Growing up, I was obsessed with theology and wanted to become a minister.Then I turned to sex drugs and rock and roll and became a wiccan. Religion gave me a home a home and a purpose when I didnt feel I belonged anywhere. I was a acolyte, a singer in the church choir, and a vacation bible school puppet. People often ask me how the fuck I went from being a fat bass player in a Christian band called Indoor Yard Sale, to a tiny stoner that howls at the moon. A victim of sexual assault, I lost my faith on the fourth of July when I was 14. When I tried to tell my uncle about it at a Christian retreat, he asked what I was wearing. I told him a red t shirt and jeans and cried. I knew then God hated me. I was worthless and deserved it. I have struggled with guilt about sex my entire life and could no longer step in a church without crying. I still had that craving for something bigger than me, felt the loss of such a huge thing in my life.
Sex became my religion, my enlightenment, my escape. Going home with someone was like being a little girl in choir practice, fidgeting and giggling as they touched me, my mind wandering to animal crackers and ponies, then staring at the crack in the ceiling until I watched myself from above myself, frozen, and terribly aware, that their body was the only thing that made me feel alive. Throughout highschool, I cut my hair and myself. I felt dirty all the time, split open, wrapping relationships and one night stands around my fingers like wedding bands. God didn’t love me anymore, and no one else ever could. A catholic Sunday School teacher I dated, took me to a church service on homosexuality and prayed for me to find the lord. My wiccan exboyfriend called me a stupid feminist cunt after he told me he had six wives in another realm. I was always the first to leave, which was probably was for the best. My therapist said I have a lot of religious guilt and that survivors of sexual assault often engage in risky sexual behaviors after I strangled a kinky guy I met in her office. I believe he was Jewish. Sex was a game of Russian roulette, but love was faith. I wanted to love someone so much, our bodies wrapped around each other like the rings of Saturn we would be in another universe. The problem was I didn’t believe in love anymore. Writing gave me comfort, my darkest thoughts pouring through my fingers. My ex-boyfriend, a Baptist journalist, said sex was gross and always wanted me to change my clothes, “clean yourself up! cut your hair!” His parents took him out of highschool when he was 14 because it was too secular. He played guitar in a band and tried to kill himself. We met late one night on a beach where I was writing after I had been released from the hospital for an eating disorder. He was the first person I ever told exactly what happened. We both cried. I hardly ever called him my boyfriend because he never held my hand or touched me except when he needed it. We were two emotionally unstable writers too shackled in religious guilt to ever love each other, and I realized I was worth more.
Sometimes at night, I sit outside and wish people would stop going to church and start looking at the moon. Religion doesn’t let you make shit jokes, or roll doobies. Scripture, a bottle of jack, rosary beads, a pack of cigarettes, confession, South Park- they’re all just a way to find comfort. I experimented with Buddhism but Buddhist believe that suffering is noble. For me, suffering is something necessary in life, but don’t curl up with it. Embrace your shadows and let them transform you into a whole person. All things must die, but it is only by living in this moment and loving with all our hearts that we will be free.In witchcraft, we find joy in simple things. Sex isn’t dirty, but an act of the divine, love, beauty, life. There’s nothing noble in suffering, spending your life in sadness, trying to prove to yourself you’re free from any immoralities when humans are flawed. Even the moon has crater’s. People have forgotten that love is unconditional and radical like the sky. My boyfriend Rishab told me the moon is moving away from us each year. Eventually, it will spin out of orbit and all plant based life will die. I think I love him. I know that’s a strange feeling. My boyfriend gave up Hinduism for cheeseburgers. He was the first to ever dance with me around a drum circle fire. A wiccan woman wrapped us in silk ribbon and told him to “embrace your body!Inception! create new life, unite with the goddess!” We ran to my car in the middle of the everglades and did just that on the hood of my volvo. I don’t believe I’ve ever had so much sex with anyone. It’s almost as if we choreograph. And the craziest thing is, something no one’s ever done- everything we do, everyplace he touches, he asks!!
He’s so romantic, it’s more then sex though. I think I love him. This feeling came to me while I was writing my paper and he came over. I had my Pandora on and was singing Runnin Outa Moonlight. He made fun of me singing, then I said let’s dance. My boyfriend doesn’t dance, but he dances with me. He got up and we danced, first he lifted me onto his shoulders and spun me so fast I saw stars.
"I’m going to puke!"
"I didn’t even go fast!" He twirled me into him and I laughed. "I don’t know what I’m doing!" The song changed to a slow Eric Church. We swayed and kissed, when suddenly he opened his mouth as if to say something, I sang the chorus, and then closed his lips in a smile.
