Addiction, Awkward Moments, Bad Influences, Boys, Confessions, Girls, Open relationships, Sex, Writing, yoga

How Open Is Too Open?

images-75I never know how I will feel about things until they actually happen.

While I’m no longer chasing an open relationship (as in sex parties, multiple partners, monthly STD tests) I still need an open relationship (as in communication, trust, those other pervy emotional things I’ve only ever heard rumors about), and it feels kinky and dangerous, telling Connecticut everything. Especially this week, when everything includes the stimulating fact that I made out with an epically hot girl from yoga in the bathroom of a Cuban restaurant.

Openness. It’s a theme this week. A few days ago, I found out something about Sketch. I can’t write it here, because it’s a secret. A sad sex secret. His friend told me because he thought I knew already, and then I had to pretend to be cool while we finished dinner with my heart kicking at my ribcage. Nearly fifteen years I’ve been walking around not knowing this grubby piece of information, and when I found out, it felt like when you think there’s one more step at the top of staircase, but there’s not, and for a half-second you feel like you’re plummeting to your death. Sketch’s friend, realizing I didn’t know: Oh. Fuck. Don’t tell him that I told you. I wouldn’t want him to think that I was a tattletale. I fucking hate when someone has a sordid secret and they tell you and now it’s your sordid secret. And I can’t even follow up the way I want to, which at some elemental level would basically consist of me pointing my index finger at Sketch while making disbelief noises.

Clearly, it’s not something Sketch is advertising, so the compassionate thing is to let it go. But I need to tell someone, and so I tell Connecticut, and even though we are talking about my ex, he is able to listen and suggest a kinder perspective than the one I was initially able to take.

This is one reason why I am in love with him. I love you, I say right into the phone, right where he can hear me. Holy shit, I love you, waking up next to him in the middle of the night and realizing that he’s there with me. Texting: I loooooove yooooouuuuuu, because I think it’s funny that I get to say it all I want, after wanting to say it so badly all these weeks.

A relationship of openness. It’s amazing.  Because there are some things going on, and I need to talk about them.

 

images-76And now for a dirty confession: I have a weakness for small, beautiful women.  Back when I lived in New Orleans, I lived in a rented room over a bar, and I would sometimes go downstairs and look for the tiniest woman in the bar. If she didn’t protest too much, I would carry her upstairs where I could kiss her and squeeze her ass a lot in private. Women this small and beautiful and willing don’t wander into grabbing range that often, especially now that I don’t hang out in bars and strip clubs anymore, so I usually am just nursing one crush or another at my yoga studio. I’ve written about it before as being a pastime akin to a dog chasing rabbits in the backyard—it doesn’t expect to catch one. The playful chase is the point.

Well, one got close enough for me to grab this week. Beautiful, tiny, all taut stomach and dewy skin, the kind of shapely legs you want to get your knee between. Gorgeous.   The kind of girl you know will taste good.   And looking for something.   Looking for an experience.

Now, I have to tell you: this never happens. NEVER. N-E-V-E-R happens. But this one time, the thing that never happens actually happens and after a few drinks, there is an invitation to go lock the door of the single-occupant bathroom at the back of the restaurant and make out for a few delicious minutes next to the hand-dryer. Grabbing tight handfuls of this girl, grinding myself against her, touching her body not only on my behalf but on behalf of former Tippy, who I am mentally elbowing. Check it out, I say to my former self. Get a load of this.

She is tight and sexy and tastes wonderfully like girl, but when I head home, texting Connecticut goodnight, I feel a strange emotion that is not my usual acquisitive glee. It feels like guilt.   What the shit? It was just a kiss, and with a girl. To not kiss a girl this unbelievably hot would be like this would be like leaving money on the table. Wasteful. Right?

But the next day, the feeling is still there. I think I might feel better if I could just show everybody a picture of this girl in full-split on Instagram.  I mean, Connecticut and I are officially an item now, but come on. This girl is sex in yoga pants, and I am a sex addict, for fuck’s sake. Who could possibly blame me for wanting to push her up against a wall and touch her body?

