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How To Be Erotic

Caitlyn Luce Christensen

How To Be Erotic
Caitlyn Luce Christensen

Illustrations by Anna Mohr

First, forget your early anger. Forget twelve years of abstinence-only sex
education. Forget the Mason-Dixon line. Forget the scientific diagram
of a penis cut in half. Forget “vas deferens.” Forget the pink plastic model demonstrating the purpose of your body. Forget the pamphlet that
advised, “Men have the stronger sex drive, women have the stronger love
drive.” Forget the promise of disease. Forget your signature, which you
made when you swore you would wait until marriage. Forget “the safest
sex is saved sex.” There was no mention of you or your wanting. Forget
You were taught to cover up sex like a net covers fish. Forget this, too.
Spool your fantasies out on a long string. Hold this aloft. Launch this in
a paper lantern. Watch as the lantern becomes entangled in telephone
wires, and then tree limbs. Watch as your fantasies spread and set the
roofs of your neighborhood alight.
Preserve your fantasies like canned peaches in jars. Line them up on the
basement shelf. There is no one to tell you what to keep inside.

Next, remove your clothes, then your underthings, then flesh/muscle/
bone. Reduce your body to limbic system, bundles of nerves, some
leftover watery sacs. Half-formed, bend this body over the fence as the
night bus passes and illuminates what’s left of your face. Fuck what
you’ve been told. Fuck the people who told you.
Somewhere in your half-formed body, a bell rings. You tilt back your
head and gulp the thicky flow.
And push up into the tight tight spots.
Half-formed, come on the bottom bunk of the bed you shared with
your sister. Wake in the morning with a pillow-pressed face.

Find any of the following arousing: snails ingesting and secreting calcium to encase themselves in their own shells; eight twisted hairs growing
from a puckered scar, the remains of what was a potentially cancerous
mole; unwrapping the plastic from a red bean cake, eating this whole
while still on the street outside the market where you made your purchase; puncturing a runny yolk with a fork; two slugs winding themselves about one another as they dangle on a long mucous-y string; the
insisting A flat in Chopin’s Prelude to Opus 15, Number 28; your doctor running a stethoscope over your camisole, instructing you to “now,
breathe naturally.”

Acknowledge your thirst. Drink it up in a crazy straw. Drink up your
crazy. Acknowledge fluid and mess, the sound of air escaping from a balloon, what crusts in the lining of clothes, what seeps out of a flickering
body, a body back and forth, a body hinging at its close. Acknowledge
index finger pushing apart. Acknowledge the slap of thigh on thigh. And
dark curls left behind in bed. Let disgust be a thing you swallow whole.
Acknowledge what hardens, what softens, what expands to make room.
Press hand to sacrum. Acknowledge what moves.
Lick fingers. Press fingers to every plate. See what crumbs stick.

Role-play as albatross. Tenderly preen your lover’s feathers. Alternate
between opening your beak and rattling it against your lover’s, like a castanet. Role-play as bird of paradise. Create an ellipsis of blue and black
around your head. Transform your body into geometrical abstraction.
Role-play as goose. Dive to the bottom of the lake. Bring up a bit of
grass in your beak. Use this to build a nest.
In this case, language is the net that covers the fish: an obstruction, and
under it, something alive and slithering. Dip your hands into your own
scum-rimmed puddle. Allow silt to run over your fingers, and clench
algae like handfuls of a woman’s dress.
Remember the kiss in the street corner snow. Remember the grip of the
hand. Remember body pressing body while together on the cabin floor.
But with your memory be spare. Teaspoon it out in measures. With each
one the past steps further away. Each word fixes memory’s image and
erases it. Remember what can be lost little by little. Remember mouth
pressed to indentation in the throat.

And even though death, and regardless of death, and in the face of
death, and notwithstanding death, and in defiance of death, and although death, and undeterred by death, and despite death, your body,
thrums and flutters. Despite death, bone and the canvas of skin hung
upon it. Despite death, from somewhere inside, that unrepentant ringing. Despite death, you move to answer.



Caitlyn Luce Christensen is an essayist who has had her work
published in places like Diagram, Gigantic Sequins, and Blunderbuss
Magazine. She is from rural Virginia but lives in Pittsburgh now. At the
moment she is writing a book about climate change and Lou Gehrig’s
Email her:
Follow her: @cl_christensen
Anna Mohr has humble beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri, where much
of her childhood was spent playing potions alone in the backyard, and
watching cheetahs on the Discovery Channel. Eventually
understanding that her greatest passions are art and science, she went
to school for both. Now Anna works as an illustrator, and her current
artistic interests involve the relationship between humans and animals.
Email her:

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