Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball
The first substantial relationship of my life was first conducted from a distance of some 2,000 miles. We’d found ourselves quite by random, which was usual for teenagers in the time of the still-emergent internet. I don’t even remember the website, or if it is even in existence today. What I do remember is writing a profile that revealed me to be two years older than I actually was.
As I recall, she responded to my post shortly thereafter. Her first words, meant in jest at the time, would prove to be prescient.
I think I’m in love with you.
The attraction was instantaneous. Though I was all of sixteen, here was the deep, meaningful relationship I had been seeking all along. Most people my age were dating for fun, or to find themselves. In time, they would eventually catch up with me, but as was often true in my younger days, I was ahead of the curve.
Before long, we began exchanging telephone calls that sometimes stretched as long as six or seven hours. My parents gritted their teeth and paid the long distance bills. Unable to consummate our relationship in person, phone sex had to suffice. At that time, I was in many ways sexually naive, as is I suppose true for everyone at that age. These marathon conversations allowed me to spread my wings and expand my consciousness as a sexual being.
A visit in person would seem to be in order, but she delayed it as long as possible. Her issues with body acceptance were to blame, though I wouldn’t figure that out for much longer. I adored her, but recognized eventually that my affections alone could not assuage her insecurities. An effusive personality barely disguised an extreme (and largely unconfronted) issue with self-esteem. Though she was very funny and ingratiating, I knew it to be compensation for the way she felt about herself.
Overweight and self-loathing, she desperately wanted to be thin. I witnessed how she abused her body with drugs to bring down her weight. The effects would eventually catch up to her. The constant chemical abuse would cause her hair to fall out. It never regained its natural thickness. She hid this from me, as she hid so many other parts of herself.
Even with the flaws, I loved her. In those days, I used drugs recreationally myself, sometimes heavily, but not in the same proportions. Though I smoked too much pot and drank too much, I largely avoided the harder stuff. I felt that I had no room to judge. She was the first relationship partner I’d ever had who bothered to truly get to know me. She’ll always have an understanding of me that few others will.
When she was present, everyone around us thought we were perfectly matched. But that devotion, as I soon learned, was limited. My most substantial criticism of her is what I see to be a kind of cowardice. I frequently felt betrayed.
Her means of coping with stress was to disappear. Phone calls and e-mails would suddenly go unanswered. In my absence, she sought the company of her friends. I did not approve of most of them, who I saw as bad influences. Her best friend was rude and obnoxious, and vocal about his drug usage and sexual escapades with random men. She was a fag hag and something appealed to her about the seedy underbelly of queer culture.
I never tried to push her apart from any of her friends. She’d made it clear to me that ultimatums would only backfire. If I wanted her, I had to accept her on her own terms. She had an exasperating way of embracing toxic environments that were well beneath anyone’s basic standards of decency. One word for it is slumming.
She found many things gorgeously trashy. These included dive bars in rough neighborhoods and conventions of people who found it sexually arousing to dress up like stuffed animals. Along with the spectacle, these were all pursued with the intention of eventually being writing material. Though her talent was undeniable, her self-discipline was lacking. Successful writing requires time, effort, patience, and copious editing.
Still, she always had a way of keeping me laughing. Her sense of humor was a strong suit, though at times she overplayed her hand. I sometimes heard the same anecdote three or four times. A performer by nature, everyone she met she felt needed to be impressed and entertained. When I was lucky enough to be in her presence, I fell in love with her all over again.
Years after the fact, I was directed to a very revealing blog post. In it, she revealed many of the reason for her periods of distance. Her drug use had been worse than I could have ever dreamed. In part, her pushing away from me, in her mind, had been to spare me.
You’re the most stable person I have ever dated, I’d said earlier.
Her reply was immediate. I’m so sorry!
At times, she sought distance because I happened to be suffering from a severe episode of either depression or mania. Her father was severely mentally ill and terrorized the family. His illness, which he had never sought fit to properly treat, had traumatized her starting from a young age. If she picked up even the mildest similarity between the two of us, she couldn’t get away fast enough.
I will always retain a fondness for her, but I recognize now we are better parted. She was my first love and first loves do not entirely fade from memory. Even with the problems we had, she formed part of who I am today. I did the same for her. Her advice and guidance was often accurate and helpful. But we are better parted and I see that now.