DROWNING - When the Rum Runs Through
This is NOT a safe space. If you're new around here, please take note of the titles. Because we don't pull punches and use coded metaphors on this ship. I’m also about to give you an even more unfiltered look at the horribly cruel ways I used to speak to myself inside my head. It’s not pretty.
"YOU OWE ME" - Sexual Coercion, Expectation and Assault
FAWN, FREEZE, FIGHT, FLEE - How I Escaped That Rape Threat
I AM NOT AN OBJECT: More Rape & Death Threats
CLOVEN FRUIT - Dodging Devils in the Pale Moonlight
I'm really not much of a drinker. I mean, heck, it takes me a year (sometimes more) to get through bottles of my favorite liquors. This one took two years, in spite of the fact that I do love it. It might be the spice or it might be the rum itself.
I highly suspect that it's actually the big ole Kracken on the label.
With that said, last time, we waded through the nail-biting paranoia I experienced at my second SCA event. This is Part 2 of that night. It's a particularly low point in my life--obviously, if I am actually using alcohol as a coping mechanism--so let's get this out of the way, shall we?
Then we can finally turn around and head back up from the Underworld. It is the Spring Equinox today, after all.
…I am no Helen of Troy, but I keep gleaning tastes of it.
Like when I’m trapped against a wall and Satyr says, “I could just take it anyway.” And again at this party, surrounded by men who pretend that they’re not staring at me. I constantly catch them shifting their eyes away from me.
Except when they don’t.
22 years old
In the woods of Ontario, Candada
I have to get out of this place. And I don’t only mean this SCA event. I have to get to California. But before I can do that, I have to graduate from college. And before that, if I’m going to keep coming to these events, I have to get my own tent, and I have to learn how to defend myself.
I wish Kyle was here. Tonight it’s for more than the usual reasons. Everything would be different if I had come here with him. There would be no rush for me to learn how to fight if he was here. My black-belt fiancé would be one of the primary people helping me learn it, and I could give myself the time my training needs.
Men might still ogle me, but it wouldn’t be like this. It would be more of that envy thing behind Kyle’s back, rather than looking at me like I’m a delectable snack, just asking to be snatched off the counter because nobody here has claimed me, locked me up, cinched down the collar and leash, plopped me onto his plate.
I’m exhausted from so many sleepless nights, bolting up from those nightmares about Theo booting my door down. More so, I’m tired of fearing to fall asleep. Dreading it. Terrified of what will find me in the dark. Maybe I should just move out west now and—
Hahahahahahahahahahahahah…you are so fucking funny. Really, really cute.
You’re cuter than usual tonight.
I said shut it. I have no interest in anything you have to say.
Keeping my eyes bright and happy, I push the corners of my lips upward and push out a laugh at somebody's joke. The rum flask comes around again. I drink and pass it on.
You really think you’re moving to California?
I am. The second I graduate, I’m leaving that backwards, oppressive, abusive hellhole. Minnesota and its surrounding forests of pine-erect misogyny, satyrs, and 6’7” biker gang leaders can kiss it.
Hahahahahahaha…I’ll believe it when I see your tailpipe.
Piss off. I’m leaving.
No, you’re not. And you know it.
You have known that you can’t move to Pasadena since the moment you stepped out of LAX into Kyle’s little red car and rode through that wall-to-wall parking lot with a cloud of smog choking off your every breath. You have known since you stood on his porch, trying to enjoy the view of lush mountains you wished to someday call home. But you could barely see them for the pollution. Had to retreat back into the house after two minutes out there, didn’t you?
Couldn’t even breathe in that shit, and you think you’re going to live out there? No. You would bury yourself alive and you know it. And for what? He is a very different person out there.
He is. You saw it on that hellacious freeway. You felt it in the last two mixtapes he sent you and in the few words he writes to you. Every season they grow fewer, don’t they?
He’s busy with school. That’s all it is.
He is busy. So are you. Yet the only reason you don’t send him something every week is because you haven’t gotten anything back from him. When you do, you hear it in his voice when he speaks between songs and during your twice-yearly phone calls that cost one of you a fortune. You’re not moving to California, so why the fuck are you still engaged?
Because I love him.
Yup. You really, really do. You poor unfortunate soul.
