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Archive for October, 2010

Polly 1

25 Oct

So, okay. Here’s the deal I’m going to make with you. You need to put up with a few weeks of unreasonably maudlin bullshit from me, and then after that I’ll tell you a story about a tattooed alcoholic Indian girl who told me that my dick was stupid. Agreed?

All right then. There are two stories to tell, and at this point, I don’t know which happened first. I’m not sure why I don’t know that. Imagine that someone punches you. Now imagine that person punches you again, and again, and again. At some point the hitting stops, but the precise order of which punch landed where becomes unimportant. You press your tongue through the raw toothless gap between your loosened incisors, and it’s hard to think about anything else besides what used to be there. It’s also hard to remember it once it’s over. A few salient details, a few particular impacts remain with relative clarity, but that’s all. I know what I’m talking about.

At this point, maybe Polly and I had fucked, maybe we hadn’t. I can’t remember. Certainly unsatisfying near-sex had been going on systematically for some months. Polly spoke to me. Polly ignored me. Polly made sure to keep me minutely aware of precisely how sexless her marriage was, but she made equally sure to vocally reaffirm how much she liked to be married. I’d ask her why she stayed, intimating that perhaps I’d be more suitable as a lifelong partner. Certainly I felt more passion for her than her husband did (apparently, anyway. For all I know he was an insatiable stallion. Clearly I’d never asked him for his side, but it wouldn’t have mattered to me if I’d known it). Facing me, she’d shrug, kiss the corner of my mouth and say, “He’s my husband,” while looking at something in the distance past my left shoulder. I’d shove my hands into my pockets, wrapping my fingers reflexively around my thin wallet. “You’re my best friend,” she’d remind me. “You really are.”

As a title, she spoke it with special emphasis, floating audible and ridiculous capitalization to the B and F in lilting, open syllables. She’d use it on those occasions when she introduced me to her other friends, her less-best ones. I’d flush, embarrassed and pleased that my special role had been established to the rest of her life, which nonetheless composed itself entirely of people in positions of greater importance to her than mine. Integration past the lacquered suburban shell of her modestly posh Dayton neighborhood was her unstated, unquestioned goal. Invitations for her and playdates for her daughter remained necessary. I was replaceable, and I knew it.

So did she. She expected our affair to remain utterly clandestine as a condition of its continuing. I agreed to this and other conditions, spoken and unspoken, because I didn’t have any choice (if I wanted to keep getting approximately laid. I wanted to keep getting approximately laid. Undoubtedly it’s hard to understand why I put up with her, but I did it for the same reason a hungry drunk will order and consume a sack of White Castle sliders, regardless of the near-guaranteed physical remorse correlated with that decision. I wanted what I wanted, and I didn’t care how demonstrably poorly I’d chosen). Consequently, Polly was the only person I could legitimately talk to about my relationship. So I did.

No topic could have bored her more completely.

My emails became more insecure (and pauses between her correspondence became longer), and I began to construct a nearly complete narrative of our relationship for myself. I’d ask her about some facet of her behavior, conceive a motive for and suggest it, asking for her feedback on my analysis and creating long echo-chambers of confusion that ignored the most basic and obvious of motives: She just wasn’t that into me.

As an attempt to derail any future progress down that specific line of inquiry, she sent a rare reply to one of my emails. In it, she suggested that we perform a private commitment ceremony to confirm the depth and quality of our friendship. Immediately I sent her a sweating, nervous agreement, full with desire and absurd, helpless gratitude.

 
 

After Katie

12 Oct

Chronologically speaking, I’m not sure where I’m at with this story. I’ve been reading through old journal entries and emails to try to orient myself. Between these various dating disasters, manifesting themselves briefly and intensely, I carried around the slow burn of regret about Rachel and irrational, self-absorbed longing and lust for Polly. Pretty soon now, narratively speaking, I’ll realize that I don’t have enough money to support myself and make the move back to La Casa de mis Padres, acutely aware of the emasculating surrender of independence that goes along with it. Before that, though, one or two things happened.

After the Omega thing, I stopped dating for a few months. Once Rachel came to visit on her way from Cleveland to somewhere else, sparing a few hours to hang out with me for the sake of . . . something, I suppose. We sat on my futon, watched some silly bit of Harry Potter fandom, and emphatically did not make out. The futon was folded out bedwise, its cushion covered by a Sgt. Pepper afghan, and we lounged on its opposite ends with the uncomfortable deliberation of people who will not touch each other. She left, hugging me with affection but probably also with a sense of reassurance. Her life was not worse without me. In a way, it reassured me as well.

Polly came to visit also, several times, and make out we did. We fell into a pattern whereby each month or two she’d come to visit, one of us would guide the other upstairs to my bedroom, and her clothes (mine less often) would find their inevitable way to my floor. Her wedding ring, with equal inevitability, stayed on her finger, perhaps serving as an anchor for her scruples, which came flooding back the instant the shudders of her orgasm subsided. Assuming that I could even persuade her to continue once that happened, an assumption that carried no guarantee, she participated only perfunctorily. Every relationship has its complications, I told myself. Love requires sacrifice. I accepted this as the status quo and kissed her each time she left, pressing my lips to hers and letting the unfiltered need I felt briefly consume me, as though I could transfer that feeling to her. As though it would inspire in her a feeling something like mine. As though that feeling somehow mattered at all in terms of how this would play out. She’d drive back to her house and her gainfully employed husband, and I’d walk upstairs again, alone this time, to compose email after unanswered email.

