(“It's all the same...you've got me tethered and chained. I hear your name...and I'm fallin' over..." --Garbage)
I remember when chasing sleep was easy. Finding it wasn’t a chore, something to be “done,” a state to submit to when all other avenues failed. I could sleep for hours, anywhere.
I loved your arms the most.
It’s funny, considering the desexualizing of our society. While we’re constantly thrown graphic images of rampant, lusty bodies engaged in quick and dirty scenes of copulation, the premise of sex—the union of two bodies for, among other “practical” things, pleasure—has been thrown by the wayside. It’s perfectly acceptable to walk into a bar braying about your latest conquest or the horny young boy you “tamed” the night before, but walk into that same bar with stories of tenderness and long nights spent kissing languorously…and suddenly you rate just slightly above Janet Reno on the coolness scale.
I’ve never been cool. I guess I’ll admit that right now. Which is why I craved those nights of affection, those nights I was so sure you needed me. We both had busy schedules. Rare was the week when either of us slept in our own beds for more than four days at a time. You could argue it was even more rare for you, and your transient lifestyle…but…truthfully…I was gone just as often. I simply chose not to tell you.
I’ll proclaim to anyone with ears that I like being alone. Although I crawl into peoples’ heads for a living and write dissertations on the cobwebs I find, too many people and too much contact finds me craving solitude. Maybe it stems from some sort of innate fear of attachment. That’s what my friends will say. That’s what my ex-boyfriends will say. I hate feeling attached. I hate feeling needy. And yet…with you…I forgot all that. Ridiculously simple, but undeniably true. Perhaps we could, as my closest friends would suggest, take it one step further, and venture that I forgot myself when I was with you.
They never liked you, not one bit. You knew that, right? Oh sure, they were as spellbound and enraptured as I at first…but I didn’t tell them the whole story. In their eyes, with the aid of my somewhat vague description, we were just friends. And friends, as they would say, don’t make friends feel worthless, or lost. Friends don’t disappear for weeks at a time with nary a phone call or a forwarding destination, and then show up at three in the morning, drunk and needy.
Friends, true friends, don’t allow sex to spoil a friendship.
Odd, isn’t it? That something so deliciously pleasurable could also be so destructive? It was good, I’ll give you that. Perhaps I had a hidden taste for the forbidden. Maybe it’s the naughty Catholic schoolgirl finally bucking all those years of repression in favor of a rowdy night between the sheets. It would be easy to fool myself into saying that sex is the reason we were right…and sex was the reason we went wrong.
It’s far more complicated than that. We both know it.
You once told me that my stubborn refusal to bend to your will was the very reason you insisted on enforcing it. You said it with that cocky little crooked grin and with your shoulders tucked down…a submissive posture, but dominant words. I protested, like clockwork, reminding you I submitted to no one…at no time.
But then…then…you took my hands and clasped them tightly against your chest, and with your warm mouth so close to my ear whispered, “Is that so?”
Shuddering, the rug ripped from under my wobbly legs, I swallowed hard and nodded.
“So…last night…you weren’t begging?” Your tone was teasing, rich, soufflé-wet and packed to the gills with innuendo.
“Of course not,” I answered, and took a step backward to prove my point.
You weren’t to be deterred, and you covered the distance between us in two short shuffling steps, tucking my face to your chest, caressing my hair with your talented fingers, locking me in the cage of your arms.
“Are you sure? Because it sounded like you were saying, ‘please…please…’ Isn’t that what I heard?”
Your mouth moved to my neck, nipping and sucking and tracing your tongue along taut skin. “Say please, baby…” You murmured. “Say please and I’ll give you what you want…”
And with a single word, my vow on submission fell to the floor like the clothing you stripped from my body.
It took me weeks to figure out how much that single word turned you on. More than any dirty talk, more than any lust-laden moan or keening cry, that simple word would drive you into a frenzy.
