Private Magazine

Tag: Narcissism

Always a Side, Never a Bride

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Jeremy the wine clerk won me over for the simple fact that I can’t  “Just Say No” to a Gen X-er who looks like he fronted a 90’s band like Fuel or Bush.   In fact, Jeremy plays guitar.

I saw him working at the wine store last week and commented that I had never seen him before.  He has shaggy, surfer hair streaked with grey, like he just washed ashore from Oakland or Anaheim, along with a deep pack-a-day voice.

“Your sign says this is $4.99,” I blow dust from a mini-box of rosé and hand it to him. “But it’s labeled $3.99.”

“Well for you, young lady, it’s free.”

“Free?” Jeremy just looks at me with sensitive brown eyes that fall somewhere between “sad puppy dog” and “pit bull on cocaine.”

“Well don’t just give it to me. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“It’s totally fine,” he says.  “You should come back when you’re done at the library.”

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Yes, it’s true, I was on my way to the library that evening to complete my life coach assignment. But, like with the best experiences in life, I got sidetracked.  A romantic rendezvous with Jeremy had begun.  And it began rather strangely.

“I fucking love you!” Jeremy shouts in the middle of the store.  We’re alone; there’s no customers.

He grabs me and kisses me against a tall shelf stocked with gin.  Bottles clang together, almost crashing to the floor.  Suddenly, our moment is punctuated by a beep.  A customer enters.  We peer towards the door.

“We’re closed,” Jeremy says.

“Oh you are so silly,” says a sassy blonde lady.  “I just want my numbers.”

I turn towards a display.  “Miss?” Jeremy yells from the register.  I set down the bottle of Everclear I’d been inspecting. “You’re being disruptive.”

“Me?” I say.

“Oh, no she’s not, she’s fun,” says the sassy blonde lady, and she leaves the store.

Jeremy walks over to me.

“I love you,” he says.

The logical part of my brain knows this is all completely crazy, because I’ve known Jeremy approximately one week.  But I can’t help falling for him.  I seem to have this effect on men.

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Since he has blown my phone up with constant adoration,  I decide to meet up with Jeremy outside of the wine store, even though there’s one very obvious red flag.

“Are you married?” I asked right away.

“Oh, we all have our issues,” Jeremy had said, then began organizing mini bottles of Fireball while examining a New York Lottery scroll and tapping his foot.

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “Issues aren’t a problem. I  love issues.  But, you know, if you’re married…”

“Look,” Jeremy locks both my palms into his own. “I just want to keep talking to you.  If it means I have to give everything up, I will. There’s just so much wrong with me.  I need to talk to you more about everything.”

Jeremy, at that moment, looked positively pitiful, a twinge of Fireball on his breath.

“Ok, ok,” I backed out of the store.  “Jeez.”  I left that night unsure of my next move. But it only took a split second for me to realize – actually, I had already fallen for Jeremy, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.

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My Pontiac rolls onto the curb, practically, as Jeremy runs towards my passenger door while yanking up his shirt to expose his “abs,” for some unknown reason.  He’s apparently been hanging out by the stop sign.  He tumbles into the passenger seat with a half-empty bottle of Mountain Dew and cigarette dangling from his mouth, and I start to drive even though his door is still wide open. But Jeremy’s lit cigarette falls on his chest and sits there until I toss it out the window,

“Yo! Can you not, like, start on fire?”

But Jeremy’s already talking a mile a minute, ranting and raving about cigarettes he needs to buy and how he had a miserable day confined to the dreary liquor store aisles.

“It’s ok,” I put my hand on his knee.  “Anyway, I’m excited for the fiesta.”

Today is, after all, Cinco de Mayo, and there happens to be a legit taqueria right down the block. Jeremy and I pull into the packed lot, up against a white fence with a subtle mural design.   The sun is strong, and the bassline of a song blaring leads our way to the back patio, where two dudes are serving cool icy margaritas.  I get mine on the rocks, and tons of people are around, with a bumpin’ sound system to boot.  The speakers throb with masculine energy as Daddy Yankee turns to Sean Paul.

Shake that thing, Miss hunabunna get busy, don’t stop just swivy yeah bust in the groove just get crunked and get jiggy, yo sexy lady come wine wit’ us yeah.”

Jeremy already made best friends with the two guys serving drinks. They both have cursive neck tattoos of people’s names.  Jeremy waves his debit card in the air, and puts down our names for a table.

“How romantic,” I hug Jeremy tight.  We wander to the very back of the enclosed patio space.  “Gasolina” blares and the sun beats down on us as powerfully as Rhonda Rowsey in a metallic bodysuit.  All is calm. Jeremy’s chain-smoking and chain-talking in my ear about how beautiful I am, and how he’s going to make me his wife.  There’s only one problem…

“Friends for right now,” I try to catch Jeremy’s eye contact, but his eyes ping around the room. That’s when I spot them – smack in the center of the patio lies the only table, and it’s occupied with a gaggle of my high school frenemies, and their significant others too!

“Oh wow, hey guys,” I tip-toe nervously up to their table. Nobody takes off their sunglasses, or smiles, or says anything at all.  “This is Jeremy. We’re on a date.” My face contorts into a mortified grin.

“Jeremy,” I take Jeremy’s hand in an effort to quell his manic energy. “These are some of my friends from high school.”

Jeremy runs up to Karey, who up until that moment remained totally stoic and unamused behind classic Oakley shades.

“So you can tell me all there is to know,” Jeremy rasps in her ear with a puff of rancid Marb smoke.  “Ha ha ha.”

