Less Than Butterflies, No. 27
Woke up feeling heavy-hearted.
I’m going back to where I started.
The morning rain.
I’d resolved to keep our friendship strictly friendship, and I was doing okay at it. Sure, there were moments when I would fall silent because I was getting anxious about something that I had no control over. Maybe it was seeing him talking to another guy, or maybe it was the conversations with his boyfriend I’d overhear him having on the phone in the car. It was always something and it was always difficult to cope with. Still, I’d made a point of trying to not let him see as much of that so that we could enjoy our time together as friends, because I did believe that he deserved our friendship just as much as I wanted to maintain it. There’s comfort in normalcy, but there’s also discomfort in desire.
The issue of Peter’s popularity was one of the things that made me most anxious; and I’ll admit that my jealousy of his behavior with his other friends didn’t help quell those fires when they ignited. Peter was the type of person who thrived off of being social. Moreover, he was the type of person who liked to have a good time partaking in recreational drinking and the like. I was also someone who enjoyed such proclivities, but I will admit that I also have social anxiety that usually leads to me taking time to sit by myself in a corner or smoking a cigarette on a patio alone. It isn’t necessarily that anything has upset me. It’s not being upset at all. Sometimes, I need to just recharge my batteries a bit. Often as well, I don’t have quite the stamina for partying that Peter does. Where he can go for hours on-end without batting an eye, I need rest and alone time in order to have another go at it.
A lot of times, I think this leads Peter to think I’m upset in social situations. While sometimes I am, the most recent time I saw him that was not the case. We’d been out partying for four straight days, and a few times I just needed to reel myself back in a little. We’d gone out to a few bars the third night that we were spending this time together and Peter was excited to celebrate the birthday of his friend, Marcus, whom I was a bit jealous of, as well. That’s the problem with spending time with Peter’s other friends for me. It isn’t necessarily that I don’t like them. In fact, I like Marcus a lot. It’s more to the point that I know for certain that he’s slept with most of them — Marcus included — and being the one person in his life that he hasn’t slept with and seeing the people that he has slept with interact with him reminds me that he doesn’t feel quite as strongly for me as he does for them.
With Marcus, this was especially true. Marcus was freshly 21 and had that boy next door look that I knew Peter fancied. He’d been friends with Peter a bit longer than I, but their relationship dynamic was completely different than hours. Peter was attracted to Marcus, and maybe Marcus was or had been to Peter, as well; but Marcus was busy living his best life and was well-involved in other men most of the time. Still, when Peter was around and Marcus had the time for him, he was the Apple of Peter’s Eye. No one, myself especially, mattered. But it wasn’t just Marcus that could make Peter behave this way. There was a harem of boys like this that Peter slighted everyone else for. Marcus, Chance, and that weekend an old friend — the ex of Chance’s that also excommunicated to Peter when he and Chance parted ways so long ago — Wesley. These boys were Peter’s weak spot. When it came to them, if he’d decided upon something, that was law. Nothing could or would change his mind.
And that royally blows, dude.
Because, if we’re being honest, I’d do anything for that man. And that’s not to say that his other friends wouldn’t nor that they haven’t. But right here, right now, in the present, I’m the one doing it. And, of course, Peter does more than his fair share of kindnesses for me; again, I don’t take any of that for granted. But it’s all goes back to the little things; like making sure he doesn’t aspirate vomit in his sleep and die after he’s been rolling on Molly all night; like making sure he stays hydrated after we’ve been out partying our assess off; like staying in constant touch with him so that he knows that his friends here at home still care about him; even visiting him now that he lives out of state more times than I’ve ever visited someone in my life because he didn’t have many friends there when he first moved.
And I know those things sound trivial; and I know that at every point in his life one of his other friends has done one of those other things for him; but when I’m doing it in the present, I’m not asking for a pat on the back. I’m asking for someone to care about me as much. I’m asking for it not to be an expectation from me if I can’t expect it from him.
That’s why when he visited not too long ago, and we were out at the bars and he was caught up in Marcus, I kind of hung back from the group as they got much drunker than I did. But it’s also why I was so hurt when we were walking down the road approaching the Eagle, and Chance said he’d instead like to go Ripcord, and Peter looked at me and said, “Could you just go to Ripcord with Chance for a minute?”
I stopped cold.
“What?” I demanded.
“I just need to talk to Marcus for a minute,” he explained without really explaining anything at all.
“And you need an entire bar to yourself for that?”
“Don’t be a dick about it,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
“Go fuck yourself,” I called back as I moved ahead without him.
