With age, everything fades. Time is not immune. The year concluded in the dinginess of a basement bar where I had seen dream-like summer nights regress into a paranoid high that I floundered to come down from.
My sister and I had managed to lock down the last two seats. Behind our screams and shots on Snap, we were struggling. We had managed to knock the wind out of ourselves running around all afternoon in search of the perfect outfits, uppers, and booze. I had been gazing off into the the bar mirror when she tapped me on my shoulder and tilted her head backwards in reference. It was him.
It had been the final hours of Christmas Eve when I saw that he had added me. From what I could gather, I had passed out around 8:00 PM after an afternoon alone with Deep Eddy and Thai takeout. I was groggy as hell. My body had felt like it had been run over but my energy level had awkwardly revived. I smashed in the acceptance.
It didn’t take long before we played the usual game. He liked two pictures, I liked two. He slid into the DM’s as the clock slipped into the early morning. My back aching from laying on my old couch for going on half a day, I swiped through his profile in disbelief that it was the man whose cool and commanding live sets I had watched countless times on YouTube in the months prior. But I wasn’t going to argue with it. Rather, my mental energy was channeled into not fucking this one up.
As the 25th grew on at my parents’ house, it became all the more evident that my best gift had been opened on Christmas Eve. No amount of sweet hymns could drown out the cries coming up from down below or the slams that reverbed into my bones. No amount of twinkling lights could illuminate the darkness spurred by long-hanging faces and arms contorted as if they were confined to straight jackets. I called out for the newborn son to drop the lights’ string downwards into a noose; maybe I could rest for a while and make a grand comeback by spring.
Sadly, my wish didn’t come true. Instead, I hid away in my girlhood room as I had used to, like Alice playing tea in a checkered vacuum. HIM played out of the dock that had been left behind as the winter sun beat strong through my window, forming a triangle across the carpet. I laid on my back in its center as he conjured me up for some cheap thrills. Even though it wasn’t what I had hoped for, I gave in in the hopes that I could revive the stillborn heart I had been handed, but I was disappointed to find that thrill, too, fades. I either needed more or nothing at all.
But Denial is a hell of a place to visit despite it being far from a fit place to reside.
I was glued to my phone, but still half-assedly attempting to go about my day. I turned on the shower but it might as well have been a rainstorm beating on in the background as he was beating off to me in the foreground. Still, a hand was strategically placed, obstructing the better part of his cock. He told me if I was a good little girl and I told him something dirty, he’d let me see the rest. I obliged. I would wake daddy while he was sleeping by lifting his hand to my naked body that he would go on to ravage.
When that proved good enough, I managed to tear myself away long enough to get clean. To get clean, in those three plastic walls where I had snapped a blurry pink Razr hot to send to the send to that senior boy that got me into more trouble than he was worth. It managed to provide a boner despite being viewed while walking through that two foot blizzard; a crowning achievement, indeed.
Cut to that hellish week between Christmas and New Years, I was at work, and he was furiously chatting me despite the fact that just hours before he had been sending me drunken nonsense. I tried everything. A smile crack via talk of a crude Scrabble match between my sister and me. A peaked interest through a discussion on how amazing vegan food is on the West Coast. He acknowledged it in his own way. Sex is better in threes and much sweeter when fruit is the staple of your diet. The text wall was always punctuated with another cock shot.
Still determined not to lose the game altogether, I gave in, nearly shattering my screen from continually slamming my phone downwards every time my boss walked by. He sent me a video of the finale. I thanked him, not even receiving as much as a read receipt in return.
With his back decisively positioned against me at the bar, it seemed as though the reality of my existence shook him more loudly than the shots of KG my sister and I had clanged the moment we acknowledged his. I tilted back on my stool enough to try to catch some peripheral eye contact, but it proved useless. He shook the hand of the man he was talking to and wandered off into the tight wave of the crowd.
