In Control

Saturday June 25, 2022 — Lillehammer, Norway

CW: This post discusses sex and unhealthy relationship patterns

You’re standing on the periphery of the fire, close enough to just feel the warmth teasing you, but far enough away that you can still feel like a bird, soaring overhead. Soaring sounds romantic, but when you’ve been flying all week, it gets pretty tiring.

You notice her at the edge of the fire, wearing the exact same curious expression on her face as you. Drawn in, but pushed back, at the same time. You scoot up sideways next to her, like a actor in a movie caricaturing a obviously faux-casual approach. “Hey. How’s it goin?”

It has been two? three? years since you have really, properly, flirted with someone.

You start with small chat — she recognizes you from the dance floor yesterday. You recognize her, too, but it’s better that she be the one to point it out. Soon, you both move closer to the fire, rest your wings. You tell her about your recent breakup, she tells you about hers. You’re both lying by the fire. There are maybe a dozen other people doing the same, but really, it’s just you and her. Time stretches and smears out as you open your hearts to each other in that way that is only really possible with perfect strangers.

“Can we move so we can see each other’s faces?” you suggest. You both turn towards each other, faces inches apart. You rest your arm on hers — “How’s this?” “It’s good,” she smiles.

You cannot kiss her. This is important. You will want to kiss her, and she will want to kiss you, and you will both know it, but she will have to be the one to act on it.

You reflect on this, pushing the conversation you’re sharing into the background of your mind. Firstly, if she kisses you, it means that she is the one who was instigating this. It means that you’re wanted, but also, importantly, that you aren’t, can’t be, culpable. Secondly, it’s really quite progressive. Everyone knows that the woman is not the pursuer, so by forcing her into that role, you’re really combatting a harmful stereotype. And finally, it’s simply a fun sort of game — how close can you pass your lips next to hers, how many times can you brush your noses together, before she gives in?

The answer, it turns out, is just a handful of minutes. She’s a more forceful kisser than you’d expect, or maybe prefer, but it’s fine, really. You continue kissing for a while, and feeling each other. It feels nice — the warmth of a body, the warmth of the fire.

It is clear, at this point, that you’re going to fuck. You don’t feel particularly strongly about that, one way or the other, despite the fact that you were telling yourself just earlier this afternoon that it would be really quite a mistake to hook up with anyone here, right now. You feel as though maybe you should do something to prevent it, but the thing has already been set in motion, and it’s unclear how you’d even stop it, at this point. Plus, this moment feels nice.

Lying on your back, looking into the suddenly-rainy sky, you see yourself from above. “We should probably find somewhere dry,” you suggest.

The two of you holding hands, you lead her through the upper field, searching for a tent with a soft floor and pillows and condoms and at least a little bit of privacy, which is quite easy to find. While you’re walking, she asks you if you like to be in control. “I usually am,” you say with a laugh. “Do you like to be controlled?” — she explains, and it seems to you that the thing she really likes is to be a blank canvas, ready for other people to smear their desires onto. You tell her that she should think about that, which you know is unhelpful, but you are unable to say nothing.

You fuck. You are “in control,” in the sense that you are the one who pins her down and chokes her and hurts her just the right amount, but really, you’re simply following a script you learned years ago. It feels nice — you enjoy the feeling of being skilled at something, of slipping into a sort of flow.

Afterwards, the two of you head to the teahouse. You become cold and distant. You do not have a script for this. You occasionally reach over and touch her leg, or rest your head on her shoulder, but it’s a uncanny valley sort of closeness. You know that you should be doing something differently, but you do not know what, and in any case, the distance has been here for some time, since before you fucked, since before kissed, since before you even met her. Now is just the first you’ve been unable to paper it over.

Early in the morning, she excuses herself. You do not hear from her again.