Addiction, Alcoholism, Boys, Breakups, Grief, New York, Writing

Packing Tips For When You Finally Run

imgres-26I’m closing on my new apartment next week, and I’ve been procrastinating hard about putting my old life into these cardboard boxes. I have a ream of them, stacked and folded, and over the last few weeks they have gradually become invisible. I hang clothes off them. I set my phone down on them and that disappears too.

I guess it’s not surprising that this is difficult. After all, this is the apartment Sketch and I shared, and this is the place where he left me. I remember when we first moved in here; I had been living a few blocks away, and I didn’t want to give up my own space because I was still using a little, and I liked to eat dinner in bed vaguely stoned with no one watching. So Sketch and I got a two-bedroom apartment, complete with a room of my own that featured floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a door I could shut anytime I liked.

I shut it too often, and now it’s been three years since he moved out. Apparently, this is how long it takes, for me to stop climbing in my ex’s pants and hanging out there where it’s familiar. After he moved out, I asked everyone how long it would be until I could breathe right again. It felt like my lungs were gone, and I was left to suck air ineffectually into the sour pit in my stomach, and I just wanted a number because it was reassuring to pretend that there was a clock ticking down on grief. I imagined a bell would ring, and I would walk out the door a free woman. Everyone had their own theories, like the people who told me recovery from Sketch leaving would take half the time of the length of the relationship divided by two. I love an arbitrary mathematical formula.

Yesterday, Sketch calls and leaves a message. I missed you this weekend, he says on the machine.   I spent the entire weekend with Connecticut: he finished the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in my bed, and he held my rabbit on the couch. I pulled weird things out of my closet to show him as I finally started packing—a light saber, a t-shirt of pugs doing yoga, an umbrella so oversized you need to stand in the middle of the street to open it safely. What am I supposed to do with this umbrella? It is ridiculous, the size of a swimming-pool cover, too large for me to manage, but it makes me sad, the thought of putting it in the garbage.

I can’t even let go of an umbrella, one that stands in the hall closet smug with the snagged hair and skewered eyeballs of innocent passerby; how am I supposed to delete Sketch from my life? His is the only phone number, aside from my parents’, that I know by heart. He’s the person I always called, if I got lost somewhere and I needed someone to somehow tell me where I was.

I found my way back to writing in this apartment. Sketch and I had stopped all the drinking and the coke (I claimed I just like the smell of it, and wanted to keep smelling it), and we remembered suddenly that we had other things we cared about. Sketch started to draw again, nervously at first: he drew cartoons on the wall and they are still here, keeping me company as I write this. After he left, I couldn’t bring myself to paint over them. Partly because they are his, and I love him. But also because it’s a fucking awesome thing, to watch someone come back to life and do the thing they are supposed to be doing. No one uses the expression finding yourself anymore. But that’s what we did. We found ourselves. It just turns out we found ourselves on opposite sides of the East River.

It was such a close thing, with Connecticut and Sketch. Fucking months of not knowing which one I was supposed to pick, making nerdy Venn diagrams and pro/con T charts in my notebook, and still ending up stuck, because love and lust each have their own metrics. Connecticut has no idea, how close I came to telling him two months ago, I don’t want to do this. I just want to be friends. Because it’s impossible to know the things we don’t know. We can’t feel the things we don’t feel yet. I looked at him, and I just couldn’t see him, because I didn’t know what I was looking at.

If I had known what I know today, I would have given him a name to go with his guitar. But they all seemed ridiculous at the time. Pick or Strum were wrong. I liked Noodle but it just seemed so flaccid. I settled on Connecticut because his family is from New Haven and I have a joke about how people from Connecticut don’t like me. And he didn’t like me. He still had his head up the ass of his own past. He liked some other girl, one who lived far away.

Back in December, before he liked me, I went to see him play a show. It was our first time hanging out, and I thought it was a date, and I wore the tank top that makes my tits look good and leaned over to touch him a lot before his set. He kept scooting his chair away a little, like he was crowding me and that was the reason I kept letting my hand rest on his arm. FEAR AND TREMBLING, the tattoo on his forearm read, residue from a major in religious studies. When he got up on the stage to play, he looked down the entire time, or out at some spot over everyone’s heads, and at some point I gave up.

Now, months later, Connecticut plays an acoustic show with his band at the same bar, and I go to see him play once more. This time we walk in together, fresh from dinner and a trip to a used bookstore where we tried to find the most ridiculous books we could to pose with for a picture. He gave me a quasi-pornographic novel about a robot, and I gave him a book called How to Read a Book and in the picture I’m visibly trying not to laugh.   At the show, he kisses me between sets . I sit in the front, order a cranberry juice and am served it in a ridiculously oversized goblet that I feel embarrassed about. I lift it in a toast when Connecticut looks up from his guitar. Doing the thing he’s supposed to be doing.

