This wasn’t the column I had intended to write this week.
It’s been a minute since I’ve opened with that line. I suppose this will be a throwback in more ways than one.
I had every intention of pulling up to the Lundi Gras Exhorder show. But, then I remembered that there are three things I hate: thrash metal, Uber surge pricing, and not being at home in stretchy pants by 7:00 PM.
It’s taken 23 years, but I’ve finally learned that attending a show out of a pure sense of obligation hardly yields a positive experience. If anything, it just makes for fantasies about holding my head into the toilet while random bystanders ask me who died. Granted, these things happen in all scenarios of my life, but a disproportionate amount in this one. Until they come out with NERVOUS ass shorts, I’m sticking to yoga pants.
Then there was the lurking variable of Mardi Gras. Just a quick disclaimer, there is much I admire about living in New Orleans, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. But, this Carnival season (which truly is an actual fucking season) has taught me how culturally shooketh I still am by what lies outside my front door.
I have not been able to extinguish the eternal rage that burns inside of all Northeasterners, and thus cannot give much disruption to my routine mental real estate. I must accomplish x,y, and z by 7:00 PM whilst being agitated, including, but not limited to, buying my uptight vegan groceries and writing my uptight Victorian poetry in my only window into the yuppie Eastern greens – Starbucks.
So, here I sit, from the safety of my couch. I implore you to pull up a seat and gather around. I’m about to tell you a story of the holiday that snuck up next on the docket – Valentine’s. Here’s to good laughs, good lessons, and couple of cringes for good measure. To my OG readers out there, this one’s for you.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
It was this: Baltimore, Maryland, USA, circa late winter 2017. I lived with my older sister in the second floor of half of a crumbling duplex. We had spent the entire chilly season making calls to our property manager, the City, and our crazy downstairs neighbor in an attempt to get functioning heat. Our efforts paid off just in time for March.
When we weren’t blowing fuses from the demand of space heaters, I was spewing stomach acid in the worst bulimic episode of my life to date. I had 99 problems, and drinking made 100 as I attempted to drown the rest. I was broke, but I still lived my life in its own fucked up form of excess.
A slight aside: I do wonder what goes on in ri-hob on Valentine’s Day. If I had to guess, probably paper macheing heart-shaped balloons to be adorned with loving words about your sober self. I am grateful to not be there, but I am even more grateful to not spend this Valentine’s Day with Andre.
As you can probably infer, this is not the case in my Baltimorean love epic.
I woke up that February 14 somewhere in between in a relationship and single. My Tinder suitor, with whom I’d gone on a few dates, clearly didn’t know how to navigate the quagmire. He had finessed me for my work address, claiming that his buddy had gotten into trouble after he fought a cop at a traffic stop so that he could send flowers (I worked in criminal defense at the time). Yet, when it came to plans for that night, there were none. He had an alleged pickup basketball game to attend. Not one to be ungrateful, but also one to value quality time over quality goods, my disappointment won the race.
And so, I found myself on my kitchen floor with my sister; a bottle of $5 champagne in my hand, a can of mead in hers.
As she rage-laughed about her type being rustic power-twinks over the Bring Me the Horizon blaring through my phone, my head began to enter a third dimension. I realized that I wasn’t being truthful with myself, with her, with anyone. I was resenting my Tinder boy, and not because he was off somewhere living out his Lebron James fantasy. The dude I had spent all of college trying to woo was finally starting to lurk my Facebook and Gram. Tinder wasn’t Thomas. Not be a mile, or so I thought.
Stay with me, here: the former was a long-haired golden retriever, but the latter was a pit. I was one of those hairless cats – surprisingly oily and heartily agitated. Pit and I matched in our gnarled naivete. But, there was a reality that hadn’t yet manifested through my sparkling rose-colored glasses: a dog can be wild with haplessness while the cat carries the anchor. So, I stewed in the “what could be” until I was simmering in the sauce of an empty bottle.
Disappointed, but not surprised, my sister put me in the passenger’s seat of my car, attempting to mitigate some of the impending meltdown through fresh air and a good meal.
“Bust a nut on Chestnut,” I said, pretending to be Siri as we drove the few blocks to our favorite Japanese place. But, inevitably, my good spirits began to wane as the restaurant proved to be packed with pretty and polished Johns Hopkins couples. Into my plate of green curry, I dug, hoping to find some kind of sense at the bottom of my rice. More confused than ever, I added an avocado roll to my list of drunken demands. I had two floundering on the hook, yet I was the one gasping.
“You know brown rice has 30 percent less calories than white. But really? I only eat cauliflower.”
My head shot up, searching for the source of the live action pro-ana post. It wasn’t too hard to detect. Smooth brown blowout. Smooth brown riding boots. Smooth brown-nosed IR degree. Ground fucking zero.
I put my head down on the table, regretful of all with which I was filled.
“I JUST WANT TO DIE,” I bellowed down a strange alley as my sister chased after me. “HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS SHIT FOR, LIKE, 70 YEARS?”
