My body feels like it’s breaking down. It’s cradled in my bed. I don’t feel so clean. I chew on some Tums. I keep them by my bed for situations like these. Situations like these are getting pretty frequent.
I’m in A’s bed. We have sex twice. It hurts the first time and I tell A so. He says sorry and I say sorry I’m not doing more it just hurts. He wants to know what I’d usually be doing. He gets hard again immediately and I’m amazed so I don’t remind him that it hurts. I ask if he has a towel and he says don’t worry about it. But I wasn’t trying to be nice. It’s almost the morning and I text my best friend. I just had sex with someone I hate I write.
My phone rings at noon. It’s been ringing at noon for 13 days. Someone named Helen from the outpatient center is trying to recruit me to a program there. She says that I’ve been strongly recommended. I tell her I’m already taking antidepressants. Can I still give you some details? she asks.
I text my sister about Helen and the program. Are you crazy? she says. Remember how awful mine was?I do remember. Everyone assumed the worst back then. I’m afraid that I’m living my sister’s life just several years behind. My sister says that I’m on the wrong pills and that they’re going to make me sleep all the time. They do make me sleep all the time but I wasn’t sleeping at all before.
Later in the evening I get a text from A. Can’t believe we didn’t exchange numbers A writes. He tells me he got my number from L and that he wants to see me before I go back to New York. I say that would be cool. I know I’m not going to though because I have my period. I got my period in A’s bed but he doesn’t know that because it didn’t make a mess. That must be why it hurt. I stayed horizontal until my ride came and then I got dressed and ran out the door. That’s when it made a mess. A and I text all night. He asks if I want to watch a movie and I say no so he watches Lady Bird by himself and texts me about it. He says it’s bad like Juno or Garden State. I decide he’s probably sexist.
I get up to renew my health insurance. I’m not sure if I can since I missed the deadline for the new year. I didn’t really miss the deadline but I missed my first payment so it was canceled before it even started. I need glasses and my teeth cleaned and to find out why I am constantly shitting. I take Lactaid with my coffee. I’m pretty sure I’m becoming lactose intolerant. I google it. I google a recipe for red curry. I want to know why last night’s takeout made me so sick.
I take the train back to New York. On the first night I’m there I go to my neighborhood bar. My least favorite bartender is working and he tries to hug me. I don’t do hugs I remind him. A man at the end of the bar smiles at me. Good for you for saying so he says. He introduces himself as E. The three of us chat for a while and I’m quickly bored. The bartender and E are both pretentious and keep playing the age card when they aren’t schooling me on Marxism and sophisticated music.
As I’m about to leave I get a text from F that says Ayyy where are you I’ve really wanted to be with you again. I screen cap it and send it to my best friend and say LOL. She texts back LOL. I didn’t think I’d ever hear from him after the last time we slept together. He’s probably drunk and horny.My best friend tells me that I shouldn’t sleep with F again because he has a girlfriend. It feels bad she says. I tell her that I don’t really care. That’s not really my brand of feminism I say. I text F back and sort of make fun of him but sort of tell him I’m down. He doesn’t respond.
My best friend texts me in the morning. Did you see the article in the nyt about how to deal with anger towards men? I haven’t read it yet but it made me think of you lol. Wow you are sweet I respond and I ask her to send it to me and she does. It’s a dear sugar column and I’m so annoyed I turn my phone off.
That night I return to work at the restaurant. It’s my first shift since being back in the city. I don’t mind it for once because C’s there and I haven’t seen him in ages. My boss once told me that we aren’t allowed to work together anymore because we like each other too much but he was smiling when he said it so I’m pretty sure it was a joke. I tell C what’s new in my life when he asks. He tells me he appreciates my take on things like that time I made fun of him for his obsession with Hemingway. He tells me he thinks it’s charming how I act out my depression like a performance. He asks me if autofiction is fiction about cars and I laugh. He won’t go to the bar with me after work though.
I lay in bed scrolling through my phone. My stomach is making gurgling noises and I can’t sleep because of it so I take a selfie and caption it with the green sick face emoji and send it to my best friend. I can’t open that she responds. I forgot she still has a flip phone. I’ve never asked her if that’s her making a statement or what. She told me once that she thinks the amount of time I’m spending on the internet is making me crazy. People need a break sometimes she said.
