Lust Life: Familiar Novelty


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“My x needs to be xxx-ed,” I told him. He had just come back from Asia, and I was taking off for France the next day. So we met at a Moroccan tapas lounge in Hell’s Kitchen to bridge our international escapades in a little tête-à-tête. A chill punctured the warm, incensually fragrant atmosphere. He offered me his velvet jacket. I embraced the thoughtful draping around my shoulders.


“Look in the pocket,” he said. I scooped out a small mahogany Buddha. “Now the other pocket,” he said, as the candlelight revealed the details of my new eternally laughing friend. The other pocket revealed a dead butterfly, preserved in a character-inscribed plastic leaf. These things delighted me. It had been a few weeks since our last encounter. During his absence, he appeared in my dreams with a new mystique, while he thought of me on his way to a happy ending at the hands of a Chinese beauty.

Nothing about him was new to me—not the velvet jacket, nor his smile, nor the svelte pressure of his lips on mine.

But the red lighting coated him in an alluring glow that was deliciously novel in my eyes. Just the day before, I was telling my friend that I was happy with this sexually tempered romance, satisfied with limiting our trysts to hands and the occasional oral ovation. I had purposely distanced myself from him to mitigate the tension of his marital situation. But that was yesterday. And the today of a few days ago (as I’m now writing from France), I was horny and high on the transience of the world compressed in the speakeasy spark of Manhattan.

“I think I can do that,” he said in response to my blatant sexual statement. “Let’s go back to your place.” What changed? Six weeks ago I was feeling objectified in the shadow of his extramarital needs, annoyed with his pet-names and frequent calls, his invasively lewd glances. Oh, how I cringed in the enclosure of his arm claiming my shoulder! But this night was different. I didn’t revisit the passionate engulfment of the beginning, nor did I suppress my vulnerability in the dominatrix role. I followed my body and he rose to meet me. How did we come to reach this sensual plateau?

Maybe it’s because we were halfway between China and France. Maybe it’s because I was boiling with lust, and nothing else mattered. Or maybe … maybe it had something to do with my impending voyage.

“It seems like every time I travel, I have a spontaneous tryst the night before,” I said, as we lounged in the aftermath. An unmistakable immediacy penetrates the time before a journey: It’s as if personal choices have no consequences.

Anything you may do in the name of love or sex is a respite from the chaos of travel preparation. You know you have a million more things to do before you leave, but who cares when you can escape in the arms of a lover? Everything’s even. You’re in the moment. The Buddha is laughing.

The Buddha laughs because desire is a slave to time. You don’t want him for whatever reason, but then, given some time—24 hours, three days, one month, 10 years—he looks like the stranger of your dreams. The familiar is comforting, but that face, those hands, that mouth are glazed in a new light blinding you to the same old stuff. You want to seize her now because she has taken on mystery, even though you recognize the refrain. Sometimes gradual, other times sudden, this strange evolution has the power to kill or revive a relationship. This is why people fall in and out of love with the same person, over and over again. As for those couples that stay relatively happy together for decades, I doubt they’re in love with each other every moment of their partnered lives.

Their secret is awareness. They know that lust is a fickle flower; its petals are not always full and fresh. They don’t see wilting as an end of growth, but a means to another bloom. They understand the cycles of passion—just because they can’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s gone. Sometimes it is really dead, but you won’t know if you always rip out the root as soon as the first petal falls to the ground. All right! Enough! Where is this horticultural analogy going? What am I trying to say?

The point is, I could’ve ended so many relationships for good. I could’ve closed the doors and never looked back. I could’ve done the cliché, again and again, as so many people do, without realizing that desire is resilient. Sometimes you have to let go. Usually, I hear the Buddha laughing.


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