life as i know it

Category: Chapters

Chapter Twenty One – The Big Bold Move 

The decision fell, almost exactly a year later. The plan is set in motion and we are doing it. We are really doing it. I cannot believe it is actually happening and will probably wait for something to screw it up before we are on the plane. 

Yet, here we were! In FRANCE! Can you believe it? We moved to France. What a sigh of relief. I felt like a little kid the night before Christmas. I had two weeks until my new job was due to start and we had to deal with the unbearable bureaucracy that all who have moved to France are all too familiar with. It was challenging but it was blissful. We had gotten ourselves out of our rut in Vancouver, sold everything we owned, and shipped only a handful of suitcases. During the first days, we walked around, tried to get a bank to accept our application, struggled to get a phone plan, and enjoyed having some time to ourselves.

On a particularly sunny day, we sat down at the only beach bar open in January and drank rosé with our happy feet in the sand and cigarettes in our hands. This bar was a little hut, literally on the beach, in Juan les pins. The waiters were handsome and smiling (a feat in France) and some awesome electro-chill beats were playing. The sun was strong even though it was soon setting. I could feel it hit my skin and could have sat there with my eyes closed until the end of time. We smiled at each other like blissful idiots. I’m not sure it if was the vitamin D, the sweet sweet wine, or the surreal actuality of the situation, but it felt like we had succeeded at life, like we had gotten it right if just this once. There was another couple there, and the four of us seemed to be the only ones in on a very important secret in this world: the secret of the little things in life.

I will always remember how we looked at each other in the car at the first sight of the sea arriving on the riviera and sang our lungs out. “I’m so proud of us bébé; we made it!” We had made it this far and were so confident that it was going to be amazing, super hard but amazing. We picked out an apartment that was too cliché to be true, with colourful tiles, an arched hallway, creaky doors and high ceilings. I could just picture us dancing there, to some jazz, in our beautiful kitchen. It was one of those kitchens with a big white farmhouse sink and an old gas stove. It looked onto a small courtyard, where a old palmtree died and a orange tree grew. It was just like a movie. We lived above a tea shop for fuck’s sake.

We spent those first couple of weeks eating on patios, strolling down pedestrian cobbled streets and watching old men walk around with baguettes under their arms. It was the dream come true and I couldn’t wait for life to unfold, for us to meet our new French friends, for us to go dancing, for us to live the lives we thought we were destined to live.

I eventually started my job and Liam ventured into town on his own, texting me to inform me of the new words he had learned. “Une autre bière, s’il vous plaît.” Amazing stuff. My job was alright, intense. I was working from 8am to 8pm to sustain him not having a job for a while. It felt odd working that much when all I wanted to do was explore the scenery and revive the passion we had somehow lost in the incumbrance of the stuff we had accumulated in the past. But it was all worth it, as it allowed us to live out the dreams we had made up for ourselves.

To be perfectly honest, it was all a bit surreal. Everyone in Switzerland thought I was mad to move to France. “You got it the wrong way around my darling. In this day and age, there is no money to be made in France!” Yes, I know. Thanks. We picked it because it allowed him to get a visa rather easily and it allowed me to finally see some sun. The French Riviera… The dream! I get to live inside the same city walls within which Hemingway drank and Picasso painted! How do people forget this? How does society not allow for those kinds of musings to matter, for art to become an integral part of your life, for money to come last? As I have said before, I can handle a lot, as long as I see my happiness indicator moving up. No matter how hard it was going to be, I was ready to take it on. I was ready to work as hard as physically possible, because we were creating a life worth living for ourselves. In that instance, I was so proud of us.

I was proud of how easily we de-cluttered, of how committed we had become. We were unhappy with our lives in Vancouver and we did something about it. Everyone warned us; this was going to take a lot of effort. He was a man who was going to depend on a woman. I have to admit it bothered me that in 2015 this was something that I had to worry about, but they were not wrong. It was part of a bigger thing that he would have to face. Just as I had been faced with all of life’s uncertainties in 2009, he would now have to face his internal music and create something that he would be proud of for his own little self. I thought it was magical that he was brave enough to do that, regardless of his age and status. It was no big sacrifice for me, but admittedly we are not made from the same cloth. It was a huge achievement for him. I knew it was going to make us or break us, but I had been preparing to take that risk. Taking the risk is what made us in that moment. I could not be more excited.

“- I love you bébé. – I love you too. – I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us.” With those words, I fell asleep peacefully and dreamt about champagne glasses and passionate kisses.
March 1st. 

I sit here, on my so-very-cliché patio, drinking wine in the dark. I am trying to decipher the words that best describe my current situation. Let’s see…

Single?    Yeah, that one definitely applies.

Unemployed?    Yep, that one too. I quit my job. Out of desperation and exhaustion.

Aimless?    Yes, absolutely. Perfectly, decidedly, aimless.

How could this have happened? What’s next?
Oh my poor heart. The carousel never stops turning. My life currently looks like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and Bridget Jones has become my spirit animal.

So I take another swig of that delicious red wine and light yet another cigarette. I watch the amber as it shines through the darkness, perfectly still and shivering all the same. I have been here before.

Chapter Nineteen – The Roaring Twenties

The blank page, a writer’s worst enemy, today stares at me impeccably mirroring the state of my life. “So what’s new?” “Nothing, I hate my job, my life is bleak and I want to run away…” I have been hearing myself repeating this over and over for the past 6 months. I feel like I am being strangled, and I need to physically cough it out. I cannot believe where I am sitting and the ordinary nature of it all.

In fact, there have been a lot of changes in my life recently. And no, it is not Liam hurting me again, but thank you for the assumption. In fact, our relationship is going better than I ever could have expected. We are happy. Liam and I have been living together. We met each other’s families on two separates trips. Yes, we get on each other’s nerves and yes, we could be having more sex. Relationships are never perfect, but this is pretty close. The trust is being re-built every day a little bit more and we made space for our respective personalities. I also officially graduated, moved to a downtown apartment and started wearing suits. A lot is new in my life.

Yet here I am, gasping for air. I have not written a single word in over 7 months. I am working at an HR company, Monday to Friday, 8-4. It is eating my soul away. I have reasons for this pitiful job, with its pitiful pay. It would go great on my resume, and allow me to get my immigration papers sorted. Yet I cannot come to terms that this would be my life. Your twenties are for trying things out, exploring and being broke, they said. Well here I am, in the midst of them, and that is not my reality. “Do whatever you want” really means find a job that you can survive at. It means find a job that shows progression in your life. Do not stall! Grow!