So that happened is an expression I sort of hate. It makes it sound as if the events we set in motion are like weather patterns, ungovernable and unpredictable.   When I think about what I want to say to Connecticut about what happened with this girl in the bathroom, I write it just happened, and then cross it out three times.

What did you want to tell me? he asks the next night. He and I are on the phone and it’s late and I’m sitting on the floor. I read him my prepared statement, trying to sound like I’m not reading a prepared statement. I just wanted to let you know what happened, and hear about how you feel, I conclude, increasingly uneasy at the mounting silence on the other end of the line. Men are into this kind of shit, aren’t they?   Don’t they always want the details? I mean, it was a girl, not some dude. Not my ex.

Sexist goddamned double-standards, and I know it, too.

I’m not OK with that, he says quietly. And I know that I have fucked up. And it’s weird, because all I usually care about, ever, is whether or not I am in trouble, whether or not somebody is mad at me. And there’s a lot of that now, but mostly what I feel is horror when I realize that I have hurt him.

And I say all the things: I’m sorry, it won’t happen again, I didn’t know, we hadn’t gotten clear on what our rules were, I suck, I’m sorry.   And still he is hurt.

So basically this week, I told him I loved him for the first time, called him my boyfriend, and immediately went out and cheated on him. I am literal human garbage.

So yeah. That happened. Now I’m waiting to see if we’re going to be OK, and when I wake up this morning at 4:30 because some alarm is going off down the street, I pull the pillows over my head like I want to bury myself.

Giving up, I get out of bed and make my way to the kitchen with a drag-footed gallows walk. And there is a text waiting for me on my phone from Connecticut, from the night before. I’m about to go to sleep and these are things you might need to read in the morning. Breathe. You’re okay, I’m okay. We’re okay and going to be great. I love you.

My goal now is to figure out how to actually deserve this man. You’re okay, I tell myself. You’ll make better mistakes tomorrow. I try to believe it. There is air in the open space between us, and I breathe it, nervously.

 

Standard
Animals, Awkward Moments, Books, dating, Death, essays, Grief, Open relationships, Sex, Uncategorized

Dig Up Your Pets

images-72My affair with Sketch is the longest, distance-est relationship I’ve ever had. He’s just across the river in Manhattan, but he may as well be ten thousand miles away, living in some place where the toilet flushes in the other direction and people eat with things that are not forks. It’s Distance: things happen over there and I only get the reportorial headlines. His cat died on Tuesday, that skinny black rag of a feline that for a decade jumped up and insinuated itself under the covers every time Sketch and I were done fucking, the cat that served as my favorite metaphor for our weird relationship and as a reason to be glad we no longer lived together. I never could sleep right with it walking on my pillow.

But it is sad, of course it is sad, and I should be there with him, but I’m not, I’m just working, and I get in trouble for using my cellphone before my students have left. After work I go uptown to find him, trying to strike the right balance of sympathy and nonchalance, knowing he will recoil if I overdo it. He’s hurting but I strike all the pathos from my voice, buy him a tuna melt at the diner, try not to cry. I think that the diner is playing all my favorite music, and I amazed that a midtown diner would have such an awesome playlist until I realize that actually the music is coming out the tinny speakers of my phone in my handbag, not from overhead. As with all things, it takes a disturbingly long time to realize this.

I’m planning to go home with him, to help him with all the depressing chores that one has to do after bringing home an empty cat carrier from the Humane Society, but he says he wants to be alone, and so I hug him and leave him on the corner and go back to my own selfish pursuits, trying not to think about the cat.

 

When Sketch and I first met, that cat was a kitten; the length of our relationship was something’s lifetime. But I guess that can be said of anything, even thimages-73e week I was wrapped up with the hot Roman journalist who lives down the street from me. There are plenty of things that only live for a few days.

But everyone’s favorite illusion is that you can find something with someone that will last forever. And there is irresistible sweetness to that idea; witness last Sunday, when I dance with Sketch at a close friend’s wedding. Our knees bump because I am a terrible dancer unless my partner is a pole. I tell Sketch that I love him, my throat a little tight, because I am oversensitive and I cry at sentimental things like weddings or when you put glasses on a baby and it sees clearly for the first time. I like to claim that I never cry, while unconsciously flexing my biceps, but this is a lie. I well up all the time, eyes big and wet, I’m just good at pushing that shit back down.

