DREAM BIG, BABY: PART 1
But when we wake
It’s all been erased
And so it seems
Only in dreams
—Weezer, Only in Dreams
Every six months or so I dream about masturbating. From the first-person perspect. Oh gosh, how bizarre would it be if it were from the second- or third-person? Usually I only spectate myself from that angle in shower knob mirror distortion—a slippery, slithery sexual kaleidoscope. Not the normal lens through which a dream non-sequitor is viewed. Instead of waking and wanking, I wake up wondering, “Is this rock bottom?” Dreams are supposed to be aspirational. Shooting for the stars with my soft, supple hand is the ultimate lack of ambition. Even in my dreams, I’m an underachiever. Perhaps my nocturnal musings belie my pragmatism about sex: Aim for that which you can obtain, aim for the drain! A vagina in the hand is worth two bushels of bullshit! Not romantic, exactly. But practical makes practice makes perfect. Dreaming about masturbating is wish fulfillment manifest—in its most immediate, corporeal form. Means nothing more than you should have taken care of this simple simulation before you attempted the sacred sacrament of sleep, dumbass!
Last night I dreamed about sexually frustrating sex, which is even worse than dreaming about gratuitous or gratifying sex with oneself! Predictably, it was with Andrew who has been ghoulishly haunting my sleeping life on-and-off since my surgery was postponed. His sickeningly schmaltzy Tinder tagline—which I resolved to overlook in favor of his world-weary waifishness, long lean lady legs, and achingly attentive gaze—was “Dream big, daydream bigger.” Oh, the irony! Here is the setting and the apropos content of the dream: I was flying on a bike (not literally flying, just riding especially fast) under a series of romantic arches a la Central Park with duck pond sentiment (more Blair Waldorf than Holden Caulfield), weaving in and out of a dense dormitory-like setting which happened to be an extension of the outdoors. Like in real life, I didn’t actually know how to ride a bike (nor drive a car, for that matter) and I was on some kind of drug, exogenous or endogenous, that made it a shot in the dark, except the visual images of my path still existed. In its essence, the drug made me feel invincible; I got wherever I was going full of adrenaline and miraculously without injuring anyone, but I knew this was due to sheer luck not competence nor confidence. The destination was Andrew and that part of the dream was especially graphic, though I never got to interact with his pretty penis out of its plastic wrap packaging. It was like a Boca grandma’s tropical brocade couch covered in protective casing and served with a side of noodle kugel casserole sprinkled with crackled eggshells. Not even glitzy, flaming coral nail polish could save the glimmer of an era faded and glamour gone.
Everything was so circumscribed and stilted—by Saran Wrap, by history. It was supposed to take place in the present, not during the brief period when we were fucking nor the prolonged period during which he still extended the diplomacy of false hope. The use-by date had long since passed and he had already expired as masturbatory material in my mind and matter. “Separation” was the encapsulating word. I wish our encounter could have been embodied by wreckage, a confrontational head-on collision or even an impersonal rear-entry ravish where he could spit nasty nothings into my grubby ear. I wish we could have touched each other robustly, our breathy bodies working in concert. Instead we labored as disaffected and disconnected human objects: our constituent parts barely beating alone, together summoning palpitations of pallor. His sallow Irish skin dimming then decaying before my bleary, bloodshot eye sockets. Sucked dry by freeloading fame whore in his hollow heart, he metamorphosed from wannabe to has-been in a matter of lackluster pumps—before his 15-minute self-promo tour de Genie was up—registering that all I had ever wanted was him in flesh, blood and brains, not his dumbed-down, magazine-manicured, PR-packaged image.
As the sex went, it was very standard. He came inside a condom. I didn’t cum at all. My biggest complaint being that I didn’t get to feel him throbbing, bursting, and gushing out of me. Whereas once I had high hopes for him, now he offered me less than nothing. There wasn’t much chemistry to speak of. Except it was unlike the boredom I experienced with Jonah in real life, where I had to feign excitement to please him because I wasn’t eager enough to care about getting off. It wasn’t a hellscape lack of resolution that left me ravenous and clawing for more; it was expectation unfulfilled. The death of expectation. Resignation. Learned helplessness engendering depression.
