Perfect Love...Gone Wrong

(“So even though you’re so close to me, you’re still so distant…and I can’t bring you back.” –Linkin Park)

    I’ve been staring at this blank screen for over an hour.  It’s funny that so many nave people, most of whose ages are smaller than my shoe size, think that words pour like wine from my “cultured cutie brain;” that I have the ability to compose symphonies, that I tap into real themes of love and lust with every stylized ditty I write.

    I’ll admit it.  I’m proud of my music.  Opinions—those of the press, those of our families, even those of our fans—matter to me, more than I’ll ever confess.  But…It’s not like I don’t have to work for it.

    Remember “Space Cowboy?”  The one with—how did that journalist put it?—the “round ‘em up yippi-yi” refrain?  Here’s the truth: I had given up on words.  I liked this little theme I had of the approaching millennium and us being cowboys in uncharted territory, but the words to a chorus were evading me.  So I made some up.  I got hung out to dry by the AP, but at least there weren’t eight counts of empty silence in the middle of the song.

    There’s this girl on the internet who writes about us.  She’s a loudmouth.  Likes to rant and rave.  Doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense.  Peppers her work liberally with U2 references.  Anyway.  She started spouting off about how “Bono I ain’t” and how she couldn’t believe I had the colossal audacity to say I was lyrically influenced by Sting, etc etc etcShe of the adoring fan mentality. She of the fluid, filmy, drawn-out prose.  She of the fanfic world, for god’s sake.

    The girl cracks me up.  She thinks that I don’t have a single fucking clue who she is. Oh, of course, her references to her private life are very obscure…she lets people know she’s from New York, she lets people know, if they press, what she does for a living…but then she lays her whole fucking life out on the line, and expects me not to stumble onto it…and then, when I do, I’m not supposed to put two and two together.

    Come on now, honey.  Did you really think you were all that safe, hiding behind an unassuming screenname?  Did you really think that these “stories” that you concocted didn’t ring of truth here and there?  I’ll be honest: I do have to say that changing the object of your little obsession was a nice touch.  I’ll give you that playing around with names and dates and locations was rather clever…but I still found you out.

    I guess, as always, I greatly underestimated the human capacity for bitterness and hurt.  Reading her works was like looking into someone’s diary…something you know damn well you shouldn’t be doing, but you can’t help yourself nonetheless.  After our last little spat she walked out of my life and I had to resort to digging through sources to figure out what the hell she was doing.  I’d see so-and-so or what’s-his-face and know that she had talked with him or her a few days prior, and so I’d pump them for info.

    “If you wanna know what’s up with her, Chasez,” They’d chide gently, “Why the hell don’t you ask her yourself?”

    Why, indeed?
    Here’s the reason: she fucking hurt me.  I told her the rules of the game when we first started: under no circumstance was anyone on the fucking planet to know about us.  No one.  Not her boyfriend, not my girlfriend, and definitely not either of our respective bosses.  She seemed okay with that.  She let me dance a few dances, steal a few kisses…touch a few places on that soft smooth body…and things took off from there.

    I was happy.

    Oh, sure, my girlfriend kind of had the strangest inkling that something was wrong…Teen People kept showing up on my caller ID…“unavailable” New York listings would show up even more frequently…but I don’t think she wanted to see what was happening.  I sure as hell didn’t want her to know.  It’s hard enough explaining to your girlfriend that the initial spark which had attracted you to her was gone and, oh, by the way, you’re fucking someone else…but couple that with the fact that the two of them knew each other and didn’t like each other from the get-go…dear God, what a mess.


    I kept it up as long as I could…juggling the two…living this gigantic lie and smiling prettily for the camera to boot, but I could sense a breaking point.

    How the hell was I supposed to know it was THAT kind of breaking point?

    I only wanted her to spend a little more time with me.  I didn’t know that asking her to back off from work was going to be the death of us.  Hell, she was forever complaining that she was exhausted and sick of being nice to these people, some of whom she couldn’t stand.  I was ready to give it up for her—not the music, because that is in my blood, despite what the critics say—but the charade.  I was ready to dump my girlfriend and face the facts and begin my life as a kept man…because that’s the way she made me feel.  Kept.  Safe.  Secure.  Not paranoid.  I could walk in crowds and enjoy the attention they brought, because she was with me.  Because they looked at her.  And she didn’t flinch.