Sketch and I sneak off to go explore the reception hall, and to our delight we find the room for staged photographs: a fake fireplace with coat of arms, a bridge with mock foliage and trellis, a home with a white picket fence so that one person can pretend to be carrying the other over the phony threshold. I could stay in this room forever, pretending. Pretending that I am only pretending.

A friend sidles up to me after the bride and groom take the dance floor together and tells me, inclining her chin at Sketch, that I need to cut the cord, and I tell her that I can’t.   “He is disturbingly charming,” she admits. I love to watch how smoothly he enters and exits conversations; whatever table he is at, that will be the fun table. People defect from their own tables, carrying their chairs over. I asked him about it once, and he told me it’s because he is genuinely interested in people and people like it when you are interested in them.

The bride, her face so beautiful it looks airbrushed, tosses the bouquet over her shoulder and I stand on the side, out of range, partially because I am mortified when I try to catch something and miss and partially because these are not the things I long for, children and marriage. It’s kind of nice to go home alone and read this biography of Joan of Arc that I’m really into and fall asleep under the electric blanket without worrying that anyone else will dream they are burning to death. Joan of Arc: her virginity didn’t protect her from shit.

This week I will talk to Sketch and I will tell him a little about what’s going on with Connecticut, and we will see what is what. “We’re bad at being together,” Sketch says. “But we’re fucking horrible at being apart.”

What are you going to do, people have been asking me since my last blog post, as if I know the ending to this whole story and am just keeping everyone in suspense.   I do not know what I will do, and I do not know why I am not more bothered by not knowing.   Everything has an outcome eventually, and then I will be just as surprised as you. Maybe someone comes to a dramatic realization at the end while standing on a mountaintop. Maybe someone dies at the end, a person or a cat, or maybe everything explodes. Or maybe it is one of those endings where nothing really happens and you’re left with the sense that someone just got tired of writing about it, and stopped.

Standard
Addiction, Awkward Moments, essays, Getting Honest, Love, Sex, Social Anxiety, Writing

Junkies Suck at Making Decisions

imgresI 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.

Standard
Addiction, Attention Seeking, Awkward Moments, Blogging, dating, New York, Sex, Writing

Walk of Shameless

FullSizeRender-16One of my most dearly fondled anxieties about being unmarried concerns what will happen after I get hit by a cleaning van on Northern Boulevard and can no longer use my arms and legs. Maybe this is a thing all single people worry about: those cleaning vans are a menace, their mop-ballasted weight careening around corners and straight into bicyclists and dogs and forty-year-old single women.

Who will take care of me?

The thing is, I know it’s a scam: having children or a husband still doesn’t guarantee that you have someone to take care of you when you are old and fucked up. Being married doesn’t mean you will have lifelong companionship after you have reached the point where you pee when you reach for things. More likely it just means someone else to clean up after.

So I hired someone to do my investment planning and I figure when the time comes I will just pay people to feed/ bathe/ fuck me in my dotage. I’ll secure a team of monkey butlers or something. It’ll work it out.

Sketch comes out with me to somebody’s birthday party this week, a rare social appearance that makes the whole night easier. He is like my social-situations guide dog. I’m blind and groping and he steers me faithfully towards conversation topics that are appropriate (so not anal sex, then), making people laugh so no one notices that I have dropped a mussel in my lap and am now trying to figure out how to get rid of it. He does this thing where he will sit and tell the person on his left his favorite things about the person on his right. I especially enjoy this when I am the person on his right.

I do my best to flounder through interactions with other people most of the time on my own.   I am still exchanging texts with that guy from Connecticut, even though people from Connecticut don’t like me. I guess we’re friends? I’ve never really had an unmarried straight male friend before. Generally, if you’re unmarried and straight, at least one of us is wanting to wrap a leg around the other. Connecticut and I share a love for things like cannibal horror movies and punctuation; he introduces me to something called an interrobang, a question mark / exclamation point hybrid meant to denote sarcasm.   FullSizeRender-15Because I’m not quite done scrabbling for attention from him, I text him, Have you just interrobanged me? Have I been interrobanged? I don’t include the aforementioned sarcasm marks because I haven’t figured out the keyboard shortcut yet.

