Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Jigsaw Puzzle Girl" Chapter 9: Confessions

So... way back, almost a year ago I was posting chapters of a novel I'd been working on.  You can look back and find the previous chapters if you are interested.   

Chapter 9: Confessions

They spent a quiet day, going down for a short time to the beach and David cooking a simple dinner.  They found an old movie to watch and fell asleep in each others arms.

Monica woke in the early hours in the morning, it was still dark and she slipped out from David’s arms and tiptoed into the bathroom.  She surreptitiously glanced at her pad, noting that the stain was smaller, indicating that her heaviest flow was over and that she would be finished with her period in two more days.  Realistically she knew it could be one but she always kept a pad on for one more day just in case.  Any stain in her underwear meant they had to be thrown away. 

She counted on her fingers and remembered it would be a couple of more days after that before her birth control pills would be effective. 

Silently she slipped back into bed and snuggled up to David’s warmth, spooning her backside up against him; he shifted and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close, his hand flat and warm on her belly, a soft satisfied grunt rising up from him.  Monica lay in his arms, letting her thoughts drift, enjoying the safe, comfortable warmth.  David shifted in his sleep, his leg slipping up between hers, pushing against her bottom and inner thigh.  Monica felt a throb as her body responded to the pressure.  Curious she reached down and pressed between her legs, pressing her panties against her opening, and softly slowly massaging in a gentle circle.  Not so much trying to inflame as to explore, to see if she could somehow keep the sensation, not wanting to let it fade.

Monica froze when she felt David softly begin to kiss her shoulders, his arm pulling her closer.  Pulling her hand away, she tried to twist around to face him but he held her close.  It only added to her sense of building excitement as she felt him swell and harden against her.  Sensually she pressed back against him and murmured softly, “Hey, good morning.”

David’s voice was husky, “Have I ever told you how good you smell?”  His breath was warm against the back of her neck, sending delicious shivers down her skin.

Her voice was small and squeaked a little, “No.”

“Well you do, like fresh bread with honey and a sea breeze, rich and salty and sweet all at once.”  He kissed the back of her neck and murmured in her ear, “You taste a little like you smell.”  His hand felt hot and a little sweaty through the cotton fabric of her nightgown. 

His next words made her stiffen, “Monica, Pretty Girl, what can I do to make you feel good?”

A soft wave of reluctance rose up.  In many ways she wanted nothing more than to have him touch her, to keep this dizzy delightful feeling building, but she did not want their first time together to be now, not now, when she was having her period.  Slowly she twisted around to face him.  This time he loosened his embrace and allowed her to push him over onto his back so she could lay with her head on his shoulder.

“David, you are making me feel good.”  Her hand stroked his chest, and then worked underneath the fabric of his undershirt, seeking his skin.  “Will you let me…”  She left the question half spoken as she began to work the elastic of his boxers down.  David did not answer but lifted his hips and helped her.  Softly she crooned, “This makes me feel good.”  As she wrapped her fingers around him, she slid down lower, pushing the blankets down and resting her head on his belly, staring at his erection as she worked her small hand up and down.

David stiffened, his voice a little tense, “Monica?”

Again she crooned, “This makes me feel good.  I am not the only one that smells good, you know.”  Then she ran her tongue across the skin of his belly, “Or tastes good.”  His reflexive shiver made her grin.  She lifted her head and looked up at him, but his eyes were closed and his jaw was clenched.  She could see a muscle quivering in his jaw.  When he was close, he reached down and pulled her up and kissed her, a soft groan coming from him as his hips began to plunge against her caress.  As he began to come, he crushed her to his chest and afterward, still holding her cradled close, murmured, “Wow, thank you.” 

Still holding her close he reached for a tissue and cleaned up a little and then pulled the blanket up over both of them.  He kissed her again and then murmured cautiously, “Monica, Pretty Girl, how are you feeling?” 

To her surprise, Monica felt a small wave of tension, resistance; her body was just slightly rigid against him.  Her voice was the tiniest bit shrill, “Fine, I feel fine.  Did you really like it?”

