Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 1


Devo Diary:
Prologue

September 1995

My life is over.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. I was going to start my perfect adult life with K. I graduated college, moved from College Town to Raser City, started grad school--I did all those things like I was supposed to, but K isn't here.
Twenty-three years old, and I should feel like I'm just starting my life, but instead I feel hopeless and abandoned. I couldn't afford to live on my own, so I had to find a roommate at the last minute, some friend of a friend named Julie. She doesn't seem too happy about sharing her house with me, but whatever, I just try to avoid her.
I can still hardly believe K dumped me, just like that, and over email too. That coward. Now I'm just going through the motions. I'm here in this city where I don't know anyone, except a roommate who doesn't like me. I'm just another stupid heartbroken girl--no one wants to hear my pathetic story. Not like it would be any better back in College Town. Most of my friends have also graduated and moved away. Even if they hadn't, I couldn't face the humiliation there, with everyone telling me "I told you so" about K. How I should have seen it coming. How I should never have dated him in the first place. It would definitely suck worse there, but that doesn't make it any better here. I wish there were someplace I want to be.
I spend all my time trying not to think about K, but he's like a habit I can't break. While we were together, every night I would go to bed and wake up thinking about him, every little detail about him playing out like a movie in my mind, and now I can't find the off switch. Everything reminds me of him. When I think about that girl he dumped me for, I get so mad my eyes start to roll back in my head, and I feel like I could spit.
When I try to explain to my friends why I feel this way, they just don't get it. Not even Nam and Kara, who were my best friends and housemates while K and I were dating. They say I just have to get over him, but I won't, I can't, not ever. He was the one perfect guy for me, like a prince in a fairy tale, the one true love I was fated to meet. I know girls say that all the time, but this was different. It was like I made a wish, the biggest wish of my life, and it came true. I wished for a blind boyfriend, and I got K.
When I think of my ideal boy, he's always blind. Or most of the time. Sometimes he's in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or missing an arm or a leg. I don't know why, it's just always been that way. I thought it was because K and I were destined to be together. I was made to be perfect for him, and he was perfect for me, only he didn't think so. I never told him that his blindness turns me on. He would have hated me for it, I'm sure. I can't ever tell anyone, ever. I'll never find anyone like him ever again.

January 1996

Free at last! Ok technically Julie kicked me out of the house, but whatever, she eventually apologized and admitted she was being a bitch, and just didn't want to have a roommate any more. It's her house, so she can do what she wants. Now I'm in a new apartment, all my own, with no more crazy roommate waking me up at 6 AM with her juicer and disinviting me to her dinner parties. For the first time ever, my own place, and it feels so good.
Alright, maybe this isn't the most glamorous apartment. It's an old house that got divided up, and I have the back ground floor rooms that look out into the parking lot (too bad I don't have a car). There are only two rooms, the front room with a desk and bookshelf, and a folded-up futon in Pepto pink I got from my friend Rachel to serve as a couch, and the back room with a tiny kitchenette, single bed, and walk-in closet all kind of mashed together. The refrigerator is right next to the bed, but at least the apartment is furnished, because I don't have any furniture of my own. The front room smells like grilling meat from the Burger King across the alley and I can hear people shouting their orders at the drive-thru (I SAID NO PICKLES!!). The back room smells like chicken teriyaki from the restaurant in the front of the building; I think we share a wall. But directly across the street is a supermarket, which is convenient (again note lack of car), and I can walk to campus in under ten minutes. There are kind of a lot of homeless people panhandling around the supermarket, but the landlords assured me they don't cross the street.
New home, new life. I am determined to start over, for real this time. I still think about K all the time, though. When he dumped me, the thought that I would never ever talk to him again was more than I could bear, so I made a deal with him: we wouldn't try to contact each other for ten years. At the end of ten years, then maybe we could try being friends. Ten years, my god, it seems like forever. I'm trying to forget, but thoughts of him sneak up on me all the time. The way he touched my face for the first time, in the woods at night in winter. The uncanny, flat blue of his eyes, scarred over with glaucoma. The look on his face as we were having sex.
 Before I moved to Raser City, I took everything that reminded me of him, all the photos I took, every little piece of junk of his I ever saved, and stowed it in an old shoe box, tied it up with black string, then hid the box at the bottom of my bedroom closet at my parents' house. Whenever I find myself thinking of him, I try to think of that box instead, sealed away, buried, hidden.
Toward the end of my time as her roommate, Julie happened to take a photo of me, which she gave me after she kicked me out. Oh my god. Two years of dating a blind man, and I look terrible. How did that happen? I have never dressed like the popular girls, but at least I used to be put together in a cute, indie girl kind of way. Now I realize all my clothes are baggy and old, my extra-long hair is scraggly and unstyled, my face is washed-out and I'm hairy and gross everywhere. I may still be a huge nerd who never goes out to bars or clubs but at least I could look a little nicer. Step one: pluck eyebrows.


May 1996

This grad school thing isn't so hard. One year down, only ?? more to go. Ok, so I spend all my time studying, but it's not like there's anything else I want to do. When I'm not studying, I'm doing things like sewing or cooking. I still don't have many friends here.
There's a cute guy who works at the campus bookstore. I go in there every Friday afternoon when I know he's working. At first I would browse around and pretend to look for something, but lately we just talk. I think he likes me.


August 1996

I've been spending the whole summer with the guy from the bookstore. He isn't a boyfriend, exactly. He enlisted with the Army Reserves right before we started hanging out, so it's more like we're just killing time together while he's waiting to leave for boot camp and I'm on summer vacation. I don't love him, and I know he doesn't love me. In fact, I don't think he even likes me that much. He's always criticizing everything about me. The first time he saw my apartment, he said, "I don't like a bunch of shit on the walls," meaning all the posters I put up, mostly reproductions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. He thinks I'm over-educated and over-privileged, as he's constantly reminding me. He never even went to college. When we're having sex, if I say he's hurting me, he just says, "You're too sensitive. It's all in your head." The sex is ok, even so. Not mind-blowing simultaneous orgasms every single time like it was with K, but good enough.
If all this makes bookstore guy sound like a jerk, he has his good side too. I like his black Buddy Holly glasses and 1950s bowling shirts. He's an amazing cook. He used to work in a Chinese restaurant, and he teaches me to make real Chinese food. He introduces me to Jackie Chan movies and the music of Johnny Cash, both awesome. He's really obsessed with Johnny Cash. He's even considering legally changing his name to Johnny. So that's what I call him.
We have enough in common that it's fun to hang out together, but like I said, we aren't in love. We're just two lonely people passing the time together because it's better than being alone. A few years ago, the girl he loved OD'ed on cocaine. He still talks about her all the time, and he keeps her death certificate tacked to the wall above his bed. I don't even know how he got that. It can't be very healthy for him mentally, but there it is. Actually, he doesn't even have a bed, just a mattress on the floor, since he's spent the summer getting rid of all his stuff. He lives in a high-rise downtown. It's a cool old building, over a hundred years old, but they're renovating the front half, so all the roaches have fled to the back half, and into his apartment. He started putting the ones he caught in a big mason jar, and it's gotten to be almost half full, the new additions scrambling over the carcasses of their predecessors.  
His last night in town, he tells me not to come over, but I do anyway. I thought it would be nice to spend the time together, but he spends the whole night packing and ignores me. I help a little, but there isn't much he'll let me do. As it gets to be past midnight, I start to drift off, but I can't really sleep with the light on and him fussing around. He has the radio turned on to Art Bell. I lie there on the mattress in the bare apartment, looking up at the roaches and the death certificate on the wall, listening to Art Bell's predictions of the end of the world: horrifying 100% true visions of a future earth empty of all people, nothing but abandoned buildings. The night seems to drag on forever, like I'm stuck in limbo. But eventually the morning comes, and we say goodbye for the last time. It's over now, he's gone, and whatever was between us is over too.
Whenever he slept over at my place, I had a recurring dream that he was blind. It wasn't even a sexual dream. In the dream we're just walking down the street or something, but he's blind. WTF is wrong with me?



