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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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.

 

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Addiction, Blogging, dating, Drinking, Girls, Sex, Writing

Love, Sort of

images-68When I was nineteen, I peer-pressured girls into sleeping with me.   Most of my friendships back then were predicated on aspirations of sex, and I craftily bided my time, confident that eventually you would get drunk enough for me to pounce. In a man, this behavior is disgusting and predatory, and it’s only slightly less reprehensible when you factor in my tender age at the time, my gender, and my collegiate adorability.   And then I met Smoke.

Smoke didn’t wear makeup or shave her legs or wear anything but baggy tee-shirts that were legitimately vintage, and spotting her across the quad she wasn’t the kind of girl I typically pursued, but when she talked to you, you felt like someone was really seeing you for the first time in your life. Everyone loved her, and I wanted her all for myself.

Of course I was living with my boyfriend Bummer at the time, which I believed did not disqualify me from pursuing another, totally separate relationship. Meanwhile, Smoke had started hanging around with this group of lesbians who disliked me at first sight. But I didn’t care. She had these full lips and the throatiest laugh I have ever heard, like she was congenitally missing that bullshit laugh that the rest of us have, and I loved to make that laugh come out. I followed her to parties and I waited for my opening.

It was weird, though, because it wasn’t really a lust thing, the way it was with other girls I knew and liked and tried to manipulate into positions where they would have to take their shirts off in front of me. I mostly wanted to have sex with Smoke because I wanted her full attention, and because I wanted to have something of hers that everyone else didn’t already have. I wanted to put my name on her. Mine.

We made out once, in the living room of my crappy basement apartment behind all the frat houses, with Bummer passed out in the other room. Everyone in the world drunk or high or both. Her mouth tasted like fall, her cigarette abandoned in the ash tray, and she laughed that laugh of hers, and I wanted to crack across the middle like a nesting doll so I could offer her the smaller, cleaner version of myself that was inside.

A week later, she told me she had started seeing one of the lesbians, a girl with naturally glossy hair and Doc Martens who watched me the way a security guard at the mall will watch a group of teenagers, certain that they are going to try to steal something.

Smoke was my friend, and I told her that I just wanted her to be happy and I meant it and was lying at the same exact time.   And I went home to Bummer, who I was too cowardly to break up with because I wasn’t on speaking terms with my own family back then and I didn’t know where else I would go for the holidays if not for him. I made it through finals with generous applications of Wild Turkey, and one of my friends took pity on me and let me take her to bed, probably because I was walking around looking like a cartoon character who had just stepped on a rake.  I would later repay this kindness by fucking her boyfriend behind her back.

Smoke and I stayed friends, but I knew her girlfriend didn’t like me, and it was strained, just being friends.   I got involved with other people and their interesting narcotics, but anytime I saw her, I had that same sure sense that she was the right person for me. I just wasn’t the right person for her.

Smoke and the lesbian were the ones who rescued me from my own bad decisions a few years later, when I washed up in New Orleans after graduation. She came and found me, walking into the grim little bar where I was taking off my clothes to that Portishead song. Smoke like a hallucination. The girls had a dog with them that they had found behind an Arby’s somewhere, and the whole thing was like a fever dream.

It was Smoke who gave me the news that Monster had died, and I remember how her face furrowed; I had never seen her cry before. It made her look like a different person.

After Monster’s nakedly horrible funeral, I kind of went to junkie shit and Smoke moved to Chicago to join one of those teaching programs for inner city kids. The next time I heard from her, she was calling because she wanted to tell me that she was very sorry to have to upset me, but she was receiving word from my dead ex through the bones in her head. Apparently, despite being long buried, Monster had begun calling her on the telephone.

She was relaying all this to me from the confines of a Chicago hospital, where she been brought by some police officers after a very public mental breakdown involving Smoke running around in the snow in a pair of boxer shorts, trying to open people’s car doors at the red lights and shouting things at them about the Marxist revolution. She didn’t seem bothered to be in the hospital, but she definitely thought I would be upset that Monster was reaching across the veil to call her instead of me.

Smoke was a person who used to make you feel like she saw you, and now she looked right past me, at visions only she could see; I didn’t really exist for her anymore. I saw her a few times after that in New York, but it wasn’t the same. She was jittery with revolutionary fervor, talking in double time about the Communist party and Che Guevara and power to the people. Sketch met her the last time she visited, and she slept unmolested on our couch. We’re Facebook friends now, although she never posts, and I have only her profile picture to squint at.

I loved her. I’m sure I loved her. But time passes, and that matters less and less.

These days, the way I feel about Connecticut, it reminds me of the way I felt about Smoke.   He and I are just friends, and I keep resolving to slow the battery of soul-baring texts we will exchange when I am home, alone and lonely.   The whole thing is deeply unsettling, because there’s not that familiar poke of lust, which is normally the only way I am able to motivate myself past my own social insecurities and leave the apartment. I’m more eager to nap with him than I am to sleep with him. I have a boner for, like, his companionship, a longing that is gross and weird and definitely not normal.   Sex: it gives things a solid shape, whereas this friendship feels like trying to carry around a handful of milk.  I don’t know what to do with it. Other people seem to be running around knowing what they feel and wanting only one thing at a time, but I blow around like smoke, filling whatever space you leave me.

