Addiction, Blogging, dating, essays, Hot Mess, New York, Recovery, Sex Addiction, Writing

Save Me From The Things I Love

restraintwithpen.jpgA woman passes on the subway platform and I eyeball her chest.   Not because of her tits, which are formidable, but because of the slogan on her t-shirt: Save me from the things I love. I mentally collect subtitles for this blog, and that is probably my favorite so far.

There are many things that I love in spite of the consequences of loving them; from difficult men to risky narcotics, my favorite pastimes are the hazardous ones.  Even this blog is dangerous; it’s seeded with some unvarnished honesties, and as my sponsor likes to say, the more you tell the truth, the less people will like you.

I started writing the material for WYSD in 2013, after Sketch moved out.   I hadn’t just been broken up with, I felt like I was breaking up myself, like a voice over a shitty cell connection.    The blog, live since December of 2014, was a basket to put the pieces into while I drifted vaguely around New York humping strangers. When I write the blog, I feel the things that I want to feel in a relationship—honest, real, connected to other people. So I’ve kept it going. Almost five hundred pages of material later, it’s helped me to pin carefully constructed narratives onto a messy series of things that have happened.   It’s cheating, and I know it; the stories I tell are always true, but they’re too neat, too linear, too one-sided.   I bury the nuance in unpublished footnotes, with all the things that don’t fit my version of events.

Here are a few things that don’t fit the story I’ve been telling you: that the person I used to be still kicks to be let out, that I sometimes feel homesick for the fetid, roachy apartment where my ex and I fought and fucked and loved each other, that yesterday I had a meeting in the building where Sketch works and it made me miss him until I felt like sinking to the sidewalk and howling.

I thought if I only could find someone new to love I would stop missing him, but that was a lie.   Yet when I say these things here and hide them from Connecticut, my new boyfriend, I feel like I’m talking behind his back, and I don’t want that to be part of the story. Because this is a story about finally being truthful with someone, and the blog doesn’t fit.  It feels disrespectful, not just to him but to my newly-formed conscience, even as I continue to merrily type, self-justifying with practiced ease.

Connecticut and I are a mess, the both of us. We go to the Astoria carnival and play that game where you punch the punching-bag as hard as you can for points and, ultimately, glory. I have an overinflated sense of my own strength and I drop confidently into a fighting stance and throw a right, but I don’t stand far enough back and the bag hits me squarely in the face on the rebound.   Actions, and their equal and opposite fucking reactions.

Connecticut steps up to the punching bag to avenge me, decides to do some sort of spinning kick in his flip-flops and whiffs it, ends up on his back, bleeding at the elbows.   We have the best of intentions, but we both end up scraped and limping, felled by a children’s game.

We match. I am so glad that I found him. And if I sometimes have doubts about things and if I have fears, and if I sometimes look at my yoga teacher and want to have secrets, the blog makes it too easy to air them, to feed them and to keep them alive.

I don’t want to have things that I am telling everybody but him.

So I am breaking up with this blog.  It’s not you, it’s me.   I want to tell you that this is just a break, but that’s cowardly, so let’s not pretend this is temporary. Let’s just split up and walk away. I loved you, I really loved you. Leaving doesn’t change that. I just don’t think that you’re good for me anymore.

I write this post, and when I get up, I expect to feel lighter, but instead I feel like I’m carrying a dead pet in my arms. Stricken. Lost. I lose my shit and cry on the F train on the way home from school, losing my composure MTA-style for the first time since Sketch left. Supposedly, the train is where most people get their grief-weep on, because there’s nothing else to do while the subway shunts you to your destination, nothing else to look at but those advertisements for summertime breast implants, and you feel anonymous behind your sunglasses. If you drip, no one comments.

I get off at Broadway-Lafayette so that I can walk around the pet store there; my class hamster needs food, and looking at a bunch of guinea pigs and tortoises usually calms me down. But all the tanks are empty, the bowls turned upside down. They must be cleaning them.

I get a text from Connecticut; I told him that the blog is coming down, and he writes that I can always come and post things on his website . I feel sick, like someone tried to take me puppy-shopping with the dead one still cooling.

It’s not his fault, but I need a minute. It’s the distance from awareness to acceptance that hurts like a motherfucker, and I don’t want to tell Connecticut any of this, because I don’t want him to feel bad.   You can’t complain to the person you love about having to care about his feelings; I get to care about his feelings. I am amazed that I even can. Sketch was mortified by the existence of this blog, and I never offered to stop writing it, even though I loved him, and love him still.

Sketch and Connecticut never asked me to choose between having the relationship and writing about the relationship, and I’m deeply grateful to them both, and to all the men and women that I wrote about in this blog. Even that one fucker who threatened to sue me. I learned stuff from each of them, and it was interesting to try to come up with their pseudonyms.   If I’ve offended anyone in pursuit of a good metaphor, if protecting your privacy came in as a second priority to telling the story of how we got it on, I humbly apologize. I’ve done, as always, my best, even as it becomes apparent now how insufficient that really is.

