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   I bury the nuance in unpublished footnotes, with all the things that don’t fit my version of events.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

FullSizeRender-28

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

–Gloria Steinem

Standard
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.

imgres-29

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.

Standard
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.

images-79

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

Standard
Addiction, Bad Things, Blogging, dating, Men, Queens, Relationships, Sex Addiction, Writing

Adulting is Hard

FullSizeRender-26I settle into my new digs like fog, my belongings dustily swirling around me. This newly purchased Queens apartment makes me feel like I’m in that movie where aborigines come into first contact with modern society; I am overexcited by the jetliner flush of the new toilet, and have made a god out of the dishwasher. I’ve always loved the sound of the dishwasher, it’s my favorite white-noise setting when I can’t sleep and need sounds to block out the terrifying podcast of my own thoughts. Now, I stretch out on the couch and listen to a machine wash all my plates. Where I once used the same toast plate and teacup over and over until they were too sticky to lift off the counter, I now select a clean glass each time I want a beverage.  It’s crazy.   I ride the elevator (the elevator!! It’s like getting a piggyback ride for you and your shit every time you want to go to the laundry room!) down to the basement to wash my blankets, and there are signs down here in 400-point font reminding me not to play in the laundry carts. I’m not sure how you play laundry carts, but now that they told me I can’t, it’s all I can think about.

Things are changing, but they also stay the same. Barely 72 hours of homeownership and I drop a decorative conch shell in the bathroom and manage to smash the ceramic toothbrush holder that juts out of the wall. IMG_3801.JPG  I have noted before that everything I own looks ready for a street rumble, dangerous and jagged. And yet it’s quiet here; my one-bedroom place faces the garden and there’s no one out there to fight but this one asshole bird that makes a mating-racket at one in the morning, and maybe myself.

I move in on a Saturday, Connecticut and these four dudes I emotionally blackmailed carrying my furniture down four flights of stairs, shunting everything out of the apartment I shared with Sketch for years and years and into a moving van. I feel like I should leave a message written in all the bedbug powder I’m leaving behind, some kind of warning to the next inhabitants: This apartment is haunted and also bugs live here. I run my hands over the murals that Sketch, my charismatic nightmare of an ex-boyfriend, left up on the walls; I kiss them on the lips. I love you, I tell the paint.   The ghosts, in return, say nothing.

Love him or not, this week I unfriend Sketch and his family on Facebook so that I can make the announcement that Connecticut and I are in a relationship; then I stand back a little to give the Internet the space to react to this weighty news, covering my ears and waiting for the blowback.

The Internet shrugs.

People are busy living their lives. There are adults here in my new complex, busily doing laundry and not playing in the laundry carts, and I feel disguised among them, clearly fraudulent and yet proud of myself anyways. I fix a mortgage over my head and blink out of the eyeholes. No one screams when they see me coming, although I do get a couple of odd looks as I pedal my piece-of-shit bicycle, dead leaves ticking in the spokes and the frame tacky with duct tape, down the sidewalk. My name is on the miniature license plate.

This is important, because this week I’ve been finding that I don’t exactly recognize myself. A week of living here, and this is the first time I’ve opened up my laptop. What if I can’t write here? What if writing was contingent on living in that sticky, haunted walk-up, a punk-rock Miss Havisham waiting for Sketch to come back for me? What if I have unwittingly traded in the place where the writing comes from for a dishwasher and a normal boyfriend?

Connecticut comes over, and the next day we drive to a Target to look at rugs for my new apartment, and I help him pick out a dress shirt for work, and inside, Tippy is screaming that she doesn’t even know what is happening here. Who is this adult and why am I wearing her pants?  I bike past the old place to drop off my keys with the super, who surprises me by giving me a stiff, one-armed Ukrainian hug and wishing me luck, and that’s it; I feel like there should be some ceremony here, some number where the entire ensemble comes from the last ten years comes onstage for a final song. But there is nothing. I look at my phone, because if Sketch was to call me at this moment, I would answer. I don’t know what I would say, but I would answer.

Instead I peddle away, wobbly. My adult self doesn’t quite fit. It’s stiff at the joints. Connecticut drives me to Bed Bath and Beyond, where we shop for a dustpan and a new garbage can. Get me the fuck out of here, Tippy internally rages. Connecticut and I go back to my place and fuck, and I talk him into peeing on me, because I need the bed, the bath, and the beyond. My inner addict and my inner adult duke it out for control, and when Connecticut and I go to Home Depot to buy the shit to hang my pots and pans rack, we also buy anchors for the bedroom wall to properly tie me down as a compromise.

