“Thank you for holding me while I cried,” I texted to Huck.
“I would have held you all night,” he wrote back.
Obviously, coming home drunk, in the passenger seat as my boyfriend drove me home from another man’s hotel room ... was shameful. He was patient and listened to me ramble, though at this point, I was so far gone in emotion and alcohol, I couldn’t properly articulate myself.
I just kept saying, “I had to make peace with my parents through him ... I’m sorry ... I had to do it through him.” One thing Michael, my boyfriend, asked of me is to always be honest. He wanted to know everything that happened and, though I still think that is a “young” mistake, I honor it. His first girlfriend in high school carried on an affair under his nose. Later, he discovered the affair as they broke up and connected the dots. Though he is young, he is highly intelligent and the betrayal, the idea of being treated as an idiot under the warming lamp of affection, drove him crazy. So I answered his questions, honestly, and told him I spent the last few hours in Huck’s hotel room.
My dear boyfriend, patient as ever, listened, drove straight and tucked me in. First thing in the morning, outside on the front porch, we both smoked a cigarette.
“Let’s have talk time,” I said. The tension was thick and I always hate carbs for breakfast.
“You can go first if you want?” he suggested.
“I have nothing to say.”
He pulled out his iPhone, “OK, let me get out my notes,” opened the notepad app and then read it to me: “How dare you!” he said, pointing at me with the fingers, carefully balancing his cigarette.
“Is that it?” I asked, watching him tuck away the phone.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
I packed up my bags, exhausted from the alcohol, exhausted from the emotional outbursts and overworked on books and gigs up to the day before. I put on the next outfit I bought from Forever 21, my hair wet from a morning shower, and my eyeliner smudged over puffy eyes. My boyfriend walked me out to my car. I turned to him and felt the sting.
“Are you going to leave me?” I asked, in that voice I remember from Kindergarten.
“No,” he said, sweetly, with chocolate eyes.
“Do you promise?” I moaned, again, like a child sent off to her first day of school.
“I promise,” he said.
It is a complex dynamic. Yes, Huck and I had something. Unfortunately, Huck left me. Michael was there for me. Trying to find peace with the man who didn’t, while loving the man who did put me in an awkward head space. I liked Huck, and it annoyed me. He was still funny and charming, not to mention, God help me, I saw someone in there who was precious- not only to me, but to the world.
It was a betrayal to continue any personal moment with Huck. My boyfriend honored me, he supported me, he held me when I cried over my parents and another man. He fed me water at night, and coffee in the morning. He was nurturing my soul. My mind, though, wanted more. I couldn’t continue trusting men as I have, I couldn’t continue trusting relationships as I was ... I needed to understand the difference between Huck’s promises and Michael’s. For this, Michael has never forgiven me.
I was dropped off on campus and smoked another cigarette. I only smoke when I write or I am upset. With my back turned to the doors of school, I sat in the courtyard and waited for my damp hair to dry in the overcast. Huck showed up, bouncing towards me with his backpack, and sitting next to me without a cigarette. He managed to quit since our affair last June.
“I had a dream about Tom Cruise. He was mad at me. He wouldn’t play pool with me. And I was going to be in a play and I had one line but I forgot my line. When I entered on stage, my sleeve got caught on this girl’s sleeve. And I made out with her. I needed my car and then remembered I was in Los Angeles,” Huck said.
“That is an anxiety dream,” I said, cooly, exhaling the toxins.
“The bill was $50 last night,” he said.
“And wasn’t it worth it?”
“Yeah ... it was fun.”
“It was fun ... ha,” I said.
“Things got crazy back in the hotel room,” he said.
Remembering what he said about his bi-polar ex and the type of girl he was attracted to, I said, “That’s your type. I am fulfilling your fantasies.”
He kind of chuckled. He looked healthy for being a young alcoholic. I guess they all look healthy when they are still young. His teeth were white. His skin clear. That beautiful hair of his still bright, and bold against the clouds off the morning ocean.