So now, how to turn it off?   I imagine taking off the shovel necklace I have worn around neck for the last year and hurling it dramatically into the river, right here by the snags and rips of Hell’s Gate. But those Viking-funerals always go wrong, rings and photographs and small pets ending up marooned on the rocks along the East River. I think about tearing the whole thing down with my bare hands; I could delete the blog and forget my password and erase the files. But that’s just the drama talking. I think I will let it stand. Besides, the blog is subcutaneous. It’s under my skin. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and the most honest. Writing this made me happy. So thank you for reading it.

But the story here has reached an endpoint.

There will be other blogs. You’re not done writing, my friend Gabby reassures me.  I have a rough time with endings, and always read books from a series in the backwards order. I’d rather end with Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae still alive and fighting Indians, with Roland and his gang still intact and dreaming of the Tower.

And as for me, the school year just ended, and all the other teachers are glad to see the backs of the retreating kids, to get on with their summer travels, but I just feel lost and alone and left behind.

But the bald fact that it hurts doesn’t make it any less right to end it. Because maybe that’s what this blog has been all about, really. I thought it was about Sketch and the breakup and finding love, and it wasn’t really, and I thought it was about finding my way back to writing because nothing sucks harder than being a something that doesn’t do that something. But that wasn’t exactly the whole story either.

Maybe it was really about finding the space to care about another person enough that I don’t need to keep this room of my own open, whispering my secrets to the walls. Maybe it’s a mistake, but love always seems to happen that way, by accident and with plenty of pratfalls, like a punching bag that hits you back on the rebound.   The challenge for me has never been embracing something or someone new. I’m good at that part. The trick has always been letting go of these other things: these things I can trick myself into believing I can not live without, these things that cost me so much. These things that I love.

New York, 2016

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“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

–Gloria Steinem

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Addiction, dating, Distance, essays, Love, Sex, Writing

Comfortably Kinky? Plus: A Guest Post by Connecticut

FullSizeRender-27How long does it take to get really comfortable with your new lover? The sort of comfortable where you can stop hinting and just flat-out ask for a dog collar, or for the angle you like the anal at, or for the names you like to be called? The kind of comfortable where you text a reminder to bring zip-ties over the same way you’d request a gallon of milk? I would argue that it doesn’t take that long to build a routine around kinky, but it does a few months to stop feeling a little weird about it afterwards, to ease up on all the hyper-vigilant monitoring and just enjoy the good fortune of finding someone who likes the same shit you do.

Last week I wrote about insecurities, thick on my hull as fucking barnacles; maybe this is how long it takes to start to shrug them off, to pee with the bathroom door open because we’re in the middle of a conversation, to be OK with being an imperfect person in an imperfect shell and still want to tell Connecticut that he owns me.

So here we are, after three months of applying my wriggliness to this other human, and it seems like a milestone. Maybe because, inured as I am in 12-step culture, there is a mythos that surrounds the 90-day mark. The recovery rooms give you a token after 90 days of not drinking (one that I hear certain predatory bars will accept as drink-payment for falling face-first off the wagon). After 90 days, you get invited to go up to the podium and talk a whole bunch about yourself .  Three months has weight. It has significance.

Some of this is probably rooted in the folk-science of it taking 90 days to forge a new habit. Supposedly, it takes less time to break an old habit than to make a new one; I’m not so sure. It’s been eight years and I still want a cigarette.  But this week marks three months since Connecticut finally crossed the vast distances of the couch to put his talented hands on me, and he has written a guest post for WYSD to help mark the occasion. I feel it’s only fair that he gets a turn at the mic.  You can read my version of the same events here.  They say all stories have three sides: your version, my version, and what really happened; this doesn’t mean narratives have to compete, just that it’s nice to let someone speak for himself once in a while.

So, guys, meet Connecticut, telling his version of the first time he kissed me.

No need for introductions, I suppose.

I remember sitting on a couch, perched on the edge. My legs were spread wide, elbows planted firmly into the meat just above my knees. I had fashioned myself into a pyramid of bones. It was unconscious, but looking back, I was attempting to both take up space and offer no softness: a defensive position. 

If you ever catch yourself using the term “man-spreading,” know that you’re talking about the posture of fear.

Two or three feet away—easily within arm’s reach—she was lying, all curve and happy slackness, dress creeping up to reveal legs I was too frightened to touch. Those two or three feet could easily have been hundreds of yards of minefield and barbed wire, the way I was reacting to it.

I had had some bad experiences. I did what I had been trained to do when I was a child: constrict. Control. Clamp down, dig in and stubbornly refuse to do anything that might open myself to harm. There’s a decent amount of hurt in my life-story, both real and imagined.

Perched on the edge of the couch, I begin to try to explain. After chuckling at me and throwing me her beautiful, slightly skewed smile, she pointed out the ridiculousness of my posture, my sweatiness, and mostly my use of air-quotes. I tried to tell her how I put my heart on the shelf for safe-keeping. I hid it in the back of myself, where the seldom-used cans of spices go in a pantry. Perfect spot for my emotional core, right next to the Dillweed. She didn’t seem to get what a big deal this is. And that’s alright.

