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, 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, 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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Addicted to attention, Addiction, Bad Influences, essays, Sex, Texting, Want Monster, Writing

Return of the Want Monster

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Connecticut is going to IKEA with a friend this evening, and I ask him to please text me pictures of pieces of furniture he would like to do me on. He complies, and then sends me an actual dick pic (not shot at IKEA.   That would be insane). A dick pic! What have I done to this shy person? Just last month he was still hugging me like we needed to save room for a Bible, and now he’s documenting erections and one-upping me on the filth I send him on my lunch hour.

He also sent me a text a few days ago in which he thanks me for reconnecting him to his humanity. I think by humanity he means getting blow jobs, but I am glad that this is working for him and that so far I am not making him miserable. Suddenly, after months of chasing him, he likes me; I can tell he likes me, but it feels like someone just handed me something heavy and valuable and slippery, and I’m nervous.

Getting Connecticut in my bed doesn’t feel like I thought it would. I thought I would finally feel contented; I thought it would be a break from the tireless want that constantly ruins everything like a spoiled child pointing at things in a store and yelling. But this doesn’t feel like contentment. Instead, I feel dizzy and glutted, like if you drank wine with bourbon or ate a fistful of gummy bears with piece of cheesecake. It’s too much sweet. It’s too much.

Also, there are scheduling problems, already. I go to see my parents for the Easter weekend, which just leaves Friday, and this is why it’s tough to really be involved with more than one person. Because sometimes you only have one night free, and then it becomes painfully clear who you like best.

It’s Sketch, it’s always Sketch, Sketch forever.  I go uptown to see him and put my phone on airplane mode so Connecticut can’t text at an inopportune moment, and Sketch and I walk across Central Park to go see the Edvard Munch exhibit at the Neue Gallery. I identify not with “The Scream” but with “Puberty,” Munch’s painting of a round-eyed, naked girl sitting on a bed, an enormous phallic shadow menacing the wall behind her. And walking home Sketch makes me laugh and I can’t stop admiring the way his shoulders fill out the back of his shirt, a back I want to climb up on like a raft, but there is this thing that’s going on in my life now and here we are not talking about it. And it makes me feel far away from him, like his voice is coming at me through a tube. In the morning we will have coffee at City Kitchen with three of his friends, two of whom want to sleep with him. One of the women calls him sweetheart. A long time ago she was the mistress of someone famous; she has the best ass I’ve ever seen. When she tells him goodbye, she tells him that she loves him, and I know I have forfeited any right to be jealous, but I am, and he’s not even sleeping with any of these people, at least not that he’s told me.

He doesn’t belong to me, and I don’t belong to him, and no one belongs to anyone, and I take my phone off airplane mode so I can see what Connecticut has texted me, and I kind of feel better for a moment until I realize that this is what coping looks like.   I am getting enough to get by, but this is not what I pictured for myself, not at all. My friend Jocelyn asks me over dinner, “In an ideal world, who would it be?” Something I am learning is that no one can handle your lack of monogamy, and I’m finding it hard to even talk about Connecticut with people, without feeling sort of apologetic and sheepish.

Time is limited, and energy is limited, and after a long holiday weekend with family I just want Sketch. I change the sheets before he comes over, because someone else has been here, and it’s impossible for this not to make me feel profligate and seedy, and he gets down with me on my new rabbit sheets. Some of the rabbits have sweaters. One is a wearing a scarf. One is turned the wrong way.

Am I turned the wrong way? I’m not even sure what the markers are for the wrong way, but I am being reminded this week that getting what I want is not necessarily the thing that makes me happy. Getting what I want doesn’t stop me from wanting something else, something different.

The next day I have one of those 12 step meetings to go to; I’m impressed that I’ve made it through the last few days without getting into my mother’s Xanax or turning up at some bar with my wallet and my bottomless supply of want, and so I can hardly begrudge the time I have to spend in church basements to make that happen. But because the recovery rooms are basically high school, I’m in a fight with someone there and now I don’t want to go. Connecticut goes with me and sits on my left and my leg drifts in his direction until it finds him, warm, on the other side of my jeans. He found a book of weird John Shirley stories for me at the Strand. It is a specifically thoughtful gesture, precisely the correct gift for me.

The argument rages inside my body about whom I am supposed to love, where I should be spending the energy that I have left, and the most convincing argument for Connecticut is that he is there, showing up next to me when I need him.

And Sketch is far away. The messages I get remind me of the texts I sometimes get from Lovesick, in Paris. Lovesick messages me this week, and we compare the states of high terrorist-alert in our respective cities this week. It’s raining in New York, I tell him. It’s raining in Paris too, he reports.  Sketch sends me a message in between art school and yoga, but when I call him, he does not call me back. It’s a good thing I like his back so much. I can see it now, retreating.