Not surprising considering I had taken the nap that bred the dream to avoid occupying my bleak waking life. During the period when I still longed for him lasciviously in real life, my simple warm affectionate feelings were replaced with ambivalence and anguish. Opportunistically, I convinced myself that new sex would be even better—it would usher in a coterie of mental fuckery that would fuck me more exactingly—cut me deeper and more devastatingly. I had set up a situation that was guaranteed to be fulfilling or at least filling; as my psychological cavern turned into a gaping wound and the connective tunnels twisted, the chasm between how he found me and how he left me begged to be plugged with penis and its fissures sealed with semen.
How cruel of a dream when he entirety of our relationship is epitomized by the phrase coitus interruptus: his tempting me, toying with me, stringing me along, then enacting an impressive disappearing act that defied logic and trajectory.
Max: Sex so good the dude just evaporated
Me: Pretty much, he was like a vagician!
Me: Who has come back as a ghost.
We texted nearly all day every day for a month and a half; I doubted we would ever meet; when we finally did, against all odds, the sex was spectacular—so proficient and persistently arousing that I didn’t even get sore; he continued texting me with mundane life updates while we were in separate locations for Memorial Day week and I assumed things would pick up where they left off when we reconvened; instead he slowly and silently fluttered away until I cornered him into admitting that we didn’t have a “big future.” But I held on to the illusion that we would resume fucking furiously then ferociously—if only because he played with tenses, I was sexually tense, and word games are so much sexier than mind games. He said, suggestively, “we have great sex” (present tense!) And, less subtly, “we are not currently boning because…” (future implied!) In response to a joke about religion and thank you notes that he told me his mom liked, I decided to indulge the New England WASP in him by sending a formal sex invitation. He replied enthusiastically, inquiring about scheduling but failing to follow through. His disappearance inconveniently corresponded to my reincorporating myself into the thankless world of adult productivity and being punitively pummeled by schoolwork. The whole situation was one big tease. I wanted to yell, Now I’m twice as horny and twice as anxious, someone put me out of my fucking misery!!!
Eight months later I’m no longer horny, yet just as miserable! If only there were any tension left to relieve.
My vagina awoke in the exact same condition in which I kissed it goodnight: aching and longing. Dull, drawn-out grief. Not flushed, pulsating, and electrified by touch. What good is that? I lamented. If you insist upon invading my vagina in my dreams, babe, at least get me off or get me going.
About the bike.
Recently I had lunch with an author I admire; a few years ago she broke her spine while biking absentmindedly. After more conservative and highly unpleasant interventions failed, she had to have vertebrates in her neck fused. The surgery I’m currently awaiting is a fusion of one level of my lumbar spine (L5-S1). So not a long shot if we are unimaginative and need to connect motifs in dreams with events in waking life. Metaphorically speaking, flying on a bike is all about seizing risks and letting go. Eschewing fear in favor of pursuing desire. Which is what got me into this whole fucking mess in the first place. Except at least the mess was satisfying. Until it was frustrating. Unlike the dream which was similar to the mediocre sex I’ve been having recently, only with higher expectations and thus space for disappointment.
About the condom sex.
The hallmark of our weeklong sexual relationship: no condoms, copious amounts of spontaneous sex, high-volume semen every single round. Even after he told me he had spent the entire day jerking off—show-off! Bottomless brunches of semen! I’d like to think that if I chuckled with it in my mouth it would spew out of my nose into my breakfast smoothie. And that’s why I’m still obsessed with him. How vulgar is that? The life juice thing is so literal it’s grotesque. Once every last drop dribbled out of my pussy and I no longer had all of his fluids inside me, ennui crept in and took hold like a tick latching on, embedding itself, and draining me of my lifeblood.
In the dream I didn’t get to interact with his cum at all, its absence noted in my mind. I didn’t even get to see it bulge and bubble through the condom; it was wasted entirely. Not a punishment, per se, just a selfish withholding on his part—an understated lack of interest in sharing. I yearned to treat his cock as a living, breathing, expressive being; to feel it grow inside and grip me; to revel in his slender body, which I was crazy about and craved in real life. His self-involvement and inaccessibility rendered him no better than a human dildo, hardened and stale. Instead of you can look but you can’t touch, it was you can touch but you can’t enjoy.
