.
In the more than seven years we have lived in the city, my husband and I have become aware that we must protect our sex life, lest it be swept up in the smog of unrequited dreams, organized pleasures, sexual therapies. to replace. We have been overstimulated, perhaps overstimulated, saturated with it not only through our bodies but also our minds. We want sex, but is it because we actually do, or because the city wants us to want sex? All day long, our libidos are saturated with messages ranging from billboards, lyrics to a song, other attractive people. When they approached each other in the bedroom, even though they meant it, the desire was not their own. However, I ask myself whether all desires have to do with the other person, outside of myself. Can wishes ever come true?
On the roof of my apartment building, I looked into the window of the opposite building – a couple doing foreplay. Of course, they don’t think of me, a stranger to them. They are engulfed by each other. A part of their unconscious must know that they are on stage, in full view of anyone who may be watching intentionally or unintentionally. I myself stepped out of the bathroom, changed, vacuumed, washed the dishes, wore little or no clothes. I hope no one is watching, the thought gnaws at me every now and then, but closing the curtains for just a few minutes also seems like a waste of effort. Fuck it, is another thought. I fluctuate between modesty and indifference.
* * *
Sex in the cities can sometimes be painful. Dissimilarity. My friends and I laughed about ending it with. We’ve all read it.”Catman. “We all agree that despite the fear, the humiliation, the regret of stepping foot into a stranger’s apartment, it’s still easier to overcome, easier to face your own weakness, than to face your own weakness, say no, feel guilty, limitless. of unknowns. As city-dwellers, we’re not precious, we’re not fragile, we’re not afraid of bad – how often is that good anyway? we can watch another episode of “Chef’s Table.” Sex is yet another way to pass the time.
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We can take off our own bras because in a few minutes, 30 shirts and often much less, we’ll be out on the street again, on the way to the subway, back home in the comfort of our own bed. us, our acquaintances. teacup with a chipped rim that we bought at the farmers market. Soon after this dreary exchange we engaged in with our mechanical expertise, we would suddenly be empowered.
“Stay?” Anonymous asked.
“No thanks,” we said. This part is very easy. Just like that, putting on our underwear, we returned to the street.
* * *
We are city people, we operate in the sex exchange market. We have sex while never having sex. Despite our liberal approach, we feel ashamed. Many of us do our best to repress our fantasies, the main factors that define who we are. In the many literatures on various addictions, shame is the basic common denominator. I believe that we only feel shame in relation to another person or entity, like God, but we always feel ashamed when we are discovered. One city is perhaps a breeding ground for shame, layer upon layer, substituting the next. Cities provide corners where we can hide, and as we know from our childhood games, hiding is only worthwhile when someone is looking for you. There is always a chance to be found, to be discovered. We created shame with fun to make it more bearable. We don’t know how to separate ourselves from this pattern. For me, sex in the cities is cyclical, a complex labyrinth of self-awareness, discovery, punishment, awesomeness, debilitation.
* * *
From this vantage point, only about a hundred miles from New York City, a short distance in the scheme of things, I am undergoing a change, perhaps a finer word for complete embarrassment. whole. Among the trees, I got lost in the world and with myself. I cannot be seen and I cannot see. At night, I walk my dog on the dirt road next to our chalet – there are no street lights illuminating our path, only the stars obscured by dense gray clouds. Maybe tomorrow it will rain. Unlike in the city, here my dog rarely pulls on the rope to watch the fire hydrants, electric poles. She just walks, stopping every now and then to munch on a blade of grass. I wonder if she misses the scent of the city, the signs of other dogs in the neighborhood, the life going on. I also wonder if she could feel freed from such compulsions, the desire to be free from temptation towards others, never being completely satisfied, never being enough, making herself stuck in the leash.
I am learning to tune my senses with finesse. Upstate New York became the inspiration for my novel “Eve’s Constellation,” three embodiments of a love story, except I was a few steps behind my characters. In one version, Eve moves to the country with her husband. On the other hand, they are not and are not married. We do what we think is best to keep our relationship together, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. A purposeful life we have to design, redesign, edit, rewrite, tear down, reinvent, rarely makes sense from the outside in.
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“I am isolated from everything,” I tell our couples therapist. “This morning I freaked out thinking we’d lost the duvet cover. We’ve done our laundry at laundromats and at people’s homes, so it could be anywhere. I don’t usually care about that. everything, but this – that’s what I got of my old life.” I rambled, trying to describe the minutiae of my white, uncharacteristic duvet cover.
“You have chosen this,” our therapist said plainly.
I understand he didn’t mean it badly. I chose this one.
“Something is going to happen,” he said, sounding like a prophecy. I believe he means more than just a blanket.
* * *
In “Cities & Desires”, Italo Calvino wrote of Anastasia, a fictional city, “a city that appears to you as a whole, where no desire is lost and you are a part of, and for which it is. enjoy everything you don’t like, there is nothing you can do but maintain this desire and be content…. your labor gives form to desire taken from the form of desire, and you believe that you’re enjoying Anastasia completely when you’re just its slave.” Out of the car window, I watched the rolling green hills. I don’t know, I don’t know, are the thoughts that run through my mind. The weekend is over, traffic is rushing back to the city, but not ours. I could no longer use pleasure to distract myself from the pain.
I’m out of town, don’t like the speed, the urgency, the driving. Tonight, I stare into the fireplace and bask in the mosquito bites.
An absence of desire. An absence of anxiety. Absent.
I fear what I don’t know. I have never wanted to be cruel. I feel like crying when I suspect that the self-construction I’ve worked so hard to build is probably just a reaction to circumstances. Are my thoughts really my own? I mourn for my city itself, its explosive energy, its constant striving, its shrill symphonies of sounds, its mutterings, which I love more and more, which I integrated into his personal identity.
* * *
What has silence to teach me? I strain my ears – but wait, that – wind? And – is that the cry of a cricket or a frog? It’s horrifying that there’s nowhere to hide. In a bush with hundreds of species of trees, in the silence, my husband pointed out a single leaf that was swinging back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. Strange, we were both surprised by it. Perhaps a bug was climbing over it on the other side, hidden from our view. There are mysteries in the tree, slow secrets, waiting to be found. We were invited to look, leaving wet footprints in the bed of fallen leaves, inhaling the delicate emptiness of nature.
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