I couldn’t tell her what a big deal it is, because to do so would be to acknowledge that I a) have feelings and b) have them in her direction. It would mean breaking down a dam, and letting all this… stuff spill out.

This stuff, roughly speaking, was an amalgam of stolen glances and perceived understandings. Intimacies. Secrets. Seeing her across a crowded room a long time ago, bright blue eyes under an Annie Hall hat. I remarked to a friend at the time that I thought she was cute. Not that I’d dare do anything about it. Then, months later, hearing her talk, sharing that I sometimes feel like a werewolf and her saying she knew what I meant. I shook her hand and felt a warmth that went beyond mere physical contact. Not long after that, seeing her in her own neighborhood, on her own soil. Telling her about myself, indirectly, as I addressed a room full of people. Watching her—and mostly just her—out of the corner of my eye as she laughed at my self-deprecating remarks and nodded sagely at the best understanding of myself I could muster.

And then, friendship. Long and slow acquisition of knowledge about one another. We shared coffee and the giddy joy of discovery. We were—and still are—sometimes like two archeological digs that happen to be next to each other. “Look at this weird thing I found from the Teenage-zoic period!”

All of this was rumbling around behind me, as she told me to sit like a normal person. Not long after that, I said “Fuck it” and managed to cross the two or three feet that felt like miles of wasteland. Turns out it was just two or three feet after all.

There’s been much since there. Maybe I’ll write about that one day. For now I’m just enjoying my good fortune.

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It’s really hard not to annotate, to add marginalia, to clarify with tiny cartoons.  But maybe 90 days is the right amount of time not to need to chime in every second with my own thoughts and opinions.  His side, my side, and we find a way to touch each other, in the middle.

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Addiction, Boys, Breakups, essays, Fantasy, Men, Queens, Want Monster, Writing

The Reformed Werewolves Club

images-78Are you supposed to feel this insecure three months into a new relationship? I guess no one ever looks down until they are halfway up a ladder, and when I chance a look, I feel sick. Because he matters to me now: I eyeball Connecticut, across from my parents at brunch and I wonder I wonder if I look too old for him, and if that is what everyone is thinking, and if it is only a matter of time until he thinks so too, and the whole structure sways vertiginously beneath me.

He meets my family, and at brunch, he gives my parents too much information; they ask how we met, and he launches into the long tale of how he was retired from dating when he met me, had been for a while, and then how things were sort of bumpy at first, and how he had told me on our first night out together that his dentist was hot and from this I had concluded that he wasn’t interested in me.

I can still remember how disappointed I was that first night. That’s how he got the name “Connecticut—“ named after the state he’s from, where people are regular and do not like me. He hates this name, has requested a new one for the purposes of this blog. So far, no dice.

Connecticut is not regular, and he does appear to like me, but still, I never feel like I have a good hold on him. He feels slippery, like any moment he might need to get his teeth cleaned and realize that loving me is a mistake.

With my addict-head thusly jammed up my own ass, I go out to speak at a 12-step meeting in midtown; I was nominated to speak at this fundraiser in October, and there are people there with clipboards sitting in the folding chairs and coffee fug, scoring my story on a rubric. It’s not a good enough story, I know it’s not good enough. It’s ordinary and I stumble over the words. A man with a clipboard makes a notation when I freeze and look at everyone for a long time, forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing and why I am here, my back a run of flop-sweat. When I was little, I was in some performance where I self-consciously pulled my dress up over my head so no one could see me. Stood there hidden, showing my underroos. This feels sort of like that.

When I get home, my apartment smells like grilled vegetables; Connecticut has magically made there be dinner out of the ingredients for dinner in my cabinets. I keep a lot of ingredients in the house, but only he knows how to put them together; left to my own devices, I will eat the same vegan grilled cheese sandwich night after night. While I was out, he hung my mirror; he hooked up my DVD player.

And I don’t know what to do with the certainty that I do not deserve this, any of this. Who sent you? I want to bark. Why are you here? How long, exactly, are you planning to stay?

When I look at him, I feel certain that he will be gone soon. He is like a snowman someone built on my lawn. In June. Inexplicable and temporary. I’m scared to get used to him being there.

Are you supposed to feel this insecure in a new relationship? I do not know. Maybe it’s the thing that keeps me from taking him for granted.

But in the middle of all this fear, I become aware, suddenly aware, of how many other interesting-smelling people there are around.   Deal messages me, letting me know he’ll be in New York soon; I never got the chance to fuck him while I was single and that doesn’t seem entirely fair. Also: I’m going on a field trip today with my students, and one of the chaperones is this sexy divorced father, who I think was waiting until the end of the school year to invite me out for coffee. I go on Facebook and stare forlornly at the long, golden limbs of that hot yoga teacher; she is wearing a bikini, and she is upside down, and she looks delicious.

