Bilkish Vahed

The Woman Inside

Tag: desire

The Prosaic & the Wild

Loving is easy. In my day-to-day exchanges with strangers and people I don’t know well, often I feel a clear, warm feeling coursing through me. My heart swells as I listen to their stories, or simple comments, observations about this or that. Our common humanity sparks my love which pours forth with no effort. It’s simple and I’m gratified.

Relationships, even though anchored in love, are different.  Repositories of so much stuff – of the individuals and the partnership – accumulated over time, make a relationship a complex animal, full of moodiness, varying flavours, intense whirling swoops and dark heavy dips. But in this very tactility lies its preciousness. 

Egon Schiele, ‘Self Portrait in Jerkin with Right Elbow Raised’ 1914
Egon Schiele, ‘Seated Semi Nude with Hat and Purple Stockings’ 1910

Romantic relationship is much like performance art that requires the other. Only in this edgy relational playing field can one let the subtle bubbles of the deep erotic self rise to the surface. Egon Schiele had an uncanny way of penetrating this self. His art asks: Is there space in the relationship to express the diverse aspects of the self, even those less acceptable, not conventionally pretty parts that are none the less urgently real? Is there space to perform our hidden under the skin desires?

Whilst we crave the anchoring sense of loving “home” with a romantic partner, still our internal antennae are in revolt at the first hint of stifling constraint. In revolt when we find ourselves having to suppress our desires. Cherishing the other is at the heart of relating, but safeguarding our erotic vivacity is paramount, as we grapple to make space for both the prosaic and the wild. 

An Old Crush

When I was nineteen, I had my first crush on a real man. Before that there’d been heartthrobs – John Wayne, Donny Osmond, Clint Eastwood, Mr Rochester. Heart throbbing was that delicious sensation of insatiable longing for the unobtainable. A crush involved a real man.

Nobody says, “crush” any more. So passé. Nobody confesses to infatuations anymore. Nowadays, women and men don’t skulk in the shadows. Pursuing desire, knowing what you want and reaching for it, is the expected way. But then today’s social dance towards intimacy is a whole other conversation.

So I fell deeply into this crush for T, a young man a few years older than me, gorgeously handsome. Every woman in my family, and friends agreed on that point – he was truly dishy. They all sussed that I felt more for him than I ever, ever admitted to. 

I was not shy, not retiring in manner, but when it came to flirtation and seduction, I was as switched on as a door mouse. He was suave, cool, beautifully turned out, but never talkative, not to anyone. He affected me. I would inwardly quiver if he came anywhere in my general direction, feel wobbly, squirmy. 

As I reflect on this nearly four decades later, what I omit to tell you, the crucial part of this narrative is that I never spoke to him. Not once. Never. Though others tried to pave the way for us to connect, we never did.

But why dredge up these memories now, you ask, all these years later? Thing is, I met him again. In a shopping centre we bumped into him, my sister and I, and they began chatting. I said hello, smiled, then listened and looked, and felt.

He’s still handsome, but heavy now. Hearing him converse was listening to a stranger. I strained, my inner tendrils reached and arched and sought, but landed on nothing. Nothing stirred. He touched nothing in me.

Had he felt anything for me – lukewarm or ardent – all those years ago? I’ll never know, and it can’t matter. But the malaise of my nineteen year old self, her confusion and strangling reticence give me pause. And though it sounds glib I know, not drenched in psychological complexity, I suspect that what kept her choked up in silence before this man, was her entrapment in an overweight body. I was fat then.

It’s extraordinary really. But when the body is shut tight, then seduction, seduction is an impossibly closed book.

You & Me



it took me a long time

to see, to finally see

that you never really liked me

not all of me, not me


only a part of me

some part  that enticed you

you wanted a part of me

but there i stood grotesque

oozing all of me


you chipped away

chiseled, hacked and sculpted

tweaked and reshaped

i became your sticky version of me


flickers of awareness

darted in my dreams

skipped and slipped and tripped

disappeared unseen


it took me a long time

a long time to see



When my eyes were averted, you slunk around me

Spinning a tender lattice of awareness

Wilfully piercing my consciousness, forcing me to awaken

When my eyes were averted, you wanted me.


Irresistibly I turned and looked back at you

Smiled, said something, let my eyes laugh into yours

You drew back surprised, disoriented, your radiant face darkened

When I looked back at you, you closed up on me.


Stunned, confused, awash in shame, I collapsed in a heap, grew small

What had I done, I called out to the night, what had I done?


Effulgent comprehension arrived slowly and in its wake,

Indignation, purple anger, rage bubbled and frothed until

Raucous laughter burst forth, my blood ran warm and

I grew large, enormous, and full.



I miss the letters you used to write me,

Chock-full of aliveness and vitality,

Brimming, luscious and uncensored,

Tales of your day to day in raw openness let slip,

Unheeded into the soft container of our affection.


Abruptly a sliver of discomfort has slipped between us,

You write me posts, comments, tweets, texts,

You write to me and to all of them at once,

The silent ones who watch and listen are now a cryptic presence,

Between us, in the midst of us.


The murkiness of otherness has altered your voice, changed you,

But I know the colossal beauty and brilliance of your unfettered self,

I want you back, I want you back again,

Unconstrained by the cameras and the din.

I miss you. I miss hearing from you.

© 2019 Bilkish Vahed

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