Friday, December 10, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 2



Devo Diary Chapter 2:
Buttboy


September 1996

I go hiking one weekend with Sharon and a bunch of her boyfriend's friends. It sucks. I'm so sore I can barely walk for a week. If I never go hiking again, my life will be that much better. It's nice being in nature and all, but I'm just not that athletic.
However, since I get to know all those guys, they invite me to a party, which is much more my speed. There's a guy there who had not been part of the hiking trip, and he totally hits on me. When I say I love Jackie Chan movies, he says, "Marry me!" He seems kind of goofy, but Sharon says he's a nice guy. I'm not sure I want to go out with him. I'm not really interested in going out with anyone. But if Sharon says he's ok, maybe I'll give him a chance.


October 1996

So I guess I have a boyfriend now.
His name is a really common one, and I know at least five other guys with the same name, so when I'm talking about him on the phone with Nam and Kara, to distinguish him from all our other friends from college, I started calling him Buttboy. I think it's funny, but when he finds out, he doesn't like it.
"Can you blame him?" Nam says.
Maybe not, but I can only say that he's earned it. It's only the second or third date when he reveals to me with some pride that he likes to put things up his butt. This is not wholly a surprise, since he has already mentioned on the first date that he occasionally liked to have sex with guys. "Sometimes you just gotta have a cock in your mouth," are his exact words. So when he says, "I like to put things in my butt" my first response is, "What kind of things?"
"Oh, whatever's lying around, you know, cucumbers, broom handles, whatever."
After making a mental note never to touch anything at his place ever again, I insist we make a trip to the local lesbian-owned sex-positive toy store to purchase the correct equipment. As we're eying the various butt-plugs, one of the lesbian owners, herself with a butt so big you could set a drink on it, comes over to help us in our selection.
"If this is the first time you're using a butt plug, you might want to start with one of the smaller sizes," she suggests, proffering a tiny one about the size and shape of a finger.
"Lady," he says, "I've had whole flashlights up there!"
In the end, we settle on a medium-sized red one shaped like a lava lamp. This is a big success, but since it's my first experience with butt sex, I charge him with supervising the procedure, specifically, insertion, duration and, especially withdrawal. I'm afraid of causing damage, and figure (wrongly as it turns out) that he would be the best monitor of his own anal health. Also I really don't want to see the poo-smeared plug when it comes out. But invariably, he leaves it in too long, or jams it in too hard, then waddles off to the bathroom to extract it, causing further irritation as he walks bow-legged, like a cartoon cowboy. I'd like to think that this trip to the bathroom is for my benefit, but I suspect the reality is he wants to give himself a thorough scrubbing. He is seriously obsessed with his butt. He's constantly cleaning it, or shoving things up it, or talking about it. All this attention takes its toll, and he yells out, "My butt hurts!" all the time: in the car, in the supermarket, in restaurants. So Buttboy it is.
I never even really wanted to date Buttboy. I didn't even want a boyfriend at all. Even though it's been two years now since he dumped me, I still think about K all the time. But somehow, when a guy starts flirting with me, I can't help but respond, then things get complicated.
 Even the Johnny Cash wannabe who was my former friend-with-benefits won't leave me alone. When he left to join the Army Reserves two months ago, we made it clear that things were over between us, or at least I thought we did. But boot camp turned out not to be the make-a-man-out-of-you experience he was hoping for, and hanging out with a bunch of whiny eighteen-year-olds is making him crazy. So Johnny starts writing me letters on military stationery at least twice a week, and calling whenever he gets a chance, which is usually at 2 AM.
The third time Johnny calls, Buttboy, who's sleeping over, says, "You've got to tell him."
So I do. Poor Johnny. When we were together he never seemed to like me, but when I told him I was seeing someone new, he acted like it was this huge betrayal. I feel bad for him, but he's just lonely at boot camp. It's not really about me.
Now it seems like Buttboy is my boyfriend. He follows me around constantly, like a little puppy dog. I go into the bathroom to cut my fingernails, and he follows me in. Jesus! I tell him to get away.
And he smokes! I didn't realize it at first, because he was pretending to quit for a few weeks when we first met, but now he's lighting up all the time. We go on a short hike together, and he smokes the whole time on the trail. What is the point of going out into nature if you're breathing cigarette smoke instead of fresh air? At least he's polite enough not to smoke inside my apartment. He goes out into the parking lot by the Burger King.
There are things I like about him. He's very intellectual, and he likes to talk about my classes. It's my second year of grad school, but I still feel freaked out about all the work, not being smart enough to keep up in class. On top of that, this semester for the first time I have to be a teaching assistant. But it's nice to have someone to talk to about what I'm studying, even if he does get lecture-y about stupid shit.
"I don't like the new Simpsons," he declares when I turn on the TV to catch the latest episode. "It was so much better in the first season, when it was like family hijinks." I disagree, but it's not worth arguing over.
It's the same thing with music. Apparently there's something seriously wrong with me because I don't love Stereolab. What is it with guys who insist you love their shitty music? It's not like he has any interest in my music. I try playing some Carter Family tunes for him, but he makes me turn it off.
"You're living in the eighteenth century," he says.
"You know this was recorded in the 1930s," I point out. I choose to take the eighteenth century comment as a compliment.
When we first met, I also didn't realize where he lives. "I live in Bessemer," he said, looking up at me sadly with those big blue eyes. I couldn't figure out why he was being so apologetic until the first time he drove me to his place for a visit. It's over two hours away. I guess I still don't know the geography around Raser City very well. With me not having a car, it makes things awkward. But he has a car, an old Ford Escort. I keep losing track of it in parking lots, going to wait hopefully by the passenger door of other cars.
"My car's not that nice," he says apologetically the first time it happens.
Still, he doesn't seem to mind staying with me for the weekend, or driving all the way down here then taking me back to Bessemer with him. He only just moved there, so most of his friends are in Raser City.
Actually, he doesn't even live in Bessemer proper, but about thirty miles out, in a small camping trailer, parked in a clearing at the edge of a forest on land owned by friends of his parents.
"You're dating a guy who lives in a trailer?" Rachel says with disgust. But he's not trailer trash. His parents have a lot of money, and he grew up in a privileged but soulless suburb. I think the trailer is his not very original way of finding something "authentic" or "meaningful" to do with his life. In reality, he's just another slacker with his parents paying his admittedly very cheap rent.
While the land itself is quite pretty, the trailer is a nightmare. It's about the size of a walk-in closet, crammed with ugly, tacky crap he bought at second hand stores. Another way of announcing his nonconformity and authenticity to the world. He also likes to dress in the same sort of thing, ugly orange polyester sweaters and a Lenin cap, as if reveling in the detritus of even more soulless suburban culture or propaganda of bygone fascist regimes could impart "authenticity."
The trailer has electricity but nothing else. The first time I went to visit, he showed me how to work the chemical toilet with great enthusiasm, but we have to drive to the Jack in the Box two miles away if we want to wash our hands. There is no phone. He likes to take advantage of the isolation of the little clearing to walk around naked outside.
"Isn't this great?!" he shouts as he urinates off the front step of the trailer. Not trailer trash, not trailer trash, I keep repeating to myself. There's no bed either, just a "soft area" as he calls it, a pile of camping mats and sleeping bags thrown on a single-bed sized shelf. The only heat comes from a shoebox sized hot air blower, which make the lights dim when you turn it on and creates a slight sensation of warmth in a two-foot radius. The heater does nothing to dispel the damp. In the mornings when we wake up, the metal walls are covered in condensation. It's like living in a giant tin can. One morning we make bacon for breakfast, and the stench of greasy fat lingers for weeks.
The first time I go to visit, while we were doing it on the "soft area"/shelf, he looks deep into my eyes and says, "I love you."
"No you don't," I say. "You're just saying that because we're having sex."
He looks a little surprised, but doesn't say anything. K used to tell me he loved me all the time, but he didn't mean it, not the way I did. My love for him was so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, I could never think about anyone else even for a moment. I could hardly stand being away from him. If K had truly loved me, he never would have dumped me for someone else. When I met K, I felt like all that fairy-tale true-love stuff was real, but not anymore. There's always that intense moment when you're right in the middle of having sex and you want to pretend you're more connected than you are, so you say "I love you" but it's not real. People just use each other up and move on. I will never love anyone again the way I loved K.

