Monday, May 8, 2017

I'm Not Your Buddy

I’ve never liked the term “fuck buddy.” It’s crass, it sounds inappropriate, and it generally doesn’t feel like a label one adult should assign to another adult. But mostly, it bugs me because it feels like a misrepresentation of the relationship, at least in my limited experience.

A few years ago, on a weekly basis, I’d leave my office and go to the movies. Here, in the mid-morning weekday seclusion of AMC Westbank Palace 16, I’d work my way to the bottom of a large popcorn and feast on horror and sci-fi films. One morning, while leaving the day’s first screening of The Babadook, I crossed an attractive guy the lobby, who was also by himself. As we continued on, we both looked back at one other before he walked into his theatre and I walked out into the sunlight. Later that evening, I saw him again, thanks to Facebook’s creepy People You May Know algorithm. I friended him and we exchanged numbers. It happened that fast.

He was a litigation attorney with a gorgeous townhome in Mid-City. I liked him enough, but after the first date, there was a tangible unspoken understanding that neither thought the other was boyfriend material. But that didn’t stop us from regularly having sex. And almost instantly, we carved out a routine. The standard text and response; a brief, straight-to-the-point dialogue in two-word sentiments.

>What’s up?
>>Home, you?
>Out. Busy?
>>Working. Blah.
>Hang out?
>>Sure. C’mon.

When The Litigator came down to meet me, he never wore shoes, which only drew more attention to his calves, which were bulbous and meaty. He was a small guy, lean on top and muscular on the bottom. Part jockey, part swimmer, part rugger.

Even though I could [and have] navigate his home in a full blackout, The Litigator always led the way. We made the kind of vacant small talk that required no attention from either party. But it was part of our ritual and it had to be practiced.

Inside his room, I unbuttoned my shirt and scanned the bookshelf for new novels. Behold, the complete works of Brett Easton Ellis peppered with Palaniuk, Vonnegut — and obviously — Salinger. I’d swear he was the most boring straight white guy ever, if wasn’t already sleeping with him. I wondered if he stopped reading fiction after high school as I kicked off my shoes and stripped away my socks. “Want anything to drink?” he’d ask, switching on a lamp and turning down the TV. “I’m okay,” I’d say, fluffing a pillow and making myself comfortable.

We’ve been here before. We’ve run these exact lines and blocked this exact scene. We were rehearsing for a play we would never perform for an audience.

The sex, like the rest of our relationship, was scripted. We didn’t kiss on the mouth. We didn’t hold hands. We didn’t get creative. Three positions max. When we were ready, he would go before me. When I finished, I’d lay there with my chest rising and falling. 

Immediately following sex, there’s a brief moment of worldless, heavy breathing where both parties re-enter the present. I love this moment. No matter how wonderful, mediocre, or terrible the sex, you can always undercut the weight of reality with a dumb, offhanded comment. “Meh, C+” is a go-to favorite of mine.

If The Litigator were someone else, I might take this opportunity to make him laugh. But we didn’t really do that. So I’d pay him an arbitrary, meaningless compliment. “That was awesome.”

To fill the silence, we asked insipid questions without making eye contact. My podiatrist and I discuss weekend plans with exponentially more genuine interest than The Litigator and myself trying to cobble together something that passes for a conversation after sex. We shuffled around, picking up garments, turning them inside out, and wrestling them onto our bodies, respectively. Then, I’d head straight for the door, sometimes with shoes in-hand, sometimes with pants unbuttoned, but always with the disheveled urgency of someone leaving jail after a night in holding.

Finally, he would walk me to the front gate where we would have our final scene together. This part, for some inexplicable reason, was never scripted. We improvised, and inevitably, it was hasty and incoherent. “Talk to ya later!” with an awkward side hug. “Peace!” with a bro handshake, followed by an unnatural bro pat on the back. One time, I went in for a fist bump, but he went in for a side hug, so we tried to compromise with a high-five and both missed.

The Litigator moved to Chicago nearly six months ago, and we haven’t spoken since. Then yesterday, I saw a photo of him with another guy — standing on a beach in Cabo San Lucas — wearing matching Ray-Bans and matching H&M swim trunks. 

“Happy 5 years, baby!!!” the caption read. “You’ve always been the love of my life and I look forward to our infinite future together!!!”

I rolled my eyes and continued scrolling.

I’ve never liked the phrase “love of my life.” It’s cliché, it's maudlin, and it generally doesn’t feel like a label one adult should assign to another adult.

But mostly, it bugs me because it feels like a misrepresentation of the relationship.

At least in my limited experience.

Out Of Home

My flight from JFK to MSY got in around midnight.

It was delayed more than two and a half hours, with no explanation from Delta. Catching an Uber from the airport to the Lower Garden District would cost me $33 and some change. It sounded steep, until I remembered I don't really have anyone I can call for a ride, especially at this hour on a Monday.

