Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Two Jakes

This is from a book I wrote and tried to publish a long time ago. Yesterday was December 3rd so I was thinking about it.

                                                 The Two Jakes


How to Stop Being a Loser, Step #4: Avoid What Will Make Your Eye Twitch. Namely, Your Computer.


            "If you have to question whether or not you were in love with someone, then you never were." Somebody told me that when I was 18. Ironically, he's the same person that I question myself about on a regular basis.

            So at the risk of being dramatic, I was in love once. He was two weeks older than me, spoke in a Southern accent with a slight hint of Cajun, and was perfect in every conceivable way. Not just from a physical standpoint -- although he was blessed in that department, with sandy blond hair, piercing blue eyes, an effortless hard body, and a sun-kissed complexion -- but also emotionally and intellectually. A pre-med at the University of Texas, he could talk smoothly about anything, and when he would talk about me, I could feel myself evaporating into disgusting lovesick goo.

            Our affair lasted one summer, and despite a brief reconnection during our winter breaks of school, we drifted apart. Occasionally, I still smile when thinking of nights when I would bitch to him about mean people shopping at Walgreens, or my brother hogging the computer, and he would chuckle and say "Bay-bee", and I just knew that as long as he was in my life, it wouldn't matter if my own hopes and dreams came true, so long as I was with him, safe and happy.

            Does any of this sound pathetic yet? If not, let's make it so.

            I met him on the Internet and never once encountered him in real life, and somewhere, deep in my jaded soul, I will always love him.

            I'm going to be sick.


            Three Years Later

hey_jakey: What kind of beer you drinkin' in your picture, kid?

seattleguy300: michelob

seattleguy300: kid? lol

seattleguy300: u look 12

hey_jakey: um, it's called moisturizing

hey_jakey: btw nice polo, non-perv

seattleguy300: thx

seattleguy300: nonperv? damn

hey_jakey: it is polo, right? ralph lauren?

hey_jakey: and yes, i am ignoring your flirting

hey_jakey: in pro wrestling, they call this 'no-selling'


            3 A.M. on a Friday night in August, and I am drinking in my room, cruising a gay chat site. I never go into local rooms to try to find one-night stands. Yes, that's because I live with my freaking parents, but even if I didn't, I'm not nearly as interested in a lame and awkward hook-up as I am in meeting an attractive stranger from far away lands, and delving into his life story.

            Now, before I go into details, I have to offer a disclaimer. Yes, people lie all the time on the Internet, like the time I was 13 and went into an AOL Lesbian Chat room with a story about looking like Morgan Fairchild and fighting an unexpected attraction to my teenage son's bombshell girlfriend. First of all, AOL lesbian chat rooms circa 2000 were almost entirely populated by horny teenage boys. I'm sure the "lesbian" with whom I was sharing this story was probably a 15-year-old boy in the Midwest using a dial-up connection. Secondly, I instinctively knew with this guy, just as I had with the Texas boy. It's a skill one eventually learns when perusing chat sites, copious amounts of vodka be damned.

            Jake and I would chat online maybe three times a week. Our first conversation was strictly sexual (what, you think people get drunk at 3 A.M. and surf for intellectual wordplay?), but our discussions gradually became more substantial. He learned that I had fucked up the New York dream and was living with my parents, ringing up tampons in the ghetto to pay off my credit cards. I learned that he came from a wealthy family, with a father who deemed him a screw-up and a mother who "drank for a living". Blessed with the strong jawline of a soap opera actor, his life was a Seattle version of what I imagined that show Dynasty to be like, and I savored every dramatic detail of it.

            Despite the fact that I had Jake's phone number and we had been chatting for months, I never texted him until his October birthday. By no means was I plannng any sort of relationship or dalliance with him, but I still recognized the importance of not coming on too strong.

            Besides, I had told him that I wasn't going to fall for him. Our fake friendship was strictly for entertainment purposes. To the former psychology major in me, Jake's blend of arrogance and self-awareness was a mental wet dream.

            "I find these young guys and break their hearts," he said one night. "I feel I'm doing them a favor. It's gonna happen at some point."