At work C calls me a horny intellectual. I think he means it in a good way. It’s my second to last weekend working there and I joke that before I leave I’m going to get drunk and make a move on our hot boss B. I ask C if he thinks that me saying that could qualify as sexual harassment. You’ve said worse things he says.
After work C wants to drink with me. As we talk the bartender pulls out the fernet and all three of us take a shot. C tells me things aren’t so good with his girlfriend. No wonder he wants to hang out.
I can’t get out of bed for two days after drinking with C. I’m glad we’re friends though. He texts me links to reductress articles in the mornings which I think is kind of cool. He has lame politics like he thinks CNN is too partisan and that’s the problem with news these days but he’s not bad for a male feminist. I text him that.
When I finally do get up I look at myself in the bathroom mirror and see that my skin is gray. My hair is also growing more white. The white hairs used to all grow in one spot but now they’re all over and a different texture and are very prominent in general. My mom tells me that her mom went gray in her twenties. These hairs are truly white I tell her. I dream of having a white streak by the time I’m 30. That would make me look interesting.
I wake up naturally at six in the morning. I maybe have a date later tonight with my boss B. I text C about it and he tells me he thinks it’s a bad idea. I decide I’m only allowed to go on the date if I accomplish five things on my to do list. I write a to do list. I go to the laundromat which is empty at 9 am. It’s a beautiful day inside and out.
At the laundromat I check my email and see that my old friend J is coming to town. The last time I saw her she told me she was getting married and after that we fell out of touch. J says that she and her partner are poly now. I write back telling her I’d love to see her and we make plans for the evening. It’s not until afterward that I remember I’ve a date with B. I’ve bailed on him four times now but I don’t care at all.
A snowstorm turns one evening with J and her partner into three days together. We venture out only to buy sandwiches and beer and are otherwise holed up in bed. J tells me she’s doing some sort of specialized trauma redirection therapy. I tell her I think it sounds interesting. I don’t want to do what she’s doing but I want to do something. Her partner draws a picture of us sitting on the couch. On the third night we all sleep together and in the morning I walk them to the train and kiss them both goodbye.
In the evening my mom calls. She heard that I’m quitting my job at the restaurant. Is there something you want to tell me? she asks. I’m fine I tell her but I do have some sort of digestive issue. She also thinks that I’m lactose intolerant. I’m not convinced though because two days ago I ate a cheesy pasta and felt just fine but now I’m sick and too sad to get out of bed. Is there a man in your life? my mom asks. What about a woman?
I finally fuck B after a couple of drinks. I decide he sucks after the first beer but have two more and tell him to take me home. He wants to go to my place instead. Is it because you have a girlfriend? I ask. Yeah you knew that. I didn’t know it but I guessed it. We fuck at your house or not at all I tell him. B gives in and tells me my honesty’s brutal. It doesn’t sound like a compliment.
I leave B’s house immediately after and go drink tequila with D. I’ve a text from B by the time I get to the bar. Apologies for not showing you a good time before you decided to take off he says. D calls me a hero.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m too hungover to sleep. I text C to tell him about my night with B. The sex was really bad I write. C texts back right away omg did he rape u? wtf no I respond. Anyway see u tonight he says.
It’s my last shift and I’m in a bad mood. I don’t laugh at any of C’s jokes and he tells me I should learn to take things less personally. I start to cry and stay in the back polishing silverware. Eventually C leaves without saying goodbye.
I go to the bar when I get off work and E is there. I sit next to him but he doesn’t recognize me so I pretend I don’t know him. We have an almost identical conversation to the first time we met and suddenly he realizes we’ve met before. The fact that he wasn’t pretending makes me feel plain. He tells me he hates his job and I don’t blame him because it sounds sort of dumb. I listen to him talk about the kind of writer he wishes he could be and how Matt Taibbi is his favorite journalist. When I get up to leave he touches both my arms and tells me he loves my brain and asks for my email address.
After talking with J I think I’ve found a therapist that I like. Her first name is the same as my middle name and I appreciate that. Her picture on Psychology Today is cute. She looks young and fashionable. I know from her picture that I want her to be my therapist. D asks me why I’m drawn to her and I tell her it’s because she looks young and like a feminist. Her bio seems pretty feminist too. I also think she’s Jewish which I’m not sure if I care about.
The therapist returns my call in the afternoon and pronounces my name correctly. Definitely Jewish. She wants to set up an intake and emails me her availability.