Fuck that. Let’s do the math together shall we? As a recruiter, I cannot seriously consider candidates with less than a year at each job for simple retail positions. That means that in my last 5 years of my twenties I have 5 things, 5 jobs, that I can try before my body clock starts ticking louder and I start considering life choices that I will not longer selfishly be at the heart of. Wow. That is not soul searching, that is bullshit. I want to waste away the time with loving every minute, and that in our day and age is not sustainable.

I want to go back to school. I want to travel. I want to drink the day away. I want to sit in a hammock and look at all the freedom I have left to spare. Instead, last weekend I spent two days trying to think of a place where I could go sit in the sun, write, drink and smoke in peace, and even that seemed impossible on this damned continent. I had no money to go away, and if I did, I would not even be granted the time to do so. That summer in Croatia spent living seemed so unattainable and I hate feeling this way. This is not growth; this is stalling. My T4 may be the only thing showing improvement since all I do is work, but my heart and soul, I can feel them shrinking.

Liam and I went to visit my family in Europe for two meager weeks and I was very happy for those brief 15 days. I did not foresee that they would invite sorrow into my soul. I had these plans after university, to write and live off bohemian positions, earning enough to get by, somewhere in the world. I had this vision of myself in a long flowy skirt and sunglasses, sitting at a frail patio table. Liam would come to meet me for an aperitif after work and we would revel in fresh summery foods. I could see him walking towards me from a distance. He would take off his sunglasses, just to put this little soft kiss on my lips. “Hi bébé, how was your day?” This could be my life.

Instead I am living in Vancouver, working to be able to stay, not knowing whether that is something I even want. Liam and I are talking about uprooting ourselves, living in Europe, where that easier life can be found. Something always comes in our way. I want to be able to come back if I so choose, thanks to my university and not a shotgun wedding. That requires time and a real job, and so much paperwork. He wants to see if that promotion will happen and try to finish night school. Things would develop one way or the other in the next 6-8months, but what if they don’t?

This is not how I want to live my life. “Oh, I see what you are going through,” said Sam. “You’re in post-university crisis! During those four years, everyone had been admiring your brains. Your grades served as approval, congratulating you on your efforts. And now, you’re on your own honey! It’s not the same.” Thank Sam! I knew I could count on you. She was right. Life was telling me to shut my pretty little brains up and keep my head down. This politically correct pretend game was the boa constrictor to my soul.

–  Good morning! How are you?

–  Amazing!! How are you??

–  Well, let’s see. It’s 7.30a.m on a Tuesday and I’m at work. I am awake; I showed up. That’s all you’ll get from me.

You can imagine this does not go well in the corporate world. After being called out twice in four months for negativity, I sincerely started wondering if I was being negative. It seems that my critical skills, that I spent so much time and money perfecting, were now coming across as negativity. Granted, I hate being there so it probably shows to a certain extent. More worrisome to me, is the fact that even in my worst bartending gigs, I was always complimented on my bubbly personality. “How do you manage to smile like that all the time? I don’t know Hun’, maybe it’s just seeing you! What can I getcha?”

It seems that now, even the little things I used to do have lost a little bit of their sparkle. I used to sit at my kitchen table at UBC looking out the window, smiling as people walked on by beneath me, wondering what their lives were like. That nerdy guy with the backpack, did he have a girlfriend? That girl I saw everywhere, why did she seem so sad? I was curious and still am. I just seem to have lost that little Christine thing and it is scaring me. This is also why I am anxious about waiting to see how plans pan out. What if I have in fact become this boring and negative woman, permanently unhappy? I can handle being broke. I can handle heartache. I can handle Sudbina being thrown at me. I cannot seem to handle idling. I have by all first world standards absolutely nothing to complain about. Yet, I feel that this cannot be it. My life has to hold more sparkle than this; there had to be more bliss in store for me.

I cannot even bring myself to talk about these things with some of my friends. Fucking brat, is what Lola* said to me. Lola had that Irish twang that made everything sound that much harsher. She had a path. She was working as an interior designer, after having studied just that. This is what she had to say when I showed up at her door, crying about my job: “Granted the pay is shit but I love my job!” She always had just the words, that bitch. She was very realistic and told me how lucky we were to have the possibility of hating our jobs. Most people had it much worse. I said I was not most people. Lola looked at me like, poor puppet with her big girl problems, and buried my head in her enormous, comforting breasts. Lola is right. Yet even she knows that I am supposed to be doing other things, things that make me happy. That’s the key isn’t it? If you have all the necessary means of survival, it seems that happiness is the ultimate luxury. Yet a part of me knows that toying with the ability to survive, taking chances that may see you losing it all, brings you that much closer to a faster heart rate and a bigger smile.

Chapter Eighteen – The First, The Fantasy And The Faults

I am struggling to choose what story to tell you next. How could you possibly understand what it is in my poor soul that stops me from letting go? For someone who floats along life, letting it happen and living at the rhythm of her desires, how could I explain the control freak in my brain that refuses to live in that moment? I am struggling with either telling you a nonchalant, fun story that will allow you to escape your drab reality, or telling you more about mine? Looking back to the things that led up to my unique moment of loss, and ultimate gain, I realized all the fantasizing that I had written up in my head.

I wrote a script, back in 2007, before I ever knew I was going to be writing this. I wrote about a night in a man’s bed. He was a decade older than me. He told me about movies and art and the seventeen year old that I was, was hooked. Ses baisers sont légers, incertains, fragiles. It was a night that really happened, and the words I used to describe it are filled with insecurities, tainted with fear and naïveté. The most noticeable to me, is that I lied. I lied to my own self, describing multiple orgasms I knew too well never happened. The shallow self-awareness I was expressing in the parts about knowing him was heart-warming, yet still encumbered by the lies all around it. I wanted so much to fit in; I wanted so much to be a certain person.

Today, I sit here staring at who I really have become. She may not be the best woman I can be, but this girl in the reflection of my computer, she is real. She stopped romanticizing (mostly). She stopped wanting to fit in. She lives her own little life, trying to be true to that gut feeling that has always commanded her choices. I think the first time I saw pieces of this woman, was another night, back in 2005. It was one of those nights you spent hours, weeks and years envisioning. He was my first. He was my first love, my first kiss, my very first boyfriend.  We met when I was eight and he was nine. We saw each other every summer after that. It was like my holiday home, my beach boyfriend. To this very day, he is one of the dearest persons in my life and I will love him forever. He was the sweetest, most caring boy. Year after year, each summer was a new benchmark. That particular night had been long coming.