But I am somehow in a monogamous relationship.

I look at myself in photos on Facebook and think I am unbearably ugly—the way my mouth hangs crooked on its nail, the tendons in my neck taut like rigging. I am old and uneven and I exercise too much. When I feel this way, I usually go looking for someone willing to try to persuade me that I’m wrong. Me, along with a million other girls I see walking around Astoria, all bright lipstick and short skirts and thumb-shaped bruises on our muscular thighs, waiting for someone to tell us we’re pretty enough.

This weekend, Connecticut and I are driving to New Haven, where I will be meeting his family, even though I’m not to be trusted in polite social settings, and even though people from Connecticut don’t like me. It’s a pretty good sign that we’re in something solid. But when he tells me that afterwards, he’s going to drop me back at my place and go home to his, because he’s tired, and is that OK, I tell him that it is. Of course it is.

It’s fine, to be alone on a Saturday night, with incoming text messages that offer me opportunities to feel wanted, to touch and to be touched even if it’s only our emojis that rub up against each other. I’ll be fine. I’m not going to turn into some addict-werewolf that rips her pants off and runs out into the night baying for attention.

Probably. Almost definitely not. I’m pretty sure.

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(Side note: I think it’s impossible for a werewolf-girl to look sexy.  It always looks like a dog in a dress.)

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Addiction, Art, Blogging, Breakups, Consequences of Blogging, dating, essays, Getting Honest, Girls

Still Addicted: The “Ex” in Sex

images-77Sketch calls me. And he calls. And he calls once more.

If your sexy, charismatic ex calls three times, I think there’s some rule that you have to call him back before he appears in the bathroom mirror behind you, right?

In the messages, he sounds like himself: funny, affable, familiar. But there’s something just underneath: hurt and bewilderment and teeming irritation that I can see like something glimpsed moving beneath the ice on a pond.   In the last message, he tells me he doesn’t know what to do, or why he can’t reach me, and that he might just come here.

I live on the ground floor of my building, and I find myself peeping, heart kicking in my chest, out the windows.  Afraid, and also feeling the other thing that I always feel when my ex is around. Over a decade, and my pelvis still tilts at his signal like a satellite dish.

Sketch has never been the type to come battle the bushes to imprecate through the window, so I don’t know what to make of any of this newfound passion. To be honest, I didn’t think he was invested enough to get on a train and cross the East River. I figured in the fullness of time, I would have to explain why I vanished, but I thought I would have  months of head start before I had to introduce him to the new boyfriend.

My new boyfriend, Connecticut: sweet, available, clumsy as shit. He fell in my bathtub the other day while we were taking a shower and scared the fuck out of me. Bruised his ribs. It seems I’m no longer the only one around here losing fights with furniture.

It’s not fair to compare him to Sketch and I know it. There’s no decision here, I tell my friend Courtney. It’s like being asked do you want a horse or a unicorn. Unicorns are amazing but you can’t actually have one, because they are not real. Once I realized that Sketch wasn’t actually an option, it got a lot easier to pick.

Sketch texts me: I read your blog, he says. What’s going on? Who is Connecticut?  

He texts me a picture of a coffee mug I once gave him that says, You are my person. There’s nothing like having your own coffee-mug promises thrown back at you. The guilt feels like I’ve swallowed teeth and they are chattering now in my belly.

I’ve written that finally moving out and moving on from a relationship like the one Sketch and I had feels like watching your childhood home burn to the ground.   But this is worse. This is watching your childhood home burn to the ground with your puppy still inside.

And there is nothing I can do, not without undoing a lot of the things I have already done. I want to go and rescue him, but all I have is this flamethrower and everything I could say is incendiary. How is this possible, I want to ask him. I am astonished by his astonishment. He had no idea, my friend Courtney says. When you told him there was someone else. He didn’t really believe it.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, my someone else, lets me pick what we do on Saturday. Sketch never used to let me pick the thing to do; he’s still upset about that time I made him come with me to see 12 Years A Slave; he rescinded my picking-privileges indefinitely after that one. Which I didn’t think was fair, as we had just gone to see Tim’s Vermeer and that film is literally two hours of watching paint dry.

Connecticut lets me pick. We go to Figment, the big participatory art-fair and weirdo-fest on Governor’s Island. Making our way past a group of people getting married in Midsummer’s Night garb and a bunch of acrobats in body paint and a man driving a giant toad with a throbbing base line, he posits, I don’t think I’m cool enough for you. He is, of course he is, but it’s nice that someone thinks I am cool.

He lets me pick, even though the East River ferry makes him a little queasy and the sun will wipe him out for the entire next day. We eat trendy popsicles on a pair of old-timey porch rockers, and talk about everything and nothing. When we go home, he will make me come until I cry.

