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.

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.

Addiction, Blogging, Breakups, dating, essays, Getting Honest, New York, Sex, Writing

Is It Love, or Is It Oxytocin?

imgres-24Connecticut is the last thing I think about most nights, and most mornings he’s the first person I text after I wake up. Yet still I warn him, Don’t get your hopes up, dude. I’m not girlfriend material. I can feel his thoughts pull together like storm clouds, and yesterday when I call him he lays it down: he’s not going to be OK with sharing me with Sketch forever.

I’m not sure if he has been reading the blog or just reading me, noting my hesitation and how often I disappear to the Upper West Side. I try to picture not going back to back to Sketch’s studio anymore, and all I see is a bank of gray nothing. Because what would I do without Sketch? For so long he has been the organizing principle of my life; I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have him to chase after, the way who is the Hamburglar if you take away hamburgers? No one. Some sad former felon with no sense of direction.

I am a person who is defined by her wants, and yet when Connecticut asks what they are, I am flummoxed. In an ideal world, what does love look like for you? Not these exact words, but this is how I understand them, and I wish I could remove my entire brain and hand it do him, so he could see how it drips and glows like radium in a cave. Oxytocin kicking through every line, making all my thoughts as loud and unreliable as some drunk asshole at the back of the bar who takes your drink by mistake and wanders off with it to go tell lies.   I wish I could just hand my brain to Connecticut: here, you try dealing with this for a while.

What does love look like? This is impossible to answer, because it’s never the same thing from day to day, and desire flickers through everything like a faulty circuit. There’s a cute blond girl, maybe 23 years old, at my yoga studio, and sometimes I want to push her against a wall and jam my hands down her yoga shorts. And there’s lots of people I look at this way, and so sometimes I think love looks like a tiger stalking through the tall grass, golden eyes fixed unwaveringly on something soft and delicious. Love looks predatory. Love looks like freedom. Love looks like doing what you want to do because you want to do it, and not because someone thinks you are supposed to.

And sometimes love looks like history; there is archaeology to my fifteen-year affair with Sketch. There are ruins. There are motherfucking eras, and within them our inside jokes have grown like stalactites; I would share them here, but it is impossible to report on the private language of couples without it sounding fucking stupid, the way when you break off a stalactite and take it outside, it just looks like a shitty spear of limestone, all the magic lost. But we have our own language, Sketch and I, and if we stop talking again, it will probably be lost forever this time. Or for like six months. Same fucking thing.

But here’s a secret. Behind a private door in my head, love sometimes looks just like what everybody else has. Going to buy groceries together and discussing the relative merits of spicy guacamole vs. regular (Spicy. Spicy is the correct answer). Walking into someone’s house and having someone’s hand to hold instead of it being awkwardly jammed in my pocket or grasping around for a cookie or a cigarette or a drink because I always need to put something in my mouth like a socially-awkward toddler.   Secretly, I sometimes think love looks planning a trip together and then actually taking the trip because you can count on still liking one another in a month or two. I’m sort of ashamed of wanting this kind of love. It’s not very original. And it’s risky, horribly, nauseatingly risky.

When Sketch first left, I swore I was never getting involved in anything I couldn’t get over in a month, not ever again. My dating philosophy: like refusing to get any pet that is not flushable. If I don’t ever call anyone my boyfriend again, I don’t have to worry about a breakup. Because that only happens to people who have boyfriends. Even the word boyfriend makes me blanch, like when you pass by a nail sticking out of a board at eye-level, malevolent and rusty.

And yet my Connecticut likes a label. He confesses to wanting something more conventional, which is exactly what I knew would happen. I told you from the start, I want to protest. But the thing is, I was honest is not an excuse for being an asshole. I knew he would want the normal kind of relationship other people have, and I went ahead and took his pants off anyway. Now I can’t just protest that I warned him, even though I did. I’m responsible.  I knew, and I did it anyway.

I have told him I don’t want to be his girlfriend, but the truth is, feeling secure enough to tell him this sort of makes me want to be his girlfriend. Because I’m a crazy person, but also because I realize that he is the first man in my life that I haven’t lied to. Every other relationship I’ve ever been in has been padded with lies and faked orgasms and excuses about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and smiles in the places where I felt like screaming. But I have been honest with Connecticut. And that’s what love looks like. It looks like when you’re afraid and you somehow tell the truth anyway.