I go uptown to see Sketch and he is forty minutes late, but still I am infinitely glad to see him. Every time he walks through the door, it feels like seeing the bus you need, cresting the hill toward your stop, coming to take you out of the cold. Home. He still looks like the way home.
I cling to his neck for a while, but something isn’t right. We go back to his place and have a Szechuan picnic on the rug, hand-pulled noodles and cucumber salads, but that thing is happening with us where the conversation doesn’t come easy. Misunderstandings stick out like briars and sometimes we are both quiet and then we both start talking at the same time. “You go,” he says. “You first.” One thing about Sketch is that he always lets you talk first. But I keep saying the wrong things; we talk about his brother’s weight loss and recent tattoo choices and I venture the opinion that his brother is foxy now, and Sketch gets irritated. My social-appropriateness filter sucks balls. I don’t know that he’s much better. He tells me about some lame chakra workshop he had to go to today, and he makes me laugh, but all his stories from the week are studded with exotic women’s names, and he tells me about some chick at yoga teacher training who is sexy, and how none of the other girls like her. He was partnered with her this week, and it was, I take it, a gratifying experience for him. I nod with practiced equanimity. Cool. My throat chakra sealed tight.
Sketch is not mine, and he is never going to be mine, not in this lifetime. Connecticut, however? He offers me the pen, and waits to see if I will sign my name on him, claiming him for my greedy self. Awareness of this tilts things right in his favor, and I am thinking about him anytime I stop moving. It feels like love, but this might just be the oxytocin talking. On Saturday, getting ready to go uptown to see Sketch, I take out my best underwear, consider them for a moment, and then lay them to the side. Saving them for Sunday, for Connecticut. Maybe this is the best indicator of where I am at with all this. How can you tell who you actually want the most when you are involved with two people? Answer: the perfect black silk lingerie gets set aside for the one who matters the most.
We are both gamblers, Connecticut and I. Connecticut is betting that I can change and love only him, and I am betting that he can accept me, broken and hungry and questing. I am gambling that he won’t judge me for still loving my ex, for still being scared to let go, for believing boyfriends are like kidneys; you don’t need two, but it is nice to have a spare for when one inevitably craps out.
Connecticut knows where I am at and he wants me anyway. I go over his house and he applies his naked body to mine for four hours straight until my ears ring with my own cries. In between orgasms, I do some looking around, because you learn a lot of things about a person when you go to their place. He makes things here, cuts glass and carves stone, and there are dead leaves on the kitchen floor that blew in from outside. I see his pajama pants on the floor, and they have Grinches on them, and I am filled with unspeakable tenderness. Waves of oxytocin move me further from shore and I do not care. In bed, he plays me a Tom Waits song on his guitar, laying on his back with me, wild-haired, in the crook of his arm. He doesn’t look at me when he sings and I am glad because I always think that is creepy.
We only get up to shower and dress because I have to go to a late-night 12 step meeting where I promised to share my recovery tale. I’m not drinking, but my footing feels uncertain from too many hours spent in a prone position. I feel better when I face all the other drunks and junkies. At the best of times, these things feel like we’re all gathered around the warmth of the same campfire, and what I end up mostly talking about is the importance of finding at least one person you can be honest with, that you can trust with your shit. And I look at Connecticut and feel feelings.
At least one person. Sometimes you get more than one. But the sexual teeter-totter with Sketch and Connecticut is not going to last forever, me balanced in the middle, smiling at each of them in turn. Eventually one person always bails, and you go crashing to the ground on your ass.
The thing is I don’t have a lot of trust anymore. I don’t trust myself, that I can get through another breakup. In my life, ever. I think it is possible I will just lose my shit, turn to a life of doll collecting or serial killing or poetry writing. And I’m still not sure Connecticut really knows what he is getting himself into here.
Here’s some things he doesn’t know: that I am secretly short-tempered, particularly around copier machines and elevators, that I get horrible stomachaches all the time and need to be left alone to get through them, that once every couple of years I get Bells Palsy and half my face falls further behind, that I think I am ugly and instead of this making me more accepting of physical flaws in others, it makes more likely to notice them. That I care what other people think, and I am selfish and aggressive with getting the last seat on the train or the biggest piece of cake on the tray.
He doesn’t know these things, but I feel like I could maybe tell him eventually and see what he does. With Sketch, I spend a lot of time trying to walk back some ill-considered thing I just said, but Connecticut listens, nods, is still mine. I am selfishly hanging onto both these men, hopelessly indecisive. A voice in the back of my head announces it is nearly closing time. I am grabbing for whatever I can get with just these two hands, what I can pinch between my knees, what I can hold between my teeth. My stomach is in a knot, and I want and I want and I want. I want the one that I want, and I also this other one, that I can actually have, and I’m making my way to the door with my arms overflowing.