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, 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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dating, Love, New York, Photography, Reading Series, Travel, Writing

The Middle Spot

In-BetweenAfter months of it being easy, I’ve been struggling to write. Everything coming out of this keyboard right now sounds like a lie or like an excuse, like some bullshit you would offer if you were stalling for time. Partially this is because the blog has recently been subjected to some unexpected scrutiny, and as I live the kind of life that pairs the psychotic questions, Why won’t you look at me with what the fuck are you staring at, I’ve been left feeling paranoid and stalled. I’m stuck in the in-between space, like some embarrassing item hastily crammed halfway between the couch and the wall when guests arrive. Ask me how I am and I panic.

It’s easier to report on what I’m doing than how I’m doing, and what I’m doing is thinking about Sketch a lot. Last night I talked to him for an hour, our conversation once more a vast web of in-jokes and private references, allusions, pronunciations of words regional to the two of us. It is deeply and profoundly comforting to talk to him, although we resolve nothing. I can’t even report this conversation to my friends, because it will go like this:

Me: I talked to Sketch last night.

Well-Intentioned Friend: What did you talk about?

Me: …

What did we talk about? I have no idea. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention, it’s just that it wasn’t the kind of conversation you can synopsize, at least not with any degree of honesty.

Our only plan for going forward is to have a weekly thing that we do together, something other than sex, although that is the thing that I want to do with Sketch most: to go home with him and have him pound me flat. I miss the tone of voice he uses when he talks to me in bed, low and inarguable, telling me things to do. I miss the taste of the inside of his mouth.

Instead, we’re supposed to come up with a weekly shared activity, and I’m pushing for some kind of do-goodery. I can picture us cutting carrots side by side to feed the homeless, or walking a pack of worm-riddled dogs for an animal shelter. Even if we can’t figure our shit out, at least we’d be doing something.   We need a task, something to keep us focused. We need a goal: I idly entertain the idea that we could train for something together. A marathon, or a swim across the Hudson, a dance competition.

“So, you’re back together?” people keep asking, trying gamely to follow along. We are not back together, I explain patiently, we’re just sort of talking again, sometimes. This is the in-between place, and I stand shifting in front of my phone with time to kill.

Squeeze, the adorable man I met in Paris, finally made it to New York, and he and I exchange a brief, painfully polite volley of texts before he lapses into silence. Although this makes my life easier, I hate the way I find myself justifying and making excuses for his disappearance. He just moved here, he must be really busy. Or maybe he still has jetlag. Or probably something happened to his phone. I make a big show of telling people that I am awesome with rejection, and I appear to be because I court it so avidly, but in reality, I draw the same conclusions every other woman on the planet does: the adorable man did not text me back because I am inherently unlovable and will never have a partner who will give me what I need because I am not pretty enough.

Rejection doesn’t feel great, and in this sticky environment inappropriate crushes flourish like bacteria. A man I work with, or men the generation beneath me, or someone else’s boyfriend are all fair game.

Someone else’s boyfriend always looks better from the outside of the relationship: planning a surprise for you, doing your chores, showing up at the sort of social engagements I have to weather alone.   Flowers bloom on your desk, and I see them on Facebook. You don’t report the other things, the fights and the misunderstandings, the frustration of being tied to another person who doesn’t do exactly what you want every single hour of the day. I only see the ice sculpture your boyfriend carved you for your birthday. And I am jealous.

I have to watch myself around these boyfriends, because I want to get in close. I wouldn’t sleep with your boyfriend, not unless you were into it and maybe not even then. But I get in too close.  You have your arms around each other and I am trying to insinuate myself in the middle where it’s warmest. Some of the affection might fall in this direction, or I might learn how you manage to make it work with a person without breaking up every ten seconds because you both think there might be something better just over the horizon.

I have to watch myself, because these days I am starved for attention. I get asked to participate at a reading series in Queens next week, and I knock my chair over in the rush to email back YES, YES to have the chance to hear someone say my name and maybe clap. And then, yes, because I am crazy person, and because I want more, and because I have the insatiable need to know and to be known, I invite Sketch to come too. He agrees to come and hear some of these things that I have written about him, and I hope that maybe after we will know some new things, or at least I will be closer to one side or the other. I overthink everything: the things I write, the words that have already come out of my mouth, the ways I love. At some point, the only thing left to do is to pick a direction at random and head for it like it’s the right one.

 

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Animals, Food, New York, Photography, Relationships, Writing

We’re Setting Fires

images-44I have a pet rabbit, and she has unwittingly become my euphemism for having sex. As in, “Would you like to come upstairs? I don’t believe you’ve met my rabbit.”  My rabbit is the spirit animal for my libido, gnawing on shoes and live electrical cords, freaking the fuck out for no reason and bolting beneath the couch, three pounds of compacted instinct and hunger and fear.