“I need water,” I said, hung over. “How much is it at the store?” There is only one store near campus, and everything is overpriced. I am sure things are marked up during residency, since we are all held captive for ten full days.
“You can have my Sprite?” he said, holding up a half empty bottle of soda.
“Nah ... I need water,” I said.
Then he turned his back pack towards me and handed me a fresh, new bottle of water. “Always thinking of me ... “ I said, teased. He chuckled. How unusually chivalrous for someone who boasted about how poorly he treated women.
We both ended up in the same lecture. I remember very clearly how Huck looked standing at the back door of the room. Most of the seats were taken, and he stood there with all his blond hair brushed forward and his glasses slipping off the end of the nose. He looked like a little boy, and I was compelled to get his attention. To motion for him to sit next to me and hold my hand. He didn’t see me, or pretended not to see me, and found his own seat in the back behind me. It wasn’t so far as an inconvenience to turn my head to watch him.
A few times throughout the lecture, our eyes matched. He smiled at me in a way that still reeked of last night’s martinis. I smiled back, not knowing what to do with the pockets of pus forming under my heartbeat.
That night I drove back home and traffic was a nightmare. I know some people can deal with it, but after 10 hours of intense study, lecture and workshop, I could not deal with a 2-hour commute back home. I was ornery. When I finally got home, the dogs had shit on the floor. I cleaned it up. Michael was trying to clean. My roommate, Frank, wandered out to talk to me, and I grew suddenly rude. I needed silence to concentrate. Silence to think. Silence to focus on my goddamn education.
A few friends were renting a house in Venice for residency, and said I could stay there. It was big, modern, and cold. I needed to be close and disconnected from my life at home to focus. I also needed space to just think ... think about all the changes from who I was, who I am and who I was becoming. Michael tried to understand. He still didn’t have a car and bussed it out to Venice from Glendale (over an hour commute) to meet my friends and celebrate the beginning of residency at our house party.
He walked around the party as a free spirit. One writer told me later, “He just came up and said he loved you. He loved the type of person you were. And I think it is great when people openly say, ‘I love this person for who they are. They are great!’ That is so refreshing.’”
Hearing that later, and being reminded of it now as I write, warms me ... more than this cheap Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, he also put his arm around George and said he would leave his wife for him and move to Paris. Um ... Paris is MY thing, sweetheart. Don’t go propositioning my “gay husband” with MY dream city.
Needless to say, Michael was drunk. Not to mention, the feeling of the whole exchange awoke old feelings that I feared Michael was gay. I didn’t want to put myself totally in another human being, just so he could discover the female gender did not sexually interest him 5-10 years down the way. I mean, look at Fran Drescher.
He and I got into it outside the Venice house, on a porch covered in cigarette butts.
“Why did you go up to his hotel room?”
“There is no other place to go to in Culver City ... it is a strip mall. Everything was closed.”
“You knew what you are doing.”
“No, it wasn’t like that.”
“You aren’t even sorry. You don’t even apologize.”
“I don’t think I did anything wrong... I mean, the kiss was wrong. But going up to his room, no.”
“You don’t think you did anything wrong by going up to his room?”
“How can you be this naive?”
“I am not. I mean, my intention wasn’t to go up there and fool around. I told you that. There is no where else we could go. The school was closed. The mall was closed.”
“We have to break up.”
“It’s over. I can’t be with anyone who doesn’t think that’s wrong.”
Back and forth.
Then suddenly he was gone.
He left and took a bus back to Glendale. I texted: “Come back” but (apparently) his phone died.
The next morning, my eyes were even more puffy, I was even more tired and even more confused. There was a sudden liberation with Michael breaking up with me. Partly because I was free to focus on school and not worry about some high school emotional drama back home. I hated him for breaking up mid-residency. Partly, I was liberated because I was free to explore my relationship with Huck without guilt. Those were incentives, but I never took it seriously. I never really thought he would break up with me, and for a very simple reason ... because he had promised he wouldn’t.
