Less Than Butterflies, No. 28
“So are you gonna write about me?” Ricky asked as he pulled the sheet off of me just a little bit more and ran his toes up my calf beneath it.
Sheepishly I turned my face toward the window and pulled the bedsheet back a bit. “What do you mean?”
Ricky laughed — loudly, incriminatingly — as if he were in on some secret I wasn’t. Only … I was. “In your column,” he went on. “Don’t think I didn’t do my homework before bringing you home.” He slid himself upright and reached over me for a bottle of wine on the floor next to me before taking a sip and handing it to me. “I know who you are.”
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
“What’s it called again?” he asked. “Butterflies?”
“Less Than Butterflies,” I corrected him.
To my knowledge, I’d never slept with a man who’d read Less Than Butterflies before that night. Or, at the very least, I’d never slept with one who’d read it and had the nerve to bring it up. I tried to wash the terror from my face and distract him with a laugh; only he wouldn’t take his eyes off of me until I answered. So I reached into the pocket of my jeans on the hardwood floor beside me and grabbed a pack of Marlboros and a lighter, placing one between my lips and rolling my eyes.
I pulled the sheet back toward me to cover my mid-section, embarrassed about how I could have lost so much weight and still have felt fat. “I don’t know if the sex was that good.”
I blew a puff of smoke in his face and laughed.
🦋 A Week Before 🦋
I sat in the Starbucks at Montrose and Hawthorne filling out paperwork and editing articles while also making eyes with a 30-something-year-old man sitting at a table adjacent to me that kept looking up from his pretentious copy of the New York Times so that his jawline could poke out over the scarf he unnecessarily wore inside — Lemme see that neck, daddy. I’d heard him order a tea at the counter while I sipped a peppermint mocha and I swear to Satan he would have been less conspicuous if he’d just cut two eye holes in the goddamn paper. After suggestively nodding my head toward the bathroom when our eyes met and watching him dash off that way, I packed my personal effects into my messenger bag and swiftly exited the building without any intention of meeting him in the restroom. I’d find myself down the street at the Half-Price Books where I’d avert my gaze from the collected works of Jane Austen — have you ever read Jane Austen, guys? Where men were at least kind of chivalrous even when they were breaking hearts — and a cute young man squatted down on the ground looking at a book at the bottom of the same shelf. Feigning clumsiness, I let the book slip out of my hands and down beside him, then dropped to the ground at his eye level to pick it up. He turned and caught my eye as I slid the book back into my hands and smiled at him. “Hi,” I muttered, to which he smiled back and introduced himself to me.
That’s right, y’all. 2019 had officially begun, Peter was a distant memory of my past and I was officially back on my bullshit. I wasn’t making resolutions, I wasn’t trying to lose more weight, I wasn’t promising to go back to the gym, I wasn’t even going to work hard at giving up bad habits like smoking or falling in love. 2019 brought with it only one new rule, which was more a rule for the men in my life than it was for me:
Don’t fuck with me.
“I’m moving on from sadness and being in love so that I can go back to my old ways,” I told Jackie on speaker phone later that night as I struggled to try and sync my work email to my iPhone.
“Exactly,” I went on. “I do not need a man to — damn it!” The email server, once again, failed to connect to my phone. “I don’t need a man in my life to be successful or to get anything done.” I tried syncing it once more. “I am completely independ— motherfucker!” Yet again, it failed to connect.
“What are you swearing at?” Jackie asked.
“I’m trying to get my phone to sync to my work email, but I can’t figure this shit out. Peter was supposed to do it for me the last 80 times I saw him, and then we both kept forgetting, and then he treated me like shit, and then he left me at a bar, and then he left at a club, and then we fought, and then I never heard from him again because he disappeared from my life without ever taking the fucking time to set my email up on my phone.” I sighed. “Fucking bastard.”
Jackie hesitated. “What was that you were just saying about not needing a man to help you do anything?”
I dropped my phone on the counter. “Fuck off, Jackie.”
It was the best of times … it was the worst of times. I was pleasantly surprised with just how well I’d been dealing with the loss of what was probably one of the greatest loves and romances of my life; but a constant disappointment in men will help one cope with these things quicker as time goes by. After all, it started off at a young age when my father left me alone with drug-addicted mother to develop some deep-seated daddy issues, and it landed here with me falling in love with and having my heart broken by a man I called ‘daddy’.
Jesus I am one fucked up individual.
Nevertheless, she persisted; and she was me, in this particular instance.
Of all the resolutions I wasn’t making in 2019, I had compiled a list of rules I was laying down like infants for a nap that would from this point on be applicable to all the men I dated in the future:
I am the Whore thy Gay, which have graced thee with my presence, and who will hopefully get thee to participate in bondage.
- Thou shalt have no other guys before me.
- Thou shalt not make any graven image (i.e. making less money than me or being in the closet)
- Thou shalt not have better looks, talents, or wisdom than the Whore thy Gay who is vain.
- Remember my birthday and keep it holy.
- Dishonor my father and mother.
- Thou shalt not kill my roll when I do Molly.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery or even suggest the idea of an open relationship, because if thou wishes to date more than one person, I’ll go off my meds and you’ll get to meet all sorts of new people.