Like every first time, it was far from spectacular. Drab is the word I am sticking with. There was no fighting reality with romance. It was reality slapping you in the face, giving you a preview of what love was going to feel like: sharp pain, want, sadness, fear and intimacy. He was gentle; it was not his first. He looked me straight in the eye. He held my hand every step of the way. I wanted for that first second to push him away. I was overwhelmed by the pain, sharp and so deeply personal. I wanted him to disappear and for no one to ever touch me again. Then he was in and it became bearable again. The whole ordeal lasted about a minute. No, it was not glorious like some will have you think. It was overrated and underwhelming once it was over. But yes, I was left wanting more. I wanted to persevere, see what all the fuss was about. It is so far in my memory it saddens me how much I forgot. I do remember the stray cat bursting through the door of the basement of my house. I was staying there for a week because the rest of the house was rented out. There was a bed, a fridge and a toilet. No shower, no furniture but a couple of plastic patio chairs. Romantic as hell. The fucking stray cat scared the shit out of me and broke the little “specialness” this moment was to hold. After he managed to kick the cat out, we laughed a lot, loudly.

Those are all the things I have left from that over-romanticized moment: pain, a new intimacy, the cat, the concrete walls and his eyes. I realize now, writing this, that again, I am struggling with the words to express what I truly do remember. It is a very mixed feeling, at the pit of my stomach. It is a feeling of something being over and done with, and an open door. The loss and the gain. Language is universal. We have rules, grammar and undertones that are supposed to be used in the same way by all. But life! Life is far from universal. Each word is used contextually for each and every one of us individually. Life is nuances. The woman staring back at me is smiling, thinking of him so dearly, wishing she could hug him. She knows he was part of creating a little bit of her that remains. She is also wishing that this control issue in her head would stop. I do not like to lose control. It is for that reason that I do not do drugs. See you can snap out of being drunk, if something happens, if something needs you back to reality. I like knowing that I can be in control (to a certain extent) if I need to be. Yet I like the unknown; I love travelling for that precise reason. You can however think through the unknown, you can ensure that you have thought of possible scenarios, and escape routes, even if the reality often exceeds anything you would have ever predicted.

Consciously renouncing all control is something I struggle with. It would be like taking away the universality from language. It would be removing all structure, on purpose. Even if I trust the person in front of me in that moment, there are so many things in my life that demand my attention, in my own head, at all times. What if? is not merely a question for regrets. It is also what if I forgot the stove on, what if I did not attach the file to that email, what if he is not turned on by this particular position… Suddenly I am filled with sadness. The beauty of simplicity I am able to enjoy in so many other moments and instances in my life… Life is nuances and contrasts and contradictions. Ecstasy might escape me still; she might be but an acquaintance. She might be the one choosing when she wishes to meet me next. It is out of my hands, so why can I not let go? I struggled with deciding what story to tell you because the truth is, it is all one big story. It is my story, my shades of grey, my insecurities and failures, as much as my unexpected moments of life’s glory. Most men reading this by now will think I think too much, that I should relax. Most women reading this will finally feel like they know me a bit better, understand the complexities and perhaps identify with me, more or less. Still I do not think my overanalyzing—let us call it that—is a gendered issue. It touches each individual differently. This is why I am choosing these words for you right now. In a society that so easily edits and creates time lapses, for all of our faults to be hidden, it feels good to create room for them. The sadness has left. The woman I see in the reflection is now smiling, feeling something like hope; she sees an open space for the nuances in her personality, a space for her soul to breath.

Chapter Seventeen – A Twist Of Fate

He was going down on me and I was going down on him. I was surprised at how easily I multitasked whilst still enjoying every movement he made. I was so tired; my focus was blurry; all I remember is his tongue slowly hitting my clit as his fingers thrust so deeply. I feel shivers writing this. He had his mind set. He had a goal. I was so responsive. The delusion from the lack of sleep, overload of emotion and utter inability to comprehend what I had done to myself were all that I knew at that point. He kept jabbing, precisely, right there. I died a little bit every time. I was trying to suck, but after I while I could not do anything but fall at his hands. I was panting, moaning, and groaning. My legs were leaving my body. I was losing control and for the first time I did not mind. For the first time, there was no control left in me. My entire body was separating from my brain, in a sort of evanescent fashion. I told him not to stop. I did not say the words. I mean I did, but they came out of somewhere that I did not control. He kept doing exactly what the voice coming out of me was telling him to do. His tongue was wet, gliding like velvet, stroking me. His hands reached into my soul; I could feel it in my gut. My stomach was shuddering. Finally, the voice took control of the body. I slammed him down, jumped on top of him, swiftly sliding him as deep as I could, inside of me. I had control, I lifted myself up and down rhythmically, maintaining our bodies stuck together right where they needed to, but I had no control. Something stronger than me took over. It was speeding up; it was gearing up for the finish line, leaving me totally unaware. I was out of… out of breath… It could not possibly go on like this—I could not possibly withstand more of this. It did not stop. He was staring at me, focused, set on his goal. He was grunting too, joining me in this maddening feeling of want. I was unaware, dreaming; there might even have been singing in my head. And it hit. It hit and my entire body convulsed. The tremor consumed my every ounce of being. A loud laughter emerged from my mouth. I could hear my breath. It was rugged and broken, as if I was sobbing. I rolled over because my legs were unable to sustain my weight. I needed air… I needed…

The giggle. It would not stop. I giggled. I was overwhelmed and giggling.

There it was. I had finally stopped thinking. The man had literally consumed my last thought until all I had left to offer was complete surrender. All I could possibly do was abandon myself in the mistake, miracle, blessing, or horrible error, whatever this was. I bombed the midterm because of him. I would never have let myself do that at any other point for any other man. So I gave up, I surrendered to whatever had dictated me to give in, to forgive, to love at a price, to booty-call when really all I should have done was run. So I ran, but straight at the wall. I said: Fine, Tornado, take me, I’m all yours to swallow and spit right back out, destroyed, disheveled, eaten.

I was giggling. “What are you thinking about?” he said. “I’m not: I’m staring at that corner, I’m staring at the top of my closet’s door.” I giggled. “Hallelujah!” he exclaimed.  I rolled around, still shivering and shaking. The pleasure was of epic proportions. I was blank with bliss.

I had to stand up to go to the bathroom and I nearly crumbled. I was high, high on life, high on SEX! I walked around to get water and just felt, inside and out, like a zombie. A happy one, and overwhelmed one, but a zombie nonetheless. The ecstasy. That is the word. “Intense delight, intense feeling, and loss of self-control.” I was in ecstasy. Now, are you going to tell me what that was supposed to mean, life? Why him, why now? This had to be sudbina. It do not know what else to call it. On that October afternoon, he gave me my very first orgasm.