    “Baby, if you can’t stand being stared at, there’s no way in hell you can live in Manhattan,” She laughed one evening.  I was resting my head on her chest, her warmth seeping into my sated body, my face pressed into her breastbone, my lips teasing the soft supple skin I encountered…beautiful.  My arms were wrapped snug around her and her hands played idly in my hair.  Nothing sexual about the embrace.  Nothing urgent.  Just pure, lazy tenderness.  It made my heart ache.

    “Really?” I drawled, tracing one finger along her lips, loving that they parted for me, adoring the fact that I could touch her whenever I wanted, and she, in turn, would touch me.

    “Really,” She said, smiling.  “It’s not a big deal.”

    But it was a big deal.  To me.

    She always said she loved Christmastime in New York.  She loved the lights, she loved the crazy hustle and bustle, she loved the exclamations of the tourists as they sat down and ordered fourteen-dollar hamburgers at Friday’s.  She loved spending Saturday evenings in her apartment, just watching the people below…or going to Central Park, where we would walk for hours, and hide behind the thick green trees and bushes while we kissed the afternoon away.

    That’s what I wanted when I asked her to cut back.  More time to enjoy the stupid, simple, trite little things in life that always seem to mean so much.

    “You want me to back off?” She asked, incredulously, those hazel eyes flashing in a microsecond…brown to blue to a speckled green.  “What the hell do you mean, ‘back off’?  I’ve worked my ass off for seven years to get where I am, Josh.  What exactly does ‘backing off’ accomplish?”

    I’m ashamed to say I sat there and said nothing.  I let her rant and rave and yell…and then I let her burst into tears, which I know she hates more than anything.

    “I hate crying,” She sniffled one Thursday afternoon, looking vacantly out the window as the tears dripped down her face.

    “Why?” I asked, quietly, innocently, pressing my lips to her neck, trying my best to comfort her.

    “It makes me feel weak,” She whispered, and that was the end of the conversation.

    But at that moment, when the tears poured down her face like rain and her shoulders shook with sobs, I liked the fact that she was crying.   I liked the fact that she was weak. Because that’s the way I felt.  Weak.  Vulnerable.  Completely helpless to her bidding.

    I guess I just never considered how selfish my request was…or that she never asked me to back off in return.  I guess I just thought it was easier for her to step back than me—she wasn’t famous, not really, and it wouldn’t be a big deal to see someone else’s name where hers was once printed.  I guess I thought I was too important to step back…after all, I had millions of adoring fans that would be absolutely crushed if I were to take a break from *NSYNC, right?

    I can see now where so much of her anger, the anger that so frequently tinges her words, comes from.

    It still shocks me that she puts those stories out there.  I guess she takes comfort in the fact that most people will read them as fiction.  Some—a few here and there—have put two and two together and even asked her about the truth in her work.  I know.  I’m one of them.  I just picked a little anonymous email address and in very poor grammar and spelling asked her if some of her stories were true…and if she knew JC.

    “Come on!” She wrote back.  “Do you honestly think I’d be putting these up on the internet if they were true?”

    But she didn’t deny it.

    I feel bad for the girl, I truly do.  I must have done a number on her.  I must have hurt her something fierce.  But for each word, for each paragraph and line she posts, she’s extracting revenge.  She’s letting people see what kind of a person I truly am, and hiding it all under the clever heading of “fiction.”

    I guess it’s one way for me to keep up with her life.

    Oh, of course, I’ve seen her now and then…our charity benefit…Lance’s movie premiere…and the strangest one of all, a U2 concert.

    Well.  Okay.  Maybe not the strangest.  I kind of knew she’d be there.  Well.  All right.  I was one hundred percent fucking positive she’d be in attendance.  She always said she’d dump me for Bono in a heartbeat.  I laughed at the time, but truth is I was jealous.  And of course I know that Bono’s married and has four fucking children and is the last person on earth to cheat on his wife…but I also know the look in her eyes when she looks at him.  I can’t compete with that.  And I’ve spent hours, so many long, wasted hours, praying that someday she’d look the same way at me.