The driver was listening to some satellite radio station that played instrumental versions of 80s and 90s pop songs. A lyricless, vaguely Tejano version of "Fast Car" drifted out the open windows and into the sticky, desperate-for-something-to-happen New Orleans night.

As we finally arrived at the edges of the Central Business District, I looked up from my phone and noticed something familiar.

It was a billboard. Your billboard.

I'd seen on your laptop screen about a month ago when you smoked me out in your apartment. You were working on a new campaign — designing a series of clever, headline-driven creative. It was entirely your concept, and apparently, your client loved it enough to buy ad space around the city. I was reaching for my phone to take a picture when something suddenly grabbed my attention.

On the other side of the highway, facing your billboard, was another billboard. And I recognized it immediately, because I wrote its headline. My billboard.

I could have screamed. And frankly, I'm not sure I didn't. I am always proud of you, but I felt especially proud in that moment.

Your billboard was advertising a locally beloved restaurant, while mine was announcing a new type of hot sauce.

The boards are digital, so they rotate in blink-and-you-miss-it intervals along with other ads. But for just a few moments, suspended high above the expressway that separates Downtown from Uptown, our work was displayed at the exact same time. Our work, together. In the wild.

We haven't spoken in more than a month.

But I think about you all the time.

I miss you.

I know you've been a little bummed out lately — feeling homesick and needing some time to recalibrate. I can't imagine what it's like for you. And I want you to know that you never have to think twice about calling me.

The billboards are running right now, but eventually, the buys will come to an end. As you know, ad placements (even for digital out-of-home boards) are costly and fleeting. Make a few meaningful impressions, and then go away. If you're lucky, you'll reach someone and inspire them to action. That's what we do for a living. It's how you and me pay our bills. It's funny how two people who consider themselves artists can make something impersonal, send it out the world, and then fully let go of it, at the whim of a media buy. It's counterintuitive to the way you and me are naturally hardwired.

Still, the billboards are really beautiful, especially at nighttime.

If you catch them before they stop running, shoot me a text.

It would be really nice to hear from you.

And If you need me, I'll be around.

I'm not going anywhere.

I Want To Believe

You told me it was the best you ever had.

Sometimes you would say it while sitting across from me on my bed, Indian-style, naked and out of breath.

Sometimes you'd say it just above a whisper, lying right next to me with our sides touching and your arm draped over my shoulders.

And sometimes you would say it during sex, just because you knew it would make me cum.

I always believed you.

Because I knew exactly why you felt that way.

And I want you to know that I felt that way, too.

I don't believe in religion.

I don't believe in mysticism.

I don't believe in witchcraft or healing crystals or Bigfoot.

But I believed in that crackling spark that happened in my core when we were together.

It made me feel awake.

One day, I'll wake up again.


Sometimes I leave work and head straight home, just to think about you.

Sure, you drift in and out of my consciousness during the day (almost every day, sometimes all day). But I typically keep you at arm's length until I can be alone in my apartment, locked behind my bedroom door.

I draw the curtains, undress to my underwear, and lay down in bed. Then, I close my eyes and turn my body away from the window, just so I can find you in the space where no one else can. About four feet of dark, empty space between the wall and me. That's our space.

This bed. This bed used to be our space, too. In fact, right here, right where I'm laying. This is where you slept. On the left side. On a plot of memory foam you claimed the first time you slept over. Overnight, my bed became our bed.

I live with a roommate in a small, third-floor apartment in the Lower Garden District with a balcony overlooking the skyline anchored by the Superdome. The view is worth the rent, but common space is limited. So my bedroom (and the bed that imposed on more than half the square footage) was our only sanctuary.

Here, on a weekday afternoon in October, we fucked for the first time. I won’t say we made love because that would come after — almost immediately after — when we fell in love. Weeks later, on a frigid December night, you wrapped me in your hulking arms and traced your nose along the crest of my neck. In the muted moonlight, I could see the tattoos winding and weaving across your hands and forearms. Here, for the first time, suspended in the moments before sleep, I felt myself loving you. It slid up from the foot of the bed and covered the both of us.

I inhale and I can smell you. Old Spice deodorant and menthol cigarettes. Then suddenly, my phone buzzes and I’m alone in the dark again. I twist and slap around until I touch vibrating glass. I absently click buttons until the buzzing stops, then softly lob the phone onto the floor.

Today is Wednesday, which means trivia night at Finn McCool’s. Also, Torres is playing at One Eyed Jacks in a few hours. I should probably text Kylie back. I’m not going to make happy hour at Tsunami.

I’ll make plans later. Maybe I’ll catch up on TV. Or do some writing or some laundry or both.

But right now, I just want to relive the moments when I first knew I loved you.

In the space where it was just you and me.