November 1996

One weekend, Buttboy comes down for a visit. We're messing around on the futon sofa, which I've covered with a bedspread to hide the hideous pink. I'm sitting in his lap. We're teasing each other, just talking nonsense, when he says, "What's your fantasy?"
I freeze, ice in my veins, and look away. "I can't tell you." Of course then he keeps after me, but how could I tell him? All I can think is, I don't want tell him about K, and all my weird thoughts about blind guys and guys in wheelchairs. He'll think I want him to be disabled, but I don't. That's not it at all. I don't even know what it is myself. I can't even start to explain it.
But he keeps pestering me, trying to guess. "Do you want to tie me up?" I don't answer. "You do, don't you?"
"No! How do you know?"
"Because your eyes just lit up like Christmas trees when I said that. Come on, let's try it."
So we do. I read somewhere that nylon pantyhose are better than rope for tying someone up, because they won't cut into the skin. Anyway I don't have any rope, but I do have plenty of stockings, so that's what I use. I didn't even buy this bed myself, it came with the furnished apartment, but it's perfect. It's a cast iron frame, with a thick bar at the head and foot. Using my old stockings, I tie him spread-eagled by the wrists and ankles to the bed frame. Then I tie another stocking around his eyes as a blindfold. I haven't felt this excited in a long, long time.
I straddle him and stare down at his immobilized body. Now what? Sure, he looks super hot, but after a few minutes of kissing him and running my hands over his chest, I realize I've made a tactical error: there's no way to get his clothes off with him tied up like this. But I'm not ready to untie him either, so I just keep kissing him all over, more and more insistently, and as I do that, he gets into it too, and starts writhing around. Within a few minutes, the stockings and blindfold have come loose and he isn't tied up any more. So much for that. We end up having sex in the normal way.
When it's over, he says, "Wow, we definitely have to do that again. You were like a different person." I hide my face in the pillow. Good girls aren't supposed to do things like that. It feels weird and embarrassing. A different person, god, he has to know. He pulls me back by my shoulder so I'm facing him. "What are you so embarrassed about?"
"Uhh...it was the blindfold," I whisper. What am I doing? Earlier I couldn't bear the thought of telling him. I spent my whole life reminding myself, I can't ever tell anyone about this. But suddenly I just have to let him know the truth.
"Ok, we can use the blindfold again," he says, like it's no big deal. Arg, he isn't getting it!
"I mean, I really, really like it," I say.
"So?"
I take a deep breath. "My last boyfriend was blind."
He looks at me a little funny. "I thought he was in the army."
"No, not that guy, I told you, he was never my boyfriend. No, the guy I dated for two years in college, K. It's just...he's blind." He looks at me like, so what? With my heart pounding, and feeling like I might throw up, I add in a tiny voice, "I think it's sexy."
"Big deal," he laughs, staring at me. "Why are you so worked up about this?"
"Come on, it's weird," I say defensively. "Not just blind guys. Any guy with a, uh, disability. I think it's sexy." I can still barely get the words out. My mouth doesn't even want to form the sounds.
"I don't understand why you buried this."
"I thought you wouldn't, uh, want to let me tie you up if you knew," I say.
He shakes his head and gives me that duh look, like I've just said something incredibly stupid. "I don't know why you buried this," he says again. "It's nothing. You can keep tying me up if you want."
I smile. Maybe he's right, it is nothing. He keeps telling me it's ok. Lots of people have fetishes. Rachel's boyfriend Pete has a thing for bodily fluids. She told me that he asked her to pee on him, which is kinda hot if you ask me. A few weeks ago, when we were all at a party at their house, Sharon announced that she had to change her tampon, and Pete got this funny look on his face and asked if he could have it, so she wrapped it up in tin foil and gave it to him. Rachel thought it was hilarious. Maybe I'm not so weird after all.


December 1996

In the first month or two that we were dating, Buttboy would come pick me up and drive all the way back to the trailer, but now he's started to complain.
"You want me to drive all the way down there and all the way back just to see you? That's four hours in the car."
So I start taking the bus every weekend, doing my homework on the way and grading homework in the trailer at night. At the insistence of his parents, Buttboy got a job finally, but to piss them off, it's a job as a bartender at a dive bar on the outskirts of town called the Hitchin' Post. It's the kind of place that opens at 11 am to accommodate the local drunks. Junkies shoot heroin in the bathroom at night, and he calls the cops at least twice a week to break up fights. Whenever I go to visit, we spend Saturday afternoon together, then he goes to the bar while I stay by myself in the freezing cold trailer in the middle of nowhere, making ramen for dinner and grading student papers, all the time wondering when he'll come home, or if there was another fight at the bar. Every time he promises he'll try to get off work early, but he's never back before 2 AM, then I have to catch the bus back on Sunday morning. Ugh, this sucks.
Still, the sex is pretty hot. Whenever he does come to my place he lets me tie him to the bed frame. I'm not that good at it though. No matter what I do, the bonds come loose halfway through. Sometimes he'll just stay in the same position and pretend, but lately he's been doing that less and less.
"This is stupid," he says, pulling the limp stocking off his wrists. I know, I'm no dominatrix, but why can't he just play along?
We've been bickering more and more over stupid shit. I can tell when I'm really getting on his nerves because he has to go outside for a smoke. He's been smoking a lot more lately.

January 1997

Over the winter break, Buttboy calls me while I'm back east at my parents' house.
"I went to the doctor today," he says, sounding upset. "He says I have a hernia. I told you! I said something inside me was broken."
Huh? I vaguely recall him saying something like that before I left, but I thought he meant psychologically.
"You said I was fine, but you were wrong," he continues accusingly. "I know when it happened, too. It was that time we did it a few weeks ago. This is your fault."
"What? How is this my fault? Don't you think it's from lifting those beer kegs at work?"
"No, it was that last time we did it, and I came really hard--I swear I felt something snap. How could you do this to me?"
I can not convince him that it isn't my fault.
He explains to me that he has an inguinal hernia, meaning that the muscles in his lower abdominal wall separated just enough to allow part of his small intestine to protrude. There's actually nothing to see, but you can feel a little lump at the very bottom of his belly on the right side near his leg. From now until he has the surgery to correct it next month, he has to wear a truss, which is really just a cheap-looking plastic bulb attached to a strap that pushes the intestine back in. He's all freaked out about how gross it is, but I think it's kinda cool.
His surgery is going to be at a hospital here in Raser City. After I return from the break, I suggest that he should stay here while he recovers.
"No," he says, "I'm going to stay with my sister. Besides, I'll be fine in a few days. In the old days, they had to sew the muscles back together, and it took forever to heal, but now there's a new procedure. I'll have a mesh placed over the muscles that will hold them together. Recovery is three days, max."
"Come on," I plead. "I'll take care of you."
He looks at me suspiciously. "Oh yeah, I'm sure you'd like that," he says. "It's better than tying me up, huh?"
I blush, but once I have the idea in my head, I have got to make it happen. "I can lay out the futon bed, and you can lay in the front room and watch TV, with the bathroom right next to you. I'll rent movies and make whatever you want to eat," I offer. It takes some coaxing, but I think I've convinced him now.


