Open Letters (Kathy)

Dear Kathy:

Hi there. I know this is going to seem a little weird, but I'm writing this letter from the bedroom of a one-night-stand I just had. It is a four-poster bed, dark metal, without a canopy. A little island in the middle of this vast barren wasteland which is her bedroom. She's packing, moving out of this house she used to share with a husband, back when they were still pretending that things were okay. Now everything is in boxes on the first floor, and this fourth floor, the one we're on, the one that's been converted into one of those vast, expansive, doorless bedrooms, is empty save for the canopyless bed, a small antique dresser in the corner, covered in half-melted vanilla candles from Urban Outfitters, and an ashtray on the bay windowsill that says "I was stolen from Ray's Diner, Wisconsin Dells!"

I'm watching the woman soundlessly sleep beside me, curled on her side facing away from me. She's tan, but pale in swimsuit areas, a lattice across her back, which I don't think I've ever seen in one of my lovers so strikes me as weird now. My partners are usually so pale. Pale, with dyed hair, and funky glasses to make them look uglier than they are. She's not like that. She's tan and athletic and tries to look prettier than she is. It works, by the way. She woke up a few minutes ago. Turned groggily to me and asked if anything was wrong. I told her I was writing and she turned right around and went straight back to sleep. She considers me an artist, ergo weird and passionate and eccentric, so it's perfectly okay for me to sit up in the bed in the middle of the night, chain smoking and scribbling across a piece of stolen stationary in a room too dark for me to see what exactly it is I'm writing. This is okay, she's told me before, because I produce. I'm not like the ex-husband, who threw the temper tantrums of an artist but never got published, never even sent out his stuff to be published. She loved him for it when she was 19, she explained, but got pretty tired of it by the time she was 29. I've been published, so I'm allowed to be weird.

I want to tell her how jealous I am of the life she used to have. The thing people don't realize about passionate, eccentric people is how little they want to be passionate, eccentric people. I wish I could've bought a house with someone, even if eventually we sold it again. I fantasize about the two of them driving around this city I don't know, standing arm-in-arm in front of a narrow four-story brownstone, like one of those really bad romance movies, smiling to each other in trepidation and nervousness and the giddiness of an uncharted future together. He happy because he's getting everything he wants; she happy in spite of herself, happy for a moment while in the middle of a long sadness of acceding to his wishes. Thinking to herself that maybe this marriage will work after all. Here's the house to prove it, after all.

Sure, their marriage fell apart a year later, pain and heartbreak and mistrust and a very damaged soul. But I get that pain every time too, without the pleasure of standing in front of that brownstone, holding my mate in my arms and breathing the clear air of possibilities. I want to tell her to be happy that she got that, that she at least got to experience a little joy in the middle of it all, that for a time she was able to at least pretend that her life was normal. I'm passionate and eccentric. I don't get to have those experiences. Everything in my life is one-night-stands and shitty studio apartments that never seem to be clean, no matter how hard I try. My mom used to say that no man will ever live in a tidy home until a woman eventually lives with him. Quite obviously for my mom, she forgot about the gay community, but in general I think she's right. I never will have an orderly life until I have a woman to come in and force it to be orderly, to throw away the unnecessary clutter I clutch to my chest, unable to let go, unable to create the void until I have something to fill it.

I like her, Kathy. What can I say? Wait, I know what you'd say. "Jason, give you a month and you can magically ruin any relationship." And you're right, which is why I'm sitting here writing you this letter instead of waking her up, making her sit in the bed throughout the night listening to me gush on and on. My feelings for her is a flood of happiness and romance and flowers and gooey things that make you flip the bird to random strangers on Valentine's Day. My mouth is a funnel, collecting the flood and allowing it to flow out only in little drips, very slowly and very patiently. She has no idea I feel all these things about her, because I'm finally taking your advice and not throwing myself on her like a drowning sailor after a shipwreck. Maybe you weren't completely full of shit, after all.

So how's the kiddie porn asshole? Oh, I'm sorry, I mean your husband. Me, bitter? Why does everyone else get to be married, Kathy? Every time I start bitching about this, my friends bring up what they think is a foolproof rational argument - "Yeah, but every married couple you know is fucking miserable." Well, so what? I'm miserable, AND I'm alone. Are you any sadder with pencil-dick than I am by myself? At least you get to go to bed with him every night. I get on a plane tomorrow morning and may never see this woman again. What's worse?

I hold every married couple in the history of time in contempt. Marriage exists for no other possible reason than to spite single people. "Ha-ha! Look at us! We've found someone else who can stand us, and we're going to take ourselves off the market just so you have one less choice available to you! Fuck you, Jason, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!" I mean, I don't really feel that way. But I DO, you know, I DO feel that way at three in the morning, laying in my little desert island in the middle of some stranger's bedroom, watching her ribcage expand and contract, expand and contract, wanting more than anything else to suddenly wake her and shake her as hard as I can, to yell at her at the top of my lungs, "If I could take away every ounce of pain your ex ever caused you I would, I would kill myself to make your life retroactively happy, and why did that asshole get eight years of bliss with you, why does the nice guy get eight years of being alone, why, why?" So, yes, fuck married people. You heard me right. Fuck the 57 percent of all people who find someone who is willing to spend the rest of their lives with them, and leave them anyway. All my friends get to be irrational sometimes and get away with it, so why don't I?

She is in flux. She was only in this city for her ex, and now he's her ex so she gets to go anywhere she wants. I'm trying to convince her, in my own little trickling funnel way, to move to where I am. It's a good city, I tell her. There's lots of jobs. There's lots of computer people. There's lots of artists. Apartments are cheap. Salaries are high. Crime is low. You're close to everything. You don't need a car. All the dot com assholes are about a million miles away from us, just like we want it. I want to whisper, as an afterthought, like the cheesy romantic movie we're characters in, "Besides...I'm there." And I want it to matter to her, even though I know it doesn't. I'm her crazy, artistic, eccentric fuck buddy from the big city. I'm her excuse to play Anais Nin for a night, but Jesus, who the fuck wants to marry Henry Miller?

Anyway. I've got to go. She just woke up and wants to have sex again. She padded her way across the vast bedroom naked, her ass so perfect that someone should make a reality television series out of it. She asked me earlier what I fantasize about when I fuck her. I told her some bullshit, like that someone's joining us or that we're being webcast on a pay-per-view adult site. But really? I fantasize that she's my wife. I fantasize that it's our house, and instead of moving out we are moving in, the lack of furniture doing nothing but exciting us more. I pretend that the world of unlimited possibilities stretches before us like an unending highway, paved across the midwest until it disappears over the horizon. And then I pretend we own a Volkswagen Passat. And we leave all our baggage right there on the side of the road, we don't even pack it, we just hop in the car with the clothes on our back, plop in a beat-up tape of Sleater-Kinney, blast it so loud that the speakers burst into flames, and we take off down that highway, tearing off the rear-view mirrors and never looking back.