“Yes, I liked it.  But it is still a little new and embarrassing.  All my life this is the kind of thing that was never spoken of, never done around other people.”  He chuckled, “But I am learning fast.”  David cuddled her close, gently stroking her back until she felt the tension draining, and then he finally spoke again, “But, Pretty Girl, when I asked about making you feel good I was sort of, um… thinking about something else, something for you.”  He paused, and Monica could feel her body tensing again, and when he finally spoke the words she had to fight the urge to jerk away from him, “You were doing that, touching yourself.  I could tell you were… were… feeling good.  But then you stopped.  I felt bad that I had interrupted that for you.  You didn’t need to stop.  I guess I asked you what I could do because I felt bad, I wanted to help.”

Monica squirmed in his arms, struggling to listen, trying to ignore the rising panic.  “I couldn’t, not with you there.  You were awake, and… and… I wasn’t really… I mean I was just… um… sort of holding it… um… just… um…”  Her words dwindled of and the she gave out a little frustrated sound, almost a tiny gulping sob of frustration and fear.

David kept stroking her back, “It’s okay, Pretty Girl, I wasn’t asking you to do anything you weren’t ready for.  I guess I was just worried that you stopped because you were afraid I would be embarrassed or shocked.”

Monica flinched and lifted up her head and looked at his face, looking deep into his soft understanding eyes.  “Oh no, it’s me.  I’m the one that’s embarrassed,” she lowered her head to his chest again and her voice dropped to almost a whisper, “embarrassed and scared.”


His hand continued its rhythmic stroking, and Monica somehow knew without that reassuring, soothing touch she would not even be able to say the next words.  “I haven’t done that, masturbated, at all since I was hurt.  I don’t know if I can.  I am afraid to try; afraid I won’t be able to… to…”

“To orgasm?”

“I tell myself that it isn’t that important.  I mean already I feel more… um… turned on… more feelings in that part of me then I have since I was hurt.  That if that is all there is, it is more than I ever expected.”  Monica felt her words coming faster and faster, like a dam had burst inside her, “For the longest time afterwards the only thing I could feel down there was pain.  And then it was sort of just numb.  My gynecologist said that he did not think it was nerve damage, and sent me to talk to the therapists.  They said it might just be a temporary hysterical reaction and that worrying about it would just make it worse.  They said that as I dealt with my emotional trauma that it might just resolve itself.  And I had this kind of guilty, horrible feeling about sex anyway.  I could not let go of the idea that somehow if I had not been so horny, so bad, such a whore that I would never have gotten myself into that mess, I would never have gone to that hotel.  I did not want to ever feel anything like that again.  I know now, heck I even knew it then, that it wasn’t rational but I could not let go of it for the longest time.”

David just held her and let her words pour forth, letting her run down naturally.  When she had finally lay limp, almost exhausted in his arms, he spoke.  “One time when I was talking with Donna, being an ass, and I said something like how you were not ‘like her’.  She looked me right in the eye and said this thing, she agreed with me and then she said that you were just a girl that was not sure what she wanted, that was trying things out, experimenting, trying to find out who you were.  Pretty Girl, I want you to know that I never once thought you were bad, or immoral.  Sure to be honest, at first I thought you might have been foolish or crazy to take such risks, but you were so little so, so fragile, I could never for an instant blame you for what happened to you.  All I could do was try to protect you from ever being hurt again.”

Monica sighed, “And that is why I could not bear to be parted from you.  I had no trust in my own judgment, my own abilities.  When you were there with me was the only time I did not feel absolutely terrified.  And I know I am not a whore.  That was entirely my mother, her beliefs, her words, and her fears.  She would say it was not my fault, but I could hear the lie in her voice, see the blame in her eyes.  I know it was just her own guilt, but I still can hear her in my head sometimes.”  She fell silent for a minute and then spoke in a more determined voice, “I really need to have a nice long talk with my mother.”

“If that is what you want.”  His voice was perfectly flat.  She could tell he was doing his best to be supportive even if he had his own opinions about her mother.

Monica giggled, “Well maybe not today, but soon.  It is about time for me to face her and work things out.”  She stretched and patted his chest, “So there it is.  I am a little worried, well to be honest, maybe more than a little worried, that somehow I will not be able to orgasm and I am worried that you will be disappointed that I am somehow not good enough, damaged.  I know that it is silly to worry without trying.  I even know that the worrying could be more of problem than the possible damage, but it is there and I am glad I finally was brave enough to talk about it.”

David’s next words surprised her, “Have you talked to Junie about this?”

“No, I haven’t really been brave enough to say those words even to myself.  I keep saying I am afraid I won’t be able to… and never really completing the sentence, completing the thought.”

