My First Boyfriend. My Last Mistake.
He was a tall drink of water, perhaps not one you'd care to consume but lets just say I had my fill. I met him halfway through my sophomore year of college when my on again -off again girlfriend and I were officially off again. I was bored, lonely and I guess you could say depressed but that wasn't something we admitted to or reveled in as openly as we do now. I drank and partied way too much for my workload and found myself a guest at some of the gnarliest shindigs in Baltimore. The nights were long and the booze in plastic bottles flowed plentiful down the throats of the aimless -And I, among them, was indeed the most aimless of all.
One evening in particular began a season of poor choices. Upon choosing to opt-out of a late lecture, I decided to tag along with my weed man to a house party about 45 minutes away from campus. I knew no one there and I liked it that way. I sat down to roll a joint as someone suddenly turned the Animal Collective down low enough to tune a guitar. I thought it strange at first but payed it no mind. I lit up and sat back, taking in the obscure mixture of drugged out art school hipsters and pre-med students that lined the smoke filled room. My eyes landed on the boy with the guitar and there they stayed.
He began playing. Head hung low, chin resting on chest, fingers gliding expertly up and down the neck of a polished handcrafted guitar that he had made himself. My restlessness washed away by intrigue, I was lost in his eerie tune. It was sad like I was and familiar like I used to be. I was a stranger to this kind of attraction so I played it cool and just got high. I was always better when high and apparently so was he. His song came to an abrupt halt as he grabbed his bottle of kentucky Gentleman and made a run for the door. I'll never know exactly why but I went running after him. Little did I know this wouldn't be the last time.
We stood under a tree in the yard entertaining each others tedious small talk when suddenly our respective vices kicked in and things got a little less typical. We established a bit of common ground, finding out that we had been floating around each other in a wave of mutual friends for a little more than a year. We talked for hours that night and faded away together in the throes of a wasted stupor. He guided me into a friends room where we laid wrapped in one another until the sun rose.
In the sobering light of day I woke to his arms wrapped around my waist. I pried myself from his grip and placed my feet on the cold hardwood floor, knocking over his empty fifth of whiskey from last night. He sat straight up in bed as if the clanking glass was his wake-up call. He noticed me there, grinned and reached for a cigarette. My interest in this dark haired, blue-eyed boy was still very much piqued but in a strangers surroundings I thought it best to make my exit.
On the train ride home I reflected on what felt like an evening of desperate longing. I was longing to be wanted, seen, remembered. I thought to myself, how basic, how sad, how very me right now. As the weeks passed I got what I wanted but not necessarily who I envisioned getting it from. I had never been with the opposite sex before. His body was a language I never thought i'd care to speak but I learned gradually. It wasn't exactly difficult, just strange.
He began to grow on me and to him I became a safe space that kept all of his brokenness from spilling out. What I thought were mutual grounds for us to mend and get our bearings was actually a one man show of malaise and complacency starring a brilliant musician who was slowly becoming more alcohol than human. He would run away from what little reality he knew and I'd run after him hoping to be some sort of anchor but that wasn't my place. When all other outlets rejected him, he'd come back to me even more needy and lecherous than he had left. We found each other amidst the ruckus of the weekend warriors. Rage, riot, repeat. Rage, riot, repeat. It got old fast. That mysterious boy who once commanded the attention of an entire room with his song began showing himself to be an entitled son of a bitch who wasn't worth his salt.
As finals approached, I began making my way out of the depression that brought us together in the first place. My responsibilities piled high and for once he wasn't one of them. I started remembering myself and forgetting him. It wasn't easy, it was just something that needed to be done. He lingered around for a bit but even in small doses he wasn't good for me, I don't think he ever was. It just happened and then it was over.
He was a tall drink of water trying to pour from a half empty cup and even a decade later he's still falsifying his fullness. He contacted me recently out of the clear blue, apologizing for being a mess and leaving one behind. I forgave him a long time ago for the sake of myself. He's married now and has two daughters. He spoke of them not out of love but as if they were some sort of trophy he won for being an adult for a little while. His contacting me wasn't exactly to apologize and catch up as much as it was him checking to see if I had progressed further than he had in the years following our breakup. As if life was a pissing contest but if only it were that easy.
Every sentence out of his mouth ended with "…but i'm married now." or, "I have kids now." as though he was trying to remind himself to be proud of those things. I was as happy for him as he was pretending to be. Maybe he is happy. Nevertheless, thats his story to tell. He kept probing me about my life as an artist, inappropriately asking who pays for what and wondering how I afford the well composed highlight-reel he's had to go by via social media for these past ten years. He felt he had me figured out, that the images he shared of he and his new family trumped my endless stream of gallery openings, concerts and healthy social life. He found comfort in believing I had settled for a lesser lifestyle when in reality I never settled for much of anything after him. I only found it funny that the same dead eyes I woke up to the morning after we finally met were the same dead eyes staring back from the photos he forwarded with such matter-of-fact. His hollow pride hit a brick wall with me. The interest he suddenly took in catching up and mending fences was merely a means of interrogation. Each question asked as if he pitied me and knew all my answers. He knows nothing… still.
My memories of him now serve only as a cautionary tale, one that I will lend to people who carelessly give away their peace for potentially toxic companionship. I will tell them that it's best to just be lonely for a little while and not to pass time treating people like projects. If anything, be your own project. Pour into yourself all the love and attention you'd gladly give to someone else. And whether you view the cup as half full or half empty, just know that half of anything or anybody will never be enough.