February 1997

The day before his surgery, Buttboy drives down with his stuff. I lay out the futon bed in the living room like I promised, although now the apartment is really crowded. It's hard to even walk around and I have to sort of hover over the desk to use the computer because there's no room for the chair.
Buttboy is completely freaked out about the surgery. I didn't fully realize it until now, because he kept saying how it was just an outpatient procedure, no big deal. But as I'm making dinner (bangers and mash, his favorite), all of a sudden he goes, "Maybe I should skip the surgery."
"What are you talking about? You were just complaining about how long you had to wait."
"Yeah, but they'll be cutting me open while I'm unconscious. Who knows what they'll put in me."
I flip the mashed potatoes in the pan. "First, you said you won't be fully unconscious, and second, you know they're just putting the mesh in."
He's sitting on the bed behind me as I cook, and I can hear him squirming around, the bed springs squeaking. "But I'll be sedated. They could do anything! Like horrible experiments or something. What if they try to turn me into a cyborg?"
What the hell? I assume he's joking, but when I turn around, he's crying. Real big fat tears streaming down his face. "Have you been reading the Cyborg Manifesto again?" I ask. It's one of the books for my grad seminar "Futurist Feminisms" which I think is mostly BS but he's obsessed with it.
He nods miserably. I scrape the mashed potatoes and sausages onto plates and set them on the tiny card table by the bed and walk-in closet, then sit down next to him and put my arms around him. It takes me half an hour to convince him that the doctors are not going to try to make him into a cyborg, and by then our dinner is cold.
After dinner, I grade papers and do homework while he watches TV, then when I'm finished I check my email. And there, sitting in my inbox is a message from K.
I feel all the blood drain out of my head, and my stomach harden into a knot. Why has he written to me? In that last screaming match on the telephone after he dumped me, when I couldn't bear to hang up because the idea of never speaking to him again was too huge to comprehend, I had said I would contact him again in ten years, but until then, radio silence. It seemed like a good compromise at the time, when I couldn't bear to say never. Ten years still seemed like forever, but talking to him was even worse. Almost two years have gone by, but I never once thought of writing him. No contact, we agreed. So why is he writing now?
With a shaking hand, I open the message. It's short.

Hi there, I just wanted to see how you are doing. Maybe enough time has passed that you no longer feel like perforating my liver with a steak knife. You accused me of ruining your life, but I'm sure that's not true. How is grad school? I'm sure you're doing well.
I'm still with M***. She convinced me to grow my hair out again, and now it's long enough to put in a ponytail. I'm still doing massages at the fitness center. Did you know your ex-housemate Julie is the sister of one of my coworkers? Small world, isn't it.

I stare at the message, the lines all jumbling together as I hover over the desk.
"Hey," Buttboy says from where he's lying on the futon, "Can we go to bed already? My sister's coming to pick us up at 7 AM."
I turn to him, stricken. "I just got an email from K."
"So what?" He goes to brush his teeth, as I sink slowly onto the edge of the futon, the lines from the email still running around in my head. K is still with that bitch he dumped me for. And that line about his hair--why put that in there except to needle me? He knows I liked his hair long. We almost split up when he shaved his head. So he broke our ten years of silence pact, and for what? To torture me with how happy and handsome he is with some other girl? I feel a squeezing in my chest. All that old heartache which had finally started to fade now comes back as sharp as ever.
Buttboy finishes his teeth and crawls under the covers. "Come on, get ready for bed," he demands.
"You don't understand!" I insist. "This is K! I told you what this means to me! How could he just write to me like nothing happened?!" I start to cry.
"Hey! Can we focus here? I'm the one having surgery tomorrow! Me! Can't you put your own selfish concerns aside for one minute and think about me?" he whines.
We go around and around like this for a long time, both of us crying and stuck in our own personal misery, until we're too exhausted to continue.
God damn it K, I'm sick of you having so much power over me. I have other things going on in my life now. I don't have time to think about you.

February 1997

I bribe one of the other TAs to cover my class for me so I can go to the hospital with Buttboy and his sister and brother-in-law. There's no way I'm going to miss this. As we walk along the airy, antiseptic corridors, I feel strangely excited. I don't know why, hospitals just do that to me. I never understood people who are phobic about hospitals. Just being there gives me a kind of fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The procedure doesn't last that long. I pass the time in the waiting room doing school work. In about an hour, a nurse comes to tell us the operation went fine, and after another hour we're allowed into his room. Well, it isn't a room, exactly, just a curtained-off area. He's sitting in a chair wearing nothing but a surgical gown, and completely out of his head on morphine.
It's so strange, because he seems perfectly lucid, making crude jokes and gesturing around wildly like he always does. Except he doesn't seem to notice that whenever he gestures, his gown falls open, exposing his junk to the world. Also he keeps doing that junkie thing of restarting conversations from hours ago as if they had just happened. We sit with him, joking and chatting, while the nurses feed him orange juice and check his vitals every so often. He's hooked up to a machine that I guess monitors his heart rate and blood pressure. I can see numbers flashing on a display behind him, and every so often it emits an electronic beep. After we had been sitting there for at least an hour, all of a sudden he notices the beeping and turns around in alarm.
"What the hell is that?" he exclaims, his face, already pale from the surgery, going even whiter.
I look at him completely deadpan. "It's programming your cybernetic implants," I explain.
He freezes for a second, his eyes bugging out, then he starts thrashing around and yelling, "Get it off! Get it off!"
"She's just kidding!" his sister shouts, doubled over laughing. He had been carrying on about the cyborg thing the whole way over in the car.
He looks at me suspiciously, but fortunately for me, in his drugged-out state he can't concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds, and soon he's rambling on about something else.
By the afternoon he's allowed to leave. We settle him in the futon bed and he falls asleep almost immediately. When he wakes up later, I give him some water in a bottle with a sport top and some crackers, then help him get to the bathroom. He doesn't like the water bottle, says it made him feel like a hamster. I don't like the idea of him getting up to use the toilet. The incision is right at his groin, where all the big muscles come together. Whether he's sitting up or walking, it's impossible not to pull on the stitches. But he insists, going on and on about how his muscles could atrophy if he doesn't get up. I try to explain that it takes longer than a few hours for muscles to atrophy, but he doesn't believe me. When he lies down again, he shows me the incision, and lets me feel the little square under the skin. I felt dizzy poking at it. It's inside him now forever.
I let him have the futon to himself tonight, and go to my own bed in the back room, but I can't sleep. Whenever I close my eyes, I see horrifying visions of him stretched out on an operating table, pulled taut and sliced open. Now that it's over, suddenly I'm afraid for him after the fact--anything could have gone wrong. I hate myself for feeling turned on at the hospital. I don't want him hurt. Oh god, what is wrong with me?

February 1997

It's been two days now since the surgery. The morning of the first day was rough--the painkillers wore off and the doctor didn't want to give him more, but eventually we got just one more dose, and that seemed to be enough. He doesn't seem to be hurting that much now.
I've been staying home as much as I can, bringing him food and water, keeping him company while he reads or watches TV. I still have to go to school for a few hours every day, but the whole time I'm thinking to myself, there's a naked man lying helpless in my bed, waiting for me to get home. I'm so turned on all the time, and it's killing me because we can't have sex until the incision is fully healed.
"I bet you're just loving this," he says suspiciously as I bring him a water bottle or a slice of toast. Well, and why not? I told him the truth about me and he said it was ok. I'm not burying this part of me any more. After the first night, I've been sleeping in the futon with him, but lying naked beside him, it's just too much. I asks if he minds if I masturbate, and he says go ahead, so I do, pressed up next to him, almost as if we're having sex. Almost. I do it again the next day too. I just can't help myself.
Now that the drugs have worn off, he doesn't remember much about the day of the surgery. He does remember me teasing him about the cyborg thing, though.
"How could you say that?" he says, although he's half laughing himself. He admits that he was raving about cyborgs the whole time the doctor was operating on him too.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I know it's scary to be cut open. You feel vulnerable, like anything could happen." I tell him about my panic attack the night after the surgery, and he seems touched.
"Thanks for being brave for me," he says. "You don't have to worry, it's ok now." We hug, and I've never felt so close to him. We talk about all the things we want to do together when he's healed: trips down the coast, a live show, a new restaurant.
I finally write back to K and tell him off. I'm so angry at him--how dare he disrupt my life, and at the worst possible moment. He broke up with me; he's go no right to barge back in whenever he feels like it. I tell him not to contact me again until the ten years are up. I still can't bring myself to say never. In his response, he writes back, "Why do you always push people away?"
That stings. The words keep echoing in my head, dragging me down, making me cry. I don't think I push people away, do I? Maybe he's right. Well, it's too late for him, but I have a real boyfriend now, and I won't push him away. I'm resolved to be nicer to him, to stop teasing and bickering and treat him right. We're together forever now.