It feels honest, which is a great feeling considering the fact that I am a lying sack of shit. I tell people that I told Sketch about Connecticut, but this is a lie. I told him that I was seeing someone, and that I had feelings for the person, and I deliberately omitted all gendered pronouns. I let him think it was a girl; it was the same week I made out with that girl from yoga, and I gave him enough details about that so he would think that was what I was up to.  All the while telling myself that we had an open relationship, and that leaving him with these half-truths would be less painful to him. I am a self-serving asshole, because really it was about making it easier for me to leave. It was about buying time so I could make a slick getaway.

And it was about leaving the door open just a crack in case things didn’t work out with Connecticut. Let me just be honest here, if no place else. It’s hard to look behind you and see that you can’t go back the way you’ve just come. How do I know I’m going the right way?

But there is no other way for me to go now but forward. I read the blog, Sketch said. For months now, the blog’s been all about me falling in love with someone else.

He will never forgive me.

All the guilt is here now, a wall of it, and I can’t face him. This person I have loved longer than anyone– the phone rings with him on the other end and I handle it like a pillowcase full of snakes, carrying it from the room with my thumb and forefinger to go throw it in a drawer.

Eventually I text Sketch, saying exactly what everyone everywhere says when they feel guilty about hurting someone they love: I love you but I need some space. Because I can’t. I can’t talk to him, I can’t see him right now. I don’t trust myself with him, the way I don’t trust myself around someone else’s Xanax. I can list for you all the reasons why it’s bad for me and still want it anyway.

So I hold myself back, and Sketch is at the windows of the burning house that is our relationship, and I pray, hard, that someone else will come soon and rescue him.

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Addicted to attention, Confessions, dating, essays, Labels, Sex, Writing

Relationship Status

IMG_3792Connecticut has a lot of female friends. All those sexually tense months before he finally reached for me, I thought I was the only person getting witty text banter, but that is not the case.  There is this woman he’s close to, and if I was uncharitable, I would say that he’s been leading her on; she clearly likes him, and he hasn’t told her that I am his girlfriend.

I get it. I do. I get it from both their perspectives, but it profoundly bums me out, that we’re still a secret to some people.

The Facebook relationship status is a pretty good indicator of willingness to go public. My friends list cuts across a broad spectrum of people I know and have known, many of whom have had their genitals in my mouth at some point, some of whom would be upset to learn about my new boyfriend through fucking Facebook.  And then there’s Sketch’s friends and family: I haven’t deleted any of those associations yet, and I am friends with Sketch’s mother, and she is only friends with twelve people, and it feels mean to unfriend her. Or Sketch’s sister-in-law: I’ve played with her daughters, Sketch’s nieces, since they were babies. I used to crawl drunk into their play-tent. I used to give them hazardous, galloping piggyback rides down the stairs.

You never get to break up with someone else’s kids—you just completely vanish on them and they are left with further proof that adults are as unreliable as mirages.

I like seeing these people on Facebook. And I like seeing Sketch’s friends. It makes it feel less like a whole piece of my social circle just got sheared off and flung into space. Even if it’s just assigning a like to a post, it feels less like exile.

The habits of being single and hoarding crumbs of attention, like an orphan or a refugee, are hard to break. So I get why Connecticut is hesitating to tell this woman about me.

Is it important to you that I tell her, he asks. And I don’t want it to be my decision, so I tell him to do what he wants, but there’s no way to tell someone to do what he wants without sounding petulant. She’s moving to Southeast Asia in a few weeks anyway.   This woman is alternate reality Tippy, traveling and doing cool shit while dragging around feelings for Connecticut. That’s the way it could have gone for us, too. I could have gotten a lengthy email from him, explaining a new relationship, and I would have wanted to kill him and then myself even as I kept my voice level.

I walk around the next day feeling insecure and uncertain, and hating it. I didn’t have any of this to deal with, back when I was splitting my time between Connecticut’s bed and Sketch’s; if one of them was too busy to pay attention to me, I just called up the other. I always had a back-up plan.

I hate this, I tell Connecticut. I hate feeling this way. Jealous, and scared, and insecure. It’s the first time in our relationship when I have ventured a look down, and I don’t care for the view. It all feels like a preview to a plummet.

He goes to see this woman, who is getting ready to move and thus selling a bunch of her shit, and he comes back with a pair of creepy lithographs and the news that he told her about us. I told her about you by name, Connecticut says. She and I know each other, peripherally, from around the neighborhood; she told him that she was happy for us.

That weekend, Connecticut and I go to the movies to watch superheroes punch the shit out of one another and I pull snacks out of hidden compartments in my bag. My life is full of hidden compartments and trap doors, it seems like; I love a hiding place, even if I’m not hiding anything more subversive than carrot sticks.

Connecticut checks in on Facebook, tagging me as being with him. He writes: FINALLY. As in finally going to see this movie that apparently everyone else has seen already, but to me, it’s finally, as in finally time to just come clean with everyone, and with ourselves, that we are together and that we love each other and that there isn’t anybody else.  It’s kind of a moment.

Our check-in gets seven likes.  I’m not sure our friends get the significance.