“Ugh!” I turn my back on the mortifying display before me and wait for it to be over. At least I have an icy cool margarita on the rocks to calm my nerves.

“Come on, like, let’s go over here,” I yank Jeremy away from the hateful table of frenemies.  I pull him away, back under the awning next to the makeshift bar area. All is calm, all is still, as Jeremy replaces all my margaritas and chain-smokes in my ear and the sun refuses to stop shining…All is fine, until Jeremy gets agitated and spots a really cute Spanish one-year-old with a distinct resemblance to Sonny Bono.

“Hey, she said he’s fucked up,” Jeremy yells at the kid’s mom, who had been chilling and caught totally unawares. She stares at him in confusion and annoyance.

“What are you talking about,” I interject,  “I didn’t say that!  He’s making it up.”  I plead with the mom. But she already totally realized that Jeremy is an idiot.

“Yeah, she said why does he have to be so fucked up,”  Jeremy says, pointing at the kid, and I’m wondering,  Is Jeremy seriously trying to start a fight right now –  with a baby?

“Come on,” I pull Jeremy away from yet another person. “Calm down.”

Luckily the kid’s father –  also with an intimidating neck tattoo –  shows up.  Jeremy’s face suddenly shifts to Mr. Charming and he backs away with a wink and a smile.

“Were you seriously trying to start a fight – with a baby?”

But Jeremy doesn’t answer, just changes the subject to how amazing I am, how he wants to go to Costa Rica with me, but not yet, first he has to consider leaving his Old Lady.

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“Hey,” Jeremy’s raspy voice is on the other end of the line.  This is his third phone call to me today.  It’s after ten,  meaning the liquor store is closed. Tonight, I decided not to meet up with Jeremy, for once, to practice “self care” and all that.

“What’s up?” I say.  It sucks that Jeremy has me under his spell, and worse yet, I think he knows it.

“I just wanted to tell you  – ” Jeremy must be home by now, or close to it.

“I wanted to tell you I love – “ All of a sudden, Jeremy trails off and then his whisper turns into confident bravado. “ Dude, I wanted to tell you.  You got the job dude, at the liquor store!”

“What?”

“I have to go,” Jeremy whispers and hangs up the phone.  He must have been taking out the trash.

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I’m walking over to the corner beer emporium to visit Jeremy.  Come to find out – his full time gig is at the beer store where I worked over a decade ago.  And yes, caustic angry Seth, with the personality of a bottle of bleach, is still the manager.  Granted, it was my college summer job, not somewhere I would expect a mid-40’s, self-proclaimed Casanova to be working.  But we all have our issues.

“No loitering,” Seth growls, coming down the microbrew aisle. He’s the same as always, minus all the hair once growing on his head.  Stress.   I lean over Jeremy’s flimsy beer sampling booth and don’t pay attention to party pooper Seth trying to shit all over our parade.  We are in love.  I’ve got leather shorts on, it’s a hot Saturday afternoon, and I just stopped in for a 24 ounce can of Seagrams’ “Jamaican Me Crazy.”  But Jeremy is stuck inside this rat hole serving up samples of Genesee “Bock.”

“Can I taste your Bock?” I say to Jeremy.

Jeremy hands over a little foamy cup.

“I love the taste of your Bock.”  I slowly pull an ice cube from Jeremy’s bucket, and hold it out to his lips.

But before I can even trail it pornographically across his mouth, Jeremy suddenly chomps on it with his front teeth like a ferocious beaver .  He chews up the ice cube, crunching and cackling like a bipolar witch.  He smiles his wide grin and wrinkles crinkle at the corners of his eyes –  but are they from smiling all the time, or just from one too many Marb Reds?

Maybe both, I think.  He’s perfect. 

Plastered on all the walls and windows of the store are the names of customers who have donated their change to Parkinson’s Disease. Apparently many didn’t want to actually fill in their own names, so Jeremy took the liberty of scribbling “I love Annie” and “Jeremy Loves Annie” on these heart-shaped pieces of paper hanging all over the store.

“What’s up with that address you texted me?” I say.

When I was about to walk down here, Jeremy was texting me as usual and he randomly sent me the address of a house the next street over from his.  He wouldn’t explain why.

“This dude that’s in here all the time,” Jeremy says without a moment’s hesitation, “He’s having a house party and I thought it might be a good place for us to meet later.”

“Heck yeah! I am so in.”

“But nothing’s set in stone,” says Jeremy.  He is grinning from ear to ear.

“Okay.  Let me know.”

Seth glares while using his trademark Solo cup spittoon; spit-soaked tobacco drips from his slackened jaw.

“Ok Seth, I’ll take my Jamaican me Crazy and go make myself crazy somewhere else,” I say to him, and then to Jeremy,  “See ya later.”   I blow Jeremy a kiss, and I’m out of there.  I’m not even worried about Jeremy coming through with the party.  Of course we are going to meet up later.  We always do!

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But around 6:00 p.m., Jeremy totally goes silent.  I don’t blow up his phone or anything, at first, but at 10 I call him three times in a row.  Because honestly, Jeremy is always the one blowing up my phone, and now we supposedly have plans at a neighbor’s sketchy bungalow, and you ghost me?

Not to mention, I totally could have stayed at my homegirl’s Porch Fest birthday bash. I didn’t have to drive back to the ‘hood to meet Jeremy.  It makes no sense.

“You are clearly a LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  is what I write.  “LIAR x100000000000000000000000000000000.”

