I am writing with one finger on my iPad while our adopted pup, Emma, lays next to me gently gnawing on my other hand. I just burned some Sandalwood, iTunes Radio is playing The XX station, two candles are lit while I sit in an otherwise dark room. My escape. The designated spot in our house where I can go to detach and tap into my inner sixteen year old with a thirty year olds perspective. It’s where I can crawl into myself and hibernate within a familiar comfort zone for a few hours. Where old demons come to be freed and new paths are graciously formed.
Emma just curled up on the couch with her head resting on a pillow. She is calm for a change, but that is generally short lived.
I am writing about some of my darkest days while living in some of my happiest. Ironic. But I think to truly appreciate the darkness, I must finally experience the good. Because one would not exist without the other.
A Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions track came on. Trouble. How apropos. It fills the room like silk ribbons circulating in slow motion through the air, rippling and expanding so beautifully around me until it seeps into my pores so we become one.
And now Sean.
There is a blur in time. I remember his confession exploding within me like a grenade had been thrown into my gut. The walls were lined with my insides, leaving a Death Becomes Her style hole directly in my core.
What I do know for certain are these three things:
1. I crumbled.
2. I became desperate to use any substance.
3. Despite vowing not to communicate with Sean, I broke down and communicated with Sean.
I locked myself in my bedroom. I cried. I held onto that unbearable feeling in my stomach, in my heart. One that only comes from betrayal. From wilted love. From realizing that you have absolutely no control. That the fist squeezing your heart is far from being released. It is a feeling that manifests in every cell of the human body like a plague, a black cloud that filters through the bloodstream and suffocates from the inside out.
He called me. I called him. I don’t know how it happened. It doesn’t really matter because either way we began walking down a familiar road. I held his hand, closed my eyes, and followed Sean back into the forest. Each step was a painful embrace. I resented him, I hated that he continued to betray me. But I accepted it. Because his talk was smooth, his words were like a boa constrictor that wrapped round my neck till I gave in. That accent. Truthfully I wanted to give in. By that point the fantasy was too real. Over a year of building this life together, seeing it play out like a movie, scene by scene. Line by line. A film still running it’s course and I was not ready to give up my part. I no longer had a choice in the matter.
But here we go again.
His name is Christopher. I called him Chris, but it was never quite the same. Sean had become a symbol. The name was the voice was the fantasy was my world. Chris was a new word that had no meaning. No value. It was an empty vessel whereas Sean was a ship brimming with endless possibility.
Our late night talks, sleep drenched and lovelorn, often ended with Chris saying how sorry he was for lying. How special I am for accepting him regardless. Our love was transcendent. The resentment I felt always lingered like a bitter aftertaste, but it was never enough to leave. His morbid sense of humor, his mystery, his fascination with me, his emotional depth and darkness were too beautiful to walk away from. Despite his name, despite his history, his education, his physicality – he was Sean. He was always that second self I searched for my entire life. The details no longer mattered. He was everything I needed, everything I wanted. And he knew just how to fill that role.
Day by day we walked further from reality and deeper into the woods. My emotional and mental stability depleted with each step, as I was filled with love, with anger, confusion, resentment. I could never fully believe anything he said, which began to feel more isolating than before. But then he would tell me he loved me. That we would spend an eternity together. And my fear was replaced with a blind confidence that our Great European Life would unfold soon.
“You’ll never believe who I met,” he said one night after going to a private bar with some friends. “We were at this posh club and some friends knew friends of Kate Middleton.”
I had no idea who that was. He found my ignorance humorous and endearing.
“Prince Charles’ girlfriend. She was out drinking with her friends and invited us to go in their limo.” He told me about their night and his connections to the English social scene. The idea was overwhelming. Like being inducted into a secret, elite society. I always knew I was meant for something more, something grand.
I would be part of that life soon enough.
I stayed up till the early morning most nights. When I was not talking to Chris, my thoughts were occupied with our future. I was snorting coke, taking pills or whatever I could get my hands on. I am an equal opportunist when it comes to drugs. I think I had left my job at the restaurant already. Not completely sure. Things become fuzzy. But I had a phone in one ear, listening to Chris tell me how much he loves me one minute then lie to me the next. I was barely sleeping. My online escapades resulting in personal degradation continued. One substance after another consistently found a way into my body.
I ceased to exist.
August 21, 2005.
After having trouble finding pills, I took my search online to the local gay internet community. The dealer I had been using from the restaurant had cut me off, so it was slim pickings.
A guy around my age messaged me that he had some Xanax. He lived in the development across from mine, so I promptly invited him over to hang out. I had only taken Xanax in small doses before, but I was feeling extra determined to make it a good night.
He came over not too long before midnight. My parents were asleep in their room, so I snuck him into the house. We each took four bars of Xanax and now played the waiting game. I always loved that initial half hour before pills kicked in, the anticipation was almost as good as the actual high that eventually took over.
