By Gotham Grit
It wasn't long before Boyfriend had moved out of his mother's house where he'd been staying, and in with me to my windowless, basement studio apartment. It was a set-up where there were three separate furnished rooms. I had the biggest room, L-shaped with a low beam I religiously cracked my head upon every time I got out of bed. There was one bathroom which all the basement tenants had to share and a bogus, makeshift kitchen with a two-burner hot-plate. One of the other two rooms housed a wormy guy whom I knew was trying to gain access through my door under the guise of being "neighborly," and to whom I was completely cold and anti-social. The third room was small as a closet and was empty save for a twin bed.
For months I had been brooding solitarily in that dark, wood-paneled hole in the ground, and then I had Boyfriend's company all the time. At first it was fun. Of course the wormy guy abated and Boyfriend and I played the role of blissful domestic couple despite the dismal, moldy smelling atmosphere. We cleaned, did laundry, changed the furniture around and went food shopping together. We had our comfortable morning and meal routines. We liked the same shows on TV and on the nights we were home we stayed up until 2AM watching them.
We would lie awake and tell each other our deepest insecurities and fears. Never had I been able to bare my soul like I could to Boyfriend, because nothing shocked him - he had seen the worst of everything, and he never once judged or mocked me. I told him how ugly I felt and how many people had made fun of me throughout my life. And he would sob with guilt and heartbreak over the kid he had killed in jail. There were many nights that we would fall asleep in tears, sweaty and breathless from emotional stress.
There were many more nights we weren't even home though, because we both liked to go out and party quite often. For me it was a great time because my circle of friends had grown exponentially since meeting Boyfriend and we always seemed to get the "working-class royal treatment" (lots of free beer and cocktails) wherever we went. For Boyfriend, however, it was a serious risk since he was still on probation and he wasn't allowed to consume any alcohol. Deep down, it bothered me that this risk he constantly took didn't seem to faze him at all. But instead of trying to talk sense to him about it (not that he would have listened), or see it as a red flag, I let his irresponsible mentality be my guide me into a world of bedlam.
I suppressed the nagging notion that this behavior contradicted his previous promises of wanting to turn his life around. I refused to acknowledge that if he really cared about me or this relationship or anything, he would have tried to do the right thing. Moreover, what I should have realized was that it wasn't even about him caring or not caring. Rather, he was possessed by certain addictions; the depths and seriousness of these I had no idea. Sure, I knew that cocaine was always being passed around at the bars - I also took part. But to me, at that time, it was recreational. I never woke up craving it or went hungry for it or couldn't pay my bills over it. However, I was about to learn Boyfriend's relationship with drugs was far more intimate and dangerous than that.
He was always disappearing. There was always some down-and-out friend in desperate need, some urgent situation he needed to help out with, some mysterious business he just had to attend to, that was more important than I was. He acted as if the world would cave in if he couldn't run and be in fifteen places a day, supposedly saving someone's ass. And of course, he always fell back on the old excuse of what a loyal guy he was, how when someone was in trouble, he just had to be there. He called it "having heart." I called it inconsideration and disrespect. How did all these people get along without him for the seven years while he was away?
There were many times that I was supposed to meet up with him somewhere, only to arrive and have some strange guy I didn't know meet me instead. The assigned chaperone would walk up to me and know who I was and greet me by name and bullshit me about how Boyfriend would be back in 15 minutes (try two hours). These assorted pseudo escorts would remain on the premises and keep an eye on me until Boyfriend actually showed up. After a couple times of this happening, I got fed up one night and tried to leave, at which point the escort insisted Boyfriend would be right there any minute and I really should wait. I could tell this person was probably afraid of what Boyfriend might do should he tell him that I had escaped. When I think back now, I get angry that I stayed.
I came to realize that this was one of Boyfriend's many forms of control, because even if he couldn't slow down long enough to give me the attention I deserved, even if he couldn't make me a priority over whatever other unscrupulous gallivanting was going on, or have the decency to let me know what he was up to, or who he was with or where he was, he would always make sure that he knew these things about me. You see, he could be all over the place, but I had to sit neatly in one spot with watchful eyes on me until he allotted his attention to me again.
It didn't take long for me to figure out that these disappearances were for Boyfriend to wheel and deal coke and favors. It also didn't take me long to see that Boyfriend had a serious addiction to cocaine himself. One time when we were on our way out shopping at about 11am, Boyfriend told me we had to stop by his friend's apartment because the guy owed him money. So we walk into some apartment building and a jittery, bug-eyed guy answers the door. In the living room was a pull-out couch on which a chick wearing nothing but a wife-beater and holey (ick!) underwear sat crossed-legged,waving her arms and babbling incoherently, her hair a sweaty, mangled mess over her head.
