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David Davis
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David Davis

an interlude
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Why am I like this? I return to this question over and over in my fiction, and I wish I didn’t. I think it’s self-destructive. Why search for an explanation for every desire and fear unless you believe that one can be found? The urge implies the paradoxical belief in both one’s inherent wrongness and in the ability to correct it, as if it were possible to pull it up by the roots or cut it out like rot.

I’m sick of intellectualizing every emotional fluctuation and fantasy, every craving and mood, I tell my therapist, with whom I spend 45 minutes a week doing the very same. I think the point of therapy—of my therapy, anyway—is to unfuck myself enough that the self-destruction loses its appeal. No more Why am I like this? But that hasn’t happened yet, or I would have stopped writing about it.

I met up with a sadist last weekend, and as with any test of endurance, I was given the opportunity to ponder the question at length while hooded and naked on the floor, undergoing varying kinds of pressure and sensation on vulnerable parts of my body. Flinching and bruising, once almost fainting, I focused on it almost angrily, frustrated. I’m accustomed to attributing Why am I like this? to growing up, as we all do, in a world where the queerphobia is structural and systemic. But if gender, a cornerstone of normalcy, of capital, of the imperial core, can be destabilized, so can everything else.

I’ve talked about the pain/pleasure binary before, about how it’s fake, or, as I said another time, an “unwieldy tool for our understanding of goodness and badness and purpose and meaning.” It is one thing to recognize that we construct, and co-construct, sensation, that it is not only entirely subjective, but experienced with and alongside our histories, traumas, cultures, and social lives, maybe even on an epigenetic level. It is another, I think, to suggest that pleasure as it was once constructed is disappearing.

Even now, healthier than I have ever been, the anxiety shrieks, the paranoia burns. The forests burn, too, while the ice caps melt and the fash creeps. What if we are not given the opportunity to reject the pain/pleasure binary, I worry, feeling the boot pressing into the thin skin of my forehead, but instead have it wrested from us?

Then we rebuild pleasure from the remains, as people always have, the boot reassures me.

But what if we can’t? I ask.

Then you will die, says the boot. You were going to, anyway.


David tweets at @k8bushofficial. Their second novel, X, is now available for preorder from Catapult.

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DAVID
sex and sensation
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