I woke up with a sucking sensation in the pit of my consciousness. I could text Adam, but we are too similar. If I am feeling this way, there is an uncanny chance he feels the same. We usually can’t help each other. We link arms as we sink to the bottom, neither of us has the strength to pull the other back to the surface.
If I text Adam, he will tell me the same things I tell him. We have a small ball of nutrition and neither one of us gets enough to make a difference. We will continue spitting it back and forth into each other until we die. He is Norman Bates, and I am his mother. When we sit down for dinner. I get him ice and a glass for his soda.
Instead I text Peter, because even though I’ve known him for over a year, we are strangers.
Peter is simple. He works enough to live. He doesn’t feel the need to justify his existence through never-ending attempts at creative expression. He spends the money he makes at work on himself, on his social life. He doesn’t throw exorbitant amounts of money into the black hole of artistic ambition.
He calls me “Klonopin head” and says medication is not the answer to my depression. His existence isn’t fueled by blind terror, and the fearful hope for the ecstasy of death. If he’s in a bad mood, it’s only because something bad happened.
Peter is also a fucking idiot. He doesn’t understand why I bother with art, music or the band. When I tell him about the records I’ve been working on he just asks, “Why?” Peter once stopped talking to me for two weeks because I asked him not to send me dick pics before noon. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t write. Sometimes I’m barely sure he thinks.
“Yeah, you and your Georgetown degree,” he says in response to simple truths like, “You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to use the word visceral.” He rolls his eyes and calls me stupid.
We have no middle ground and I vacillate between feeling worthless and feeling too good for him. Both are extreme and both are stirring emotions, so I suppose I think I prefer this to the alternative fuzzy static. We don’t understand each other, and there is comfort in the strangeness of our lives: the way we’re only close when our bodies are intertwined in a mess of flesh and fluids.
This thing with Peter started when my mom got sick. The first time we fucked, it was his birthday and I had the night off from taking care of my mom.
Peter has always fucked me violently. I had bruises for a week after the first time. I didn’t feel them when they were happening, and I think it turned him on how he could be increasingly aggressive with me. We fucked frequently in the beginning. My tits would look yellow and jaundiced as the bruises started to heal. I couldn’t fuck anyone else, I didn’t want to explain the marks he left.
The more we continued to have sex, the less fun or interesting it is. We used to fuck for hours and I’d be sore for days. I’d be thankful for the soreness. The bruises were something to look at, the momentary flinching a distraction. Back then, the rest of my time was spent sitting in the dark in a chair next to the hospital bed where my mother slept. Occasionally, she’d be awake to talk through the confusion of the morphine, or I’d wake her up for meds and food. Other than that, I had the quiet stillness of the room, with the bruises from Peter to occupy me.
* * *
After my mom died, I asked him to sleep over. We fucked, but barely, and then he fell asleep on the couch. It annoyed the shit out of me. I moved him to the master bedroom, the one that used to be my mother’s. For the duration of her sickness, the couch had been her spot, and I didn’t want him sleeping in the same place where I would sit to change her feeding tube.
He slept too long in the morning. I got dressed and told him, “I have to run errands.” He looked at me, surprised to see me in clothing.
He didn’t get the hint that I was annoyed and done with his presence. It’s like he could tell I was irritated and took that as his cue to try and fool around. I did the bare minimum and then pushed him off.
“I have to go drop this stuff off. I’ll be back soon.”
I went to FedEx, and when I returned, he was barely dressed. When he finally left, I felt empty and hollow. Even though he had overstayed his welcome, I still felt alone in that fucking graveyard of an apartment.
* * *
The next time I saw him, I had moved to a new place in a different neighborhood. This one free of the trauma and the ghosts. The walls didn’t hold me prisoner, this life felt like something new and not like I was waking up in a timeline I didn’t belong in, like God had accidentally taken my mother and left me and now here I was in her apartment with her art, her life’s work, her everything. Like there was a hole in the universe and it opened up at the wrong time. Somehow I had been in the wrong place. My mother was supposed to be fine, the hole was meant for me.
But even more was missing. I gave him two blow jobs one night, because it meant he’d let me focus on the thousand-piece puzzle I had just bought. After he came, I cleaned up and then got back on the carpet to finish my puzzle. He sat on the couch and watched forensic files. It felt like I had a stranger in my home, like those weird moments from childhood when your parents are the last ones to pick you up from the birthday party.
I got into bed. I couldn’t keep being in that room with him. It felt too cold. I watched TV on my phone and fell asleep. Eventually, he moved into the bed and was irritated.
“I’m never going to be able to fall asleep here.”
Half asleep, I said, “Well, sorry. You can leave. I didn’t ask you to stay.”
I laid with my eyes blurry, trying to discern how pissed off he actually was. In this not fully awake state, I watched him on his phone. Maybe he thought my eyes were closed, that I had fallen asleep. I saw him send something—a picture of some fleshy member. I laid there, slightly incredulous and unsure of what I had just seen in my state of fatigue. Unsure if this man who I’d been fucking for a year had laid next to me in my bed while sending a picture of his dick to someone else. I laid still for three minutes in the heat of my angry body, listening to the fan. Finally I asked, “Did you just send someone a dick pic?”
I turned my back to him and went to sleep. I didn’t believe him, but I am never sure of myself. After that night, I figured it had to be done. My nerves had started to come back. The pain was sometimes too much, my body hypersensitive after being shut off for so long. I felt like I had no voice with him. I once told him to be more gentle—he pulled out and huffed, “Why are you telling me what to do?”
I said sorry and let it go.
* * *
I put a couple of months between us. Instead I fucked different types of people, I tried to move beyond my usual shit of violent young dudes or old ass artistic men. The sex is rarely ever good, with Peter it wasn’t good, but with these others, it was actually bad.
After the soft, weak sex with these men who I should’ve liked, Peter didn’t seem that bad. Sex with men who seem nice and not machismo and who are so hellbent on pleasing me, those men are less enjoyable than Peter. And with Peter, I don’t have to think. I don’t have to do anything. He wants to fuck me in a way where I’m barely a participant, and that ability to be removed from my brain and body is something I’ve come to miss the longer I’m stuck here, sequestered with my own fucking mind.
So I let Peter back in.
I let him back in because I’ve been obsessing over dying alone. And I don’t want to die with him, but it makes me feel something, at least, it makes me feel regret or shame or something. And I always romanticize the idea of feeling things that are unpleasant, but I feel them all the time and it’s never good and I should know better, but I don’t—and if I did, I wouldn’t fuck men like Peter.
It’s 2AM and he buzzes my neighbor’s apartment first. He comes up and we fuck on the couch. It’s quicker than usual, and he spends less time on the bruising and marking than usual. I don’t mind because the little aggression he does deliver this time seems especially painful and sensitive.
Peter has never asked me if I’m on birth control—I’m not—and he’s never cum anywhere important. This time, I don’t feel it, but he cums inside me.
I’m taken aback and praying that my already failing ovaries are going to help me. I start thinking about where I can get Plan B at this hour. I pee while searching for open pharmacies on my phone. I hear him in the other room marveling at himself in the mirror. “I’m fucking sexy.” I make my way back over to him, overly conscious of my perturbing gut and the way that its never felt firm.
I don’t appreciate his company, but I ask him to stay longer. He’s on the couch checking how much the cabs are, I straddle him and say, “You know you have to Venmo me.”
“Are you not on the pill?” He’s angry and serious, and I feel like I’ve done something wrong.
I decide to be honest in a way that’s a lie. “I get anxious sometimes.”