Ursula's tentacled words worm into my ear. I can’t reply to her because I’ve sold my voice for the ability to dance on these legs. The whole Atlantic Ocean seeps onto my shore. Cold. Bitterly so. So much colder than the Pacific waters of my beloved’s home.
When the flask comes around again, I take another swig. Let the rum drown me. Not like it takes much, lightweight that I am. I can already feel the first doses warming my belly and thighs. The alcohol drowns out all the voices I don’t want to hear. Satyr's threats and Theo's threats and that surreptitious, “Milady?” from Cloven Fruit Guy. Trent’s threats and Shane’s threats and a million renditions of all the awful things I "deserve" for being what I am. Every gutting word of poetry that we recited about Halfdan R.I.P. Leadfoot and the detachment in Kyle’s voice over that tape.
The rum comes around again. Yarrrrr. Sir Vettorio be a pirate today!
Apparently so be I.
I glance at my new fighting instructor. He was really good with me this afternoon, and his wife seems amazing. I can’t wait to learn how to make that cotehardie with her. I have so much to learn from them both.
Okay, cool. He’s married. Safe. I know his wife now. More importantly, I don’t owe him a smidge as much as I owe Maghnius. Best of all, Satyr won’t come within ten feet of him, so when the rum runs through me along with all that water from supper, I ask His Excellency Baron Sir Vettorio if he would escort me to the porto-castles. He is a knight. He is a noble, so naturally he is honored to do so. Chivalrously so.
As I’ve seen countless times at these two events, and as I’ve personally done with a variety of gentlemen half a dozen times now, I lay my arm atop the limb that has been proffered. Rib high. Bent at a ninety degree angle. I bend mine to match. It alights. We set off into the dark.
We don’t say much. It’s a gorgeous night. Moon. Stars. Trees. Perfect. Up here in the Canadian woods, the light pollution is nil. No air pollution either. My owl-eyed awe over this rare glimpse of our galaxy dominates our hushed conversation. It’s a relief to be thinking about things like that again. Simple things. Beautiful things. All I want is to go back to Castle Fever and the magic of the campfire with Maya and the drummers, before Satyr happened. Before Theo happened.
When my ratty hiking boots shift from scuffing packed dirt to clomping on a green, plastic floor, I sardine myself around in the outhouse to face the door and shut it. Latch it. Lift the lid. The wrangling of cloth and the yanking of leggings and underwear ensues. There on the pot, I make serious consideration of that whole regimental thing. It’s far more functional while wearing gargantuan layers of fabric. Efficient. Practical. Period.
I don’t wear knee-length tunics, so I won’t have to worry about flashing anybody like the Lunching Lord flashed me this afternoon.
Hey, regimental would be fun. One less constrictive, troublesome barrier between your twat and every satyr determined to bend you over whether or not you—
Panties and leggings it is. Perhaps a heavy drawstring would be best. Period harem pants require drawstrings, after all, not easy-access and non-period elastic. Can’t just yank those suckers down like you can with leggings.
That would kill two birds with one stone.
Once I exit from the plastic castle, Baron Vettorio asks me if I’d like to see his weapon collection up close--try them all out so I know better what I want when I make my own weapons. “I have my arming tent just alongside the battlefield for ease in getting ready,” he says. “Then I don’t have to walk so far in all that armor from the pavilion. I’m camped up there on the hill. Great view, but long walk.” He casts me a disarming smile and offers his arm again.
All my hackles prickle. Their little heads crest the surface of the rum sea. Each one stares at me with a single eyebrow raised and its lips pressed into a thin line. I flash an eyebrow back at them, more disappointed than I want to admit.
Well, that was short-lived trust in my new fighting mentor. So much for learning to make a cotehardie with Deirdre, because I know what this is. For once, I see it as clearly as a telegraphed teaching blow. Maybe I am learning something from all this sword-swinging after all.
“Um…” My gaze flickers to the trees where he said his pavilion is. Where his wife is. I’d really like to disappear into those trees about now. “I don’t want to make your wife uncomfortable, and I’m engaged so...“
His hand waves off the notion. “She won’t mind at all. I have an open marriage.”
“A wh—a-a what?”
“Open marriage. Her Excellency and I have three simple rules. No pregnancy. No disease. No drama.”