    Anyway.  I’m getting off track…

    So I knew she’d be there.  Philadelphia, not far from her home, hot summer day, in the middle of two weeks vacation for her (and yes, I asked around, so don’t go there…)…I waited until the house lights went down and then I crept into the mix, hiding in the middle of fifteen thousand people.  I was sick as a dog and tired as all hell, but she was a different story.  Let me tell you, she was radiant…eyes like a little kid’s and shiny, shiny hair and these sexy jeans that rode low on her hips coupled with a tiny black t-shirt…nothing like the hip professional outfits she wore as uniforms over and over again.  When that band started up and that crowd started cheering she jumped up and down and clapped her hands and…God.  I loved her.

    I have to say the band swept me away as well…I was a fan before, yeah, but not nearly as big of a fan as when I left.  The crowd’s energy, the band’s energy…phenomenal.  The music just washed like waves over everyone in that building.  We were helpless to resist.

    When they started playing Kite I turned to look at her again.  It was the song she played constantly when the album first came out.  Good God, I was sick of hearing it by the end of the first week or so…but somehow, with the lights down low and the crowd swaying in unison…it was beautiful, and when I turned to look at her again she was crying.

    I couldn’t help myself.  I was by her side a second later, cold and all, and before I could even realize what was happening I had wrapped my arms around her waist from behind and just tucked her head under my chin.

    I expected her to resist.  I expected her to throw me off and punch me in the gut and strangle me with my shiny pass…but she didn’t.  She just leaned back into my arms and focused her eyes on the band…but I could feel her breath as it escaped her lips, and hear her whisper clearly over the deafening roar of the band.


    I died right there.  I closed my eyes and bowed my head and just gave myself into the moment.  Perfection.

    It was over all too quickly, both our embrace and the concert.  I had to release her and surrender to the excruciatingly awkward specter of small talk.

    How’ve you been?

    What have you been up to?

    Enjoy the show?

    Miss me?

    Want me?

    Love me?

    Need me?

    Come home with me, I wanted to say.  Please.  But I kissed her hand and smiled a sad, woeful smile into her eyes, still wet from the tears she hated to shed.

    “I’d better be going,” I whispered, and moved to walk away…but she gripped my fingers in hers, and told me with a single glance that if I wanted to stay all I’d need to do is say the word.

    I wasn’t strong enough to say no.

    We woke up the next morning exhausted, me sniffling and her skin flushed with the painful sting of sunburn.  I begged her to come out with us, and when that didn’t work I begged her to stay in with me, but she just shook her head.

    “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow night,” She offered, but I could just sigh sadly.  Tomorrow night.  With the other sixty thousand people at our show.  The antithesis of intimacy.

    “I thought you hated our new show,” I teased.

    She held my gaze and said, softly, “I do,” before slipping silently into the bathroom.

    I mulled that one over for days.

    It didn’t help that my girlfriend had once again begun to notice that something was wrong.  She tried to be more affectionate, more adoring, more sickly sweet…all the things I had grown to resent so fiercely.  I wanted something REAL.

    The pain was real.

    I can’t even tell you the look of surprise on her face when I told her I was single again.  It was the MTV awards; two years after our last fiasco, the one where I dragged her into an empty closet for a few moments of passion only to spend the rest of the evening with my then-girlfriend.  The one she writes so bitterly about. The one I had dumped only a few weeks earlier.

    Anyway, I ran into her backstage…told her I was single.  Waited for her to get the implications of my remark…and when that didn’t work…

    Well…some things are better left unsaid.

    But the point is I talked her into going to 151 with us even though she stubbornly insisted she was going to Man Ray.

    “U2’s gonna be there,” She said.

    “Honey, how many times have you seen them?” I asked, only half-teasing.

    She mumbled something that sounded like “thirty-three” and grudgingly took my hand.  It was a start, I guess.  We spent the evening laughing, dancing…I even got her to have a few drinks, though she protested at first.  There was something deliciously sexy about kissing her mouth, with its lingering taste of raspberries from her drink.  Raspberries, not strawberries, because she was allergic to strawberries…dumb little details like that kept springing into my mind as I let her spirit my heart away with every passing moment.

    I don’t really remember what time we got back to her place.  I do remember that everything—from the carpeting to the pictures on the wall to the stunning view of the city—was the same.  Not one thing had changed…even though I hadn’t been there in weeks.  Sure, I still had the key…even held it in my hands a few times when the nights were particularly bad…but I didn’t want to show up without knowing for sure that she wanted me there.

