When I am nineteen a woman shoves her hand down my pants in a parking lot and I let her. The yellow lamplight casts deep shadows on her eyes and a bright highlight—halo—at the crown of her head.
Later, after we are dating I let her undress me and my hands tremble because I do not consider myself desirable. She lays me down on her white shag rug and her hair tickles my cheek. I feel ugly, but I do not tell her that. Scary Movie’s credits roll.
After, she asks if I am okay. I smile and say yes.
I let her undress me when I do not want her to.
She pushes. I close my eyes. I think I am supposed to let this happen.
When I am nineteen I leave her, and she tells me I am ugly. I believe her. She walks out of my dorm room, slams the door behind her. Comes back a few minutes later. I have learned to expect this.
She tells me I am not allowed to be sad. I believe her.
She tells me she is going to kill herself. I believe her when she tells me this would be my fault.
I have nightmares about her coming through locked doors.
An asteroid is an inactive body orbiting the sun.
The word originated in the early 19th Century from the Greek word meaning “star-like.”
But they are not stars.
I have a one-night stand with a woman after watching Hook. She undresses me on her bed: shirt, pants, bra, and underwear, until I am only wearing socks. I do not undress her. I do not pull her to me, but I kiss her and she tells me I am beautiful. I do not believe her. Maybe I say thank you. She pushes. I let her. I do not think at this point I am allowed to tell her no.
I lay awake next to her while she snores and her cat’s bell jingles in the hallway.
The next morning, she drives me to campus and the woman who comes to me in nightmares sends me a text message, calls me “slut.” I do not thank the woman for the ride back to my dorm.
When I am twenty I sit in the room of a boy and a bottle of vodka.
He gets drunk mixing it with root beer and tries to unbutton my jeans. I push him away. He kisses my jaw and I try not to think about the alcohol on his breath.
He says he loves me when he’s sober and my hands tremble because I believe him. And I believe him again when he tells me I am beautiful. It is his conviction as he says it. It is the blue of his eyes.
He holds me when the nightmares come; when my eyes go away mid-thrust, he stops and holds my face, tells me to look at him. He tells me to name him. To recognize him as not her. He does not push. And I think about safety, and that for the first time in a year the nightmares stop for three weeks.
He leaves in March. He does not come back. He says I shouldn’t have expected him to stay. I think I deserve this.
A meteoroid is a small particle broken off from an asteroid orbiting the sun.
Most of these burn up when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. To make it through the atmosphere the space rocks have to be at least 82 feet across.
The nightmares come back.
In the dream she walks in and tells me I asked for this. Like I invited her through the door. Sometimes she presses on my thighs where I used razor blades to draw lines and her hands are on fire and she looks at me with cold eyes. I cannot move. I do not scream. She does not leave.
I wake up sweaty. I check the deadbolt on my door. Unlock it. Lock it again. Go back to sleep.
An asteroid larger than one mile across would effect the whole world. But this only happens every few million years.
When I am twenty-one I undress a woman, and feel her pulse under my lips. She does not undress me, does not reach for me, kisses me anyway. It isn’t until a year later that I think about how familiar that sounds.
When I am twenty-two I wonder if she wanted those nights. When I ask her, she does not tell me. She does not talk to me for eight months after I ask her. I assume the worst. When we talk again she does not bring it up. Neither do I.
A meteor is what we see as meteoroids burn up in the atmosphere. They are tails of light streaming across the sky and disappearing.
When I am twenty-two I trace spirals on the torso of my lover. I tug his boxer briefs so that I can see the skin of his hipbones, soft points in the light of the lamp. I learn his body differently, and he learns mine differently. We do not ask to be naked in front of each other.
We try to relearn what it means to see. Try to relearn the definition of a body.
On a morning in June, we wake up together and I go to make coffee. He tells me I was crying in my sleep. He didn’t know if he should have woken me up.
I tell him that next time he can wake me up.
Our unsteady hands hold each other and we are something whole for a summer.
A meteorite is a body that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere.
When I am twenty-three I press my palms to a woman’s hips, breathe into her belly button.
I drink wine and hope she does not see my hands tremble.
On a morning in June, we wake up together and she goes to make coffee. When she comes back, she tells me I was crying. She asks me about the nightmare.
I tell her it’s the same as always: a door opening and shutting.
There are nights when I hold her face, and I name her over and over again and she looks at me, afraid of the fear in my face. She does not ask what I see.
She does not hold me if I do not ask her. I want her to want to hold me. I want to be held together by someone else’s hands. When she leaves me, I think it is my body’s fault. Even when she tells me it isn’t.
The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter contains asteroids that are more than 500 miles across. Even though they don’t pose any risk to Earth, they are 500 times larger than the size of the asteroid that would threaten our civilization.
When I am twenty-four I get drunk on whiskey and thread my fingers through a woman’s hair and kiss her. I breathe into her jaw and the hollow below her ear. We are drunk on all the ways we hate our bodies, and all the ways we do not hate each other’s bodies.
She likes rough hands, and I like my hands on her stomach, and her throat. I like her arched back and the way my hands twist around her hair. I like my hips on top of her hips.
She rolls me over, kisses my neck. I think of the boy with vodka, and the woman in my nightmares and I push her away. My hands shake. She notices. She asks if I am okay. I say yes. I mean no. I close my eyes. I shake my head. I can’t tell.
I leave another bruise below her collarbone.
She says it’s okay. Everything is okay.
Asteroids can have erratic orbits. Scientists track their orbit by predicting where they will be and recording when and where they actually show up. It is inexact: guess work until enough data is collected.
I am afraid I am turning into someone who pushes. Who leaves. I wonder if I use alcohol the way the boy did: to hide the way my hands shake; to pretend that they don’t. If I let my hands tremble their way to hips and bellybuttons and clavicles and jawlines then there is something—someone—to hold on to, and I can ignore the face from the parking lot stuck in the middle of my forehead. If I leave bruises in the shapes of asteroids on clavicles because I want to claim a body and leave it marked then everyone will know I am not in control, I cannot be trusted. If I press my thumb against the throat of a lover the way the boy with vodka did, then no one will try to hurt me. If I crash into enough bodies, maybe I will be able to redefine what it means to leave.
Martha Lundin is a nonfiction candidate at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Their work most recently appears in Ninth Letter