In the kitchen a mound of cocaine lay piled. It was like a vision of death actually waiting to happen.It made me nervous to be in the house with it - the devil's dandruff ready to snuff you. The jittery guy offered us some, and I was just repulsed.I stepped back and shook my head - at 11 in the morning? Blow was something I didn't even consider without a few drinks in me. It was at this moment I realized how bad Boyfriend's habit was, and how much further he was in than me. Because instead of refusing like I stupidly assumed he would, he took the guy up on his offer and snorted a couple of fat lines through a cut-off straw. I remember feeling true alarm at that moment, because suddenly I saw before me an existence with no boundaries into darkness.
And then there were the women. They were just drawn to Boyfriend as if under a spell. He was so intense, so fearless, I swear they could smell the unwieldiness seeping out of him.I felt like I had to beat groupies off every time we stepped out. There was no such thing as a quiet night out. There was always someone flirting, waiting, infiltrating; always some "old friend" lingering too long on his arm for a casual "hello." I remember one time sitting in a diner, the waitress came up with our plates from behind to serve us, and she laid her breasts right up against the back of Boyfriend's shoulders as she leaned in to place the dishes on the table!
He never had to go out of his way to get the attention, he just had this certain sullen magnetism that drew them right in. And he didn't discourage the attention either. He was only too happy to have it, and then later assure me I was imaging things if I questioned it. He would tell me it was me he came home with, and then literally not let me out of bed for two or three days at a time. I started to lose my concept of the days of the week. I'd be constantly hung over and physically depleted, entombed down in a room where daylight was never visible, disoriented from the constant sex and partying, and so emotionally and psychologically drained from all of Boyfriend's mind games that after awhile, I had no idea which way was up.
When I'd first met Boyfriend, despite my mostly depressed outlook, I had managed to create a somewhat of a reputation at my CUNY school as an up and coming playwright. I had been a straight A student in all my workshops. But now after being in my life for all of four months, Boyfriend would not let me do my homework. If he saw me trying to do anything related to school or writing, he would wrestle me into bed and insist it was time for sex and literally keep me there until I was exhausted and past the point of accomplishing any work. Most of the time I was hung over anyway, so I just blew school off.I was so discombobulated that it wasn't until a week after finals ended that I'd even realized I'd missed them.
I told him it was over. One day we sat down at a little bench park near Flushing Hospital and I told him I couldn't take his way of living anymore, the way he totally enveloped my existence to a point where I couldn't function as a person anymore. I told him I was done and of course he cried and begged, but I packed a shopping cart full of his crap and sent him home to his mother. Three days later he was back, and we had made up, and he was calmer for another 3 or 4 days. On a Friday afternoon I went to work the late shift in Manhattan. Boyfriend came that night to meet me when I got off, as he always rode the subway out to meet me when I worked late, then usually we would go do a few shots at the bar across the street before leaving to come back to Queens.
On this particular night Boyfriend showed up to my job rip-roaring drunk. And not just drunk, high on something. When he walked he was bent forward, staggering like a lummox, holding his forearm out before him. In his hand was a beer in a brown bag. At one point he vomited. (He would spontaneously vomit now and then and not until much later did I figure out it was heroin.) I was so pissed! How dare he show up in public, at my job in this horrible, embarrassing condition - especially after having just reconciled! We started fighting in the street, me telling him what a loser he was and him blankly asking me what was wrong, which angered me even more. I said I was leaving and for him not to bother coming home. He bawled and asked me not to go And then the cops were right there!I hadn't even seen which direction they had come from, they just materialized.
"Miss, are you OK? Is this guy bothering you?"
I looked back and forth between the two of them. I didn't know what to say. Boyfriend started to argue with them, drunken and slurring, struggling to keep his balance.
"Hey, what the fuck is your problem, man?" said Boyfriend, swiping his arm around, waving the brown bag under the one cop's face. "I'm just talking to my girl."
"What the fuck is my problem?" he said to Boyfriend, "What'd you got in that bag, big boy?"
"What, I'm drinking a beer, so what?"
"Yeah, you're out here, already drunk, drinking a beer, making a scene, so what?" the cop sang back sarcastically.
By now another third cop had separated me away from them, and was asking me questions - how I knew Boyfriend, what our relationship was. I could see over his uniformed shoulder that the other two were interrogating and ID'ing Boyfriend. My heart pounded. I knew Boyfriend was in deep shit. The second cop took the ID to the window of a patrol car where the partner of the cop with me was sitting. He ran a check, and next thing I knew Boyfriend was being handcuffed and shoved into the back of the car. They knew he had broken parole.