Sean had left Tallahassee before I got there, so alas my amateur attempts of stalking and subsequent two thousand dollar car damage was for nothing. But like everything at that time, the reality of the situation rolled off my back like I was greased in butter. I had Sean again and I was home.
We began to make plans to visit each other. The nights of talking would always circle back to when we would meet. How that first encounter would go. What we would do to one another. “I’ll grab you and squeeze you so tight that your eyeballs will pop out of your skull,” he told me. “I’ll crawl inside your body like a parasite so we could be connected forever.” His romantic morbidity was so fucking sexy. The darkness was a black smoke that invaded my nostrils and made me feel whole. He shared my affection for bizarre and off-color endearment, something that just made him that much more special.
By this point he had sent me his actual photos. He finally felt comfortable showing me his true self, which I knew was a major step for Sean in facing his own fears. He had a beautiful shaved head with dark brown stubble that dusted his scalp. Soft, pale skin adorned with tattoos that crept up his toned forearms. Strong, chiseled cheekbones led to dark brown eyes that held a deep sadness I could immediately identify with. Another photo showed off his bare chest, toned abs and snow-white skin. A pair of black jeans hung just low enough to show me that I needed to get in better shape before meeting him. My heart could barely contain the excitement.
“Why were you afraid to show me yourself? You’re everything I could ever have wanted,” I said to him, unable to hide my feelings.
“I don’t know, really,” he said. “It’s all very stupid now I guess. I just wanted you to know me. Not just in pictures. But me. I’m sorry I waited.” He couldn’t hide the bashfulness in his voice. A sincere moment of beauty.
He told me that he had been planning to get a tattoo of the first piano piece he ever wrote. The music notes would start at his wrist and climb all the way up his arm and around his neck. It was a song he wrote for his mother after she had died.
“Your father will kill you,” I laughed.
“Well my father might not see it.” He paused. The silence began to linger and become almost uncomfortable. “I may be going back to London to live for awhile.”
A blow to my gut.
“Sean, what? No. Please no.”
“I got accepted into the Psychology program at Oxford. I have to do it. My father really wants me to and I need to finish my studies. I fucking hate this, Ryan. I just want us to be together.”
“I can go with you, Sean. I’ll go to London and live with you.”
And just like that we began to talk about moving to England together. About our life in London, living in the flat his father still had. Walking to the market together before university. I would get a job as a designer, working for a magazine like Rolling Stone. We would travel the countryside, take the train throughout Europe. We could stay at his friend’s cottage on holiday, pick fresh strawberries and swim in the lake. I could smell the London air. Feel our life together. I would just have to get a passport and let my parents know about our plans. My fear of losing Sean quickly turned into excitement at the prospect of actually building our European life together.
The weeks leading up to his departure back to England were filled with endless hours of phone calls. We continued to talk all day and night, even while I began looking for jobs in South Florida. My parents were not too keen on me freeloading indefinitely, but I certainly tried milking the mental instability card as much as possible.
Sean left for England sometime mid June. I began to work as a waiter so I could save up money. I was unable to call him since he did not have a phone in London yet, so I had to wait until he contacted me when he got there. It was excruciating. I was used to talking to him everyday, so I began to calculate the hours that it would take for him to arrive in England, get to his dorm, rest, then locate a phone. Those hours passed. A gnawing anxiety began to burrow in my chest.
Days began to pass.
I did what any twenty-one year old would have done in 2005. I updated my MySpace profile to read that I was in a relationship. I created an album using the only few photos I had of Sean, captioning them with not-so-clever blurbs like, “my brit boy”. I watched as the comments flooded in from my online buddies congratulating me on bagging a hot guy. I called my friends to let them know that I would be moving to London with Sean. I was on a high, held a power of purpose that made me feel like I had something so much better than everyone else. I had true love, I had my tortured British boyfriend, I had the taste of an epic life dancing on my tongue.
But he still hadn’t called. And that absence plagued me all day like a ball and chain tied to my ankle as I trudged along.
I made some friends at the restaurant I was working at in Weston. We would take turns going to the bathroom together to snort lines of coke off the top of the toilet. What can I say, we had a connection. It’s how many of my friendships began to be built those days. Like minds seem to attract each other just as easily as low self esteem swims together like a school of sad little fish. This job was a stepping-stone and these people were insignificant in the grand scheme of my Great European Life. But I made due for the time.
Then finally I received a call from a blocked number and I knew it was him. I jumped to grab my phone and press the little green TALK icon. “Hello?” I said eagerly.
“Hallo.” I could hear the smile of excitement in his voice. A voice that immediately travelled through my veins like an electric current.
“Holy fucking shit.” I exclaimed. “Where have you been?”
His laugh was always so amazing. I loved when I could effortlessly make him laugh.
“I’ve been in fucking London crammed in a dorm room. Ryan I miss you so much. I can’t believe I’m hearing your voice! My flatmates are crazy. You would love it here.”
He had been so busy acclimating to England, getting started at Oxford and moving that he hadn’t been able to call. He apologized over and over but insisted that he would make it up when I got there.
