Kris’s arm still had old scars along the inside by the veins closest to the surface, tracks, small remnants from a time before either of us had met or learned not to be ashamed of who we were (and I could barely make out the small dots, still hidden in plain sight on soft skin). I kissed everyone I saw, sun creeping in through the curtains, forcing its way through open windows. We hadn’t so much fallen asleep as we had dozed, waking every 30 minutes to kiss and hold one another, to pull the covers on or off of us. I don’t sleep well next to people (except the times when I do, which are few and far between), but I like comfort and intimacy more than I like dreams. I would rather take a thousand interrupted naps with 100 beautiful friends, than sleep well a thousand nights in separate beds in a house I share with a partner.
(There had been a time, however, when I lost myself. I found myself in an apartment with little memory of how my life had led up to that moment, staring at reruns of prime time television in a pressed collared shirt, barely 21 years old. I remember reaching across the couch to hold the hand of my then-lover [her name was Lauren] and not being the least bit surprised when she pulled her hand away without even looking down or saying a word.
My response [then and now] to lack of physical intimacy is alcohol, so I got up and got a beer from the fridge and leaned against the counter, starring out the kitchen window as the noises from the TV droned in through the doorway that joined the two rooms. The floor was a tacky faux-wood, tiles that were kept around from what must have been the 70’s. The beer was cold and comforting. Back in the living room I sat down and mused on American Television asking Lauren if, in the case of cable tv, life imitates art or art imitates life?
“Do you always have to talk like that?” She said
“Talk like what?” I asked
“I don’t wanna have some fucking deep conversation right now, I just want to watch tv and relax.” She said.
I stared at the beer bottle, sweating around the label that indicated a high ABV and recommended that it be enjoyed with good company and to not drive after. I thought of all the people I could have been talking too, all the other things I could have been doing. I could not remember which decisions led to this moment.)
Most of us reach a point eventually where we understand where we have been and where we are going, but there is always and inevitably a moment within our lives where we will look down on ourselves, as if we are a third party viewing the situation and commenting on everything going on, and ask ourselves “How the hell did they (I) get here? What did they (I) do to end up so lost?”
You may be living on your own, in a small apartment above a Chinese restaurant with no idea where you are headed in life. You may be living with an uncaring partner who has not kissed you in months. You may be in the basement of your parents house, drunk and screaming at ghosts in the corner of the room watching the world spin, coughing up vomit in a trash can that you once used to dispose of condoms in high school. One day, sure as you were born, you will look at your feet and wonder what the hell happened.
In the month of September, almost a year ago exactly, I began writing lists and letters in my journal, each one addressed to Lauren. Each one kept safely bound within the black journal that I kept beside my (separate) bed on the desk (which held, concealed within the drawer, a bottle of whiskey I routinely used to rock myself to sleep after days/weeks/months of dry conversation, cold shoulders, and sexless romance.)
We had fought again. We fought a lot that month. We fought right up until the bitter end, each time not ending in a resolution but rather in some kind of shaky truce that neither of us would, ever again in our lives, mention. By October, 6 months into our cohabitation, I was consuming roughly a bottle of wine, or the equivalent of in beer/liquor, a day. I was too weak to out rightly say “I need you to kiss me. I need you to hold my hand.”
Instead, I kissed bottles good night. Every night.
In the corner of my room hunched over a desk , down the hall from Lauren, I thought if I drank enough and wrote enough, somehow the situation would improve. Somehow there would be a light at the end of the tunnel that I could reach if I could only draw these feelings out of the pits of my stomach throw them on paper so that I could finally understand them:
You ask if I will ever leave you and I give an honest answer.
“No, I will
break your heart and leave you in a tear soaked sweater.
You will curse me, you will wish you were dead, you will wish I was dead,
you will wish we never met but
I will haunt you and I will
possess you and my ghost will be everywhere.
and I will never
ever leave you.”
Some point in early March I was nearly blacked out drunk, but sober enough to lie, muttering that I had just forgotten to eat that day and that everything we had to drink at the bar was hitting me all at once. We were both willing to believe anything that the other said.
We were both willing to hurt each other and be hurt in the name of creating a home within that house. We had not yet learned the hard lesson that other people don’t hurt us, we hurt us.
Lauren had laid me down in my bed and I stared at the ceiling (and down on myself). I heard our neighbors shutting drawers, walking up the stairs, small creaks echoing through the walls. I heard drunks, kindred Spirits passing by in the night, stumbling up and down the sidewalks past our house. I heard the creaks coming from Laurens room, her closing drawers, shuffling papers, climbing into bed. I counted the minutes it took her to fall asleep before I walked down the stairs and emptied out a bottle of Vodka into a glass.
The first sip sent me face first in to my bed, the glass sitting next to an open journal containing an entry that was better kept away from the eyes of anyone. In the morning, she came to check on me and never glanced down. She asked how I was feeling.
I could not speak for fear of saying something terrible.
By early July, she was bringing me around to extended family members and I was slugging back beers as quickly and discreetly as I could in her great-aunts house. Or maybe it was her aunts, or her cousins aunts, or her grandmother…
There were old people. We’ll leave it at that.
They thought I was handsome. I thought their beer was foamy piss. I sat on the couch next to you starring, for what felt like days, at a television screen. Even here, even at a family function for whomever it was we were trying to celebrate, the god damn TV droned on.
I couldn’t do it. Despite all the plans we had made. Despite everything we had talked about. Despite all the work we had put in to fulfilling one another, I knew that I would either drink myself to death before a wedding, or every Lie I had slowly constructed would come collapsing down in a tempest of “Fuck You’s” and “How Could You’s.”
Two weeks, thousands of tears, and countless journal entries later I called her from my parents suburban home, the place I was spending the summer, and told her I could no longer continue living the way I was.
I spared her the horror story, the truth. Not everyone deserves the truth, and not everyone is strong enough to speak it.
I was not strong enough to speak it. Then.
She called me every day for two weeks after, attempting to make sense of everything. I offered only short responses and on the third week, I drove to North Carolina and drank myself to sleep for 7 days straight, one last time. I pissed away every memory I had into the Atlantic Ocean. I watched the sun creep up over the water at 5:30 a.m, still drunk, still drinking.
It was a pink disk at first that was reflected in both the water and the clouds. By 6:30 it had fully risen, and I walked back into the beach house, and collapsed in a small bed. Finally able to sleep soundly, listening to the crashing waves on the shore and the seagulls flying towards the surf.