[“Dark Ages” is a series wherein I reconsider memories of boyfriends past through the lens of new knowledge and hope to make it worth my while (and not just a depressing trudge down memory lane) by learning something new about myself.]
The month before I moved out felt like a sort of separation from Gamer, and the move itself was the split. Somehow this seemed to take him by surprise. I knew he was an optimist, but was his optimism completely blind? I couldn’t understand why he never seemed to have noticed that our relationship had been falling apart. A couple of weeks after the move, he called me at work and said he loved me. I certainly cared about him and he was a decent guy, but I had fallen out of love with him a long time ago. I gritted my teeth and said he probably shouldn’t say that word anymore. And when I hung up, I cried because I’d hurt him. But I had already moved on.
That first month with Wolf was a little awkward. We had known each other as friends for some time but we getting to know each other romantically was a different game. His parents must have wondered where the hell I came from because I was suddenly at their place constantly. I already had years of dating under my belt (um, so to speak), but I was his first proper girlfriend; he was a bit younger than me, but I had started dating rather early and he was starting a little late.
At the end of that first month there was another road trip, and we crashed with another acquaintance. Our hostess asked me, privately, what was up because she had noted a bit of tension between us and figured that the relationship must be just starting or just ending. But things improved after that.
My apartment, which had in a way more or less changed my life, was an inexpensive bachelor suite downtown, in brick apartment building that had been lovely once but was now a bit gone to seed. The suite featured high ceilings, tall windows, badly worn wood floors, and some slightly odd details that I assumed had made a bit more sense in an era without electricity, such as the little window from the bathroom into the closet. When I got home from work, Wolf was always outside the building waiting for me: worried about being late, he made a point of arriving early, which I found charming. I didn’t have a car of my own (I had been driving Gamer’s), so Wolf came over, and then we might hang out for a bit at my place before he’d take me back to his parents’ place in the suburbs and cook for me. Once supper was ready, we’d retreat to the cool basement with our plates, eating and watching TV in the dim, wood-paneled space. We’d spend the rest of the evening there, in semi-privacy, and I’d head home at bedtime.
It was about a month and a half before we finally slept together, and the first few times were awkward. I was theoretically the worldly one, while he was… not, but eventually he began to loosen up.
We had all the privacy we wanted at my place as long as we weren’t too loud, not that there was much risk of that. On the weekend, he’d come over fairly early in the morning to find me awake but still in bed. Why bother getting up and dressed? He’d be joining me in the sheets in about five minutes anyway.
Once he relaxed with me, our libidos matched reasonably well. And we continued to get along really well and spend all our time together. But after 10 months or so, I began to notice that I felt the need to be a little tipsy in order to have sex. This was not a good sign.
I continued checking in with my gut: did I still like Wolf? Yep, no problems there. My previous experiences didn’t provide any helpful insights: things cooled off with Tall, I concluded I’d fallen out of love and we agreed to end it; I definitely fell out of love with Gamer and at some point things had cooled off. This seemed different: I was very happy to be with Wolf and had no complaints about him, so my negative feelings about sex were apparently somehow independent of the relationship. Those feelings were definitely difficult to accept, and I never really did accept them: sex is something that you’re supposed to enjoy, I didn’t enjoy sex, I felt shitty for not enjoying it, and I felt shitty for withholding it from Wolf. What was wrong with me?
Eventually, I started feeling uncomfortable even with hugs. There was no such thing as innocent touch — all touch was suspect. I asked him to back off further, and felt shitty to ask, but he agreed without complaint because it was important to him that I got what I needed, even if that might not be what he wanted. He never pushed me, and he reassured me that sex or the lack thereof didn’t really figure into his feeling that he wanted to be with me.
So we eventually developed an understanding: sex would not be a significant part of our relationship. But we were wonderfully compatible in all other ways, which is why we’re still together so many years later.