Friday, February 13, 2009

Jamie's Cryin'

I got a call from Jamie Ryan yesterday. Although Jamie and I both admitted to falling in love with each other five years ago, I have proved to be the more sentimental one since, and have usually been the one dialing her number. So when I saw her name pop up on my cell phone, I controlled my excitement before answering so as not to make Sam, sitting at her desk, inquisitive. I knew it wouldn't work.

For some reason, I wasn't surprised to hear tears through the phone. Jamie's not the type to call simply to catch up, as her solipsistic worldview combined with a fear of the mundane precludes her from seeking chit chat.

"I have cervical cancer."

When I answered the phone, I had presumed wishfully that the crying related to seeing me with Sam recently, and that Jamie had had an epiphany regarding love. This was not that. This was horrible.

"My pap smear was irregular for the second time, and they're pretty sure it's cancer."

My stomach contracted. The part of me that was holding onto Jamie Ryan as my future wife felt like dying. However, another part felt proud that Jamie had called me to tell me this mortal news. In her dying days, she had realized who the most important people in her life were: I made the cut.

"I think you gave me HPV."

Wait a second, I made that cut? We hadn't had sex in five years. Surely she would have known earlier, or had unprotected sex with another candidate. To my knowledge, and as far as any tests could tell, I never had any disease starting with an H.

"And Jessica has it too. Not cervical cancer; just HPV."

I had slept with Jessica in college before Jamie. As is bound to happen, Jessica and Jamie, acquaintances in college, became best friends after graduate school and were now rooming together. The evidence was stacking against me.

Jenga blocks. Upon further questioning, yes, Jamie and Jessica had had sex with multiple partners since me, several unprotected (stomach contracting further), and no, they hadn't been diagnosed with HPV until less than a year ago.

So, why the accusations? Well, that wasn't important at the moment. There was no way to prove it either way, anyway.

Jamie had a cryosurgery appointment for Tuesday to remove the cancerous tumor on her cervix, which was benign. I was relieved. It was a relatively simple procedure. When Jamie calmed down, and we talked further, she admitted to feeling weird pangs of jealousy upon meeting Samantha, who had been so cool with my favorite ex-girlfriend at the party. Jamie had assumed, because of her ease, that Sam and I were well advanced into our relationship, guessing several years rather than several months.

I knew, despite her admitted jealousy, that Jamie wasn't really reaching out, and that she felt spite more than longing. Jamie wanted my attention more than she wanted me, and I was willing to give it to her. I didn't care. I had already cheated on Sam during that conversation. My excitement, sorrow, and longing were feelings I could not generate for Samantha in the same way, and when Sam walked into the hallway to ask me what was going on, the air turned sour.

It wasn't her fault, but this morning I ended things with Samantha. Jamie revealed that she was moving back home to Brooklyn after six months on the west coast, and we planned to have coffee to say goodbye. Feeling more comfortable having surgery with her mom's OB/GYN, she rescheduled the appointment in Carroll Gardens.

As for Samantha, she cried and then I cried, always happy when I do to show that I really did care and will miss her. I suspect that Samantha will return to her amniotic fluid-covered genital-less ex-boyfriend Rick before the summer's out. Sam disclosed weeks before we parted that, yes, Rick did have a bigger penis than me even though I made her come more. Go figure.

I never thought that knowing something like that, despite it being a backhanded compliment, would give me my first bout of erectile dysfunction. It better not carry over to my next relationship. Fuck that. Now to go get tested again.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Two mornings ago, around 5:40 am, I woke up to Samantha, my girlfriend, stroking my arm, looking at me. "Give her your arm, Daddy." I looked at her with my eyes half-open. She has a tendency to mumble in her sleep, waking me up every other night with some nonsense whose gist I can barely recount for her over breakfast. Sam's one of the lucky 4% of adults whose parasomniatic condition has transgressed the bounds of puberty.

"What?" My first instinct was that this was another, albeit more pronounced episode; however, this time I could not reconcile my girlfriend's wide-open eyes, which had looked at me with such tender knowingness each of the three times she had orgasmed the night before, now staring at me in the twilight, thinking I was someone else. Yes, I was relieved she did not call me by her ex-boyfriend's name, although Sam did recall Rick nightmarishly chasing her that same night, his genital-less crotch covered in embryonic fluid like newborn Neo in The Matrix.

I sat up slightly to make sure her eyes were indeed open. She looked straight at me. "It's okay, Daddy. Give her your red arm." Sam looked into my gaze, stroked my arm gently one last time, and then lied back down. Within ten seconds she was silently sleeping again, this time her eyelids shut tight.

It's hard to explain what it's like for your girlfriend to look you square in the face and not just imagine for fun, nor simply mistake in the shadows of a hallway, but know with certainty that you are her daddy. I speculated that Samantha, a pre-med graduate student, had manifested a scenario in which her overweight, diabetic father needed her help, but Sam, never overreaching, knew her limitations and was simply assisting the nurse with the insulin injection.

As silly as it might sound, I couldn't look at Sam the same way in the morning. Her stranger's eyes penetrated me during that episode, and I was having trouble believing that she recognized me in her waking life. I asked her to say my name when we woke up. She said "Laci," (pronounced "Lutzi") the name I go by. I told her what had happened and she could summon the dream, but had no memory of the details or context. I tried kissing her, but morning kisses are always hesitant for fear of bad breath, and so I gave up indentifying the familiar curvature of her wet, puckered lips that she would never press to her father's.

I knew that it was in my head, and that it was unfair to blame Samantha for her somniloquy. But I also knew that it was something else. Her eyes open, piercing mine without recognition reminded me of childhood dreams I had of my father before my parents' temporary separation. Those dreams led me to distance myself from him for fear he would leave. My doubt about Samantha now comes from the feeling that we have grown close too fast, and that my hesitation to say "I love you" is not fear nor an unwillingness to open up. It is my better judgment protecting her and me from inertia and complacency, and from the dreams I know I have of others.