My inner psychologist tells me it’s your control fantasy, carefully restrained. “Please,” to you, represents a need, an unquenchable desire on another’s part to possess something you have. Funny, especially considering the wealth and prestige (though diluted, let’s be honest) you’ve amassed.
But then I stop to think…and those things never mattered to me. Not once. While I freely to admit to bouts of materialism I have also spent nights feeling the pangs of hunger and the shivers that come from a place without heat. I have not forgotten my first meager year in this city, and when I look back on it from the comfortable place I stand now I have not forgotten what it feels like NOT to have. But truly…possessions don’t bother me so much anymore. I’m more concerned with other matters. And you were acutely aware of this.
You see, I think you had begun to use your position as a type of currency. So used were you to being wanted and prodded and hounded for whatever scrap of yourself you could spare that it rattled you when someone didn’t want something.
Maybe that’s why you got pissed when I insisted on paying for dinner one night.
“Come on now…for the love of God, I’ve got the damn money, let me spend it…”
“Really, Chasez,” I countered, an impish smile perched on my lips. “From what I’ve heard you’re a tightwad, so why not just sit there and look pretty in your expensive little suit and let me take care of this…”
My words incensed you, I could tell by the flushing of your cheeks and the drumming of your fingers across the tabletop. Wildly you flagged down the waiter, demanding, rather loudly I might add, to bring you the check.
“The lady has already taken care of the bill, sir,” Our befuddled waiter said slowly. “Not to worry.”
“Well get it back!” You ordered, flustered, and it took everything in me not to spit my wine across the table, so forceful were the laughs that bubbled up from my stomach.
“Sir?” The waiter asked, clearly confused, and smoothly I intervened, apologizing to Charles for the confusion and thanking him for his impeccable service.
“We’ll be leaving now,” I smiled, and with a brief nod he walked away, leaving me with you and your dumbstruck face staring after him.
Again I couldn’t hide a smile, and you looked at me, eyes flashing. “Oh you think that’s funny?”
“I think,” I said, swallowing a giggle, “it’s hysterical that you’re yowling like a drowning cat simply because you can’t pay for dinner. For fuck’s sake, Chasez. If someone wants to be nice to you for a change, let them. God.” I led you by the hand to the coatroom, where you grumbled under your breath as you helped me into my coat.
“If it means so much to you,” I said smoothly, my heels clicking as we walked out into the chilly night air, “you can repay me later…”
With a lascivious grin I sauntered over to the valet, as you stared after me, a smile finally, slowly lighting your eyes.
Sex again. Sex like always.
I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining. Good sex isn’t always so easy to find. Lord knows my first time wasn’t enjoyable. And maybe I shouldn’t be so cavalier about the whole thing. My mother once said that when you use sex as a salve it only serves to infect the deeper wounds…but then again, my mother is a Catholic, and everyone knows Catholics don’t have sex.
Well. They have sex. They’re just not supposed to enjoy it.
Most people say the best part about sex is the orgasm. Of course they would. It’s the goal, isn’t it? The target you shoot, never mind if you’re shooting the wrong kind of gun or using blanks or what have you? It’s the end to justify a means.
I’m all for orgasms.
But sometimes…sometimes…I crave the anticipation more. I love drawing things out, watching them build, throwing kindling on a fire a piece at a time, to see how high the flames will reach.
I think you knew that…and you would indulge me.
You’ll never admit it in a million years, but you liked fantasy as much as anyone else. The theme of sex, the tone, the setup…you relished equally all of those things. If it was rough sex you were craving, we might start with an argument, or you might come up behind me as I watched the cars on the street below, and spin me in your arms, pressing me up against the glass window.
If tenderness was what you sought, you might start with music…or quiet, scared statements of uncertainty about your future, statements I would naturally follow with reassuring words and gentle touches. You orchestrated sex like a symphony, and when the music was playing, everything was fine.
It’s the silence between that made things uncomfortable.
You liked to talk…sometimes prattling on for hours, until I could barely keep my eyes open. But you chose to have the most serious, intense talks when I was simultaneously at my most vulnerable and safest states: lying in bed, your face tucked against my neck, your fingers wrapped around my waist, preventing my escape.