I did go with Chance, because I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. I got drunker there and soon Peter had sent me a message apologizing (in his way) with no further explanation other than the fact that he needed to talk to Marcus and that he’d come find me in a few minutes. But those minutes turned into an hour, and I’d lost Chance somewhere in the bar and was now drunk out of my mind and alone at a bar in Montrose. And like I’ve said here before, for anyone who has ever been drugged in a bar, taken from one, and raped, this sort of situation heightens your anxieties to new heights you didn’t know they could ascend to. It makes you paranoid and afraid and ready to bolt because you’re genuinely petrified thinking that someone might snag you from around the corner, and that you’ll end up back in that empty apartment wearing torn clothes and so much pain ripping you in half that you want to be dead. But people who haven’t been raped don’t understand that fear. People who haven’t been raped don’t understand what it truly feels like to want to be dead because you don’t own your body anymore. Someone has taken it from you.
Peter didn’t understand my paralyzing fear that night. He knew my story, but he chose to keep that tucked well out of mind so he could run off with someone cuter.
Sure, I’m a big kid. I can take care of myself. But I’d gone there with Peter with no other expect that he wouldn’t abandon me in a bar that night. We’d taken an Uber to the bars, and I had no car, no keys to the apartment, and not a clue what I was doing because I was drunk out of my mind.
So when I could feel my legs again, I left the bar and darted to the streets of Montrose in tears. It didn’t help that my mood stabilizers were in a prescription bottle that had been emptied by one of the random guests that came to party at the apartment the night before, but now I was so drunk I could barely work my phone and I had no idea where my so-called friend was. Another thirty minutes went by, and all I could do was sit upon a bench outside of Barnaby’s because I had no idea where to go or what to do. When Peter finally texted me again asking where I was and inviting me to join everyone at JR’s, I was beside myself.
The second night that it happened, and the very next night, I wasn’t even given an explanation, but I knew why.
I knew why when he’d gasped in the back of our Uber on the way to Hamburger Mary’s, and he’d told me his friend Avery was coming out with us. I knew when I asked him if that was a bad thing and replied, “No. It’s a very, very good thing.” I knew when he’d rushed us out of the restaurant, and when he’d pushed past me at the door of Rich’s where we were to celebrate Marcus’s birthday and where neither of us had to pay a cover, and I knew when I didn’t see him again for what felt like ever.
The group accompanying us was upwards of twenty-five in total. I certainly hadn’t been in a bad mood, even considering what had happened the night before. That being said, I was a bit quieter around all of the pretty strangers than I would have been around people that I’d known better. Nevertheless, I was trying to enjoy myself as my roll on Molly began, and I was doing so without interceding in Peter’s celebration of Marcus’s birthday. I didn’t want to seem like the lovesick puppy following Peter around, and I certainly didn’t want to do or say anything that was going to stop him from enjoying himself while we were there. And unlike he always had before, Peter didn’t tug me along in stride, neither literally nor metaphorically.
All the same, I did enjoy conversations with a few of the guests whom I knew. There was Paige, Marcus’s roommate and a fan of mine that sat with me and sweetly complimented my writing as we watched Peter dance alone. At one point she pulled me in close and asked me, “Are you and Peter a couple?”
At first I was so shocked that she would ask this that I wasn’t quite sure what to say or think about it.
“No,” I finally let out in a quick breath with a stern shake of my head. “No, we’re just friends,” I told her. She nodded her head and watched him a bit more closely.
“It’s not my place to say this,” she shouted over the music, “But that’s probably a good thing.”
I knew that Paige was drunk, but I hadn’t thought she was that drunk.
“What do you mean?” I asked her, not really sure why we were even having this conversation.
“Well … I love him to death, and I’ve only hung out with him a handful of times, but …” She shook her head and kept watching him. “If it were me, and I was in love someone like Peter who loves this side of life so much, it would be heartbreaking. It would be hard for me to trust him someone that I was never sure was fully mine. You know?”
I did know. Still, I asked, “What makes you think I’m in love with Peter?”
She didn’t respond, but I knew.
What I did not know was that Paige was not going to be the last person to ask if Peter and I were a couple that night. In fact … a dozen other people would.
“He’s a good man,” I told her as I smiled up at him, watching him dance onthe person I later discovered to be his friend Avery, which made my stomach churn as if I’d just swallowed glass.