The therapist emails me to say that there’s trouble with my insurance. Please let me know what you can afford because we have a sliding scale. We should figure this out before we actually meet.
I call and the therapist says that
In the afternoon the therapist leaves a voicemail. She’s figured out the insurance problem and wants to know when I’m ready for my first appointment. She emails again a few hours later to let me know she left a voicemail and that she hopes I’m doing okay.
I text D and tell her that I think the therapist is coming on too strong. You’ll be fine she responds. I feel like good things are happening to you this spring! I assume she’s referring to the fact that I’ve been having more sex. None of it’s been good though.
I receive an email from E. He says he enjoyed meeting me and that he wants to see me again. He signs off with his phone number and his twitter handle and a link to his personal website. I send D screenshots of poems I find on his blog. lol are you going to sleep with this guy? she asks. Idk maybe I respond. E told me he’s a journalist but I looked up the publication he works for and it seems like it’s all sponsored content. I remember he mentioned he wrote a piece for the Baffler so I search for it. It was published in 2012. He apparently did some videos for Vice back then too.
J comes to town again and this time she’s by herself. The conversation flows with her because she’s excessively outgoing. She makes me excessively outgoing. We sleep together the first night she’s here and afterward I ask her if she wants to come with me to a literary party. At the party someone asks me what I do for a living. When I say that I used to work at a restaurant J interrupts and says she’s a writer too. I shrug and walk away. I see someone I’ve met before and I join him for a cigarette. We talk about dying and then we don’t talk at all. I wish I could quit smoking because I’ve a cough that won’t quit but I know I wouldn’t be able to stomach any more parties that way.
In the morning I tell J I want to be alone. I can find something else to do today if you’re busy she says. I’m not busy I tell her.
The weather changes so fast that I’ve hardly had time to evaluate my body before I go out mostly naked into the world. It’s too hot to wear pants. I sit on a patio and drink an iced latte and look at my bare legs. I forgot to take a Lactaid pill and I can already feel myself getting sick. I’m skinnier than usual. I think it looks good on me. It makes me want to have sex.
When I sleep with F my stomach growls and I can’t stop coughing. I almost apologize for being so gross but he doesn’t even try to make me come. When I sleep with E he can’t get it up until after we fall asleep and when we do have sex it feels like he has something to prove.
E texts me to ask if I’m free for a drink. I’ve been ignoring his texts for the past week because they say things like I wish you were in my bed right now and Anne Carson is more interesting as a translator than as a poet and Let me know if you would like to rendezvous or if I should keep my correspondence to only literary and political subjects. I find the grammar and punctuation of his text messages very annoying. I respond no I need to eat and he immediately says he’ll buy me dinner.
I text my sister and tell her I’m having dinner with a man who graduated high school the year I was born. Woof she says don’t trust men who are still single at that age. I don’t
I say. I’m just really hungry. I don’t miss being single at all she adds.
When I get to the restaurant E is waiting at the bar with a nearly finished glass of red wine. I sit next to him and greet the bartender. I’d like a glass of the Verdicchio I tell her. E asks me how I’m doing and I say let’s order food first I really am starving. I ordered already he says. It’s a salad and a porterhouse steak so I hope you eat meat. I do eat meat I say. I don’t comment on the fact that the steak was $48 on the menu. I tell him I’m good and ask how he is and he takes a deep breath and tells he loves me. He tells me ours was the most intimate sex he’s had in a voice loud enough for the bartender to hear. I ask him if he has sex often and his eyes fill with tears. I decide he must be a stalker and I smile at him and leave before he pays the check.
The worst part about the situation with E is that I can’t go to my favorite bar anymore. I can’t see my new therapist either because her office is by his building.
I lay in bed and text the usual suspects about my stalker. You haven’t heard the last of him J says. I want an older man to lust after me D says. I don’t think you’ve anything to worry about my sister says. Are you sure he doesn’t know where you live? my best friend says. I send them all screenshots of the things he’s been texting me since he told me he loved me. In one he tells me he can’t remember how our dinner ended. Another is graphically sexual.
I wake up at eight in the morning and wonder if the change in weather is sparking a change in my sleep schedule. I can’t find a good reason to get up even though I’m starving so I scroll through my phone until my eyes droop and then sleep until noon. When I wake again I don’t have a single text message. Not even from my stalker. I drink yesterday’s coffee over ice with milk and eat a cookie and think about going back to sleep.