[“Dark Ages” is a series wherein I reconsider memories of boyfriends past through the lens of new knowledge and hope to make it worth my while (and not just a depressing trudge down memory lane) by learning something new about myself.]
End of summer, not long after my ill-fated visit with Ed. Looking back, I can see that I’d had some fun times over the summer, but it didn’t seem that fun at the time. I wasn’t happy.
One shitty evening, I called up my friend Gamer and told him my sad story. We spoke for a good while and he commiserated, but eventually and regretfully announced that he had someplace to be at a specific time. He didn’t want to blow me off, and he was going to a meeting for a group that I might like, and did I want to come with? I dusted myself off, got overdressed and waited for him to come pick me up. It was a welcome distraction.
A week or two later, a friend of his was having a party and many of the group members (only a few of whom I’d met) would be there. When I arrived at the house on a farm just outside of town, a bunch of guys swarmed out the door to meet me in the parking area. It was rather disconcerting, but I found out later that Gamer had gone on at some length about how hot I was, and so all the randy young bucks had to come out and see. One of them was Wolf (fairly tall, slim, quiet), but Gamer specifically warned me away from him with no explanation. By the end of the night I was still puzzled as to why — Wolf had barely spoken to me.
After hanging out together as friends quite a lot for about a month, Gamer and I started going out. I wasn’t keen to leap into a new relationship since my recent track record seemed pretty poor and I was still gun-shy, so I took it slow.
Gamer was skinny, a little taller than average, with long, thick, curly black hair. (If he brushed it out and let it frizz, it stuck out at an angle just like Roseanne Roseannadanna’s.) With his thick black hair and his full but nicely shaped eyebrows, he had sort of a Mediterranean look, though that wasn’t his background. It amused him to wear 70s polyester; I thought it made him look a little oily. He had been in his high school band (percussion) and had been a lifeguard over the last few summers.
Things were good. We knew each other pretty well to begin with, had interests in common, and were compatible. Being with Gamer was easy and comfortable. We declared our love multiple times a day but, because I was well and truly spooked from my experience with Bad Boy, I developed a habit of checking in with myself regularly to look for signs of dysfunction.
I hadn’t yet cut all ties with Bad Boy, and Gamer and I met up with him once for drinks. It was… odd. Being around the two of them at the same time was impossible because it seemed that I was a different person with each of them. And I didn’t like the person I seemed to be around Bad Boy.
One time, Gamer was over late and didn’t want to go home. The complication: I was still living at home (as was he) and I needed permission. I got it. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other and so we had sex, quietly. It was well past bedtime and I figured everyone was asleep. Still, in the morning my mom forbade him from staying over again. I pushed back, feeling pretty confident that I knew what the issue was but, for some reason, willing her to say it out loud. She didn’t. Conversation over.
A subsequent sexual encounter went much better. I was on top and had enough clitoral stimulation that I was able to orgasm during sex (as opposed to oral sex or masturbation) for the first time. Bonus points for perversity: in my mom’s bed.
Then there was the time that I took the ecstasy that Kent had managed to source for me. What I remember most was the overpowering, squirmy desire just to be touched, for hours.
Gamer and I had started with condoms but I eventually decided to go on the pill, so we both went to get checked out, as you do. I was clear. He had HPV and got treated. We ditched the condoms. I got infected. I didn’t know anything about HPV and Gamer hadn’t provided me with any info from his doctor. Did the doctor tell him that he was still contagious? Did he think to tell the doctor that he had a partner and we were looking at dispensing with condoms? Gamer should have had information for me, but there was a communication breakdown at some point and I wasn’t told. I knew it wasn’t deliberate, but I was angry as fuck. I’m still not best pleased. But shit happens, it’s a common infection, and I haven’t had any symptoms in yonks. It’s probably gone from my system, but it’s impossible to know for sure.
About three months into the relationship, which was midway through my last year of university, Gamer had the idea of moving to the big city when I was done my program. And so we did. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but everything about it was challenging: we had a total of four flat tires on our overloaded trailer on the drive out; our crash space arrangement was with a friend who was living with her mother (and I’m not sure the mother had advance notice); it was hard to find a place to live mid-month, the place we found wasn’t great and the neighbors fought loudly; we both had a hard time finding even crappy jobs; our work schedules kept us busy on weekends when our preferred leisure activities were scheduled; we were broke; and we had no family or friends to help us.
Not too long after the move, my feelings towards him cooled, although I still cared about him. The relationship might have fizzled around then anyway, or the stress might have done it. I felt stuck. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, and I couldn’t move home on my own.
By this time sex was infrequent. He pressured me to an extent, enough to put me on my guard, but I also felt guilty and wrong for not wanting it. At one point I confessed to him that I’d fantasized about being with another woman and was concerned about what that meant about my sexual identity. (I now think it wasn’t that I preferred women, it was that I feared male sexuality.)
It was the beginning of a very long ending.