Sexting, Selfies and Salvation


This was my masterpiece, the last one I sent him, a few weeks ago, as we struggled to find the silent ground between X and PG-13, which was a prelude to goodbye, which started last weekend, and ended yesterday, with a song.

“Sexting,” a word I never thought I’d use, a practice I was sure I’d never do. Absolutely not. He asked me once, during the last secret, sporadic, faraway year, and I said, “No. Only word pictures.” “Even better,” he said. And they were.

Then he asked again this summer, when I would soon be near him–not specifically to see him, as that was never a part of it–but back to my island home, just across a channel, and I told him, “you will have to come see for yourself.” And he did.

After that, well, after that…

It wasn’t easy. These people that invented sexting, young and perfect, so much more perfect than they know, do not have to worry about lighting. Do not have to worry about angles. Shadows. Folds of skin. Do not try to shoot a steaming shower shot only to discover that the neck is collapsing on itself, that the lines over the lips are defined by sweat, that things shift and swing in certain positions. You have to be a gymnast, a scientist, an artist. It was better once I discovered the timer. But still there is lighting, the twisting, the squeezing, the study of gravity.

It was all a rush but also there was a layer I did not expect. I didn’t just look at his pictures. I could not stop looking at mine. Sometimes I looked at mine longer. In the creation of them, there was the thrill of him, of connecting with him, but there was also the thrill of connecting with me, honestly, with Who Had Made me. With Who Had Made Us. It was not porn, it was something else, sacred sexuality, maybe art, maybe love. Afterwards, I was elated and exhausted. I kept looking at my pictures, part appalled, part adoring.

Like any creation, once it it was unleashed, there was the fear it would be rejected. That I would not see the GOOD GOD or the HOLY GOD, BABY that made me audibly inhale. There was that moment when I hit “send,” not knowing what would happen, where my mouth was dry, and I was irritable and distracted until I saw that tiny “1” next to the message icon (I had the notifications turned off because, well, because) or “2”…or rarely “3,” which meant it was really good…

When it was received, absorbed, when it had succeeded in intoxicating, and we were bound together in that moment, I would look again at the photo, this thing I had never seen in myself, and the whole experience would replay. It was not like sex with myself. It was not like fantasy. It was intimate, like tumbling into a moment, the one where I might blurt out, “I love you,” even if I knew it was only for right then, or, please God, another time soon.

We could not keep it up, though, holy God, it was exhausting. The planning, the positions, the consuming quest for opportunity, on my daily hike, behind the oak tree, checking for coyotes and curious hikers amidst the mighty oaks. On a drive to the beach. A stolen moment when the light was good getting ready for work, getting carried away. Then he would send requests, directions, my heart racing as the shots failed, then finally came alive.

The fucking song he sent–drums that chisel out bone, sweat and tears trampling wilted roses on a sold out stage–a blessing, final curtain, an incantation through that moist and salty wasteland, “At least we stole the show…” And we did.

I will keep the pictures, but where to keep them? For now, they are stored with him, in his messages, next to his name, which still makes me shudder. I don’t know if he will keep mine.

I will feel this for awhile. Maybe longer. The ache of electricity where it once flowed, the sudden cessation, like a phantom limb, the scorched flesh, and spirit.

This might be for the young, after all.

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