After the bulk of my lectures, I saw on Facebook that he changed his relationship status. This may sound juvenile to most, why did it bother me so much .... well, because it acknowledged the break in front of our family and friends without a sober discussion. That still bothers me. It was the first time I thought of him as 23.
I called him to explain that I thought it was immature and we should discuss. He asked what there was to discuss. It was infuriating. How was I expected to go in circles in the middle of GOD DAMN RESIDENCY!? I was supposed to be focusing on my studies and my boyfriend was shaking the boat. OK, I rocked the boat, but he was flipping it over to beat me to the punch. He didn’t like that I was sleeping away from home, he didn’t like that I was so invested in something he wasn’t at all involved with ... he didn’t like that I was involved with a community that included Huck. I get it. I really do. At the end of the day, though, it became apparent that I was intended to turn my attention from my school to Michael and I resented him for it. Maybe, I still do in a way.
So what if I kissed Huck? So what if I waltzed up to his hotel room? We didn’t fuck. I thought about him. I spoke about him. I was mostly involved in my studies. All in all, I was working through shit ... and though I don’t expect Michael to wait at home with brownies ready and laundry folded, I needed the space. We (Michael and I) JUST fell in love. We JUST moved in together. All I really wanted was space to study. And even though Huck was a threat to my focus, he wasn’t interfering with my education. Somehow, Michael was ... maybe because it was homebase, maybe because the relationship was stronger ... either way, there had to have been a more graceful leave than posting it on Facebook.
I called while I was driving my car.
“We need to talk,” I said.
“Talk about what?” Michael said, distanced, cold. It just wasn’t what I had anchored myself to. I will admit I am needy, I am strange, unpredictable, at times selfish, but part of the reason I invested in Michael is believing that he wouldn’t leave. He had become Huck. He had become Abe. He had become all the others.
“I will stay and take care of the dogs. That’s fine, don’t worry about that, but it’s over,” he said. And it less than 2 minutes, our phone conversation was over ... just like the others.
My first thought was his younger brother. I recently friended him on Facebook and Michael’s mother texted to say she thought it was a great gesture and she couldn’t wait to meet me. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to lose another family.
At that point, I did what any self-destructive fuckhead would do ... I texted Huck that I was available and we should meet. We made a date for that night and I showed up to his hotel room, showered, shaved and ready for anything.
When I showed up, he was already into a plastic container of vodka. He poured me a glass and filled it with water. I lay on the bed, while he sat in the corner chair and listened to the Michael drama as I lay on the bed. Huck was patient and occasionally responded, knowing he was putting in his time with the talk before a sure thing.
“This is stupid. He is going to come back,” I said, looking at my phone. No messages. I threw it at the wall and it landed in a pile of Huck’s clothes on the floor. “I hate him!” I screeched.
“He is upset because you aren’t reacting the same way you did with me. He read the blog and wants to know you feel the same way about him that you did about me,” he said.
“I DO feel the same way,” I snapped. Then there was a silence.
“You know what I mean ...” he said, taking a sip.
“You never wrote a poem about me,” I said.
“Not one that you saw,” he said, tilting his head to the side, softening his eyes.
I was sloppy. My vodka and waters were doubling his, and I felt my cheeks burn as my drink lit a fire down the back of my throat into my stomach.
“How would you like it if I fucked you and came inside of you?” he asked, staring at into me. We were still sitting apart from each other. I blushed and then was hit with a rush of fear. He scared me. My fantasy was always to let Huck come inside of me. I played it over in my mind a thousand times. To feel the moment where the shaft shudders and slowly stops moving. Still. The sloppy, soft kiss while he was still inside of me, as the blood raced out of his cock and he fell out of me while still in his arms. The fantasy was a common one over the summer. It is what I wanted, and now that I was on the pill it was possible. Those fantasies stopped with Michael, though and the total recall was jarring. I didn’t know how to connect with it now.
I was embarrassed that I was spotting. I wasn’t sure what disease he may have collected in Wisconsin. Michael would never get over it and then it would really be over. All those thoughts spun through my head. The biggest one, the hovering thought that took my breath away, was fear. Huck paralyzed me.