“You work too much, you know that?” You whispered, and you seemed to be expecting the tension that immediately tightened my entire body.
“People in pretty glass castles shouldn’t throw big fucking bricks,” I said, as evenly as I could.
“Awwww…baby…you’re getting mad. Don’t get mad,” You pleaded, and your fingers traced along my hips, back and forth, back and forth. I tried to concentrate on the comforting motion but I knew that such a simple answer would not satisfy you. I knew, as I always did, that you were looking to fight.
“Maybe you could, you know…just back off a little. Come out with us. Just for a few weeks…”
“You want me to back off? 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 snapped, and you looked up at me, a guise of concern on your face.
“You’re tired, honey. And I need you. So just take…let’s say…May off, and we’ll spend it together. Please?”
That damn word again. Catch-all for everything. Please if you want something. Please to withhold something. Please to cover every fucking base in the book, to the point where the word lost its meaning.
“No…” I whispered quietly, and inwardly flinched at the sound of my voice. Needy again. Weak.
You pushed your fingers through your hair and sat up, back against the wooden headboard. You stared into space for a few brief moments, your fingers clasped in your naked lap, and finally began to speak.
“So what’s this about, then? Do you not want to be with me? Is it about work? Because I understand the work thing, believe me I do…but it’s not so hard for you to just take a few weeks off. For crying out loud, we both know you have the money…”
“It’s not about the money.”
“Then what is it about?”
“It’s about you demanding things…”
You made a sound of angry disapproval, and threw the sheet off, walking to the window, hands on your hips. “Demanding things? What the fuck do you mean?”
“God…Jace…let’s not do this now. It’s late. Just…come back to bed…” I bit my lip, forcing back the rise of tears boiling in my eyes.
“Ah yes. Run away. Because God knows we can’t talk about anything…”
“You’re the one doing all the talking,” I said quietly, and you turned to look at me, eyes filled with hurt. I held them for a moment, and then sighed softly, rolling over, pulling the sheet to my neck. The tears began a moment later, and this time, I didn’t fight them.
I’m not sure what time you came back to bed. I do know that I could taste alcohol on your lips as you pressed them to mine, and your breathy apologies were scented with some cheap red wine you kept in my closet, thinking I’d never know. Eccentric, like always, you couldn’t bear to think that someone knew you weren’t into the expensive, rare breeds of wine. Oh no. You were just as happy with wine-in-a-box, but God forbid the general public find out.
I chased sleep with all my might that night…but I never caught it. I think, maybe, it was the beginning of the end.
It wasn’t too long after that those stupid tell-tale signs began popping up—all the cheesy clichés you see in cheap movies…lipstick behind the curve of your ear, glitter on the tips of your fingers…the scent of perfume that wasn’t mine. Dumb stuff. I told myself it didn’t matter, that neither of us was truly committed to the other, and that’s the way it had always been. Secrecy was so much a part of our relationship I could spot you trying to hide something a mile off.
But it still hurt. I admit it reluctantly, but I admit it. It still hurt.
After that…we both know what happened, don’t we?
Chasing sleep became infinitely harder.
I tried to keep myself occupied. It was easy with summer tours in gear, and U2 touring on top of that. I could lose myself in two and a half hours of music and then come back to some foreign hotel room, sliding in sheets that weren’t mine, eyes wide open and mind refusing to shut down.
Strange how I slept best in your arms, considering how much I need my space.
Strange that when you would find me in a random city, and make offers that would seem tasteless, I’d accept them. I told myself it was just because I was tired, and you were tired, and what harm could it bring? It was a small price to pay, I guess…and to this day, I’m still unsure what I got out of the deal.
But. It’s in the past. At least it was. I watched summer fade into fall, and fall come crashing down on top of me one September morning. I don’t know what possessed you to call, and I’ll never admit what comfort hearing your voice brought…but…secretly…I was grateful.