I have a copy editor’s itchy fingers. I used to work at this techie magazine, back when I was still on a shit-ton of methadone, and I could often be found at my desk with the stem of my neck broken forward in an unlovely nod. But I loved to fix the things other people wrote, smoothing out errors, emailing PR flacks at software companies to double-check the specs on some software package I didn’t understand. It was like proofreading in a foreign language, one where you know the grammatical rules but not the vocabulary.

And I still feel like that a lot of the time today. The bar down the street, a depot for drunks that spew contrails of urine and vomit as they taxi along my sidewalk, has a chalkboard sign outside that tells lets passerby know: the kichen is open till 11.  The misspelling is driving me crazy. The kichen? It sounds like what reindeer eat off rocks. Everyday I walk by, and it’s still there, still spelled wrong. Is it that no one else sees it, or that no one else gives a shit?

I try to remind myself that I want other people to be gentle and forgiving with my mistakes, so I should try to do the same.   Last week I accidentally published a post with a joke-ruining typo in it and until I could get home to my laptop to fix it it was like walking around with your sock half folded on your foot inside your sneaker.   I kept waiting for someone to derisively point it out, but no one did.

If I watch how other people act closely, I might eventually figure out how to act, like a language you learn from studying the pictures on a menu. Have you ever noticed that food and body parts are the first words people learn in any language? After dinner, Sketch comes back to my place, to apply his body parts to mine, and in the morning, I pretend I have lost all use of my arms and legs. I lay on the bed bonelessly, laughing while he rifles through my underwear drawer to find panties to put on me, picking out clothes for me to wear. The outfit he constructs is hilarious—tinselly legwear with this black micromini dress I might wear out to a club if I ever went to a club in my life.   It’s a dress for a person from a different life than mine, but I can’t bear to part with it in case someday I stay up past 9:30. He pairs this dress with silver thigh-high socks and a pair of Chelsea boots. I look like a madwoman. I tell him I will call this look the walk of shameless, and, spontaneously regaining the use of my legs, I throw my parka over the ensemble and head out with him. My hair stands out in eleven well-fucked directions, and when we go to the diner for eggs and coffee, I see a bunch of people I know.   My underwear is on inside out for the entire day, and, as with many things, I do not realize it, or care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Addiction, Awkward Moments, Blogging, Books, Consequences of Blogging, dating, Photography, Treating Men Badly, Voice, Writing

The Care and Feeding of an Ex

images-63It’s all Mary Karr’s fault. In The Art of Memoir, she writes about sharing your work with the people who might want the opportunity to dispute its veracity, and in the spirit of Truth, I message Bunny last week and explain this project to him and ask if he wants to see the bit about him or express anything.

OK, maybe it’s not all in the spirit of Truth. He got out of the fire of that breakup so clean that even fifteen years later I still want to hand him the charred photo album and say, Look. Look how damaged it is.

I don’t hear from him all week, and then he sends me a text reading I’d rather not be involved at this point. We knew each other so long ago.

I can tolerate a wide range of bad behaviors from men: tease me, hit me, infect me, and I will find forgiveness for you. But ignore me? Ignore me and I will fucking kill you.

The rage is instant and astonishing, a bank of heat like opening a furnace door, the kind of anger that blows back your hair and makes you feel like crying.   I am angrier than I was when he suddenly moved away with no explanation, taking with him a bunch of my hopes and my signed copy of Civilwarland in Bad Decline in which George Saunders complimented my sweater. I am angrier than I was a year ago, when for one weird week he would call me at four in the morning because his new girlfriend had broken up with him. More fool me, I would answer the phone, make comforting noises. Once he felt better, he ignored my solicitous texts. How are you, bun? Are you OK? I was pretending I was checking on him, but actually I was showing him how much of a better person I was than him. Irritatingly, he didn’t take the bait.

I guess I don’t really blame him for not wanting to read about all this. Look at this charred photo album of the two of us. Remember how you left all those candles burning? But he has dismissed me, like I’m trying to sell him some bibles (I’m not interested, Tippy), and now my ears are ringing with anger-induced tinnitus as I try to message him back. I want to remind him of things. I have things I want to say. But I can not write him back, because apparently he has defriended me, and so a carefully composed retort along the eloquent and mature lines of Oh yeah, fatty fat fat fat? slips right between social media’s couch cushions.

