My first and only steady boyfriend was named John. We got off to a rough start.
He was in a fanzine on the west coast that published my roommate Jimmy a couple of times, and was kind of their star artist. I wanted to get into it too, so I did a few amateurish comics and sent them in. I scrawled a psycho cover letter with fake blood on it, because I was really into serial killers and Hellraiser and shit. I imagined my wit would endear me to them. Everybody on the editorial staff thought my artwork was crap, of course, and nobody responded. John saw new submissions because he lived with Lance, one of the editors. He read my joke letter and decided it was an actual threat against Lance... for whatever reason he seemed to expect threatening letters from the mentally ill. I was on his extensive blacklist. This had no real consequences but it was weird to be hated by someone who knew nothing about me besides my fondness for Ed Gein.
I mostly forgot about the guy until I was living with my mother about a year later. She and I didn't get along-- she screamed at me constantly and could not be talked to --and I was mostly unemployed and carless, stuck inside all day. My only outlet was the net. John was now on the virtual world I frequented, and I had a chance to observe the person who despised me. He turned out to be intelligent, rather than the knee-jerk dumbass I'd imagined, and an excellent writer. For a while we moved around each other warily, and after roleplaying and talking we decided it was stupid for us to be enemies.
His unforgiving attitude was an act, he told me. Life had been pretty grim for him and he buried his emotions to keep from being hurt. John told stories about going out and hunting drug dealers and Nazis in Tampa, getting into knife fights... he had wealthy parents but they didn't understand him. As with Helen, I believed him because I didn't know why he'd make it up. He said he was hurt by people who said they cared about him. He'd been putting up a front for so long that it had become mechanical and he didn't know any other way. But online he showed great sensitivity, and the unthinking malevolence I'd smelled on him before was absent. His arrogance concealed feelings of worthlessness. He was a genuinely good person who had been hurt once too often. We started talking about meeting each other at a convention in January... inexplicably we were falling for each other.
When I got into Los Angeles I went to Mark Merlino's house first. My original plan was to stay there. Mark's foul abode was the hub of fandom activity in LA. He'd provided me with my terminal and was just getting into the net himself. Middle-aged, paunchy, with a brushy mustache and advanced male pattern baldness, possessing a high girl's voice and with a penchant for purple silk boxers and caftans, he was a stereotypical gay clone. I think he wanted to fuck me but I wasn't interested. Or maybe he wanted me to fuck him. I'd let him put his tongue up my ass the previous October, and that had been good, but distressing also... I needed to take a dump and all I could think of was him licking the tip of my unexcreted turd. Mark's desire to abase himself made me queasy. Despite this, I recommend that if you ever have a chance to have someone's tongue up your ass without necessarily having to reciprocate, you should take it. You won't forget it.
John hated Mark and didn't like that I was friends with him... I was learning that John seemed to hate just about everybody, and a lot of people hated him. He'd lived with Mark before, and I got the impression that Mark had abused John in some fashion which John wasn't about to admit to. He also hated Peter, another ex-roommate who arrived at Mark's a couple of hours after I did. According to John, Peter was seriously into guns, and was also seriously fucked in the head, having threatened to kill him at a convention up north. Peter looked like a harmless programmer type in a check shirt and khaki pants. To him I looked like fresh meat.
I wanted John to hurry up and get there. In the meantime I threw myself at Peter, making out with him on one of the couches in the smelly living room. He was a gentle kisser, about what I would have expected from a guy ten years older than me. He seemed faintly amused by me. I thought it a bad idea to mention it to John... we were polyamorous but Peter was not advised.
After John picked me up in his Hyundai-- he wouldn't come inside --we went to Yoshinoya to get used to each other. I stuffed myself with a flavorless beef bowl as I talked with this man with long wavy hair and a mustache and black leather jacket, a year younger than me but trying to seem much older. I soon noticed he never got excited about anything... he would speak in the same plodding monotone no matter what the subject was, and even if he liked something his body language belied it... he radiated weariness, and his eyes were hooded, empty. While he didn't slouch he seemed hunched, as though he was always waiting to be struck. He had several teeth broken or missing. I'd been warned about that-- he got depressed and didn't brush for about three months, and something about a calcium deficiency, weak bones. I was enthralled. We went to the convention hotel and directly to his room.
John was nervous, and his unease made me uneasy, but I wanted to get on with it. Eventually he proposed that we just go to sleep. He turned out the light and we pressed against each other for a little while, and then I decided to blow him. I would have kissed him first but he was embarrassed because of his teeth and wouldn't let me. I'd never sucked cock before. I thought it would taste like dick but it didn't taste like anything. There was just a sensation of pressure within the slick head as I held it between my lips. It came naturally to me and before long he was gasping and his sperm was filling my mouth. I swallowed. I'd swallowed enough of my own.