I blink like my lids are stuck to my eyeballs as I try to wrap my brains around that. “You—you mean…she doesn’t mind if you…?”
“Not a bit.”
My head draws back two inches as my other eyebrow shoots up. “Really?”
The shake of his head and his casual smile pop off as easily as his forehand whap to somebody’s helmet.
“Oh.” I have lost all ability to speak eloquent thoughts--or even a thought beyond one slack-jawed syllable. My eyeballs slide right, left, right, back to him. Finally, I manage to string words again. “And does she also…um…?”
“No. I mean, I wouldn’t object if she ever wished to take advantage of our arrangement, but it’s not in her nature. It is, however, in her nature to allow me to enjoy the company of others.”
Both eyebrows shoot up this time. “Oh.”
All I can do is stare at him. He gazes back at me. He is the epitome of eloquence. Elegance. Nonchalance. Perfect balance.
I've heard of marriages like this. I had a friend in college who had one. But they tended to tag-team other people together more often than doing their own thing. They'd wanted to tag-team me. I wasn't attracted to either one of them so I said no. It was also a bit overwhelming to my Catholic upbringing, abandoned or not.
It still kind of is.
Am I attracted to Vettorio? Yes. He is one of the most handsome men I’ve seen at either of these events. One of the most handsome men I’ve met in years. Dashing, charming, fun, intelligent. He’s easy to talk to, and the way we connected today on the field leaves me with no doubt that I find him attractive.
Because Kyle and I don't have an open relationship.
The dagger that’s lived inside my heart for the past year gives a sharp twist. That beloved face flashes into view. That brilliant smile. My fiancé is the most attractive man I’ve ever met in my whole life. And the sweetest, the most genuine, the most passionate. Gifted and wicked smart and wicked funny and driven. Sexy, expressive, badass, yet supremely good. My favorite man. My favorite person. If he and Vettorio were standing side by side there would be no choice.
But that’s the problem. Kyle is not here. Except for the sporadic occasions while he’s saving money for another semester, he will never be here again. Not truly. Minnesota will always be a place he will do no more than visit, and if I am not going to join him in California when I graduate, then…
Oh, fuck me running.
When I get back home, I have to break up with the man I love more than any other. I have no idea how to find words because this understanding hits me like a siege engine bombing my fortress walls. Those projectiles actually bombed me more than a year ago. I’ve just been shoving boulders into the hole as fast as the fortifications could crumble.
Then Russ and the Bong Bridge.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions. Isn’t that nice of it? I am not actually drunk tonight. Its warm, hazy blanket simply makes it easier to let myself do things I normally wouldn’t. The biggest inhibition it crumbles tonight is the barrier I’ve kept between me and the acknowledgment that my engagement is over. I’ve been death-gripping it since I got on that plane and flew back to Minnesota--can I even call it home? My grip keeps slipping. Now it’s all at my feet. Again. Everything has crashed to the smoking smithereens that smog and a concrete jungle rendered it.
So I say fuck it. I’ve already been handed the exorbitant bill for being a jingle-bunny belly dancer and a female stick-jock. (We’re all either lesbians or dick-chasers, don’tcha know?) Men slather over me. Women hate me on sight. People heap price tags on me from every direction anyway, so I may as well enjoy some of the fun of it, right?
Besides, what do I have to lose now?
I lost it last spring, so I lay my arm back on top of the handsome knight’s and I let him lead me down the hill, back to the fighting field where a few random pup tents have been erected.
My untouched body and my ravaged, lonely heart send up rockets of hallelujah. A voice far away at the back of my mind shouts that I cannot be doing this--not until I’ve officially told Kyle that I can’t move out there.
You wanna know what you have to lose? How about integrity? How about any shred of honor you’ve got left? How about any semblance of being trustworthy?
Fuck off. What good has that ever done me?
What good--?! Why would you do this? Why would you destroy your most intrinsic ethical core? This is one of the only things you have left that gives you any sort of genuine value. Beauty? Pffft. Wit? Whatever. You’re a broke college student floundering your way toward a worthless degree with no idea what you're going to do with your life. Your intelligence, your kindness, and your integrity are the only things that make you worth anything, and right now you are not exhibiting any of those qualities. Why would you do this--not just to Kyle, but to yourself?
I can’t answer that question to save my drowning ass.