“I think it would be a good idea if you did.  I mean I will be glad to talk with you about it, but to tell you the truth; it is way out of my experience.  I will listen ‘til the cows come home’ but I have no idea what to say to you about that.  I think that Junie might be a good person for you to discuss this with, another woman’s perspective, a girlfriend.”

“Of course, and you do have your cell phone, go ahead and use it up and I will get you a new plan with unlimited minutes.  I don’t want you to feel isolated just because I am dragging you off across the world.”

“It’s funny.  I guess I was thinking that because it was your FBI issued computer that I could not touch it.”

“Technically, I am supposed to only use it for official business, but everyone accesses their personal email.  It will be fine.  When I have to turn it in, we will get a new one.”

“When are you going to be officially retired?”

“Well, I wrote them an official notice letter.  I have about a hundred days of vacation built up.  That is almost four months of work.  I may need to show up at my official assigned office, in New Orleans, for a few days.  You will like New Orleans.  I will turn in my weapon and stuff then.”  He gave her a gentle squeeze, leaned down and kissed her forehead then pushed her away.  “Let’s get up and get some breakfast.  It looks like the clouds are breaking up and we can take another one of those nice long walks again today.” 

After breakfast David got out his computer and typed in a very long complex password.  “Go ahead and write Junie, Pretty Girl, I will clean up the kitchen.”

Dear Junie,

So here I am on my honeymoon.  We are staying at the cutest little hotel on the coast.

It is hard to believe it has only been a few days since David and I left.  I called you the day after we got married.  To tell you the truth, I was not as happy as I had sounded on the phone.  I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and more than a little scared.  But David and I have been talking and it’s funny but he sort of gave me a ‘safe word’ without really realizing it.  He said I can say “whoa” if things feel like they are moving too fast. 

We still have not really made love yet.  On the day after we got married I started my period.  I have spoken to you about how the sight of blood is pretty traumatic for me and the idea of dealing with that and trying to make love is too much to face.  So we are waiting until it is over to try.  We have been snuggling and kissing and I have used my hand to help him come a couple of times.  We are both pretty shy and it is funny how awkward it sometimes feels.  Either he is embarrassed or I am.  But we are talking and being honest about our feelings.

And speaking about being honest, today I confessed to him that I have not masturbated or had an orgasm since my attack and told him I was feeling very afraid that I might not be able to come.  He said I should talk to you about that.  He was sweet, saying he would listen all I needed but he has no idea what to say about that, that this is a girlfriend kind of thing.  And you know he is right, and you are my only girlfriend, so here comes a major truckload of stuff I have been keeping stored up inside.

The truth is for the longest time I was just numb down there.  I could not feel it the few times I touched myself, like when I would put that evil dilator thing in or washed myself.  My doctor did some tests and said it wasn’t nerve damage, and sent me to talk to my therapist.  My therapist told me that worrying about it will most likely make it worse and to not rush things.  That was months ago and at that time I sort of wanted to avoid the whole subject anyway.    

I think I just wanted to not be sexual at all.  As much as I was acting like I believed what happened was not my fault, that I did not deserve it, there was this secret horribly guilty place inside me that would not let go of the idea that I had been bad.  That I had done something bad and that is why this happened.  I still fight with that.  It is kind of hard to put into words, but sex was a big part of it.  If I had not been sexual I would never have made such bad choices?  Anyway all this faulty logic makes me start to feel anxious when I start feeling sexual feelings.

The good news is that when David and I snuggle and kiss, I do start to feel excited, and I can feel that in my vagina.  The bad news is I start to worry that I will freak out and that is not helping.  One of the really good things is David has almost a sixth sense for when I am starting to get tense or afraid.  He says it comes from being an ‘old lawman’.  And he is in many ways better at being honest about things than I am.  He has told me that his only sexual experiences have been with his wife and that they were pretty limited. 

So that is where things stand now.  I am a day or so away from finishing my period and I really want to try to make love but I am so nervous about the whole thing that I am sure I am going to mess it all up. 

I am using David’s computer to do my emailing.  Give my love to Bob and Donna and hug Happy for me. 

Thank you for being such a good friend.

She looked up and seeing his warm and caring eyes watching her, she smiled and said, “You know I feel better all ready.  It was a good idea to remind me to talk to Junie; thanks.”

