My first experience of unlimited sex and bottomless physical attention was Bunny. Green-eyed and enormous, he smelled like cigarettes even after a shower. His favorite book was David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and he was an all-you-can-eat buffet of love and adoration, and I loved and adored him. He was 24, I was 28, and we laughed and fucked pretty much constantly for nine months straight. He slept at my shitty Harlem apartment every night from the first time we were together, like he was a stray I had found in the street. His Greenpoint apartment had bed bugs that no one was doing anything about; the one night I spent over there, they trundled across the book I was reading in bed like tiny gray vampires.
We spent a lot of time in a prone position, naked and legs interlocked like puzzle pieces, reading books. John Waters supposedly once advised that if you meet anyone who does not own any books, you do not fuck them. Bunny had a book in every oversized pocket, and if I had to pick a totem to represent this time, it would be a novel with vibrator left in it to hold the place while we humped up on each other.
My memory has been power-washed by the intervening years of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, but I know we went places together: there is a photo of us in Atlanta, and I recall having sex, somehow, under a coat on a Greyhound bus to Boston. I have no idea why we were in either of these places, or what we did once we got there.
Then his mom got sick, breast cancer, and he wanted to push back to Arizona to help out. Did he say “for a while?” “Until she is back on her feet?” I don’t remember. No terms were discussed, I just assumed that he would come back for me, or invite me to follow. I kissed him good-bye at airline security, relinquishing his reassuring solidity for phone calls that came further and further apart, until I finally had to admit that I was holding on to smoke. He was gone the way he had arrived, a stray cat that walked out the door without a backward glance.
The experience left me with the feeling that love comes around corners and finds brick walls, that relationships are built on shifting sand, that things are not what they appear. I learned that I couldn’t believe everything that I believed.
After that, I inhaled and exhaled men, trying not to suffocate on the pain of Bunny’s desertion. A year later, I met Sketch, and I didn’t hear from Bunny again, but I carried around the threat of sudden and inexplicable abandonment like a woman who has been in a fire. I am sleeping with a fire-extinguisher, the cold weight making sure I never get too comfortable.
Now it’s almost fifteen years later, and I get a virus and stay home from work with a fever, shivering under four blankets and wondering if I should add my coat to the pile, when it hits me that I should try and find Bunny on Facebook. I am uncertain if the picture is him; he has gained so much weight that his features look different. Even his eye-color is fatter. But it is him, and we exchange messages for a while, and then talk on the phone. His voice sounds somewhat muffled, like he has the receiver pressed hard against his lips, and he tells me that he failed me and that he is sorry. I want there to be a simpler answer; I want him to tell me something I did to make him leave, so I can stop doing that thing and men I love can stop leaving.
There is no simple answer. I text him a photograph of a photograph, the two of us in 2002 in a hotel in Atlanta. He is looking straight at the camera, and I am looking straight up at him. I might as well have two hearts for eyes. I am clinging to him like he is about to leave for war.
There are no answers. He failed me, and he is sorry.
His girlfriend broke up with him last week, and he has the sound of a man who has just made contact with a trip-wire. I am familiar with that sound, that feeling. I take his calls at 1 in the morning, at five in the morning, I remind him that he was loved, is loved, and will be loved again. I remind him that he is not the only one to have failed, and to have been sorry.