Maybe I need something else to knife my heart than what’s been carving it to shreds. Maybe I need someone to touch it softly. Heck, maybe I need to prove them right about me after all, because somewhere deep down I’ve always believed those awful things they said about me.
She wants it.
Belly dancers are…
Females only get into armor to…
I’d like to add her to my collection. Such a choice cut of meat.
Shit, maybe they really are right. Maybe I’m nothing more than a shallow, rum-buzzed, horny slut in denial.
Am I? Horny?
Kinda. Maybe? Mostly I miss closeness. I miss his warm arms and that masculine scent. I miss sighing into him with my ear over his heartbeat.
Am I being added to a collection right now?
Vettorio lets me examine his armor up close. It really is extraordinary craftsmanship, unlike my scrap-heap jerry-rig with Satyr’s reek all over it. The gorgeous knight lets me examine his collection of weapons, too. Lets me handle them. They’re all very nice. Very long. Hard.
Made for rib-jabbing and gut-stabbery.
I can sense the advance coming long before he’s in range. I don’t bother getting out of the way. Why should I? Vettorio smells nice. He’s got a great body from all that fighting. His hair smells nice, too, and it’s soft. I do not like his beard. It’s wiry. Scratchy. It gets in the way of his lips, but I like the way he kisses so fuck it. The stars are perfect and the clouds are enchanting with the moon shifting in and out of them and the temperature is flawless and I am a single woman for the first time in two-and-a-half years. All except the official announcement.
All except the crying. Kyle and I did enough of that in the airport to drown a walrus. I did more when I came home from California.
You really are an asshole, you know that? Doing it in this order.
Yep. Well. Remember the proper sequence? Ground, twist hips, strike last, right?
Yeah, keep flappin’. You and your smart mouth. You are such a bitch.
So they tell me.
That tent zipper is soft when Vettorio pulls it down. Surreptitious. Like the serpentine whisper I always hear in my mind when I imagine having my tent infiltrated by some predatory satyr. It’s awkward in there with both of us. He’s kind of a big guy, but intertwined limbs and pressed bodies fix that. He knows what he’s doing, I’ll give him that. He is over a decade older than I am, and it shows in how he touches me.
Yep, I’m definitely being added to a collection. I wonder just how many times he’s done this, and with how many different girls.
The memory of that look that passed between him and his wife flashes back to mind. A conversation they’d obviously had many times. I wonder how many young, pretty things flit in and out of their house on the pretense of making garb and armor. Does Her Excellency hate it? Or does she truly not care? Is she glad that he’s not pestering her for sex as often as he would if she was his sole outlet? Is his marriage as open as he says, or does she simply tolerate it because she doesn’t want to get divorced?
Heck, did he outright lie? What would she say to me if I asked her directly for permission? Would she actually be furious if she knew where her husband was right now?
As I stare at the arched lines of the tent’s dome, all these musings flit through my head but I am not amused. Oh yup, Vettorio definitely knows what he’s doing. I oughta know. Kyle really knows what he’s doing.
Kyle would be furious with me right now. I wish I could just concentrate on how good this feels. Let it assist the rum in misting over the train-wreck of my life.
But I am furious. Furious at the reek of Los Angeles and furious at the stink of Satyr’s threats and even more furious at the bold-faced audacity of the ones Theo made. I am furious that I have constant night terrors. I am furious that I need my own tent. I don’t just want it. I need it, and I’m even more furious that I would be too terrified to sleep in it alone. I am furious at what Kyle said two mixtapes ago. Not the one after our last big fiasco. That one was my fault, too. The next tape he sent merely gutted me. No, I mean the one after I came back home from visiting California.
If it’s meant to be then it will be.
Such a shrug in his voice. I think he might have known that this could never work after I visited him, too, and I am furious that there’s nothing either one of us can do about it. Because I love him more than--
I love him.
I fucking love my fiancé. He is my best friend in the world, and I’m stabbing a knife between his vertebrae while his back is turned. I’m jamming a sword in his guts and ripping it wide. What the fuck am I even doing here? Drowning my woes in alcohol and a--
Vettorio and I both freeze at the sound of Maghnuis’ voice right outside the tent. We glance at each other. According to His Excellency, he has every right to be here with a hot young slice. I’m the asshole who’s a dirty rotten cheater, so I say, “Yeah?”