“Aren’t you going to text your girlfriends? Aren’t you going to scream at the top of your lungs? Liam did this! He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!” He laughed. “No, nobody knows you’re here, remember? We don’t like you right now.” Oh my god. He did though; he did do it. I mean I did it. I was in a particular set of circumstances, a particular state of mind (or rather lack there of) and I had conquered my own brain. Yet life had managed to somehow intractably link him to it. Now I knew I would not forget his name, not even twenty years down the line when he will have become a stranger, a passing name, a phase of self-torture in my twenties. No, he was the first to do that. Certainly not the last, and I will one day be able to give them to myself, but he was the first. He gave me the taste of it. Oh, yes, right I did not tell you yet, dear reader. No, that’s right. I am unable to get there on my own, for now. I mean I get close; I get almost there. Every time. But never do I cross the finish line. Never do I get to say “I’m gonna cum.” I just don’t. So no, the many, many, many men before him, none did. (Sorry guys!) I can still distinguish the good from the bad ones, but all of them failed me. It does surprise me that in my plentiful sexual dances, not one came to blow my brains out – literally. Not one of them had a trick, not one of them was surprising. I knew the moves; I had studied them. It is fascinating that patterns emerge amongst men, in their most private of behaviors. Yet, I cannot really blame them, when I do not even know how to get there myself. My problem is my brain. This brain, writing this paragraph today, it has second-guessed every word, every coma, every semi-colon. It over-analyzes every little detail. It remembers every single color, every word, every smell. It allows me to be the excellent student that I am, the semi-efficient writer that I would like to become. It just does not like to lose control. It is a hard thing, fighting your own self, to make space for the ultimate pleasure. And yes, I enjoy sex without orgasms. Hell, that’s all I had known. I still do. I love it. I revel in it. Every time something feels good, I get to analyze why and how: double the pleasure! But ecstasy… I just met her. She is still a stranger, and I am in love. I am sincerely hoping this infatuation informs my sanity that it is due for a vacation. 

Chapter Sixteen Point Three – Somewhere Near The Ground Floor

The week that followed, we kept on texting quite regularly, very nonchalantly. He continuously apologized. He was realizing what he had done and he was sorry. He had not cheated. He had not done anything against any outright written rules. He had betrayed me. He had betrayed the trust of the one person who had not been using him. It caused him to finally start dealing with his underlying issues. I was happy for him, for his progress, yet the nightmares would not stop. He still called me baby, and still did not prioritize me at all. So, I tried to keep living, tried to process what the hell I had been feeling. When my friend called me on Friday to ask if I could help her shoot her first video for one of her songs the next day, I could not be happier. Helping someone else and evading my own life was exactly what I wanted to do. So I went, and it turned out to be a true Christine kind of day. I met a handful of wonderful people and potentially got myself a job. I was networking—one of my all-time favorite things to do. My friend looked gorgeous and it was really cool being in a video. All around, I was ecstatic to be reconnecting with myself. I went to work that night with a smile on my face. I had a big presentation on the Monday, so I had to work hard at it all Sunday, iron my suit and run some errands. It was looking like a very productive weekend.

I realized around 11am on Sunday morning that I had not heard from him since Friday afternoon. All I could picture, from then on, was him, balls deep inside of her. Aha! The self-torture had permeated from my subconscious, my dreams, into full consciousness and all hope of relief was lost. The images, the sounds, the words, the looks. I saw it all. I heard it all, in my head, even the witch’s voice had somehow become real. I had to work through it; I had to keep my head above the water. It was a daylong battle against suffocation, a twenty-four-hour drowning in shallow waters. The next day as expected, he texted me from work. How very convenient I thought. When I had not answered two hours later, he texted again. Never mind that I was actually busy with the presentation, he knew something was wrong. You see, it does not feel good when someone stops prioritizing you; let alone when they never did in the first place. So I started answering, sheepishly and slowly, shyly gloating about my eventful weekend. Until I realized that evening that I could not keep doing this to myself. I had to be my own best friend and acknowledge what I was letting him do to me.

So I told him I did not want to see him again. I confessed to the self-torture of the previous day. I said all the things I had not said to him all this time. I needed and deserved more. Not in a preachy way, but in reality. I deserved a lot more than what he had been giving me. I had never wronged him. In fact, my roommate kept repeating I had been a saint to him. She did not understand how, or where I got the strength from, to keep my cool and listen and not judge him. I did not know either, but now the pain was all there was left of this and I had to stop it. I told him his lying and pretending abilities scared the shit out of me. I said I could not deal with the ugly parts of him anymore; there was nothing to outweigh them. And then he said “I talked with her about it yesterday. I don’t want to lie to anyone. It’s a path I’m also disgusted with myself for.” So he was with her on Sunday! TA-DA! I knew it! Damned stupid woman intuition: her perpetual, refractory presence, taking over all other thoughts in my soul, always every so uselessly retroactive.

I said I was sorry for everything he was going through, the self-doubt, the disgust, the terrible choices… I just could not care anymore. I needed him to become a better person in the end so that this all, my pain, would not have been in vain. But I was done being the good one, asking for nothing, and standing there by his side, invincibly. Well, I was not invincible. And then, he must have felt I was truly giving up. I did not want any more explanations. I just wanted out. I needed out.

He must have known, because he said he was especially sorry that he had no fight left in him, and that I was worth the fight. He said I was incredible, that I made him smile and laugh and cry and truly be himself. That that’s who I was to him: Real. And extravagant and incredible and I wish I could be something more to you. That he truly did but that he could not. And that he did not deserve me.

I had to be my own best friend. I had to be my own mama bear right that instant. It was becoming more and more clear we could never go back. It never had returned to what it had or might have been. He was not the one for me, however much I had wanted it. I wished him well. I told him I loved him. It had to be goodbye. He agreed. So it was.

I went to bed exhausted. I realized his ugliness, his faults and his betrayal had made me better. That week following the night in hell, I had made amends with all the people in my life I still held grudges with. I buried hatches. I did good deeds and reveled in the smiles and the laughs of the wonderful people in my life. It felt great to be able to look at myself and see that I had done no wrong here. Yet there was that little resounding voice in my head: Oh you feel great? No, no I don’t think so. See that pinch in your stomach? You know what that is? That is how you really feel: shortchanged.


