Monogamy was never going to work for me. I knew it from the moment I fell in love for the very first time and I knew it every subsequent time it happened, too. The eye wanders as the heart sighs and as the brain senses patterns that turn into routines, that turn into nightly events that can be predicted upon with precise accuracy. One can plot out each finger’s path after some time, like following routes to the grocery store, and that’s all our bodies become after time. Just another place to learn and then to route, reroute, and route again, only to one day drive through with my eye’s closed.
I had a good run at it, though, if I do say so myself. I made it six years following those familiar, tired paths. And it wasn’t even the familiarity of it all that caused it to end either. It wasn’t the boredom. It wasn’t some new interstate being built on the other side of the tracks.
It just kind of…ended. As hard as I’ve tried to come to some sort of reasoning for this, anything that I have come up with plays as a falsehood. For the sake of this narrative, admittedly, I almost tried coming up with a fabrication that would, at the very least, read well.
I can’t bring myself to commit such a sin, though, and it really wouldn’t add anything to this effort anyway. I don’t want to write about my failed adventures in monogamy. I want to use it as a backdrop for the words yet to come.
So, that’s it. I tried it. It didn’t work.
Francis wasn’t her real name and the photo above is not a picture of her. For the sake of levity, and because I don’t wish to tread upon anybody’s privacy, that is the name that I will call her from here on through.
Francis and I met while I was still playing house. She was a friend of a friend of a friend and she would occasionally come over to the homestead to wax poetry with all my newfound friends in a town long gone by (that were all, inexplicably, at least just as pretentious as I was). We would light candles, share new pieces from poets that we all assumed nobody else knew about (which somehow, seemed more cool to everybody, especially if the poets were already dead). We would chain-smoke cigarettes as we passed joints of cheap marijuana between us, all convinced that we were toying with the Gods and chasing toward death ourselves. And in a way, I suppose we kind of were.
Truthfully, I never much cared for the stuff that Francis shared. It was too flowery, too melodramatic for the sake of melodrama, and I couldn’t stand the way she broke up stanzas in the middle of a line as if she was inventing commas and periods that were never intended to exist. Even on the off chance that there was a piece I enjoyed, I’d have never been the wiser due to the gross method in which she chose to share them.
There were plenty of dead poets that she shared that I specifically remember thinking were better off that way and that, had they been in that room with us, would have rather been dead anyway. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but it wasn’t. The way she read made me shudder. 100% of the time.
But I thought she was a nice girl. When she wasn’t reading poetry, I liked to speak with her. I thought she was interesting enough and I assume that she felt the same way about me because she kept coming over. And she’d usually sit fairly close to me when she did.
I never thought much of that.
The day that word got out about the end of my monogamy was the first time that Francis ever bothered to message me.
And she was rather concise in her line of questioning throughout that short dialog.
“Hey, so I’ve been hearing your girlfriend moved back out of state.” She said.
“Yeah, you’ve been hearing right.” I replied.
“How have you been dealing with it?”
“Oh, long time coming probably. I’m alright.”
“What are you doing tonight? Any chance you could come get me?”
I decided it might be a venture worth exploring and so I left after a quick shower and a vigorous brushing of my teeth.
This was no big deal to me.
That’s what I kept telling myself on the interstate as I careened through cornfield after cornfield some seventy miles to reach this girl’s apartment. After all, I’d been a musician in a past life. I’d done my fair share of sleeping around…and, hell, I was living at the crux of my youth! This was as good as I was ever going to get! I was a young twenty-seven year old with a full head of hair and a mouth full of teeth in a community so ridden by meth addiction that that fact would seem impressive if you lived nearby.
I arrived to pick Francis up at about 6:45 PM, just as the sun was setting below the horizon. It was that special kind of boring yellow color that makes a guy nauseous, the kind of banality that creeps through your skin and makes you believe that God has long given up on this place. The kind of color that makes you convinced only exists because some force outside of us all has a petty vendetta.
The smell of industry overtook the car and I could see the chemicals wafting in the air as she walked down a long flight of steps and toward my little white car.
I thought she looked pretty. Long, flowing brown hair that didn’t remind me of my ex-girlfriend at all. Her eyes looked like a Japanese cartoon and I swear I could spot the blues in them from several dozen feet away. And she walked with a purpose, followed a very strict cadence, and kept her small button nose pointed so far up in the sky that it almost made me want to tell her how much I hated the way she recited poetry.
Mostly, though, I just wanted to have sex with her. It felt pretty clear that that was all she wanted from me, too, when she shut the door behind her and we began to drive back the same way I’d just come.
Some boring paths remain boring paths no matter how much you wish to avoid them.
Within just a few miles, Francis slid her long skeleton fingers around the back side of my head, down toward my rib cage, and then finally coming to rest on the metal of my buck buckle. She giggled in the same way that she recited words and that should have been yet another clue that things weren’t going to go as planned.
But of course it wasn’t. It never is, is it? After all, I’d already been through the ringer with loose women in my youth. I’d already been this guy before. I could find comfort in it and I surely would. Just had to shake off the cobwebs.
