Sunday, April 26, 2009


I went to my college's homecoming party because I hoped I'd get laid.

It had been almost a year since I'd been on campus, despite the fact that I lived in the same town and still had one or two friends there who'd been a year behind me. I decided to go because I'd always had good luck at homecomings in the past, there would be free beer, and it had been long enough since I'd been there that I would just seem like another alum. I could pretend I had just come into town, and thus avoid the questions which would lead to me revealing that I'd been laid off and out of work for almost four months.

Additionally, my good friend Anastasia had invited me. She was engaged to be married, and this was one of the few times she'd be staying up late for a real party. I was an old hand at these things, even had a playlist that I listened to to get me in the mood as I got ready, walked from my house to campus.

Don't think of Constantine.

It's unlikely he'll be there, I said to myself, accessing the emotional risks. But in an obsessive nature such as my own, some fantasies are inevitable. With everyone half blind with alcohol, who knew whose bed I would end up in at the end of the night?

I won't go into any details--such fantastic thoughts embarrass me in the sober light of day. Anyway, by the time I was nearing campus, I had put such dreams away in the worry over the endless questions I might be asked: why was I still living in town? What happened to my plans for New York City? Had I applied for graduate school?

The truth was I was embarrassed to go, but it was the only party in town.

I solved this problem by downing a beer in my first ten minutes and going in search of something stronger. Unlike last year, however, there was no hard liquor behind the stage, only a couple making out beneath the emergency exit light. Good. If people were making out already, I'd be bound to pick somebody up, maybe some sweet 19 year old freshman boy with a private dorm room...

But at a party attended by almost 200 people, that was the only couple I saw.

Instead, there was Constantine.

I hadn't made any plans to seek him out, or even to notice him, but the moment I stepped onto the improvised dance floor he broke from the crowd and got as far away from me as he could. I had to brush past him when I wanted to seek someone on the dance floor or went over to the tables for a drink. When I left to go outside for a breather he'd be out there smoking, and when I tried to come in he'd decide to rejoin the party at the same time as me. In my increasingly buzzed state I began to wonder if he wanted something from me, or if this was some sophisticated form of torture. I tried to make a joke of it to Anastasia: "I'm seeing Constantine everywhere!"

"I'm sure he doesn't see you," she replied in a no-nonsense tone of voice.

But it was comforting to know that the social agony my memories from last year were colored with hadn't just been a result of overactive emotions. This place really was small, and the parties I had gone to mainly so as not to make it seem like I was afraid of him really had been difficult. After he stood right next to me and Anastasia as we danced, obviously "looking for someone in the crowd", I was glad when she suggested we take a break. I had had four beers, and in another minute or two I would have grabbed Constantine by the collar and either bawled out an apology or finished what we'd started 3 years ago.

I don't drink much. It's always social drinking, and lately I've begun to wonder if I should even do that. The reason is that a good drunk--that happy free floaty feeling where I want to hump almost anyone--can so quickly become a bad drunk. In the course of three or four hours I can crash into the dangerous round of thought that no one will ever fuck me again, nothing I have achieved is worth anything, no one will remember me when I die. Like when I was a child at my first IMAX theatre, I will become more overwhelmed than most people in the audience, unable to resist a powerful feeling of vertigo. "Easily overstimulated," says Q.

In the safety of Anastasia's dorm room I collapsed on her bed, hugging one of the huge squishy pillows she had there. She collects Klimt prints, has put up photos of her family and charming little drawings and trinkets she's made, has DVDs like You've Got Mail and The Hours. "This is peaceful," I said. She and her fiance, for all our ideological differences, are like a little island of calm compared to me. I wanted to tell her how the rising tide of bad memories had been quelled simply by a change of scene, of how a week ago I'd been surprised to notice that I hadn't thought of Constantine for ages, only to have it flare up again in his actual presence. Of how happy I was that she was there, when usually I have no one to save me from the bad drunk but myself.

Instead, we got into an argument about sex.