March 1997

I don't know what is up with Buttboy. He was barely healed from the surgery before he headed back to Bessemer, saying he couldn't take any more days off work. For the past few weeks we talk on the phone pretty often but we've only seen each other a few times. We've been fighting worse than ever. He's all mad because I don't like hanging out getting wasted with his friends, but when we only get to see each other for a few hours on the weekend, why can't we have some alone time? Even though we met through Sharon, it turns out he doesn't really hang out with her, and his circle of friends is pretty separate from mine.
"You think people don't notice how you blow them off, but they do," he says. "Why does it always have to be your way or fuck you?"
I grit my teeth. "Your friends are hipster douchebags."
"Oh yeah? Well, your friends are dirty hippies." Actually that's true. Last week I was visiting Sharon at her house, and she hopped up on the kitchen counter as we were chatting, at the corner where it forms a V, and sat with her legs spread wide open on either side, which would not have been a big deal except that she was, as usual, wearing a long tie-dyed dress and no underwear. That was a bit much even for me.
So Buttboy and I hate each other's friends, and suddenly everything between us has become a battle of wills. He never wants to come down to visit anymore, and rarely calls. When we do talk on the phone, he keeps talking about some girl he met in Bessemer. I'm pretty sure he's started seeing her.
In the midst of all this, he finally moves out of the trailer into a real house only a few blocks from the bar where he works. I go up to visit one weekend, grateful and happy to be away from that nasty old trailer, but the house is a thousand times worse. For one thing, it's not that nice: it's a run-down old place that's clearly housed a succession of students, so it's a dump, and even worse, he has no furniture, only a mattress on the floor in his bedroom.
For another thing, he has housemates, three hipster douchebag guys I have never met before. While it sucked to be trapped in the trailer in the middle of nowhere with no phone and no internet, it sucks even more to be trapped in a house all night with strangers while he's off at work. The guys keep looking at me funny and laughing behind my back. I know he's had another girl there, and they're laughing at me for not figuring it out yet. I should confront him about it but I just can't. I don't want to push people away. And I think I really love him. I thought he was kinda funny-looking at first, but now I see how handsome he is, with those big blue eyes and that long, thick blond hair. All those things we talked about doing together, like taking a trip down the coast, or up to the mountains, I still want to do that, with him.


April 1997

Buttboy breaks up with me. Over the phone, the coward. He's seeing someone else--I knew it. But instead of admitting that he's been cheating, he says, "I never really thought of us as boyfriend and girlfriend." What? It seemed clear to me, but we never sat down and had a "relationship" talk. Maybe I wasn't really his girlfriend. I feel like I don't know how these things work.
"When I first met you, I thought we would have all these intellectual discussions, but all you ever talk about is your TA work," he whines. It's such a ridiculous complaint, I can barely splutter out a reply. Eventually he gets around to his real reasons for breaking up.
"It was when you said that I didn't love you, that I was only saying it because we were having sex," he elaborates. "I was really shocked that you said that, but when I thought about it, I realized you were right."
"But after the surgery, I though we had gotten so close," I say, starting to cry a little.
"That's just it, I feel like I could never repay you for that."
"What are you talking about? It's not a debt you have to repay. I did it because I care about you. You just repay it by being with me."
"No, all the things you did, I could never give repay you for that."
"So you're repaying me by breaking up with me?"
We go around and around on that point, but I can't pin him down to anything that makes sense. He starts to go on about how great his new girl is, just like K did. Why do guys think I want to hear about the girl they dumped me for? I slam the phone down in disgust.
Immediately after, I call up Kara to cry about it, but she isn't home and I end up talking only to Nam. "You never seemed to like him that much," he points out.
"I know," I wail. "He only liked me when I didn't like him, then when I really fell for him, he wasn't interested any more. How fucked up is that?"
"You can't expect relationships to make you happy. True happiness is only possible once you are released from desire," Nam says. Note to self, never ask a Buddhist for sympathy after a breakup. I know attachment is the root of all suffering, but would it kill him to be a little more compassionate?
But I know the real reason he broke up with me, and I can't talk to Nam about that. It wasn't the bickering or the way I called him Buttboy. It was the surgery--he knows my secret, knows how turned on I was about taking care of him. I revealed myself to him, and he used it as an excuse to break up with me. I'm never telling anyone else ever again. Well at least now I have a benchmark for the worst boyfriend ever.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 3

this story was originally posted on the old Paradevo stories site under the title Devo Diary: Chapter 1.

The Guitar Player

April 1997

There's this guy. He's walking down the street singing to himself. Even if it weren't for the white cane, I would know by the way he holds his head tipped back, his eyes squeezed shut, completely in his own world. He's wearing a black leather jacket and his long blond hair spreads out over his shoulders.
I'm strongly tempted to follow him, or do anything that might catch his attention, but it's late at night and I'm waiting for a very infrequent bus. I have to let him go. But he walks by again, and then a third time. I'm struck by how relaxed and confident he seems. He must have been blind his whole life, I realize. My heart starts beating faster. But then my bus comes and I get on. The whole time I'm thinking, I must meet him somehow. It has to happen.
The only thing I can think of is to put an "I Saw U" ad in the Raser City Weekly. I have to admit it's a pretty stupid plan. After all, how would he even know it's there? But I can't think of anything else, so I stifle my embarrassment and place the following ad:

BLIND GUY walking up and down Broad St 9 PM 4/6, black leather jacket, singing. OK, so he can't read this ad, but if you know him please tell him to call. I'd like to talk to him.

May 1997

I call the voice mailbox for my ad every day for a month, but there's no reply. Then one day as I'm walking down Broad St, shopping and generally wasting time, on the corner in front of Payless is a guy playing the guitar. I almost walk right by him, when suddenly I notice the white cane lying across his empty guitar case. My heart almost stops and I do the biggest double take--it's HIM. The guy. There he is, just inches from me, practically displaying himself on the street as if he's waiting for me to go over and talk to him.
It's too much. I retreat to the Urban Outfitters across the street and pretend to look at the clothes while watching him through the plate glass. There is nothing I hate more than making idle conversation with a stranger. I truly suck at it. I've always been shy. But this second chance is too good to be true--I can't let it pass by. I find myself walking back across the street, as if pulled by gravity.
For a while I just stand there and watch him play. I stare at his fingers moving across the strings, giving his world solidity and shape. When I think of him touching my face with those same fingers, learning its outlines, I feel as if I might faint.
I'm not the only audience member. Several people stop for a few minutes to listen, then throw some money in the guitar case and move on. I notice an attractive Asian girl standing next to me, and I see my own intense gaze mirrored in her face. For a moment I'm thrown--could there actually be another person who shares these same desires? But instead of talking to her, I let jealousy take over--I saw him first! The next time he pauses to tune the guitar, I step forward and speak.
"You sound really good," I lie. On the noisy street corner, I've barely heard a single note. Not that it matters.
His face brightens as he turns in my direction. He didn't know a pretty girl was listening, I think with an excited shiver.
"Hey, thanks. Do you have any requests?"
Now I'm stuck. "Uh, I dunno. Anything."
"OK, here's one. I think you'll like this." He starts to play, while I wait impatiently for the song to be over so we can talk some more. My musical tastes might be very generously called eclectic. The truth is, I really only like opera and traditional folk music. Yes, I am a huge nerd. I barely know anything about rock or blues or whatever he's playing.
I'm standing closer now, and I can see that he has glass eyes. They almost look real, but somehow don't catch the light in quite the right way, and they remain rigid and unmoving.
Finally the song is over. I compliment him again, then introduce myself and before I know it we're having a real conversation. I find out that his name is Jeff, and he lives in the apartment building directly behind us. He lives on SSI, but considers himself a professional musician.
Being near him, I feel confident and sexy, and somehow the words keep pouring out of my mouth. I stay on the corner with him for a long time, talking and listening to him play. I give him a drink from my water bottle, shivering again as he touches the top with his fingers before he takes a drink. When he hands the bottle back to me, I touch it in the same way, first with my fingers, then with my tongue, wondering what it felt like to him.
We happen to be standing next to my bus stop. I watch the number seven go by about five times, but I can't leave. My luck does not hold, though; eventually two scary homeless-looking guys come by and join in the conversation. When they start making crude comments about me, I have to leave. I don't get his phone number, or even his last name.
But now I have a mission. At least I know where he lives. His apartment is just off Broad St., where I'm always going shopping anyway. There has to be a good chance that I'll run into him again, if I only go there often enough. I have a free bus pass, and it's summer vacation.