As I was smoking outside on the patio, an old friend named Stephen I hadn’t seen in several months approached me with a smile. He, too, was rolling on Molly and came up to say hello and chat for a while. After catching up, we made our rounds around the club and hung out for a little while, danced on the patio with strangers, and my roll was finally starting to hit its stride. When we glanced over and saw Peter talking to a group of friends, in the corner, Stephen smiled at me and said, “I saw your man here and I figured you couldn’t be far.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. I wanted to object further, but I wasn’t much of a talker when I was on Molly.
I stared off at Peter and watched him laugh, which made me smile. But like most things with Peter seemed to be for me, the smile was fleeting. He still hadn’t said a word to me all night, except once to ask me for Molly and then again shortly after to ask me for another. He’d not stopped to talk to me since the moment we walked in the doors of the club. The second time I’d pulled him into a bathroom stall to give it to him, his voice was so agitated with me and I didn’t understand why.
“What’s the matter with you? Why are you being so hostile to me?”
“I’m not! I’m just trying to have a good time with my friends.”
“I’m not trying to stop you; but there’s no reason for you to be hateful to me,” I told him.
“Okay,” he said before turning around in the stall with a roll of his eyes and waltzing away.
Staring at him across the patio, I wondered yet again what it was about me that was so terrible that I didn’t even get a ‘hello’ around these other friends of his. I’d even texted him twice to try to initiate some sort of contact between the two of us when I wasn’t sure where he was — once to ask if he’d find me a cigarette because I’d lost my pack somewhere on the dance floor and my vision was too blurry to stand, and again to jokingly tell him not to do anything stupid and lighten the mood. He never responded to either.
“You love him,” Stephen said. “Don’t you?”
I sputtered out a long train of smoke before before looking back Stephen. “Yeah,” I told him as I dropped the cigarette butt to the ground and squashed it beneath my shoe. “I do love him.”
That cigarette butt might as well have been my heart.
The morning rain …
🦋 🦋 🦋
And though I wish that you were here
on this same old road that brought me here,
it’s calling me home.
Stephen and I danced until well past two in the morning and I let boys touch me, but tired of it quickly. The entire time as the crowd thinned, I kept my eyes peeled for everyone, certain that they’d be ready to leave soon. However, right around three, I became curious to see that our booth had been cleared out and cleaned and quickly realized that, indeed, Peter had left me behind. I pulled out my phone to text him, but my messages weren’t going through, likely due to his phone being dead. Instead I messaged Chance, who luckily was only a few feet away but heading out the door himself. That same anxiety from the night before came creeping back up inside of me.
Still I understood that I am an adult capable of taking care of myself. But that didn’t give my best friend the right to abandon me knowing my abandonment issues already when he were my ride and when he did so without any sort of notice. My heart raced as it sunk out of my chest and into the pit of my stomach and my vision blurred as sweat poured down my forehead and chest and neck. The man who I once felt safest with and like nothing could ever touch me when I was with him had left me abandoned and alone for the second night in a row. One of the only people that knew that was exactly how the story of my rape began — alone in a bar — did that to me. And why?
No, really. I’m asking.
To make matters worse came a text message from Bertha a couple of days later, one that read, “Fuck Peter. I asked him where you were when I saw him leaving, and he just said ‘I don’t know’ and kept walking.”
I was so upset reading that message as I was driving to the store for cigarettes that I had to pull over on the side of the road. There I bent at the waist into a ninety degree angle and hurled into the grass. There was nothing in my stomach but water and the weight of how foolish I felt for believing in this man so much.
When Chance and I finally got back to the apartment a few minutes later, I was met with a mass of people I did not know with Peter staring directly at the door when I walked in. He didn’t say a word to me until later when I asked where the car keys were and he again spoke to me as if I’d just killed his mother. When he looked at me through those eyes that once made me feel safe and at home, I didn’t feel that way anymore. They seemed angry, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. Certainly it had taken me a minute to get to my social point while at the club, but I hadn’t been standing in the way of anyone else having a good time. I hadn’t been the one who had left someone else there to have an after-party rager with a bunch of people who didn’t give a damn about him and to possibly get my dick wet from someone I hadn’t seen in ages. I had just been minding my own business, talking to my friends and dancing with them because I wanted to enjoy myself, too.
That whole night he avoided saying anything to me, and I soon cleared everyone out of the bedroom so that I could go to sleep. I wept that night probably just as much as I did in that entire week after we’d nearly slept together. When I woke to the sun beaming through the shades a few hours later, haunted by strangers asking me if Peter was my boyfriend and the image of boys taking him by the hand and leading him around the apartment, my heart sank when I rolled over and saw he wasn’t there next to me where he had been for the last three nights. I soon began to panic, my mind shooting into the anxiety of being left behind again, but as I stepped out into the living room and saw him sleeping on the couch alone, I calmed down some. I walked over to the couch and stood over him, noticing there was only an hour left ‘til we had to check out of the AirBNB. I rubbed his feet and shook his legs some while whispering his name and trying to get him to wake up, but it was of no use. He’d fallen into a very deep sleep after four days of partying like a rock star faced with his own mortality.
