How to Exorcise a Ghost

by SC Parent

After I broke up with Adam, I waited two and a half years to date again.

Sometimes when I write about Adam, I call him my boyfriend. Sometimes I call him my Dom. Maybe he was both, maybe neither; maybe most of our relationship, the magical, ideal parts, existed only in my head. It doesn’t really matter. The fact is that he was dominant, I was submissive, and neither of us could decide how fully we wished to inhabit our roles. Adam wanted me to follow his lead all the time; I wanted him to take care of me all the time; neither of us could be the perfect person we wanted the other to be, and so, we broke up.

After Adam, I imagined I would never submit to another man, not even in the bedroom. I would never allow myself to be that vulnerable, that breakable, again. I held my emotions like a fractured china teacup, close to my chest.

The only reason I joined the dating app was because I was getting older, and I was afraid of being alone. I thought, At least I can say I tried.




I didn’t have to guard my fractured china teacup on my date with Logan, because I wasn’t attracted to him. I’d made a habit of not looking too closely at the photos on the dating app, since they weren’t reliable anyway—you couldn’t smell or touch a photograph, or see it in three dimensions—so I didn’t have any expectations. Still, when I saw him waiting for me on the street corner outside the restaurant, I felt right away that Logan wasn’t for me.

But then I felt that way about every guy I met, since Adam.

Logan was tall—almost too tall; I had to stand on tiptoe to talk to him while we were standing—with pants that didn’t fit quite right over his slight potbelly. A classical musician, he seemed accomplished, but not too willing to open up about himself as we chatted over Chinese food. He spent longer than I wished he would trying to teach me how to use chopsticks, an effort that was probably meant to be charming but only made me feel frustrated and tired. I was childishly disappointed when he agreed to my offer to split the bill, rather than paying for it himself. When he got up to use the bathroom, I saw that his fly was open and wondered how quickly I could slip out of the restaurant without seeming rude.

How did I end up following Logan back to his car, parked a few blocks away from the restaurant, when I could have just called an Uber from where I was? Maybe it was because it was an unseasonably warm autumn evening, and I wanted to savor the way my limbs could melt into the dusk without tensing, before the colder nights set in. Maybe it was the submissive side of me that agreed to his suggestion, that agreed, again, when he suggested we go back to his place and I could try playing his piano.

After I played a few cursory chords on the piano, we sat on Logan’s sofa to watch TV. I knew what was going to happen. I knew what he was going to do, and I thought I knew what I was going to do, too. I would let him put his arm around me and we would cuddle for a few minutes, and maybe, as cliché as it sounds, I would pretend his arm was Adam’s.

Adam and I didn’t sit like this, though, beside each other on the sofa. I was always beneath Adam, one way or another, and if he was on the sofa I’d be lying with my head resting on his leg, or nestled on the floor in front of him.

I told myself as soon as Logan’s hand went beneath my dress, I’d get up and leave. His hand found its way down to my breast, my nipple, and I didn’t leave. His other hand tried to squirm under the bottom hem of the dress, between my legs, and I still didn’t leave. It was awkward, though, because the dress hung below my knees and the fabric was getting in the way.

I opened my mouth to say I was leaving, but instead of speaking, I started to move. I ended up not standing, not walking away, but sitting on top of Logan with one bent leg on either side of him. I wasn’t sure how that had happened. He smiled up at me and I still wasn’t attracted to him, I wasn’t even sure if he was attracted to me, or if he was simply as lonely as I was, but something about that smile and the way it reached his eyes made me feel a little warmer. In this new position my dress was hiked up, no longer in the way, and his hand reached beneath it and began stroking softly over my underwear.

Most men I’d been with would start off touching my pussy gently, but quickly progress to harder, more demanding strokes, pushing in a way that only caused me to recoil. Maybe they were showing me what they wanted me to do to them; maybe they believed they were doing what I wanted. Either way, their efforts never had the effect they hoped for.

Logan touched me the way only Adam had touched me. Feather strokes, a ghost of a finger or two, half-imagined as if in that moment between sleeping and waking. Over my underwear at first, but then I allowed Logan to slip the scrap of fabric off of me. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, or my body rigid. The world around me went dark and hazy. I could be anywhere, I could be floating, I could be drifting backwards in time. Little mewling noises came from between my lips as Logan teased the straps of my dress off my shoulders.

In one corner of my darkened mind, a light came on. It told me this moment wasn’t going to come again. It told me what I needed.

“Can you spank me?” I whispered.

I had never asked a man to spank me before. When I’d met Adam, he knew right away I was submissive. I didn’t have to ask for anything. Adam spanked me, tied me up, fucked me before he ever touched me gently, the way Logan was doing now.

Logan reached around and slapped my ass over the dress. “Like this?” he asked and I answered, “Uh-huh,” but it wasn’t quite right. He slapped me again, but the position was awkward and it felt like he was swatting a fly. His other hand was still on my pussy, and that part of me knew what I needed.

I pulled his hands off of me, lifted myself for a moment and rearranged my body so I was lying over Logan’s lap on the sofa. I tugged my dress up so my bare ass was exposed. I had been in this position so many times with Adam, while we were watching TV, or when he was “punishing” me for some imagined transgression, or for no reason at all other than we both loved it.

Logan spanked me with one hand. He played with my pussy with the other. His hands were bigger but softer than Adam’s. His couch was covered with some dark fabric, while Adam’s was made of gray leather. I noted the differences and then I let them float away. I let myself float away, I let that pleasure so sharp it was a need grow inside me and I begged Logan to spank me “harder, harder” as I thrust my ass up toward his hand, no longer caring what I looked like or what would happen after this moment.

I felt Logan’s hand come down harder, harder like it was breaking something open, brittle pieces dissolving into dust. Then the wave came and the dust scattered, into the unseasonably warm, dark night.

Later, after I’d returned home and was walking my dog, my body still soft and half-blurred into the moonlit air around me, I wondered:

How could this man I barely knew, who barely knew me, tug that same thread of desire loose from me that only Adam had uncovered before? Adam, the first man I’d loved, the first man who’d claimed to love me; Adam, who gave me silver jewelry and Christmas trees and nights with our bodies pressed close to each other in the dark. Were we humans such simple creatures, underneath all the thoughts and hopes and memories, that a single touch could unravel the knots we’d taken years to tie tight?

It hurt, to know how simple my body was, but it was also a relief. Just like the slap of Logan’s hand—like Adam’s before it—was both pain and relief.

I was a fragile teacup, I was a silhouette dissolving in the night, but I was also a human. I could feel the things I’d thought I never would again. My body could bring me to my knees, it could betray and disappoint me, like others had betrayed and disappointed me; but it could also surprise me. It could lift me back up.

As I rounded the corner toward home, a sudden breeze whipped by me, a cold front moving in. Winter was coming, but after that, always, would be spring.

SC Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, she now considers Los Angeles her true home.