    “C’mon back, silly,” She laughed quietly, gently nudging my chin as I held her in the dark.  “Where have you been?”

    I wanted to ask myself the same thing. Where had I been?  What had I been doing for the past few months? And why was I suddenly sure that she was what I wanted?  I know how I work…how I tend to go for things of convenience, how I tend to date people that fit a certain image and choose other people to sleep with who seem to fill a certain need…but she didn’t fit into any of those boxes.  I guess I was just overwhelmed and tired and so very, very glad to have her pressed against me, in her apartment, where I felt I belonged.

    That’s the last night I can remember feeling normal.

    The world changed forever just a few days later, and it was strange that afterward we fell out of touch.  After my family, after the guys, she was the first person I called.  Her voice was quiet, choked with tears, eerily calm against the distant background of wailing sirens.  I was told it was a miracle I made it through to her…the phone lines were clogged and the cell grid had been knocked out and it was amazing, actually, that I managed to reach her…but at times, I wish I had waited.  I didn’t want to hear her voice, so small and alone, shuddering and sobbing and utterly shattered, but I needed to know she was okay.

    “I’m fine, Jace,” She whispered.  “I’m fine.”

    I wanted to believe her.

    Things were a struggle from then on…she tried to push me away when all I wanted to do was gather her close.  I hated this new feeling of vulnerability. She was right when she said I possessed a fine sense of emotional detachment, but those walls were crumbling, and I wasn’t sure how to deal.  As usual, I threw myself into my work…did some production, did a little writing, performed a concert or two and agreed to be interviewed yet again by her magazine.

    I kept hoping and praying that she would come, that I could sit and talk to her face to face and everything would be all right and I wouldn’t have to worry…but I knew better than that. I knew she’d send someone else down and beg and bug Lori to get her off the task…but it still hurt when this fluffy new girl bounced into our hotel room.

    We talked a little about love…what kind of girl did I like?  How bout little petite ones who have big mouths and even bigger dreams and by the way write fanfiction on the side?  No?  Okay.  Sophisticated mama it is.

    When I got home that evening I picked up the phone, dialed eight of ten numbers before hanging up…five times.  Stupid.  Stupid beyond stupid.  You know what happened next?  I got in my car and drove to a club and picked up the very first girl that struck my eye.  I told her all the right things and whispered in her ear and complimented her perfume and her body and her eyes, and she was primed and ready in ten minutes flat.

    I took her back to the VIP and fucked her right up against the wall.  Mind-numbing, sweaty, dirty sex…the kind that makes you feel empty mere moments after your body has been filled.  I don’t even think I remember her name…but I know the name I called her.

    She would have shook her head if she had known what I had done.

    “Told ya so, C,” She would have said pointedly, one hand poised on her hip, the other hanging loosely on her side.  “I can’t play like that.  We never would have worked.”

    But don’t you see, baby, we would have worked.  All of that—every last bit of it—I would have given up had you only asked.  Had you only promised to stay faithful to me.  Had you only promised to assuage my fears and hold me close when the nights were at their darkest and honor your promise to love only me

High-maintenance, she said.  Dependency issues.  Intimacy issues.

    Yes, to all of the above…but she made me feel I could overcome all of that and more.  I wanted so much from her, and I wanted her to take what I was willing to give.

    I guess it was too high a cost.

    We see each other, still, though infrequently.  When I’m in New York or she’s in LA or maybe even Chicago, our designated “halfway point,” we always end up meeting somewhere, even if it’s only for a few hours.  I don’t know why she agrees to see me…or why I continue to punish myself by seeing her…or why we’re both so miserable and unwilling to move toward what we know is true and right.

    Maybe that’s why she writes what she does.  Maybe she’s hoping I’ll see it, and realize it’s her, and beg her to forgive me.

    And maybe that’s why I write the songs that I do—to make her see the kind of pain she put me through, the loneliness and longing I feel even when she’s right by my side.  Some people say that the pen is stronger than the sword.  I say the mind is stronger than the heart…and I’ve made up mine to not see her again.

    You like that, baby?  The stubborn, temperamental, transient popstar does a number on the innocent, headstrong, independent woman.

    Sounds like a hell of a story, doesn’t it?  I can’t wait to see her write it.

2001  ~A.