Give me back my hometown.
Like a small animal, I do not tell anyone when I am in pain, but exhibit signs of illness. This would explain why my boyfriend Rishab had to carry me into Urgent Care this afternoon after I vomited and cried about the intense pain in my back that traveled through to my side. I had felt a burning since November, headaches,lightheaded and dizzy for about a month -but I figured eh, it will go away eventually. I really don’t like doctors. Last night, we were watching Family Guy on his bed, and I asked him if he could rub my back. I felt needles in my hands for some reason and I wasn’t sure why. He said sure honey, laughing that the second rat I bought in a week was going to die. “My side hurts.” I said.
“I don’t know.”
“Does this feel good?”
“You always feel good.”
I exhaled and Rishab wrapped his arms around me like he was trying to melt his body into mine. I went home, put on three sweatshirts, and still felt frozen. I woke up periodically throughout the night then ran into the bathroom and threw up. I texted him while he was in class, and he came running like a spastic fool, forgetting his car. He put me in my passenger seat, and we drove to urgent care.
“Do you think pregnancy is a cause of side pain?” He said.
“No, I got my period. My mom is going to be mad at me.” She was still pissed about my ambulance and er bill from over a year ago. Once I had strepthroat and threw up blood in the mountains and she told me to calm down.
“Calm down, smoke some weed -What the hell is wrong with your mother?”
He carried me into the Urgent care, and put on a blue hospital mask they had on the granite counter. I looked at him and he said “Germs, sweetie.” He paced back and forth as I sat waiting for the woman to call me back. When she said “Ashley” he followed me in. “Calm down honey.” The woman asked about my symptoms and their length.
“Well I’m glad you decided to come see us.”
The nurse left, and Rishab with his cotton mask still on approached me.
“You had a fever. Why didn’t I think to touch your forehead?”
For a moment I felt like we were characters on One Life To live. Rishab paced back and forth while I sat, then touched the stethoscope. “We could use these as props, later baby! Maybe sell the needles to the methheads at Taco VIVA” Or perhaps Scrubs.
The doctor came back and looked at me, then paused to look at my boyfriend, Dr. House.
"Are you sick too?"
"I’m just a germaphobe." Rishab said. The doctor said I had a kidney infection, and they would be doing an IV. I began crying. IVS and I go way back. The nurse left to get the drip and Rishab squeezed my knee. “From now on, you will tell me when something hurts.”
I kissed his cotton mask.
“And you will wear panties.”
"Is it okay if I lie down?"
"Yes, lie down. Do you need a pillow?" I curled onto my good side and he put his arm around me. “I cant believe you. ‘Oh I don’t feel well, but I’m just going to live my life. Maybe eat an apple, blast some Marilyn Manson, stick a potatoe in the microwave.”
“Hells yeah!” I laughed. “I’m afraid of doctors.”
"Indian people are doctors. Are you afraid of me?"
"I think I would make you striptease with your white gloves and coat"
Rishab shook his hips like Shakira. When the nurse returned, I squeezed Rishab’s hand and screamed and clawed and rithed like Emily Rose. I lied there in deep trance while Rishab asked the nurse questions.
“Are kidney infections fully treatable? There’s white blood cells? Will she be okay? Does smoking have anything to do with it? Could you turn her drip down, please?”
Despite all my dramatic medical emergencies, no other boyfriend or girlfriend has ever been involved with them on such a level. No one came to the hospital, or connected with me physically in times of crisis. Prehaps this is because I see love relationships as emotional attachments, where I see sex as an activity. After all, Love in itself, is selflessness, a trust and total reliance on another person who loves you calm, exactly as you are. Desire can never be selfless. Rishab on the other hand ran across campus without eating, which for my boyfriend who once ate an entire pizza, 5 pancakes, a mcdouble and a large fry, is a big freaking deal.
“Aww! You didn’t eat on campus, honey?” He made a fist and fake punched my side. “That reminds me, I’m doing a 6 page report on Domestic Violence due next week.” I laughed.
“I’m going to beat you. I can’t even be angry because I’m so worried!”
He took off his grey jacket and placed it on me as a blanket.
“You have eight of them, right?” Rishab said.
“Kidneys?” I said.
Rishab laughed. “Underwear!”
“Fine. I’ll wear panties and drink water”
“Liar. And we are going to get burritos when we are finished to celebrate.”
“By that place where I got my tattoos?”