The moral of this story is, when people tell you who they are, believe them. He’s been telling me for years that he is not available to review the past, and still I have persisted. How about now? How about now? Acceptance is always the latecomer to the party. Sighing in the face of the inevitable, knowing I won’t talk to him again, I dig out his email address. Parting words should always be simple and not labored over, so I type three little words to him while I walk to the train: Die in fire. And hit send with a wistful sigh.

I have been laboring for years under the pleasant fiction that I am friends with my ex-boyfriends. It’s a thing I tell people, especially new boyfriends, that is not even close to true. My ex-boyfriends: two of them are dead, three of them are crazy and in the wind, and then there’s Sketch, who is not my ex so much as he is, to cop from Richard Burton talking about Elizabeth Taylor, “my eternal one-night stand.

There is just one ex I am legitimately friends with.   I saw him and his wife and kids this weekend; his other ex-girlfriend was there, willowy and beautiful and aging in that refined way I can not seem to master.  His wife is amazing and sends me off from the party with packed food; I feel like a bit of an orphan, albeit a well-cared for one, every time I come here. He asks me about the necklace I am wearing, a brass shovel with my initials in it, and when I explain that it’s a sort of totem for this blog I write, he immediately pulls it up on his computer to look at it.  I watch him for a moment, a face I once was in love with illuminated by words and words and words about other people I have loved. Loved, and sometimes hated. The anger is so misdirected and diffuse, like a fire hose with pinprick holes in it, the pressure diverted in a thousand trivial directions. This ex I am friends with, he looks at the screen for a moment. Cool. And he x’s it out, closing the browser and we, at least, are good.

 

 

 

Standard
Addicted to my boyfriend, Awkward Moments, Back Together, Bad Influences, Blogging, Panic, Writing

Panic

images-56“You haven’t posted for a while,” my friend Lisa observes. And it’s true; I’ve been cheating on the blog with the book, or I’m busy with my side-bitch, fiction. The blog sits home alone in a bathrobe, smoking cigarettes, worrying that maybe this time I’m gone for good.

Also, I’m writing in between panic incidents. Let’s not call them attacks. Too melodramatic. These are more akin to my psyche sneaking a pair of scissors onboard than to finding a bomb counting down in the toilet. They are panic incidents. But still, I’m taut with nerves and feeling like there is a tiger in every room, so I head to Spa Castle with Sketch to relax. I believe the Koreans that run the place must pump nitrous oxide through those saunas; there is no other explanation for why fifteen minutes at 170 degrees with chubby strangers makes you feel so good. By the time we stumble out, the terrorists that live in my brain have retreated, and Sketch and I are giddily recommitting ourselves to one another. He is calling me by nicknames I haven’t heard in a while, and I think of my friend warning me that I’m in the oxytocin baths, but it feels too good to reach for a towel. I sink in deeper.

Of course it can’t last. Saturday morning we’re with some people; among them: an unattractive woman who is hopelessly in love with Sketch. I’ve never met her before, and no one introduces us, but I recognize her instantly.   I’ve heard that she credits him with saving her life a year ago, when she was busy drinking herself to death, and since then she joins him and his sober friends for eggs on Saturday mornings, jockeying, be certain, for the seat next to his. I try not to look like I’m looking her up and down, profiling her shoes and lipstick and hair.   Middle-aged, with thick arms and a little on the jowly side, she waits until I am a safe distance away to come over and hug him. He kisses her on the cheek and says something warm that makes her laugh, and I find that I am glowering at her. It bothers me, seeing her look at him with love and longing, once he’s moved on to talk to someone else. Maybe it looks too much like me, and the way I look at him.

