Everyone knows that dating after a breakup is totally a competition. Sketch is clearly winning; he’s been fielding a steady stream of offers from beautiful women who want him to forget about me. Why do I possess this information? Because Sketch finally read the blog, and because he shared with me in return; I had forgotten all about quid pro quo.
For the last year, I have been worrying about what Sketch would think, when he finally read my work. Would he think I had been fair to him? Would he feeI unjustly, if not unkindly, exposed? Would the outpouring of affection for his adorability embarrass him mightily, the way it does when I sometimes I hang off him in public, prompting people to say things like “He’s not going off to war”? Would he ask me to stop writing about him? Would he start generating if/then statements until I made a choice? And what would he think about all these other men I’ve applied verbs to, the ones I’ve been having sex with and it occasionally not being completely awful?
I need to say, I give him props for reading my work at all. I don’t think I would, were I in his position. It’s not that I lack curiosity, it’s that my prevailing defense mechanism is one of willful ignorance. If I were Bluebeard’s wife, I would still be living in marital bliss, the forbidden cupboard full of heads unexplored. I’m not one to go opening drawers or journals. Too scary.
“Well, what did you think?” I ask him faintly. My stomach has that we-just-crested-a-big- hill-in-our-car feeling. We are sitting in Union Square park by the statue of Lincoln, and mice and sparrows are peeping out of the hedges like something from a Disney cartoon, only more verminous. They want the croissant I am picking to pieces with my fingers.
He tells me that my writing is funny. He tells me it is good. He tells me it was hard to read about some of the things that happened to me, my misadventures in dating, the many people who disappear or who disappoint. He then goes on to tell me about some of the people he’s been seeing, some of whom did not disappear, some of whom were not disappointing.
This is only fair. Everyone understands the playground rule: if I show you mine under the slide, you are obligated to show me yours. I’m not sure what I even said back: a lot of “hmm!” and “wow” and “really!”
Of course, not being stupid, I knew he was seeing other people even after we started having this weekly Sunday meet-up. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t for the fact that I haven’t been seeing anyone since Dig, and that was nine million years ago. Or a month, take your pick. All I know is that there is a howling void of WANT between my legs like something out of Lovecraft. It is going to grow tentacles and begin fending for itself. But I’ve been waiting, waiting to see what happens with Sketch. Now he shares enough details about these women that I can no longer pretend they are not real, details I will not share here because they are not my stories to tell.
We go to see The Martian, a movie about an astronaut who gets inconveniently left behind someplace harsh and uninhabitable, and even sitting cozily next to Sketch with my skinny fingers woven in between his thick ones, I identify with that abandoned feeling. Even with my leg against his leg, I am breathtakingly alone, and I can’t seem to get enough air.
I’m returning to my old worry, the one that says I am too selfish to be in a relationship with anyone. Sketch and I both need to pee, and as we don’t want to lose our seats in the hot and overcrowded Manhattan theater, he chivalrously offers that I go first. I stop for popcorn on the way back before leisurely returning sometime later, and he blinks incredulously at me; I realize I am basically a horrible person who deserves to be abandoned on Mars because I still only think about myself most of the time. I am the kind of person, it seems, who will leave you needing to pee while I dally at the self-serve butter station, and I find this deeply disappointing and depressing about myself.
Afterwards we go to Coffee Shop for dinner, where the waiters and waitresses are so good looking they make you kind of angry. You could trap one forever in a mirrored room; he would never want to leave. It’s the perfect backdrop for the ensuing conversation.
“So, what are we doing?” he asks.
“Finding salads, and eating them,” is not the answer he wants. Nor is he buying my whole idea, taken from a dear friend of mine, that maybe we don’t figure it out, that maybe we come and we get to find out. I like this idea, that the answers will just reveal themselves in the fullness of time.
I ask him what he thinks. He lets me know: he’s been enjoying spending time with women who are into him. He believes I’m not as into him as I so heartily profess, because if I were, then I would do more of what he wants me to do, and not be so irritatingly, stubbornly centered on doing the things that I want to do.
The open-relationship idea surfaces again, because maybe we are both so attached to the freedom that we have when we are not together. And maybe we need to make our own relationship model, because we sure as shit aren’t going to conform to anyone else’s. Or maybe I would agree to anything at this point to get his hands back on me again, some sense of him being mine again.
WYSD got picked up on Vol. 1 Brooklyn this week! Check it out.