I drove down the highway, singing along loudly (and badly) to Janelle Monáe. The prospect of what I was hurtling toward in my little Toyota Corolla both thrilled and terrified me: I was about to have sex.

For the first time in over a year.

With someone who wasn’t the man I loved for over 4 years until he utterly broke my heart.

Now, I’ve already written as much as I’m going to about the deterioration of my last relationship and the subsequent breakup; I’m neither interested in rehashing the details, nor do I feel that doing so will make for good reading. However, I do see value in writing about my post-breakup experiences, so for the purposes of this story, I’ll just say this: in the last year of the relationship, our sex life suffered significantly, for a variety of reasons. Some were valid, others less so – but by the time we broke up for good, it had been a year since we last had sex.

In the days immediately following the breakup incident, I spent a fair bit of time and energy sexting with a friend. I was devastated, furious, and extremely sexually frustrated; meanwhile, he was going through his own breakup struggles. We both needed an emotional and sexual outlet, and we provided that for each other. Honestly, he was one of the major reasons I didn’t completely spiral out of control in those first few weeks of aftermath.

Fast forward six weeks or so, and that’s how I found myself driving to his apartment with “Make Me Feel” blasting through the speakers, desperately trying to ignore my racing heartbeat, the hint of queasiness in my stomach, and the little voice in the back of my head that is the manifestation of my anxiety.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous. I mean, we’ve known each other for years, and enough nudes were exchanged during our sexting sessions for him to get a pretty clear picture of what my naked body would look like: ghostly pale and chubby. And I really, really needed to get laid. So what was my problem?

I realize now that – much like my nervousness leading up to the first date I had post-breakup – it wasn’t as much about who I was sleeping with, but who I wasn’t. Having sex with someone else, regardless of how much I wanted it, was yet another reminder of how badly my life had gone awry; things weren’t supposed to turn out like this.

Of course, the fact that it was a friend I was about to fuck, a friend with whom I’d had years of flirty rapport and unresolved sexual tension, added an extra layer of weird; I’d done the FWB thing, but that was years before, with a different friend. There was also the amount of time that had elapsed since my last sexual encounter to consider. What if I was bad at it now? Had all my sexual muscles, both literal and figurative, atrophied in the intervening year?

And then there was the heaviest question of all: how would my submissiveness fit into this? He knew about it, of course, and our kinks most definitely aligned – but I had no way of knowing how I would react to someone else dominating me, even in a more casual context.

I had to sit in the parking lot for a minute or two before I was able to gather enough courage to go inside, but thankfully, most of my anxiety left the moment he let me into his apartment. We were on each other in seconds, not really bothering with the pleasantries, and I needn’t have worried about our chemistry in conversation not translating well into action; I had to pull away from a particularly good kiss just to get my coat off.

He was just the right amount of dominant with me from the jump, hands in my hair and on my throat, making me feel safe and desired. But the first real test came when I got on my knees to give him a blowjob.

Now, I love blowjobs. For whatever reason, they make me feel powerful and deeply in touch with my sexuality. However, they also tend to make me feel incredibly submissive, especially when the recipient is dominant, and I had no idea how my subby self was going to handle all of this. It seemed like a 50-50 shot that I’d burst into tears and ruin the whole evening.

But I didn’t burst into tears. Instead, a thrum of sexual electricity coursed through my body in a way I hadn’t felt in months. I’d lost so much of my sexual drive and energy and persona in the previous year, but it was like a slow leak in a tire; I didn’t realize how much had gone and how badly I missed it until some of it returned. I took him in my mouth with gusto, feeling almost drunk with the newfound power, until he lifted me up and led me to his bedroom, so we could continue our evening on a more comfortable surface.

Despite this momentous victory, unwelcome thoughts and feelings still managed to creep in here and there: my legs spread wide at the edge of the bed, his tongue on my clit (Wait, that’s not how I remember it feeling with…him) or wrapped around his waist while he drove into me over and over (Do I look weird? Am I making too much noise?). There were moments when I would start to feel awkward or self-conscious, so I’d make a silly joke or sarcastic comment to compensate (Ugh god why am I like this?).

I didn’t have an orgasm, at least not until I got back home later. Not that I was expecting to – I didn’t bring a vibrator with me, for one, and even if I had, I don’t know if I could have relaxed quite enough – and honestly, it was probably for the best, as it easily could have been the thing to trigger the waterworks.

But I didn’t need an orgasm to feel satisfied, not that night. I climbed back on the horse, got over the hump, and any other trite cliché doubling as innuendo that you can think of. I came out victorious against my anxiety, my doubt, and my self-loathing, at least for a few hours. I proved to myself that I was not only desirable but capable of reciprocating such desire; despite all I’d endured this year, he hadn’t yet stolen everything about my sexuality from me.

And goddamn it, I’m taking it back.