A Cheaters Guide To Dating (aka Whatever You Pretend To Not Know Will Definitely Kill You)

My aunt has a rubber strip that separates her kitchen tile from her hardwoods in her dining room, and her dog, Dusty, knows he’s not supposed to cross this line. Especially when people are eating in the dining room. He always did, though. One minute Dusty would be behind the line, but then, when no one was looking and what seemed within the blink of an eye, he’d be several feet into the trash bin dogging on the leftovers and whatever food whittled onto the floor.

I decided to observe Dusty one day, just to see what was really going on and what he would do.I waited behind the line until he thought no one was looking, and then put one paw over the line…no one yelled. Okay. Now the other paw over the line…no one yelled…? Okay! He dragged his whole body to those two paws and no one noticed?…Dusty was dusting off what was left of tonight’s meatloaf in the trash bin.

Dusty is representative of many of us – we know there is a line we are not supposed to cross, but we want to cross the line so bad, so we break it up into tiny little steps that are so subtle and small you don’t notice or do anything until they are way over the line.

In the difficult do I divide my same, and I am Dusty. For someone hard headed, “DON’T” sounds like less of a warning and more like a challenge.

“Hey” My text said.

“wassup” Hers replied.

I could feel it bubbling again- that secret, the need to spill the moans groaning from my sleeves and slithering in these veins. A systematic sickness hell bent on nothing but a laugh, who rears his restless head from madness to make the best good times feel mediocre. A long quiet had put my soul to sleep. There’s little solace in silence, and I found myself in that deafening howl: the quiet of yourself. When you’re staring out the window and finding white noise where there used to be thoughts.

Who’d have guessed apathy and the infinity of nothing could be so loud, like turning to a channel with static and the volumes at a hundred. And in the silent spaces between myself there was an anger growing. I was surprised to see him there, cross and glaring at the dead eyes of a subway advertisement. He doesn’t talk or budge, but he’s there, slowly filling the space of whatever used to occupy these veins.

I can’t be left to my own devices.

Especially without Wi-Fi.

My father used to bark that rage is impotent, that nothing ever comes from it, but farmers raze their fields whenever the crops are poisoned and they need to start again. A prescribed burn was in the works, and maybe, before I could make something better of May and these bones, I had to destroy them first. Devastation is a form of creation, after all, and my hands were wet with kerosene and reaching for a lighter. Self-destructive tendencies are a staple of my bloodline. The Spaniards turned against their kin, burning men and women alive in the name of their Christ and God. My grandfather put a pistol in his mouth when ___________ took the capital.

‘Por pays y patria’ was all the note said.

My own father left my mother and the state’s to go back to the motherland and chase 15 year old girls. You could make the argument that Hepatitis took him instead, but I’d say that’s just semantics. I followed closely behind his footsteps, a drink away from texting someone May wouldn’t approve of. But I’m no liar, so I took the cowards accomplice and dickless alibi of – “if she doesn’t ask where I was, I wouldn’t tell.”

I took a drink to rev the engine, finger hovering over SEND like a foot over the gas pedal. What is it about becoming uneven that I found so exhilarating? So cathartic? The world spun just the same, felt farther from the bottom of a glass. But behind the bell jar, for a night or hour, I was still, and tingled to the touch and joys of other people. A wise man once said the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but he forgot to include ‘not giving a fuck how you get there.’ I said a silent prayer called Fuck It and hit SEND.

“Let’s meet up.” Sat staring at those black letters, glaring back on a grey background like a tombstone. RIP dignity.

There’s fucking, then there’s love; there’s bruises, then there are cuts. My cruel intentions were PG rated at best; and knowing Kendra to know my situation with May, with Lesbos knot tied securely around her waist, my mile high lust was balanced in reasonably low expectations. I didn’t need to have sex with Kendra, although I undeniably wanted to. I wanted to skirt around the edges of it to see how low the hem goes. Even if she had a history of preferring strawberry chap stick.

An hour long two minutes, three dots, bated breath, and then-

“road house” was all her text said.
Two trains later I hovered down Crosby Street, stray as lint, hungry like the wolf but too sheepish to make a move anywhere passed the bouncer. Suddenly the oak exit doors shot open and out came tumbling the body and bra straps of a thirty something pierced tongue Goddess Spinster; gracefully fumbling for a light she must have conjured from her dress, because it didn’t have any pockets in it. The corners of her corneas painted black in winged shadows, she took two long steps (that would take an average height five,) with a confidence that bordered on Does-She-Even-Realize-Anybody-Else-Is-Here? Goddess took a hard, long drag and her hazel eyes locked directly past me, the way glances hit glass windows looking for a reflection; directly but not really. Almost like the glass isn’t even there.

I do not trust appearances, much less a woman’s. Have you seen them dress? The brushing of their hair, artful apply of colors, contour, shadow, blush, and makeup. Deliberate stress to décolletage, lips, eyes, and other more lucrative assets. Whether they do it for men, other women, or themselves, is immaterial. A woman is a carefully constructed false pretense, and as a man who only seeks the truth, however ugly, in all things, they are my opposite and natural enemy.

I stood on tiptoes to look past the mirage for the further illusion awaiting me.

