This is my submission for the September 2019 Carnival of Aros, hosted by aceofarrows, on the theme of “Aromanticism and Fiction”. The Call for Submissions was here. I’ve also cross-posted this to my tumblr if you want to reblog it or anything.
Content Note: discussion of varied kissing experiences, including my kissing-aversion. Let me know if I should’ve warned for something else.
Also… I’m not sure how much of what I am focusing on is about my (gray-)aromanticism and how much is my asexuality… it’s hard to really categorize some of this into one or the other category. But I know this is meant to be aro-centric and if you stick with this post I’ll make sure it ties back to aromanticism.
Last month, I listened to the audiobook version of Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink.
Potential spoilers are in this blog post below by the way, so you have been forewarned. I’ll try to minimize the spoilers (and I’m not spoiling the ending or anything). I’ll also mention, later in the post, details from over halfway through the book All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher, and a few details from The Flash (2014 TV series) season 2 and the Veronica Mars 2014 film and 2019 revival for a season 4.
I loved the audiobook of Alice Isn’t Dead. I found it really compelling. I have heard the podcast was probably a better way to first be introduced to the story, but I instead only consumed this fictional tale in its book form, because my asexual meetup group had decided to read it for its book club. It’s a story with a lesbian married couple at its heart—a romance.
Keisha is the main character. Her wife, Alice, went missing and was presumed dead before the start of the story. When Keisha first sees Alice in this story, Keisha is so angry about the depth of grief she’s been in, grief which is all Alice’s fault due to the circumstance of Alice faking her own death and then… they passionately kiss. And I kinda felt like I was triggered by the way the kiss was used in this work of fiction. I don’t know how else to describe it. I had a visceral negative reaction to it.
This is the paragraph:
Keisha could have hit her. Could have killed her, honestly. Let Alice finally actually be dead if she wanted to be dead that badly. But what she did instead was pull her toward her, and their lips met, and it could have been the day they met, could have been the day they got married, could have been any weekday evening before she disappeared. Keisha felt love, right where she had left it, and kissed Alice so hard that it hurt both of them, because what she really wanted to do was to find her way into Alice’s chest and live there among the bones and blood. She wanted them to be one person, but also to be two people; she wanted so many things, most of them contradictory. She pushed Alice away.
I just said I loved this book. I swear, I really truly did. There was so much I loved about this book, the #ownvoices portrayal of anxiety with a ton of depth (and kinda turning it into a superpower without minimizing how hard it is to live that way), the way the horror played out, the characters, and even the way the romance was written. (I’m usually a pretty big fan of romance in fiction even though I’m not alloromantic. I enjoy romantic arcs, and I even feel shipper type feelings a fair amount of the time.)
But also, listening to this audiobook in my car on a drive home late on a Sunday night, hearing about kissing, and how through kissing a character (whom I could otherwise actually emotionally- and personality-wise relate to quite a bit) was feeling a strong positive sensation of love coming rushing into her… it made me cry. I shed real, actual tears. I got distracted by my own thoughts and angst and had to pause the book and switch to playing music on the radio for a little while. I had to rewind it later because I’d missed parts of what came next. I was just. Not in the right headspace for this romantic kissing situation. Not at all.
The timing was partially to blame. I heard this moment in the book while I was driving home from a day spent with the person I’m dating, Asher. (Asher is the pseudonym I use on this blog for my alterous partner.) We had, just that evening, explored if maybe my kissing-averse self might be able to handle closed-mouth chaste kissing on the mouth, but first I had gotten confused and thought I was agreeing to trying open-mouthed kissing for the first time in nearly 6 years. I had indeed agreed on a previous night that I’d try that too, but when we’d get to trying a number of things had still been unclear. But I knew making out would be a thing we tried at least once… eventually.