And when Jeremy doesn’t answer that, I toss and turn all night, chugging leftover “Jamaican Me Crazy” to numb the pain. But the sugar only makes me more wired, so finally I just turn on all my lights and blare all my 80’s hair metal vinyl.

Then, my phone starts ringing  – at six in the morning. Is he for real.  At this point I’m  too bleary-eyed and stupefied to care.  I am obviously trying to get some beauty rest. I bury my head in pillows, blankets, everything, but my phone keeps ringing and ringing and doesn’t stop.  Jeremy calls me ten times in a row.

And by morning, with the sun coming up over both our houses, and me with completely disturbing blood shot eyes, my homegirl Stephanie and I had planned to do a gossip n’ brunch at Bread Hive. Thank God, because I need charcoal water and rosé, stat, and a distraction from all of this drama.

I have a text from Jeremy before I even pull up to Bread Hive.

“I need to see you. Now,” it reads.

Ha! Like really, I’m obviously not available. 

“I have plans with my  friend. I will be back in a few hours,” I reply.

Jeremy is SO controlling.

“Fine,” he says. “Meet at the park.”

Yet, I can’t help but want the 411 about last night. What WAS that about?

It’s not like I don’t comprehend that Jeremy is psychotic.

“He sounds…terrible,” Stephanie says while waiting in line. “I can’t really think of anything good about him.”

“I know!” I shriek. I always feel bad for anyone having brunch in my vicinity.  My conversations aren’t 100% family-friendly and veer into the absurd.  I have to give Stephanie credit; she definitely listens with an open mind.

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Poetry by Jeremy*

 I listen to a couple of “our” songs on my drive over to the park – “Your Love is My Drug” by Ke$ha; “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” by Ariana Grande. .Of course we are meeting at our spot, the swings, where our true love was revealed that second day we hung out.

For some reason Jeremy has  the audacity to ask me to pick him up a pack of smokes.  He’ll  “pay me back.”

“I’m at Draino’s,” Jeremy texts.

Ew, Draino’s? I hang in my fair share of rowdy saloons and dumpy taverns, but being spotted at Draino’s is the lowest of the low, not even Charlie Sheen on a week-long bender would be caught dead in there!

It used to be called something else, and I went there once when I was nineteen and got a Swedish Fish shot with no ID after my shift at the beer store with the twins who worked there and had crushes on me, and then the owner’s brother started showing me naked pictures on his flip phone – barf!

Draino’s is an alcoholic old guy scene which recently dealt with an outbreak of Hepatitis C and where a local politician got arrested after allegedly running his wife off the road –  not exactly the romance I had in mind for my Sunday in the sun.

But… I’m willing to lower my standards.

“And don’t worry about the cigs, a bunch of people gave me some,” Jeremy continues.

I wasn’t going to anyways. I toss my phone into the backseat, along with my dignity. Draino’s it is.

I walk into Draino’s, which is totally empty except for some lunatic squawking like a methed-up seagull and squished against some poor, sad looking old guy in a Hawaiian shirt.

“HAR HAR HAR,” Jeremy laughs at his own joke, which typically make no sense.

“Um, hi.” I say.  But at first, Jeremy doesn’t even notice me.

“Oh, HAAAAAAAIIIII,” Jeremy slurs out.  His complexion has the grey pallor of someone who stayed up all night performing sexual favors for crack cocaine; he’s sippin’ on what looks like a 50% vodka, 50% tomato combination, with his liter of Mountain Dew nearby.

“Is this your woman?” asks the sad looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt.

“No, I’m nobody’s woman!,” I declare.

Nothing for her,” Jeremy says.  “HAR HAR HAR.”

The bleach blonde bartender has sympathetic eyes and hands me a pinot grigio that I apparently ordered telepathically.  Jeremy’s tab here has been going since 1998.  We grab our drinks and shuffle onto the front patio. Or at least, Jeremy is shuffling in some oversized loafers halfway hanging off his feet.

“I ran out in my gardening shoes,” Jeremy flops onto the patio chair.  “I slept in the park.”

“Slept?” I say.  “In the park?”

Cars zoom by, and across the street, the town park stares back at us with a vast, empty, void-like stare.

“Why?”

“Look, honey, I said times were going to get rough,” Jeremy looks at me with pleading, puppy dog eyes. “I need you to hang in there with me.”

“Am I not hanging? Hello.”

Jeremy leans so far back on the flimsy furniture, he might just fall right off the chair. He’s puffing on a cig, happy as a clam.  We enjoy a short, comfortable silence, a moment of calm in a sea of chaos.

Then I ask –

“So, um, the park? Why’d you sleep there.”

Jeremy exhales a pre-emphysema-esque sigh of despair, and begins to unravel a barely-believable saga spurned on by the fact I called him at 10 p.m. Apparently, his old lady began “laying into him” and smacked him around, so he ran off and slept in the park since six in the morning.

“What about the party?” I ask.

Jeremy continues to chain smoke and shake his head.

“I didn’t even go.”

I embrace this new level of absurdity.  I’m ride-or-die for guys who deal wine. Jeremy and I head into Dollar General for provisions to take to the park. We find some beach towels and I grab a Vitamin Water; Jeremy still is doing the Dew and going for broke.

“$7.42,” says the stoic girl.  Her pin says “manager on duty.”

“Why d’you have to be so mean?” Jeremy leans over the swipe card machine and leers in her ear.

“I can make you cry if you want,” she says, unimpressed.

Jeremy counts out a few tattered bills, and we leave the store. We cozy up under a tree. R&B music thumps from a shelter.

“Can I have a sip?”  I unscrew the Dew and gulp some down, and choke.