I must be gazing at him with great amusement and interest because people keep looking at me and then following my sight line to see what I’m staring at; people generally just watch the lead singer, who has a Civil War beard and dance moves that involve Godzilla arms.

I take it you’re with that one, a man grooving out in his chair near me says. I’m watching Connecticut, and my chest feels weirdly crowded.

Yep. I’m with that one. But there’s still one thing that needs to happen. I need to let the other man in my life know. I need to talk to Sketch.

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I call Sketch on a Monday morning. He’s at work, and I’m at work, and it’s not the way I thought this conversation would go down.   We should be on a luxury steamer that is sinking at sea. We should be climbing a hill to outrun a fire. Chasms should be opening up, entire homes swallowed.

It is the end of an epic romance, only not really. It’s just an ordinary breakup. He keeps asking me to repeat myself, because our connection is bad, and when I get to the part about how this isn’t working, he cuts me off because he already knows. I only get a few words into my prepared remarks before he fills in the rest.

Make sure it’s worth it, he says gently.

It is, but when I hang up the phone, it hurts like someone died. I never realize how big a part of me someone owns until they are gone, and they take all that real estate with them. And part of me wants to call back and say I didn’t mean it, to take it back, to take him back, to keep hoping that he and I will somehow figure out a way to be together.

I feel the way I always feel at the end of a long book series, Tolkien or Larry McMurtry: bleak and grief-stricken at the conclusion of a story that has taken so long to spin out. Horseman, pass by.

And at the same time, I’m well aware that mine is not an exceptional story, or even an interesting one, really. I fell in love with one man who I couldn’t really let go of until I fell in love, kind of accidentally, with another. I may as tell the story of catching a cold or growing older—this is shit that happens to everyone, and it’s only a big deal because it’s happening, in real time, to me.

So now I’m packing to leave this apartment next weekend, emptying closets and taking the pictures off the walls. It’s weird how your own possessions become invisible to you, camouflaged by their ordinariness. I didn’t notice, until I take each one down, just how dusty they have gotten.   There is one wall entirely devoted to taxidermied insects. Sketch and I bought them to mark occasions back in 2004. This Goliath beetle is for Valentine’s Day; that walking-stick marks when I finally made it down to fifty milligrams of methadone. There’s a scarab for when Sketch’s friend overdosed and died on his living room rug; when they found him, he had collapsed ignominiously with his ass in the air, and all the blood had pooled in his face and he was dark in the open casket. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly, he always used to say.FullSizeRender-25

What do I do with these specimens? I can’t throw them out, and I can’t take them with me. I wish I could just open the shadowboxes and let them go, the stag beetle and the cicada and the tailless scorpion and that creepy horror-moth filing out of this place to go alight on separate windows, fighting and fucking and spreading nightmares. Not ending like this, wrapped in newspaper and hidden in a box like a secret.

I guess maybe I’ll see you guys around sometime, Sketch says, while something in me howls and howls. I let him go. I’d like to keep him pinned in this shadowbox forever, but I let him go. Suddenly there is room, and there are echoes in the vacant corners of our place, carrying my own voice back to me, while I mutter a list to myself of all the things that still need doing.

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Addiction, Alcoholism, Attention Seeking, Breakups, dating, essays, Sex, Sex Addiction, Writing

This Is What Happens When You Leave Me

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My beautiful roommate moved out this week. As any urban dweller who has ever lived with another person out of financial necessity knows, roommates seriously interfere with one’s ability to sloppily consume a sandwich naked while standing over the kitchen sink, staring into space. I also like to eat a salad with my bare hands from a bowl large enough for me to sit in while watching cartoons in the living room, dressed only in my underwear. Basically, a lot of my grumblings about having a roommate stem from sometimes having to put pants on, and not being able to eat dinner like an ogre.

But now she is gone, and all my plans to turn her room into an S&M jail cell evaporate in a vague sense of sadness and abandonment.   Because it’s not all that fucking different from when Sketch moved out three years ago. I had to close off the room he used as a studio, because the echo in there after he removed his canvases and brushes made me sick to my stomach.   If my roommate hadn’t moved in, that door would still be shut, like a museum of dust motes that can only be visited by other dust motes.

It makes me eager to leave this place as well, but I still haven’t closed on my new apartment. I have a ream of cardboard boxes in my bedroom, waiting, but the prospect of packing everything I own makes me so damn tired that I just want to climb inside one of these boxes with my rabbit like a stowaway. Maybe someone else will carry us down all the stairs.

Whether it’s a box or a whole apartment, it’s important for me to have a place to hide.  Sketch used to call it closetability. No one can see you, no one can judge the way you are living. We both longed for good hiding places, and it’s one reason we always got along so well, a mutual code of no-judgment after you shut the door.