But I was impatient.
The Xanax wasn’t kicking in fast enough, and I have always been a firm believer that more is better. Life in excess. Me and my no-name-friend made the decision to drive out to his dealers house to buy more. We got into his car and drove to the Bank of America down the street from my house. I eagerly put my debit card in the ATM slot and asked my accomplice how much I should take out.
That is the last thing I remember.
I woke up. It was sometime in the morning or early afternoon. My eyes opened and I immediately felt a throbbing in my head. Filtered sunlight cut through the closed blinds, drenching the room with an almost pale glow. I pulled the white down comforter up to eyes, wanting to disappear. It was the morning haze, wondering what had happened the night before. But still too out of it to really care.
Almost as if on cue, the bedroom door opened. My mom was at the doorway; she looked like someone had just died. Did someone just die? I realized I had no idea what was going on. No idea what I did that night or how I got home.
I just woke up, how could disaster strike so soon? My mother couldn’t believe that I had no idea what happened. Her anger and hurt struck a chord of fear in me, a feeling that I had really fucked up this time. I had no words before she started spitting out the previous twenty-four hours.
The news barely processed.
I was arrested on a DWI charge at 3am after miserably failing a sobriety test on the side of the road in a residential neighborhood. I blew a 0.0% alcohol level but my urine sample had an excess amount of Xanax that would have made Courtney Love blush.
Any information I have about my arrest and short stint in jail is solely based off of the police report, surveillance footage, my partner in crime, and my parents. I have absolutely no recollection of being arrested, driven to prison, strip searched, interrogated, put in jail or coming home. There are quick flashes I can remember, but they are vague and fuzzy. I do know for certain that I was dressed in brown grandpa slippers, ripped army shorts, a yellow and white baseball shirt that I had spilled some kind of orange liquid down the front.
My parents were devastated.
I had called them from jail to get me, but had no idea where I was. The drugs took me out and I was unable to communicate to my family that I was in the Fort Lauderdale jail. I was completely incoherent. They had to call in favors from work acquaintances with connections in law enforcement to find out where I was located.
I can’t even imagine the feelings. The pain they suffered from my shit. From being woken up by a fucked up son in jail. Having to reach out to others for assistance in locating me. To finding a bail bondsman. Then actually having to go through the motions of not only picking me up, but also seeing the complete disaster I was. The ripped army shorts falling down, the tattered brown slippers, the stained shirt. The oblivion. Barely able to walk.
Their son. Their child.
Images flashed in my head as if it was a movie I had seen as a little boy. So far away, but polluting my head nonetheless. Visions of being put into a solitary room because I was becoming volatile in the holding area. My fingers trying to pry open the door to escape. Sitting in a room with other train wrecks waiting for my name to be called.
But that is all. The rest is a total blank.
Hours of my life that I will never know.
I later learned more from the police report and the kid who was arrested with me:
We drove back to the dealer’s house and each purchased another 4 bars of Xanax, proceeding to take them immediately. I was already in a blackout by that time, so we had now taken a total of 8 full bars of Xanax each. I then drove his car to take us back to my house.
The police received a report that a car was stopped at the stop sign in a residential neighborhood for some time. When they came, the car was still in drive with my foot on the break. I was in oblivion at the wheel. They asked me to put the car into park, but I did not know how. The officer had to do it for me.
I watched the police video of my sobriety test a few years ago. A humbling moment, to say the least.
I had officially hit a new low. A black hole that sucked so many people down with me.
But I just needed to talk to Sean.
He called later that night. Blocked call. A symbol of relief.
Sean listened in shock as I told him what had happened. He was serious, firm – but supportive. What I needed. But his concern for me grew, as I was never forthcoming about my drug use. Sean knew only what I told him, which was about 40% reality and 60% downplay or outright dismissal of those skeletons. He was worried, and I loved that.
He began to call more frequently over the next few days to check up on me. He dedicated so much time to make sure I was okay. The shame and guilt I felt over my arrest only added to the growing depression. My parents were angry, so hurt and sad, that I had a hard time being around it. So I locked myself away and found comfort in Sean’s voice. He was the one who understood, who didn’t judge me for what I had done. Who wanted to hold me as everything continued to collapse around my four walls. I melted into his distant embrace, could feel his warmth as we talked for hours throughout the day and night. He was there when I needed him and made sure to be present as best he could.
I just waited for those two words to appear on my phone.
“Please give me your phone number,” I would plead. I wanted direct access to the Bat Phone. But he wouldn’t give it to me.
“I can’t. My father will see the incoming calls from The States on the phone bill.” Another reason. “And I don’t have to pay for the long distance. I don’t want you to have all the charges.”
But it made sense. My mind warped it all to always make sense.
I was online one night when I received a message through AIM. That familiar chime always elicited a momentary rush of adrenaline.