We are, both of us, immediately and murderously jealous of one another. I could almost want to bond with her over it. That’s the thing with Sketch; he makes you feel like the most important person in the room, but he does that with everyone, and everyone can’t be the most important. At some point you have to choose. But it bothers me that I am jealous. Petty fucking emotion, for people who remain stubbornly convinced that there is not enough of anything to go around.   “She was crushing on me,” Sketch admits casually when I confront him about it. “I guess she still is. But we’re just friends.” He’s going over her house later this weekend, to help her put some bullshit furniture from IKEA together. Because that’s what friends do. I picture her handing him the Allen key, their fingers touching as she passes him the tiny Swedish screws. I wonder if she thinks about what accidents could befall me. After all, people fall in front of subway trains all the time.

“Why aren’t you angry at Sketch?” queries the therapist who lives in my head, in the same neighborhood as the panic-attack terrorists. “Clearly he is leading the woman on. Clearly he is enjoying being the center of attention. How is this OK?” All these voices are annoying. Just because I’m angry doesn’t mean I have to admit it or deal with it.   If he wants to hang around with this woman who is all in unrequited love with him, it’s not any of my business. Really, having been there too, I should feel some compassion for her, or at least stop staring so pointedly at her jiggly arms. She’s not threatening me, so why am I threatened?

“What are you up to next weekend?” I ask him, trying for an offhanded tone and somehow still sounding shrill and desperate. He is vague. He is evasive.   Eventually he admits that he is kicking it with this woman, and I lapse into silence. He’s drawing this woman’s portrait in his studio, which all sounds like that scene in Titanic. I know how he gets when he draws.

It makes me want to buy a plane ticket somewhere. I’ve been fantasizing about quitting my job and joining the Peace Corps. I could go live in Tonga and teach English, far from the circus of people-pleasing that my life has become. I’m so afraid of people losing interest in me that anytime anyone asks me to do something, my answer is YES, until I’m exhausted and frazzled. By the time I get home, I’m having heart palpitations and I feel like I can’t breathe. I keep thinking about Sketch uptown, drawing this woman who loves him.  Tracing the lines of her face in charcoal, his affection for her making her beautiful.

All my emotions this week are the petty ones, although I do a reasonable facsimile of generosity and familial devotion. I go home for Thanksgiving, and as my mother has just had knee-replacement surgery, it is down to my stepfather and I to do the Thanksgiving meal. I love how people assume that because I have a vagina I know how to operate a stove. My stepfather, government bean-counter that he is, prepares a spreadsheet of various dishes and cook-times and barks orders at me. People arrive with their spouses and show off babies and photos of remodeled basements, while I try to figure out what to do with a potato masher. My mother is on all the drugs that I like, and I am jealous that she gets to spend the day on narcotics instead of worrying over a pot of squash.

I don’t get into her pills, because I would never climb out again, but I do turn the bottles around so I can read the labels. On the oxycontin bottle, in my mother’s handwriting, the word STRONG. I would love something STRONG right now, even though I know that it doesn’t solve anything.   It’s like throwing a blanket over a bunch of dirty dishes. They’re still under there; you’re not fooling anyone.

Instead, I go to three yoga classes in a row, including an aerial class with a man who is at least 6’4” and looks to be pushing 70. This slab of an old man wraps himself in the silk hung from the ceiling and flips himself around and around until I feel like clapping. I also sort of feel like taking him home; he is old and agile and maybe he can explain things to me. Instead, I climb inside the silk like a hammock, cross my arms over my chest, and just sway in the cocoon for a while. I emerge, not like a butterfly but like the same motherfucking caterpillar that went in. This is not how the metaphor is supposed to work. I feel like I should have changed into something else by now. I should be living in Tonga, with a name in a foreign language. I should be spending Thanksgiving in a place where no one has ever tasted turkey. I should be at the very least over Sketch, or in enough acceptance that I’m not thrown into a panic by another woman mousing around for crumbs.

But I’m writing. There is that, words like entries in a ledger, adding up slowly, the one thing I can account for as proof that something different is happening.  It’s an answer for the questions that creep out when I’m trying to sleep.  It’s enough of a reason to keep going.  And if nothing else, if anything happens to me, its a tip-off that it was no accident.images-49

 

 

Standard
Awkward Moments, Blogging, Sex, Silence, Voice

At a Loss For Words: Sex and My Overly-Verbal Life

images-20Sketch and I have so much lust for each other, we speak through gritted teeth under the blankets. Naked, there is just this man, whose body I want to collide with as hard as I possibly can.  In bed, it works.  But we all have to put our pants back on at some point, and when I do, I walk around dreading that it will happen again, this cyclical fucking entropy that he and I are caught in, where one of us sends the other packing. Clothed, there is just the glum certainty that our circle can not hold.

