I see it as a door floating in outer space. There are some who are allowed access through this door and there are the rest of us who have to queue outside in the pissing rain.
The only person who has touched me sexually through this pandemic is me. I have two toys from Unbound and since the outbreak of the Pana Cotta on Plague Island, I have serviced myself, fulfilled the bodily function of needing the release of an orgasm but there has been no joy in it. I come and then I lay there on my bed, one side jammed against the wall because there is no need for two people to have access to it. Afterwards I lay there blankly.
When the lockdown was announced, I was living with my family and although the months were good for sorting out the toxicity between us, I still live with them and it shames me. We do not touch one another. I am missing someone touching me like their hands have teeth and they want to eat me.
I watch Normal People on BBC iPlayer and sob during the sex scenes. I watch hardcore porn on Pornhub and don’t even take my clothes off. I watch them touch and fuck and suck each other and I cry.
An Instagram friend messages me and says, what do you have to do to get touch in this world atm?
My best friend strokes my forehead when I fall asleep drunk at her house and it is the greatest gift. Her one long index finger delicately stroking the skin between my eyebrows sends me off into a blissful sleep.
Four months into the pandemic when it was illegal to meet another person outside of your household, I meet up with someone who wastes my time. We lay under a tree in Hampstead Heath and
I ask him to hold me, touch my skin in the sun. He pats my back gingerly and asks, is that enough?
I cannot bear to look at couples as they touch each other so innocuously. I cannot bear to see this thing I cannot procure for myself bandied about in such wasteful abundance in front of me. I am starving. It is like they are eating a meal throwing food on the floor and I am begging, invisible. I look away.
I read the sex messages I exchanged with the last person I fucked. I read four months of our messages and I do this periodically. I haven’t had sex since October 2019. Who is this person who so cavalierly says, I won’t see you tonight, I’ll see you in a couple of days? If I had known what was coming, I would have fucked him every day I was able to.
I watch couples kissing and I cannot believe I did this once, so readily put my mouth on someone else’s mouth and exchanged fluids. Kissing has become this alien behaviour I can no longer get my head around. I cannot remember why I used to want to do this or engage in it, what was the need to put my mouth on someone else’s mouth? I cannot remember.
Through the pandemic I think, the reason it is so hard for me right now is because I made all the wrong decisions.If I am suffering it’s because it is my fault. I stayed in a relationship I didn’t want to be in for too long and I have held out for someone who couldn’t make up their mind about me and this is why I am at my parent’s house wanking into the night trying to forget the stress induced by this reckless, tory government who are forever riding high in the polls.
This idea of accumulation in a relationship is reinforced by our neoliberal late capitalist hell-system of more more more. You are in a relationship, you buy a house, have one kid, have a second kid so the first one isn’t a cunt, trade the first flat in for a bigger home.There is a building and a moving forward. There has been no building for me, there is no moving forward. I start to feel left behind by my friends.They are all enclosed in circles of love they have found for themselves. I hear of friends of friends moving to Margate or Scarborough with their partners, they want to be near good schools or more green. I watch this through my phone. I have crossed no milestones, nothing has happened to me. I am asking strangers I never meet, whose faces I cannot decipher even after seeing the obligatory five profile photos, how many siblings do you have, what’s your favourite colour.
The abundance of love is annexed with every creation of a family. Maybe I just miss my friends.
When the world eventually opens up, I start to work. When I meet men I like, they are already in relationships. When people get together and talk about their weekends spent with their children and their families, their holidays to Cornwall, their escapes from the city to their in-law’s second homes, their flights to the Greek islands because they deserve it, showing me their puppies as if they are children and cooing to their screens, I stay silent. To what extent has the world really opened up? How can a relationship even begin in a time which demands all or nothing? My needs are so vast, the surface connections I make cannot meet them. How can I know if I actually like someone or if I’m merely trying to escape from the pain? I fear being with someone because I am desperate, but I am desperate to be with someone. The glint of hope I feel when I make someone laugh and then they turn out to be taken is crushing. If it’s not true love I don’t want it. I can’t bear to demand so much from someone, to need so much from another person so I shut down and don’t bother trying.
A friend tells me, when you can’t afford a baby you get a dog, when you can’t afford a dog, you get plants. I buy four.
I am on a job when a very handsome man flirts with me for three days straight. He is married with children but it’s gorgeous to be teased and watched. I am premenstrual so my libido is off the charts. I lie on my bed and I put my dildo inside me and I ride it as I lay down and put my sucking vibrator on my clit at the same time. I think of him, I think of riding his cock and his mouth on my boobs trying to take them all in, I think of our open mouths, I think of his arms and his strong legs and his hands pressing me into him so he’s deeper inside me, I think of the sounds I would make, I think of him when he said, I will protect you, to a child we were in charge of and how I got wet—instantaneously. I come so hard and for so long, the orgasm is full, full of him, full of my desire for him and his body and for my body feeling desire. I keep my eyes closed and remember this is what sex used to feel like when it was centred someone you want who wants you. Tears flood my eyes, roll down my cheeks and I sob pressing my head back into the pillow, for all of the grief, the touch I haven’t had, the mistakes with men I haven’t been able to make, for all the sex. For love I haven’t been able to secure for myself.