Past Goddess I caught a glimpse of a crowd of cool, casually dressed twenty somethings warming to the closing personal space getting smaller by the second at Girls Get In Free admittance. They all looked so happy, sapped in smiles, laughs, and strobe lights. Then the giant wood door slammed shut and that beauty turned to the brooding figure of a man with baggy eyes and a chip on his shoulder staring back at me. It was like peeking into heaven, only the bouncer probably wasn’t named Peter. Plus the line was surprisingly short, and all things considered, I actually had a chance of getting in.

A half hour and sour patience later, God must have forgave me. Uncomfortably shifting between the inflated egos and skin littering the club, Kendra was where I thought she’d be: standing neatly by the bar with her hands in the air and waist agreeing with the beat. The sight of her made me want to wake up on the right side of a bad decision, fiddling thumbs and pleasure points. Turning down the thermostat and letting the body do the heating.

She was self-maintenance in the most baseless facets of company, batting her eyelashes and biting fingernails all in the same sweet, calculated, and cornocopious motion. As if she were surprised to see me, after telling me to be there. An oxymoron I couldn’t resist like being drunk and feeding my insecurities. She was an Arctic Monkeys junkie, a little bruised, maybe, but not broken. Hobbies including hot yoga and lady bug tattoos, weekend silent retreats which were surprising considering her inability to stfu. She might dap or do the running man, take a shot or the next cab ride home. Help you up or kick dirt in your face and laugh, depending on the mood she’s in. Love you and leave, or stay and not. Picturesque, her the face the frame. Sitting there holding my world at the sway and mercy of her tongue, and whatever the hell it was she was saying.

Unpredictable and fractured like a stanza, she spoke in the unmistakable allure of poetry and pandemonium.

“You like this song?
I’m feeling Distortion,
doesn’t it remind
you of an ex? True.
But minus the e, like
TRU. What
are you drinking?
Shut up, I like to ask questions. And
I’ll like you
if you ask me things too.”

She was like a song stuck in my head; lyrical ligaments that kept me present but somehow disassociated from the moment. All it takes is two song plays for us to segue into gentle How-You-Been’s, ignoring the lace thrusting on the stage to settle into familiarity. I’m uncomfortable in a strip club setting but some instinct kicks in and my reactions are scripted. The insecurities and self-doubt jiggling from 5 stranger’s tits take a backseat, and I’m only smiling and laughing at Kendras jokes because I’m supposed to.

Kendra doesn’t have any friends here, just a bartender she calls by first name. She was alone, standing next to someone else, sharing in the lawls and woo’s of a song that made everybody sing lyrics. So where did I fit in? A friend, I thought, only invited to be as live as the women moving their flesh for currency. A subordinate to split the tips, drink, tits, and inevitable tab at the end of the night. A wingman on a test flight, in less than words: company for the sake of it. And I was okay with it, palming Kendra a wad of dollar bills and watching her watch the dancers while she rocked and balanced her hips and attention between us.

There’s power in surrendering to someone else’s expectations, of letting go. Only…I’m never really submitting, and it’s more of a performance. Knowing where we stood with each other gave me an active freedom – I could carelessly shift my likes and passive aggressive disinterest. Peppering looks bordering on eye-fucks, to a gaze foreplay mumbling Sure-Whatever whenever Kendra started to whisper something that bordered on boring. I must have had a latent talent for saying all the wrong things right, because just when I gave up on her marked when she started getting into me.

“Four year no calls!,” She screamed, singing along.

“Now she’s looking tipsy in strip club bar,” I yelled.

Her head cocked back to a laugh she couldn’t hold, and her body fell into me with the warm abandon clothes must hit bedsheets after laundry. Our hands found each other, and as they laced like sneakers I could tell she was genuine and enjoying the moment we shared together. And when the kiwi scent from her curls blended perfectly with my Bacardi, I enjoyed it too. Her face resurfaced from my neck as she stood between my legs, and I could feel the dampness of her sweat and center sighing on my skin. Our hands never separated, and I made a conscious decision to rub her thumb with mine.

Letting her go then, in that moment, with the sweat beading down the open neck of her décolletage and all my feelings, it was as hard as kicking an addiction is. Like a bad LSD trip, I felt the strychnine and moaning in my veins, felt so high, felt so perfect, felt there was nothing in this world I’d rather do. Then the song changed, an air released, and immediately I felt dirty. The euphoria from the flesh against me, the tones tonging from the sidebar like waves that come crashing down, hard, left me feeling dirtier than I’ve ever actually been.

Kendra was a contraceptive, which is ironic considering she’s a lesbian and wasn’t on one. Something that could easily be taken for granted (or precaution) to avoid a bad night and 18 years. Hilariously serious in her senility, curious and invective, ready to bust it open or break it down; depending on how the mood hit. I was scared of her the way people are afraid of an apocalypse.

God forbid.

…but fuck, isn’t it fun to imagine?

The motel lights are flashing: red then green, red then green, red, red, red, then green. A brown carpet gone black and the curtains are dingy, while I smoke out the window because the nicotine affects her asthma. Another late night charade of two souls deluding and deluded enough to think it might just work. Always on the verge, of a relapse into the same old trap and mistake of marriage, kid(s) and picket fence. A tale as old as time, and these violent delights have delightful ends,

Hope dies last, they say, and being the dog I am, I would rather perish like a dog than deny them.

“Mnf…close the window,” May shudders from the bedside.

I flick the cigarette outside, and she isn’t Kendra but fuck…isn’t it fun to imagine?

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