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dating, Girls, Labels, New York, Nudists, Sex, Spa Day

Girls, Girls, Girls

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There is this girl in my yoga class, young, muscular, and green-eyed, who I sometimes look at the way an old dog will look at a rabbit. That’s mostly behind me now, chasing girls—I spend five minutes examining that adverb, taking it out, putting it back in. Mostly. The truth is, the reality of sex with girls is no longer something I have the energy for, but it was once so important to my idea of myself that I still sometimes feel flickers of interest. My body is haunted by bi-curious poltergeists, knocking quietly to see if I will knock back.

When I was adorably twenty, I was surrounded by all these gorgeous women, and there was something delicious about being the pursuer instead of worrying about whether or not I was being pursued. Not that I was shy around men (There was this one unspeakably sexy fry cook in the restaurant where I worked who only liked big girls and had no interest in my skinny ass, but I was always sidling around corners and trying to press my bones against his.   I flat out asked him to do me in the walk-in after work. He declined.) With men, it all felt like a lot of waiting around, waiting for them to respond to my hints and suggestions. But with women, I spoke with fewer question marks. I was grabbier, more insistent.

Now, I have been on the pressured end of sex, the one who gets wheedled into having sex she doesn’t really want; Prickle-Dick comes to mind. But I have also been on the offensive line, pushing through hesitation for something that I wanted. This is not a comfortable fact, but it is a true one. I drew on an arsenal of guilt, flattery, and Quaaludes to get my way. For a time, I was even a member of one of the queer quasi-political action groups on campus. It was called, embarrassingly, BIAS. Short for: Bisexuals Achieving Solidarity.  I find this acronym mortifying, by the way. Boobs I Am Seeking would have been much more honest. I went to those meetings to look for girls.

I went to the women’s college at Rutgers, so I knew plenty of lesbians, but they somehow knew to steer clear of me. There was a dyke bar down the road, and I borrowed someone’s ID to get in, but it wasn’t like the lesbian bars in the movies; it was just a lot of older women having a beer with their friends, laughing at me, the underage girl in hot-pants looking hopefully around.

Bisexuals are the agnostics of sexual world; I don’t think I have ever met one over the age of thirty. They have a tendency to drift to a side: men, for the women, and men, for the men. I find this depressing, because girls are awesome and beautiful and amazing and sexy.   But it wasn’t even a consideration when I started online dating last year, checking off the boxes for what I am. Dating women now feels interesting but unlikely, like learning Mandarin or mountain climbing. I am not motivated enough to buy the gear and keep from hurting myself.

When I was an undergraduate, back before online dating was a thing, I once answered a personal ad in the Village Voice. I read the Village Voice mostly for the personal ads; I particularly liked the open-ended permissiveness of the “Anything Goes” section (“Anything Goes” is just code for threesomes, by the way. It was never, like, some dude looking to get it on with an octopus and a birthday cake). The personal ads thing took forever; you had to mail in a letter and a photo to the newspaper, and wait for the mailman to deliver you a response.   I realize this is all sounding like a perverted version of grandma’s kids-these-days-don’t-walk-to-school-in-the-snow spiel, but stick with me. What I’m saying is that I think my brain was wired differently back then; it already knew that gratification would always be delayed, and somehow things ended up meaning more because of it. I went horseback riding with that woman whose personal ad I answered, and I still remember that afternoon, not because the date was so amazing but because I had waited weeks for it. Waiting is a thing that makes you remember.

How much of my interest in girls was about the reactions I got from men who heard I got down like that? Bummer was obsessed with my bisexuality, and even Kick, as recently as last year, wanted to hear all about it, and wanted me to talk slow.   Sketch has been a notable exception; he goes with me to yoga and I introduce him to the girl I like to look at, and he raises a single eyebrow at me before dropping the subject.

Sketch isn’t working this week, so we head to Spa Castle for the day. Spa Castle is this Korean day spa in College Point; it has sort of gotten increasingly ghetto, but the series of saunas and hot tubs do leave you feeling perfectly out-of-body, and it’s nice to bask with Sketch on a wooden plank under an infrared lamp like a pair of French fries.  He’s been begging me to slow down for weeks. We hold hands and I try not to look at my phone.

The place is weirdly sexy. Weird, because when you go in, they give you these oversized shorts and t-shirts, blue for boys and pink for girls. The uniforms, despite the gendered colors, are completely sexless, an invitation to a day of walking around with your hair in a sweaty ball and no makeup on.  You can wear a scrunchy and eat sushi with your bare hands and no one judges you. But the place is sexy; outside in the pool in my bikini, I wrap my arms around Sketch and get why they have the sign at check-in about public affection. I want him, right here, right now; I wonder how many other couples are rubbing their junk together beneath the turbulence from the bubble-jets.

Downstairs in the gender-segregated locker-rooms, there are more baths, but full nudity is required. More signage here; the signs down here warn against competitive breath-holding. Why are women so frigging competitive about everything? That said, this is an experience I rarely have in my more buttoned-down life today, in which strip clubs and group sex no longer constitute my usual: communal nudity.

Communal nudity is kind of amazing. One thing that I get reminded of is that other girls have small boobs too; in the world of clothes, everyone runs around in padded bras and I think I am the only flat-chested woman in Queens. In all their chaotic variety, women are beautiful. I do look around; there is a pale blond creature who floats from whirlpool to whirlpool with her hollow little limbs and perfect lips. Exactly the type I once went for. But I don’t try to catch her eye, like I would have once, a lifetime ago. We share the water, and I do nothing. Doing nothing is awesome. I hang out with the girls, white bodies like ghosts, floating among strangers for a few minutes longer.

 

 

 

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