I always tell people, You can tell me anything. I don’t judge. But this is an utter crock of shit. Basically, I don’t want people to judge me, so I profess this highly laissez-faire morality with other people when they name the questionable people they are sleeping with or the various ways they are getting over on the system, while I do all my judging secretly, in my head.

One of my favorite things about Connecticut is the way he accepts me. There are plenty of things about me might bum him out, but he withholds comment. I really appreciate that, although I wonder if he is secretly taking stock of my selfishness and whorish tendencies. I wonder if a clock I don’t know about is ticking down, while I stall on making a decision.

I’m leaving for Greece shortly this weekend, and my roommate has always been the one who watches the rabbit while I was away. But she won’t be here, so Connecticut is taking her. I like to picture him, chasing her around his instrument-and-amplifier strewn apartment, trying to wrangle her back in her cage. This image makes me feel all those soft feelings I am unaccustomed to dealing with. You are turning me into a girl, I complain to him, with some fucking emojis for emphasis, just like a girl.

Fucking feelings. This weekend, I brought him with me to Gantries Park, unrolled a blanket, plopped down on it with him in the early spring sunshine, and read a book while using his torso as a pillow. I could hear him turning the pages of his own book; he reads fast. Basically, this exact tableau has been my fantasy of having a boyfriend for pretty much my entire adult life.

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Ugh, I can tell I like him because even this picture of his torso makes me happy.

And it happened, and it was so awesome that I couldn’t concentrate on my book because I was so happy that it was happening. Also, I kept looking at him and laughing, because his shirt matched the pattern of the blanket and it seemed funny to me that he came to this book picnic camouflaged.

He is camouflaged, concealed in the grain of my life, but I’m finding I don’t want him to be hidden. It’s not a secret that I like this guy. I take him with me to go look at a friend’s couch; she is moving to L.A. and I need a new couch. “Are you guys moving in together?” she asks us, making everyone uncomfortable.

By everyone, I mean me. I slept over Sketch’s the night before. Stay still, he tells me, pushing into me. Don’t move. This is all I want sometimes. To stay still. Not to move. Trapped under the sinuous weight of my addiction and crying out love. It’s a motherfucker; when Sketch is with me, I still feel like he loves me.

But the next day Connecticut and I buy sausage rolls and weird foreign sodas from the Irish grocery store in my neighborhood, and we go to the playground and watch the dogs in the dog-run, and make up voices to narrate their interactions, and he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh so hard, telling me about a friend of his whom was once found passed out naked beside a sex-toy ass that he had broken in two, that I fart, and then I sort of want to crawl under a car and hide there forever, but it is also funny, the sudden exposure. “It’s all the anal sex,” I complain, still laughing. “Any involuntary noises are mostly your fault.”

It’s all OK. This weekend I leave for Greece, running the way that I like to run, toward sunshine and good-looking foreigners who do not expect things of me. But the rabbit will be hidden here, with him talking to her in a soothing voice. I look at Connecticut I think maybe. He looks at me, with a gaze so unabashedly warm and doting that I realize: to him, I am Sketch. It’s a lot of responsibility, having someone be into you. It is fucking terrifying. It makes me need home, a door I can lock. But sometimes, I think I might want him on the same side of that door as me, his shoulder to it, helping me keep out all the monsters, lying to other people that I’m not there.

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Alcoholism, Attention-Seeking, Bad Influences, Friends, Recovery

“Just Friends” and Other Lines of Shit I’d Like to Sell You: Part II

images-14When I was in the seventh grade, I had no friends.   I’d stand in the cafeteria with my tray, all awkwardness and spare elbows, and try to find the least conspicuous place to slide myself.  Today, I can always spot the kids I teach who are going through this no-friends phase; when I ask what superpower they would want, they always pick invisibility, or flight.  Don’t see me, or let me get the fuck up out of here.  (For the record, the superpower I would pick is shape-shifting: psychic residue from that part of my personality that never could get over being twelve and not looking like Alyssa Milano from Who’s the Boss.)

Friends are the softer-core version of my inner sex addict’s need for constant attention and validation.  During my four-month period of abstinence (stop scoffing, back row, four months is forever when you don’t really feel like anyone really sees you unless they are balls-deep in you), I transferred all my neediness over to my girlfriends.  Once I walked into a 12-step meeting and no one had saved me a seat on my preferred side of the room, and I was fighting back tears for the entire hour.  It’s just not that serious, but it is.  It is.

I had friends when I was using, too, but those are friends on a completely different order.  Cocaine makes scenery-chewing extroverts out of everyone. Of course, things got worse, because that is the invariable narrative arc when you are getting high, and gradually, I had just one friend left: Monique, a stalwart who came and found me when I was sitting in a skanky Wendy’s across from some drug dealer with sores on his face who was plying me with Vicodin and working his hand up the tight leg-hole of my jeans with a zen sort of patience while I sat there stultified in front of a cold hamburger.   She walked me to a meeting and I fell down on the sidewalk.