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Addiction, Boys, Breakups, essays, Friendship, Sex, Writing

This is What Passive-Affectionate Looks Like

images-70I’ve been leaving hidden messages for Connecticut in the blog just in case he is reading it. This feels both cathartic and cowardly, like whispering your darkest secrets to someone while they are sleeping, and I know it’s some passive-affectionate bullshit, so last Friday I finally just text him some love directly.  I write that he is the first thing I think of in the morning, and I hit send just as the sun is coming up. It’s the closest I’ve been able to come to telling him what’s actually going on in the spooky, haunted space under my hair. Connecticut’s response: That’s nice to hear. Have a good day. The unenthusiastic punctuation alone makes me picture him giving me the side-eye while scuttling away, one hand protectively over his penis like I am going to eat it.

I think he’s scared of me.

It’s OK; somebody has to keep it in park, because I have also been feeling closer to Sketch than usual, hiding out more often in his apartment. I’m in the process of buying a co-op, by myself, without a husband or a partner to blame any bad decisions on, and apparently a mortgage is Magic-Grow for all my fears and resentments.   Historically, I’ve always been a renter, one that wanders away from said rental unit after meeting a man I would prefer to sleep on top of. I’ve never attempted to get a security deposit back or do any of the things that regular people do, and all my belongings have gotten left behind on more than one occasion; I’m on my fourth toaster for no reason other than that it has seemed like a lot of trouble to dump out the crumbs and wrap up the appliance safely.

It ‘s hard to think about shutting down my apartment, these five rooms I split with Sketch until he moved out three years ago. I didn’t change anything after he left, although I know you are supposed to. You are supposed to repaint, fuck somebody new in the kitchen, burn sage. Instead I just let my books colonize the spaces on the shelf he once occupied, gradual and inevitable as an oozy spill, and left everything else the same.   People come in and they ask me about the murals Sketch left on the walls, and I try with limited degrees of success to explain my ex-boyfriend to them.

Sketch. Every time I see him, I wish I had extra arms to wrap around him. On Saturday we press our foreheads together for a while, so we both look one-eyed to the other person, and then we walk arm in arm for forty blocks to some vegan restaurant, trading the details of our week and talking over one another. I confess to him how terrifying it is, the whole buying-an-apartment thing. I keep waiting for someone to come and tap me on the shoulder with that Are you fucking kidding me shake-of-the-head-and-accompanying-thumb-gesture that used to greet my entrance into certain New Orleans bars I had been 86’d from.   The fuck out of here. It’s ridiculous.  Sketch has been feeling the same disoriented way, going through his 200 hours of yoga teacher training.  This week they had a trauma workshop in which they were asked to supply all of their uncried tears, and they had to traverse the studio on all fours pretending to be elephants.  This from a man who once stared down a life sentence from the confines of his cell.  It’s weird, how two lives can be lived in the same life.

“It’s crazy,” I repeat for the tenth time over mounds and mounds of kale.   Sketch has been buying all the dinners lately so I can save the money I need for my down payment on the co-op.  We’re supposed to be going to contract this week or next, which is crazy. I don’t feel like a real person, I feel like three monkeys in an overcoat trying to impersonate one.  And one of the monkeys is in heat.  “I mean, I was a homeless person.

“Right? You lived in a car. And now you’re the opposite of homeless. You are homeful.”

The next day I wonder why he brought up the car.  I don’t generally talk about when I lived in the car.  It’s not my favorite memory.   However, I did just write about it in “Sex and Driving.”  Has Sketch been reading the blog?

I wonder the same thing about Connecticut.  They could both be reading this, at this very moment, a thought that slows me down in mid-sentence in Sketch’s apartment, naked but for his hoodie, listening to his broken shower head drip and trying to get something down on paper before he wakes up.   Sometimes I lay in bed with Sketch, and I text Connecticut, checking in on him because he’s had a rough week.   Selfishly, I need both these men.  With Sketch, it is all sex and history, geologic layers of inside jokes and comfortably grooved conversations that you only get from knowing and loving and fucking someone for almost fifteen years, and with Connecticut it is still the rapid-fire exchange of texts and phone calls that you only get when you’ve known someone for eight weeks and you want to hear their whole story and they’ve never touched you.

Connecticut and I are friends, but I also love him, a thing he wouldn’t know unless he’s reading this.  In which case, just kidding.  But not.  And Sketch I love and I want, and I tell him this too much, I repeat it like a losing but passionately believed argument, one that’s too hard to elucidate.

I feel connected to both these men, and I fantasize about them working out a schedule with me, like parents, who has to take care of me when.    Between the two of them, I have the perfect boyfriend.