He picked up on my hesitance and grew softer. He always alternated between soft and hard with me, waiting to see what I responded to, maybe to sculpt himself into my object of desire. He and I are very much alike. He lay down next to me on the bed and put his head on the pillow. I said stupid things you only say after three glasses of vodka on an empty stomach like: “You aren’t in love with me.”
“I feel intimate with you,” he said, through a wall of crumpled pillows and sheets.
“More than other girls?”
“I feel closer to you than other girls.”
We touched. He was warm and soft, sliding my hand down his torso was like gripping the edge of a wet, swimming pool. He climbed on top of me and pulled his erect penis out of his pants and I held it, squeezing it a little, feeling its length and weight in my hand, staring at him. I don’t remember kissing him. Of course, anything beyond the moment I was holding his cock in my hand, frozen with fear, gets hazy from here on out.
Apparently, he tried to seduce me and I said, “Why would I ever sleep with you?” and “You disgust me.” I don’t remember it, but Huck’s impression of me the next day seemed so spot on, I have to believe him.
“Why don’t we go across the street and get a sandwich?” he said.
“No. You can get one for me and I will wait here,” I said.
“You really need to eat something. Why don’t we go together?”
“No, because you won’t let me back in,” I said.
“You are absolutely right, I won’t let you back in.”
Jesus. Writing this now, I kind of laugh, but can you imagine a drunk performing a sit down protest in your hotel room after rejecting you? What a fucking nightmare. I was so tanked, I don’t remember his escort out of the hotel as he tried to lead me across the street to the mall for food. I threatened to drive and then realize, as I was pulling out my keys, that I was too drunk to drive.
“Forget it! I will call Michael!” I declared, and crawled into the backseat of my car to nap until Michael showed up.
Huck let himself into the driver’s side and sat in the front street yelling, “I could have taken you to get something to eat! Then I could get you a cab home. I can do it!”
“Forget it!” I said disgusted. “You would let me drive drunk!”
“No, I wouldn’t. You’re crazy!” he said.
“Me? HA!” I said. My cell phone rang, casually tossed in the passenger side. Huck checked the phone and handed it to me with his head turned away. “It’s your husband.”
On the phone, I slurred through instructions and heard Michael promise to be there as soon as possible. “He’s on his way!” I said.
Huck left. I felt my head spin into a vodka haze and then the car door opened again. Huck got back in the car. “Why are you doing this? Why are you making it so difficult?” I laid there for awhile as he let himself in and out of my car to yell at me. Finally, I got out of the car and we screamed at each other in the Sheraton Hotel parking lot. Even in my stupor, I was aware we may be approached by security, but they ever came.
“Why are you here? Why are you still here? You’re insane. You are mentally off! You aren’t my boyfriend and you never were my boyfriend, so why are you arguing with me like one!?” I screamed.
“You’re the crazy one.”
“I would have had intercourse with you, but you had to kick me out for a sandwich!” I yelled.
“You rejected ME!”
“YOU rejected ME!”
“You’re crazy,” he said.
“You are insane. I mean ... really ... out of your mind,” I said.
Michael appeared from a cab parked just inside the hotel parking lot. In that moment, it hit me that he paid at least $40 in cab fare to make it all the way out to Culver City from Glendale. I felt guilty and stupid almost instantly. Michael handed the driver money and he bounced his way towards us. Huck saw him and cut off his sentence immediately to walk away. They passed each other and exchanged something mildly polite.
Michael cooed in my ear and got me back in the car. As we drove off, it became apparent who the crazy one really was ... me. I can tell you that I hadn’t really eaten that day, I recently started birth control pills and was hormonally off-balance, or maybe that I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in over a week. I could tell you all those things, but I don’t know why the switch went off in me right then. I started screaming that I hated my parents and I hated myself. I lay flat on my belly with my legs extended into the front cab of the car, kicking like a toddler having a tantrum. “I hate them! I HATE THEM!” and then I would growl until my voice cracked. “I want to die ... I don’t want to live anymore ... I just want it to stop..” I cried.