So, recovery. I made a few more friends.  I learned a little about being truthful and accountable and semi-responsible; not 100% of the time, your birthday card will still be a month late and have peanut butter on it.  But at the very least, I can today be relied on not to steal your wallet and then help you look for it, or to try to sit in your boyfriend’s lap when you disappear into the kitchen.

Boyfriend’s friends, however, have always been a source of sexual fascination, and that hasn’t totally gone away yet.    I don’t know why.

Sketch’s friends were no exception, and for a time, if we were going out with his friends, I always put on extra mascara and something where you could see my belly-button.

One of the things I love about Sketch: he never hit on my friends in return. Never. When I was younger and more accepting of bullshit, I had boyfriends who were obsessed with my friends; in college, my boyfriend Bummer was mad-dog obsessed with my friend Karly.   Karly was this hot hippie chick with dirty-blond hair and a languorous manner of rolling joints that drove him crazy. She was one of the best people I have ever known; when I was heartbroken over a girl in my program whom I was madly in love with, Karly came over and had sex with me. It was basically the only thing that got me through finals.

Bummer was pissed that he had missed out on the girl-action, and he kept needling me for details. He stole a photo of her from me and kept it in his desk. Eventually, Bummer conned her into some crummy aconsentual sex, while she was really freaking high on Qualudes. I was passed out snoring on the carpet a few feet away while the cats walked daintily around me.

What the two-legged in the house were mostly about that summer was drugs. We had a friend who was studying veterinarian medicine, and somehow this qualified him to fill up a nitrous tank the whole gang of us would sit around, assassinating brain cells, our lips and fingernails turning blue. (I believe this is the reason why I can not figure out how to resize the header on my blog correctly. My beautiful wizard of a roommate finally did it for me.) Bummer and I were living in a basement apartment on Easton Avenue, behind the frat houses, and sometimes a drunk frat boy would stand pissing against the side of the building in the parking lot and urine would arc into my livingroom through the open street-level window. I was nineteen, the perfect age for accepting the unacceptable with a jaded, drug-wearied shrug.

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I have this exact hat, minus the power to levitate it.

I just accepted that Karly was hotter than me, but then, all my friends were hotter than me. I picked hot friends. I walked around reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, aping its romantic cynicism.   So when I went by Karly’s boyfriend’s dorm, and he wanted to fuck me, I swore I was just showing off my refusal to take anything too seriously. I loved Karly, and she was one of the most caring and compassionate friends I have ever had, but I needed the hit of validation from her skinny boyfriend more than I needed to honor our friendship, and so I did.

Plus, I figured she would never actually find out. But right after it was over, the guy had an attack of conscience and he was all “you need to leave so I can go tell Karly what happened.” Unwilling to relinquish narrative control, I ran along behind his car, but he put on speed and lost me. I caught up an hour later, his car parked on Karly’s lawn with the fervor of confession. I rang and rang the bell and yelled, but nobody answered.

I came back the next day with homemade rice krispy treats, which I had decided was the dessert that took a properly contrite tone, and she opened her door to me standing there weeping and bearing the tray.   “You don’t even know what you’re doing, do you?” she sighed, with more compassion and empathy at twenty than I can muster at twice that age. She hugged me and let me cry it out, eating her rice krispy treats through my tears and making the whole thing about me. Of course, after that, she gradually put some distance between us, and I was to some extent relieved, for it meant I didn’t have to deal with Bummer’s obsession with her, nor my own guilt.

Her boyfriend called me up, once, maybe a year later. He and Karly had broken up, and he asked if I wanted to go over his friend’s house and get high. His friend turned out to be Domenick, who I would be instantly and completely addicted to, and who would introduce me to the wonderful world of heroin.

It’s funny how unbroken the chain of bad decisions is, and how much of it was started by the need for someone to think I was as desirable as my cute friend. It’s a butterfly effect of petty need toppling an entire life.

I also still kind of blame Milan Kundera, too.   Books can be really bad influences on me, like when I was ten and I wrote my name on my bedroom wall because Anastasia did it in that book where Anastasia is moving to a new house.

Today, I legitimately have a lot of friends.  Most of them know who I really am, even the super sweet ones from school or yoga who have probably never in their lives done a big pile of coke while watching interracial gang-bang porn as the sun comes depressingly up.  I send them links to this TMI-y blog anyway.

I haven’t made any blogging friends yet.  I keep hearing about a “blogging-community,” and I read other people’s stuff (to have a friend you have to be a friend, my mother would say) and leave comments I hope are endearing, but so far, I am still shifting around hopefully with my metaphorical lunch tray, a tray loaded with drug and dildo references, looking for people to get me.

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