On Friday, flattened from work, I lay on the couch with a headache, halfheartedly texting the Roman. I want to see you, I write, and then add: Sometime. I am hungry for touch, but not hungry enough to shower over it. I can’t tell if this is progress or depression.
Anyway, I’m fairly certain that the Roman gave me a bacterial infection the last time we got it on. I went to my smoking-hot gynecologist yesterday, and she told me that men should be washing their hands and brushing their teeth before they apply these parts of themselves to the resounding need between my legs. It sort of seems like it would kill the moment, to tell some guy, I want you to go down on me, but I need you to floss first. Speaking of floss, she also told me you can get a vaginal infection from a thong. So apparently everything is trying to kill my vagina.
“The mouth and the genitals are the most bacteria-laden places on the human body,” my gorgeous gynecologist tells me, inviting me to scootch down. “You put those together and you create a whole new ecosystem.” My ecosystem. I like that. I want my ecosystem to have poison frogs and like maybe flying kangaroos. It’s a great, tropical-sounding word, like I’m carrying around a whole other planet within me.
She asks me questions about Sketch, while doing the pelvic exam. These sort of questions, difficult to answer at the best of times, are impossible with someone swabbing at your internal cogs, and I make bland, noncommittal noises. I texted Sketch last night, and got no reply. Now it’s Friday, and he has more energy than I do, so he’s probably off somewhere bounding around with some Tinderella, while I look at the blank face of my silent phone, baffled and disheartened.
My roommate comes home and I pounce on her, eager for company. “You should enjoy your own company,” she suggests. And I do; there was a bath and a facial, accompanied by the steamy piano music I love, and some vegan dinner (the more I am alone the more I want to be a hard little kernel of a person; my friend Vera warns me: “You don’t want to become one of those women where it’s like fucking a bicycle frame”). I eat on the couch while watching Cosmos, where the host, Neil Degrasse Tyson, reassures me that the Halley’s comet that last swung around when I was in sixth grade will perambulate back for a second visit when I am in my eighties. I love that these things move in predictable circles. Miss it the first time and you might catch it the second time around. It takes a lot of the pressure off, as Sketch and I cycle once more in and out of togetherness.
There was one other man I did this dance with. I called him Monster in the spirit of one of those adorable plush creatures with striped horns from a Maurice Sendak book. Let the wild rumpus begin! He had espresso colored eyes and thick black curly hair, alighting my passion for Italian men and their hair. From Monster, I got my first orgasmic sex and, also, an introduction to heroin.
But I was mostly impressed with the orgasms. No one had ever given me an orgasm; orgasms were something I gave myself when no one else was looking, or things that I cleverly faked with a lot of scenery-chewing and writhing around. But with Monster, it was as easy as falling. After he came up from between my thighs, I stared at him like he was a magician, and then we got high.
I didn’t so much move in with him as I sort of came over one day and then forgot to ever leave. It was a basement apartment on Laurel Street in New Brunswick, about fifteen brisk minutes on foot from campus, past a long gauntlet of bars I was newly entitled to drink in. Monster didn’t like me drinking in bars, didn’t like me drinking, full stop. “I think you have a problem with alcohol,” he suggested, passing me the mirror and the straw. Drinking was a thing I did, out, with other people. Getting high was a thing I did with him, and naturally he favored nurturing my fledgling habit, which seasoned dope-fiends kind of sweetly call a chippie. A chippie: it sounds like a children’s snack but is actually the place where you watch all your principles and self-respect begin to vanish.
I don’t know why hard-drug connoisseurs like a mirror with their powdered recreational substance of choice. That is a whole lot of your face to confront with a tube protruding from your nostril like a proboscis. It was my senior year, and I don’t know how I sold myself the story that this was all playful experimentation, but somehow I managed. Monster and I graduated to needles in the spring, and I had my first overdose that summer. Monster and his ex-girlfriend, a gorgeous girl we were both sleeping with at the time, had to carry me out to the car, convulsing. I came to on the drive to the emergency room as he leaned on the horn, blowing through red lights at six in the morning. Who the fuck is honking at us? I croaked grouchily from the back seat, where someone was cradling my head. I was annoyed. I had been having a dream.
Monster cried, and his ex-girlfriend made me promise that I wouldn’t use anymore. I promised, and I meant it, the way you always mean promises. It’s the sincerity of promises that always astonishes me, and how transitory they are. Monster went home to get rid of what was left, and he was gone for a suspiciously long time. His ex-girlfriend stayed and held my hand, while professionals came in and said judgey things. I tried to stonewall, but she wouldn’t let me, telling the doctor exactly what I had been up to while I tried to signal ixnay to her with my eyes. I never trust doctors.
“What should we do for her?” she asked the doctor.
“How about don’t let her do any more cocaine or heroin?” the doctor said snippily.
“I love you,” she told me when he went away to dispense medical judgment on someone else’s lifestyle choices. “Please stop. I don’t want you to die.”
“I will,” I promised. It was all very teary and heartfelt, and I meant it until the next time I wanted to get high. After that day, I wouldn’t see her again until Monster’s funeral. He had less than a year to live.
(Part II will be up in a day or two. Over two-thousand words really seemed like it was pushing your patience. How long, exactly is TLTR?? Uncertain. But on another note, just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to RAGE readings in Astoria. Amazing. You are my favorites.)