“Don’t drink that!” Jeremy takes the bottle away. “It’s vodka.”

“Whoa.”  I wash it down with Vitamin Water.

All is calm.  Stability is reached once again – for the present moment anyway.  Later, Jeremy will have to return to his wretched old lady.

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I’m speeding on my bike through the dimly-lit streets, with nothing except the cool breeze in my hair and lustful fantasies on my mind.  Jeremy is closing up the liquor store.  This is what my life has become – late night, 10 p.m. hangouts with my “man.”   This past month we’ve become something of an item:  there’s the signs commemorating our love at the beer store; Jeremy’s loud proclamations in Draino’s; we’re even familiar “Same Side Sitters” at the Walden Applebee’s.  And one night, he walked me and my bike home, under a theatrical spotlight cast by a full moon.

“I love you Annie,” Jeremy stood at the end of my driveway, and shouted at the top of his lungs. “I love you!”

We are often at the swings, or the slide, or engaged in some other whimsical activity.

“I’m willing to give everything up – my life is so messed up,” Jeremy said, swirling a small bottle of Fireball around in his hand. “You just have to show me that you’ll do anything for me – you have to move in.”

“But how can I move in, if you’re still married?”  I’m making a true attempt at getting Jeremy to understand logic. “The space is occupied.”

Apparently a year ago, according to Jeremy, he was separated from his wife.  Another girlfriend lived with him.  But allegedly, this girlfriend made out with another guy at her work Christmas party in front of Jeremy.  So he kicked her out. His Old Lady moved back in the same day, according to Jeremy .

“I’m not going to be like that,” I said. “You have to choose me and me alone.”

I can tell Jeremy is burying himself in lies.  Now, according to him, his Old Lady knows nothing about us, even though he first said they were on the outs and “roommates,” and each did their own thing.  But yet, she goes through his phone, and he gets “punished.”

“Why would she go through your phone if she doesn’t care and you’re not together?” I said.

“She loves me, she pays all the bills, she just doesn’t do stuff for me anymore and doesn’t do things that I want her to do,,” Jeremy said.  “I’m telling you I will give everything up.  You just have to trust me.”

Of course,  it’s impossible to trust a man like Jeremy.

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Then, Memorial Day weekend, Jeremy asks a kid at the beer store to cover his shift so we can be together and have a picnic on the beach.

“I was supposed to work from nine to six,” he says. “So just meet me at nine at the store.”

“We can’t go at like, ten or eleven?” I ask casually.

“YOU ARE SPOILED,”  all of a sudden, Jeremy snaps. He starts yelling at the top of his lungs, even though he’s on his continuous work smoke break.   “SPOILED LITTLE BITCH GIRL, WHINE AND BITCH, THAT’S ALL BOTH OF YOU DO, YOU AND HER, PLANS ARE OFF, GO FIND SOMEBODY ELSE – “ Jeremy starts coughing and hacking and I don’t even respond to any of this.

“Fine. Bye,” I say.

“BYE.”

And I hang up the phone, and immediately feel better for not having to deal with Jeremy anymore, his constant need for attention and having to go to the wine store at ten when I’d much rather do my skin care routine.

ONE WEEK LATER

I’m alone in my room and it’s the middle of the night, and I’m doing what I like to do at least one night a week, that is stay up and blare music and write my innermost thoughts. But then, when the moon is full, sometimes I feel lonely and wind up looking at all my ex’s and frenemey’s Instagrams and toss and turn and wonder what’s up with everybody.  That’s how I wound up texting Jeremy.  It only takes a second for the carefully constructed house of cards to fall…

“I just want to let you know, that I thought about things and I forgive you,” is what I send. It’s eleven, and Jeremy’s prone to passing out early, so I don’t expect him to reply, maybe ever.

“I’m bringing you lunch tomorrow!” he says.

And thus began Part II of our torrid affair, when Jeremy became more passionate-slash-obsessive than ever.

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Jeremy started taking the Genesee bus downtown every day to bring me lunch. The first day, it was so romantic, Jeremy even sent me a selfie from the bus stop. We sat out in Lafayette Square, on the statue where I always sit, and Jeremy hovered over me with two pepperoni slices from Gino’s and a Lipton iced tea.

“Just hang in there with me,” Jeremy said, dabbing at my face with a napkin when it didn’t have to be dabbed. “Times are going to get tough.”

“What are you talking about,” I looked around at the manic seagulls surrounding me. “My life is fine.”

After a week straight of two pepperoni slices and an iced tea, and being dabbed when I didn’t need to be dabbed, Jeremy started wearing on my nerves.

On Friday, I come outside to find Jeremy standing in the middle of the sidewalk playing his acoustic guitar and yelping some kind of melody.

I want to know, Can we get clean againnnnnnnnnnn,” Jeremy wails. He fits in on Main and Court perfectly.

“Wow, Jeremy,” I head towards him. “This. Is. So….Nice!”

I have to pay my parking at the underground parking office, since I always wait until the day it’s due,  and the whole walk down Court Street and around the corner, Jeremy follows behind me with his guitar and makes loud comments about my ass.

I swear, I don’t even know this guy,” is the look I give to people passing by, in a helpless “damsel in distress” kind of way, even though I know how to handle this.  Jeremy keeps singing all the way up to the parking office door. I ring the bell, and the girl comes out to take my check with Jeremy still carrying on with his off-kilter melody.

Whoaoaoawhoaohwhoahohohawhoaa,”  his voice has had better days.

