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Lusty Lady

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

When fiction is the most honest way to tell emotional truths

Yesterday I was very excited to get an acceptance email from ultra popular erotica author Zane, whose novels and anthologies frequently find their way to the New York Times bestseller list (including Succulent: Chocolate Flava II, which I have a story in). I found out that my story "Party On" will be included in her Chocolate Flava 3 anthology from Strebor Books/Simon & Schuster.

Thinking about that story reminded me how, for me, I so often use real events to inspire erotic fiction. Sometimes it's a straightforward telling, pretty much, or based on my sexual experiences, but more often, it's a tidbit of information, a snapshot of something I saw or did or heard about, and I transpose that into the setting of the story. One of the things I champion and cherish about erotica is that it has the ability to take negative sexual experiences and turn them into positive ones. Same could be said for any kind of fiction but I think sex is so fraught that it's especially important. So remember that column I wrote, "The Nonconsensual Play Party Voyeur"? That was an experience I'd be happy to never relive, but I realized that while my personal experience was negative, the setting was a good one for a story, so I used it.

The other story I'd submitted, which I plan to submit elsewhere, was inspired by a friend who worked in a chocolate shop. I remember I was going on and on about the chocolate and someone tasting it and the sensuality of that experience that I was almost at the word count and the sex hadn't even started!

As someone who writes both personal nonfiction as well as fiction, I often am faced with the task of figuring out the best medium for what I want to say, and I've found that often, it's in fiction that I can tell the most honest emotional truth. To tell certain things via nonfiction, if we are sticking to the strict definition of nonfiction (which, if you read memoirs, you will know are full of composite characters, compressed timelines, made-up characters, and other ways authors massage the truthiness of their stories), is often too blunt, and would require so much overexplaining or simply wouldn't get at what I actually want to say.

I'm thinking of a very particular moment that my mind keeps going back to over and over and over again, so much so that I know I need to figure out why I cannot forget it. I remember exactly what I was wearing, what I was thinking, what I was feeling. I was in hyper-aware mode, taking in every sound, sight; it was a night when I felt as if I were watching myself in a movie, so I was extremely conscious of what was happening, yet also felt a bit removed from it. So it's not that I don't have the raw facts, but rather that this is not about "facts." It's about what that moment felt like; it was one of the most emotionally vulnerable moments I've probably ever experienced. I think about it as if I could go back and relive it, and I wonder if I'd have done anything differently. If it were a movie scene, it would last less than a minute, but it would be pivotal, because it was for me. I feel in some ways as if my whole year has, in some ways, been driven by that moment.

I haven't figured out yet how to tell that story, how to make sense of it. Maybe I don't have enough distance from it, maybe I don't know what it symbolizes in my real life yet to be able to transpose it into a fictional life. But I know it's there for a reason, and I know that any time I creep toward an encounter that feels vaguely close to that level of emotional rawness, I'm right back there, and that's why it's not so much about the strict facts as the deeper truth.

When I first started writing erotica, and for a good long time, I thought that I had to basically tell the story the way it happened, if it was true. I thought that was how to be honest, but fiction demands a different level of honesty, a different purpose. Sometimes the two are one and the same, but not always.

It reminded me of "The End," which I am going to put in my solo collection. I love that story, even though it was hell to live through. Here's, well, the end of "The End." It's a bit overwrought, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the work that I'm most proud of is often work that stems from emotionally intense moments and experiences, like the one I described above. Neither of the stories I sent to Zane are that wrenching, and that is too much for me to live with all the time. But I'm learning to appreciate the moments that don't let me go, even when I try to let them go. They are there for a reason, and I have to both be patient and probing in figuring out what that reason is.

I reach, reach, reach inside her, desperately searching, hoping to wrench us back to wherever we are supposed to be, back to where we were—a week, a month, a lifetime—ago. I draw out this process, watch myself as if from afar as my hand slides inside her, as I lube myself up and try to cram all of me into her, make a lasting impression. I have my entire had inside her yet I feel more removed from her than I have ever felt. She might as well still be in Florida. She might as well still be a stranger, this might as well still be our first date where I laughed so much because I was so nervous. I'd rather this be any of those nights, even the ones where I was so drunk and afraid, so powerless and unsure; anything would be better than this slow death, this slow withering until we are nothing more than two girls in a room with tears in our eyes and an ocean of questions and scars and hurt between us. I can’t predict what will come after this most pregnant of silences, can’t know the depths of pain that will puncture me beyond the horrors of my imagination, can’t know that I will regret everything I might have, could have, did do wrong.

She turns over on her stomach, face hidden from my searching eyes, and I fumble to reconnect, to slide into her like nothing is wrong, like it’s just a matter of finding a comfortable angle. I finally have had enough, cannot keep going with the charade that pressing myself against her will fill all the gaps that still exist between us. But for whatever twisted reasons we need this, this final time. And this is the last time, because nothing is worth feeling so utterly and completely alone while you're fucking your girlfriend before you break up. No power trip or blazing orgasm, no heart-pounding breathless finish, no sadistic impulse or mistaken nostalgia is worth this much pain.

I don’t know how to say what I have to, what I’m terrified to, how to ask questions whose answers I know I won’t want to hear. There’s no book I can read that will teach me how to make her g-spot tell me her secrets, tell me those fantasies and dreams that don’t come from her pussy but from her heart. The end, it turns out, is nothing like the beginning. There is no promise of something more, some grand future of possibility, the infinite ways of knowing each other just waiting to be discovered. There is no hope that we can merge, in all the ways love can make you do, into something so much greater than the sum of our parts. The end is like what they say about death, where your whole life flashes in front of your eyes. I see moments, fragments—my hand up her skirt on the street, taking her in the doorway of a friend’s apartment, so fiercely she can barely sink down to the ground, her on her knees in the bathroom, surprising me as she buries her face into me, no room to protest, grinding the edge of a knife along her back, slapping her tits until they are raw and red—but they seem so far away right now, like a movie, someone’s else’s pornographic memories. They don’t make me smile, and I don’t want them anymore. I want to bury myself in her and never let go, hold on to something that has just fluttered away in the wind, fine as the glittering sparkles she wears on her eyes, miniscule and almost opaque, too minute to ever recapture. But all I can do is back away, as slowly as I can, so slowly that it seems as if I am hardly moving, and before I know it, I, and she, we, are gone, almost like we never existed.

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