17 March, 2011

Doing Without: Some Thoughts on Ten Years of Celibacy

It strikes me as odd. I couldn't hazard a guess as to what was the last meal to cross my lips, the topic of conversation with the last friend I saw, or the last piece of music to grace the soundtrack of my life as a free man, yet it requires no effort to vividly recall my last sexual contact with another human being. It was ten years ago, that final intimacy — ten years ago this month.

We were engaged and sharing an apartment — one bedroom, one bath, two stories, two cats. She was twenty, I was twenty-two. Lovemaking was an everyday affair. Not in the sense that it was in any way boring, but that it was a constant. Because of regularity's tendency to benumb, there really oughtn't be any reason for our last time among so many to stand out in my mind as it does. But it does: her lifting the glass of Pinot Noir from my hand and whiskey-kissing me after dinner, the light smell of her short dark hair, our slender fingers interweaving as though they'd been meticulously crafted to lock just so....

Writing more about that night would be crass, but thinking about it is edifying, like regarding the stony ruins of a bygone civilization that strike dumb with their crumbled beauty. She and I lost touch four years ago, tumbled apart at last, our past too overgrown with vines to clearly see anymore. Still, I carry my memory of that final melding together as I would a totem, held tight, a perfect moment in the life I once called mine.

Everyone deserves their allotment of sentimental dreaminess. This is a taste of my own. And that's all it is — sentimentality. Some call me "the Monk" for my spartan material needs, not for any aspiration to piety or chastity; however I hardly obsess over the matters of the flesh. Over and over come people's questions about how I cope with this unnatural, enforced celibacy. Over and over I indulge the curious (as if it were any of their business) with answers. No, desperation hasn't found purchase. No, I've never been tempted by anyone around me here. At present, I have grander desires on which to focus. Carnality resides relatively low on my list of priorities.

It's there, though. Oh, it's there. Despite certain recurring allegations to the contrary, I am human, with all the accompanying physiological issues. And that damned sentimentality. More often than I'd prefer, I get stuck on the thought of how it would be, today, to clutch a certain someone close, share that intimate weight of bodies, sync two heartbeats, speak sharp-breathed solemnities, lift the scent from each other and slip with it into satiated dreams, to wake in the night, reach out, and be comforted by the warmth of a physical presence, by love. Then to rise in the morning and do it all again while the light slinks its way back toward the eastward windows. And to smile in the later day, happy for the lovely knowledge of another's naked secrets.

Of course, all this talk amounts to mere rambling by a man whose refuge now lies more within imagination than memory. After a decade, certitude means almost nothing; touch, so much more than I'll admit to even myself.

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