Condom sex: yikes! A literal and metaphorical separation, shielding me and sealing me off from any element of fantasy that once was. The ultimate cautionary tale as I’m fretting about losing my last layer of skin: the separation between my public and private lives, my ability to be self-conscious, to be shrouded in disclaimers. The blaring message: You. Will. Never. Be. Satisfied. If. You. Don’t. Fuck. Raw.
Unification is a New Year’s goal of sorts. Fusing my identities and not being so fragmented and fragile. Which corresponds to taking more risks. The ultimate risk is coming into one’s self, being a cohesive and consistent human being across social settings. I don’t care if my desire to have unprotected sex ruins my image as smart academic and I don’t care if my writing a trashy book ruins my image as shy and circumspect. Most of the boundaries I have are ones I’ve created for myself and all they’ve given me is anxiety. The thing about risks is you have to own them. I didn’t fuck as many men as I did by second guessing myself. Part of creating a character is becoming that character. It can feel artificial until you agree to accept the social feedback. Act as you want to be and you shall become. That’s what identity unity is: being fearless and seamless. Not protecting your self-image with condoms, not protecting your social image with impression-management tactics. Disaster preparedness is its own kind of tragedy. It is pre-dwelling. Inhabiting a state of fear in lieu of desire. You can touch but you can’t enjoy.
About a week prior I had a dream about ALL THE MEN. The setting was half suburban half sleep away camp. Andrew was on the arm of this writer he knows whose blog and book are even more pathologically narcissistic and self-aggrandizing than his book. And a large portion of his book is his bragging about his pretty girlfriends whom he treats like conquests and accessories to his ailing ego. His and his girlfriends’ credentials are substantiated by passages about how jealous men are of his sexual prowess, how his girlfriends live in perpetual fear that he will leave them for the next pretty young thang, and how incredulous everyone is that a skinny literary nerd like him can land such hot chicks. It’s the ultimate exercise in overcompensating for being an adolescent outsider by simultaneously name-dropping the philosophers he is impressive enough to have read and casually referencing how huge his cock is. What a painfully contrived and insecure attempt for him to convince himself that he is worthy of the sexual attention he receives and the commensurate status climb. Of course the book is hideously objectifying to the women involved, whom he raises on a pedestal with epithets like “goddess” and “angel.”
I’ve been thinking about his sociopath writer friend because the author I recently met with who had broken her spine also happens to know her. Moreover, I’m plagued by this piece she wrote about transforming from a dorky teenager who was ignored by boys to a hot bitch who allegedly has high-status men chasing her. Sounds like the plot to every teen movie from the ‘90s. This, in combination with Andrew’s book, are concerning to me. Am I one of them? Does the entirety of my blog come across as a brag rag? Is everyone who blossomed from wallflower to sex object as heinously obnoxious and conceited as we are? Do people who don’t know me think I’m being serious when I joke about being hot shit? Am I using humans as accessories in a desperate attempt to convince myself that I’m not an imposter? Or is it possible for pretty nerds to be legit confident, to grown into themselves? Of course this whole thing is complicated by the dissonance I feel about the contrast between my body’s appearance and its functioning, the fact that I have convinced men to lust after a cripple.
In any event, I don’t think Andrew and Arden really had speaking parts in my dream, though they acknowledged my presence and I theirs.
I’ll briefly explain the other identifiable players. Let’s call them face characters. The first one is Neil, a member of the gilded trio. We fucked about a year and a half ago, he’s still in my sex queue, we text every so often, and I’ve been thinking about him recently because I bumped into a mutual acquaintance and showed him a screenshot of Neil’s tinder profile in which he lies to make himself appear approximately 5 years younger than he is (in real life he is approximately 5 years older than I am and made a point of his chronological maturity). Neil is a sex writer, we bonded over career stuff, had a mix of social and intellectual convos about sex, and when we fucked he had notes for his book spread out on the wall above his bed. Sort of how I’d study for a test on amino acids or functional groups, only my post-its would be affixed to my bathroom door. Whatever portion of his book he was spatially arranging included sexual pitfalls, such as “the shopping mentality.” Ya know, all the things I’m an expert at. Quite the visual backdrop for coitus.