We are in bed that night when I look at him and tell him, “You are my person.” Followed by a flood of remorse and feelings of disloyalty. Because Sketch was always my person, and that’s what I called him, especially once I could no longer call him my boyfriend. My person. The human that goes with me.

It’s hard, in the new relationship, not to use the vocabulary of the old. Because that is all I have. I am trying hard to write something new, but when I look at Connecticut, I sometimes think that his eyes crinkle like Monster’s, and that he is smart like Kick, and that I love that he reads books, like Bunny. He reminds me of the men I have loved already, and so I know how to love him, but he is also new, and unknown, and frightening. It’s the fear more than anything that makes me realize: holy shit. I am in a relationship.

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Addiction, Bringing Yourself, Distance, essays, Men, Photography, Relationships, Sex, Teaching, Writing

Giving a Shit, And Other Things That Hurt

IMG_3581.JPGThe Eftilou guesthouse where we’re staying is surrounded by hordes of semi-feral cats, needy and squalling, their ears shredded, their tails bobbed, some of their eyes missing. Battle cats: they fight and fuck late into the night in the jasmine-scented darkness. It seems like it’s always quiet in Greece until the cats or the church bells raise a sudden commotion, or some men from the local village start shooting shotguns at an effigy of Judas Iscariot tied to a pine tree. It’s Greek Orthodox Easter, and my friend and I are looked after by an old Greek woman whom I want to jam into my suitcase so she will come back to New York with me and be my new grandmother. She bakes me cookies. She picks me some strawberries.   She enthusiastically wishes me good morning in her thick accent. I love her.

But mostly the first thing I want to do when I get back to the guesthouse is get on the wifi so that I can text Connecticut. It’s a jones, low-level but persistent and distracting, like wanting a cigarette or something with sugar in it. Back in New York it is lunchtime; he’ll be sitting out in Union Square Park, and I can usually talk him into taking a selfie to show me what color tie he is wearing. I don’t particularly care what tie he is wearing, but I love that there is a person who will photograph themselves at my demand, for my personal pleasure.

But the wifi is out in Eftilou; there was a storm earlier this week that chucked rocks up onto the esplanade and swallowed deck chairs whole. It was a day to be relieved that the Coast Guard is turning back the Syrian refugees that are trying to cross the Mediterranean out of nearby Turkey; they wouldn’t have survived the five-mile crossing today. I, meanwhile, am a person whose worst problem is that she does not have wifi, and I am losing my shit. Because I can not text Connecticut, and if I can not text him, I worry that maybe his attention will shift to something or someone else. After all, that is my modus operandi: code name Out Of Sight, Out of Mind.

And now I care, and it is hard, caring. I still remember the way he side-eyed me back in December when I told him, I find you riveting. I’m pretty sure the only way I was able to get this close to him was by being all casual and ambiguous, still ducking out to go crawl under my ex. I got close to him the way you get close to a shy cat: a careful display of disinterest. I think of the battle cats outside, who wind around your ankles, hoping for scraps; the second you make eye contact and extend your arms, they bolt.

And now I catch myself pursuing Connecticut with my arms outstretched, texting him that I want one of his old t-shirts to sleep in because I miss his smell, my stomach lurching when I see his name, wildly swinging my phone around in circles trying to catch a bar. A throbbing cliché. Next I will start drawing hearts in a notebook and checking out his horoscope in the newspaper.   It’s terrible. He has a hundred and ten percent of my attention and I’m worried I’m going to freak him out, because my full attention is scary, and what if he only likes me elusive and disinterested?

So maybe it’s good that there’s no wifi. It might save me from myself.  For all he knows, I’m down on the beach with some Greek fishermen, running my fingers through their beards. This is a country where, to appropriate a line from Bill Bryson, the hottest man you’ve ever seen is blocked from your view by the next hottest man you’ve ever seen. I walk around smiling at people I could easily fall in love with for a week or two, fists balled under my chin. I flirt, but halfheartedly.

All my attention is directed on Connecticut, sunlight intensified through the magnifying glass that is my addict brain. I wonder if he’s puzzled by the change. I’ve been gently nudging him away for weeks, only making plans with him at the last minute, trying to schedule him around Sketch, replying to his lengthy texts with a single, distracted emoji, getting naked with him in the afternoon on days when I know I have something to do in the evening. And then one day I just wake up in Greece and find myself wanting to be this man’s girl, and it’s fucked up. I’ve already told him that I don’t want to be his girlfriend, that I think monogamy is for suckers, that I am not a relationship person.   And this is why you should never make sweeping pronouncements about yourself; you will only need to walk them back later.

How do people handle it? All the feelings? It’s like some rock over my soul just got kicked over, and this is what is underneath. It’s gross, and scary.

There is a smoking hot yoga teacher I know who invited me to go to some sort of girl-on-girl party in Brooklyn. That is what I am supposed to be doing with my life, not this thing where I feel so needy, where I want constant reassurance, where I need to see what color tie the man is wearing just to breathe normally again.