I saw his towel hanging on bathroom door again as I was exiting the shower the next morning. I smiled and put it in the wash. I went to help my friend Sam* with her baby. She has such a warm soul and Thanksgiving had helped me feel so much better that I could not have hoped for a better task that day. We ended up having coffee and I told her the whole story. She understood my feelings of confusion between caring for him and being so angry at his failures. She comforted me and smiled. We could almost touch the love we truly share for each other and both left feeling warm and fuzzy. She is an amazing, strong and beautiful woman that simply inspires greatness. I went home with all the best intentions in the world, of studying my butt off for this midterm I had the next day.

Instead at 2.48 p.m., I booty-called him.

Chapter Sixteen Point Two – Potentially Rock Bottom

3:42 a.m. “Hey!” “Hi, what’s going on?” “Not much, you sleepin’?” “Well, yes I was. What’s going on?” “Nothing, I just wanted to see what you were doing, hear you voice. I wanna see you.” “I wanna see you too…” “Oh but you were sleeping, you sound so cute, groggy like that.” “You want to see me now? What’s up, did you go out?” “Yeah, we went out drinking. I’m downtown… It’s probably too late, you can’t come get me. That would be inappropriate…” *I grunted.* “Oh but you sound so cute, I need to see you.” “Well, it is inappropriate, but I’m up now. Are your friends with you, are guys stranded?” “Yeah, but we can get a cab, like…” “No, it’s fine. I’ll be there in 20.”

I got up, put my sweatpants and my reading glasses on. I was ecstatic. He booty-called me. He wanted to see me. His cuteness at my cuteness was unbearable. I was overjoyed. This was it. He could not stand being apart from me either. When I found them, I realized the level of alcohol that had been consumed. His two buddies were just as wasted so I let them sleep on my couch. Once I closed my bedroom door, Liam had his bedroom eyes on. “I want to go down on you.” “That’s a very sweet thought darling, but here’s a glass of water. You should sleep.” A few sloppy, yet highly passionate kisses later he was out cold, snoring. At 5.30 his usual alarm for work started ringing. Since it was Thanksgiving, Monday was a holiday. He was absolutely passed out. So I reluctantly got up to find his phone to turn off the fucking alarm. As I swiped, the alarm silenced and the screen unlocked to the home screen of his text messages.

There it was, third name down. She was right there. The last text exchanged between them was “miss you.” See from the home screen, you cannot tell who sent it, just what it said. He was snoring so loudly. I had to look. I had to see. Did he send that?? Did she? When? Why? So I went in. Next thing I know, I have read a month and a half of daily messages and I do not feel well. Wait, I feel like utter shit. Oh fuck, get up, run, quietly, run. I had barely managed to shut the bathroom door as my guts came spewing out. For the first time ever, I fully understood what “sickening” meant. I had used the expression several times before. “This makes me sick.” I had no idea what it meant. See this is how important words are. I had consistently over-exaggerated my feelings of disgust. This was the first time I understood the expression and I hated it. How could he? How did he dare? Calling her baby, calling her his. I had to go back, I had to check again. Was this all a nightmare? I am going to wake up anytime soon, right? This cannot be happening.

“I keep comparing this chick to you. She will never match up. So boring. No chance.”

Nope there it was, in real life, shining at me through the darkness. Black on white. Words set in writing, definite, cold, painful, sickening. I need to take a break even as I sit here writing this. That feeling haunts me to this day. What was I supposed to do? It was now 6:30am, still pitch black outside. I tried to make myself as small as physically possible in the bed. There was no waking him in this state. And what was I going to do? Kick all three of them out in the middle of the night? How could he?? Was he fucking kidding me? The fucking liar. I was so disgusted. I want to hit him. I want to spit on him. There were so many messages, so many innuendos. It was so insulting. How dare he even mention me to her?? Who the fuck is this cunt? I tried to fall asleep, to hopelessly make it stop. Sleep would be my release. Time would fly. That’s it Christine, just sleep. His snoring was like the dagger in my heart, consistently poking at it, twisting and turning, rhythmically, ensuring I could not breath. SHUT THE FUCK UP! I screeched inside my soul. I had to keep fighting the gagging that would not stop. And so I lived through to 8am, when one of his buddies got up and asked me for directions home.

When I walked back in the room, he felt me get back into bed, through his intoxicated, sleep haze. “Come here.” He tried to hug me. “Don’t fucking touch me.” Confused half asleep look ensued. “I did something bad last night, so don’t fucking touch me right now.” “What?” “I read your messages.” Pause.

“So aren’t you gonna say anything?” He asked. “Well, it’s disgusting and you’re a fucking liar.” Pause. He got up and angrily walked to the bathroom. When he came back in, he was packing up, drunkenly insisting he was going to leave; I was never going to believe him; it was no use. “Well if you want to leave and give up this is your cue. But I’m sitting here asking you what the fuck is going on. So if you wish to dignify me an explanation, I’m all ears.” And then he proceeded to give me an explanation, so plausible, yet so easy that you begin to slowly hate yourself for being in your own shoes and having to make choices. So I sat in silence, contemplating my options. I looked up at this man who had done little but lift me up and smash me back down. How could I have hurt so much from this one man and still be looking at him? Hours prior I had felt more hatred and disgust towards him than I thought I was even capable of for anyone. Could I believe him? Could I take the risk of being the biggest idiot, fool the world had ever seen? Was it possible that he was so fucked up as to not realize what he had been doing to me? Kick him out and it’s over forever.

We argued for hours. His buddy left half way through, probably having no clue of what was going on, since I had miraculously managed to keep it down. I asked questions, he answered them. Always giving me enough to believe, not enough to reassure. He apologized profusely. He did not beg. He just stated and felt bad for me. He felt bad I had to go through that. Did he feel bad about doing it? He did much later, but probably not that instant. I was tired. I could not argue anymore. I couldn’t think anymore. I was delusional from emotion and lack of sleep. I have never been so confused in my life.