June 1997

For the past few weeks, I nearly wear out my bus pass going up to Broad St. every chance I get. I lurk on the corner by his apartment, buying clothes I can't afford and eating meals I don't want, just to have an excuse to stay longer. But every time I go home disappointed, wondering why I can't just get over it and have a normal boyfriend, one I don't have to turn into a stalker to meet.
All this just reminds me how perfect K was. We met through mutual friends. Well, the truth is I felt at the time like I made that happen too. Kara mentioned that she knew this blind guy, and I kept after her about it until she invited him over. But later I realized we actually had a lot of friends in common, so logically it seems like we would have met naturally, even if I hadn't forced it. Another reason why I felt like we were fated to be together. But he didn't feel the same way.
Anyway, after weeks of loitering, suddenly my plan works. I'd been walking up and down the street by Urban Outfitters for nearly an hour, about to call it quits, when Jeff suddenly appears. There he is, about to cross the street headed straight towards me. But wait, he's with some heavy metal guy with long hair and tattoos. I don't want to make a pass at him in front of some other guy, especially not some scary looking older dude. Maybe it's one of his creepy friends from last time? I hesitate for a minute and they walk by me. But of course he doesn't know I'm there. Unless I make the first move, I'm invisible.
"Jeff!" I shout, running after him.
He whirls around suddenly, fixing me with his flat, glassy stare. "Who is it?"
"It's the girl who listened to you playing the guitar a few weeks ago, remember? I mean we talked a little and I'm sorry I left so suddenly, but I haven't really seen you around since then . . ." In my nervousness I'm babbling and nearly reveal that I've been stalking him for a month, but he doesn't seem to notice. In fact he looks pleased to run into me again. And miraculously, the other guy disappears--turns out he isn't even a friend, just some guy who helped him across the street.
"So, um, how have you been?" I ask.
"Not so good. I caught a real bad cold." He coughs in demonstration, then takes another drag on his cigarette. "Now I got an ear infection. I'm going down to the clinic to get it checked out. It's been hurting for a few days and I'm starting to get worried. I mean, it would really suck if I lost my hearing." He's trying to be casual, but he's clearly anxious, and with good reason.
"Yeah, that would really suck." I feel a flash of sympathy. True, I'm attracted to his disability, but that doesn't mean I want him to gain an additional impairment.
"Um, I know you're probably really busy, but would you mind telling me when the number nine bus comes?" he asks.
I smile slowly. "No, I'm not busy at all. I was just hanging around anyway. I don't mind waiting."
He thanks me then lights up another cigarette. I wait a few more minutes before asking, "Do you know where the clinic is after you get off the bus? Have you been there before?"
He admits that he doesn't, and hasn't. "You know, I'm really not doing anything right now," I continue. "I could ride there with you, if you want. I have a bus pass so it wouldn't even cost me anything." He resists for about a second, but I really want to go with him, and besides, he does actually need the help.
On the bus, my plan suffers a major setback when he lets it slip that he has a girlfriend named Sherrie. She would have taken him to the clinic, he explains, but she's working right now, at Target. I try to conceal my disappointment.
Once we're at the clinic, it's only natural that I take him inside to the check-in counter. The nurse hands him a stack of forms which I offer to help him fill out. Really there is no better way to get to know someone quickly than to go through a pile of official paperwork together. Within ten minutes, I know all his vital stats, his life history and family background, and even better, he's impressed with my kindness and patience. After the forms are completed, we proceed to the waiting room. There are only three or four people ahead of us, but for some reason it's nearly two hours before the doctor calls him. He spends that time telling me about himself, while I listen and marveled at my good luck. Here I am, getting friendly with the guy I had almost despaired of meeting again. The cold clinical atmosphere of the hospital only heightens my excitement.
He tells me that he went blind as an infant, because he was born prematurely and placed in an incubator with too much oxygen. (He's surprised that I know about that phenomenon) He tells me about his childhood: the only child of a welfare mom, how he was sent to public school (more out of poverty than any concerted attempt at mainstreaming, it seems) where he ran wild because none of the teachers had the guts to discipline a poor blind kid. He tells me in detail about his girlfriend: she's much younger than he, and he had been about to break up with her when she pulled the dirtiest trick in the book: she insisted that she was on the pill, but somehow she got knocked up. Now he feels obliged to take care of her, although since they're both broke, for now she's living with her parents. I also find out that he supplements his SSI "blind money" by selling pot, mostly to the other residents of his Section 8 apartment building.
The doctor finally calls him, and I'm hoping to go into the exam room with him. I want to see what the doctor might do to embarrass himself. For some reason, most doctors seem the least able to handle being around disabled people. Maybe the disability is an affront to their profession, a symbol of failure for modern medicine.
When I was with K, I went to the eye doctor with him once. It was making me crazy, neither of us having a car, so when I found out that he could ride for free in any taxi if he got a disabled pass, I insisted he get one. In order to get the pass, he had to have a doctor certify that he was legally blind. Very unwillingly, he made an appointment at the university hospital, and I went with him. The doctor there was clearly freaked out by K--when he had to guide K to the exam chair, he could barely stand to touch him.
"Wow," the doctor said, leafing through K's chart. "You've been operated on by some famous people." K just shuddered. He considered all those failed experimental surgeries equivalent to torture. I was surprised that the hospital still had records from when he was a kid, but I suppose that's what happens when you live in the same small town your whole life.
Then the doctor turned down the lights in the room, and shone a flashlight right into K's opaque eyes, one after the other. Like two boiled eggs, his friend once called them. "If the light's on, I can't see it," K said. Beneath the detailed chart of each eye, the doctor scrawled, "No light perception." He got the taxi pass.
So anyway, with Jeff, I'm not invited in, but the doctor, a young Indian man, does not disappoint me. After about thirty minutes, they emerge into the waiting room. As if Jeff were not even there, the doctor turns to me. "He's got a slight infection in his left ear--there's some redness and fluid--but it should clear up with antibiotics. I'm giving him Erythromycin. Make sure he takes it with food three times a day and finishes the whole bottle . . ."
I can't resist torturing him. "Why are you telling me this?"
The doctor stops talking and gapes at me. "I, uh, you're not his girlfriend?"
I laugh. "No, and I'm not his mother either. I'm just some stranger who helped him fill out the forms. Why don't you talk to him directly? He's standing right here."
"Yeah, I haven't gone deaf yet," Jeff adds, getting in the action. The doctor repeats his speech, stammering and dark red.
Jeff and I have a good laugh as we walk out the door. "You must meet a lot of clueless people like that," I say.
He shrugs. "Most people aren't that rude. Just something about doctors."
Our next task is to get the prescription filled, after stopping at the ATM so he can get some cash. He seems less embarrassed about having me help him now that we've gotten to know each other. Still, he insists on buying me dinner as a sort of repayment. We get burritos at a little fast food place on Broad St. Finally, after dinner, I can think of no other excuse to hang around. But this time I make sure I get his phone number before I go. I write it on a napkin.