I lead him into the elevator and the whole way upstairs and on the walk through the Main Place Mall, onto the street corner and crossing over towards the CVS and through the revolving door into my building and up the stairs and almost into the elevator, Jeremy continues to wail.

“Look. You could ride up with me, but there’s an important meeting going on,” I say.  The unaffected, snowy-haired security guy with tatted-up arms keeps watch.  Jeremy takes a selfie with him, and gives me a smooch which tastes like cigarettes and vodka.  I hop in the elevator and get back to work.

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Later that day, we are in Draino’s again.  Jeremy dropped his happy-go-lucky songbird demeanor from earlier and replaced it with a much more sour disposition.

“He told me he loved me. Should I believe him?” I ask a sexy urban chick reminiscent of young Lil Kim next to me.

“Yeah!” she exclaims.

Jeremy’s forehead drips with sweat, and he barely touches his vodka-and-tomato.

“HAR….HAR….”

I walk away to the jukebox and accidentally cut in front of a dude with a shaved head who already put money in.

“Oops, sorry,” I say.  “But can you play Poison?”

“Yeah, sure honey,” he says. He’s about Jeremy’s age but I don’t think he’s trying to flirt. I sit next to Jeremy again, back at the bar,  and take my hoodie half-off so my shoulders are exposed in a silky camisole.

“ZIP YOUR HOODIE UP,” Jeremy snaps.   “ALL THE WAY UP!” He fiercely zips it up himself and pulls the hood over my head and tightens the strings until I resemble Kenny from South Park.

“It’s hot in here!” I say and try to break free.

The guy with the shaved head is next to me, staring Jeremy down, and I’m all but certain a fight will break out.

“RAAAAAWWWWRRR,” Jeremy erupts like a pissed off caveman, hops up off his barstool and rushes across the room. He throws his battered arms around a thick blonde lady who resembles Honey Boo Boo’s mom, with a crazy, cracked out smile of her own, and the two of them slow dance at warp speed like a record on fast-forward, immersed in some kind of psychobilly samba on speed.

I turn to Lil Kim and, with tears in my eyes, sadly state, “He’s being an asshole.”

“Jeremy!”  She yells to him, over “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” now blaring, “Come here and talk to your woman!”

Jeremy feebly reappears.

“NO,” he says, then stomps outside clutching a cigarette.

I rush after him, into the cool still night, and stare at him in utter confusion.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

All Jeremy does is stare back with a blank, empty stare, puffing away on yet another Marb.  I grab my 12-speed Huffy that had been chilling against the beat up side of the bar, push off from the curb and take off, quickly and powerfully, the cool night air whipping around me as I descend the bridge and swerve through the silent streets.  Behind me, I hear Jeremy emit his trademark  “MMMMEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHH”, which sounds like a herd of dying sheep bleating at the moon, fading away into the darkness behind me.

Comfortably Dumb

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They bulldozed the whole block to the ground and now there’s nothing but a big black hole. It’s as vast as the universe.  It stretches deep into the core of the Earth. But just like the universe, it’s not empty.  Who knows what goes on underground?  In Vegas, there’s thousands of people living in  underground  tunnels.  Talk about Heroin-Chic.

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Friday was a night just like any other, except for the fact that I was now “Facebook official.”

I had even gone to my actual boyfriend’s actual band practice that very afternoon.

“Thanks for inviting me to your band practice,” I say to Rusty. “I won’t say anything about the unreleased material.”

“I am so HONORED that you came,” he says.

Now Rusty is driving us to the bar where a punk show is set to begin.  It’s been months since I was at this particular establishment, and yet it feels like it was years ago, even though it was only this past May.  It was one of the demented stops Randy and I made the night we decided to stay up until sunrise to watch the Royal Wedding . It was just as deranged as it sounds.  I wound up singing “Interstate Love Song” upstairs at karaoke.

But I’ve moved on from Randy, Billy, Mick and Pete (In fact, Pete up and vanished. What ever became of him?)

Rusty and I met when right off the bat, he offered me some smoke.

That’s right.  A totally millennial moment took place at the Mohawk one chilly September day.  To quote Brittany Murphy in Clueless –  “Right off the bat, he offered me some smoke.”  It was Metal Fest at the ‘Mo, and I took the Metro down because it started at noon.   I decided to roll up on the #24 around 4.  I just got a blow dry from a new girl, and my head was caked with beach spray. I wasn’t feeling like David Lee Roth though, more like Tammy Faye Bakker.  And of course, I was a little bit baked. When I knocked my purse to the ground, the guy next to me dropped his sunglasses and so I picked those up, too.

Next thing you know, Rusty and I found ourselves in Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson territory.   He rolled up to my house one day, Sweetest Day, it turns out, with a bouquet!

“Wow, cattails, very autumnal! Thanks, Rusty.”

I was honestly so shocked, I mean, a bouquet from a metalhead dude? Who knew! I suppose I was accustomed to way worse.  I.e, the time when Billy acted crazy on Valentine’s Day, of all days….

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“Can we go see 50 Shades Freed?”  I texted.

“Yeah, sure,” Billy replied.

No way, I thought.  Billy just told me, in between drags of his Marb, that he doesn’t “do” Valentine’s Day.  I was merely being a smart ass by asking. Ha! Surely, Billy MUST be coming to his senses. Finally!

Of course, Billy never set an official date for 50 Shades Freed.  In fact, he acted like a total dick  at the Marilyn Manson show, for no apparent reason!  Despite the fact Billy picked me up and we drove there together in a snowstorm, at the concert he refused to touch me or hold my hand, in fact he stood a foot away from me and stared me down like a shark!  Not to mention, at the casino, he randomly insinuated he had a one night stand there in the not-so-distant past!  So the next day, I was confused. I called him to see what all that was about.