“Can you please wait until we get into the car to do this?” she asked, still struggling to get her coat on and her debit card back in her wallet.
“I want to bash my head into the sidewalk and I want to fucking die,” I went on until she eventually ushered me back in the right direction.
My head beat against the car window the entire way home.
Home, a place I had practically shared with another man who I had loved earlier that fall. Jamie and his boys had run up the other half of the duplex before a dispute with their landlord caused them to vacate by Halloween. He magically manifested in times of need, such as when I was attempting to carry an armchair solo when I was moving in. He also managed to sneak an invite one night before one of his ragers. Alone together in the proverbial crowd, him and I hunched over the Modelo-covered island in his kitchen as he examined my new sleeve, freshly carved into a tan canvass during a dreamy trip to New Orleans. His girlfriend eventually squeezed between us.
Like most cheating men, he had gone too far down the path to a destination that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to reach. To turn around now would be like getting thrown into foreign seas with no life vest or paddle. Yet, what they fail to recognize is that they’ll only drown if they keep ahead on the same path at an accelerated pace.
Jamie and I never fucked, but he did fill my DM’s with his fantasies about us cumming together and complaints about his girlfriend’s choice of pancakes for dinner. I’d shake my head in confusion as I would read them out loud over Amy’s frozen enchilada meals to my sister, hollering in shock. It was the same dialogue I’d hear recycled in the strip club.
“God, baby, I really want to do a room with you, but I’ve got two-year-old twin daughters. They take all my money. I didn’t even want kids.”
And people wonder why I can’t pull the flashing jewel-toned parade wand out of my ass. I’ve seen the underbelly of love. So, I slip through the storm drain and sparkle in the sewers. At least Pennywise doesn’t try to holler. I’m too over the hill.
Back to the evening in question, my sister pulled into the vacant spot in front of our crib, just for us to find the stoop next store—despite the absence of new neighbors—surprisingly un-vacant.
“My god…” I said under my breath as the couple occupying the steps penetrated my ability to recognize.
It was Jamie’s best boy and his girlfriend out on a special trip down memory lane.
“Hey! Can you take a picture of us?” she cooed.
“You know, funny story about Jamie…” I began.
I can still see the deer in headlights.
“Jennaaaa…” my sister warned, reaching for homegirl’s open IG camera.
I mumbled something about cumming together before charging up my stairs and breaking down my front door. After a circuitous route from head-in-toilet to body-in-bed, I opened my laptop to find what I decided was bullshit. After months of having water included in our rent, our property manager started hitting us with invoices.
I was about to write my declaration of independence from his iridescent turquoise button downs and frosted tips.
They only water I’m paying for is the water to be waterboarded with until I can’t hear the sound of your voice anymore, S L U M L O R D.
Signed, Andre 3000.
In case you’re wondering how it all turned out, my property manager took it like a G and my sister now has a nice place of her own. I broke things off with the golden retriever to pursue the pit. It turned out the “could of been” manifested into an ugly reality unable to be seen until the veil of booze had lifted. He ended up hurting me in the most unfathomable way, so now I sit in the safety of a shimmering soup bowl a thousand miles Southwest.
Despite my newfound sobriety, this Valentine’s Day is still particularly tough for reasons I’m not at liberty to disclose until my final memoir. I walked into the grocery store Sunday evening, a parade beating down the barricaded road outside. The rhythm shook me into a flashback of my head beating against the car window as I turned the corner into a Valentine’s crap trap.
I raised my phone to the pink-and-red murder scene, snapping a pic for my IG story with the cursive caption smother me with a pillow. I turned up Movements before returning my 6 to my hoodie pocket. I just wanted to set it and forget it, keeping my pain encapsulated in the photo.
But, after having to walk home with a sack of groceries on my shoulder in a bout of vegan self-reliance that I didn’t know I had in me, I saw the pit had replied to my story.
Oh, yes – utterly hilarious.
I fired back.
Yeah, maybe someday I’ll find a man who likes me for my personality and my eyes *upside down smiley face*
He went on with the oh come on. The don’t buy into the Hallmark holiday. The now is the time to be wild and free. The roars of the cowardly lion. I guess he has a little cat in him after all, at least in the bark.
This freedom to which he refers? A freedom that I’ve never known and have known even less since knowing him.
Then he hit me with the heavyweight.
It’ll all work out someday. You’ll find someone great for you.
They were the painfully familiar words that have been uttered from the mouth of every man I have ever loved, but who’ve only wanted to reciprocate with a smash. Shit’s like taking a bullet and a slap to the face all at once.
I knew it was up to me to keep the eternal rage from igniting into a forest fire. He didn’t understand, but it was fine, because it had to be.
Tending the fire of self-reliance, I gave myself a mental pep talk. Take a deep. Stay barricaded inside. Outsmart your visceral instincts.
Loneliness is like being waterboarded. It feels like you’re drowning, but if you can mentally get past the fact that you’re not, you will be just fine.
You have to be.
You can find Jenna on instagram.