David smiled back, “Don’t turn that off, as long as it is turned on I might as well check a few things, won’t but take a but a minute.  After that we can go for a nice long walk.”  He glanced toward the bathroom, “If there is anything you need to do, now would be a good time.”

Monica grinned and skipped off, twirling around and tossing over her shoulder, “Only about one more day.”  David looked up from the computer and gave her a look that drained the silly smile off her face.

After their walk Monica found that Junie had written her back.

Dear Girlfriend,

I was thrilled to get your email.  I can hear your worries and the last thing I am going to do is to tell you to do is stop worrying.  Every time anyone has ever told me to stop worrying I just worried twice as hard to somehow spite them for their stupid advice.

But darling girl, there are worse things in this world than not having an orgasm.  Don’t get so caught up in the idea that you should come every time you make love.  Making love is about feeling intimate.  It is about feeling open, vulnerable.  It is more about what you give than what you get. 

It is probably a good idea to put all thoughts of having an orgasm out of your head and just concentrate on how it feels.  Enjoy the sensations and let go of expectations. 

And a little sisterly advice; start masturbating, I would think that your body might need a few remedial lessons, and it couldn’t help but make you feel a little more relaxed and confident once you figure it out again.  I know that I could not come during sex when I first was married.  I had to get used to how he touched me, and I had to learn how to relax.  Most new lovers take a while to get used to each other’s ways.  It will be the same for you.

Having your period was not such a bad thing.  It forced both of you to slow down and communicate. 

Keep in touch and let me know how things are progressing. 

Love, Junie

P.S.  Happy is doing great.  Our dogs got here today and she is in seventh heaven to have all these new friends to play with.  Bump thinks he has found a new girl friend.

P.P.S.  Bob and Donna send their love.

As Monica took her shower that night she thought about Junie’s words, wondering to herself why she was reluctant to try.  It had never been a big issue before.  She had even owned a little vibrating dildo.  The memory made her grin to herself ruefully.  It had been a little cheap thing and was noisy enough to have her roommate tease her about it, but it had done the job.

Keeping her eyes closed, she reached down and rather than hurriedly washing with a cloth between her hand and her flesh, slowly explored with her fingers.  It did not feel all that good but she told herself that she could feel it and that it did not feel all that bad either.  As her fingers began to move in the old familiar tempo she began to feel a little silly.  Clearly this was not the right time, she was not in the right mood, and she was realistic enough to know that if her mood wasn’t right it would be futile to try.
They had a quiet evening playing cards, watching old reruns on the television and as Monica snuggled up in his arms slowly falling asleep, he held her close stroking her hair.  His soft question took her by surprise, “Pretty girl, once your period is over, will you tell me?”

She felt so soft and foggy, she did not even really feel like talking, but she made a soft, “Mmm hmm,” and nodded with her face against his shoulder.  His arms tightened around her and the last thing she remembered was a soft kiss on the top of her head.

When she woke in the early morning, his arms were still wrapped around her.  She lay there warm and relaxed feeling totally safe and comfortable, thinking about his question.  Softly she slipped out of his embrace, smiling softly as he so very briefly resisted letting go of her before shifting and rolling over.  On silent feet she went to the bathroom and peeked at her pad as she changed it.  It had only the lightest of stains on it.  She frowned and decided that it would be one more day. 

She climbed back into bed and snuggled back up against him and fell back asleep.  When she woke the second time he was gently kissing the back of her neck.  She giggled as a shiver of goose bumps ran down her back, and then stretched long and hard, a long wonderful shudder shaking through her whole body as her muscles woke up.  “Good morning.  Man, I really fell back asleep.”

“Back asleep?”  His words were muffled against her skin.

“I woke up earlier.”  Monica twisted around to face him, wrapping her arms around his neck.  “I love that you hold me so close all night long.”  She gave him a quick kiss and then ran her tongue across her teeth.  “I must have terrible breath.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because yours is horrible and we both ate the same thing.”

David chuckled and pushed her out of the bed, making her squeal with surprise as she fell off onto the thick carpeting.  “Well you are right; your breath is terrible, pretty girl.  But I was going to be too gallant to complain.”

Monica was still giggling as they stood side by side in the bathroom, each brushing their teeth.  David was grinning and watching her, his eyebrow arched teasingly.  After he had rinsed out his mouth he smacked his lips and said in a deep dramatic voice, “Come here, pretty girl,” holding out his arms. 

