I brought a client to the ER and she answered questions about how frequently she thought about killing herself. And then she was asked if she had a specific plan. She told the psychiatrist, “I have ideas.” She would not elaborate. We sat in the sterile environment. The security guard told us the signs in the hospital were new. His name was Mark. He was awkward and reminded me of a person I had been in love with. His job was to make sure that the woman sitting next to me wouldn’t make a run for it. She didn’t. She was content in this environment. She told me the idea of suicide was poetic to her. She compared herself to a supernova. Supernovae are stars that implode on themselves and then explode. That’s what she taught me. She continued to say that they are visible in the sky for years after they die, leaving their mark on the world. She told me she would shine long after her death. I found her contradictory. She flirted with Mark and became angry with me after I told her I could not get her phone charger. We sat in silence after that.
After I left the ER I went to a bar with Vanessa and the man I am seeing. His name is Aaron. He is 38 to my 25 and ready for something that is more serious than whatever I am ready for. But we continue to see one another despite our mismatching definitions of the word “dating.” It was nearly 1am when I got to the bar that reminded me of a coffee shop. The bartender wore red lipstick. Her arms had tattoos. They were vivid and the linework was good. She was classy and soft spoken and patient as we drank our beers slowly. The bar-back was sweeping the floors and putting chairs on tables. Vanessa flirted innocently with the bartender. Aaron’s friend joined us. They call him “Black guy Steve” or “BGS.”
We all slept at Aaron’s house. He has two spare beds and a couch. He washes his sheets weekly. He has a boxer that makes the dark wood floors dirty before you can clean them all. Her name is Penny.
The next morning we woke up slowly, hung over. We each tested our abilities to stand and take showers. After we washed the beer from our pores and drank a cup of coffee, we began cleaning his dark floors and wooden tables. Penny made the floors dirty. It was Super Bowl Sunday. We would eat and drink all day. Vanessa told me the trick was to hydrate.
And then Aaron’s friends let themselves in his front door, just as I do 4 nights out of the week.
I had met them before. It was a Friday night, at a bar after work. They were drunk. They liked me when they were drunk. I gave them all a ride to Aaron’s house. There were 5 of them and they crammed into my little car. Aaron was in the front seat with BGS and he put his hand on my leg. He stroked. They said inappropriate things. I turned up the radio. They laughed. I realized that night, that it was more than casual.
On Super Bowl Sunday they were different. They were sober and so was I. I felt very aware of myself. I took a bottle of Bud Light out of the fridge. I tried desperately to use a wall mounted bottle opener to open it. I succeeded when Fowly, a friend we refer to by his last name, calmly said “It probably would have been easier to twist it off.” My ear lobes burned.
The night continued. I was quiet and too sober. Others were drunk and talkative. I wandered, sitting next to different people. It was obvious I skipped 13 years of my life sitting there with them, talking about different kinds of televisions and the next time they would be able to drink together without wives or children.
The night continued even longer. Aaron met me in his room where I was taking a break. He laid his head on his pillow. “I just want to lay down and hang out with you.” He told me. I smiled. I kissed him on the lips as he lay there dizzy with football stupor. I noticed a stray eyebrow hair. I used my tweezers to pluck it. It had been a month, but we had eased into a relationship.
I would come over after work and we would watch TV or work on a crossword puzzle or go to bed early and have sex. Penny would fight her way between our two bodies in the mornings, resting her head on my hip or his stomach. He told me once that he was comfortable around me. I allowed myself to be consumed by this comfort.
We left his room, in the name of being good hosts. We sat at his kitchen table and said very little. I touched his face. I teased him about his drunk eyes. He touched my leg and told me I was beautiful. We, finally, were able to do what he wanted. We laid in his bed half naked and talked about the night. He told me he was happy he didn’t have to take care of me. We talked about each of his friends candidly. And then we slept. He started his sleep with his body pressed against mine. I can rarely stay in that position because his hairy body makes me itch. So we end up near one another but not touching.
The next morning he presses his body against mine again. He kisses me on my bare shoulder. I appreciate this morning ritual. I turn over onto my belly and hold myself up with my elbows. I looked into his eyes. They were no longer drunk, but kind. I told him a company had offered me a job up in Portland. I told him I was going to accept the job. And we both became desperate and guarded in the same breath.