            "You like that they try to fix you," I analyzed. "God, two years ago I would have been so obsessed with you."

            "I think you need get back to two years ago," he teased.

            We had been intermittently chatting for around four months, including talking on the phone (he told me I sounded like Sarah Palin. I told him he sounded like a stoner). Sometimes the subject matter was shallow, as I would bitch about gaining five pounds thanks to my new mall job and its access to daily helpings of Panda Express, and he would bitch about his cleaning lady accidentally throwing out his vodka. Yet there were other times where we allowed ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable to one another. I would confess that, underneath all the wisecracks, I was insecure as hell. He would discuss drinking and smoking his sadness and inadequacies away, and not being able to discern people who liked him for himself from the people that only admired his good looks, money and access. He was nervous about a job his father was offering him in Sydney, worried he would screw it up or be marred by accusations of nepotism. He was upset that no one was ever proud of him.     

            But I wasn't falling for him.


seattleguy300: I've been thinking about you a lot lately .... it's weird.

hey_jakey: okay

seattleguy300: I'm not used to it. A guy all the way in MSP? Really?

hey_jakey: I know, you have sex in real life.

seattleguy300: lol it's not that

seattleguy300: it's just every now and then i'll think of you and smile

seattleguy300: about this plucky little dude who is kind and funny

seattleguy300; and makes me think about the ways I have treated others

seattleguy300: and the way you look so adorable in those pictures makes me want to kiss you

hey_jakey: aww

seattleguy300: and feed you marijuana cookies

hey_jakey; i will still aww


            Before that happened, he was talking about how he got a blowjob from a Russian cater waiter and gave him a fake phone number, while I had talked about running into Corey Cooper that weekend and managing to say five words to him. But I still wasn't falling for him, despite the fact that I immediately looked up "plucky" in the dictionary. It means brave!

seattleguy300: jake

seattleguy300: i want to be your ex-boyfriend

            Original, I guess? But I was still going to be mature about it.


seattleguy300: Jake I know we're not going to be together or anything

seattleguy300: But I think we will always be friends ;)


            Okay, so maybe I was taking pride in the fact that I was chafing away at his egotism and revealing a sentimental side, much like the Internet version of a Kate Hudson movie. But I would not be moved! I was still not going to be fazed by him.

seattleguy300: I booked a flight to Minneapolis


            Wait, what???


            "Is he actually coming to town?" Erin asked during an excursion to Cub Foods.                            

            "He says he is," I sighed as I lunged for Triscuits, my go-to comfort food. "I asked for certain days off, but I still don't know if I should expect anything."

            "But you know he likes you," Erin reminded as she pondered a bag of cashews. "You told me that in the first week, he told you that he wouldn't still be talking to you if he didn't find you attractive."

            "Yes," I blushed. It was in a pot-induced haze when he told me this bizarre compliment, but I chose to believe it. He also once requested that I stop talking about my gastronomical issues. I think he was the gay version of dudes that think girls don't poop.

            As the first week of December grew closer, I began to worry about our eventual meeting. So I started doing push-ups. So I Naired. So I made a reservation at the iconic Murray's Steakhouse with the aliases of Michael Jacobson and Peter Jacobs. And so, dare I say, I got excited, giddy even, at the prospect of having a cute boy I could walk around with in public, or the possibility of sex that was actually enjoyable and wouldn't require me to whisper the name of a boy from Texas in order to keep from crying (oh, like you lost your virginity in a magical way).

            The weekend prior to his scheduled visit, Jake told me he got arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. I still don't know if that truthfully happened. What I do know is that on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008, at 5:37 P.M. Central Standard Time, I clocked out of work and promptly received this text message:


jake i dont want to come this weekend. i have too much shit going on. besides with me moving it wouldnt make any sense.


            You knew it was gonna end that way, right? And in a weird way, I did too. I walked to my car and turned on the radio. I no longer had my iPod, as I had lost it the previous summer at a pool party, mere weeks after I had moved back home. (Learned lesson: Do not drink so much vodka in the afternoon hours in order to make yourself feel less conflicted about hot 18-year-olds with great V-muscles. Do not hop into a car just because they just happen to be in the back seat, as you will be locked out of an apartment building five miles away with nothing on your person. Do not borrow the cell phone of your high school classmate's passed out older sister to drunk dial your best friend's former geology lab partner. Do not later go home and drunk Facebook said former geology lab partner. Do apologize to him in your memoir -- sorry, Ian McPherson! -- and move on).