The second face character is Soaring Eagle. And, no, he’s not Native American. If you went to Reed college around the same era that I did, you know exactly whom I’m talking about, because he and his brother are legends. Soar and I fucked a few times during and directly after college and it was absolutely divine, but I haven’t seen him in 8ish years because of geographical obstacles (I think he lives in China?). We got into an epically preposterous fight during one of our fucks, and I’m trying to recreate the dialogue for the first chapter of my book—which I’ve had trouble writing because it basically portrays a month-long orgy and the sequencing of intertwined stories is confusing. Here is a preview: “Fine! But I’m doing this in protest!” I protested demonstratively, inserting Thomas my husband dildo into my willing but unenthused vagina.
At some point in the dream I separately interacted with Andrew & Arden, Neil, and Soar. The climax took place on a tennis court or lawn of some place where kids casually convene at camp or in college. Except it was essentially an assembly of penises past. Before my arrival some of the guys discovered that they had slept with the same girl: me. Upon my arrival it was clear that they had been speaking of this, giggling, what a fucking whore. Not accusingly. Just like, that girl has acquired quite the collection: us. When I approached, seeing them all together, I had a moment like I did in real life when I walked past a guy on the street and couldn’t figure out whether he was Danny from “On Demand” or a guy my close friend Jeannie had been with. They were both novelty fucks in the same Midwestern, average Joe way (Yes, Jeannie’s man was, in fact, named Joe). The more guys you’ve been with, the more you have to get used to penis oversaturation—to past partners pervading your life. Easily I loafed with the group and began gossiping with one of my past partners, either Neil or Soar, about sleeping with the other one. Obliviously engaged in conversation, I didn’t notice when the one I was speaking of approached me from behind, overhearing everything. There wasn’t a scene made, exactly; it was just like, Ha ha, another one who’s slept with Genie. I guess we all need to get used to this.
And so we have to. In real life, too. The dream was slightly reminiscent of the ALL THE PENISES ARE POINTED AT ME dayterror of this past summer. But I’d like to think the tone was more that of a reunion episode of a sitcom where everybody knows my name: congenial. Make new friends and keep the old. That’s what friends are for. Camp songs, kids. Sing along with me!
Then there was the bout of nightmares I experienced around the time my surgery was indefinitely delayed, surely triggered by my medical misfortunes. I woke up feeling hallow and frightened and somehow knew I had dreamed about Andrew even though I couldn’t compile a storyline. I used to assume that once he expired as masturbatory material (which happened sometime in August, around the time I was contemplating retroactive interference), he would disappear from my mind like he had disappeared from my life. Now that I’ve shaken him from my skin but can’t seem to shake him from my thoughts, I would almost welcome him as fodder. At least there would be utility in that.
Recent body horrors aside, I realized a large part of his recurrent presence is due to technological blunders. Exorcizing him from my search history has been a fiasco with my browser acting as Big Brother. This is going to sound like the silliest of modern day dating problems. Because it is. At some point during the summer I decided I would read everything there was about him on the internets and never ever wonder about him again. So I rummaged through his twitter, instagram, etc. in all of their banality and mundanity. Stuff I was never interested in while we were still communicating. As it turns out, the way instagram is programmed, every time you open a picture it registers as a new page view, and when you press the back button you have to go back through every single thing you’ve opened instead of immediately arriving at the person’s profile page. More page views. Here is where it gets super silly. Since then, every time I’ve checked my blog, his instagram has popped up in my dropdown menu. Just because “instagram” and “indefense” happen to have the same first two letters. I know, I know, such a trivial coincidence! And sometimes I’m tempted to click on his instagram feed, which only affirms to my computer that his life is something I want to check in on periodically. I knew I should clear my search history, but wasn’t sure how to clear only one website or only one person’s name or whatever. That would require a google search. Which I totally know how to do because I’m medium smart at computers!
The problem: It would be too humiliating to admit my lack of self-control to my computer. In an instant, an alleged fluke of browser history would reveal itself to be a malfunction of neural networks. Typing the words into my search engine would serve as material evidence of my moral failings. Articulation adding another item to the offending queue, ironically. In other words, I’M AN IDIOT!
After the bout of body horror nightmares, I scoured my search history with steel wool: follies erased! So when I had that dream about ALL THE MEN, a.k.a, the assembly of penises past, I thought, Hooray, an improvement! Until my extremely graphic sexually frustrating nightmare ruined my winning streak. If only I had sexually frustrating sex with ALL THE MEN.
