Many moons ago, at last call, I left a bar on St. Laurent with a male friend because he offered to give me a ride home. This friend had spent most of the evening ignoring me, but upon seeing me out on the street alone in -30 looking for a cab, called me over to his car, inviting me in. At this moment in my life, I would have considered that a benevolent enough favour to offer the sanctity of my body in return, so as soon as we got in the car, I offered him a blow-job. I was very drunk but that’s relative because I was never lightly drunk or simply drunk, I was always pushed to the furthest edge of drunkenness, a state where I could fully injure myself in the ways I longed to all day, every day, but with the shame that drove that desire to self-injure, numbed and frozen.
We eventually rolled to a slow stop on a side street a few blocks from where we both lived. It was the dead of winter; the streets were barren and icy; silent trees with pure white limbs loomed over our car sex like immobile witnesses. Afterward, I shifted back into the passenger seat and pulled my long, black wool coat over my body like a blanket as he rolled down the windows a crack and offered me a cigarette. We smoked in silence listening to Nick Drake or some other moody melodic music he had on CD. I started to talk about my recent separation from my then-husband and feeling like a beach at low tide, shame momentarily washed away by sex and exposition, the stillest, oldest water sunken deep into the sand rose up and I started to cry. Once the feeling entered my body, and perhaps because this sadness was witnessed, I sobbed uncontrollably. He nervously turned the music down and blasted the heat as I pulled my t-shirt from the floor to cover my face. I pulled myself together and he drove me home.
About a year after this, we went for dinner and spoke about that night. He said, “That was so intense. You were so raw, so vulnerable.” I received this as a compliment. I had been vulnerable but only in the naked exposition of feeling. Vulnerability as I'm beginning to understand it isn't drunk and numb, it's sober and alive. Now I see that momentary opening as a sharp pin prick on a solar system of vulnerability, a distant edge of feeling in the night sky. The reclamation of my own mind teaches me so much about deeper acts of vulnerability first through immense compassion and then through really loving someone else. Vulnerability is showing up to that person wounded, flawed, exposed, and ugly, and still asking to be loved in return. Pushing through the overwhelming impulse to hide and cache myself away is the kind of pushy, messy, bloody vulnerable I’m slowly moving towards these days.
Writing this now is an act of vulnerability but it, too, is sheltered by the page, warmed and blanketed by the screen and by time. There are so many walls between us and feeling: our massive steel structures, our concrete floors, our rows of plastic goods, our drugs and our blinding lights convince us to retreat to the ever-protected and revered individual self; the market and its nasty Kings block, divert, stuff noise between us and the sticky, mucus-filled depth of our infinitely complicated souls. Under many more moons, I will try to stay in the mud.