“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”– Anaïs Nin
“Push harder,” he says, staring down at me, watching the sweat trickle off my brow. “One more this time.”
“I can’t,” I say, meeting his steadfast gaze. “My muscles won’t do it.” “You can,” he replies, never breaking eye contact.
He lowers the barbell down into my waiting hands and I let the steel, still warm from my last set, rest against my palms momentarily before gradually lowering it and pushing up. Again. And again. And again. He’s not holding on, but he’s there, his eyes darting between my hands, my pecs, and my eyes.
“Slow and steady,” he says. “You got this.” I push. Eight. I struggle and feel the barbell heavy in my small hands, but I do it. Nine.
“One more,” he demands, his voice authoritative but reassuring. With everything I have left, I shove the barbell upward, closing my eyes and straining. He puts his hands underneath it just as my arms straighten, takes a firm hold of it, and says, “You can let go now.” My arms, instead of dropping, lower slowly until they’re hanging limply at my sides and my fingers graze the grungy mat underneath the bench. Eyes still closed, I feel proud but too tired to smile.
After stretching, we walk home together, taking turns sipping a protein shake. In his apartment, which has started to feel like home to me, I go into the bathroom to turn on the shower; before I can get there, he grabs my arm.
“No,” he says, pressing me against his blue tile wall. “I want to taste you the way you are now – sweaty and salty.” He pulls down my yoga pants and drenched panties and inhales deeply, like you would with a glass of dark red. Looking down at him, nuzzling his nose into my public hair and smelling me, preparing to lick me clean before we even get into the shower, I finally smile.