I only stayed with John the first night of the convention... I was supposed to be staying at Mark's house, and my stuff was there, so I thought it polite to come back and put in an appearance. Mark actually organized the convention, along with his stringy boyfriend, Rodney, who closely resembled the destitute queer from 'The Fisher King,' and with a sullen tugboat of a woman whose net handle was Jazmyn and whose responsibilities involved running the art gallery, badly. On Saturday morning Rodney told Mark there'd been some problem with a guest's airline tickets, and Mark let into him, haranguing him in his girly squeal until Rodney was in tears and hid himself in the bathroom. It was early morning, most of us half-awake. Mark had already begun to disgust me, but now he revealed himself to be an abusive asshole. Rodney looked ten years older than he really was and it was becoming apparent why. I was done with Mark.
During the day I didn't see much of John. He thought my friends were childish, and I made myself scarce like a good girlfriend while he was with his friends, because he didn't want anybody to know we were messing around. But by the end of the next week, after I'd gone home, we were telling each other we loved each other.
Part of it can be explained by my situation, the increasingly violent confrontations I was having with my mother, my unemployment and harassment by creditors. I was desperate to get out and anybody who showed me kindness and respect was holy to me. He became my only hope for escape, for any future.
For his part, he felt I would help him get over Lance once and for all. The man seemed to have some kind of glamour over John and he kept going back, even though Lance generally treated him like a groupie, toyed with his feelings. Lance would play people off of each other, John said, would smile at someone and then talk shit behind their back, and had done it to him numerous times, but he kept going back, he couldn't help it. As far as he was concerned Lance owned him, and his power over John was tearing him apart. I was a strong personality which he hoped would break this control.
John suggested that I come out to live with him. We wanted to be together, of course, I wanted to be away from south Florida, and he said he could get me into clerical work. He was getting rid of his last roommate, Eric. Eric was flailing cynicism which loosely covered despondency. He was rumored to use heroin, speed, and anything else he could get his hands on. Allegedly manic-depressive, he'd been on drugs of both the prescription and non-prescription variety. It showed in the subject matter of his work, which was varied and brilliant. John didn't approve of any drug stronger than a glass of hard cider; he said he'd once been unknowingly dosed with acid and hallucinated that he was being buried alive. Eric was the one who'd gotten me into industrial music. (John said Eric had gotten it from him, but John bought most of that stuff while I was there, while Eric already had it, so I wasn't sure who to believe.) Somehow he and John had hooked up, but now they despised each other, and Eric wasn't coming up with the rent, so he was out.
John sent me some money, which helped me to get a car, and I started running. The trip took 109 hours. I slept nine of them. I was intensely paranoid that my unproven car would strand me in a desert and I would fucking die. When I stopped over in Gainesville the car wouldn't start; the alternator needed replacing. That incident ruined my nerves for the whole trip. Every unidentifiable noise coming from the car messed with my head. During the day there was little progress. I made frequent stops because I was afraid the car would overheat, and it added to my fears by not wanting to start until it had cooled down. When I arrived in San Jose in early April I was nearly delusional. I stayed up another eight hours while John showed me off to his friends.
For the first month everything was great. I spent the time being social and not worrying about work. When I talked to temp agencies it became clear I wasn't going to fall into a clerical job with my skills, and John somehow borrowed a Macintosh from work so I could learn PageMaker. I don't know what story he told to get them to let a temp take a computer home. I wrote a story on it, played a lot of games. I wasn't interested in office work. Allegedly I was a graphic designer but my portfolio was shit and I had no clue how to get a design job. So when Lance mentioned there was a job at an art supply store I jumped on it. To me $7 an hour was a fucking fortune. Once I had it I didn't aspire to anything more.
Just as Mark's house was in LA, Lance's place was the focus of social activity in the bay area. There was an unarticulated animosity between the two cliques. Lance lived with Peter, the gun-toting maniac whom I'd necked with, who paid most of the bills but was treated largely as an object by Lance's guests. I feared him because of John's frequent warnings. The fact that he lived with John's object of obsession didn't give me any hints.
I got the idea that Lance kept John around because he was useful, the way somebody unthinkingly loyal is useful. Lance's bunch of hangers-on joked about John's gang stories, said the details kept changing, that you couldn't believe anything John said. I was protective and imagined Lance had bullshitted all of them, but there wasn't much of it, just suggestions.
John was trying to cultivate his own crowd outside of Lance's influence. A pagan artist couple, the Daverins, knew we were dating and thought we were adorable as lovers; they didn't interact with Lance's clique at all. Others were with a different artist group or worked largely by themselves. John was subdued about our relationship with most of these people, although they could see what was there and I was pleased to have them know. We rarely showed affection in public.
