The second time I wake up this morning Roberto is gone. The first time I heard the toilet flushing; he came out of the bathroom and slid back into bed, shivering. Now I am hugging a pillow that smells like him. I go to make coffee in the kitchen, where yesterday’s clothes have been folded and placed on a chair. For weeks he’s been saying that he wants to tie me up. Last night he tied me to the fridge with my bra, arms pulled behind my back, skin drawn taut across my chest. “To have my way with you,” he whispered in my ear. The fridge, I imagine, is a preview of what’s to come.
“There’s more to you than this obsession!” Mr. Fairchild says to his daughter Sabrina in the eponymous MGM classic. Later, Sabrina sits in a tree overlooking a dinner party hosted by David Larrabee, the object of her long-standing fantasy. “There’s more to you than these obsessions!” says Dr. Hudson when I charmingly quote the movie line to her. It’s a signifier that I recognize the problem, so no need to waste time getting to it. Many moves to new cities equals many new therapists, and I am good at bringing them up to speed with a matter-of-fact, clinical detachment that almost makes me think we’re treating me together. “You have so much going for you,” each therapist says, resisting the impulse to touch me in a way that always feels intentional. But I’m used to being touched, I need to be touched, I promise I won’t fall in love with a touch. “There’s so much in you to desire,” says Dr. Hudson. “You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re pretty—” “Don’t,” I say. “I’m smart and funny. But, please, don’t. Not that. ” With thick black hair that reaches the small of her back, almond eyes flanked by Palestine-reputed cheekbones, and a sensuous mouth, top lip weighing down upon a smaller lower lip so as to give her a terrifying non-smile, my mother is, by almost all standards, exquisite. As a child, I was lavished with attention for being her daughter. In fact, that was the extent of who I was. “Inti bint Laila?” You’re Laila’s daughter? “Yee! Habibti!” For years, I freeloaded off my mother’s earned adoration. I didn’t have to do a thing to be loved; I just had to be. But as I got older, the same people who’d kissed and pinched my cheeks would try and talk to me, assuming that I possessed her fluidity of wit and charm, her