“What? Oh nothing, nothing’s wrong,” he said.

“Did you…really have a one night stand at the casino, then?”

“I made that up.”

“Like, do you even care?”

“If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have taken you to the concert.”

So I was crazy then.

“All right, sorry,”   I said.

A few days later, Valentine’s Day:  Billy sent mean texts all morning while I was trying to concentrate at work.

“You’re too sappy, you’re too emotional,” Billy was blowing up my phone.  “Go find another man who will do what you want. I’m out. Maybe if you came over when I didn’t expect and have sex with me maybe then you’ll be surprised to see what I’d do, like go out to dinner, or to the movies, I’m just so tired most days, you work in an office, I come home and I have no energy to do anything.”

“Fine, whatever,” I totally gave up.  Every time I text Billy with a simple question, it goes unanswered.  But then he has time to blow up my phone with abuse all day.  Why me?

“I’ll come over Friday then. Peace out,” I said, to get him to shut up.

Of course, I had no intention of going over to Billy’s house Friday – or at all!

I made plans with my Chapter 13-version-of-a-Sugar Daddy, my “Stevia Daddy,” if you will, instead – Mick!  He made last-minute reservations at the Protocol on Transit.

So we hit up the Protocol, and Mick dragged over a gargantuan funeral bouquet just for me.  Gee, thanks Mick…I tossed it on my bed.  All I wanted was to get wasted, to be able to get through/enjoy this day.

DUMB1

While at dinner with Mick that night, Billy must have been stalking my Instagram or something because later in the night, after I posted a pic, my phone blew up with texts, again.

“Don’t bother coming over Friday,” Billy said. “I don’t want your sloppy seconds. Have fun doing whatever it is you’re doing, it was nice knowing you, I’m blocking your number, goodbye.”

Like, what? I wish I could say it ended there, but I ran hysterically crying out of the Protocol, only to call Billy all night in vain, until when in the a.m. I realized he unblocked my number so I blocked his and never spoke to him again.

Until I got sucked back in, you see.

DUMB5

Tonight,  this punk show, this is the first public debut Rusty and I are making after becoming “Facebook official.”  Not that anyone cares.  But just let me have this moment, would you? I decided to wear gold sateen shorts with stockings and heeled, hiker-esque boots.

My neighbor Dan came to my house beforehand to lend me a cup of weed.  Then off we went, Rusty and I, with nothing to tarnish the silver-plated memories being etched in our minds.

“We are a Super-Couple,” Rusty says at the bar. I’m lapping up his words along with my pinot grigio like a submissive puppy dog.   My leg is draped across his lap, his bass player BDE steeping the air like cologne.  That’s the thing about Super-Couples, aka Angelina and Billy Bob, Tommy Lee and Pam; they do not care about societal norms and common decency, or what is even going on around them, necessarily…We prefer to live life á la music videos and porno sequences, inside an elite plastic bubble ungoverned by rules and conventions…

Wait – who is that getting their ID checked? It looks like, no way – some fool who looks like Billy but is acting totally grandiose! I squint, but get tunnel vision and the area where Billy’s doppelganger is standing becomes a blind spot, a black hole, and I’m staring down a narrow corridor.  I don’t know if it’s Billy or just some clown who looks like Billy. His beat up Vans are the same – but everyone has those. And his vest – it’s not the same patch-covered one Billy wore before. But this one looks like he could be starting a NEW VEST.   Perhaps a new life.  He grew a mustache too.  And he’s…smiling…a totally sick, deranged, and menacing smile, but he’s smiling across the room, in my direction, nonetheless.  My vision gets blurry and  I convince myself that it is not, in fact, Billy at all, but just somebody with the unfortunate curse of looking like Billy.

I turn back to Rusty; it’s not uncommon for me to look dazed and confused.

“Yes, Rusty,” I lean in closer.  “You were saying?”

Billy’s doppelganger sits behind Rusty with a mousy girl who could be his cousin, a random from Tinder, or his steady girlfriend of five years – who’s to say?

A short time later,  I get up to go to the bathroom, and as I’m walking by…

“Damn…” says a voice behind me which sounds like a stoner-slash-skater from somewhere in Ohio…

I don’t turn to look who said it, because I already know. It is Billy standing back there, or wherever that voice came from.

I keep walking. I didn’t really hear that.  Whoever said “Damn” falls back into a black hole, again, behind me, sinks down into the ground…  I lean over the ledge at the bathroom mirror.  I’m trying to convince myself that it was all a visual and auditory hallucination – nothing but a mere hallucination!

DUMB9

Any man reduced to communicating with you via email is probably on the outs (except for Eddie, who just doesn’t have a phone) and should stay there. On Easter morning, I began to receive apologetic emails from Billy.  I choked on a Peep.  First, he acted like everything was no big deal. He ended the note with an Irish blessing.   He proclaimed he was in touch with his therapist. He said he was sorry – but didn’t explain for what.   I didn’t reply.

But for some strange reason, I fantasized about revenge. Revenge is a dish best served cold.  I think I read that somewhere.  Meaning, it’s best to wait awhile for tempers to cool….

You think it would be easy to avoid someone emotionally abusive, run as far away from them as possible.  Then I ran into Billy when I least expected.  I was just walking down the street and there he was like a big obtrusive glacier, staring at me as I walked up to Stamps, the Bar, and unlike the Titanic, Billy never sunk completely from my mind.