I have no idea how it began. I've told my closer friends and family part of the truth. Q. knows I have a blog, though not what it's about, and promised she has no interest in reading it. Anastasia knows I meet people online for sex, but has no idea why I do this when I could meet someone normal in a less dangerous fashion. Perhaps I had just quoted something someone had said on Twitter.

What are these people like? she wanted to know, "Do they have jobs?" From her tone she thought they were a lot of vagrants living off the back of the state--as I was I until very recently, for at the time of this conversation I had a food stamp card in my wallet.

"Well," I began, deciding to play for sympathy, "some of them have children to come home to--"

"Then they are obscene!" she exclaimed. "You think they don't know?"

I'm not sure how she made the connection between having children in a house and having wild sex in the same house without my saying anything, but the jump had been made. "Q. dated," I recalled, and tried to stammer out an anecdote about a trip to another state and adjoining hotel rooms, but the tone was wrong.

"This is too personal," she said, "we should stop."

So we did. But I wanted to say that you always kind of know, even in households where there are no orgies. There was an article in one of those teen magazines about funny "I walked in on my parents" stories, and my cousin had once complained to me about accidentally ending up in a similar situation: "Ugh, old people!" And knowing what I do now, was there really anything wrong with what Q. was trying to do? She'd gotten divorced when I was one, didn't start dating again until she was in her late 30s. I'd never actually seen anything, though I had my 12-year-old suspicions. When I teased her for going back to the laundromat with its cute attendant because she had "forgotten" something, she'd thrown a pair of socks at me.

But accidents do happen. And some people push and blur the boundaries in worrisome ways. Even Q. had said to me, long after she'd ended that stage of dating men that neither of us were very comfortable with, "I wasn't a very good role model."

"Is this really good?" Anistasia wanted to know, meaning, I guess, internet dating and the unspoken suspicions of bondage, beatings, god knows what.

"It's good and bad--"

"It can't be good and bad! It's either one or the other!"

"Oh come on", I said, "there's nothing about the Catholic church you don't like?"

"Well," she faltered, and I remembered we'd had the same number of beers, "it's really old..."

"So are we!" I was sure there were frescos of people having orgies and cross dressing going back hundreds of years.

"That's just debauchery," she protested.

"Same thing!"

Really, we were in no shape to debate about any of these things, though they needed to be talked about. The difficulty was that I didn't think we'd do any better if both of us were sober. This time I called a break in the conversation, and when we came back we hugged and swore eternal friendship. We decided it was time to go back to the party, forget all this, dance some more.

But really, she said as I got my things together, why do you do it?

"After Constantine, I said, pulling on my raincoat, "I had trouble trusting anybody--"

"--with good reason", she broke in.

"Do you know what a sexual surrogate is?"

She didn't, so I explained as we went down the stairs. How they didn't really have them any more, but that there'd used to be specially trained people who would have sex with dysfunctional people. Because if you're emotionally or physically screwed up, you have two choices: either never have sex again--

She tried to interrupt.

--or get with one of these people, who can help train you so you don't end up hurting people any more. These people are like sexual surrogates. In like six months, when I'm done--

"Are you OK?" Anastasia asked an unsteady couple who were coming up the stairs.

They're fine, I assured her, they just think I'm crazy because I'm talking about sexual surrogates in public.

Anastasia wasn't satisfied with this, and we quarreled about it until we got back to the dance floor, which, despite the longer curfew, was looking pretty bare. We decided it was time to part. We hugged, and I went out the front door, where Constantine was once again smoking on the patio. I didn't even look at him. I went home. The party was over.

Of course you want to know what happened between us, to make such a mark on me. And the answer is nothing: not rape, nor grey rape, not even some depraved realization of a Marquis de Sade fantasy. We had normal sex, with full consent between both parties, which I initiated.

It was the emotional fallout I couldn't deal with, afterwards.

Seriously, though, this is his last year here, as I hope it is mine. In a month he graduates, and will go back to his home on the other side of the country, or even across the sea. Then, like a pulled tooth, it might finally cease to ache.

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