This 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.
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.