Slow Burn

There is no sex hotter than the sex you almost had.

We almost had it. But the timing wasn’t right. Time was not on our side. Out of time. Time to go.

So we took to our phones and made up for lost time.

There is no sex hotter than sex you picture for weeks before having it. Months, even. In slow-unfolding sext-a-thons and wandering phone calls. In café daydreams and bathtub reveries. In subway imaginings too carnal for public consumption.

Do they know? Do they know I’m thinking about you?

Do you know?

I’ve considered your body. A body I don’t know well. I’ve considered its weight.

I’ve been crushed beneath you in my mind a thousand times. A myriad of melting me’s, acquiescing in sequence. I’ve looped the mental tape like a well-loved song. Your kiss is catchy. Your eyes, an earworm. Your heart, a hook. And I’m hooked, and I’m helpless.

They say a memory’s not just a memory. It’s stacked with neural residue from each time the file’s been reviewed. Date Modified: Today.

So the image of your touch isn’t really your touch; it’s the ways I’ve remembered it, the ways I’ve reshaped it by remembering it. I wish I’d made duplicates. I wish I had the pristine originals, tucked away in a lockbox deep in my limbic system. But even those, I would take out too often and muck up with dust.

A few days after our first date – that blazing conversation over coffee, and the rough kisses that unavoidably ensued – I texted you, “I wish I had paid more attention, even though I was paying very close attention. I wish I had it memorized.”

“I wish I took notes,” you wrote back. “I wish I had it recorded somehow. I wish I could rewatch it.”

So we replay it in micro-detail, a back-and-forth volley of “Remember when…?” and “Then you…” and “I thought…” We layer and re-layer memory engrams, like neuropsychological Jenga. We fill in every blank for each other until our first date becomes not just a story but a legend. Not just an anecdote but a prophecy fulfilled.

Sometimes you think you know tiredness, because bleary-eyed yawning is part of the fabric of your life – but then one day you come up against exhaustion, and it’s a different beast entirely. Its maw opens unendingly and draws you down, down, down. Habitual tiredness is not exhaustion. You know exhaustion when you feel it.

Just like you know desire when you feel it. You can go through life developing quaint crushes, flirting with people in elevators and bars, and spouting wink emoticons like an addictive currency. But those things are no more desire than a handful of potato chips is a meal. You know desire when you feel it. It knocks you over like a truck smashing through glass.

You know it because you can’t ignore it. There are so few unignorable sensations in the world, so few experiences we can’t tune out if we press our brains to the grindstone. Desire gnaws and needs and needles you. It chases you down neural pathways. It whirls pointlessly in your periphery. Stop, you say, and it laughs and says, Naaah.

I’ve considered your body. A body I don’t know well. I’ve screamed into my pillow while considering it. I’ve grasped uselessly at places where you weren’t. I’ve dragged more orgasms out of me than I thought possible, clinging to the notion of your face. And still it’s not enough. And still I desire. And still, I can’t be still.

I hope to find my mind again someday, when the smog of want has cleared. When this slow burn snuffs into smoke. But I hope – my secret, darkest hope – it stays alight a little longer.