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.

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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.

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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.

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Addiction, Alcoholism, Attention Seeking, Breakups, dating, essays, Sex, Sex Addiction, Writing

This Is What Happens When You Leave Me

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My beautiful roommate moved out this week. As any urban dweller who has ever lived with another person out of financial necessity knows, roommates seriously interfere with one’s ability to sloppily consume a sandwich naked while standing over the kitchen sink, staring into space. I also like to eat a salad with my bare hands from a bowl large enough for me to sit in while watching cartoons in the living room, dressed only in my underwear. Basically, a lot of my grumblings about having a roommate stem from sometimes having to put pants on, and not being able to eat dinner like an ogre.

But now she is gone, and all my plans to turn her room into an S&M jail cell evaporate in a vague sense of sadness and abandonment.   Because it’s not all that fucking different from when Sketch moved out three years ago. I had to close off the room he used as a studio, because the echo in there after he removed his canvases and brushes made me sick to my stomach.   If my roommate hadn’t moved in, that door would still be shut, like a museum of dust motes that can only be visited by other dust motes.

It makes me eager to leave this place as well, but I still haven’t closed on my new apartment. I have a ream of cardboard boxes in my bedroom, waiting, but the prospect of packing everything I own makes me so damn tired that I just want to climb inside one of these boxes with my rabbit like a stowaway. Maybe someone else will carry us down all the stairs.

Whether it’s a box or a whole apartment, it’s important for me to have a place to hide.  Sketch used to call it closetability. No one can see you, no one can judge the way you are living. We both longed for good hiding places, and it’s one reason we always got along so well, a mutual code of no-judgment after you shut the door.

I always tell people, You can tell me anything. I don’t judge. But this is an utter crock of shit. Basically, I don’t want people to judge me, so I profess this highly laissez-faire morality with other people when they name the questionable people they are sleeping with or the various ways they are getting over on the system, while I do all my judging secretly, in my head.

One of my favorite things about Connecticut is the way he accepts me. There are plenty of things about me might bum him out, but he withholds comment. I really appreciate that, although I wonder if he is secretly taking stock of my selfishness and whorish tendencies. I wonder if a clock I don’t know about is ticking down, while I stall on making a decision.

I’m leaving for Greece shortly this weekend, and my roommate has always been the one who watches the rabbit while I was away. But she won’t be here, so Connecticut is taking her. I like to picture him, chasing her around his instrument-and-amplifier strewn apartment, trying to wrangle her back in her cage. This image makes me feel all those soft feelings I am unaccustomed to dealing with. You are turning me into a girl, I complain to him, with some fucking emojis for emphasis, just like a girl.

Fucking feelings. This weekend, I brought him with me to Gantries Park, unrolled a blanket, plopped down on it with him in the early spring sunshine, and read a book while using his torso as a pillow. I could hear him turning the pages of his own book; he reads fast. Basically, this exact tableau has been my fantasy of having a boyfriend for pretty much my entire adult life.

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Ugh, I can tell I like him because even this picture of his torso makes me happy.

And it happened, and it was so awesome that I couldn’t concentrate on my book because I was so happy that it was happening. Also, I kept looking at him and laughing, because his shirt matched the pattern of the blanket and it seemed funny to me that he came to this book picnic camouflaged.

He is camouflaged, concealed in the grain of my life, but I’m finding I don’t want him to be hidden. It’s not a secret that I like this guy. I take him with me to go look at a friend’s couch; she is moving to L.A. and I need a new couch. “Are you guys moving in together?” she asks us, making everyone uncomfortable.

By everyone, I mean me. I slept over Sketch’s the night before. Stay still, he tells me, pushing into me. Don’t move. This is all I want sometimes. To stay still. Not to move. Trapped under the sinuous weight of my addiction and crying out love. It’s a motherfucker; when Sketch is with me, I still feel like he loves me.

But the next day Connecticut and I buy sausage rolls and weird foreign sodas from the Irish grocery store in my neighborhood, and we go to the playground and watch the dogs in the dog-run, and make up voices to narrate their interactions, and he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh so hard, telling me about a friend of his whom was once found passed out naked beside a sex-toy ass that he had broken in two, that I fart, and then I sort of want to crawl under a car and hide there forever, but it is also funny, the sudden exposure. “It’s all the anal sex,” I complain, still laughing. “Any involuntary noises are mostly your fault.”

It’s all OK. This weekend I leave for Greece, running the way that I like to run, toward sunshine and good-looking foreigners who do not expect things of me. But the rabbit will be hidden here, with him talking to her in a soothing voice. I look at Connecticut I think maybe. He looks at me, with a gaze so unabashedly warm and doting that I realize: to him, I am Sketch. It’s a lot of responsibility, having someone be into you. It is fucking terrifying. It makes me need home, a door I can lock. But sometimes, I think I might want him on the same side of that door as me, his shoulder to it, helping me keep out all the monsters, lying to other people that I’m not there.

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