Something like that. That’s the kind of internal dialogue I’m almost certain I was having with myself.
The rest of the ride was forgettable. We talked about things and I’m sure she feigned interest when I talked about myself the same way that I feigned interest when she talked about whatever the fuck it was she was talking about. It didn’t matter. I knew that this was part of the dance. I thought that, maybe, the growing unease in my chest was the result of this experience being an isolated one in a car with somebody I barely even knew. If it were happening in a bar or something, I reasoned, then it would likely feel less synthetic. I could have convinced myself that this was a good idea a lot sooner.
Something like that. I’m sure that’s what I was saying to myself.
It was very dark by the time we finally got back to my place. And by then, the tension must have been at least somewhat palpable, because I don’t remember the two of us talking anymore all that much.
What I do remember is the awkward making out on a small loveseat as Dave Chapelle told jokes in the background. I remember saying something like, “Hey, I’m going to go turn some music on or something.” And I remember her insisting that we not bother and, instead, just go to my room where it was very dark and very quiet.
Hell, too, is a fairly dark and quiet place, as I would soon discover.
Her skeleton fingers made imprints on my back in the shape of the number six. I could see the ghost of my grandmother peering at me through closed windows. Her large cartoon eyes turned red and her pink tongue grew blades as it slid up and down the length of my body. There was music in her voice that was just out of key enough to sound like an elementary school band warming up at the ass-crack of dawn. Her perfume smelled like campfires and locker room sweat. And there I was: completely mute, dumb, and paralyzed in the grasp of a little giant.
“Oh, Ugh. Ahhh. Oh. My…God.” Francis whimpered in that cruel, uninviting dark.
“Oh Jesus Christ,” I considered.
“This girl fucks like she reads poetry.”
The act itself felt like an abomination to the universe. There was nothing beautiful about it. Our bodies laid atop one another like stones in a garden, souls further apart than planetary bodies, and the overwhelming sense of shame grew in me as a match stick thrown into a shot glass of gasoline. It was no longer dark at all and it was somehow darker than ever at the same time. The fire had no glow. It was cold, but it burned all the same.
Her skinny body continued to grind against me and she kept moaning in those stagnant, broken phrases; growing louder and then quieter as if she had learned everything she knew from professional softcore pornography turned harsh. I could see the ghosts of dead prostitutes escape her lips as they quivered against my own.
I, meanwhile, remained mostly useless and quiet, a dead fish in a dried sea full of smelly fish corpses. I tried to return the favor, tried to mimic the motions and the scratching and the broken stammering of moans, but it was to no avail. I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe I’d made some kind of monumental mistake. I couldn’t stop thinking about being young and dumb and clearly loaded with more testosterone than I had developed in the time since. I thought that maybe I was more interesting back then. I was certainly more virile.
“Look, girl.” I told Francis.
“I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”
She said that she understood, and I truly believed that she did until she started to cry. It was that ugly kind of cackling when somebody’s feelings are beyond hurt, the kind that breaks the mind enough that a person can no longer form sentences. And so I sat there, half-erect, consoling this girl that I barely knew and whom I thought was on the same page as me the entire time just a few moments prior.
“I’ve just liked you for a long time.” Francis finally said after the subtle back rubbing began to take effect and she calmed down enough to speak with at least a hint of clarity.
“I…thought it was clear, I guess. I’m really sorry.” I told her.
“No, no, it’s my fault. That was my intention, too. Honest. It was. I just wanted to get off. But something happened there and now I know I liked you. It happens that way sometimes.” She wiped pools of snot from her nose and looked at me, smiled, and then stared down at the abyss of her naked feet. I felt like a real piece of shit.
How the hell was this even possible anyway? How could two people share the exact same moment and have such a wildly different experience? I thought that this was how wars were probably started. It was why lions sometimes ate their young. Everything was just this constant misunderstanding and this was evidence of it.
“I know it’s a ways away, but would you mind driving me home? I feel really stupid right now.”
I drove Francis home and I never spoke to her again. Sometimes I wonder if she ever wrote anything about our experience. I am confident, though, that I would have disliked it even if I thought that it wasn’t about me. The girl just couldn’t read poetry (or people) correctly.
And that should have been the first hint. But it never is.
I spent the next several days in a state of real despair. Lonely wasn’t even the right word. I was broken, fundamentally, as a human being. What changed? Why was that such a painful experience for me? Why did I bother to do that to begin with? Did I really lack self-awareness in such an extreme manner? How could I have not considered that maybe I’d just grown in a different path and being twenty-seven years old was always going to be different than it was to be nineteen or twenty?
I found myself convinced that it would be this way forever, that I would wind up as one of those recluse types that give up on talking to people and make friends with feral animals as they come and go. I was convinced that that isolated experience would be the last time I bothered to be carnal and that I would think a long time before I ever did anything like that ever again. I thought I’d learned something about myself.
It was right about that time that an old friend came over with another old friend of mine that I’d long forgotten about.
His name was Jack Daniel’s and we were about to get very close again.