Once or twice I forced myself to go out with Jason. Dave, a friend of his who owned a piercing studio, had occasional backyard barbecues for body modders. I’d attend, using Jason as my passport. From the late 90s to the early 2000s, I’d been gother than anyone who isn’t Peter Murphy has any right to be, and attractive women attractively tattooed still make me feel weak. Of course, in terms of mating, those tattoos function as part of the ritual, tending to communicate that the subject is interested only in a partner with similar plumage. Uninked, I kept to the periphery.

Shawn, a plump and tattooed ball of Philadelphian charisma, told a small but appreciative crowd a story about sodomizing prostitutes in Amsterdam. Amy, a giggling doppelganger of 1980s Molly Ringwald who’d also been listening Shawn, noticed me and kept me company for the afternoon. She wore hip, square sunglasses and freckles. She glared menacingly at Amanda, who’d also attended the barbecue and who afterward kept an appropriate distance from me so as not to cockblock. Amy extended an invitation to me to escort her back to her apartment, an invitation she rescinded after I failed to pick up on broadcast signals in a timely manner. She’d given me her number, but as with nearly everything else, that was irrelevant. A car filled with approximately friendly punks who, over the course of the barbecue, had with growing amusement watched these events unfold, yelled something pithy at me and drove off, laughing raucously.

Other things of that sort happened. By the end of the summer, I’d started packing up my bookshelves into whatever rotten cardboard boxes I could find in our basement. By the end of the fall, I’d moved back to Cincinnati. Before I get to that, though, I need to wrap up with Polly.

 
 

Katie End

04 Oct

Katie had made me her Myspace friend. For this kind of a relationship, Facebook was perhaps too fancy. But, as everyone knows, once you are friends on the internet you are friends in real life. Obviously.

I’d spent the days since Katie and I had last spoken making myself believe that she had nothing to do with it. Her profile pictures showed no one of special importance. The males who costarred in her online life were nearly indistinguishable, bluff and grinning slabs of blunt man meat. Mostly, though, she was alone, caught in mid-leap, turning her green eyes meaningfully toward the lens, or represented only by two trite feet in a field of generic grass. Thousands of girls had pictures like these, but these pictures were hers. Inexplicably, they made me want to know her. Absurdly, I felt an unfocused but nagging anxiety that she didn’t know me, not really. She’d continue having leaping, toe-wiggling, green eyed adventures without me. I agreed with myself that there had to be some explanation that made sense. An explanation that allowed for her not being petty and awful.

After Omega began calling, Katie stopped taking my calls.

We hadn’t yet exchanged email addresses. It seemed superfluous, since we’d gone straight to phone numbers (a slight breach of etiquette, but one that I’d considered acceptable since we’d met according to the conventions of the previous century—that is, in real life). I thought messaging via Myspace was gauche, but I couldn’t come up with any other options.

“Hey Katie. Some jerk keeps calling me at four in the morning and waking me up. I think he knows you or something. Can you tell me what’s going on? Thanks, Dan.”

I reread it six or seven times. It seemed good. Functional. Brief, but not terse or accusatory. I sent the message. Meanwhile, I filled out a police report as a gesture that was meant to seem purposeful but in reality was flailing and helpless. I didn’t know what else to do.

When, after days of bullshit, my phone rang with Katie’s number, I felt incredible relief. She still wanted to talked to me. I looked at my phone and then looked across the room. My clock read past two in bleary, indistinct numbers. Earlier that day I’d unexpectedly found myself in the company of a bottle of wine, but now that bottle was nearly over. Two o’clock is a bit late to be calling someone who you don’t know very well or who you don’t intend to harass, but it was a Saturday night and my reason was infected with wine-soaked hope and desperation. I answered the phone. A familiar voice spoke in spongy, moist syllables. “I’m going to fucking kill you.” I hung up on him and logged back into Myspace.

“Katie. You’ve been ignoring me ever since I’ve started getting these late night phone calls, but maybe you’ll pay attention to this. I’ve already filed a police report, and if this is not the last I ever hear from this asshole, I’ll go back to the station to give them your name, phone number, and address.”

Strictly speaking, I did not know her last name or her address. Strictly speaking, she didn’t know that I didn’t know. An hour later, my phone rang again with her number. I let it go to voicemail. I listened to it. This time, Katie’s voice came over the phone, sweet and plaintive.

“I can’t pretend that I don’t know what’s going on, but it isn’t my fault. I didn’t want it to happen. I can’t control what my friends do, but it was just a joke. Don’t call the cops. I hate cops. I’m still your friend, right? Please don’t call the cops.”

I thought about the calls, and I thought about hearing her voice, distinct and laughing in the background. I thought about the dozen or so people who could have warned me about this and chose not to. Queasy with anger, I pulled my computer close to me. No, she wasn’t still my friend. I responded to her voicemail.

“Katie – I wasn’t kidding. Leave me alone. Tell your friend.”

Here is another rule of dating: Real people are just as bad as internet people. I decided to keep Katie’s number in my phone, just in case the calls didn’t stop. Three months later, I deleted their numbers.

I rolled onto my back and reached for the last of the wine. Strange noises echoed through the vents. Downstairs, my roommates were watching something gooey by David Cronenberg. I finished my drink and trudged down to finish the movie with them.