Barbed Wire Kisses
The surgeon who wired my jaw shut after the attack described some of his other patients as housewives who wanted to lose weight. That was and is so mysterious to me. If they wanted to lose weight to be more desirable, then why do something that made it impossible to kiss? A barbed wire jaw is anti-erotic; you can't even speak with any sort of clarity or ease. Why would anyone choose that?
I had never kissed anybody when my jaw was wired shut. And it's been long enough since it happened that I don't remember if I already had this gag reflex, if brushing my teeth sometimes made me vomit, before. I am orally fixated and I have TMJ. It's quite the conundrum.
And I really can't imagine anyone finding me desirable when my jaw was wired shut. I was so full of shame, walking around hunched over, mumbling through a cage of wire, writing little notes to people when I was too self-conscious to deal with the drool and spit involved in trying to speak. Living off weight-loss drinks because I couldn't bear Ensure. Sitting in a little room watching her watch him and him watch dating games on TV. Leaving when I couldn't bear it, back to my Joy Division and my candles.
And yet. And yet, tonight I'm thinking of you and I want to imagine it differently. Imagine that we had met the year before, my first year of college. Imagine that you missed me when I was late arriving for the semester, and that when I arrived you called me up and came over despite my diffidence. Listening to Disintegration together, you sprawled on my bed while I slouched cross-legged with my back against the wall.
What would we have talked about? It was so hard for me to speak, so embarrassing, that I have trouble imagining our conversations. But you're always so good when I get awkward and don't know what to say. I'd love to have sat with you under a comforting stream of words, to be permitted to simply listen. To have forgotten my awkwardness and shame after awhile, when the lack of demands and the interesting things you had to say made me excited and safe enough to speak up myself.
You've spent your fair share of time in hospitals, too. Your voice shook telling me about returning from a three-day stay in the hospital; about the older femme who held you tenderly, undressed you, went down on you to bring you back to your body. It should have been me. I would have brought you roses in the hospital, I would have stolen a moment of privacy to take you in my mouth through that thin hospital gown. I would have brought you home.
My sex is all about my mouth. I love reading to you like this, feeling heat in my face and wondering if I see it in yours when I dare a quick glance up to meet your eyes. And I love biting, hard little nibbles like I'm eating something delicious. You are delicious. You are the fruit that led us out of the garden, you are as tasty and difficult as a pomegranate, your flavor is perfect. When I bite you, you belong to me.
The truth is my mind keeps moving away from this. There was no way for me to bite you with my jaw wired shut. I want to substitute sex memories for the bad-body memories and flashbacks; but at the time there were no sex memories.
My mantra for that time, courtesy of Joy Division:
Mother I said please forgive me
I'm doing the best that I can
I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through
I'm ashamed of the person I am.
Jesus and Mary Chain wrote about barbed wire kisses; I just had the barbed wire.
There is something about the fact that it is my jaw he broke. I am consumed with questions of visibility, passing, voice. For the space of a few months he took my voice away.
It's so odd thinking about those months that I wandered my campus like a ghost... in tremendous pain, unable to communicate, separated from other people by a metal cage. I felt invisible and at the same time shamefully branded. Most of all, unable to receive comfort.
It brought back the way I felt in high school. Drifting disassociated through the halls, when it all became too much I would lean my head against a wall and try to become as empty as it was. My dearest dream was to be invisible, and it was impossible; I was hyper-visible, there was a spotlight on me, every day brought fresh humiliations. My most comforting thought was that one day every one who had known me would be dead, all traces of my life gone, and it would be as though I had never existed.
Having my jaw wired shut brought all that back. After a year of freedom I was slammed back into shame.
How did people read me with my jaw wired shut? I tried to get out of French and into a poetry class that semester, and the professor said no. I still hate him for that. What did he see when I asked him? Did he notice my jaw was wired shut? Or was I just ugly, crazy? I still am self-conscious about eating a sandwich with a knife and fork; sometimes I'd rather hurt myself on that sandwich than mark myself as different.
They hadn't warned me that removing the wires would hurt. That memory is hazy, but I know it hurt. I remember several doctors chatting as they unwired me, and one of them telling me that I wasn't in pain.
They hadn't warned me that the muscles would atrophy. So I was shocked when, after the unexpectedly painful unwiring, I was still unable to open my mouth. I wonder now why I wasn't given physical therapy. At the time they just told me to chew gum.
I couldn't have done this then. Couldn't have opened my mouth wide enough to slide your tongue between my teeth. I wonder if I would have this need to take you in my mouth if I had never been broken.
Your tongue on my scars. Your face nuzzling the patch of my face with nerve damage, the places that are numb or tingle. And most of all, your kiss. Kissing through barbed wire, kissing through cage bars. Your breath in my mouth. Your tongue running along the wires on my jaw.
Imagining this kiss, imagining warm breath that cold cold winter, I imagine redemption. Sometimes I still look in the mirror and see Frankenstein, the lines of my face are different than they were. And there is always that memory of my face reflected in the elevator after the attack, all bloody and broken and wrong.
Here's to a different kind of sense memory -- the memory of wanting you. To balance old memories of pain there are new ones: taking your finger in my mouth and closing my eyes with delight. Rubbing my face against your skin, feeling you on the places that are no longer numb. Rolling your nipple around my tongue. Memories that make the world ripple and go soft. The convex angles of desire.
Let's rub our shame together until we set it on fire.