October came and went…fall tours…benefit concerts…crazy
schedules once again. End-of-year
wrap-ups. It was January and then
February before I knew it. Award
shows. Obligatory functions. Five days in
It took every once of bravery in my body to pick up the phone a month later. Truth be told, I had almost grown accustomed to the confusion and frustration that was such a hallmark of our wonderful little “relationship.”
It’s just JC, I told myself. It’s just the way he is.
Do you have any idea how the way you are screwed with the way I am?
I think that’s what broke it open for me. That simple realization shocked me to the very core…and spurred me to action. With trembling fingers I punched in the digits…and waited.
You’ll say I was being a coward for calling you when I knew you were off on some stage somewhere. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s easier to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back…but honestly…I didn’t know if I would keep my nerve if I heard your voice on the other end of the line. So I called and left a message…waited for you to call back…didn’t hear your voice until one-thirty in the morning, and even then it was muffled…tired…
“Did I wake you?”
Patterns. Automatic. Ingrained. Like always, I replied, “not really…who needs sleep?”
And you chuckled, the same way you always did…but it ended there. We sat in silence, the minutes ticking like hours, until you cleared your throat and spoke softly.
“You wanted to talk to me?”
YES! I wanted to say. I want to know, right now, what’s going on…why I feel the way I do and why I can’t run away and why you pull me closer just as I’m so sure I’m finally free…but I swallowed, my throat clicking in nervousness and whispered, “yeah…”
“I’ll be in town in two weeks, you know that right?”
And I knew, immediately, that you knew what was going on. That this wasn’t going to be some sort of easy conversation. Maybe it was my earlier message, the one where my voice trembled and my fingers shook as I tried to spit out coherent sentences. But whatever…you knew…and I knew. We both knew, damn it…but neither of us acknowledged it. Pattern. Same old, same old.
“I know you will…um…” I paused, took a deep breath. “Did you want to meet up?...or?...”
“No, that’s fine,” You said quickly. “We’ve got a few hours between appearances and stuff.”
“I’ll come by your place,” You said softly.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say. All the words I had so patiently concocted to let you know once and for all how I was feeling just flew out the window.
“I…I better go…” I stammered finally, and when I rolled over in bed my sheets were damp and my body was chilled.
“Okay, angel…’night,” You murmured. And the phone went dead.
I stumbled to the bathroom and threw up everywhere, and then I cried myself to sleep.
Tom Petty was right…the waiting is the hardest part.
I spent my time the way I usually do—hiding in work. I’d found some new people, a different set of friends with a different set of interests, and I played the part of the carefree club girl dutifully.
I hate clubs. We both know that. I’m much more comfortable in a casual bar or lounge than any glittering dance floor. But yet…I think it was more the indulgence of the new, of the now, than a desire to go out and drink expensive liquors and writhe among the masses. So clubbing I went…night after night…and morning found me chasing sleep, as always.
Work went back up to speed, again. Spring tours, back in session. Summer tours, gearing up. It’s all good, I guess.
Something tells me you knew where I was the week before Philly. Something tells me you found out about my last-minute plans for a five-hour drive and a quick foray into the slippery world of alt-folk-rock. Did you? So much can happen in a sleepy college town…Loud music, the heavy aroma of hash spicing the air…young freshmen in sandals and t-shirts, all screaming “Dave” like a bunch of lemmings.
We’d had some interesting debates on that song…strange stuff. Talking of religion was something you never enjoyed doing, but you could handle it so long as it was hidden under the careful mask of music.
You should have heard the words floating in the air that night, baby…Beautiful. And over far too quickly.
Afterward, I found a bar and had a few drinks. Something tells me you would have liked the place. It was a dive…right down to the sticky floor and the fire-trap style wood everywhere…but…the drinks were cheap and the music was loud, and as I sat there with a cold draught and a pack of American Spirits (vice begets vice, so don’t even start), I thought of you.
Have you been thinking about me?
I didn’t tell you I was coming to Philly. I didn’t think you needed to know. It was business, not personal, not pleasure…and I had every intention of going to the show and stealing out afterward…collecting my nerves, so to speak.
