“You know this is going to end.”
I say to him simply and clearly: exactly the way it should be. We are naked on his bed. The room should be dark but the Central light pollution makes it feel like a movie scene. The curtains are open. I’m on my side, facing away from him. This would be symbolic – I mean, it would be in a movie scene – but really I’m just looking at the lights.
His arms are wrap around me and I feel everything. The warmth of his body, his sweat, his breath - it’s corporeal, tangible. Here. Like the movies. A story of the things I wanted. Everything is real.
But we’re just pretending.
We met at Taz in the summer. Old story. Mutual friends. He bought me a drink. And a suggestion. “Here’s a game? Let’s pretend we’ve been together three years,” he said. “Happy Anniversary, honey. I love you.”
“I love you too, honey,” I said to him simply and clearly: exactly the way it should be. “Happy Anniversary.” Then we kissed.
“Keep telling me you love me,” he says.
And I do because it’s the truth. Well, the truth in context. It’s a line used to substantiate our performance.
At night we were ferocious lovers. During the day it’s like we barely know each other.
“You know this is going to end.”
We saw each other when we could. A ritual. He’d invite me to his place. We’d talk for a minute about our days. Then we would kiss like strangers – or the complete opposite – lovers reuniting after months apart. He would tell me I’m beautiful. Then he would take off my shirt, my shorts, my bra, my panties.
“Happy Anniversary. I love you.”
His fingers are inside me, hard, fast until I lose control. He smiles, licks his fingers, asks me to taste it. I do. He lifts me up. I’m on top.
“I love you too, baby.”
The first thrust is a rush. We continue to a steady rhythm. He turns me over so I’m on my back and he’s on top of me. I feel his sweat drip down my body. We’re nose to nose. Lips touching. He tells me in short breaths how much he loves me and maybe at the moment it’s true. I say it back to him, “I love you.” We continue until we come and our breathing slows. We lay in the dark. Our bodies separate. I turn away and stare out the window. Hong Kong is beautiful and there are always the lights.
We continue like this for months. But we’re just pretending.
“I’m having a party this Saturday,” he says, “but we’re not going to hold hands or do anything couple-y. Do you understand?”
Another month passes. We have more sex. It’s great. It’s terrible. I excuse myself to go to bathroom. I find a cotton pad with blue eye-shadow in the trash. It’s a nice color. I don’t wear blue eye-shadow.
My heart tightens. I run through my options. Do I make this a thing? Do I confront him? Scream at him? Smile a tight-lipped smile? Am I allowed to cry? The cotton pad stares blue back at me.
I crawl into bed with him. I lay next to him, naked, then turn on my side and stare out the window.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. I think about how nice the lights outside are. “I’m not mad because you’re not my boyfriend” I tell him. “I found a used cotton pad.” It is the most reasonable thing I can say. I say it simply and clearly.
I start to get dressed.
“Wait,” he says, taking my arm. “That was just about sex.”
Reality is complicated. Our relationship had been based on unspoken rules. We fake love for an hour and walk away like it didn’t matter. We compartmentalize our lives. We construct a small, intimate wall to separate ourselves from the rest of the world.
“Are we only about sex?” I ask.
I feel as though my mask has slipped. I’m bewildered. Hurt. Disillusioned. To have the multiple dimensions of who I am – as a human being – excluded, except for just one superficial aspect, is disheartening.
“We’re more than sex” he says. “I want to do stuff with you. I want us to hang out more. You’re smart, interesting. You have a good heart.”
I look at the door. But it’s already been decided. I get back into bed. He wraps his arms around me.
“I love you,” he whispers. Those three words to suspend our reality.
I stare out the window. He holds me tight and neither of us say another word. The city lights shine a spotlight on our bed. My eyes get heavy. I drift off to sleep. In the morning we’ll be strangers again.