We drove to the taco stand, scarfed down enchiladas and rice and filled my prescription then I sang him Randy Houser Goodnight kiss. The IV and the Mexican worked. He came back to my dorm where we had sex with my IV bandage still on, feeling his body against mine, every inch of his skin as the world fell away, and his touch turned to blinding rays of whitelight, and my rat who was watching us squeaked as if he was on fire.
I drove to Rishab’s house a little breathless after smoking a pack of cigarettes. I had wrote him a letter. When he opened the door and kissed me he squinched his nose. “You taste like cigarettes.”
"Sorry." I threw the envelope at him, ran into the bathroom and doused my mouth with his blue mint Listerine. Since we had sex the first time on Imbolc, the celebration of new begginings, and broke my rose quartz pentagram for protection, our relationship has developed.
"Sit down sweetie, I want to read it!"
He grabbed one of his knives from his collection in his drawer and sat down on the edge of his bed, waving the blade at me to join him. I sat down, shaking.
Clearly, I have issues in communication and expressing my emotions.
My friend Chris came over and celebrated Ostara, the pagan fertility, abundance and growth of the sun ritual with me, by watching me call in the goddess, lighting candles for clarity and truth, then pouring apple cidar vinegar on my head to symbolize the great rite. We both wore red to symbolize fertility. I had green mardigras beads around my neck when I anointed his forehead with sage and we danced outside for a few minutes. Then we went to seven ellevan for beers. “You should take a shower, the goddess will understand.”
"No! It’s fine! Do you think if I wrote Rishi a letter he’d like it?" I have had bad experiences showing men my feelings— and yet, Rishab is different from any guy I have ever slept with. He opens doors, he dances beneath the full moon to redneck songs, he brings me redwine and flowers, he had sex with me on the hood of my car at a wiccan ritual in the middle of the everglades and breaks my ancient Volvo’s engine- he’s a real keeper!
"He doesn’t seem like that kind of guy," Chris said.
We sat around my house sipping Smirnoff when Rishab came over. It was the first time they had met. He kissed me on the forehead, leaving his nose there a few minutes sniffing the vinegar confused, when Chris started laughing. I began serenading Rishab with my empty bottle, lipsynching to Erasure’s song: A little Respect.
"I’m so in love with you, I’ll be forever blueeeee!" I was dry humping walls, clawing on the floor, -really getting into the 80’s romantic ballad as Rishab laughed. We kept wondering when chris was going to leave. It was 12:45, Chris was on his phone not paying attention when I yawned dramatically. "I have to go to my internship tomorrow."
"Oh okay." He kept watching the tv. Then rishab followed me into my room. He bit me on the neck when we heard Chris laugh. "DOES THIS DUDE NEED A RIDE?!"
'no he lives right here.”
I went out to tell Chris “Gee man, I’m really tired.”
“Could Ree-sheeb give me a ride to my dorm?”
“He’s staying here.” I smirked.
When Chris finally left a few minutes later, Rishab guided me to the mirror, gently. “You are so beautiful.” I stared at us in the glow of my butterfly lights and alter candles when he bit me once more, hard, his fingers fumbling unbuttoning my pants. It was like I was watching a movie, when he took off my clothes and threw me against the bed.
"You have the weirdest friends!" I laughed, then he kissed me.
"Oh god, Ashley I missed you all day." Rishab pulled me closer, encasing me so we were gasping the same air. "I think about you all the time. Did you miss me?"
"You’re the first person I think about in the morning."
Rishab’s face changed. “You are so special.”
The chimes jingled like church bells as we kissed, a cathedral stretching to the stars in the midnight sky.
So I wrote him a letter. I was terrified he would think it was stupid.
He opened it, read it, and kissed my nose, face, and neck, until my red lipstick had covered his face. For our anniversary we went to the beach and drank pina colodas and watched the sunset. He lifted me and walked into the water, threatening to drop me- phone, notebook, yoga pants and all- and yet- I did not feel afraid. We walked out onto the peir. I looked at the pink and blue colors stretched across the sky like a watercolor painting and he wrapped his arms around me.
“Why did you write that?”
“I just wanted to tell you.” I shrugged.
He cupped my face, “I’m so lucky.”
Lights wrapped around palm trees on the sidewalk were starting to turn on as the moon rose. A band was playing across from the Dairy Queen where a huge line of people were waiting for ice cream. Snowbirds were dancing to a Peter Frampton cover of Baby I love your way. I could smell the salt in the air as he squeezed my hand and my flip flops clopped across the pavement, and pulled him into a kiss.
“You make me feel like I’m on vacation!”
“I think it’s just this place.” He laughed. I started dancing to Peter Frampton and twirled him along, both of us snickering. “No dancing! We can’t just dance in the streets, Sweetie!”