He held her wrapped up close for what seemed like an eternity, looking down into her eyes before he leaned down and gave her a slow gentle kiss that took her breath away.  Pulling away he murmured, “That was much better.”

Monica sighed and looked up at him dreamily, “Mmm hmm.”

His voice was low and husky, “So do you have any plans for today?”

Monica blinked and shrugged, and made a small negative, “Mmm mmm.”

David gave her a sharp look and then laughed, “Oh is that how it is going to be?” 

Monica eyes were sparkling and when she once more gave the little teasing, “Mmm hmm,” he started to tickle her, making her shriek and struggle in his arms.  Then her eyes blazed and she attacked, her fingers everywhere, searching for a chink in his armor.  Wiggling and squealing with laughter, she desperately tickled him everywhere but he just grinned and tortured her.  His voice was taunting, “Say uncle!” 

Stubbornly Monica choked out, “Never!”  She squirmed and tried to defend herself.  Finally she slipped her cool fingers down into his underwear grabbing his soft cock and began to tickle his balls. 

David froze for a second, a shudder of tension and sensation running through his body.  His hands were no longer tickling her, just gripping her.  “Oh, so you are going to fight dirty?”  He lifted her kicking and screaming in delicious terror and carried her to the bed and dumped her down on top of the covers.  Standing over her, breathing hard, he growled, “Give up?”

Monica looked up at him looming over her and she felt a sudden wave of disorientation and she froze and whimpered.  David hesitated and then spoke her name softly, “Monica?”

Swallowing hard, she held up a hand, warning him away and sat up.  Breathing deep slow breaths between open lips, she forced herself to sit up and look around.  When she finally spoke she held out her hand, “Okay, now just hold me.”  After he sat on the bed and pulled her into his lap she took a deep breath.  “Sorry.”

“No, pretty girl, I am sorry.  I was getting too rough.”

“But it was fun.  I was having fun.  It just was being thrown onto the bed and you standing over me.  That and the fact I was a little over excited.” 

“I could see.  You were all smiles and laughter and you went to dead white and scared in a microsecond.”

“Well you did the right thing.  You stopped.  It wasn’t too bad but it could have been a lot worse if you had touched me then.  And I am sorry, sorry and pissed off a little.  I was having fun.  And I was determined to find out where you are ticklish.”

David gave her a gentle squeeze and chuckled, “Well it wasn’t there.” 

Monica gave a little grumpy sigh, “Not fair.”

David laughed, “Well I may be signing my own death sentence but I have always had the worst ticklish feet.”  Monica crowed triumphantly and tried to escape his lap, and he began to talk fast, “Oh no, you don’t.”

Relenting she looked up at his face impishly, “Okay, but I can’t promise that I won’t stage a guerilla attack at some later time.”

“So it is a temporary ceasefire?”

“Key word, temporary.”

David went for a run and Monica tried to make breakfast while he was gone.  It was tricky to keep stirring the grits and keep the bacon from burning.  But she was determined and the bacon strips had only a few black places on them.  When he came in, his face flushed with cold and his hair damp from the light rain, she poured him a mug of hot coffee and piped up in a cheerful voice, “Hungry?”

“Starving, pretty girl, what’s on the menu?”

“Your favorite, bacon and eggs with grits.”  David did not make a single negative comment about the burnt bacon or how the eggs were broken.  He just put some extra hot sauce on and wolfed it down, exclaiming how nice it was to have his breakfast all cooked for him by his pretty wife.

As they washed the dishes together, Monica leaned against him and commented, “Thanks for acting like it was good.” 

David laughed, “It was good.  Good that you wanted to do this nice thing for me.  Good that you made it for me.  And the grits were perfect.”  He turned to her, “Pretty girl, it isn’t the food; it is the hand that makes it, the love.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I can hear the whistle.

It is not by whimsy that my journal is titled "Once again I am tripped up by the universe."

It was this time last year that I was determined to write more, game less... I got a good start.  I lasted almost two months.  But then once again I was tripped up by the universe.

It is a long story.  Last February the last thing I wrote in my journal was:


I can hear the train whistle. 