I never thought Justin would see me.
Maybe I should have just hid in the middle of the crowd at soundcheck, instead of standing off to the side, under that damn clock you all found so funny. And maybe I shouldn’t have come at all. But…I did. I made it through all of it unnoticed…until the very end. Justin, as usual, was scanning his eyes through the arena, looking around just to keep interested…and his eyes locked on mine. You chose that moment to look at Justin…and you followed his gaze, right to where I stood.
You recovered well, I’ll give you that. Didn’t blink an eye. Escaped the radar of gossip-hungry teenies. Continued as though nothing had happened. Headed out like it was nothing.
I didn’t do quite so well. I spun around and ran for the exit and I would have made it, if I had remembered which way I was going…but…I didn’t. I got lost. And you found me.
“What are you doing here?” You asked, and your voice was filled with accusation.
I bristled, hurt and angry, and muttered something about an article.
“Oh. So you just show up and decide not to say anything? Were you just going to sneak in and leave? Is that it?”
I didn’t say a word, just stared into those blue eyes that once made me feel so warm…and shrugged, halfheartedly.
“I see,” You said quietly. “Then there isn’t really much to talk about, is there?”
Maybe you were right. Maybe, on some level, I was trying to escape you, but I never once intended to be malicious, and that’s obviously what you thought was going on.
“Well…y’know…enjoy the show, babe. And have fun at work,” You said, and walked away, holding your shoulders back in that pompous posture that made me want to tear you to shreds. I stood there, lost in thought, until some kindly venue security guy asked me if I was lost.
Lost. Ha. He had no idea.
I muttered a reply and got the hell out of there…went to lick my wounds in private, to regroup, to figure out what the hell was going on, before returning later in the evening for your performance.
The show came and went, and honestly I can’t remember much at all. I can still see the looks of adoration on your fans’ faces…and hear their laughter as your little banter project went back and forth. They all thought you were so sweet…innocent and caring and a regular, decent guy. You had them under your spell.
I made it back to my room just after . Emotionally drained…weary…with tears resting in the bottom of my throat.
And I found the CD.
At first, I thought it was just a courtesy…a little hello gift, or maybe something from my boss, who included breathing down my neck on his list of all-time favorite activities. I already had my own copy of the disc. But there it was, unwrapped, sitting on my pillow, waiting for my attentions.
I picked it up out of bored curiosity, popping a piece of candy into my mouth as I flipped it over…and I stopped.
Red marker. Small, neat circle…and one word, block letters: “listen.”
And suddenly it wasn’t a coincidence or a courtesy or a reminder from my well-meaning boss.
You thought you were being so fucking smart, didn’t you? You thought that just because I deal in cryptograms and veiled riddles, you could do the same. And maybe you did it because you knew it would unsettle me.
It had the desired effect, asshole. It worked.
No fucking kidding.
I sank down into the fluffy duvet, the CD shaking in my hands, that all-caps lettering screaming like a road sign, pointing to the eighth track. Clever, clever.
Am I supposed to assume that the song was some big discovery
to you? For God’s sake, Chris had the
damn thing on repeat over and over again.
It was all he could talk about the last time we met…he was bouncing like
a little kid and shoving the CD into my hands like a flyer-pusher on
“Have ya heard it yet? It’s fucking awesome.”
Yes. It is. But I assumed, at least, you had heard it…but maybe you didn’t. Not until now.
What was I supposed to think? We’ve played so many mind games that I wouldn’t know sincerity if I walked right into it. Perhaps I was supposed to notice the longing in the song? Or the strong determination? If I thought you were more cunning I might take the reference to cards a little more personally. Still not over Vegas, are you? Maybe I was supposed to hear “you’ll be my angel” like some kind of fucking beacon? God knows what was on your mind…but honestly, Jace…you know what I noticed?
“Why do I beg like a child for your candy?
Why do run after you like I do?”
