ten: game recognizes game

slut work
9 min readApr 16


the finale

As my romantic life had been particularly dull these past few months, any space that a love interest would’ve taken up in my mind had been occupied by the curiosity of what would ensue or would potentially unravel with Ten. Typical of my nature, to rehash old flirtations with new optimism in times of severe sexual drought.

Ten was meeting me in Mexico and surprisingly, I felt no overwhelming feelings of anxiety or nervousness upon his arrival and regardless of the very very intimate and vulnerable essay I had just written about him, the ideal outcome of our time together was just to enjoy the company of a close friend — someone I knew too well and for too long to be self-conscious around, to chaperone me as I hoped to heal. Was I later going to overanalyze the shit out of it and write an essay in memoriam?


In part, because this is how I cope and make sense of things, and partially because I’m quite often dense and cannot for the love of god seem to connect the dots in the moment. Which is what I suspect happened here.

The few reservations I had initially were because of the previous year, inviting yet another former lover to Mexico on the tail-end of my trip, as I did not anticipate someone would have the audacity to try to slight me by hitting on a stranger in my presence, but Ten possessed more integrity and less thirst than Twenty-four. If something went awry, it would be something new — a chaotic challenge I did indeed invite.

Writing Ten’s first essay, had been the most challenging one yet — exploring a raw nerve that I had tried my best to ignore, and after 13 years, remained just as sensitive. In writing it, I vividly remembered things I had long forgotten: smells, scenes, textures, transporting me in time and nearly swallowing me whole. Once it was done, I promptly made an appointment with my therapist recognizing those were symptoms of PTSD. I had processed the death of my father, but hadn’t processed the trauma of the actual grieving chapter. Recognizing the triumph of making it through that period was necessary, as I hadn’t yet expressed much compassion to that version of self — what a surprising accidental biproduct of writing about your sex life.

I had travelled down multiple thought-holes, exploring both positive and negative outcomes of Ten reading about himself, through my lens, bracing for the consequences of my own actions. And as he never ceases to surprise me, it never once occurred to me that he would entirely refuse to read it. I suppose I did rely on some inherent vanity on his part, (a characteristic he describes as repugnant), to be curious enough to read, and consequentially engage with this project. I can’t imagine many people have had an eight-minute-2000-word monologue written about them. It must pique some level of interest, no?

In our concise but consistent correspondence over weeks, and eventual in-person conversations, he adamantly stated he had no interest in discovering what his exes thought of him. Although, a mature and healthy approach, but does very little to satisfy my own desire for pot-stirring. We shared heart-to-heart exchanges about my other lovers, most often Thirty-three, as they both followed similar trajectories, but felt safer to discuss (and more distanced)— Thirty-three too was an artist, making work with words, about love and life, and I confessed I was always curious which works, if any, were about me.

He seemed indignant that I would be so self-involved to be concerned about it. Why wouldn’t I want to know that I affected in some way, someone I had feelings for? If I were to be so bold to use my real life relationships as material, how would I not expect another artist to do the same? I argued that I thought regardless of whatever happened, or how it ended, I thought it was beautiful that something creative and expressive could come out of it. He didn’t have much to add, but it was clear to me that it was probably for the best he didn’t read it, having already declared his distaste for self-indulgent writing styles. Oops.

Knowing he’s a man with a penchant for privacy, I did evaluate the risk of alienating him or putting our friendship at risk. This body of work is an ongoing exercise of self-regulating, holding myself accountable, keeping my words in check, and constantly evaluating the blurred lines of what of our shared experiences I’m morally permitted to write about. I’m without a doubt going to rattle someone at some point, if I haven’t done so yet, but I’m doing my best toggling between what’s honest and what’s fair.

Admittedly, my typed words are far more audacious that I am in real life; fear of the uncomfortable and awkward have me at a chokehold. Chaos: I welcome. Cringe: Absolutely not.
Granted, all activities in a paradise beach town, with a shared bed between two people who once used to fuck, could be perceived as date-like. And I couldn’t quite understand the motivation of visiting me for my birthday, (after spending NYE together, both quintessential gestures of a romantic nature- but I digress) but neither suspicion provided enough evidence to persuade me to come to any decisive conclusions. I assessed the vibe, not to be blinded by my own desires or make assumptions, although sometimes would entertain the thought that I might not be direct enough — fully knowing there is one thing I am not, and it is subtle.

The tone and energy was different than usual; it wasn’t as warm or familiar. Lessons from my last time in Mexico reminded me that my expectations are my issue and mine alone, and not to project them onto someone else especially on their travels. What followed that week however, were a series of moments and conversations that struck me as odd but unrelated. Perhaps we were together more or less 24/7, something we were both unaccustomed to, or that we were both different versions of ourselves as we’d been abroad for some time.

so many, many questions.