So we paused. We paused life and watched Back to the Future. We had sex several times. It was the best afternoon we had had since before the summer. The whole time we had been back together had been so difficult and tedious. That afternoon, it felt like we finally had some release. He looked and felt relieved. Relieved that I had found out, relieved that someone knew the depth of the shit he had gotten himself in. This made me want to believe him. He did not say anything to make me feel this way. There was just something about his behavior, his touch that felt like he was relieved. He looked like for the first time in a while the stinky, disgusting, horrifying mess he had made was on the table. It was manifest and someone was there to accept him and recognize he was a human being that had just majorly fucked up and had to start facing it.  I did not trust him. I would not for a long time. I hated him for what he had done to me and the thought of it still makes me very angry. He left in the evening. I fell asleep quite fast. Sleep, finally. The next morning I realized sleep was no safe zone either. The dreams I had that entire week will probably haunt me forever. It felt like my subconscious was trying to tell me: “yes, Christine, that was rock bottom.” But we had the best day…

Chapter Sixteen – The Elevator Ride Commences

The funny thing about honesty is that you never know if you are getting it. Granted you often find out if you were not. Still the perception of honesty comes from one thing, and one thing only: trust. Once that trust is taken away, ripped apart or never existed to begin with, all that is left are some deep dark thoughts and worst-case scenarios. I experienced new levels of falling apart and rising to the top in a short month. I want to take you on this emotional elevator ride with me. This story is not for the light-hearted, I promise you that much.

Liam*—Mr. Inexplicable as I have called him so far, and I were trying really hard to make things work. It was difficult and tedious and so tiring. The sex was not even good. He was lazy, self-involved, and absorbed in another world. None of the “insane connection” I was craving, the sole purpose of my return was there. But I loved him, so I stayed. He said, “I don’t wanna give up just because it’s hard.” So we kept trying for 6 weeks we just tried. And it was exhausting. I kept thinking he needed me to be there for him, to support him on his journey. He was finally dealing with the horrible things that had happened to him over that summer, and in his life in general. Of course I would not be a priority right away, of course he needed to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, about himself, about his problems, about his life. And I kept seeing none of me ever reflected in his words, she was still there haunting my every breath… and at times he said the worst things he could possibly say and my breath stopped. My heart broke a little every time. “This morning I woke up and had to check myself, figure out where I was and who was next me… I’ve been so all over the place lately…” He might as well have said “I thought of her while I was hugging you all night,” because that’s all my heart could hear.

So even though it hurt and even though neither of us were really happy, I thought it was all for something. There were glimpses of hope, a few laughs and sincere smiles. I thought he would eventually come to his senses. And then he blew up. I was asking for more than he could give. He could not give me shit apparently, since all I was asking for was honesty. He needed to focus on Liam, and I had to stop focusing on Liam. He blew up on the phone at his lunch break. I told him none of this could happen like this, that he owed me the respect to tell it to my face. And then he said “Why? So you can convince me to be in a relationship that I do not want?” I wanted to hang up and never hear his voice again. He did not even have the decency to be an adult and respect the one woman who had done absolutely nothing to hurt him. I gathered strength I did not even know I had. “No, I just need to hear the words you just said in person to have closure.” “Fine then, see you after work. Bye.”

So he had made the decision. I had to make him realize that he could not just be an asshole; that he still had to talk to people, that even though he was fighting his battles, his actions impacted more than his little self. No, I did not want to break up. Yes, this is also what I needed. And so we broke up for the second time. I felt like this time it was the hardest thing. He had given up. I just had to face the fact that I loved someone who did not, could not, love me back. He stayed over that night; we had dinner and talked. We talked instead of watching a dumb movie. For the first time in a while he looked at me. So when he left for work, I disintegrated.

I closed the door and went back to sleep, to ignore this brutal reality for just a little longer. When I woke up, each step I took shone a light on something that reminded me of him. His soap in the shower, the nutella we bought together to make crepes, the bag of my favorite childhood crisps I had bought just for him, the bottle of whiskey that I do not like and lastly—the towel that still smelt like him. Those were all the things I had left. I hugged that towel like it was the last time I would ever remember what he smelled like, like it was him I could hold on to for a couple more minutes before throwing it in the hamper.

The following week was torturous. It took all the energy in me just to keep going, accept failure and move on. I was single again. I realized what my girlfriends had repeatedly been saying after their breakups: “I just want to tell him how shitty I feel because when I feel shitty I want to talk to him. But now he’s the one making me feel shitty so I can’t call him and it makes me feel even worse.” I get it now. Damn. I was tired. I could not face the idea of putting myself out there, of hunting. I did not even want to sleep with anyone and that was really weird. I just felt defeated and I missed him. So I got drunk on that Saturday. I had been a week since we had talked. 10.30 pm came around….

Me: “So you don’t miss me….” (Yes, I know I’m smooth like that.)

Him: “Why would you stay that? I was just wondering how you were doing actually.”

“Were you?”


“Why did you say that?”

“I didn’t think that you do.”

“That’s not nice.”

“I’m sorry I just thought you didn’t.”

“I do. But what should I do, text you that?”

I guess he had a point. What was I expecting? We break up and then he is supposed to tell me he is suffering? I guess not. I did not know what to say… I apologized the next morning and we caught up properly. He understood. We did both miss each other. But it was for the best. That was Thanksgiving morning. So I went to hang out with my friends, who have the most beautiful little children and comforted my soul with the extraordinary innocence, the warmth and pure sincerity of which they are the sole providers. We ate great food, watched a bit of Star Wars and reveled in the purest kind of love. I got into bed quite early and fell asleep easily for the first time. I did not even have nightmares that night.

Chapter Fifteen – Reality Check

I like to present myself as a smart-ass, a cynic of sorts, like I have seen and done it all. It feels like swagger. I am acutely aware this is a front, yet I still very much like it. I do not like to face that I am in fact a hopeful optimist. It does not go along with most of my beliefs or mottos. I truly do think that people are capable of the worst and Hobbesian in nature. I cannot however shake the overpowering gut reflex that makes me believe that people strive to be good. This striving is not instinctive; it does not come naturally. Yet there is something to be said about guilt. It would not be there if we did not, as individuals who take part in social relations, strive to be good people. There would be no such thing as remorse. Yet there is, and time and time again we regret not having been better people. We regret having lied, played games or succumbed to the easy way out—which by the way most often ends up being really complicated.

I have to stop here to exclude sociopaths and psychopaths and the likes, but also just mere and simple assholes. Some of us, clinically or otherwise, are simply incapable of being good, or have no intention of it. It is therefore also difficult for the rest of us to tell between the true assholes and the accidental ones. The ones that were that to you, at that moment, because they were too weak or did not know any better. I like that I still believe in people. I like that I have difficulty believing (accepting?) that some people are true assholes. I am afraid off course that it will ruin me. Do not misunderstand: I am a pretty good judge of creepers, thieves and generally badly intentioned strangers. I am afraid of misjudging the ones close to me, mostly men. How much understanding is healthy and necessary for the betterment of humankind? How much is simply naïveté or delusion?