But alas, my phone has no wifi. Also, a few days ago, my phone’s iMessage shit the bed, and now I can’t hear from anybody unless they get me through Facebook or What’sApp (the worst application name ever, by the way. I can’t say it without wanting to punch my own self in the face). So also Sketch doesn’t know what happened to me. For all he knows, the cats got me.

I can’t even begin to think about having the conversation with him about Connecticut, and how this changes things. Every time I try to bring up the subject with my brain, all my thoughts dart away into some bushes, startled and wild. I can’t shake the conviction that this is really it, this time. I’m not going to frame this departure as a date-stamped break, or claim I’m just going to see what it’s like to date other people. I love someone else, and I need to put him first now.

It is a phyllo dough comprised of flaky layers of guilt, oozing with grief and dried lust-fruits. That is exactly the Greek pastry that my relationship to my ex now is.   Something you would feed to the stray cats to get them to leave you alone.

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It’s not Greek Orthodox Easter without this horror show.

I’ve reached my last day in Greece; I’m typing this from the tiny balcony of a cut-rate hotel. Greek Orthodox church bells woke me up at seven, and I came out here to write for a bit, looking up at the Acropolis. You can see it from everywhere around here, it seems like.

Ten days without sex and I feel a little more leveled out. I dreamed about bondage last night and woke up unsure of who had me tied up, Connecticut or Sketch.   Maybe neither. Maybe it’s a symbol or something.

I didn’t do much here. My friend and I came to volunteer with the refugee crisis, but we spent most of our days aimlessly looking for people to tell us what to do in various overstaffed storage warehouses. We folded and labeled clothing donations from boxes where it had already been folded and labeled.  FullSizeRender-22.jpgWe went to the beach up by the lighthouse and climbed down with the environmental crew to help cut apart rubber dinghies caught on the rocks, allowing me to live out my lifelong fantasy of wearing a knife and work-gloves with a bikini, but the work could have been done in minutes with proper equipment.   Everyone here is just kind of waiting for the borders to reopen, and I feel embarrassed when my friend posts humble-brag photos on Facebook. We are tourists here, trying to blend in with the real humanitarians that have been in the camps for months.

We loiter around the gates at Kera Tepe, the refugee camp outside of Mitilini, still hoping to Do Something Good. There’s a power strip at our picnic table, so when a couple of Yazidi men come out to charge their phones and electric shavers, they have no choice but to talk to us.   That’s how we end up having English class with their children and their wives, twenty-five Yazidi in the adjacent olive grove. What words do you teach someone who has no English? (They do know the ABCs, however, everyone including the men singing the song right up to the next time won’t you sing with me part in a heavily Kurdish-accented English) Cherry-picking vocabulary to pass along, I go with members of the family, things that you wear, the names of the things on your face. They take careful notes, double-checking the letters, and teach me Kurdish for the same, but I forget it immediately. I would make a terrible refugee. I am a bad swimmer and my brain is like a fossil in a can.

What these people have been through, are going through, will go through as they petition for asylum in one of the few countries willing to take them, is a bigger and more important topic than I am willing to ham-fistedly tackle in my silly sex blog. But I can tell you that the only time I stopped thinking about Sketch and Connecticut and the whole mess was when a five-year-old refugee girl slipped up next to me as we walked back to camp, and put her tiny hand in my hand. She didn’t ask. She just trusted that I would take care of her. And the only time I stopped thinking about whether I really love Connecticut, and whether I should tell him, and whether I am capable of actually loving anyone because I only think about myself all of the fucking time, is when a Yazidi boy the age of my students at home, gorgeous with his hazel eyes and thick eyelashes, stopped me by our rental car to practice his new vocabulary: I love you.   I lost it for a moment, my throat almost too tight to return the English. I love you too. I mean it. In the moment I mean it.  For now, it’s the best I can do.

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Come to Lesvos!  They supported the refugees and now they need support; tourism is down 85% here.  Also, there are no annoying tourists around being all annoying.  So it’s win-win.

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Addiction, Bringing Yourself, Confessions, dating, essays, Sex, Travel

Brace Yourself For Impact

FullSizeRender-19This is the week I realized, with the dawning horror one feels when one has left one’s wallet in the backseat of a hastily departing taxi, that I am in love with Connecticut.

He doesn’t know that I love him. I hadn’t noticed it myself until a few days ago. A friend of mine, hosting a fundraiser in Astoria chockablock with attractive weirdos, asked me to read a piece from the blog as part of the event. Normally, this would be a cherished opportunity to try to speak my filthiest lines directly at the cutest person in the room, but instead I invite Connecticut to come along to hear me. I contemplate reading something about him, because it would be sort of easier to tell him that I love him through a microphone with a bunch of people around; I could be offhanded about it, love with padding.