We stayed on the phone all night catching up. He made fun of me for getting a serving job at a restaurant, saying that the working class is beneath me. He loved to poke fun at my encounters with “mediocrity”. He told me the music was amazing in London, so many new artists that had not made it over to the The States. The food, the fashion, the culture. It was a lifestyle that became more superior and grandiose as we spoke about it. My childhood dreams of being chosen for something special were laying before me for the taking. I had to go to England.
Sean was going out with some new friends that night, which ignited an uneasy feeling in my stomach almost immediately. Up to that point he rarely talked about having other friends. I was the only person in his life, or at least the only one that mattered. The idea of other people pulling him away and complicating things made me jealous, made me feel rejected. But I kept it hidden.
After we hung up, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sean being out with other people. We were on a five-hour time difference, so I knew he was probably drinking with them by now. I hated the idea of sharing Sean with anyone else. Let alone enjoying the company of someone other than me. We were inseparable. The same person. We were special and no one would understand that. I grabbed my phone to call him. I had to hear his voice. It was then I realized I still didn’t have his number. He had called from a blocked line and never gave it to me.
I suddenly felt so alone.
I must have fallen asleep with the phone clutched to my ear, because when it began to ring I woke up with an uneasy excitement. I had trouble sleeping, wrestling with demons all night. I needed to hear his voice.
Blocked Call. That identification became a symbol of salvation.
His tone was deflated and dreamy. “I wish you were there.” I could hear the alcohol in his voice. I pictured him red-eyed, curled up in bed like a little boy in a dark room. His voice was almost a whisper. “Move here,” he said, “I want you to be here right now.”
I wanted nothing more. His longing for me voided any concern I had about other people tearing us apart. Our fantasy was still very much alive. We lay in bed, continents apart, souls intertwined. I listened to Sean drift to sleep. Words of love alternated with extended moments of silence like thunder during a storm.
I logged onto the Oxford website and began researching their student directory to find Sean’s email address. I wanted to know more about his university life, whatever I could find. I hadn’t heard from him in a day since he went out with his new friends.
I typed in his first and last name, scrolling through the list of students by department. But there was no match. I checked out other departments for his name or similar names, but again the search came up unsuccessful.
There was a feeling in my gut that had lingered for months, but had chosen to ignore. A feeling that raised an evil brow every time I caught Sean in a lie. Every time something he said didn’t add up. I can’t explain the rate at which my heart began to race. Anxiety filtered into my system just as quickly. My thoughts went from bad to really bad as I sat and stewed on every possible worse case scenario. I needed answers, but had no way to get them until he called me. I couldn’t even pick up a phone to get ahold of Sean.
I began hanging out with the restaurant crew more, filling my time with as much other stuff as possible. We would hang out after work at someone’s house and snort coke until the bags were dry and liquor began to run low. I was the advocate of driving out to get more blow as soon as I saw it was dwindling. Mission trips. I never liked to see a bag get low. The emptier the bag, the closer to reality. I wanted to avoid that at all cost.
A few days had gone by when finally Sean called. I immediately confronted him about the Oxford directory. Suddenly his affinity for my stalker tendencies was nonexistent.
“What is going on, Sean? Why haven’t you called? Why can’t I find you in their student registry?” I was so tired. So drained. I just wanted answers more than anything. I wanted the bullshit to stop so we could go back to the way it was. When we would sit all night talking shit. Talking about the future together. About our lives. Our perspectives. Had he found someone else? Was I not good enough? Was he finally seeing that I’m a loser?
He sighed. He was annoyed with me. Angry. Frustrated. I don’t know. I’m not even sure what he said as he began to talk. Everything was a complete blur up until the words came forth: “My name’s not Sean.” That fucking accent. His fucking voice. It was like a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. My inside’s completely dropped to the floor and I became putty.
“What do you mean?” My voice couldn’t hide the fear that escaped as a tremble. I didn’t want to know anymore. But I had to. I had to hear whatever it was that he was going to say.
“I’ve been lying. My name isn’t Sean.” He was cold. It wasn’t the guy I loved.
“Why? Why would you lie? What the fuck?” My thoughts were completely scattered and I just mumbled out whatever I could. “Tell me your name. I don’t understand this. Please tell me.” I was pleading through building tears.
It was all crashing down. The dream was tearing apart and I couldn’t stop it.
“There’s nothing to tell you. I’m not a good person. I don’t know why I’ve lied to you. Why I keep lying to you.”
I exploded. Every ‘fuck you’ I could muster was thrown at him. How was this happening? “Are you even at Oxford?” I screamed.
“I can’t fucking do this.” The tears started to flow. I was suddenly realizing just how alone I was, how alone I had been. I put everything into this lie. Dreamed of a life that was suddenly not real. “What is your name?” I pleaded with him to tell me who he is. I had to know.
“It doesn’t fucking matter, Ryan. Stop doing this to yourself.” His words were still so beautiful to me. The drug.
“Is that why I can’t call you? You didn’t want me to know your phone number?”
And right about now you would think that this was over. That the phone was hung up and we parted ways for good. But that didn’t happen.