“Oh,” Maghnuis says, like he’s disappointed to prove himself right. I can relate to the sentiment. I’m pretty disappointed in myself.
Didn’t fuckin’ stop me though, did it?
“I’ve been looking for you,” Maghnuis says. I can just imagine his tense brow and his concern-filled eyes. “You disappeared and I wanted to make sure you’re all right.”
That really does touch my heart.
Unfortunately, the paranoia shoves it aside. Are you truly being protective like an SCA father figure looking out for the stupid, tipsy newb? Or are you cock-blocking because you were hoping to rack up enough nice-guy points, then slip in there when my engagement finally fell apart like who-knows-how-many other guys drooling in the wings?
I am such an asshole for thinking things like that, but there it is, and it won’t quit hammering me in the skull, so now I’m furious at Satyr all over again for making me paranoid and I’m furious at Maghnuis for not letting me live my own damn life and I’m furious at myself for being ungrateful when someone is generously looking out for me. I’m even more furious at myself for being incapable of keeping my big mouth shut. I could have been a dirty, rotten liar and sneaky tent-slinker on top of being a cheater, but ohhhhh, no! Can’t do that.
So here I am with a hot manwich crammed between the sweaty slices of my thighs and my underwear lost somewhere in this tent, feeling like the world’s biggest asshole-dipshit-slut, and I’m suddenly furious with Vettorio, too.
He is fourteen years older than I am, and suddenly that feels icky. I mean, he’s gorgeous and I am a fully grown woman. I have officially been an adult for four-and-a-half years, but I can feel the weight of this age discrepancy and the countless layers of experience he wields as deftly as those lengths of duct-taped rattan. I felt it when he made his offer outside the porto-cans, and especially when I let him seduce me under the stars. I was curious. I wanted to know.
Now I do.
Those fourteen years are way too much. All of this is too much, and I’m suddenly grateful for my friend’s interruption because I can’t fucking do this. Any of it. Men. Cheating. Camping alone. Predators, cloven-hooved and otherwise. Even this fighting thing.
Great, so was every single moment Vettorio spent on the field with me nothing more than every single moment Satyr spent riveting my armor?
My guts say yes. The only difference is that I’m not sexually repulsed by Vettorio and he actually asked, not presumed, cornered, and threatened. Doesn’t matter. It’s all the same shit. Just a different delivery. When am I going to ever find anyone who takes my fighting seriously? Or at least far more seriously than their desire to get their dick in me.
I think Hal took me seriously. Kyle absolutely does. I think Maghnuis does. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I call to him, the quintessence of casual. “Thanks for checking up on me.”
“Mm-hmm. Well, I’m headed to bed…?” The anvil teeters on the tip of the mountaintop.
“Okay,” I say.
“Are you coming?”
Fuck no. I do not want to see the look on his face after all the rustling that will have to ensue as I hunt down my panties, get my leggings right-side-out, and wrangle my dress back together. Plus, I have no idea what I smell like right now. I probably smell like Vettorio. Guaranteed he smells like me. “I’m not quite tired yet,” I say. “But pretty soon. I know my way back.”
“Oooookay. Night.” Footsteps rustle in the grass and retreat, but those two words have wrapped up a neat little package and dropped it outside the tent door. I know what’s in it.
It can only hit its mark because it mirrors everything curdling inside me.
Once I have my clothing on, I let Vettorio walk me back most of the way to my camp. I let him kiss me goodbye. I revile his beard even more now. I despise how gorgeous he is and the fact that he tastes like me. I despise myself most of all, and find it most flagellatingly delicious when Maghnuis confronts me the moment I duck inside his tent. He’s a fighter, too, and he backs me into the corners of every lie I try to make up. Not like it’s any of his business, but it still feels excruciatingly good.
Isn’t this precisely what a slut deserves? And you’ve always been a worthless slut. Haven’t they always said so?
And yet, while I revel in my masochism, another part is waking up inside me. It’s the part becoming more and more furious, and the farther into the corner he backs me, the closer I get to launching out with claws and fangs.