I began to talk to a frat guy from FSU who had found my profile after searching on AOL. He introduced himself and asked if we could talk.
It was about Sean.
I had never spoken to anyone that knew him. So many questions. This conversation was one that I needed more than anything. It was clarity. It was inside information into my soul mate. I don’t know what his name was, but I believe it started with a “J”. And for some reason I remember the color orange – I have no idea why, but maybe it holds some meaning. So for the sake of the story I will call him Jeff.
We began messaging back and forth. I was glued to the computer screen like a moth to a flame. Jeff had answers. He knew things that I had wanted to know for years. He told me that he and Sean were no longer in contact, but were friends for some years, had the semblance of a relationship for a while. Sounds familiar.
“That’s what he does,” Jeff messaged. “He tells you what you want to hear, lies about his whole life, then fucks you over. He did it to me and he did it to some other guys that I met.”
Another nuclear bomb. My life was becoming like that game Minesweeper. One step to the left and boom. Two steps to the right and it was smooth sailing until I hit another. My very own war zone.
Emma has her head down on the pillow, arms outstretched, while Tori Amos sings Girl off of the Little Earthquakes album. “She’s everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own…”
Jeff went on to tell me his story. How he and Sean would talk for hours every day, how they never met because one thing after another kept them apart. But there was something between them that was unexplainable. Jeff was lonely at the time and in the closet while part of a fraternity at FSU. Sean was his companion, his partner. But one thing led to another led to another and Sean became darker, more inconsistent. Until finally he was contacted by someone who had gone through the same thing with Sean, and suddenly his bubble burst.
I asked questions. I didn’t want to believe what he was saying. But how else would he know? Maybe it was different with me. Sean and I had something special. They didn’t have what we had.
But they had the same thing.
And he knew what I was going through. But I didn’t want to talk to him. I needed to talk to Sean so I could find out what was happening. I needed to know the truth. But that was when I realized that I would never know the truth. As badly as I wanted to. And then I began to wonder about Jeff. His story was so in line with mine. How did he find me? How did he learn about me? It didn’t make sense.
So I asked how he knew who I was. He said Sean contacted him not long ago to try and come back into his life. “Because that is what he does,” Jeff wrote. “He will randomly call you and want to pick things up again. It’s like you’re his puppet. He’s a sick fuck.”
But I wouldn’t believe it.
And that’s when Sean signed online. GuyFsu02. Another symbol that made my heart beat just a little faster. All of these things [words, accents, locations, screen names, songs] became representations of him — reminders, symbols of the guy I was completely in love with. The guy I had never met. The guy who knew everything about me. The guy who became so intertwined with my very fabric that I had completely lost myself. He was the best fucking drug I could ever have found.
Or did he find me?
I told him that something had happened and he needed to call.
“Hallo.” His voice melted into my ear like folding whipped cream into chocolate mousse. Light, silky and delicate.
Don’t back down.
I could hear it in his voice immediately when I asked about Jeff. He hesitated and got quiet before speaking. But he confirmed everything. Just like that.
Just like that.
Just like that I found out that he was in Tallahassee the whole time. He had never gone to London. He never went to a treatment program in Tampa. His name may or may not have be Sean or Chris. Most of what he said was fabricated. He took photos of other guys off the internet and used them as his own. The knitted sweater that had kept me warm for so long was now full of holes.
The Sean I loved did not exist.
There was a man behind the curtain who played a part, who led me along for two years.
He didn’t exist.
I couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. None of it was real. The plans would never come to fruition, the life together in England would never happen, the fairy tale had met a completely new ending.
And I lost it.
I threw everything at him that I could. Every insult. Every profane word. Every awful thing that I wanted to happen to him. I never felt a rage as severe as I felt on that night. My face was so hot and throbbed like I would start bleeding from my eyeballs. I still held on to the idea that something had to be different. We had shared so much, built this world together. But as badly as I wanted to hold on to him, on to our epic romance, I felt it being ripped from my white knuckled fist. My fingernails cracking and breaking as the dream is pulled from my grasp. It was over. Even if I fell further back into denial, I still knew the truth.
He didn’t exist.
I wrote him awful emails. Beautifully written, well-crafted, awful emails that let him know just how he should die. How he was a pathetic, worthless piece of shit.
But then I have to look at myself.
I walked down this road for two years by my own choice. I was broken, searching and scared. I helped write this story just as much as he did. I could go on about how I felt, how moving forward day by day was more excruciating than losing Sean. But I won’t. This person who I loved so much, who I had a future with, who knew me inside and out, who loved me, who understood me, who was that other half I wanted my entire life… I had him for two years. At least in my mind did. I had a purpose. I had everything.
It’s like Sean passed away and I was grieving a death. The person I knew in my mind was loving, passionate, honest and cared for me unconditionally. He was taken from me, along with all that went with him. Hope, love, safety and purpose.
He didn’t exist.
So who was I then?