Private browsing, you suggest? Well, of course, that would have solved the problem, the technological side of it. But it honestly never occurred to me because I’ve never been in such a situation before. Where I was tempted to sneak a little peek. Just this once. Because I am addicted to your peen.
Other technological telltales.
The only reference point I have for this situation is what unfolded after I broke up with my college boyfriend. Contemplating the break up, I realized intellectually that it was a final decision, that I no longer had any claim to him. Once I let him slip out of my hands, he could shatter and it might invalidate everything we once had. But when it came time, I didn’t know how to let him go. I couldn’t comprehend that someone could play such a prominent role in my daily life over the course of two years, reshaping my self-perception, then suddenly cease to exist. To me, exclusively. No matter how easy you let someone down, how gently and sparsely you break the news, it feels like peeling off your protective layer of skin with the bandaid of a boy that you’ve kept on for too long. Native, with no compass to navigate your surroundings, nevertheless your new self, you are left.
It wasn’t like I was looking to unearth anything in particular. Nor had I ever snooped during our relationship. Never felt the need to. Suddenly what I needed was just a little bit more of him. To stay connected. To feel like I hadn’t cut a gaping two-year hole into my life, inserting myself into the void. I got it on the second try, after erroneously inputting the name of his parents’ Yorkie with a Jennifer Aniston haircut circa ‘94. It wasn’t so far off from that in obviousness. By the time we broke up, he still had no social media presence. Two years of unprotected sex and we never managed to make it to Facebook friendship. So Gmail, it was. It wasn’t as if I wished to check up on him in the sneaky, dishonest way. Without another viable inlet, I was left with no choice. That’s how it feels when you have a compulsion, anyway. And it was a chemical one long before that point.
Eventually I confessed. Not because I desired moral absolution: I don’t believe it is right to dump unsettling info on someone else to unburden oneself. But because I couldn’t foresee myself stopping otherwise, and I hated what I was doing. Not only was it covertly intrusive and overtly immoral; worse yet, it made me feel entirely unlike myself. I had never imagined becoming the type of person who would do something of this despicable nature. As dumpers declare from mountaintops and basements alike, I never thought it would come to this. I wanted him to change his password, to forcibly save me from myself. He felt violated. Rightfully so. But what are you going to do? It wasn’t as if I was searching in bad faith, only loneliness. It’s difficult to begrudge loneliness and the desperation that arises therefrom.
Obviously these two situations are not nearly comparable: one involved the dissolution of a two-year relationship, i.e., real loss, the other the end of a fucktastic week. Here is what they have in common: both devolved into my feeling utterly out of control. Something I do not feel often. I felt that way when I was a teenager because my mom controlled me. I felt that way when my OCD compulsions took hold. Until I got out of my childhood household and headspace. And that’s exactly what the situation with Andrew felt like—a relatively innocuous OCD obsession gaining traction as a versatile elixir by transmogrifying opportunistically, intensifying in morbidness and violence to match the extremity of my circumstances. Toward the end of the summer, when my body and life spun out of control, it took every ounce of energy to scrape my flattened self off the floor so I could get through my obligations, rote task by rote task. Each day was an exercise in live through this shit, and by the time I decided to surrender my waking life to my dreams, I was so overtaxed that I was compelled to check and check and overcheck the one thing that still symbolized and had recently actualized escapism. The only person who could get me back into my body, in one fell swoop and one “thick” thrust.
I knew how shitty I’d feel each and every time I snuck a peek. That the initial fresh breath of allowing myself to misbehave would swirl a cool tornado inside me, battering the filthiest debris around the lining of my lungs like the outer orbits of a circle pit at a punk show picking up particles and ricocheting off the walls. I could hear the turbulent wind whistling through my ears before it deafened me, beat down my cilia, ceased to be sensed. And the less sensation is transduced into perception, the more stimulation one needs. I felt dead enough that I need a reminder of what it was like when I once felt, even if those feelings were awful and suffocating and sucked the life out of me. It was that initial jab I sought. Validation that I deserved to feel bad. That it was something, not nothing.
So I persisted indefinitely, until it became an actual problem that revealed itself in my text message history. The kind of problem that he now has a material record of and is, therefore, quite literally out of my hands. Apparently my mind, too.