We were in the crowd. His hand grazed mine, moving on to hover over my ass, up my arm and past my breast. We were surrounded by people who could not ever know what was about to happen. He grabbed my hand, hiding it ever so subtly away from curious eyes. He looked at me intensely, in split seconds. Next thing I know, his hand, the one grabbing me in the club, was down my pants, into my underwear. The transgressing hand knew exactly what to do. I held on to the sink in the handicapped stall we were in, like my life depended on it. And it somewhat did. No one had touched me like that since I had had my heart broken. No one had wanted me that intently. No one had, for better or for worse, crossed lines and taken risks for me. His kisses were intense and profound. He bit at my shoulder and shoved and pulled. I almost fell to my knees. I think I was screaming; it felt like I was. It was about 3a.m. and we needed to get back to catch the last bus. As we squeezed ourselves out of reality, maneuvering the cornerstones of our daily routines, we somehow ended up in bed. We had been so aroused by the many obstacles to this inevitable outcome that the scene entered into an alternate world. This world was a place where the wrong thing was the right thing. This place allowed for the expression of deepest, darkest desires coming into existence. Something we had both secretly been starving for so long, occurred. He was deep inside me, both through his intense gaze and literally. I wanted all of him. I wanted to feel him revel in me, like I was reveling in him. We had been but estranged fantasies up until that night. The intensity was feeding my addiction and I lost myself.

The next morning I wanted more, and more and more. The addiction was taking over me yet again. He had obligations to attend to. Real life needed us both back. It dawned on me after I closed the door on him that I had done it again. For someone who is so loyal, and bent up on her own principles, I had allowed someone to break the very rules I stood by. I would never cheat. I have never cheated. I have been cheated on, and never let it shake my trust in faithfulness. Yet it was not the first time I had made someone a cheater. I generally avoid pursuing taken men. I am not a home-wrecker. I do not however have scruples sleeping with men who intently and actively pursue me, no matter their status. The tension between these two facts is hard to qualify. I am a free agent, and as such can do whatever the heck I want. If they show no guilt in the immorality of their actions, why should I? I have never pursued a man who was taken and committed. I have conversely dragged back into my bed men that had cheated on their girlfriends with me previously. They had shown no remorse. That is how I explain my ethics to myself. It is important to note here I am not talking about married men. I do not know why it makes a difference to me, maybe I still believe in some remnants of the institution, but I will not knowingly sleep with a married man.

Now I do not know whether he had cheated before or whether he would again. I do not care. I know what he was for me: an escape. He was the distraction I needed. It is highly likely that it was mutual in that aspect. Nevertheless it does not matter to me to know whether he, or any other person that has cheated with me, is an accidental or a true asshole. I would never consider them worthy of my time, love and affection. They did not strive to be good; they never apologized for doing their doings. They wanted more. They thought because I had moments where I needed things like them, I was approving of their moral etiquette. Well, I am not. Mostly I needed an asshole to show the strength I had wanted from the men I did care about, and in some sense I needed to be an asshole myself. Here’s a toast to the douchebags: you come in handy sometimes. Thanks for that. Yet I know that that was a decision I was making consciously, a defense mechanism I was performing. I know the strength, or balls that these men displayed were but fake appearances, a beautiful masquerade.

This is all to say that it is very easy, and sometimes necessary to be an asshole, accidental or otherwise. What is easy though is not what is real. Life is messy, complicated, difficult and senseless. Life is about contradictions and tension. I was with cheaters when I needed strength for myself, when I need to be reinsured in my capabilities, in my attractiveness, in my worthiness. Isn’t it strange how those sexcapades never do quite accomplish anything other than distraction? I did not feel better inherently; they did not help me become anything other than who I already was. I just got to turn off my brain for a while, live in the moment, forget. When it all came back rushing into my head, I had renewed my energy. I had given myself the strength I needed for myself. This is why I think no one is ever responsible for anything other than themselves. You are only ever as strong as you chose to be. So love yourself. Take care of yourself. Do the wrong thing that is the right thing. But strive to be good, strive to be proud of the person that you are: because you only ever get to be yourself.

Chapter Fourteen – Let’s Talk Numbers

“Seriously though, you’ve slept with two people in your entire life! You aren’t happy in this relationship. How do you think this is going to play out? Are you going to have children and get married and finish school with this guy who is already driving you crazy and hurting you? You need to get out there!!! Two people?!?”

This was my great and insightful input into Devi’s personal crisis a few years ago. I mean I cannot fathom the idea of getting to be twenty-four and having had two very long and very serious relationships compose all of my sexual experience. At that point, even Angie said: “Well yeah, two seems so little. But chica, whatever makes you happy, we love you and will support you!” She was always much more diplomatic than I ever will be. I kept thinking of the shame it was! Devi is an amazing girl. She is tall, gorgeous and smart. She commands attention and most importantly she is freaking hilarious. What a catch! I get how the men in her life would want to keep her around. I do not get how she got stuck with them. To be in a relationship is a fantastic feeling, and sure I have had my moments of daydream, with the children and the beautiful life ahead of us with a couple of men. Those dissipated with a single touch of reality. This is why I had a hard time relating to Devi’s decision making. I could not seriously think she was considering spending the rest of her life without having tried what is out there, without any comparison. It just seemed like blind trust, or fear of being alone, or naivety. She never struck me as a hopeless romantic either- she is quite the realist. In any case, she left the guy and got into another, happier serious relationship shortly after. Some people are made for that I guess.

Yet that fight between Devi and her ex sparked a most interesting conversation between the girls and I. “What is your number?” I asked Angie. It seems like the question of our time when it comes to sexual morals and acceptable behavior. It is a question that surfaces into my life time and time again, across various cultures, religions, languages and oceans. What is your number? What is the appropriate number? What makes it usually more acceptable for men to have higher numbers? What do we do with women with morally unacceptably high numbers? This seemed to be on everyone’s minds. Women ten years older than me were struggling with it worse than I did I think. One of my friends in Belgrade brought it up around the dinner table in front of our respective families. She was just telling us a story about how funny it was that every man wanted to know. “I tell every single one of them that they’re the second one.” The second one in Serbian also means the other one, which gives it an air of affair and misconduct that is ever so attractive. She said it further took away the pressure of being the first without leaving a second-hand taste in their mouths. She clearly spent a lot of time bargaining with herself. Being in your thirties, single and childless in Serbia renders you pretty much irrelevant even in our day and age. Let me just say that I do not envy her position.