But I back down at the last moment, and read something from the archives, making conspiratorial eye contact with everyone except Connecticut. The piece is about someone I really liked—until I didn’t like him anymore. This is the thing that scares me: I don’t trust my own feelings, which blow around like garbage in the street, like plastic bags, ghosts of last week’s groceries wrapping themselves indiscriminately around people and tree branches and utility poles alike. I love Connecticut now, but what happens when the wind changes direction?

So I can’t tell him, but it feels good to stage whisper at you guys, I LOVE HIM. Sometimes I text it to him at times when I know the text will not go through. If the subway was to reemerge into daylight and restore my broadband access unexpectedly, all would be lost.

I ask him, Does it freak you out that I write about you? He answers that he is happy to let me blog in private, trusting me not to write anything that would hurt him. He tells me he loves that I have something that I love. And when I stand at the microphone and read about another man putting the dick to me, I chance a quick look in Connecticut’s direction, and he is laughing along with everyone else. And that is when I know that I love him.

That night I go back to his house, and for the first time, I am able to sleep next to him. We are like two porcupines, so bristling with defenses that it is amazing they can possibly find a way to make more of themselves, yet somehow Connecticut and I have managed to line up our soft, vulnerable underbellies. You’re safe here, he tells me. Sometimes when he talks to me like this, I have to duck my chin like a child confessing to a lie. It’s honesty, not deception, that makes unable to look him in the eye.

He drives me to the airport the next day, just like a real boyfriend. My rabbit is in a cage in his backseat, staying with him for the week. It’s hard to let him drive away without saying anything. “I love you,” I say to the rabbit in the backseat, but really secretly to Connecticut. I kiss him goodbye a little sloppily; the car is triple-parked.

On the plane, there is a video that shows how to prepare for an emergency. Remove any sharp objects from your pocket. Take off your high heeled shoes. Hug your knees and brace for impact. Relationships should come with some emergency instructions too, illuminated arrows to show you which way to go. A stewardess, unencumbered by high-heeled shoes or sharp objects, would tell you which things around you float.

On the plane, there is a handsome black man in the seat next to me; his pecs and biceps fill out his t-shirt exactly the way that I like. But I do not chat him up. I let him have the armrest.   I land in Athens, a city where new things are built around the ruins of the old, and I relate to it. Athens knows it’s OK to cling a little to your past. Your past is important. She puts plexiglass around it, to protect it from the people coming out of the Starbucks next door, and goes about her business. Ten minutes from the Acropolis I pass a sex-video shop, and the monitor in the window is playing a cooking show; langoustines have never looked so dirty.

Everywhere here are men with smiles full of white teeth, and dark, soulful eyes, and beards, and no jobs.  Precisely the kind of men that make my knees part. Normally I would have tried to cram two or three into my vagina by now. But I am thinking about Connecticut, and whether I will tell him that I love him, and how that changes things. I even fly to Lesbos without referencing lesbians every eleven seconds. On the island, the rush of attention from some gorgeous Greek soldiers, any of whom I would ordinarily want to break international laws for, is enough to wake me from a jet-lagged stupor when my friend and I stop to ask them for directions. But it’s not enough to shake me out of loving Connecticut.

It’s fucked up.

I get a long-distance text from Sketch; he’s graduating from yoga teacher training this week, and he has some work in a show. He sends me a picture of himself, standing in front of a drawing of a woman with a flower in her hair. It is beautiful. He is beautiful. And still I love Connecticut.

I want to be like Athens: preserve my ruins, and build around them. Whatever Connecticut will end up being to me, he will not be what Sketch was, and that’s probably a good thing. I don’t need to take all the worry beads out of Sketch’s jar and dump them into Connecticut’s.

When I get back, we should talk about us as an Us, I text him, and then want to grab it back, but it’s already gone. Too late. I drive past goat farms and olive groves, the landscape choked with wildflowers, and I think about Connecticut telling me, I’ve got you. You are safe.

What the fuck would happen if I had a functioning adult relationship where all my needs were being met? More importantly, what the fuck would I write about?

No idea. Maybe I’ll finally start that blog about bathrooms from around the world. I am riveted by weird public restrooms, like the one in the airport in Bolivia that had one giant communal roll of toilet paper outside the stalls.

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Why is the toilet inside the shower, Greece?  Everyone pees in the shower, but you don’t need to be so obvious about it.

I came to this island to try to do Something Good, to think less about myself.  To clean up the beach and try to clean up my karma a little.  To sort supplies for the Syrian refugees and try to sort myself out.  My friend and I buy 300 pairs of women’s underwear for the refugee camp in Moria, because clean underwear is in desperately short supply. The soldiers won’t let us past the first checkpoint, but they accept the panties smiling handsomely, promising to deliver them for us.

And it doesn’t help. It reminds me of my self-centeredness without alleviating any of it. Molyvos, where I’m writing this, is beautiful, but I can’t leave myself on another shore, as badly as I want to. I think about Connecticut, and I silently count all the sharp objects.   I love him uncomfortably, and with five thousand miles between us, I hug my knees, bracing for impact.

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Lesbos.  It is nice and you should come here.

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