            Despite having no iPod to find a song to commiserate with, 101.3 KDWB responded perfectly by playing Justin Timberlake's lovelorn epic "What Goes Around (Comes Around)". "Is this how we say good-bye?" I asked out loud.

            There were a few strange things about this experience. First of all, I totally should have known better.

            "I am way too old for this," I wistfully typed to Aaron from Nashville.

            "Yeah, you are," Aaron glibly responded, and I could almost hear him snicker. Two years my junior, Aaron was a Vanderbilt frat boy who lived and breathed to make fun of me and call me on my shit. When he planned to delete his Yahoo messenger, he told me a week in advance. His gesture was direct, honest and caring, and yet his cyber-departure hurt and saddened me more than I could have ever predicted. I spent an entire week listening to "Nashville" by the Indigo Girls, because when your emotions are confused, the only thing that can mend them is the wisdom of sagacious lesbians.

            Secondly, I never cried. There was no breakdown, no dramatic scene of me chugging vodka in my room, cursing men and cursing myself for so loving them. In spite of this, I knew my heart had broken. Heartbreak is like getting in a fender-bender or being mugged. It happens to our friends and acquaintances, and when it does, you respond with a smug sympathy. You feel for their plight, yet you will never speed on icy roads, or walk home alone at 3 A.M., or allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable to a J. Crew model from Seattle who told you from day one that he broke young gay boy hearts as a hobby.

            The third surprise was that I had no idea how difficult it would be to avoid reminders of him. At work, our top competition for the annual corporate prize was the store in downtown Seattle. Every customer buying a suit seemed to be a size 40 Regular. If I were to ever help on the registers, a customer's change back would always be $2.06. "Jake," my manager Lisa would softly say, and my eye would twitch like I was being Tasered. How could I avoid thinking of him when he had the same name as me? You straight folks have no clue how easy you have it sometimes.

            On Christmas Day, my father and I went to the bar because we are heathens. After my third vodka cranberry, I decided to do that thing where you only text one person, but you word it so that the recipient thinks it is a mass text and it is therefore less personal. I highly recommend it.

            Merry Christmas, kids, I wrote, only he was the only recipient. Two minutes later, my phone buzzed.

            Who is this?

            I ordered another vodka cranberry (what, my dad was buying) and felt myself tense up. You know who this is, you stupid fuck. No, I'm not the only boy you hurt but I'm damn sure I'm the only 612 area code. Were you even planning on visiting, or was it all a game from day one? When I get home I am going to play "Heartbreaker" by Mariah Carey only five hundred times.

            On January 3rd -- a month after my heart had cracked -- I received a text while again drowning my sorrows at the bar with my father. It should be noted that the bar itself was named Jake's Sports Cafe. There was no avoiding this boy. I may as well have branded his name on my ass, which ironically would be the closet he would ever get to it.

            For what it's worth, it wasn't anything you did. You're a great person. Happy New Year.

            "Who's that, son?" my father asked, noticing my eye twitch.

            "Erin," I lied.

            I shared this with my friends from my pro wrestling message board, since I don't talk to any guys in real life besides family members, and they were always worthwhile when I needed to hear a masculine perspective. "As much as I would love to write something blasé like 'it's all good, kid', I think this is the ending that I deserve; The ball ends in my court, and I choose to -- okay, I really don't know how that metaphor works, because is that a sports thing? The ball is in my court and I ... stop playing? Yes, I stop playing. And by not responding he can know that I am walking off the court, saddened but not defeated."

            "Throw it in his face," a young man from Ireland wrote. "The JERK." "Stab the ball with a knife," said a guy from Seattle. Wes, another guy from Seattle, offered personal bounty hunter services and promised to beat up Jake if their paths ever crossed. Still, I was gradually getting over him, and my eye twitched less and less whenever I heard anyone mention that certain Washington city. I could even sit through an episode of Frasier or Grey's Anatomy.

