As I was waiting to order a macchiato on this rainy evening, I stuck my hand in a jar of coffee beans; almost meditating to the hummed rustles of fresh coffee welcoming my fingers to glide in. I realized I was happy. Maybe it was the cold, refreshing shower I took this morning; melting butter on the warm scone I picked up on my way to this café or the indulgent, passionate, breathtaking sex I had while the sun set a couple of hours ago, with Tom, my Nigerian friend who was in my city for a yearlong college program.
I met Tom for the first time in a restro-bar on a seemingly insignificant day. He got himself a whiskey drink; I had three vodka cranberry’s’ and a tall glass of I-want-to-sleep-with-you. We talked about the city around us in a cab to his place. “Do you like living here?” He looked at me and asked as we drove past a beach. I remember thinking then for the very first time in all the years ― Do I like living here? It was an awkward silence; he gave me space to think. I live my life on autopilot most of the time. Maybe it is a coping mechanism from my PTSD. So times like this, maybe in a cab at night when I am prompted to take a moment and look around… It feels like I am in a new world. He seemed to understand that part of me somehow, unknowingly ― weirdly.
We saw each other a handful of times while he was here and neither of us fell in love, or lost that utter connection. I was not taught to expect intimacy from a fling. So when I got in my 45 minutes long cab home in the morning, I spent time leaning against the car window pondering. I have so many Tom-memories that are more than the sex we had; but isn’t that impossible? You’re either two detached people having meaningless sex or are secretly in love with each other. “I can never just hookup with someone. It is just so self-deprecating and demeaning!” A friend of mine told me, sipping on her iced-tea while we sat at the corner table, a few days after I saw Tom. And I didn’t know what to say because sitting on a bed, eating spicy Nigerian noodles and talking about our families was nowhere near self-deprecating.
My need for labels did initially make me struggle to understand intimacy in this casual relationship I was in. “Am I in love?” I thought sometimes ― while making endless shampoo-foam in my hair or when I mindlessly watched a detergent commercial. But I just did not see myself in a romantic relationship with him; I absolutely did not want that and so when I made it clear to him that I was not looking for anything, and he assured me he was on the same page; I was relieved. All I knew was that, when I stood in the hallway in a soft cotton shirt, watching him make porridge for breakfast while we talked about funny things, I was comfortable. I realize this actually was serious. It was a different kind of serious.
The thing is: I just love to be in love. I am an absolute romantic and am almost always in love, with the weather, poetry, a cup of tea or a person I have been enjoying talking to. But I am also a sexually liberated woman. Now that does not mean that I am not interested in a monogamous relationship or that I am the daughter of the devil coming to ruin your kids. But I resent how everything and everyone is trained and encouraged to revolve around this one, fabricated idea of love. I think it leaves no room for growth and other fulfilling experiences; it is one of those things that I am slowly starting to unlearn.
Now I don’t think all casual relationships are going to be intimate, or that you NEED to want to hookup. But I do believe that there is immense room for intimacy in a casual-thing if you’re willing to let go of the preconceived notions, that are not even your own. I feel a lot of my experience with Tom had to do with the kind of people that he and I are ― we clicked; we were good together. We were both open to being vulnerable in certain ways and in turn built a home of safety and comfort around us.
While starting to write this I felt this weird awkwardness; I am writing about sex and non-monogamy after all! It astounds me, the blatant judgement around sex-positive women who are open about their sexuality, and also just this misunderstanding and lack of awareness about sex in general in this country.
I had a friend, an adult; tell me that she had never masturbated once in her life because she was told it was a bad thing. NEVER masturbated in her LIFE!!! Can you believe? It’s so senseless to me; these rules amd bounds created around something so natural and part of the human experience. Now I believe I don’t have to get into religious transcripts and the sexual practices of our gods to justify what goes on in my pants ― it’s natural and I have a right to masturbation, have sex and all decisions related to my body.
Also read: Female Masturbation: Politics and Pleasure
Sexual liberation is an absolute necessity for complete freedom, and I detest the abnormal legal and social effort to contain and control the sexual activity between two consenting adults. And so I definitely had to write this piece to play my part in normalizing this unnecessary taboo.
A casual relationship does not have to be this unspeakable offense. Sex between consenting adults can be just as transcendental and special as a monogamous relationship; this also is a priceless human connection. Tom and I had great sex. We would spend hours just lost in our sweet, intoxicating world of soft skin, whispers and drenched sheets. It was amazing. But also, I remember the most just sitting together at midnight talking about his mother, my childhood, his habit of wearing a nightcap while sleeping or just our Instagram browsing-patterns. We would get coffee together, walk by the beach and laugh hysterically about funny little things. “Girl, you so sweet.” He’d often say and kiss me, and sometimes it would be just that ― a kiss and cozy, curled-up sleep.
I remember ordering a macchiato and walking towards him in a café on a rainy evening; my hand smelled of coffee from sticking it in a jar full of fragrant coffee beans… I wondered if this was right, if temporariness is something I should delve in or if being here with someone I am just sleeping with is demeaning or a good idea at all. As I watched him sit at the end of the room, wearing his dark T-shirt and a hat just smiling at me without inhibition ― I knew I was here with a friend.
Featured image credit: Painting by Chris Coles
This is a beautiful and poignant piece . I pictured everything so vividly in my mind. Thankyou Kavita.
Hello! Ah, I’m so glad you liked the writeup! It’s quite anxiety-inducing to be a woman writing about sex for the Indian audience, but your comment is encouraging to me. Thank you! — K.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
“it is one of those things that I am slowly starting to unlearn”
I too have started unlearning things.
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