I need to be restrained here for a little while. I’m not to be trusted, I want to tell everyone I pass. You can’t trust me to pay a mortgage like an adult. You fucking can’t trust me not to run. Sketch calls, and I let it go to voicemail, and I talk to Connecticut about the voicemail at dinner.  But I do not tell him: You can’t trust me not to hurt you.  But he does. Foolishly, the people here trust me not to play in the laundry carts, and it’s the trust that keeps me from climbing in and taking off.   It somehow staves off the impulse to ruin everything, before it all falls apart anyway, at least for the fragile moment.

Standard
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.

Standard
Addiction, Alcoholism, Boys, Breakups, Grief, New York, Writing

Packing Tips For When You Finally Run

imgres-26I’m closing on my new apartment next week, and I’ve been procrastinating hard about putting my old life into these cardboard boxes. I have a ream of them, stacked and folded, and over the last few weeks they have gradually become invisible. I hang clothes off them. I set my phone down on them and that disappears too.

I guess it’s not surprising that this is difficult. After all, this is the apartment Sketch and I shared, and this is the place where he left me. I remember when we first moved in here; I had been living a few blocks away, and I didn’t want to give up my own space because I was still using a little, and I liked to eat dinner in bed vaguely stoned with no one watching. So Sketch and I got a two-bedroom apartment, complete with a room of my own that featured floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a door I could shut anytime I liked.

I shut it too often, and now it’s been three years since he moved out. Apparently, this is how long it takes, for me to stop climbing in my ex’s pants and hanging out there where it’s familiar. After he moved out, I asked everyone how long it would be until I could breathe right again. It felt like my lungs were gone, and I was left to suck air ineffectually into the sour pit in my stomach, and I just wanted a number because it was reassuring to pretend that there was a clock ticking down on grief. I imagined a bell would ring, and I would walk out the door a free woman. Everyone had their own theories, like the people who told me recovery from Sketch leaving would take half the time of the length of the relationship divided by two. I love an arbitrary mathematical formula.

Yesterday, Sketch calls and leaves a message. I missed you this weekend, he says on the machine.   I spent the entire weekend with Connecticut: he finished the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in my bed, and he held my rabbit on the couch. I pulled weird things out of my closet to show him as I finally started packing—a light saber, a t-shirt of pugs doing yoga, an umbrella so oversized you need to stand in the middle of the street to open it safely. What am I supposed to do with this umbrella? It is ridiculous, the size of a swimming-pool cover, too large for me to manage, but it makes me sad, the thought of putting it in the garbage.

I can’t even let go of an umbrella, one that stands in the hall closet smug with the snagged hair and skewered eyeballs of innocent passerby; how am I supposed to delete Sketch from my life? His is the only phone number, aside from my parents’, that I know by heart. He’s the person I always called, if I got lost somewhere and I needed someone to somehow tell me where I was.

I found my way back to writing in this apartment. Sketch and I had stopped all the drinking and the coke (I claimed I just like the smell of it, and wanted to keep smelling it), and we remembered suddenly that we had other things we cared about. Sketch started to draw again, nervously at first: he drew cartoons on the wall and they are still here, keeping me company as I write this. After he left, I couldn’t bring myself to paint over them. Partly because they are his, and I love him. But also because it’s a fucking awesome thing, to watch someone come back to life and do the thing they are supposed to be doing. No one uses the expression finding yourself anymore. But that’s what we did. We found ourselves. It just turns out we found ourselves on opposite sides of the East River.

It was such a close thing, with Connecticut and Sketch. Fucking months of not knowing which one I was supposed to pick, making nerdy Venn diagrams and pro/con T charts in my notebook, and still ending up stuck, because love and lust each have their own metrics. Connecticut has no idea, how close I came to telling him two months ago, I don’t want to do this. I just want to be friends. Because it’s impossible to know the things we don’t know. We can’t feel the things we don’t feel yet. I looked at him, and I just couldn’t see him, because I didn’t know what I was looking at.

If I had known what I know today, I would have given him a name to go with his guitar. But they all seemed ridiculous at the time. Pick or Strum were wrong. I liked Noodle but it just seemed so flaccid. I settled on Connecticut because his family is from New Haven and I have a joke about how people from Connecticut don’t like me. And he didn’t like me. He still had his head up the ass of his own past. He liked some other girl, one who lived far away.