I’m usually asking him an endless barrage of questions, random often mundane, and on occasion, insightful — attempts to satisfy my curiosity and better understand an old friend, but subconsciously to collect data points and string together some pattern in thought processes for one of the more engaging people I’ve known. This time was different, I was less concerned about him and more focused on me. Apparently, he was too — as I was unusually pelted with inquiries from him. His seem to centre around my habits, thought processes, my love and sex life; information I’m usually too quick to divulge, but I’m not typically in the habit of speaking of old lovers whilst trying to fuck one. The questions were directed around certain topics, asked in a certain round-about-way, that arose my suspicion. Knowing I’m particularly unskilled at picking up on hints, asked him point blank “Is this in relation to something specific? I feel like you’re trying to ask me something… just tell me what it is”. He denied it was, and we broadened the parameters of the subject. I have no reason to ever believe that he would lie to me; neither of us care too much for the obligatory social niceties, especially with each other.

And yet, throughout the week I couldn’t shake this sense the form of our conversations were being sculpted somehow, and I was being presented an illusion of seemingly random themes — I couldn’t find the common denominator nor was I willing to search too hard for it. All I wanted was a quiet finale for my trip, a peaceful time to recover and return to my life in the city.

His second last night, in the midst of my post-acid birthday sads, we chatted about dating, sexual exploration and situationships (that term really struck a nerve with him). Once again using Thirty-three as a marker; questions about why I continued to see him after having the “I’m not in the right place to be in a relationship/I wouldn’t make a good boyfriend” conversation. The answer is, I couldn’t help myself. Both Thirty-three and Ten fed me nearly identical lines, and despite my efforts and knowing better I couldn’t tear myself away. Alas, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it if I had.

In what I was assured was an open and general discourse, he seemed set on making a point, putting me in my place, and making it known that if he wanted fuck someone he would — in an unnecessarily odd and spicy phrasing. The combination of acid comedown, his tone, and general discourse of my failed situationships brought me to tears and we didn’t say another word to each other for the rest of the night.

Little moments began compiling in my mind; within our week together he had told me I was “a lot” yet didn’t find me that interesting, scoffed when I told him my therapist thought I was fairly well-balanced and seemed perplexed that I received a lot of attention of a romantic and sexual nature.

Boy please, I know you have eyes.

He had been deconstructing everything I said, not sure if it was to undermine me or to embarrass me, but essentially to prove the fallacy in my opinions, so much so many of our casual conversations often ended in heated debate.

I was being served a lesson, I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Perhaps I was being used? And if so, for what? There was no inclination that he wanted to touch me, so we definitely weren’t fucking. A place to stay? …Wouldn’t be the first time.

How are we even friends if they don’t think I’m interesting and seem to be annoyed at my existence? Why come visit, and spend nearly every hour of every day with me if I’m “a lot”? It was not adding up. That evening I decided I was over it; I was content letting this mystery go unsolved. I leaned into the poetic closure of both Mexico exes, a year apart. We would spend this last day together, but I was otherwise done, grasping in that moment to find the value-add it offered in my current life other than a connection to a nostalgic shared past. That might’ve been premature.

His last day, we still hadn’t spoken much — I was still on high alert, skeptical of what he was getting out of this, debating if I was victim to a prank, and wasn’t willing to offer any more vulnerability and openness. And suddenly, everything, everywhere and all at once it dawned on me.

None of it made sense, unless… he did in fact read it.

And there it was. The interrogation of my situationships, my other lovers, asking me how much of what I projected was a persona, and how much of it was genuine, flat out telling me that my experiences in Guelph and attachments to some people felt exaggerated because of my heightened emotional state post dead dad.

He wasn’t being a dick, he was just expressing his response — getting the message across and without having to admit he had caved to vanity, and read the damn thing. Full of compliments, and all.

The beauty and comedy about all of this, was I genuinely forgot the details of the essay; writing helps me get these topics off my chest, and my mind’s desk and I carry-on remembering only the main takeaways. But now I could tie together the themes, the common denominator: all elements I had mentioned about him. And there were so many hints, including a literal conversation about how ignorant I am to obvious clues. Well, fuck me. So many moments where I was felt my face wrinkle in the genuine confusion at his fervour of getting his point across and telling me I was wrong.

Recalling an early conversation about the dangers of exaggerated personas, and how they could lead to unintended consequences, maybe he was determined to prove that he wasn’t a pawn in this scheme, and to shove it in my face and honestly I would deserve it and it would entirely serve me right.

Except, I have very little shame and am demon that revels in chaos. I had reached a point I no longer wanted this obsessive thought, the curiosity of what sex would be like camping rent-free in my mind, either I was going to get what I wanted or I was going to embarrass* myself and ruin any chance of it happening — regardless, it wasn’t going to be marinating in my mind anymore. And as one turns to familiar safe comfort tv shows in hard times, I turn to familiar safe comfort dick in tender times.

*It’s incredibly hard for me to get embarrassed anymore, my life is one long continuous disaster and I’ve accepted it.

Have I maybe pulled this move before by admitting my feelings to one of my best friends via Facebook in a very very awkward message because I was sick of having unaddressed feelings, a screenshot of which I’ve saved somewhere and will eventually post?

Well well well… looks like we’re all a little vain. I’m just being honest about it.

I wanted your attention and now I have it.

And while I’m living in blissful ignorance, you’re still thinking about me hunny.

ps. T, I’ll invoice you for the airbnb.



slut work

autobiographical | semi-original content | an ongoing experiment in vulnerability