            Two months later, I took advantage of a free airline voucher I had courtesy of my bumped flight from New York over the previous Christmas. I was clubbing with Diva in West Hollywood, where I am considered to be hideous and disgusting. Feeling pouty because nobody was hitting on me, and feeling tipsy as I was drinking for two (being of Asian descent, Diva will order a drink to look chic but then requires me to drink hers when no one is looking), I took out my cell phone. Jake's number had long been deleted, but I had his old messages saved and thus could still write to him. Besides, he lived in Australia and would never see it. It was like sending an unsent letter.

            I finally made it to Hollywood. Be well.

            See? No harm, no foul.

            A month later, at the end of this tawdry tale, my phone buzzed.

            Ha ... you are so weird but you always made me smile. How you doin', man?

            No! I would not respond! The ball had left the court, remember? But it was his half-birthday. To say nothing would just be rude.

            -Happy half-birthday. No, really.

            -Jake ...

            -I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bothered you.

            -No, you just remind me of how much of a dick I can be.


            Five minutes later:


            -That's not an April Fool's joke, by the way.


            Thirty seconds later, rather oddly:


            I don't hate you.


            A few hours later, he messaged me on Yahoo. Like his phone number, I had long deleted his screen name.

            We had our closure. He had gone through treatment and wanted to apologize to me (Step Nine). He was happy in Sydney and was currently involved with a Man vs. Wild type of guy who was riling up Jake's blue blood with activities like camping and hiking.

            "I was supposed to talk to you," he wrote. "I hurt you and put you through a lot. It was wrong and I'm sorry."

            "It's okay," I lied, because I am a doormat. Despite the anger I had been suppressing for the past few months, I was oddly speechless. It was like the lyric in Oasis's Wonderwall: "There are many things that I would like to say to you/But I don't know how." I told him this, then said that life doesn't come in black and white, but rather in shades of gray, and it was probably easier to vilify him in my head than it was to accept his earnest apology.

            "I didn't love you," I made sure to say, and it was the truth. "And I'm over it. But Seattle still does make my eye twitch."

            "I'm sorry I made your eye twitch," he said. He had apparently taken some bullshit course on reflective listening, because after everything I wrote, he would write "I hear that" or simply repeat me.

            We communicated a few more times, but it strangely became more painful. Our conversations were no longer deep, but the kind you have when you run into a high school classmate in the antacid aisle of Walgreens. Hearing about his new boyfriend and sober life should have made me feel better, but it somehow did the opposite. He had moved on and bettered himself, while I was still living with my parents and drinking in solitude. I realized that while the boy owed me an apology, he did not owe me friendship.

            After that debacle, I decided to no longer indulge in emotional affairs in cyberspace. I'm over everything, and as a result, only the following things make my eye twitch in remembrance of my former fake flames:


·         Texas

·         University of Texas-Austin

·         Austin, TX

·         New Orleans

·         Metairie, LA

·         Houston

·         Spring, TX

·         Texas Longhorns

·         Crawfish

·         Cajun food

·          Linoleum

·          J. Crew

·          "You're My Better Half" by Keith Urban

·          "Teardrops On My Guitar" by Taylor Swift

·          "Austin" by Blake Shelton

·          "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" by Restless Heart

·          "Girl" by Destiny's Child

·          Any ballad from Mariah Carey's Grammy-winning The Emancipation of Mimi album

·          Osteo Bi Flex

·          Ford Explorer

·          Jack in the Box

·          Anytime Fitness

·          Epidemiology

·          Hurricane Katrina

·          Hurricane Rita

·          Houston Astros

·          Vanderbilt University

·          Nashville

·          Tennessee Titans

·          A swanky private high school in Tennessee that I will not name out of respect for privacy

·          Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV, 1917-2010)

·          Seattle

·          206

·         Alaskan Airlines

·         Sydney, Australia

·         Alcoholics Anonymous

·          Winter

·         The name Jake


See, I can clearly avoid all of these things, and my eye will be just fine.

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