This is ridiculous, of course.  I don’t need anyone to take care of me.  I am a grown-ass woman.  It says so on my mortgage application.  I went out for a driving lesson yesterday and I picked up my friends, who trust me enough to get into my rolling murder machine and chat and laugh in the backseat.  My death count is still zero, and I’m getting better at changing lanes; I’ve almost got it figured out now, how to look in the mirror, but also look forward at the same time, trusting myself enough to roll forward. And if either of the men I love are reading this, feel free to give me a clue; I’ll be watching for a sign.

 

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Addiction, Art, Blogging, dating, essays, Movies, Photography, Sex, Writing, yoga

Inanimate Objects

restraintwithpenSo this weekend Sketch draws me for the first time.   Never in one spot long enough for him to block me in on paper, my attention caught on all the things outside the margins, I finally remember this remarkable party-trick I’m calling sitting still and doing nothing. That’s when he takes out the pencil. Sketch is half hidden behind a battered easel, dressed in his day uniform of black workpants and combat boots, wearing a hat to cut the glare. I am wearing nothing, perched on the edge of a stool with one foot tucked up on a rung and one leg stretched out of the carpet, sucking in my stomach, wondering if the cast shadows from the studio light make me look older.

I’ve seen him draw a thousand times, but never from this angle, where I’m the thing he is looking at. He measures, one eye squeezed shut. Looks down, marks something out in vine charcoal. He looks up again, squinting to catch the values in the stack of shapes that is my body, and then back to the paper. My body is faxed one shape at a time across the room. And I’m watching him back. It’s a weird, center-of-attention experience that is both concentrated and utterly abstracted, and when Sketch makes appreciative noises, I’m not sure if he is approving of  the lighting, or me, or the drawing, or something else entirely. In the studio his dying cat cries, wanting something but not knowing what. It’s hiding, a noisy lump under a blanket.

Things between Sketch and I have been particularly good since the blizzard locked us up together for a weekend, and all of New York finally caught up on its sleep. Now I’m back IMG_3109in that place where I feel restless until I see him, missing him, texting him random pictures of blobfish or the songs that get stuck in my head in the middle of the day, but when I do finally see him, I think about heading home. I want to get out of here before I fuck things up again. The whole thing feels like an open window, a banana peel, an accident waiting to happen.

It scares the shit out of me, and looking for a distraction I make plans on Sunday to go see that horror film The Boy with some friends. I invite Connecticut along, still trying to determine if I am capable of having a friend who is straight and male and single. He’s chubbily adorable, and I try to shake off wondering what it would feel like to make out with him against the side of a building, his hands down my pants.   I like you as a friend, boys used to say in grammar school when they wanted to blow you off. But I genuinely like Connecticut as a friend, one who is vivid enough that I can almost make him out through the thick murky dimness of my own self-centeredness. I sit next to him in the movie theater, and when scary things pop out, I lean appreciatively toward him, our shoulders touching. In the film, people are talking to a doll like it is real. I understand, because I am broken and other people can feel like dolls, animated by my interactions with them, lapsing into plastic once I walk away.   Some of my most successful relationships were the ones I had with my stuffed animals as a kid; actual human interactions are wildly confusing.

Connecticut is my friend, but I can’t stop trying to assess if he wants me or not. I can’t stop caring if he wants me or not.   I’m taking him to a hot yin class after the movie at my yoga studio, an opportunity to parade half naked in front of him to try to find out.   “So that’s why you’re wearing make-up to yoga,” my yogini friend Veronica says knowingly.  Connecticut gives nothing away as I strip down. Poker face.

Three mats over in the yoga studio, which is bedecked with budhhas and smells like a boxing ring, all feet and effort, I spot that girl who stopped wanting to be my friend last September. It’s the first time I’m seeing her since she broke off contact with me, ending our friendship with a vague text. I still don’t know why we’re not friends anymore.  Sometimes I wonder if she caught a whiff of lust off of me, but it really wasn’t like that; she was just my perfectly imperfect friend that I liked to meet for tacos. It’s the first time I’m seeing her since the breakup and I’m not sure what the protocol here is, but I can’t not say hello. I give her a hug and do that back-patting thing, which I never do; I find it weird and confusing. I’m hugging you but I’m hitting you.

Connecticut is of course friends with this girl because our social circles are weirdly cramped, considering we live in a borough with over two million other people in it. After yoga class, which is front-loaded with lengthy hip-openers that make me feel both like crying and like fucking everyone in sight, I wave goodbye to the two of them, enmeshed in conversation, and beat an undignified retreat, dropping things in my haste to get the fuck out of there.