- Thou shalt not get mad when I steal thy credit card.
- Thou shalt not bear adult ADD.
- Thou shalt do cocaine, but not to the point of addiction.
I mean it — I’d given up on men. And why shouldn’t I have? If this stupid column indicates any sort of track record, signs would point to it being time for me to stop trying. I mean between Parker who could commit and Dylan who voted for Trump and Ezra the asexual and Peter who was just an all-around raging douchebag from his own circle of hell, it seemed as though the Universe of the Fates or the Gods or the Dark Lord Satan was telling me to give the fuck up. And did it even really matter anymore? At this point it was fuck off or get fucked over, and most encounters seemed to end in the former, at least in my experience thus far.
But then I met Ricky. And from the time I’d dropped that book in front of him at Half Price Books to the first time we’d hung out one-on-one — as per the usual — all that internal training on how I should be interacting with men in the new year seemed as impossible to reach as a baseball thrown over the neighbor’s fence.
I walked into his Montrose-adjacent apartment expecting what I usually did with my one-time hook-ups: traipsing dog hair, a lack of furniture, and not a book in sight. But what I found was quite the converse — it was like an island oasis in a sea of gay sharks who couldn’t get their shit together. It was like walking into a den of spirituality, a Mecca of literature, and a congress of apropos, grown-upisms.
“So how was the date with Ricky?” Gwen asked the next afternoon in the hammock chairs on her porch.
“It wasn’t a date,” I told her with a roll of my eyes. I grabbed the Bic sitting on the table between us and lit the cigarette between my lips.
“Hoookay,” she replied as she rolled her own eyes and chuckled a bit to herself.
“The not-date was lovely. We hung out, drank a little vodka, smoked a little weed,” I laughed and took a hit off the joint she’d rolled. “And then he played a song on his guitar he’d been writing and my heart melted a little and that was enough to make my pants dematerialize altogether,” I confessed. “God, the sex was good.”
Gwen could have exploded with all the laughter she’d been holding in, weed smoke spewing everywhere. “Praise Satan!” she exclaimed.
“Praise Satan, indeed,” I agreed as I took another hit. “He did ask me something that made me a little uncomfortable, though,” I told her.
“I’ve told you that you’ve just got to learn to be more forthcoming about you STDs.”
“I don’t have any STDs! Shut up!” I shook my head. “No, he asked me whether or not I was going to write about him in my column. Apparently he did his homework.”
“And he still invited you over?”
“So this wasn’t a date. Huh?”
I grinned a little. “Fuck off, Gwen.”
“Play another,” I requested as I laid against the hardwood and sipped the Pinot Grigio from my stemless glass. His apartment looked like the type of place I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life, which is a largely important factor for me when vetting potential suitors. Solid wood floors, bookshelves lining every wall, artwork hung that seemed to be glaring at me as I passed. “I’m high. I could do this all day.” Ricky was strumming his guitar — in the nude, nonetheless — and I was lying on the ground in a sheet like Carrie Bradshaw between her Mr. Big punctuations.
It was a weird thing — fucking on someone’s hardwood, living room floor and sipping iced vodkas from stemless wine glasses while he played me music on his guitar. It was the kind of not-date I’d never had with a man … and I’d had a lot. Something that started as a casual book drop — okaaayyy; not so casual considering I’d basically just created my own meet-cute —had turned into hours of fucking against the cold, January floors and me not accidentally shouting out Peter’s name. But more than that, it was nice to be around someone and not have to give a shit about whether or not we were on a date. It was a breath of fresh air to not have to fish for topics to discuss with a man; it was a relief to not feel self-conscious as a man stripped me of my clothing; and then to just be done — and to not feel the obligation to stay or leave — as the smell of candles wafted in and out of my nose and fingers traced the small of my back between songs … it was nice.
“So are you gonna write about me?”
And after the what do you mean? and the I know who you ares and the poking fun at him, telling him the sex wasn’t good enough, and the tugging of the sheet back to cover my midsection, I finally giggled out, “Yeah … I’m gonna write about this.”
As I sat at the bar later with Hope and some friends I didn’t get to see often enough, I thought of Ricky and the fun I’d had with him. I thought of his question and his music and I thought about whether or not it would turn out to be anything. Even if it didn’t, the reprieve and reminder that I was a desirable human being had been nice. I wasn’t feeling as if I should push my luck, because I kind of just wanted to see where things went. But a moment later, all of that was interrupted, when a push notification came to my phone and I found myself staring at a Facebook comment in which Peter had tagged me. It was a joke, an olive branch extended after weeks and weeks of not speaking to one another and after an uncertain lack of closure. And it made me mad — the whole thing made me mad. The fact that he had the nerve to think that I’d just be so willing to jump back to the way things were — snide comments and funny banter — after what he’d done, after he’d neglected to apologize because he didn’t see anything wrong with the way he’d behaved — it was fucking insulting.
So as I debated on whether or not to even dignify his comment with a response, I was at that very moment greeted by first an email from my now-synced work account and a text message from Ricky.
And I smiled, double-tapping the home button on my iPhone to close my Facebook app, and whispered to myself, “Thank you.” I opened Ricky’s text message. “Next.”