Red Is the Color of My Bloody, Bloody Heart

The last time I had sex, I lost my red glasses though I didn’t know it at the time. If I did, I doubt I would have lingered too long on the symbolism. It would have been too bald, too easy to pluck.

What aren’t you seeing? Everything you don’t want to see.

I did not realize the glasses were missing until three days later, because I rotate through many pairs depending on how I want to look as I look upon the world.

On the day I lost this pair, I was wearing all red. Not the dark, dried-blood shade that feels like a waste of a good thing, but the orange-inflected tomato that enlivens the Sioux and Semitic strains of my DNA. The red that makes my hair and skin glow.

I wear it when I wish to activate myself and everyone around me.

I have many, many tubes of lipstick in this color. I wear it even when I am wearing a mask. This red exudes a power not merely visual. An energy frequency that’s maybe even a microwave ray. Havana Syndrome: the lipstick edition.

I am only partly kidding.

The dress was one I had been eyeballing all summer but had only purchased when everything seasonal went on sale. It made the dress more special to me—as if it had waited for me, registering my desire whenever I visited it on the store’s rack, eluding others’ attentions as a form of fidelity.

Because why would you not want this dress if you noticed it?

It had pockets and could be worn three different ways depending on how you tied its long ribbons. It was a starchy cotton maxi with two ruffles near the hem. Best of all: it was red. That red.

When I put the dress on, it did not obscure the obvious attributes of my 50-year-old body–my large breasts, hips, stomach. It made them seem like beautiful, bright ideas.

Really, I can’t believe I waited three months to own this dress.

The day I wore it to have sex, I coupled it with big earrings and red lipstick and—yes—the red glasses. My lover couldn’t look anywhere else. I’d wanted to conjure that response from him, though I was still angry for all the reasons you can be angry with a person with whom you were once closer.

They were good enough reasons that, if I listed them, you might mind that I was angling for sex with him.

He surely had a list of his own.

I’ll be clear now. The sex wasn’t that good. It rarely was, because my lover fucks like most handsome and talented men.

Like the fuck is a favor.

I’d wanted to feel that rush, though–the rush of someone else’s blood. I’d wanted to be feted and, yes, a reason to wear the dress. My lover was always a very good reason.

We were meeting in the afternoon, so I knew he’d chuck me before sunset. I checked with myself twice to make sure we weren’t doing more than we could handle.

Isn’t it amazing how long clamoring for a parent can last?

When I arrived I saw he’d made a stab at cleaning up his loft. Had arranged his daybed prettily—conspicuously–and set up a tray of fruit with which to fete.

I munched some melon and watched him watch me until he chivalrously leapt past my defenses.

That’s a terrible sentence, I know, and terribly out of vogue. But sometimes it takes a snake-charmer you know to finagle past walls erected by necessity rather than choice. Even if the walls are partly erected because of him.

He and I share chemistry and a long and storied past. He can make me laugh and love as no one meeting me now ever could.

This time he switched out our eyeglasses and sang a silly scatting song about the switch. Slipping an arm around my waist, he danced me to the daybed. Limbs and mouths entangled and–long before I could relax into the long line of his muscles, the pillow of his smooth warm skin–untangled again.

Afterward I tied my dress back on, calmly reapplying lipstick while he watched, not entirely idly. Maybe even snuck a peek at his phone. He began to talk of his family, then trailed off when I offered no prompts. My silence took will power. Long ago it’d been established I would not become part of his clan nor would he know my own.

He said a few lovely things I pretended not to hear because by now I was angry. Angrier still for being angry. What was the point of our by-the-numbers folly? I already knew everything I needed to know about us.

Everything except where to place this tomato-red longing, I suppose.

When I was finished arranging myself, I asked where he was taking me for Sunday lunch. He nodded, just as calmly. He knew the drill as well as I did.

We strode across the park, not exactly touching. Two warring parties in a temporary truce. I ordered three courses at an outdoor Italian cafe that had seen better days.

Ensalata di prosciutto. Frutti di mare. Meatballs with a glass of wine.

My lover is a sober vegetarian.

While he paid the bill, I texted a neighbor. Not someone I knew well, just someone clever and local. When he returned I smiled too brightly and said I had somewhere to be now that it was true. He looked at me for a long moment, not saying as many things as I.

We walked two blocks together, freed from the falsehood of a future. Admired a pollinator garden in the park, greeted a favorite tree. I slipped my hand into his and he squeezed back. “Hey sweety,” he said in his mellifluous, low-pitched rumble.

Then I pulled his ear to my mouth. “I still love you,” I whispered because I could not stop myself. He winced.

Only a block after we parted ways, my neighbor met me with clever cocktails—pear liqueur and champagne, the precipice of fall and summer in a bottle. She and I sprawled on the grass with little cups produced from her bag. Still, my lover’s wince kept swimming before my eyes, my whispered confession drowning out her clever words. Later still, when the sun had dropped and I’d drunk more than I nearly ever did, I spied her purse hiding in the grass as we stood to walk away.

But not my red glasses.

It was three days before I wanted to wear red again, this time for something having to do with Mars and his big-dick drive. Wincing the way I’d been trying to forget my lover had winced, I ran through my rolodex of that evening and saw the glasses abandoned in stubby city grass.

It couldn’t be, it couldn’t be, I thought, racing down to the park as a martini mom might hasten after a child left behind in a bar.

Christ, my love of things knows no bounds.

Somehow the glasses were right where I’d left them. Intact, nary a scratch. I buffed them out. Put them on with a satisfaction as great as if the interlude itself had been erased.

No one else may have wanted them, but I still did.  Desperately.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy