Two days ago I sent my friend and ex-girlfriend an email. She cut off communication about three months ago. The email contained a voice recording of me describing running out of gas and hopes for this book. I include descriptions of some of my psychoses.
The text reads, “Hey I got your emails, but I can’t download the attachments on my phone (no Internet at home right now) I’m going to catbird’s for a friend’s bday if you’d like to join me. :)” I get excited. Francesca has a way of making me feel good and when we’re alone she brings out a casual, confident, and expressive side of me.
I have an hour to wait. I finish my beer and drive home. My car is a mess. Empty cans and bottles stack up in the passenger side floorboard a foot deep. The thoughts tell me to clean out my car. I do this in my driveway. I run upstairs to check Francesca’s status on Facebook. It reads “In a relationship”. Damn. I head to Catbird’s.
Francesca is waiting on a ride which takes longer than she predicted. I arrive before her. I order Jack on the Rocks, my favorite drink. I ask a girl sitting next to me “How are you doing?” She responds shortly and turns to the girl on her other side.
Sitting at the bar alone I look around. I notice a friend of Francesca’s sitting at the end of the bar. She is talking to a man. I walk over to her and say “Hi La Toya.” I sound a bit over enthused. She says, “Hi” half heartedly. I feel slightly rejected. I ask her if she remembers me and she says she does. I make a comment about waiting for Francesca and ask her who’s birthday it is. She responds Amanda in the red dress. She does not seem engaged in my conversation. I say hi to the man and he responds shortly. The thought occurs to me that she and the gentleman might be trying to connect and I’m intruding. I retreat to my side of the bar. I think the powers that be did not want me to talk to someone I know. I had work to do.
I get bored at the bar and go outside. A man is sitting alone smoking a cigarette and I talk to him. He works at the bar and is hiding alone for a moment. We talk a little “Do you have any drunk customer stories?” He replies St Patrick’s Day was not too bad.
It occurs to me that he didn't answer my question. This is a subtle conversation trait. Answering questions directly gives the questioner some authority. Replying around a question is a way of establishing dominance. Adding humor maintains rapport. I have a habit of answering questions directly. The bar-back goes back to work.
I get bored and go out front. Smoking a cigarette alone, is the man La Toya was talking to. I say “Hello.” He responds a little coldly. I introduce myself and as he says his name it sounds foreign. I ask “How do you pronounce that.” “Ma Dine” he replies slightly annoyed. We stand a few minutes in silence and having noticed an accent I ask him where he is from. It turns out he has lived in Texas for years and was born in the United States. A little embarrassed I explain “Oh I thought I detected an accent.” He doesn’t look pleased. The conversation ends and I go back to the back patio for a change of scenery.
I see Amanda and approach her. “Are you Amanda?” “Close” she smiles “my name is Samantha.” “Is it your birthday?” “yeah” “oh I must of heard your name wrong. I’m a friend of Francesca’s she should be here soon.” Samantha seems to be enjoying herself. She enjoys our conversation and enjoys the thought that Francesca will be there soon. It must be a good birthday party. I offer her a drink but she says she has a backlog but if I stick around she might take me up on the offer later. I tell her it was nice to meet you and leave.
I notice a group of people sitting at a table drawing on an IPad like device. They are passing it around. I get the urge to say something. I don’t find the confidence. I look to the table to the right and on the table are about twenty bottle caps. The group is looking at the caps. I’m curious and I get another urge to talk to them. Eventually I draw up enough courage. “I have to ask, what are all the bottle caps for?” One member of the group replies to me, “These are impossible. If you can solve them you can cure cancer.” He says “Here is an easy one.” The group notes my presence. I look at the cap. I can’t make it out. Riddles usually elude me. I tell him “You’re gonna have to help me out.” “It’s easy come easy goes,” he replies with a little disdain to his voice. I ask, “Are these caps from tonight?” The man responds directly and says no. I stand hoping inspiration will bring me something to say. As my silence begins to get awkward I smile and walk away.
Again I notice the group playing with the tablet. “Did you draw that?” I find the courage to ask. “It’s a group effort” the holder of the tablet responds. The group notes my presence. “It looks like you’ve got a phallic symbol on there.” They laugh. “Who’s responsible for that,” I enquire. They indicate a girl who gets slightly embarrassed and giggles. They continue on and I hope for something to say. Blank slate. My silence gets akward and I excuse myself.
As I walk to the front of the bar I see a man wearing a ridiculous mustache. It reminds me of the silent films from the 20’s, the ones with the overweight bodybuilders. I say “Hi.” He responds un-enthusiastically.
I go outside and a group of people are sitting at a table. I say “Hi”. It sounds overenthusiastic. I’m trying too hard. A woman speaks up and starts talking for the group. The group notes my presence. The speaker introduces herself. I give my name. She introduces the entire group to me rattling of their names. She gets to Lisa who was the first person I said hello to at the bar. “We’ve met.” I reply hoping to add to my status. Then I add “briefly” a little timidly. I wait for inspiration. None comes and the silence begins to get awkward. I turn away from the group and smoke my cigarette.
One of the girls is sitting alone texting on her cell phone. I walk over to her. “A few weeks ago,” I open, “I was sitting in the back sipping a beer. There were about 7 people back there. They were all on their phones. No one was talking.” She smiles and comments she’s texting her boyfriend. She seems to be trying to excuse her behavior and please me. To my delight she continues and reveals some details about where her boyfriend is and what she’s done that day. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I stand and wait for further inspiration. None comes. The silence begins to get awkward and I walk away.
I finish my cigarette and go inside. I feel a little tired. I’ve exerted myself. I go out on the back patio and smoke a cigarette. As I begin to get bored my cell phone vibrates. Francesca has texted that she’s arrived. I go outside and see her talking to her ride and Madine. I walk over and we hug awkwardly. Madine starts to turn away as the focus shifts to me. Francesca introduces her ride and we shake hands. She begins to introduce me to Madine and I inform her we’ve met. She looks disappointed.
Francesca walks inside and her ride and I follow her. She talks to La Toya, orders a drink, and the four of us walk out on the back patio to find somewhere to sit. La Toya seems more friendly and cordial to me now. It seems coincidental now that my work is done.
As we sit at the back table Francesca and La Toya start to look at their cell phones at prospective apartments. They’re thinking of moving in together. I ask Francesca’s ride his name and he replies “Steve” he stumbles and adds, “my friends call me Stevie.” We both admit we’re bad with names.
The girls talk to themselves and I get to know Stevie. I ask questions and we converse lightly. He works for State Farm and I tell him that’s my insurance company and I’m very pleased with them. It turns out Stevie is trying to get gigs as a musician and we talk about his plans. He becomes animated as I show genuine interest in his music.
Madine comes and joins us. The group dynamic shifts and Francesca begins to direct the flow of conversation. I stay quiet. Francesca frequently looks at my direction and prompts me to add something. Usually I have nothing to say. Occasionally I add something. The conversation continues and Francesca and I at times talk one on one. She includes Madine in the conversations and jealousy builds inside me. When I see them talking I begin to think I should try and insert myself in the conversation. I find it hard to think of things to say.
A man in his thirties comes and sits down by the group. He overbearingly says hello. I find him intrusive. I ask him what is in the bag he is carrying. There is a trace of aggression in my voice. He tells me enthusiastically that if the cops search his bag they will find drugs money and a gun. He says this with a big grin but hidden is a measure of animosity. He explains the reason he needs a gun. I find this threatening but keep my composure.
Francesca includes our new friend in the conversation but as he talks she directs her attention to Madine. Our friend switches his attention to me but I direct my attention elsewhere. He defaults to talking to Stevie and I try to connect with Francesca. Our friend offers a joint to several members of our group. He does not offer the joint to me. I note this but luckily I have no desire to smoke. His possible attempt at getting me to ask for a favor goes unrewarded.
Francesca gets a call from a number she does not recognize. She isn’t going to answer the phone. I interject, “Let me answer it.” She presses a button and hands me the phone. I say “Hello this is Mark.” It gets a laugh out of Francesca but there is nobody on the other end of the line. As I hand the phone back to Francesca she replies oh I think I hit dismissed. She passes this off as if it were inadvertent. I suspect she did it intentionally. I believe Francesca engages in slight deceptive behavior for social purposes. Francesca suggests I call them back. I pause. Madine uses the pause to say he’ll do it and Francesca dials the number.
Madine yells at the other person on the phone and asks for a stereotypically black name. He says that’s his baby’s mama. The group laughs. I feel conflicted. The situation is humorous but I find it distasteful. I smile a false smile. It turns out Francesca knows the person on the other end of the line and they are calling from the bar we are at. Francesca’s friend Dorothy and Dorothy’s boyfriend comes over and they recap the phone call. Dorothy and her boyfriend take it in good humor and laugh about it. Her boyfriend appears to be black and I feel respect for him. At this point Madine has left. I admire Dorothy’s relationship with her boyfriend and enjoy his remarks. He is outgoing, witty, and warm. He handles our overbearing joint passing friend with grace. I feel respect.
As the night goes on I begin to look at the clock. I find it hard to talk in groups. This discourages me and I look forward to the night coming to an end. I’m hoping Francesca will let me give her a ride home and we can eat out together. I enjoy spending time alone with her.
Francesca has been giving me mixed signals all night. She has been complaining about her boyfriend while looking at me but also talks about an ex boyfriend who wanted to have sex every time she called. When Francesca tells Dorothy we used to date Dorothy asks us how we hang out together. Francesca says by giving each other a lot of space, but Francesca has also been flirtatious and brings up pleasant memories of times past together. Out of the blue she brings up a Valentines date we once had and reveals it was the best Valentine’s Day she has ever had. She reveals she hasn’t seen her boyfriend in three weeks and that her needs aren’t being met.
Near the end of the night I look at her and ask if I can give her a ride home. She agrees. I go to close my tab. Sitting at the bar is a stunning woman in red. I ask her how her day was. She goes into detail about her day and is very talkative. She mentions how she is living up to her name by being bad. I awkwardly talk to her and think of asking for her phone number but we’ve had no connection and it feels wrong. I also lack the courage.
I walk to the front and we say our goodbyes. Francesca and I walk to my car and as Stevie says goodbye he looks disappointed. I ask if she’d like to get some food. She agrees. We discuss where we’d like to eat. We decide on a Mexican Restaurant called Ruchie’s. She thanks me for the ride saying she didn’t know Stevie’s intentions. My own intentions begin to make me feel uncomfortable.
As we arrive there is no parking in the lot. It is crowded with people who have gone out. Most people are loud and obnoxious. I start to leave and suggest 59 dinner. Francesca gives me reasons why she doesn’t want to go and we turn around to park again. We park across the street. There are cars with souped up engines and the drivers are revving their engines. I find the place unappealing. We go inside and it is crowded. There are no available seats. There is a table a worker is clearing. I ask if we can sit there. He replies but I can’t understand him. English is not his native language and the noise from the restaurant is making it harder to decipher what he is saying. I ask him several times if we can sit there but I can’t get a yes or a no out of him. We leave and Francesca suggests we talk to the bartender. She points to a table with plates on it. As we sit a bar-back clears the table.
We begin to talk and I enjoy our conversation. A police officer comes around and yells several times. “If you’re parked across the street you need to move your vehicle.” I leave. Francesca stays. I move my car to a side street and as I return there are cars driving recklessly and drivers revving their engine. It seems chaotic. The thoughts tell me it is a signal I am doing things incorrectly. I need to be more forceful with Francesca.
I return to the restaurant. We begin to have a conversation about her fears that David, her boyfriend, is looking at porn. This is the reason we broke up. I watched porn. She found out and asked me to promise to stop. I promised but didn’t live up to it. When she found out again she broke up with me.
I tell her David is probably looking at porn but that it isn’t a big deal. We debate this. She says she can’t live up to the women in those videos. I ask her “What if a man you were with said he found other women more attractive than you but was with you for more important reasons.” She responds by saying that when a woman is in love, the man she is in love with is, in her mind, the best man in every way. I look at her directly and call bullshit. I tell her love is an emotion. One you should experience in a relationship. But that this emotion fluctuates and the relationship needs to be built on other things or it won’t last. She disagrees. She idealizes love. The conversation flows back to porn. I relate men’s desire of a woman physically beautiful to a woman’s desire of a powerful man. Francesca is generally not attracted to alpha male types. I bring this point up saying there are more important things than these superficial attraction phenomenons. She feels ugly. I tell her I’m in the same boat because I lack power. My goal was to take her realization that powerful men are not always good mates and translate that into a realization that attractive women are not always ideal. There are more important things. She doesn’t agree, but I hope on some level the arguments lowered her distaste of her looks.
I begin to get confused and as Francesca tells a story I’m having a hard time following it. I tell her this. She recaps it for me. I start to get the impression that Francesca is dominant over me, which she is. This translates into a psychotic thought that we are being trained for future CIA missions. As the thoughts wash over me I look distant. Francesca asks me what I’m thinking about. I tell her. A pleasant emotion washes over me. She says she isn’t that ambitious to be a spy. I tell her I know it’s psychotic.
When I pay the bill I ask her if she is ready to leave. She begins to talk. I know we will leave when she is ready to leave. I say “So we’ll just sit here until you’re ready to leave,” in a teasing way. We stay for another 15 minutes. I want a post meal cigarette and I say “I need a cigarette.” This is my way of asking Francesca if she will let us leave. A few moments later she says let’s go and asks “Do you have your credit card.” I say I do and she says “I thought we’ve been waiting for that.” I don’t believe her.
We leave and as we get into the car Francesca says nice car sarcastically. There is a car in front of us with a crunched in bumper. I say “Thanks,” trying to tell a joke by misinterpreting her comment as a comment about my car. The conversation gets awkward and I say “I know you were talking about the car in front of us.” Francesca says she was talking about my car. I don’t believe her. She says “You have a nice car” in a very seductive voice. It is not the first time she has used it tonight.
As we drive I note the time. It is four o'clock. I realize we spent over an hour and half eating. It felt like 30 minutes. I don’t want to go home. I ask her where she would like to go. She says “I don’t know” in a way that leads me to believe she is not ready to go home.
I take a chance. “Would you like to go to a hotel.” She replies simply, “yes.” We discuss where we would like to go and Francesca suggests hotels by 59. On the way I say I have to stop by CVS. Francesca stays in the car.
I buy Diet Dr. Pepper, strawberry ice-cream, Manelos, two toothbrushes, some toothpaste, and condoms. The benefit of having a one night stand with an ex-girlfriend is you know what kind of ice cream to buy.
We check into the hotel and go to our room. We make ourselves comfortable and it feels natural. I feel little tension. We sit on the bed and talk. I sit and wait for signals from Francesca to make my move. She is talking enthusiastically. It doesn’t feel right. She lies down and I lie down beside her but up on one arm slightly above her. The conversation drops off. I ask her what kind of lipstick she is wearing. She replies it has probably worn off. I say “I’d like to taste it.” We kiss.
As we kiss Francesca penetrates my mouth with her tongue but keeps my tongue out of her mouth. She is assertively directing the action. We take off our clothes. The lights in the room are on. I don’t feel uncomfortable about my extra weight. As I look at Francesca I feel very comfortable. It is not the same feeling I get when I look at porn. It is more emotional and less sexual. I find her body appealing. We kiss a while and I am enjoying it. I am not getting hard. We mess around awhile longer and I’m still not getting hard. As I please Francesca I notice her chest has turned red. She begins to moan. She is enjoying herself too. I don’t get hard. The sound of Francesca moaning excites me incredibly. I stay soft. A thought tells me to get more aggressive. I start to aggressively penetrate Francesca’s mouth with my tongue. I spank her. I pull her hair. I hold her arm behind her body. I hold her arms to the bed. She says “I love it when you dominate me.” I am incredibly excited. I am soft. We mess around awhile longer. She says I want you in me. I take my partially hard penis and try and get it inside her. It goes completely soft. In frustration a lie down on Francesca and we stop messing around.
I am on a lot of medication. Every medication has lower sexual drive as a possible side effect. Sometimes I find it hard to masturbate to porn. When Francesca and I were together my impotence was a major source of problems for us. Her body image is damaged when I’m not aroused by her.
While lying on her I’m afraid of her reaction. We talk a little and she gets up to go to the bathroom. I detect some agitation in her body language and tone, however if she is distressed she hides it well. When she comes out of the bathroom we began to talk idly and she ends up handing me a hotel comment card. On the top line it asks, “Is everything in the room working properly.” I read this out loud and we laugh. She lies down next to me.
I ask her how she’s feeling and she doesn’t really give me an answer. I let her know I’m frustrated. I tell her “I really wanted to fuck you.” She replies, “I really wanted you to fuck me too.” She asks me if there is anything she can do for me and asks if there is anything I’d like to do. I ask her to go down on me.
Francesca is very skilled in this area and it feels great. I don’t get hard. We mess around for a while and then we start to talk. I offer her some ice cream. She gets excited when she learns it’s Strawberry. I have no spoons. I’m moved as she tries to eat the ice cream I bought for her with a paper cup. She tries a Manolo cookie as well.
As we lie down to go to sleep I tell her I love her. She moans in a high pitched way which leads me to believe she likes and dislikes hearing that. She tells me to stop. I say, “I do. I know things couldn’t work out between us but I love you.”
We end up talking about her boyfriend. She is rationalizing her behavior. She brings up a friend of David’s that is a girl. Francesca calls her a bitch and says she doesn’t know why David likes her. As she says this her comments take on a new dimension. She is talking but it is as if the powers at be are saying the same thing. This is a message from them. As Francesca uses pronouns the pronouns have different meaning to me. “She” becomes “Francesca” and “he” becomes “me”. The powers that be are saying “She (Francesca) is a bitch I don’t know why he (me) likes her”). I fight the thought. I disagree with its content and don’t agree with the premise that Francesca is not a good person. She is complex.
While Francesca complains about David, I playfully say “He’s a douche.” She likes hearing that, but I retract and say “No he’s a nice guy.” She disagrees and I call him a douche again.
We turn the lights off and I fall asleep with her lying next to me.