Who the fuck has any right to say anything about my intimate relationship except Kyle? None of these guys here have ever even met him. They have no personal loyalty to him. Maghnuis has no idea what the actual status of our relationship is, or what I have been going through for the past weeks--shit, for the past year, because I haven’t fucking told hm. I haven’t told anyone. Hell, I’ve barely just begun telling myself, so his assumptions about this situation just piss me off and hammer in the wedge of mistrust that Satyr planted into the hearts of every male friendship I possess.
I wish I could go back to trusting my friend. Trusting what Hal said about the SCA--what so many people say. I just wanted to learn how to fight and I wanted to dance under the stars, and yeah. Fine. I’m lonely, lost, and touch-starved. Affection-starved. But that’s not why I joined the SCA. I had wanted to make new friendships and share in this amazing game with all its wondrous sights.
Now all I want is to go the fuck home.
Not like that’s terribly safer but at least it’s comfortable. Okay, as long as my door doesn’t get kicked in it’s comfortable. There I can be free from this forest of pine trees and bristling dicks closing in from every direction as they dangle shiny objects and salute with their swords to hide their ulterior motives.
I yank the sleeping bag over my head and gnash my teeth, praying to hear Maghnuis start sawing logs.
As it turns out, I was able to trust him as a genuine friend. But it would take action through the years to prove it. The same was true with Michael and Robert and the other guys from The Shire that Hal had introduced me to. It was true with various men I met in the SCA, especially my house-brothers and the knight who would eventually offer me his old squire’s belt.
It was, however, not true of a great many others. Too many.
The next time I saw Vettorio was at another city’s fighter practice before we all headed off to Pennsic. He came without his wife and made it clear that he wanted to resume what had been interrupted at Castle Fever.
I did not.
I was pissed off that he was as attentive to my shield-maiden training as ever, and I couldn’t trust why. I was pissed off that, the moment his attention switched from training to seduction, it broke my ability to trust every other male fighter who offered combat advice, ran an assessing eye over me, or adjusted the angle of my weapons. It pissed me off that I could never relax my guard with them and just let them teach me.
After a time, I had to accept that, as a female fighter learning from and predominantly working with men, constant bombardment of sexual chemistry was as much a part of the deal as misogynistic hostility--and that in many ways, they are two sides of the same coin. So either I had to accept that or I had to quit.
No way I was quitting. I needed this skill too badly, and once I got a taste for it, I loved it too much.
It's too bad that acceptance of sexual attraction cannot be addressed head-on in a healthy fashion. At best, it's denied and ignored under the face of professionalism that works really hard at paying no attention to the big pink elephant who wears glitter and shakes her ass for a living.
In other words, as long as we can all pretend that I'm just "one of the guys" there's "no problem." (Except for the accusations the real guys have to weather from their wives and girlfriends, even though we've never breathed an inappropriate anything in each other's directions. I'm sure my misfiring with social cues has never helped.)
The best of them can passionately channel attraction into training without needing to get their dicks involved.
It's an overwhelming relief when there simply is no attraction.
But all too often, this issue is A) surreptitiously pursued beneath the mask of denial, B) choke-chained into denial and abstinence until it's shaking so hard that it crumbles everything around it, or C) outright swept under the carpet and stigmatized. Most stigmatized of all are we infiltrating temptresses who possess vaginas and sweet asses under our gear.
I know. We're a problem. Mostly because sex is a problem. I don't know what to do about it. In my 30-year effort to mitigate this issue, I've tried one extreme to the other and everything in between. Doesn't matter.
I can be the celibate Ice Queen in no makeup, hardening my face into unapproachable granite, or I can be Frump Girl in ratty sweats and an oversized T-shirt, hiding what I do for a living.
I can make no bones about the fact that I am the brimming cauldron of the Divine Feminine With A Sword, inviting all the wives, fighter-chicks, and girlfriends to come dance with me under the banner of "Chicks Before Dicks!"
I can be Sporty Spice and flash my middle-finger foamies of "Fuck It" as I let my--single or partner-confirmed polyamorous--martial brothers or even my instructor grab me, take me down, rip off my sweaty armored everything, and pound me right there on the fighting deck after hours.
I can mix-and-match these theories until I'm twisted up into a flexi-pretzle.
The results do not change. People make the same ASSumptions about me no matter which way I operate, so now I tend to do whatever the fuck I'm inspired to do on a day-to-day, case-by-case basis.
