The night Sketch told me he wanted to move out, I had my hair in a terry-turban and I had already taken off my eyeliner. It was after ten on a school night, and I had hung up my armor for the day. At my brightest at about ten in the morning, I get duller as the day wears on; I live with perpetual social jet-lag. Personally, I always imagined there would be a fire to accompany a life-change this seismic, and I would be wearing stiletto gladiator boots, but nothing burned and I was wearing slippers that looked like they were made from the pelts of slain Muppets.
He left, and I moved through the ensuing weeks like a woman living without something vital, like a circulatory system, or a face.
A great thinker of our time, Louis CK, has observed that coming out a long-term committed relationship is like coming out of a time machine. It was 2003 when Sketch and I got together. Three Doors Down and Matchbox 20 were the chartbusters. I had a cellphone that looked like a television remote. Texts were something you deconstructed for college classes. I’d never heard of Facebook, and my email address was @hotmail. No one I knew met guys online; there was just meeting random weirdos on the subway or at the dentist’s office. I hooked up. I took hostages. I was twenty-something, and I wore feather boas to the office I worked at, instead of a scarf.
Now, I’m stepping out of this relationship and blinking, like it’s my first exposure to daylight. What is this thing you call OKCupid? And I want to smash things with the enormous bone I imagine myself to be carrying, a Neanderthal amidst the social media.
But everyone knows that the only way to get over a decade-long, meaningful love affair with someone who was both life-partner and best friend is to immediately get under someone else. And my friend Lita was ready to hook a sister up.
I told her I was kind of feeling Asian guys and she claimed she had someone perfect in mind. I was already building up a sexual ubermensch in mind—an Asian man with a K-Pop haircut, impeccable manners, and an interest in early American history. We would have explosive sex and tour Civil War battle-sites together.
Now, the first date was a blind date, and for me, the first date is a highly narcissistic endeavor. I can’t really make out this hot Asian guy beyond my enormous thought bubbles, crowding him out with such worthy ponderings as, Does he think I look hot? And Am I nodding too much? And Does my face look like a normal “listening” face?
The first date isn’t really about the person you’re dating—it’s about yourself. I really dig this guy paying attention to ME! I really like this guy’s unique way of LIKING ME! Other thoughts are there, they just aren’t as important.
Over sushi, K-Pop brings out out a stack of about a hundred million photographs of his students to show me. Afterwards, we go to the Gantries, a riverside park in Long Island City, one of my favorite places on earth. We sit on a bench under a weeping willow tree, even though my legs are bare and it is too cold for bare legs. There is kissing. I had forgotten how dry your mouth gets right before someone kisses you for the first time, and I had forgotten how delighted you feel with the whole production afterward.
I was stoked for date two, although I had to allow that we hadn’t had a lot to talk about on the first time, and I was pretty much at-capacity with talking about work. I asked my most trusted friend how many times I had to go out with him before I could sleep with him and she said nine. I don’t know where she got that number from, but it made me feel like crying.
My date rolls up an hour after the time he was supposed to arrive for date #2 and he meets me on the sidewalk to give me one of those autistic hugs where your arms get pinned to your sides, and I know it wasn’t going to be a great night.
Sketch and I once bonded over conversations like which parts of the human body you’d eat first if you had no choice but to resort to cannibalism or which of our friends would win if they tried to beat each other up, and so I don’t really know how to act around normal boys anymore. I told K-Pop he had a gorgeous skull, and he tilted it at me in befuddlement.
The first date had been a gimme. The second date? The sticky mist of narcissism and self-doubt (I imagine it having a texture, like Aqua Net and cigarette smoke) parts enough for me to see this man. And this is when I realize: dude is totally out of his fucking mind.
When he releases me long enough to get in the car, I suggest frozen yogurt—it is late, and the window of opportunity for dinner has slammed shut. So we drive five blocks to the Yogurberry, where he proceeds to back directly into some man’s car while attempting to park. The man looks like Santa, if Santa did crystal meth on the weekends and wiped up spills with his beard. Santa is driving an ancient Mercedes, and he is pissed.
My date? His Chinese accent grows more pronounced as he proceeds to bow and scrape with a thickening accent, growing fresher off the boat as Grubby Santa begins to growl audibly.
After cash changes hands and I allow numerous opportunities to walk away to elapse, we go to get frozen yogurt. Now, I love the frozen yogurt place in my neighborhood. There are skittle-colored lights and top 40 tunes and you can add your own toppings. You pay by the weight. K-Pop pays for his sundae, and then goes back to get more gummy bears, and we get yelled at.
It’s not K-Pop’s fault; he is stoned as fuck. He tells me how much he likes pot. Because he can’t drink, because drinking gives him diarrhea. We discuss his colon and his love of marijuana over our frozen yogurt, and he takes out his pot vaporizer while the five-year-old at the next table looks at us with avid curiosity. Now, I don’t drink or get high anymore—I used up all my drinks and drugs in my twenties. So I was telling him how I don’t drink, and I how I hang out with mostly other people who don’t drink, and he tells me that I should really do is try substituting marijuana for alcohol. And somewhere across town my sponsor’s head explodes.
So I say goodnight and walk myself home. Only I don’t do that, because my boundaries suck. Instead, I let him drive me home, knowing full well he only wants to mack on me in the car and pin my arms to my side. But I let him anyway, because I’m like that. So we’re out front of my building, and he kisses me in the front seat, and he tastes like jimmies and pot, and his chest and abdomen are rock hard, like an exoskeleton instead of a person, which is pretty sexy, and I like his hairless arms.
But I tell him I have to go. He tries to convince me to get into the backseat of his car like we’re teenagers, and when I decline, he attempts to pour himself into my seat. He comes over the gear shift and the cupholder, and ends up sort of half in my lap. My inner sense of right and wrong looks on with horror and dismay.
Sometimes you can see yourself, sort of from the outside, like a spectator. You feel all the feelings, but not too much. You get up and walk out of the theater of the mind, the way I disentangled myself and got out of K-Pop’s car, and you leave those feelings behind. That’s what I did. All the things I felt about Sketch’s disappearance were there waiting to rush in and fill the empty seats.