Michael reached back to keep my legs from kicking, “I need you to calm down, ok? Can you calm down for me?”
“No ...” I cried. I stopped from exhaustion for a few minutes then resumed the kicking and screaming.
Everything I carried with me from August, my parents disapproval and general intolerance of my personality and lifestyle, having my things thrown on the lawn, having to live with an old man who thought I would become his lover and caretaker ... the stress ... all that stress and sadness foamed and spilled out of me like bile. I haven’t had a night like that since. It was insane and unmanageable and inconsiderate to both men, but I think I really just needed to have it out with my mind.
“Let’s get you something to eat,” Michael said, pulling over to an all night liquor store.
“I want to kill myself,” I said.
“Come on, let’s go in and get you something,” he said.
Wandering through the aisles, I remember the fluorescent lights burning open my eyes, a few sedate Hispanics, curious about why I was crying and feeling relieved the place was almost empty because I didn’t trust myself. “Here, why don’t we get you some water?” Michael said, softly.
“I already had plenty of water ... with my vodka,” I said.
He chuckled a little and that made me smile. “Ok, and some chips or something? What do you want? You will feel better once you eat. I promise, baby, come on, eat something.”
“Oh, you would like that, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you just love it if I ate something and got fat.” He laughed again.
A white guy at the counter turned to me and asked, “Did he cheat on you? Is that what is going on?”
“Of course he did. They Alllllllll know him at the sorority house, don’t they, Michael? Tiffany, and Amber, and Thiessan?” I charged.
“Fuck, man,” the guy said, tilting his head as if to offer his condolences to Michael for getting caught. “Good luck.”
“OK,” Michael chimed in his nasally, Midwest accent, “Let’s just buy what we need and get out of here.”
I walked outside and stared at the traffic. I saw a bus coming and stepped up to the curb. It was a dark place, really fucking dark. I counted the seconds until the bus would accelerate through that intersection. Michael came up behind me and grabbed my elbow, “Are you thinking of jumping in front of that bus?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I should just do everyone a fucking favor and disappear.”
“I don’t want you to disappear. I love you. Come on, have some chips,” he said, opening the bag and munching on them in front of me like I was a dog. It worked, I grabbed a chip or two and felt the salt expand in vodka on my tongue.
“Why don’t I get us a hotel room for the night? Does that sound good? You can just relax and go to school in the morning,” he said. He was so calm about it all. I was broken like a lost, little girl. Here was a man, almost 12 years younger than me, leading me back home, becoming the adult. I wiped my nose on my coat sleeve and nodded.
“Yeah?” he said, in that casual, cute accent. “Ok, let’s go back to the car and get a room.”
He drove me to a hotel in Marina del Rey, the only room available was the Penthouse, and he got it for us. I wouldn’t stop talking about Huck. “I didn’t mean to hurt him. He asked me, and I said I loved you. I love you. I don’t want to hurt him. I hope he doesn’t think I hurt him.”
“Huck will be fine,” Michael said.
“I love you ... I had to tell him I love you,” I rambled.
Michael brought me water and undressed me. He tucked me into the bed and made love to me. All the time, I wondered if this was some mad device to get him back. It is almost too shitty of an excuse for me to swallow, but maybe it’s true. I wanted both men but I was fucking up, I was fucking up big and getting lost in the midst of it. As we made love, I bled so much it soaked through the mattress and I felt horrible. Through the morning, Michael comforted me. “The housekeeper will be fine. Huck will be fine. I will be fine. Just sleep, please.”
I slept for an hour or two. I woke up and lay there next to him, wondering what I put him through, what I was doing, and finally relieved that intense self-loathing had left me with the night. The dawn was orange and breaking through the curtains. I wasn’t hung-over and I couldn’t figure out why. Huck later said I drank triple the amount of vodka he did. I was too emotional to fuck around on Michael. I was too emotional to be with Michael. I was too God damn emotional. School started at 9am. I took a shower with Michael and tried not to cry in front of him.