Angie started counting and so did I. Angie was probably at the average number I would say. Above ten, but way below thirty. She had had more flings than serious relationships. The only time I had ever known her to be committed was with Peter. In any case, I kept listing and listing… It took me three days to come up with a definitive number and not without help. I was at twenty-eight. The girls and I agreed a “dirty thirty” party was imminent and necessary. You know with penis-shaped paraphernalia, best and worst recounting, etc. That party never happened. #29 turned out to last quite some time and fuck with my head more than I expected. He permeated all sides of my life with drama. Some guys are like that, due to little fault of their own even. They fail to or miscalculate every single one of their own moves to the point where their baggage and intentions and story start looking like a web of crap, tangled in dramaturgy and need, wrapping you up until you lose sight of who you are and hate the person that you have inadvertently become. The point here is plans are quite useless and rarely come to fruition.

My number has not stopped increasing since. At times it gives me vertigo. Reminiscing over my experiences makes me smile, and cry at times, but I feel they are part of the riches I will always have as my own. No regrets, remember? I still struggle with understanding our society with regards to this. My male friends who know this about me keep saying they would hate me if I were a dude. They ascertain that the facility with which I “pick up” is all they ever wanted. Yet they make sure to also repeat their reluctance to dating girls like me. What is this bullshit double standard? You want a lady in the streets, but a freak in the sheets. You want to be “the second one.” You want to have someone who knows her way around life, but is innocent enough for you never to feel threatened by her, I told them. Awkward silence and guilty looks were always exchanged at this point. My guy friends recognized the logical validity of my points, yet were unable to translate it into their desires and behavior. I really do not think of myself as much of a feminist, if at all. Nevertheless the manner in which men respond to my being a “women with the morals of a man” appalls me. It is 2013 people. The mottos of our society is fulfill your individualism, maximize your potential, live your dreams. How is it then that sleeping around, taking full advantage of the pleasures of life, eating, drinking, smoking and sex is so morally reprimanded? I am not talking about excess to the point of illness. I am talking about healthy, responsible, consensual and sensual pleasures. I refuse to believe that I would need to give any of these up for a “man.” Yet I still believe in love. The right women-respecting, confident, intelligent man-slut must come around for me. And he will.

I say he has to be a man-slut not to be offended by my baggage. I may be wrong. At this point of my life however, having little emotional baggage but a large number of sexual partners seems to be a disadvantage in the quest for true love. Yes, because my knowing more moves than others and being upfront about sex is definitely harder to handle in a relationship than a lunatic ex-girlfriend, or confused unresolved emotional issues. Sure. I’ll buy that. In any case, #30 turned out to be quite memorable, as you already know, and I think that was party enough for me. It reminds me that I never did install a mirror on my ceiling like I had planned. Am I afraid of people judging me if I did? Perhaps. Oh how hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Even I cannot refrain from hiding my inner slut from the public. Slut is the wrong word, I know. We just do not have a word for “girls like me”, yet. Maybe then I will get to have my sex mirror, and be proud of it. When language and society permit it.

Chapter Thirteen – A Little Bit Of TLC

The thing about being fantastically good at being on one’s own is that reaching out becomes ridiculous. It becomes a sign of weakness, not viable. Sitting on my couch, sobbing compulsively, there is no one I want to call, no one who will not be inconvenienced by my sudden need of empathy. Of course they would understand. Of course it happens to everybody. The thing is, when you are the strong one, it is more than counterintuitive—it is unfeasible. The help that I need, it needs to come without me asking for it. I need someone who wants to care and support and carry me when I need it, even if those moments are indeed rare.

One night a few years ago, I got unbelievably drunk. I was having a great time and needed an escape from the stress, from the responsibilities. I ignored that moment, that shot I should not have taken. The greatest thing happened. I woke up utterly unaware of how I had gotten home. I was fully dressed, rightfully tucked in the utmost peaceful sleeping position and gently covered. I thought there is no way I put my own self to sleep like this. If I had come home alone, I would be sprawled sideways, totally naked and disheveled. I called my friend with the ever-so pleasant question: “what the fuck happened last night?”

–       Funny you should ask, I’m walking with your knight and shining armor as we speak. Wanna talk to him?

–       Yes… Wait, do I? Hello?

–       Hi.

–       Hi?

–       How’s the head my dear?

–       Oh, hey Tim*! Thank you so much for last night. I’m so sorry I got so drunk!!! * insert best embarrassed apologetic tone *

–       That’s really ok. Happens to the best of us. We should grab coffee later- maybe I can enlighten you on some things.

–       Yes, that would be lovely. Thanks again.

It only dawned on me then that I had put a target on Tim’s head half way through the night. I was going home with him, whether he was aware of that or not. Unfortunately, I ended up being the unaware one. He confessed to me later that day we had had great fun. I made him storm the stage where a band was playing, and run out wildly through the fire exit of the club. It was one of those typical Christine kind-of nights. He took me home and I fell asleep in the cab. I was so drunk he had to, as the perfect gentleman, resort to simply tucking me in. It was the gentlest anyone had been with me in a while. It compared with Joe’s hand gesture.

It was a grand gesture, utterly unexpected and exceedingly welcome. We eventually did sleep together, and it was as unpredicted. We had known each other for so long, and it had never crossed our minds before. We were not very close prior to that night, but gravitated in the same circles. He told me he had always thought of me as “so much older and professional.” I will never forget his exact words. He was older than me. I was a bartender. It seemed so unlikely to me that those would be the words he would choose to describe me. Now it resonates with my self-description as the strong one. Yet there is that contradicting side of me that made him do all those things, that person that I used to be much more often when I was younger.

That night I met a girl who would soon become someone very dear to me, Alicia*. She was my partner in crime that night, and so often since. She makes me do shots, even if reluctantly. I bring out the smoker and German-speaker in her. She is my sounding board so often and I will never be able to thank her enough for that.  She never judges me. There are people in your life that just comfort you about the state of humanity. She is one of those people. Her support is one I never need to ask for.

I think that is partly why I do not understand people who think they can get all that they need from one person. It just does not seem possible. Love should come from all around you- from every single person in your life. Attention-seekers like me cannot be satisfied by one and only person. I need people like Alicia to ask me what is going on in my life with no agenda. I need people like Tim who are genuinely kind. Your special someone gets a special kind of love, one that is more passionate, sexual, but also more volatile and complicated. That love is the one that can turn to hate. The love I share with my friends is stable as a rock. The simple reminder of this helps me stop sobbing, when I am having a crisis on my couch, strangled by loneliness. I remember my favorite girls and boys and all that they do, have done and continue to do—simply because we love each other. But enough with the cheese now. Love is necessary for life. And so is a big, hard penis when you need one.