I never meant to make mountains the way I test a guy. And yet, somewhere along the way, it’s become just that: will he let me slide my hand into his when it’s steep, will he wait patiently while I navigate the tricky bits, can I send him on and make him report back on what lies ahead?
It didn’t even start with the boy: it started with the one before him, and the scree-scattered, rain-soaked peaks of the Lake District. When he knew me less well, he’d make suggestions that skirted the mountains, often literally. Walk round a lake. Afternoon tea. Boat ride. Cinema. As we became closer, that changed, and I marvelled at the way his skinny, boyish frame was capable of supporting me, steadying me, calming my fears as we climbed stuff.
Difficult terrain throws me. When I’d known the boy a year or so, we fucked at his one slushy, icy Sunday afternoon and then we went out for food. I remember standing on the kerb as we waited to cross the road and thinking: I don’t trust my next step. I could’ve told him, should’ve told him. And I didn’t. Because I didn’t trust him with my body.
Back then, we had a lot of sex when we saw each other. Generally we’d fuck twice in one evening, sometimes three times. It was desperate, urgent and fast. He’d be hard before he got his clothes off and we didn’t talk about fucking, we just did it. I felt desired and sexy, and I didn’t worry about what we did in bed, but nor did I talk about what worked for me. We were basically strangers. With chemistry.
A year or so later, things started to change, on a trip not unlike this one. We sat in a dark bar, late at night and we talked about domination and submission and gradually, those things crept into our dynamic in bed. I didn’t think, at the time, about the way that earlier in the evening as we headed out into the snowy night he’d glanced at my heeled boots and tucked his arm through mine, quietly and without fuss. Not drawing attention to my disability, just dealing with the reality of it. I didn’t tell him how much that meant to me, but it showed itself where everything does, with us: in the sex.
Another year. A form of BDSM has become our thing: I suck his cock as he twists my hair thickly around his hand and forces himself further into my mouth. I let him call me slut, whore, bitch, I beg him to sink his teeth into my neck and his thumbs into my tits. There’s nothing formal about it: it’s messy and unrestrained and we don’t have a safe word. We don’t have a safe word because I still can’t quite believe we’re doing this – we’re just playing at it, right, and you don’t need a safe word if you’re just pretending – but also because I trust that he knows me well enough to stop immediately if I say ‘No,’ or ‘Ow, that really *does* hurt’ in a particular tone of voice.
He no longer gets hard before he even takes his clothes off. We only fuck once on the nights we see each other. On bad days, that niggles – with no prior relationship history I have no way of knowing that this is normal, expected – it’s the way our dynamic was inevitably going to change over time, despite the fact we’re not together. But we talk now, about the sex, about what scares me, about what’s not working, and sometimes, although more rarely, about what is.
We take a trip together, and I ask my dad to suggest a good walking route. I forget that my parents, while they know me well, also like to push me, and they know I’m with a boy, so I’ll be fine if said walk pushes my limits. I forget that the signs that say 1h50 mean ‘in summer’ and only once we’ve already covered a fair amount of ground do I realise that in Winter, in the Alps, what goes up on foot also comes down on foot, even though snow-covered bus stops litter the route.
The boy is *great.* He’s calm, and he’s peaceful, and he understands that I need two types of breaks: physical ones, when there’s a gradient, and psychological ones, when there’s a edge, and a drop, and the snow looks dangerously icy. He holds my hand when I need him to, and he makes deep footprints in the snow that I can step into, to steady myself. There’s wine with lunch, and no comment on my portion of plain chips, even when I dip them in his tartiflette, and incredibly, incredibly, when I go flying in deep snow while asking directions, he doesn’t laugh.
I trust him now, physically, because I can talk to him about my disability. But even more than that: because I usually don’t need to.