I spend five minutes thinking if I am a ‘perhaps’ kind of girl or a ‘maybe’ kind of girl. I think I am somewhere in between.
I’ve been told that if you drink coffee and you feel tired all the time, you should stop drinking coffee, because the addiction to it tires you out more than anything. That is bullshit. I am much better off with coffee, because if I am without it, I am so soft and sleepy, I will reach out to almost anyone who is warm. I won’t get mad, or frustrated, or ambitious even, I’ll be just sad enough to sleep with my rings pressing into my fleshy cheeks, ignoring all the piles of work I have to do and thinking about all the warm arms I am missing. I am so good at waste. Coffee gives me bitter edges.
I can’t be without my addictions.
I met the love of my young life because I had cigarettes when he wanted them:
He called me Anne the first two times we met, and didn’t have cigarettes on him either; by the end of both nights he was so drunk he couldn’t stand up properly. The next time I met him I reminded him about this and he didn’t remember, but we talked for hours after the show. I forgot I’d come there to see friends I hadn’t seen in months.
I liked the way he laughed. A lot. He had an easy way of talking and a brilliant mind that he didn’t use to dazzle like I have been trained to do. He had his arm around my waist and I didn’t think twice about it: I took him with me when I went on my cigarette breaks, and his presence was gentle, and he was laugh-out-loud funny. I thought his soul would smell like mountaintops and leather. I didn’t notice, but he was digging himself into me like a snake.
We talked about music mostly. And then the lights were on again like a pre-emptive dawn and my friends had disappeared and his band was telling him “time to go” and I was busy looking for the evaporated hours and I let him talk me into giving me a ride, but the band had too much equipment in the car and there was no space for me.
I wanted to walk home anyway, but before I left he asked me if he could add me on Facebook, there on the curb, and I, emotional knowitall and feeling analytico, didn’t realize I had a smile on my face the entire way home until I touched my pillow and my cheek ached. There was snow on the ground and I may have forgotten my jacket at the bar.
The next week I went on a date with an amateur photographer and film editor who was funny, awkward, and neurotic. I was charmed. This is the format of dating I was used to: accidentally striking up a conversation with the drummer of a band you mildly enjoyed, and who had called you by the wrong name the first two times he’d met you before vaguely suggesting Korean barbecue the next time he was in town, was not a date.
So I dated the editor for months until I realized that he didn’t make me burn, and that he was kind of a wet blanket anyway, and while I empathized, I couldn’t be with someone who made me want to die inside, because I already almost always want to die – inside.
I saw him again sometime in November, after the summer and its lovely distractions and the nights I spent with my editor crying in my lap. My best friend and I came to the show late, I remember my knee touching his and flaming from it, and I think this is where I lost myself. He texted me later laughing about eating the pizza I had left in the bar and I was still burning and I did not know why. I began to think about him every day instead of maybe once a week.
I have never been in love with someone when thought I was in love with someone else, but that happened, so I know it’s possible, and I think that was probably my biggest mistake, and that takes too long to say when an employer asks you what your biggest mistake has been.
I kissed a coworker at the Christmas party and went home with him, drunk off my ass, graceless, and still all I could think about was the drummer.
The New Year’s of that year was spent at a fraternity house. I didn’t want to step inside at first so I spent forty minutes inhaling toxic fumes and staring at the white letters, wondering if Socrates would have been a frat boy, deciding yes, and wondering why Socrates was the first Greek I thought of. I came inside where almost immediately stepped on a shard of glass, but that didn’t matter, I was holding my best friend on the stained couch as she cried about her love not loving her the way she wanted him to, and the beer brothers threw a table into their TV set, and the drummer’s birthday was that day, and I inundated his phone with birthday messages, because I loved him and I was slow to realize.
I love so easily. It doesn’t make it cheaper, but I understand if people think it does. I also love in degrees, and the feeling I had not then but in November was the silly roller-coaster-balloon-swelling-wave-about-to-crest feeling, like Something Is About To Happen Soon And You Are Very Scared But Also Excited. That feeling kept growing, I nurtured it by thinking about him, so when my best friend’s heart was breaking my heart was breaking with her but the seed kept growing and I felt torn.
He told me he wished he was with me, and I have never missed anyone so much as I did in that moment in the living room, hiding from the group of overdeveloped children who had tried to tend to my wound with a bottle of Absolut, my foot bleeding into the sole of my tights, my shoulder wet with tears that weren’t mine. I went home and talked to him until I fell asleep. I do not remember falling asleep, but I remember dreaming about him.
I think it must have been in the following week that he came to visit. I, never early always late, was early in the January evening, two-and-a-half cigarettes deep into staring at the streetcars. He was late, but I knew he was coming, I could feel it in my bones, something quiet beginning to roar. It was amazing: me, sitting on the stones of the street garden (bare) by the church, shivering. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I remember walking into the Shoppers’ Drug Mart across the street and trying to seem as if I was there to browse and not to thaw, but also furtively checking my phone every ten seconds for a response – and then he was there.
And he held my arms and stared at me like a starving man and I knew I was lost, no perhaps or maybe. I followed him to a Mexican restaurant where we laughed and ate and drank and I remember every shot hitting the table like exclamation marks. I’ve kept mementos of every night we’ve had, beginning with the art I got from here, gratis.
He had his hand on my leg when the bill came, and I thought maybe the night was over but he said it had just begun, that he had to spend all his money in one go and live without luxuries for the rest of the year, that he wanted to expend his bourgeois energy with me, he said this and I felt like I’d been freed, and I loved him for all his easiness, the laugh and the frank self-consciousness, I loved him like a child, because I was a child, and he’s the first man I’ve been with who I’ve thought of as a man.
I never wanted that night to end.
I took him to my favourite place at the time, a bar not far from where I live now, we drank whisky and pilsner and we sat close together at a tiny table by the bar, and I can’t remember what we were talking about but his hand was on my thigh again and I leaned in and in and in and the crest swelled and broke and I tasted the salt from his tongue. His hands in my hair and the hardness of his smile against my mouth, me so soft and eager for him, going back to the hostel he’d dropped his bags off at to get a hotel room because I still lived with my mother, and I wanted him inside me.
This is what happens when you go belly-up like a dead fish.