I’ve now had three dates with Dig, and he still has not met the rabbit. This is radically unfamiliar territory. A beautiful girl I know was recently telling me the story of walking up to some man in a bar; she lead with “Hey, do you want to have sex in the bathroom?” Names got exchanged sometime after penetration, while the toilet auto-flushed over and over and over again. I identify deeply with this sort of transaction. You want something, and I want something. Sex is exchanged like a briefcase full of money, like a ransom.

With Dig, it is not like this, and that, of course, freaks me the fuck out. He’s the kind of person who would return a briefcase full of money if he found it on the street. I squint hard at him, because he is so different from anyone I’ve ever dated that he is nearly invisible, the way an iguana that grew up in a banana tree won’t recognize anything but bananas as food.

I have these vast mental blind-spots. For example, I didn’t realize until this morning, waiting for Dig to come and pick me up, that the verb I gave him is cribbed from the title of this blog. It gives our thing a resonance that I don’t think I want it to have, and yet Dig, with its tone of industry and masculine functionality suits him perfectly. And I do dig him. He picks me up for our third date this week and brings me, utterly unprompted, to my favorite Greek restaurant, where I struggle mightily to flirt while trying not to swallow the branzino’s tiny, needlelike bones.   After lunch, he kisses me for a long time, his truck warm against my back, but he seems to be in no particular hurry to meet the rabbit, and this is baffling the fuck out of me.

I can’t tell where the borders are between liking him and liking how he treats me, and I desperately survey my own feelings for markers. My whole system is aslosh in oxytocin, and I am left flooded and harried.

On a more familiar note, it is Sketch’s birthday this week. I go uptown with that Rembrandt etching I bought him in Amsterdam, clumsily framed and matted, and leave this present with his doorman, along with a note bursting with news about my trip.  Before I beat feet out of there, I whisper I love you, I miss you, in the direction of the elevator, while the doorman looks at me fretfully.   I will find out the next day that Sketch happened to come downstairs minutes later; he sprinted down Broadway looking for me, but after the drive-by gifting, I had gone in the other direction.   He searched but he couldn’t find me; I was in Riverside Park, watching the dogs, just chilling in geographic proximity to my beloved ex-boyfriend. We were close enough that if something was on fire, we would have smelled the smoke at the same time.

And something is on fire. Ignoring the growing swell of panic in all my organs, intensifying like a siren’s Doppler shriek approaching from a neighborhood away, I take a midweek phone call from Dig.   A phone call! On the phone! It’s crazy. I am out of practice, unsure of the last time I talked to a heterosexual man on the phone, and there’s a couple of awkward pauses, in which I am tempted to yell down the line I LIKE YOU like a twelve-year-old.   It reminds me of when I was in seventh grade, and I had this boyfriend I had never met. We went to different schools, but mutual friends set us up, and we would just hang out on opposite ends of the phone line, peaceably listening to each other breathe. Today I still find it sort of gratifying just to know I’ve got a man’s attention, and Dig and I don’t talk about anything important; I just keep him electronic company for the last half hour of his shift and then release him.

The next day I go out to Far Rockaway with my friends. The sand here is so full of wave-smashed shells it’s like walking on broken dishes, and the surf makes its point belligerently, repeatedly, but I love the beach and I love my friends. We talk about the different kinds of weird dicks we have encountered over the years: Easter-Egg Dick, which appears to have been dip-dyed two different colors, or Pointy-Pyramid Dick, which I think is self explanatory, or that long, thin one that you wish you could double-up the way you would store an extension cord. The longer I wait to take Dig to bed, the more nervous I am getting about what is going on in his pants.

I am trying, hard, to pump the brakes, because dating Dig feels like running downhill, his lack of resistance both liberating and alarming. The oxytocin levels in my brain are dangerously high, sending out a high tension whine of I NEED HIM.   I keep shaking my head to clear this ludicrous thought like a dog with a tick in her ear. Fuck, I don’t even know this man. He’s just a “good person” who wants to “get to know me,” and here I am, all hanging air-quotes around these words.  My inner cynic belligerently points out the grammar mistakes in his texts, props her combat boots on the desk, sucks her teeth and asks: What are you going to write about after you fall for this guy who can’t discern between there, their, and they’re? And more persuasively: What about Sketch?

I don’t have any answers. In the meantime, Dig and I talk about taking it slow. “Like building a fire,” he says.

“We’re setting fires!” I announce gleefully to no one in particular. Not exactly the same thing. I have fires, too many fires, left wild and untended, and in the spirit of responsibility I douse the dating apps right off my phone. My phone asks: Are you sure? I am not sure, of anything, ever. This is the rough country of uncertainty; a trail of small signal fires behind me, I squint hard at the rock-strewn beach and try to see if anything looks familiar.

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

Girls, Girls, Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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