Was THAT what you were trying to say? That you’ve been wronged, and it was my fault, and it’s just so sad and tragic and desperate that you can’t seem to heal your broken heart?
Did you ever once think what this whole thing did to me? You’re right, I ended it…but, for God’s sake, I had to. Don’t you get that? Don’t you know what being around you was doing to me? Don’t you understand that for all your talk about confidence and sophistication and grace, being with you was turning me into some hollow shell of myself? And don’t you think, after all this time, that seeing you with someone else doesn’t hurt me?
I’ve tried to be strong. I have. And I’ve smiled and laughed and pretended with the best of them. Just like you. But I still ache inside. And I’m so tired of it. I don’t want to feel confused; I don’t want to spend my days wondering what next month or next year will bring. I’m tired of fixing myself to meet your ideals. And yet I’m letting you come back to me.
My friends, my closest friends, tell me I’m only hurting myself by letting you come around. They tell me that it’s better if I just shut things off completely. They tell me that I’m only going to hurt worse until I can resolve this whole thing…and the truth is they’re right. I know that. Honestly, I know that waiting for you is only adding weights to the pressure on my chest. It’s only making things worse…but yet…skeptical, and cynical, and aloof as I am…I still cling to this precious idea of love. Love as perfection. Love as a salve for bleeding, broken hearts. Love, wrapped up in trust and friendship and fidelity. I wanted to believe in love.
And for a second…you let me.
Now, maybe it’s my own damn fault for walking into prescribed delusions. I knew exactly what I was getting into. I knew exactly where the chips would eventually fall…or so I thought.
I really assumed only one of us would be hurt by the breakup. And I assumed our contact following said breakup would be, at best, minimal.
You destroyed that, didn’t you? You couldn’t leave well enough alone…
And maybe, just maybe…I have no one to blame but myself. I styled my own breed of misery…and it was misery who was my sole companion until the phone rang hours later.
“The CD, Jace,” I said tiredly, rubbing my temples. “Your doing?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“No, I don’t. Enough with the games.”
“Games?” I could hear the irritation leap into your voice. “Who’s playing games here? First you call me all upset and say we need to talk, and then you show up at the fucking show without even telling me. If that’s not a game, what is?”
“Did you ever stop to think that maybe this was work-related?”
“Oh…yes…work,” You hissed. “I’d forgotten all about work. My mistake. A thousand apologies.”
“Save it, JC. You’re the one who called. If you’ve got something to say, say it, otherwise I’m hanging up.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to have you run away this early…” I inhaled sharply at your veiled barb, “but I wanted to clear things up…y’know…talk…”
The fight was going out of your voice by the second, and I knew it would only be a matter of time until you asked for what you wanted. You didn’t disappoint me.
“You know I can be there in a few minutes. Can’t we talk this out?”
I closed my eyes. Talking. Wasting hours. Full-circle, once again. “Whatever you want,” I said dully.
“Good. I’ll see you in a bit,” You whispered, and I clicked the glowing “end’ button on my phone. Shivering, I lay down to rest.
I heard the lock click at four in the morning…saw the shadows dancing across the wall…heard your breathing…knew your presence like a ghost…
“Shhhhh…” You whispered. “Don’t say anything…please…just…” A moment later I tasted your lips, stained, as always, with wine, and felt your body pressed to mine…hot and hard and needy.
I pushed back, sliding against the covers, trying to force distance between us, but you weren’t to be deterred.
“Angel…shhhhhh…I’m sorry…so sorry…just…let me do this?...please?”
Your fingers were pulling insistently at the straps on my gown, your body pressing closer, your lips sliding over mine.
“That’s right…” You murmured. “It’s all okay…yeah…mmmmm…”
Falling, falling…helpless…wanting and needing…confusion in all its forms…your mouth on mine…your body, in mine…your heart, beating so fast…so fast…stealing mine away…
I woke up alone.
Beside me, the music softly played.
“Why do I beg like a child for your candy…”
Back again, as always…to chasing sleep.
© 2002 ~A.