Watching old videos of yourself having sex with an ex is a voyeuristic experience.
I guess I know that now because, not long ago, browsing through old folders on my computer, I stumbled across some of my own. I caved in to curiosity and opened the files. Watching all those collected minutes, a younger me roaming the screen, despite the distance between us, I felt like an intruder.
For although that woman is apparently me, and that other person someone I know I once cared deeply for (at the time of filming at least), could it really be me releasing those deep cries of primordial pleasure? Is that really me, arching my back that way, spilling out words of encouragement and praise?
I look at her, this languid woman stretching on camera, lips parted, ready to suckle on flesh and hunting for kisses, and she is simply not me. She might look like me, or move like me, but her sentiment is entirely unknown to me. And she is holding onto this human I cannot fully recognise either. It all feels just like an act.
What secret confidences are they sharing, as I watch them laughing quietly through the motions? What complicity in transgressions that I don’t recall committing?
It’s their intimacy I don’t understand.
This intimacy between my ex and me: it has been dead for a while. And, like other dead things, intimacies fade in your memory with the passage of time. They become abstract, blurry and foreign. You might try to conjure them back to life with a picture or a video, but they are nothing but shadows, semblances of things that are no longer real or palpable. Unsurprising then, if people talk about a period of ‘mourning’ when relationships end. We mourn their death.
When love ends your heart gets broken. Everybody knows that. But we rarely talk about how, more frequently, relationships continue while love does not. How many times have you tried to put your heart back together, defying fate? How many times have you lied to yourself because this love you held so dear, this precious thing you had inside you flickering, lay in front of you – moribund, trembling and weak?
It’s when you no longer love being in love with someone that it all falls apart. Until then, your heart is broken and glued together. It limps along, held up by the crutches of these intimacies you treasure. Love can be loved so much. But when you finally face the facts, when you look at the corpse of your love and let go, you find that even those little nothings are now also dead. As is the gradual erosion of their memory, until you can no longer recall the sound of your ex’s guttural laughter or the way they looked at you when it was time to go home.
But until you decide to murder the intimacies you love, you go back to the videos. Or at least some do. Some people decide to spread these images of themselves – or of those that left them heartbroken – around the entire world. On the internet. ‘Revenge porn’, the law calls it. And to most it seems that this violent misuse, this open defiance of your beloved’s right to have control over their own image, is the only way they deal with a sex tape. As if sex tapes were memories to be cherished in the good times and abused when the end is near. The world never hears of celebratory nudes. Of the video you recorded when your ex got that new job and you fucked in jubilation. The world never knows that the people embracing – skin on skin in front of the camera – were spelling out love in every frame. But then again, when all is well and truly over, neither do you.
Only in dreams do the dead come back to life. And you can taste the sweetness of their kisses once more. And your love is ripe and round and real. And so are your fears of losing it. From the recondite depths of your subconscious comes the cry of your long lost love, now rekindled as you sleep. You move your hips in time with theirs again and the sweet nectar of their sweat trickles down to your tongue like a feast. You consume such delights with the same eagerness you did before. It is no longer then, it is now, it is you and them. And all you could possibly want is their fingers brushing your thighs in sweeping, unpredictable caresses; their face buried in your chest, their whole essence once again yours. You are complete.
The people fucking in that shoddy iPhone video aren’t you and your ex. They are echoes of a love you would only recognise if it could exist today.