I wake up in Sketch’s apartment, step on a cat by accident on my way to the bathroom.  My ass is still sore from last night, and my neck feels funny; I don’t sleep right unless I’m alone, but I never admit that out loud, not after those lonely months without him. I used to wake up and think I saw him laying there, but it would just be the way the blanket was folded, not actually the back of his head at all.

The sex is great. Our bodies line up perfectly, and when we are in bed it feels like when you bring home a bookshelf you haven’t measured for and it fits the room perfectly.   Our bodies line up, but everything else clashes with misunderstanding. I can tell he has found me irritating all night. Our conversation over dinner was awkward; I kept asking questions about things he already told me about, because I can’t just sit there not saying anything, wishing our entrees would come faster so I’ll have something to talk about, so my mouth will be full and I won’t need to try to spin a story about eighth period into anecdotal gold.

I am exhausted. I love him, and I want him, but by the time we get back to his apartment, sex feels like one more bucket of water I need to lug up the hill, one more rock to break. I am on a relationship chain-gang. He says: I love you, but I hate dating your schedule. I know I have nothing left, but I keep insisting that I’ve got enough fumes in the tank to see me safely into the driveway.

Of course, after the sex, which is predictably amazing, the momentum swings me right into wakefulness. I lay awake wondering how much time we have left, listening to his cat puke voluminously on the bathroom floor, laying booby traps for my bare feet.

Sketch is aggravated in the morning when I want to leave at seven, but I need to get out of there. I want to come home and be in the sunny cube of my own space, putting words into order, watching my rabbit. She has dragged a cookbook that once belonged to my grandmother under the bed and is tearing out the pages with her teeth while I type; I am too tired to try and take it away from her, and I was never going to actually make Baked Alaska or Beef Wellington anyway.

I love Sketch. I do. But sometimes I only tell him I love him because I don’t know what else to say, and I want to fill in the quiet with something.

images

I recently dreamed that I met some guy and within a week, he had asked me to marry him, with the stupid ring and everything, and I said yes, because that is the usual narrative and despite my best efforts, the cliché still exerts an almost tidal pull on me, the tug of supposed to. In this dream, I realized of course that I did not want to move in or share a bank account with this stranger, and I called it off, already mentally composing the blog post in my dream. When I woke up from blogging in my sleep, I was disappointed, because I no longer had this thing to write about.

I keep a drafts document with all my essays, open on the computer, but as time rolls on I barely stay ahead. Each blog post feels like my last, like I will have nothing else to write about after I put this one up. Each blog post feels like a miracle, never to be repeated.

I come home from yoga and I open up my computer, and I look at websites to submit work on. I find one called Review Review, a comprehensive catalogue of every single place you can submit your shit to. It is the OKCupid for the literary slut, and I am composing winky-faced emails to editors all evening as the living room gets dark around me. I don’t get up and turn on the lights; I don’t want to stop to make dinner or to put away the groceries that I dumped by the door on my way in. I write things and then I send them out, eating a sleeve of crackers in the dark while I type with one hand.

I didn’t think it would ever be this way. For twenty years, it seemed like I had nothing to say. I used my computer to write email to men who weren’t right for me, to watch porn, to roll around on Facebook comparing my life unfavorably to others. I used to take solice from tales of artists who didn’t get any traction until middle age: Paul Gauguin didn’t start painting until he was 39. Toni Morrison didn’t write The Bluest Eye, her first novel, until she was 40. It’s that same persistent delusion that I have in all things, the one that tries to convince me that how I feel today is how I will feel tomorrow. That this should still be so believable is hard to fathom.

The blog changes the focus. It makes me more curious about what will happen next, because the thing that happen are things that I can write about even if they are terrible things. Especially if they are terrible things.

I didn’t have anything to say to Sketch at dinner, but that’s OK. I have things to say now, and here I am, saying them.

Standard