Rooms Full of Silk and Lavender

Sex on Tuesday

photo of columnist cassandra branch

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Content warning: Death, violence

I’ve been told that the way I write about sex is too tender, too soft to be gripping and too emotional to be vulgar. Perhaps this is true. Maybe, this is more defiant than I’d like to admit. As I sit down to write these articles, I find within myself the profound conviction to be radically soft. The more I think about it, the more I realize that mine is defiance born out of an urge to protect my love and my sex life from the sometimes hideous world waiting outside my door. Queerness is shaped by its resistance to violence, and frankly — I’m tired of battering down the hatches. I am tired of strength. When I write about sex, I want to hold a space for all of us covered in silk and smelling like lavender. 

So far, I’ve resisted writing about the ugly truth. I’ve written about the heart-warming, funny, so-romantic-it-drips-with-honey, even uncomfortable truth, but in actuality, I’ve skirted around the edge of topics that truly scare me. I’ve not wanted to confront the ugliness, and instead, I’ve chosen to focus on what’s easiest to write. This month is different. This month, I cannot think of sex without thinking about its razor-sharp edge. As a queer woman, so many of my associations with sex are fraught, raw, hot to the touch. All of this exists in my rearview mirror, as I speed away with my foot on the gas. Desperately, I’ve focused only on the road in front of me. I’ve narrowed my vision and I’ve been too afraid to turn around. Apparently, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Apparently, I’ve not been driving fast enough and the ugliness has reared its grotesque head.

Here is the ugliest truth of all: In 2018, my friend was murdered. He was funny, sharp and stubborn. Most of my memories with him involve board games, which he loved passionately and sometimes to a fault, or the numerous times he tried to teach me chess (I never learned). The news would later theorize his death was a possible hate crime, telling the whole world in big, bold block letters that my friend was gay, that this had been a late-night meetup gone bad, that the person with him had “panicked.”

When he died, the world felt as if it was dangling by a thread, swaying softly back and forth like a creaking swing set against a warm breeze. He died and I learned all at once about the fragility of life and the terrifying reality of hate. He is gone forever and all there was to do was to try to glue my heart back together and go on.

Now, in the chill of November, it all rushes back to me like an oncoming freight train. As much as I try to avoid it, I cannot help but think of it constantly. Even under the cover of the fast arriving winter nights, as my partner kisses my fingertips and the inside of my legs, I cannot stop thinking about everything that never was and about the preciousness of what is. I think painfully of all the things he will never get to do, all the things I get to do every day. It’s because I know just how rare my ability to live out my identity is that I honor it with sweet poetics and sentences coated in sugar. Getting to walk hand in hand with my partner through the aisles of a grocery store or simply down the street becomes a sacred act when I realize that not everyone gets to experience it. Maybe subconsciously, I’ve been guarding my own intimacy. The reality is that for queer people, an invitation to our own bodies can be so very violent. The ugly truth is: the stakes are always life and death. 

This morning, I poured my coffee and stared out the window and past our house plants, out at the grey sky. I felt the cold air touch my face and I thought to myself: I wish that he could experience the sweetness of 23, and waking up next to your partner and going to pour their coffee and get their breakfast ready. I wished that he was still here, and I contemplated the passage of time after almost five years without him. 

Indeed, I want every gay individual to experience the tenderness of 7 a.m. with your lover’s soft snores in your ear and the cooing of waking birds outside your window. Every day, queer couples wake up next to one another and choose to keep going. Against all odds, the coffee gets made, the toast springs from the toaster, the fish gets fed and the plants get watered. That’s a feeling worth protecting, worth writing about with soft hands. That’s the feeling that was stolen from my friend, by a coward who wanted it for himself. This week, I’ve no vulgarity to muster. I lay candles on the floor and pray that someday the world will be as soft to queer people as these words I write each week. 


Cassandra Branch writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.