There will be no making out against the side of a building today, and there will be no trying to explain Sketch to Connecticut, luckily; afterall, I can’t even explain it to myself. Sometimes it feels like some karmic consequence. Maybe I’m doomed to go on loving, wanting, fiending for this person, making the same mistakes and then: taillights. Maybe this is why Sketch has never drawn me before; we’re both too worried about getting it wrong.   That’s why pencils have erasers, is a thing that teachers say. I am always explaining to my students that we learn more from our mistakes, our failures, than we do from the easy and early successes. Not a lesson I have personally taken to heart, but it is still a thing I say. Around the right angles of his easel, Sketch looks at me, drawing, and I look back around my laptop, typing, and I wonder if we’ll get each other right eventually.

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Addiction, Attention Seeking, Awkward Moments, Blogging, dating, New York, Sex, Writing

Walk of Shameless

FullSizeRender-16One of my most dearly fondled anxieties about being unmarried concerns what will happen after I get hit by a cleaning van on Northern Boulevard and can no longer use my arms and legs. Maybe this is a thing all single people worry about: those cleaning vans are a menace, their mop-ballasted weight careening around corners and straight into bicyclists and dogs and forty-year-old single women.

Who will take care of me?

The thing is, I know it’s a scam: having children or a husband still doesn’t guarantee that you have someone to take care of you when you are old and fucked up. Being married doesn’t mean you will have lifelong companionship after you have reached the point where you pee when you reach for things. More likely it just means someone else to clean up after.

So I hired someone to do my investment planning and I figure when the time comes I will just pay people to feed/ bathe/ fuck me in my dotage. I’ll secure a team of monkey butlers or something. It’ll work it out.

Sketch comes out with me to somebody’s birthday party this week, a rare social appearance that makes the whole night easier. He is like my social-situations guide dog. I’m blind and groping and he steers me faithfully towards conversation topics that are appropriate (so not anal sex, then), making people laugh so no one notices that I have dropped a mussel in my lap and am now trying to figure out how to get rid of it. He does this thing where he will sit and tell the person on his left his favorite things about the person on his right. I especially enjoy this when I am the person on his right.

I do my best to flounder through interactions with other people most of the time on my own.   I am still exchanging texts with that guy from Connecticut, even though people from Connecticut don’t like me. I guess we’re friends? I’ve never really had an unmarried straight male friend before. Generally, if you’re unmarried and straight, at least one of us is wanting to wrap a leg around the other. Connecticut and I share a love for things like cannibal horror movies and punctuation; he introduces me to something called an interrobang, a question mark / exclamation point hybrid meant to denote sarcasm.   FullSizeRender-15Because I’m not quite done scrabbling for attention from him, I text him, Have you just interrobanged me? Have I been interrobanged? I don’t include the aforementioned sarcasm marks because I haven’t figured out the keyboard shortcut yet.

I have a copy editor’s itchy fingers. I used to work at this techie magazine, back when I was still on a shit-ton of methadone, and I could often be found at my desk with the stem of my neck broken forward in an unlovely nod. But I loved to fix the things other people wrote, smoothing out errors, emailing PR flacks at software companies to double-check the specs on some software package I didn’t understand. It was like proofreading in a foreign language, one where you know the grammatical rules but not the vocabulary.

And I still feel like that a lot of the time today. The bar down the street, a depot for drunks that spew contrails of urine and vomit as they taxi along my sidewalk, has a chalkboard sign outside that tells lets passerby know: the kichen is open till 11.  The misspelling is driving me crazy. The kichen? It sounds like what reindeer eat off rocks. Everyday I walk by, and it’s still there, still spelled wrong. Is it that no one else sees it, or that no one else gives a shit?

I try to remind myself that I want other people to be gentle and forgiving with my mistakes, so I should try to do the same.   Last week I accidentally published a post with a joke-ruining typo in it and until I could get home to my laptop to fix it it was like walking around with your sock half folded on your foot inside your sneaker.   I kept waiting for someone to derisively point it out, but no one did.

If I watch how other people act closely, I might eventually figure out how to act, like a language you learn from studying the pictures on a menu. Have you ever noticed that food and body parts are the first words people learn in any language? After dinner, Sketch comes back to my place, to apply his body parts to mine, and in the morning, I pretend I have lost all use of my arms and legs. I lay on the bed bonelessly, laughing while he rifles through my underwear drawer to find panties to put on me, picking out clothes for me to wear. The outfit he constructs is hilarious—tinselly legwear with this black micromini dress I might wear out to a club if I ever went to a club in my life.   It’s a dress for a person from a different life than mine, but I can’t bear to part with it in case someday I stay up past 9:30. He pairs this dress with silver thigh-high socks and a pair of Chelsea boots. I look like a madwoman. I tell him I will call this look the walk of shameless, and, spontaneously regaining the use of my legs, I throw my parka over the ensemble and head out with him. My hair stands out in eleven well-fucked directions, and when we go to the diner for eggs and coffee, I see a bunch of people I know.   My underwear is on inside out for the entire day, and, as with many things, I do not realize it, or care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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