Instead I took to clearing up all the plastic cups off of the floors and tables, throwing trash away, and setting dishes in the sink to be washed. When there was nothing left except the dishes to be put in the dishwasher, I left those aside and tried waking him up once more. It was still a futile effort; so I smoked a cigarette on the patio and went back to bed, wishing he’d at least gotten up and come to lay down with me. When he woke me later in a hurry to get out because he had overslept, I didn’t even bother telling him that I’d tried waking him before. I just collected our things with him, put my stuff in my suitcase and his things in his, did a last check to make sure everything looked as it had when we’d arrived, and followed him out the door to his car.
As much as I wanted to ask what he was doing for the rest of the day before he made the long drive home, I didn’t. I still wasn’t sure what I’d done to make him so angry with me the night before. Maybe he’d taken those texts to mean I was upset about something, when the reality was quite the opposite. I’d just been enjoying my roll a little more lowkey than he had been. I almost always did. He’d been doing his own thing and I hadn’t tried to stop him. That’s what he loved to do: party and have fun. He was a responsible adult with an amazing career and esteem by the mile. But in his heart, there was a little part of him that was still just a kid who wanted to take flights of fancy and ignore the rest of the world, like Peter Pan.
I don’t mean that as a fault. I’m the same way sometimes … just differently. I just wish this specific flight didn’t include me getting the evil eye all night long and feeling like the one person I’d grown to love most in the world hates me. Because that’s what I saw in his eyes that night. Hatred.
In an effort to give Peter exactly what he’d wanted, I’d somehow ended up here. And sure, when we parted ways, he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. But I felt empty because it was clear that something had gone unsaid; only this time, I wasn’t the one who wasn’t saying it.
Calling me home …
When I wrote the rough draft of this story, the next line read, “But it’s okay.” But it’s not okay. It’s never going to be okay. It’s not okay that my mood stabilizers were stolen. It’s not okay that as I was going through my suitcase I found two of my shirts burned and torn apart by God only knows who. It’s not okay that I was forsaken for someone prettier and shinier than me when I have been hemorrhaging love and friendship to this man. It’s not okay that I had some post-traumatic stress reaction to being left behind, or that he left me behind at all and hasn’t even thought to apologize.
It’s not okay that I still love him.
I sent him a text later that last day to let him know that — that I loved him — and to thank him for all the fun we had had over the four days. And there was a lot of it. Dinner for all of our friends, a drag show, Jack-in-the-Box fights between customers and employees, karaoke, bottle service at Guava, late night talks about wanting children, and spending time with one another’s families. It was lovely. I just wish the ending had been lovely, too.
When I said earlier that he was the only man I’d ever been able to see a future with, I meant it. I’ve thought about what it would be like to have a home with him, to have children with him, to dance to a cover of his late grandfather singing a Gershwin song with him at our wedding the way he once told me he wanted to when and if he ever wed. What I’ve felt for this man isn’t based on lust or physical desire. It’s the feeling that he’s good for me, that he made me feel safe, that we could have taken care of each other.
It’s the most honest feeling of being in love I’ve ever felt.
I just wish that when he looked at me — his most loyal devotee — he would look at me through those eyes I fell in love with rather than the ones that seemed to hate the very sight of me and that he could try to picture all of those things, too. But I got hatred from him. And why? I certainly don’t hate him. I know who he is; and I love him for that. Peter Pan has to fly to be who he is; sometimes I just wish I weren’t his Tinkerbell — flying alongside him with ardor and glee, but dead without his attention.
Not everything happens for a reason. Although, I truly hope that all of this will have. Because I really am still trying to be a good friend; and I really do want him to know that I wouldn’t be doing that if he didn’t mean the world to me. And I hope that when he does take those flights, he’ll remember when I’m there with him in tow, and that he’ll remember why I’m there and not fly away without me like he’s done now twice.
I love him.
Why am I not good enough to fly with you anymore, Peter Pan?
I wish I could lay down beside you
when the day is done
and wake up to your face
against the morning sun.
But like every man I’ve known,
you’ll disappear one day.
So I spend my whole life hiding
my heart away.