“Hi,” Billy said.

He ended up buying me drinks, acting “nice,” even saying he’d buy me a DVD player for my birthday. (Like, what?)

Next came more long-winded email proclamations, until I finally did the unthinkable. Something I vowed I would never, ever, do.

My willpower took a dive and I couldn’t ignore him anymore, or the fantasy that maybe, just maybe, Billy was remorseful.

I was four months sober from Billy.  So of course I had to fuck it all up. It only takes one second, to fuck it all up. For all the time it takes to learn to not fuck it up, it only takes a second to fuck it all up completely.

What’s one little hit, totally in secret, just one little, one-time hit it n’ quit it? DUMB7

I’m going over to Billy’s in fraying, white denim shorts with laces down the front, and a vintage Rage Against the Machine tee my dad once confused for a dirty rag.  I know that tonight is the night for make up sex with Billy.  Stars twinkle in the sky like an exotic dancer’s body glitter.

Last week, during my quest for “revenge,” I unblocked Billy’s number, called him and told him I was coming there to his hot tub. That’s what I’m talking about, fucking it all up in an instant.  All those hot tub selfies he posted apparently got to me. I wanted nothing but to “use” Billy for his hot tub.  After work, I went to Tappo with Mick, and of course I had to get lit, how else can I cope? Either way, an hour later I was in Billy’s hot tub with only a bra on, as I had been going commando since midway through the workday.

“I won’t let you drive home,” Billy said. “Just stay here.”

So I did.  But we didn’t hook up. I definitely submerged my head in the hot tub after shouting “Underwater BJ!!!!!” loud enough for the whole town to hear and swam towards Billy’s crotch, but that was a drunken fail and it doesn’t count.

DUMB4

Then, this afternoon, I texted Billy and asked –

“What time does the hot tub open?”

“Nine,” said Billy.  “But can you bring a friend for Tony?”

“Tony?!”  Tony is Billy’s omnipresent homeboy. It’s a “bromance”.  “I thought he has a girlfriend.”

“They broke up.”

“Oh.  I’ll see if Trixey can come!”

And,  sure enough…

“Yeah maybe,” Trixey replied right away.  “What time?”

“Nine!” I said, overjoyed, because we were about to become one big, happy love triangle, no wait, a love RHOMBUS, and it would all work out with Billy too and we’ll  live happily ever after in a barn/skatepark somewhere.

DUMB6

Of course, Billy and I had sex.

“Get out!” I barged out of the bathroom in exotic nightwear, aka a thong reminiscent of Rose McGowan’s “naked” VMA attire alongside Marilyn Manson. “I don’t care where ya go, but ya can’t stay here.”

Trixey and Tony skulked out of Billy’s kitchen, leaving us alone to consummate our twisted romance.  They were to fall victim to their very own one-night love affair.  But that’s a different story for another day.

It didn’t take long for me to reclaim my sex object position on Billy’s dusty shelf. Sad, really. Pathetic.

“What’s this scar from?” Billy said as we laid on his bed in the a.m., in his disorganized and unadorned room.

“A palm tree,” I laughed, squealed really, because Billy locked me in a vice grip with his legs and I couldn’t break free.

“Where were you where there was a palm tree?”

Since when does Billy care what I do? He simply projects his own issues onto me…

“Tampa, duh. My cousin lives there,” I said.   “Do you still have the articles I wrote?”

Billy leaned over the edge of his bed and rummaged in his bottom dresser drawer. He pulled out a stack of Hustlers and a handgun fell out from between the stack onto the floor and spun away.

“Is that loaded?”  I looked over at him;  Billy was holding the Hustler with my story in it.  “Aw Billy, you really do care.”

Billy didn’t say anything, just laid back and stared at the ceiling.  If I would have looked, I mean really looked at him, I would have noticed Billy’s stare was as dark and empty as his soul.

The same old cycle began once again.

 

Submitted For Your Approval

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Inside a house far back from the street dwells a man with a cross to bear. He’s an even-tempered man, albeit a very reclusive man, who may or may not dose himself with MDMA, psychotherapy-style. If we could see through his curtains, which are perpetually closed, we would see him reading by the fire.  In fact, he’s reading this very blog, on an iPad, with his slippers propped on a mid century table.

His living room has a distinct Twilight Zone feel; it’s as if we went back in time. But we haven’t gone back in time. We have entered a parallel dimension.

I met Teddy on okCupid four years ago.  He messaged to tell me he “consumes” my writing, and likes it. Nothing ever happened with him back then, though, because he fell off the face of the planet. Until, just recently…

Do you experiment with molly? is the text Teddy sends me. Hm, Teddy, what ever happened to you? goes through my mind as I type a reply. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the interior of Teddy’s meticulously mid century abode.

I drive to Teddy’s house expecting a chill evening. As soon as I pass the Audi dealership, I know I’m far from home. Snow falls from the sky in heavy clumps.

“Good evening,” I say into my phone, walking the long, snowy path towards Teddy’s garage. “I’m here.”

I see Teddy’s diminutive figure emerge through a square window in the door, which he unlocks and holds open.

Teddy is fortysomething, with hair both thick and spliced with gray.

“I was just making rosemary chicken,” he says. “Come in.”

Teddy leads the way into his kitchen, where the walls are clementine orange. Coordinating pans hang above the stove, along with all the homey trappings of a 1950’s kitchen – containers excavated from estate sales, their contents labelled on the outside, and a really-old looking coffeemaker.

“Interesting place,” I say.  “Why don’t you give me a tour?”