I am desperate for touch. I am a drug addict. I cannot wait for the hairdresser to wash my hair.
Walking through Soho is Dionysian largess, it’s like the last two years haven’t happened, like it was all a fever dream and we’ve abruptly woken up sweating on one another. I still give way on the pavement.
I agree to one date in the year I am on Hinge. It is the day before the tier system is introduced. I meet him around the corner from my friend’s house at a pub close to my car so I can make a quick getaway if I need to without having to use the tube. I am early and he is on time and although we were quite flirty over messages when I see his face, all of the anticipation drains away.We enter the pub but every table is taken and we cannot go inside.What ensues is a gallop to every restaurant or pub on Roman Road like they are a life raft on a sinking ship, trying to find someone to take us in. We are met with refusal and apologetic restaurant owners blocking their front doors, saying they are full.We even try the racist old man pub. Eventually, right on the main road with cars revving past us enveloping us in fumes, we find an outside spot at an Italian restaurant, which is basically a garden table they have bought from B&Q. We are Parisian dining in October in our coats with a waiter in full PPE taking our temperatures as we take our seats and we are barely able to hear one another over the traffic. I have to keep leaning in and shouting, what? can you say that again? He occasionally looks at me strangely and I wonder if I have forgotten how to talk to people or make small talk. We see other couples desperately searching for a place they can romantically slobber over one another in privacy and I feel smug we have a place even if it is a garden set. It’s a pleasant enough evening and at the end, I give him a hug goodbye. I leave feeling lonely, relieved not to be with him, unsure what he thinks of me. He messages later saying he hopes we can see one another again. I text back… maybe as friends. I can’t tell my different types of depression apart, is this regular depression or corona depression or brexit depression or schmegular seasonal depression, or is it that I have not been fucked by anything other than USB powered and pleasure is a forgotten language to me now? He asks for my number and I give it because I feel bad but I don’t reply to his messages. He continues to text me once a month for six months with some variation of, here I go again, maybe this time I’ll get a response, until I block him.
I check my phone every three minutes as if someone cares about me.
I dream that an old man, his belly hanging out of his jeans, stands behind me while I’m working. He puts his mouth on my neck and sucks my skin, as I talk to people and boss them around. He tells me he has a big dick and he can fuck me if I like, I feel him pressing into me. As he walks away, I sink to my knees, hold the edge of a mattress between my teeth hoping it reins me in and I look up at him. He laughs. When I wake up, I’ve come in my sleep.
A friend and I drive to the beach. I tell her
I feel self-conscious about my body after the lockdowns, I barely exercise. I am soft and giving when I poke my fingers into my middle, I tell her
I am shy about showing my body and she says she likes what she sees.We stride along the beach, she
is built like an outdoor sculpture, like photos I’ve seen of MarieThérèse-Walter,strong and outdoorsy, good and healthy. I enter the sea in a swimsuit and we stay in the cold water for an hour as we tread water, we scream, fuck corona fuck you fuck off fuck off fuck off you cunts.When we dry off, I say
I need to open my heart and I do bridge pose for the first time in months. She makes an ‘ugh’ sound as I tip upside down, my chest is stretched out and I rock in place enjoying the burn down my body.As I come down, she says, you went really high and I say, oh I did these back bending exercises months ago, you just need to do this, and I show her puppy pose, I press my breasts into the sand and my bum goes in the air and she makes a gurgling noise like she’s eaten something really tasty and then says, oh my god, I haven’t seen someone do that in a long time. I want to fuck her immediately, I want to reach over and kiss her but I don’t and I have to actively fight this urge. I invite her over for dinner but she says she has to get back. I think of her as I have a wank at home.
It’s not that I want less for anyone around me, I just want some of it for my own.
We are in a period of acutely wanting to forget. I go out-out once. Most parts of the world do not have access to the vaccine, have not had one jab and here I am double vaxxed, using this privilege as a license to get pissed. I don’t know how to download my NHS passport because I don’t go anywhere and by the time I remember I have to take a lateral flow test, it cuts into my makeup time so I’m rushing out the door. We go to a day festival called Daytimers in Blackhorse Road, I sway with a hundred people on the dancefloor. I drunkenly kiss a young woman whose face I don’t remember in front of my friends as if I am a teenager again. When I put my nose next to her nose, I realize my jaw is out of practice and it’s as if I fight her with my mouth, I want to be open and closed. My friends tell me she couldn’t take her eyes off me. When we leave to go to another venue, I don’t take her with me and I refuse my friends’ requests to take me back to find her.
Outdoor space is the new premium, it’s how we communicate to one another of the changed reality, of our different priorities. I have my parents’ garden but it is too bare to go out and enjoy it, too stark and open, too exposed to the neighbours. My dad takes pride in cutting the grass too close to the ground.◊