Alone in bed, he would hold me and tell me how good I was for him, that I was going to give him the strength to do some serious artwork, and to put Lance behind him and forget about all the bullshit that got to him. I adored him because he was affectionate and thoughtful, and I hadn't gotten that from anyone for a long time, not from somebody I respected. He made me feel like I mattered.
We fucked a couple of times. I'd never had a boyfriend and I wanted to explore everything with him that I could. John was a submissive. When I wanted him to fuck me I ended up sitting on top of him to do it. I let him be the first guy to fuck me in the ass, and the last. I say 'let him,' but at the time I wanted him inside me. Before I'd fucked myself with an impossibly huge black rubber dildo until tears came to my eyes, but now I wanted the real thing in me. I never got to fuck John. He said he wasn't flexible enough and that I'd rip him open. He went down on me instead. I wished that I could kiss him; I wanted that most of all. I started to get a sense that he only had sex to humor me, and after a while I stopped asking him.
My gray LTD gave out a couple of weeks after I started the retail job at Flax, the strain of the cross-country drive catching up with the $300 grandma car I bought in Florida. At first it was having difficulty with fuel ignition, a problem I solved by jamming a screwdriver in the intake manifold, producing a huge gasoline fireball when the engine turned over. But later one of the lifters went, whatever that was. It needed serious engine work, possibly four figures worth. After sliding the car between different parking spots to avoid towing, I resigned myself to its death and took the plates off, abandoning it. Then I picked up a cheap Murray bike and started taking the bus, while the DMV scrapped my car and used the metal to make a dozen Saturns.
By the second month things were headed downhill. I grated on John's sensibilities. He was serious about everything, to the point of pomposity, and my sense of humor rubbed him wrong. He didn't have a sense of humor. I was not appropriately severe about certain subjects, like self-defense. John was always talking about martial arts and knives, always whipping open his folding knife one-handed and expecting me to be amazed, telling me about his battles, trying to get me interested in becoming the urban warrior he was. In his mind people waited around every corner for the chance to rob and kill you. I didn't like having weapons around and I trusted him with them less and less.
I also couldn't get him to let go his myriad grudges against half the people he knew... before I'd come out west he'd confided his hope that I'd help him stop being so political, so revenge-oriented, but I wasn't helping. After a while he denied having said any such thing, just to get me to leave him alone. He was also thinking about Lance again, spending more time with him. Lance was something else I was supposed to help John forget. John wanted me to get to know him, saying he wasn't so bad, forgetting he was the one who'd warned me against Lance initially.
I had hoped that as artists we would inspire each other to do better work, but I soon learned that John just didn't draw much unless he had a deadline to meet, and when he did it was excruciating for him to get a piece out. We weren't interested in drawing the same things and we didn't have the same inspiration. He tried to get me in on his roleplaying group but it bored me, as did the infrequent artist gatherings. His friends were dull, two-dimensional, often artistically gifted but personally uninteresting.
We went out to visit Morgan one afternoon. He was a hacker type I'd known about a year before John arrived on the net. He lived across town, and Lance was already there when we arrived. They had a couple of guns out, a .357 Magnum revolver and some cheap automatic called a Firestar, and were passing them around while I lay there on the floor and watched. Then Lance asked me if I wanted to see one, and he handed this huge fucking gun to me. I knew nothing about firearms. I started looking for the safety, if it even had one, and wasn't watching where I was pointing it. John scooped it out of my hand hastily, popped open the cylinder and emptied six huge cartridges from it. "You had it pointed right at Morgan," he told me, sounding annoyed.
I crashed completely after that. I was being told I had almost killed somebody, accused of it. Morgan, who seemed as oblivious as I had been, grinned and said it wasn't a big deal, which made it even worse. I was stunned at my own foolishness, for having nearly shot someone, for letting myself be put in that situation, and I was angry at Lance and John for having handed a loaded weapon to me without telling me, for giving me a gun at all when I had no experience with them. I got up and let myself outside to cool off. After a few minutes, when this failed to happen, I started to walk home. I didn't want to be anywhere near them and I wanted to get these feelings out of my head.
The walk home was about seven miles along a highway. I kept waiting for John to pull up next to me, to come looking for me when I didn't come back inside. When I got to our apartment I was as constricted inside as before.
I chose the back of the arm to cut myself... I didn't want to injure myself seriously, I just wanted to inflict pain, to punish myself. The first time I actually punctured myself with the point of the X-acto blade, pushing it in about a centimeter. I didn't notice the pain but the sensation of it stirring around in my flesh was sickening. I made the next cut on the surface, letting the blade bite in, not going deep. The rasping sound of metal through flesh was one I felt more than heard. I did this four more times before I decided I had enough. Afterward I didn't know why I'd done it. The wounds were small enough to put a Band-Aid over. John got home about a half hour later. We didn't say much to each other; I think he made some half-hearted comment about Lance treating guns like they were toys.