Behind his black frames, Teddy looks serious. In fact, he looks exactly like Dr. Thredson from American Horror Story. He calmly leads our way to the living room.

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Vodka and gin are stashed on a bar cart, along with various shakers and glassware. Schwing! Three old typewriters are displayed on a shelf. The walls feature framed movie posters from Bye Bye Birdie, Psycho, and the like. All the furniture is mid century modern and pristine. The room is a page torn from a catalog.

“I had this sofa reupholstered,” he says as I walk down the hall.

“Is this a bathroom?” I turn a doorknob slowly.

“No,” Teddy approaches from the right. “You can’t go in there.”

“I’m curious now. What’s in there?”

“Nothing,” he says. “It’s just, nobody can go in there.”

“Ok, all right,” I say. “Is it a sex dungeon?”

Teddy is quiet.

“I’ve been building one in my basement for a while now,” he says. “But if I take you down there, you must submit.”

“I knew it,” I say. “I knew you had a dungeon.”

“I’m a man who needs control,” Teddy says, coming closer.

I go back to the living room and sit on the couch. Teddy leaves for a minute, and eventually returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

“I don’t usually have this around,” he says, “but I went and bought some pinot grigio.”

“You’re the best,” I say. “How did you know that’s my favorite?”

“I had a feeling,” he says.

Teddy places another log in the fireplace, and it cracks and flickers and pops, before he sits on the other end of the couch. He’s wearing a cashmere cardigan and Hermes cologne. Ancient Christmas music emanates from the stereo.  I start to ask questions.

“So what do you do for Christmas?” I say. “Any family traditions?”

“No,” he says.

“What about your mom?” I say. “Where does she live?”

“I haven’t spoken to my mother…” Teddy trails off. “My mother and I don’t talk.”

“Why?”

Teddy stares at me in silence from the other end of the couch.

“Ok, sorry…” I say. “I’m sorry.”

Teddy pours the wine.

“So, since this is my inaugural Writer’s Seance,” I say, “What kinds of things do you write about?”

“See those six boxes under the TV?” I look at the shelf , and sure enough, there’s a bunch of boxes there, from typewriter paper or something. Handwritten labels are taped to the side of each one. “Those are my manuscripts,” he says.

“Oh, cool,” I say. “Can I read them?”

“No.”

“Do you want to read some to me?” I drink my wine. “Even just a sentence or two?”

“No one has ever read any part of them.”

“Do you think I can, someday?”

“No,” he says, heading towards the kitchen. “If I ever catch you looking at them,” Teddy’s head pokes from behind the wall, “I will have to remove you. Physically.” I follow Teddy into the kitchen. He’s chopping mini potatoes.

“Do you have any sparkling water?” I ask, opening the fridge. There’s nothing inside but dozens of cans of Vernors.

“Actually, yeah, here’s some water,” Teddy pours water from a pitcher on the counter, lemon slices floating inside, and hands it to me. “There’s only a small amount of roofies in it.”

“Gee, thanks,” I say, walking around the kitchen.  It’s a kitchen that makes one think robotic Stepford blowup dolls will emerge from a closet at any minute to sweep the floor like an LSD-influenced Fantasia sequence. “Does it ever get lonely out here?”

“I stick to myself,” Teddy says, arranging the potato slices in a pan.

“Aw,” I say, and give him a hug. Teddy’s head snaps to the side to look at me quickly, his spatula raised. He taps it on my nose.

“Ha ha,” I say, and go back to the living room.

“Dinner will be served in twenty minutes,” Teddy says, following me to the couch.

“I really appreciate you making me dinner,” I say.

Twenty minutes later, Teddy brings out the rosemary chicken, the roasted potatoes, some silverware and cloth napkins. I unfold a napkin across my lap. Teddy devours everything in five minutes.

“Wow, Teddy, you have an animalistic appetite,” I say.

A white, artificial Christmas tree glimmers in the corner as we eat and talk, talk and drink, and I get the strong sense I’m being psychoanalyzed. Hours pass while watch movies. Teddy’s decor is having an opiating effect on my mind.

“Let’s open another bottle of wine,” he says, standing up.

“Um, only if I can sleep on your couch.”

“My couch?” Teddy says. “What about my bed?”

“I don’t really know you that well, so…”

Outside, snow continues to fall in clumps and I know I won’t be making it home tonight.

A little while later, I’m tucked in on the reupholstered couch and everything’s dark. It’s the middle of the night. All I hear is the ticking of a clock. I sink into a deep slumber. My body and mind go in separate directions. I dream about plastic wrap, prescription drugs, and nuclear warfare.

Odorless vapor drifts around the living room. I open one eye. Teddy’s in the armchair with his e Cig in hand, staring straight ahead at the wall, and his mouth is totally flatlined.

“Teddy?” I rub my eyes. The clock on the wall tells me it’s 7:30. “Do you sleep? Or just stare at the wall?”

“What the hell kind of question is that?” Teddy gets up and starts making coffee.

I get my stuff together while Teddy stays in the kitchen with his back turned.

“Well, I’m going to go brush off my car,” I say. “Teddy?” Teddy doesn’t react. “Well, bye.” I stand there as Teddy walks into the living room without giving me any response.

Kathy Bates, Norman Bates, and now this fucking dude, I’m thinking as I drive past the Audi dealership on my way home. When I’m safely in my bedroom, I call my friend Eleanor despite the fact it’s 8 a.m.

“Eleanor, hey…” I say. “I think I’ve met someone…”

READER SURVEY: DO YOU ENGAGE IN BDSM? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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