But back when this was my first rodeo at my second SCA event, I had no idea what to do with any of it. To have my naïveté and overwhelm capitalized on by a far more experienced member of The Chivarly? That pissed me off.
It also pissed me off that, the next time I saw him, he was more charming and gorgeous than he had been up in the woods, and I didn't dare do anything about it, no matter if I was engaged, dating around, or prancing about single.
Because I couldn't fucking trust him. Not his intentions on the field. Not his intentions off.
I had no way of knowing if his wife was as encouraging of his polyamorous exploits as he said she was. My guts told me she wasn’t, and that even if I asked her directly and she confirmed the parameters of their arrangement, she might deny how much it bothered her. Plus there was the fact that, no matter the agreements in his marriage, he was still willing to encourage infidelity with a college-age girl in a monogamous engagement.
Stan was, too. Neither one of them said a word about it. Nary a wary, “I’d like to explore this with you, but you’ve sworn fidelity to another man so you really need to get your shit stowed before we go there.”
Nope, it was definitely a case of, “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
Obviously they didn’t know me very well. I HAD to tell Kyle. This is where that Conscientiousness category of my Supertraits becomes an unyielding task mistress. I could have never looked at my own face in the mirror again if I didn’t tell him. I certainly couldn’t have looked him in the eye.
But Stan didn’t give a flying tent stake about doing things in the honorable order. His biggest concern about this other man in my life was how quickly he could get me to switch camps. He came into the SCA a few months after I did, and wound up being the guy I dated after my relationship with Kyle crashed and burned.
Excuse me. After I obliterated that relationship in a most underhanded, inconsiderate fashion.
Stan wasn’t really the problem. Neither was Vettorio. They were just symptoms.
Most of all, I was pissed at myself. For "letting a little smog, concrete, and overpopulation get in the way of love." For being lonely and "weak-willed, weak-fleshed"--for needing touch and tenderness in my life. For doing things in the completely wrong order because I was too afraid to jump ship before I had another one to sail away on.
I especially hated myself for being so fucking terrified that I needed a fucking ship. I actually didn’t want a new boyfriend. If I couldn’t have the man I loved, I wanted to be single, but I didn’t fucking-damsel-dare and I hated that.
The nightmares about Theo never ceased except when Stan spent the night, and Pennsic was coming right up. Satyr would be there. Thousands of other horny, lecherous, unscrupulous guys would be there. So would thousands of genuinely chivalrous lords and knights, and I didn’t trust myself to know the difference before it was too late. I also didn’t trust myself to not be predator bait, clueless and too-tempting with my little tasseled tushy around the campfires, traipsing tra-la-la past every dark shrub and every shadow behind the porto-castles.
More damsel shit.
So many of these things were all subconscious. I didn’t actively think about it like this. Not back then. I was just on my heels, reacting-reacting-reacting. Flinching, ducking, trying to cover. Trying to get the hell outta the way of the next steamrolling boulder disguised as a codpiece. Once the Theo Debacle and the Satyr Incident happened, Baby was planted firmly in the corner.
I pretty much spent the next months with my fingers plugging my ears and my kneecaps pressed against my scrunched eyelids. I kept trying to claw my way back to fantasy-land where the SCA was bright and happy and pretty and shiny. I wanted to go back to that night at the college when I met Hal, and I really wanted to go back to his garb party with my faerie tale ending where Kyle and I stood arm-in-arm in finery and armor under a clear blue sky without smog. I didn’t want to look at the shitstorms that had become my reality.
So I didn’t.
I drowned myself in the SCA like some people drown themselves with alcohol. I sewed garb like a madwoman, built a sword and a shield, got authorized to fight, and I blew my life to smithereens on my knees and on my back with a guy I barely knew.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: It's Equinox. Let's take a commercial break before we hit rock bottom and claw our way back up from the Underworld into the sunlight. I'll tell you about my Equinox ritual with a flowering cactus and a swaying bamboo that I salvaged from death.
--OR: You can find five decades worth of tales about being a female learning the Arts of Self-Defense HERE.
**It should be noted that I’ve never been threatened with rape by a guy nicknamed Satyr or had my life threatened by a guy named Theo. I've also never known a baron and knight in the SCA named Vettorio. That makes this tale a work of fiction.
Based on the pieces of my life that aren’t.