After a few days, I call and boldly invite myself over the next day. Somehow I just can't believe he really has a girlfriend, but when I arrive at his apartment, Sherrie is there, along with another girl. They are both fat. It was the same with K and his fiancée. She was like a blimp. Sherrie and her friend are like planets in orbit around Jeff. Sherrie's seven months pregnant and it doesn't even show--she flops onto the bed right on her stomach. What is it about blind guys and fat girlfriends? Don't they feel insulted when some fat girl says she's dating them because no seeing guy would ever want them? Jeff told me Sherrie said those very words to him, but he didn't care. K actually considered it a badge of honor, used to brag about not judging people by their appearance. But the bitch he dumped me for was a little hottie, and he wouldn't shut up about how gorgeous she was. So much for not caring about appearance.
So I hang around for a painful hour or so, trying to be pleasant and make small talk with the planets, but after a while I give up. Back at home, I'm filled with self-loathing. What am I doing messing with this poor guy's head? Clearly he wants nothing to do with me. Right?

July 1997

Just when I had given up on him, Jeff calls me and apologizes. He wants to see me again, he says. Could he come over right now? I think fast. I have to attend a friend's wedding later in the day, but if he takes the bus to my apartment, we'll have a few hours to hang out. I meet him at the bus stop. There's a moment of confusion when the bus driver mistakenly tells him he's not at his stop yet, but luckily I see him and shout loudly enough for him to hear me through the closing door. He's wearing a weird sort of turtleneck sweater with a faux Native American medicine bag hung around his neck like a necklace. It looks terrible, but I'm charmed that he's trying to impress me.
Once we're back at my place and he's seated rather stiffly on my lumpy futon sofa, however, I'm suddenly overcome with nerves. Is he really interested? What about Sherrie? I decide to let him make the first move, which turns out to be, not surprisingly, to get stoned.
"You said it was your birthday last week, so I thought I'd bring you a present," he explains, holding out a little bag of pot and a small wooden pipe. After a few tokes, I relax a little, but I'm still not sure if he wants me to make a move or not. We talk for a long time, until I realize I'm about to be late for the wedding.
"Uh, you don't mind if I just get changed while you're here, do you?" I ask.
"It's OK with me. I promise not to look," he says, and we both laugh. "It doesn't make a difference to me."
But doesn't it? After all, he knows I'm standing there, flinging off my jeans and t-shirt right in front of him, even if he can't see me. And he can hear me pulling on pantyhose and slipping on my dress, a sleeveless sheath with matching jacket. I ask him to do up the zipper in the back, then turn to face him.
"What do you think of my dress?" I ask, putting his hand on my shoulder. He gasps slightly as his hand encounters my bare skin. He steps forward slightly and runs his fingers very lightly all over the dress. I grab his hand and put it on my thigh.
"See? I'm even wearing pantyhose." He runs his hand over my leg, then pulls back nervously. I smile to see the color rising in his face.
"Do you, um, do you mind if I touch your face?" He seems hesitant, as if he expects me to refuse.
"I don't mind," I whisper. I want to tell him that there is nothing I want more, that the gentle touch of his fingers on my face is more erotic than even the touch of his lips on mine, but I remain silent as I take his waiting hands and place them on my cheeks. We're standing so close I can feel his breath. He frowns in concentration as he runs his fingers all over my face, delicately tracing the outline of my eyebrows, the bridge of my nose, the ridge of my lips, over and over again. Kiss me, oh kiss me, I wanted to shout, but instead he moves his hands up over my head, stroking my hair.
"It's so long!' he exclaims. "I didn't know. . ." I turn around so he could feel how my hair hangs down past my waist. He runs his hands through it again and again while I luxuriate like a cat being petted.
"You're beautiful."
"Are you surprised?"
"No, I heard those guys talking about you on the street that day we met, but now I know for myself."
"Well, thank you."
He laughs. "You think a blindie like me can't appreciate a beautiful woman?"
I turn around to face him. "No, I don't think that at all. Just because you can't see me doesn't mean you can't appreciate the way I feel or smell. . ."
He seems pleased, but also surprised. Hasn't anyone ever talked about these things with him before? He strokes my hair some more, but that's as far as we go.
Needless to say, I arrive at the wedding hours late, still kind of stoned, and having forgotten the gift, but I don't care.

Jeff calls me again a few days later, in the evening, and asks me to come over. This time, he promises Sherrie won't be around. It's already late by the time I get there. He's made brownies. They're kind of mushy and yet burned, but still, it's sweet of him to make the effort. While he fiddles with the sound on his massive stereo setup, I look around his studio apartment. In the corner by the door is a large collection of white canes. Braille notes written on index cards and red plastic sheets are tacked to several bulletin boards, scattered on the floor and piled up around a heavy cast iron Perkins Braillewriter. Guitars and other band equipment lean up against the walls.
There is a big hand-lettered sign on the door, apparently written by Sherrie, reminding people to turn the light out when they leave. I ask Jeff about it, and apparently it's a big problem. His stoner friends come over and leave the lights on. He doesn't realize it, and the lights stay on for days until they blow out. But I understand why it happens--it feels completely wrong to turn out the lights when another human is in the room.
In an attempt to find some middle ground between his love of prog rock and my extremely limited, nerdy tastes, I've brought over a cassette of Steeleye Span, my favorite folk revival band. While we eat brownies, I pop it in the stereo. He seems impressed with their twenty-plus minute electric guitar-heavy rendition of a ballad about the Earl of Montrose. I'm pleased that he likes it, but mainly I'm trying to think of how I can get him to touch me again.
"Did I tell you I'm taking yoga classes now?" I ask. Pretty lame, but it's the best I can come up with. He seems interested, so I volunteer to show him a few positions, hands on. It doesn't take five minutes before he pulls his shirt off and that's the end of any yoga lesson. Next to the bed is a red velvet loveseat, like something out of a bordello. I pull him down onto it, feeling very bohemian. I kneel above him, covering his white skin with kisses, then lean down, making a tent with my hair, and bite and lick him all around his neck, enjoying the way he trembles beneath me.
"You knew I'd be good," I say as I pull down his jeans and take his cock in my mouth. His whole body goes stiff and he clutches convulsively at the edges of the loveseat. I wait until he's gasping and shaking, then move back up, putting his hands on my breasts.
"I never thought, when I first met you. . ." he says, and I laugh.
"I did." Suddenly the red velvet loveseat seems cramped, in spite of its boho charm, especially when the queen size bed is only inches away. I suggest we move, but he resists. When I pressure him, he finally admits that Sherrie bought the bed for him, in a misguided attempt to guilt-trip him into staying faithful to her. I observe that it doesn't seemed to be working, and I have no intention of spending the night on the floor.
Once in bed, I pull condoms and lube out of my purse. Yes, I've come prepared, but so what? It's better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. If he had said no, I would have gone home. But a guy only invites a girl over at night for one reason.
 I take one out of the package and put it carefully in his hands right side up, then let him put it on himself, not wanting to hurt him. I wriggle in ecstasy as he slides into me. I watch as he leaned over me, frowning in concentration, his unseeing gaze fixed at some point above my head. He's here and yet not here, locked away in his own blank world. After we finish, we doze for a few hours then do it again.
By this time it's morning. Grey light filters in through the shades, and even though it's the middle of the city, we can hear birds singing. We go out to breakfast together, then it's time for me to go home.