There’s always that list of possibilities a good friend tries to give you in an attempt to cushion the blow of being blown off. Maybe he’s shy. Maybe he just found out grandma just died. Maybe he had to go puke in the alley. Yeah, maybe. I was starting to lay roots in Denial.
A few more sips of our beers and she nodded her head backwards once again. It was him, but front-facing this time. I threw an arm around him but my excitement quickly faded. There was a wall up — one usually reserved for conversations with colleagues, not cock buds. His gaze fell between my sister and I as if he was really interested in reading the flavors of Stoli. I asked him how the tour was going and he said great, they all did a bag of blow each last night. He left as quickly as he came.
We abandoned our seats and headed to the front of the stage as his band loaded in. I tried really hard to be okay and to stay buzzed, shaking my ass, three-quarters covered in black denim, to whatever filler music was playing. I twerked it so low a couple of times my sister had to give me a hand to raise my anchor back up to sea level. She told me every dude in the room was staring at me. She meant in a fuckable way, but I was skeptical. I was still scarred from a rando Oklahoman approaching me at the Dag Nasty show a couple days prior to take a photo for his friend back home as if I was the sideshow act.
His performance was even more magnetic come to life. I wasn’t sure if that fact made reality hurt less or worse. A pit quickly erupted but I didn’t duck to the sidelines as I usually do. I stood and fought, arms and hair flying. A petite, black-haired chick who I had been really railing back and forth with placed her hands on my hips and told me I was beautiful. She asked what band I was there to see. I pointed at him lifelessly.
As the set wrapped, my hands joined in a reunion high-five with my sister, who had been swept into the periphery. She escorted me outside so we could plot our next move. We both wanted to be done, but were also both scared to be the first one to admit it out loud. To think I had boasted earlier that afternoon that I wasn’t going to go to sleep until the sun was up. We deflected the issue by speaking of whether or not him and I were going to party together as we had insinuated in the course of our chat log. I told her the answer would determine where we would go from there.
Just loaded enough to be brave, I stormed to the door and nearly smacked right into him in the entranceway. He was lingering in front of the merch table, and I waited patiently for him to wrap up his conversation with a fan before giving him an enthusiastic hug and compliments. I could feel my acrylics skim the sides of his bare arms as I pulled away. He shuffled and said thanks.
I asked him the question on my mind. He looked taken aback. He said he was in the zone right then. I thought of the continual slamming of my phone. Apparently there was a hierarchy of zones that I hadn’t been previously familiar with. He told me he would be in town the next day and that we could hang out then. I suggested we exchange numbers since all we had done thus far was hide away in the depths of the Messenger app. He agreed but stared blankly back. After a few awkward moments he handed me his phone with a new contact open. He shot me an it’s me text, but I wasn’t sure why. It was clear that was the last time we would be speaking.
Back at our apartment, my sister was most apologetic. She admitted that she had seen him hunting down every alt girl on Facebook as if it was a sport and regretted that she had served as our mutual friend. But I wasn’t mad at her. I wasn’t even mad at him. He didn’t owe me anything. I was mad at myself for continuing to fall for the same cowardly games that had lost their fun. I had placed my self worth into others’ hands, and now I was left to deal with the consequences — consequence being a foreign concept to those at the reins.
I took out my feelings on the half empty bag of popcorn chips that had been delegated to the floor at some point during the course of our pre-game, but I regretted it instantly, running to the safety of my room, to my trashcan and long, tapered shadow brush. The warm, thick fluids flowed up from my esophagus, providing me with the sour and salty taste of my final shreds of respect.
The clock struck 11:23 and I climbed fully clothed into bed, reducing the sheets I had so carefully tucked into crumpled balls with the grips of my fists. The familiar feeling of welling up tears refusing a cathartic descend inflicted even more irritation than my eyelash glue. I begged for 2016 to end and for 2017 to never come.
My wish had been granted. I was hung, just from a rung so below.