Denial

One year ago I woke up pressed between the warm bodies of two men I didn’t know. Cane mumbled something to Jay, asking if he was working the ten or one o’clock shift today. I don’t remember what time it was, but he checked the clock and muttered something angry about needing to wake up.

Cane got out of bed and went in the bathroom to shower. Jay walked their dog. I hadn’t even realized they had a dog. The room was bright now, but all I really saw were my pants and shirt on the floor. I dressed in vague motions that felt like the fabric of dreams. I latched my belt, listened to the falling water from the bathroom, and sat on the floor.

What had I done?

Their dog was black, a mixed lab of some sort, not much bigger than my old dog. But this dog wasn’t old, still practically a puppy. After his walk, he came to me tail wagging, eyes popping, and jumped onto my lap to start licking my face. Maybe I laughed. I think I smiled. He calmed down after a moment, laying in front of my knees while I still petted him.

It felt good. So I kept petting.

Cane came out of the bathroom in a towel. His pictures had perfectly captured his body–the shape, the definition, the sex appeal–but the resolution hadn’t filled in the fine details. The wrinkles. The discolored spots on his chest and arms. Scars. Tattoos. I watched in guilty fascination as he undid the towel and pulled on a sleek pair of fitted boxer-briefs in some bright color. I think he put on jeans and a simple, but neat tee, maybe a polo, or perhaps it had been a button down. I don’t remember. I kept petting his dog.

Cane told me he’d had a good time or something maybe and said Jay would drive me back, then he grabbed a cup of coffee–both of them out of the bedroom now, I felt obliged to follow them–and left through a door off the kitchen’s breakfast nook. A few minutes later, Jay was looking for the keys, first in the bedroom, in the pants they had worn yesterday, then upstairs, then in the kitchen.

He looked frustrated when he realized they were in the other car. With Cane.

Jay told me he’d walk over there–it wasn’t far–and get the keys, to just hang out for a few minutes until he got back. So I waited. I’d have kept petting the dog, but he’d been put up already since we were supposed to be leaving. I sat on the black sofa in their living room. I stared at the faded painting of tall, narrow trees over the fireplace. I looked at the magazines on their coffee table. I felt a bit like Alice, lost down the rabbit hole into an upside-down world.

Jay came back. It hadn’t been a few minutes. I daresay it was thirty. We drove back to school in fifteen minutes, maybe twenty tops. I shook my head, thinking how ignorant the cab driver had been the night before.

Back in my room. Back in my room the world seemed to change. I stopped hearing things. I didn’t hear my clothes as they fell to the floor. I didn’t hear the familiar creaking sound as I turned on the water. I didn’t hear the splashing or the scrubbing or my bedroom door closing or my clothes drawers sliding open or the shoe laces rubbing past each other as I tied them or the front door closing or the stairwell door opening as I pushed it–a gasping sound riddled with metal–or my footsteps on the steps and then on the bricks. I couldn’t hear the wind. I couldn’t hear the people I passed. I couldn’t even see the space around the point somewhere in front of me where I fixed my gaze.

What had I done?

I filled my plate at the dining hall. I felt hungry. There was a hole inside my stomach, slowly starting to consume me in the absence of other things to eat. The food was flavorless. I couldn’t taste the sweet bite of carrots or whatever else I ate. More than missing its taste, it all felt the same: no crunch, no crisp, just slimy mush in every mouthful. I left half of it uneaten before I left.

I made my way to the library. I couldn’t hear the cars as they drove by. I couldn’t hear the grumbling engines of buses or their screeching tires as they ground to a halt for the idiots who didn’t look both ways before crossing, for the imbeciles who did and walked anyways. I still couldn’t hear the wind or my footsteps or my heartbeat or my pulse.

I couldn’t focus on algebra. I wrote an email to the GLBT Center graduate assistance, asking if he’d be around to talk with. In the meeting before, he’d led a workshop on desire mapping: We drew pictures of where we came from, where we were, where we wanted to be. My picture–red and geometric–dissolved into a flat-lined black heart at my present, half a tree once grown tall now barren.

He said if anyone needed to talk, he would be there to listen.

I decided I needed someone to talk to.

A few hours pastsed. I don’t know what filled them. What had I done?

In his office I started crying. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember what he said. Something about meeting with a counselor. Something about getting tested. He made sure I had his number in case I needed it. I said thank you. I finally stopped crying. I left.

I walked home. I paced in endless circles. I kept sobbing.

What had I done?

  1. Prologue: One Year Ago
  2. Rock Bottom
  3. Denial
  4. Anger
  5. Bargaining
  6. Depression
  7. Acceptance
  8. Epilogue: One Year Ago
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