In 2010 during a trip home I wrote about my fears surrounding my aging parents:

And now that I am here I am going through the same little spasms of sadness and apprehension I do every time I visit.  Each time I come here… I see how my parents are just a little older than they were last time I saw them.  Aging is like that, an imperceptible fade, the gradual erosion of time wearing us away, changing us…

I very much believe it is nature in its most gentle and merciful persona that does this, slowly steals away the person that once was so that when the inevitable occurs… the thing you lose is not your mommy or daddy… it has become a husk, a shadow, and echo of what was and perhaps… maybe, just maybe… it won’t hurt so much when they go.  And I am realistic enough to see that freight train coming right at me.  I cannot keep them forever… that is an impossibility… and it would be a cruelty for them and all the rest of us.  And yet as I write these words, my eyes are brimming with little girl tears.  I cannot imagine a world without my mommy and daddy in it.  And no matter how much I know I am strong enough, that freight train is going to crush me.   

So there it is… I know I am going to have to face this freight train, let it crush me and stand back up and try to hold the shattered bits of the surviving parent together.  If it is my father, I will just help with the physical things, and defer to his wishes.  He says he would not want to stay here in this house without her.  And if it is her, I need to do it all… decide all.  So that means, either way, 80 years of memories to sort, share, gift, sell or throw away.  No matter how you look at it… it will be a herculean task.  An almost literal Aegean Stable of stuff.  Treasures to the people who loved them, objects to the rest of us. 

And now here I am, five years later.  I cannot begin to describe the heartbreak of that erosion.  I no longer think nature is being either merciful or gentle.  Both my parents are still alive but there is little joy.  And they are so old, so infirm.  They live semi-independently.  My nephew and his family live in the big house with them, but they are rarely there and do hardly anything to keep up the house.  Dad says it is a terrible mess.  Mom's dementia has gotten worse and worse.  My father has gotten feebler and feebler, he can hardly get around.  They both have resisted any and all of my attempts to move them down closer to me and I am reluctant to move mom.  I know that an unfamiliar environment would very likely destroy her.

And now my Mother is in a health crisis.  Dad called from the hospital.  She has pneumonia.  He is absolutely terrified.  I talk to the doctor and no-one seems very concerned.  They kept her for a couple days and sent her home with a bunch of pills.  She won't eat.  She has terrible headaches.  She is sleeping almost all the time.  Dad is in a complete panic.  I am torn.  Do I drop everything and fly to Alaska to clean house and cook soup and reassure my father?  Do I step in and become the parent?  Do I put them in a home?  Do I bring them home?

I lay awake all night last night, a these questions and a thousand more swirling around inside my head until the knot in my stomach is so big I can hardly swallow down the tears.

I know this, if my mother has reached the end of her life, if she is choosing to crawl away inside her head and find a quiet place to die, it is not my place to drag her back.  It is my place to put a warm blanket over her and hold her hand and stand in front of the freight train with tears running down my face.  

Long story long.  I did go up, clean house, make soup, reassure my Father.  Mom got well.  But I also decided that they could no longer function without my help and I made the executive decision that enough was enough.  My nephew was done.  He wanted out.  I did not trust him all that much anyway.  So I made the decision... They were going to move.  And my whole rest of 2015 has been making that happen.  Senior communities, new doctors, taking away vehicles, cleaning out houses, selling houses... a maze of uncertainty and tears. 

And I did not write... at all.  Every five minutes free meant a reward of virtual reality. 

And the worst thing is that I can hear that freight train whistle in the distance.  Nothing can stop that.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nimble, Not so Much

Things I've never been very good at.  I bump into things, physically, emotionally, psychically.  I am rarely graceful.  I am always bruising my shins, physically, emotionally, psychically.

And yet, if I want to be true to myself, I need to be more aware.  I need to see when I stumble and step off the path.  I need to catch myself and avoid the pit traps.  His word can only hurt me if I take them too personally.  I know his intention is not to deliberately cause pain.  I know when I squawk, "Hey THAT HURT!" He is just a little surprised and his defensiveness is his reluctance to take responsibility for hurting me because he hates the idea of 'really' hurting me.  And I also know that if I can just say calmly,  "Hey, that hurt." and then not push it... just let it go and move on... stay on the path of being true to myself I will be happier.  He will be happier.

When he deliberately pokes at my vulnerabilities, he is just playing rough.  He likes to play rough, he wants me to play with him under his rules.  But if we play with his rules, I need to be quicker, nimbler, and balanced.  I need to keep the ground under my feet and remember who I am and who he is, accepting both of us for who we are.