The next afternoon I decided to tell him. I knew I shouldn't keep what I'd done from him, and I needed to talk to somebody. So I did, peeled back the bandage he hadn't noticed to show him the tiny scabs. He did not react the way I expected.
John immediately snapped. He recoiled from me like I was something infectious. He started screaming at me, panicking, really, having not suspected what sort of person he was dating. He demanded to know if I had used one of his knives to do it. He accused me of having cut myself to get back at him. People had done that to him before, he said, and he was not going to put up with it from me. I must have done it to hurt him, he said, because why would I have told him about it? I was crying now. Because I wanted to be straight with him, I said. There was no look of forgiveness. My words did not magically solve everything. He went into the bedroom and grabbed his tanto from beside the bed, and curled up in the corner holding the blade to his wrist. "Do you want me to cut myself?!" he screamed. "Is that what you want?" Tears were running down his face now, too. He'd gone beyond into some other realm... I was certain that at any minute he'd slash his arm open, and it would be my fault. I apologized over and over, said whatever I could to get him to put the knife down. I couldn't explain because I'd never done it before. Finally he got up and left the apartment, as I lay on the floor sobbing.
When he came back, he told me that he was okay, but that he was going to need some time to get over what I'd done. Maybe a week or two. He would move out into the living room and sleep on the couch. I thought he should have the bedroom and I the couch, since he had the rougher work schedule, but he insisted. I guess he wanted to keep me in there where he didn't have to look at me.
I tried to be as inoffensive as possible as I waited for it all to repair itself. I missed sleeping next to him, I missed talking with him. Over the next few weeks he quietly subtracted everything that had gone between us. He attempted to be civil but when he disliked somebody he disliked them fully... before long he was openly rude. I still loved him and imagined for a while if I was patient he'd change his mind about me... I tried to get him to open up and tell me what he felt. But I saw him writing me off. My presence embarrassed him. Maybe I frightened him... he expected me to be strong for him, not damage myself when I was distraught. I was unwelcome now, I could sense it and I resented it. I'd only driven out there to be with him, and when I'd proved myself to not be what he wanted, he had discarded me.
"You aren't even trying, are you?" I said one day. He looked at me like I was insane. "No, I don't know why I should. You're being very rude and offensive," he said, as though he wasn't the same. For some reason I apologized. Maybe I thought it would make a difference. He did what he could to simultaneously make me feel like garbage and a heartless manipulator. It only worsened later on; we thrashed at each other blindly when we spoke at all.
He didn't throw me out of the apartment. I think at first he was concerned about keeping his word, and had no more affection for me than any of his other enemies, and by the time his word no longer concerned him he was moving out. I found myself speculating if this was how it had gone with his much-maligned previous roommate, Eric. Had they started as lovers before the relationship imploded?
In the end he just wanted me to get lost. The few local friends I had were getting together with Lance to share a huge house, to save on rent and cut Peter out of the scene. When I heard about it I asked each of them what they thought about me joining them. Many were evasive. They weren't sure. After a while I got the hint. They'd heard about how fucked up I was, from their soon-to-be roommate John, and certainly didn't want us both in the same house. Morgan in particular wanted nothing to do with me because I was 'depressoid,' whatever that meant.
There was no way I could afford an apartment by myself. My only realistic option was to ask to live with Peter, since everyone had abandoned his place. Having previously maligned Peter to no end, John thought it was cool that I was moving in with someone who might decide he wanted to kill me, which suggested the regard in which John held me. Meanwhile he gathered almost all my acquaintances into a place where I wasn't welcome. He didn't hate me completely... he insisted that I take his portable stereo. I considered this a loan, and later he came to retrieve it.
Less than a year later, Morgan told John he would pay him money to get the fuck out. John named a number. Morgan, who'd come into his stock options, handed him a pile of cash, and John started packing. Lance got the boot not long after, ejected from the clique his force of personality had helped create. The moochers who hung out there didn't miss either of them, and the tone of the local scene became decidedly less cruel and political.
Much later I learned John had deleted our relationship from history. In his version we were not lovers; he'd felt sorry for me and offered me a place to stay until I could find work. I never looked for work and just slept on his couch for four months, abusing his hospitality. Just like Eric. He told this story to people who knew otherwise, who'd been present while he was still fawning over me, as though if he said it enough they'd believe it, and as if I needed to drive 3200 miles to find a roommate when my old crowd was still in Gainesville, four short hours away and half as expensive to live. He was that desperate to erase me from his memory.
I had fallen in requited love twice now, and although the experiences proceeded in two very different ways, in the end they were both absolute pain and shit which wasn't worth whatever I might have gained. I didn't want to be in love again. It was of no use to me. I turned that part of myself off.