August 1997

I've been busy all month, and even though we've talked on the phone, I haven't had a chance to see Jeff again since that one night.
Among other things, Johnny comes back from boot camp and wants to see me. He comes over one afternoon, but we just talk.
"You look good," he says.
"Yeah." I've been dressing a lot cuter, putting my hair up, but it's more than that. I feel like I'm glowing all the time, from the inside. Johnny asks if I'm seeing anyone, but I can't bring myself to answer. I'm not, right? Jeff is not my boyfriend. In fact, I haven't told anyone at all, certainly not Rachel or Sharon. I couldn't even begin to explain.
Watching Johnny go on and on about his boring new job, I can't imagine what I ever saw in him. I know he wants to get back together, but there's no way. So what if Jeff is an unemployed stoner, no one else even comes close to turning me on in that way.
 By this time, Sherrie is getting closer to her due date, and Jeff is getting more freaked out. He alternates between wanting to run away from the whole thing and utter devotion to her. I try to be a good friend to him but I'm starting to lose patience. I know I'm a terrible person, but I don't have much respect for a beauty school dropout who tricks her boyfriend into getting her pregnant then wears her grandmother's ring even after he said he doesn't want to marry her. And I want him to come over again. I finally convince him when I promise to take him to a head shop near my apartment so he can buy some screens.
This time there's no need for silly games. We're all over each other the minute I shut the door. I lead him to the back room and push him onto the bed, then kneel on top of him. When I bend down to kiss his mouth, my long hair makes a tent around our faces, closing us into a space that's dark, hot and damp.
"Did you miss me?" I ask. He only groans in reply. Still straddling him, I sit up straight and pull off my shirt and bra. He isn't sure what I'm doing, but he can guess, and his mouth smiles in anticipation even though his plastic eyes remain flat and lifeless. I grab his hands and put them over my breasts, and my nipples harden under his touch. He sits up to get closer to me as he runs his sensitive hands all over me. I pull his shirt off too, and we both gasp as the bare flesh of our chests meet.
We trade places, so that I'm lying on my back. Without any prompting from me, he pulls off my jeans and goes down on me. He seems to enjoy it as much as I do. By the time he's done, I'm panting and twitching. He lies down beside me and for a while we're silent.
When I can finally speak again, I say, "You're pretty good at that."
He laughs. "I got a lot of practice."
"Show-off!"
"No, it's true. How many women do you think I've had?"
I roll my eyes. "Jeez, I don't know. Isn't the average around ten?"
"One hundred."
"No way! You're such a liar. So am I number one hundred, or one hundred and one?"
He looks a bit sheepish. "OK, so I haven't kept exact count, but it's somewhere around there." I wonder if he could really be telling the truth. As he proceeds to tell me stories of seductions, casual encounters and furtive experiments, I begin to see him in a new light. At first I had entertained the fantasy that he had been leading a wretched, deprived life, surrounded by inexperienced younger women, until I came along and showed him how it was done. But now it seems that he's had far more varied experiences than I have. The thought is not unappealing--actually it's even hotter.
I especially like the stories about a certain ex-roommate and his girlfriend. They would have sex in front of him in the living room, and when he realized what they were doing, they would invite him to join them. Friends who came to visit were sent naked to his room. They rented porno videos and described the action to him. It was as though they thought of Jeff as an experiment in sensuality. And really, this is not so different from my own feelings.
Still, I do feel a little embarrassed by my relative lack of experience. He assures me that it doesn't matter.
"I guess not. I still managed to seduce you , after all," I say.
He frowns a bit. "Yeah. But what made you do it?"
Oh god, I can't tell him the truth. "I, ah, I just thought you were sexy."
"Yeah, but why me?" Suddenly, I freeze inside. It's obvious, even to him, that we're completely mismatched. Me, a nerdy, overeducated, princessy graduate student, and him, a disabled high school dropout scruffy pothead, living on SSI. I don't say anything. Finally, rather than hear some unpleasant truth, he supplies me with an answer.
"So were you just curious about what it's like to have sex with a blind guy?"
"Yeah." I don't tell him that I already know what it's like, that I've fantasized about it for nearly all my life. I want to tell him, but I can't.
"So what's it like?" he asks. Evidently that stuff about blind people being able to tell when a person is lying is bullshit.
"Mmm, it's wonderful. The best." As we're talking, he runs his hands all over my naked body, just lightly and quickly brushing my skin with his fingertips, as if he's trying to use his hands to get a clear, complete mental image of me. "So what's it like being blind?"
"I tell ya, the worst thing's not being able to drive a car." This isn't what I was asking. I'm more interested in the way he experiences the world, but instead he gives me a list of complaints, laced through with some trite sentiments about appreciating what he has and living life to the fullest. It sounds like he's reciting lines from an after-school special.
When I asked K the same question, he also couldn't answer in a satisfying way. Being blind was just his reality; he didn't think about it much. But K never complained about his disability. K was nothing like Jeff. For one thing, K refused to touch pot, said he knew too many people with glaucoma who had become lazy stoners. For another, he was much more intellectual, even though he never quite finished that college degree. But it doesn't matter now. I put all thoughts of K out of my mind.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Jeff asks suddenly. I'm propped up on one elbow and twisted around so I can see his face.
"I like to see your face when we're talking," I explain. He seems to find it strange, but why? Doesn't anyone look at his face while talking to him? I can't get enough of watching him. His expressions are innocent, unstudied. When he smiles, he shows all his teeth, unselfconsciously, and when he laughs, he tosses his head from side to side. But the longer I look at him, the more disturbing his eyes seem. Up close, they're obviously fake, like the plastic eyes of a stuffed animal, and I can see dry patches on the surface of the lenses. It's unsettling to see them in a living face.
After a while, his hands move from my body to exploring the bed and its surroundings. Soon he's running his hands over the heavy metal bar that serves as a headboard on my bed. His fingers find some bits of cloth and toy with them for a long time before he even realizes what he's doing.
"Hey, what's this?"
I blush. "Oh, I keep those there for boys that need, you know, discipline." I'm showing off now. The truth is those are left over from my relationship with Buttboy. There hasn't been anyone else since him.
He tugs on the black bands. "What's it made out of?"
"They're old pantyhose that I cut up. It's better than rope or handcuffs, because it's soft and stretchy, so it won't cut off the circulation or cause nerve damage."
"Cool. Wanna try it?"
I feel a shiver run through me. The idea of bondage with a guy who is already disabled had never even occurred to me. Or rather, it's more than I had even dared to hope for.
"Are you sure you want me to tie up your hands?"
"Yeah, let's try it. I've never done that before." He lays his arms against the metal bar invitingly, and I can hardly refuse. I tie his wrists tightly, then tie his ankles to the other bar at the foot of the bed. Since he's so short, the bands barely reached his feet, and when I'm done he lies spread-eagled, unable to move.
At first I hover at the side of the bed and try to move silently, so he won't know what I'm going to do next. I kiss him all over, quickly, teasingly. I lie down next to him, rubbing him all over. If he can't feel me with his hands, at least he can feel me elsewhere. I grab his dick and hold on tightly while I lick and bite his nipples over and over, until his breath is ragged and he's straining against the bonds. I move up and run my tongue lightly over his ear, then bite him hard. His fingers twitch helplessly. He's dying to touch me, to see me with his hands, but he can't--now he really is totally blind. Just that thought is almost too much. I can feel the soles of my feet tingling and a strange twisting feeling in the pit of my stomach. The blood roars in my ears. As fast as I can, I put the condom on him, then take him inside me. He bucks and twitches under me with increasing strength. The bonds are coming loose. Suddenly, his feet twist free, then his hands, and in the moment he sits up and put his arms around me and his mouth on mine, greedily taking what had been denied, I feel him come inside me, both of us pulsing in the same unconscious rhythm.
We lay quietly again for a while, but soon hunger drives us from the bed. I make instant ramen with some extra vegetables, then sit across from him at the card table, watching him eat.
"It's Asian style. You can drink from the bowl," I explain. He declines my offer of chopsticks in favor of a fork. He holds the bowl under his chin with one hand, using the fork in the other hand to randomly rake the surface of the soup in hopes of finding something. Sometimes he misses and his mouth encounters only the empty metal tines. Whenever I hand him something, like a glass of water, there's always a brief pause while I wait for him to take the offered glass, but of course, not knowing it's there, his hand remains at his side, cupped expectantly until I place the glass in his fingers. After he leaves, I sit in his chair with my eyes closed, and bring the bowl to my lips, feeling its cold edges, trying to enter his world if only for a moment. Then I open my eyes and swallow the rest of what he had left behind.

September 1997 

After Sherrie gives birth to his daughter, we talk on the phone once. I invite him to come over again, but he refuses.
"I'm afraid every time I kiss you I'll see that little girl's face," he says over and over. I want to tell him, you can't see anything. But it's not my place to tell him what to do with his life. If he's decided to be faithful now, I have to respect that decision. It really is over. I promise to leave him to his life with her. It feels like I'm reliving my relationship with K all over again.