Back in December, before he liked me, I went to see him play a show. It was our first time hanging out, and I thought it was a date, and I wore the tank top that makes my tits look good and leaned over to touch him a lot before his set. He kept scooting his chair away a little, like he was crowding me and that was the reason I kept letting my hand rest on his arm. FEAR AND TREMBLING, the tattoo on his forearm read, residue from a major in religious studies. When he got up on the stage to play, he looked down the entire time, or out at some spot over everyone’s heads, and at some point I gave up.

Now, months later, Connecticut plays an acoustic show with his band at the same bar, and I go to see him play once more. This time we walk in together, fresh from dinner and a trip to a used bookstore where we tried to find the most ridiculous books we could to pose with for a picture. He gave me a quasi-pornographic novel about a robot, and I gave him a book called How to Read a Book and in the picture I’m visibly trying not to laugh.   At the show, he kisses me between sets . I sit in the front, order a cranberry juice and am served it in a ridiculously oversized goblet that I feel embarrassed about. I lift it in a toast when Connecticut looks up from his guitar. Doing the thing he’s supposed to be doing.

I must be gazing at him with great amusement and interest because people keep looking at me and then following my sight line to see what I’m staring at; people generally just watch the lead singer, who has a Civil War beard and dance moves that involve Godzilla arms.

I take it you’re with that one, a man grooving out in his chair near me says. I’m watching Connecticut, and my chest feels weirdly crowded.

Yep. I’m with that one. But there’s still one thing that needs to happen. I need to let the other man in my life know. I need to talk to Sketch.

imgres-27

I call Sketch on a Monday morning. He’s at work, and I’m at work, and it’s not the way I thought this conversation would go down.   We should be on a luxury steamer that is sinking at sea. We should be climbing a hill to outrun a fire. Chasms should be opening up, entire homes swallowed.

It is the end of an epic romance, only not really. It’s just an ordinary breakup. He keeps asking me to repeat myself, because our connection is bad, and when I get to the part about how this isn’t working, he cuts me off because he already knows. I only get a few words into my prepared remarks before he fills in the rest.

Make sure it’s worth it, he says gently.

It is, but when I hang up the phone, it hurts like someone died. I never realize how big a part of me someone owns until they are gone, and they take all that real estate with them. And part of me wants to call back and say I didn’t mean it, to take it back, to take him back, to keep hoping that he and I will somehow figure out a way to be together.

I feel the way I always feel at the end of a long book series, Tolkien or Larry McMurtry: bleak and grief-stricken at the conclusion of a story that has taken so long to spin out. Horseman, pass by.

And at the same time, I’m well aware that mine is not an exceptional story, or even an interesting one, really. I fell in love with one man who I couldn’t really let go of until I fell in love, kind of accidentally, with another. I may as tell the story of catching a cold or growing older—this is shit that happens to everyone, and it’s only a big deal because it’s happening, in real time, to me.

So now I’m packing to leave this apartment next weekend, emptying closets and taking the pictures off the walls. It’s weird how your own possessions become invisible to you, camouflaged by their ordinariness. I didn’t notice, until I take each one down, just how dusty they have gotten.   There is one wall entirely devoted to taxidermied insects. Sketch and I bought them to mark occasions back in 2004. This Goliath beetle is for Valentine’s Day; that walking-stick marks when I finally made it down to fifty milligrams of methadone. There’s a scarab for when Sketch’s friend overdosed and died on his living room rug; when they found him, he had collapsed ignominiously with his ass in the air, and all the blood had pooled in his face and he was dark in the open casket. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly, he always used to say.FullSizeRender-25

What do I do with these specimens? I can’t throw them out, and I can’t take them with me. I wish I could just open the shadowboxes and let them go, the stag beetle and the cicada and the tailless scorpion and that creepy horror-moth filing out of this place to go alight on separate windows, fighting and fucking and spreading nightmares. Not ending like this, wrapped in newspaper and hidden in a box like a secret.

I guess maybe I’ll see you guys around sometime, Sketch says, while something in me howls and howls. I let him go. I’d like to keep him pinned in this shadowbox forever, but I let him go. Suddenly there is room, and there are echoes in the vacant corners of our place, carrying my own voice back to me, while I mutter a list to myself of all the things that still need doing.

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

How Open Is Too Open?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Standard