my therapist laughed at the phrase ‘Year of Maturity and Discretion.’ in a kind way, of course. and of course it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek. ‘but it sounds a little—it sounds a little like something Tread-Lightly would say!’ of course then i laughed too. ‘i know, i know! but i was trying to think of good things. aspirational things.’ ‘oh it was discernment that he said, wasn’t it? something about a period of discernment?’ ‘yeah.’ ‘how could i forget.’ ‘anyway, yeah. i wouldn’t have declared this a Year of Discernment. that is actually a thing, anyway—in catholicism—i mean i don’t know that it’s a year, but there is a period of time when someone decides whether it’s right for them to take religious vows. it’s kind of a technical term, i guess.’ ‘so discernment was out.’ ‘yes! and initially i had something else—like the year of caution or something—but that doesn’t sound good, it sounds fearful, not like something you can want. even though it is a good thing.’
he laughed but he wrote it down; he liked it. i think therapists like it when you try to organize your life into little eras. they like to see you making up a narrative. ‘so…this is the Year of Maturity and Discretion, last year was the Year of Wild Oats, and the year before, the first year, that was the Year of the Gift Horse?’ ‘well. i never thought of it that way. but it ought to have some name. that works. beautiful.’
i was a little sad that day because i didn’t feel like the Year of Maturity and Discretion had gotten off to a very good start. on saturday night (after a brief visit from my brother, who was randomly in town! which should be a subject for another post) i went to have a drink with a friend and i ran into a guy i slept with about a month ago—he was coming from a halloween party. he was dressed like Paul Bunyan. now that’s exciting. (also: appropriate, and sort of clever, because he owns a landscaping company.) and we ended up closing the bar down then heading out to the casino with his friend Bort, staying there until the morning, then having sex in his friend’s roommate’s bed for a significant portion of the morning and the early afternoon.
to be fair, we also did a lot of talking. in the bed, i mean. i actually like Bunyan—he’s a surprisingly interesting person. he’s sort of…i don’t know…intriguing, maybe. i thought the same when i met him before. that was a similarly long and wild night. but a quiet morning. when i met him that night, he was coming from Bort’s birthday party but i was just getting out of work—so he was profoundly hungover in the morning but i was perfectly fine. though i was very sad. i think it might’ve been the very day after i gave Tread-Lightly the dreaded letter—in any case it was very early on in the period of discernment. ‘so what are your plans for the day?’ he croaked. and i said i was probably going to go home and lay in bed and cry for hours about a man. then we got up and he made coffee. he sat there drinking cup after cup, cradling his head, trying to feel human again—but i hardly ever drink coffee, so my two cups set me chattering like crazy. and so he got me talking about all these different marvelous strange people and places i’ve known—i guess it was soothing and amusing for him. we talked for several hours. he talked some about the strange people and places he had known—and also about kant, which was unexpected to say the least—but he was in pretty bad shape and was very happy to be quiet. the conversation was the best thing in the world for me—it reminded me of all the wonderful things in my life that were not Tread-Lightly; it reminded me that i was an interesting complicated person.
finally, realizing it was almost two in the afternoon, we realized we ought to wrap things up. but he couldn’t drive me home because he had a broken wrist—he couldn’t drive at all. and he lives in a sort of inconvenient northern suburb—taking an uber would’ve been stupidly expensive.* so he walked me to the light rail station closest to his house, which ended up being sort of a long walk—along big busy industrial roads that are not meant for pedestrians and have no sidewalks—through a chilly drizzly mist. ‘mmm. suddenly it smells really good!’ ‘yeah. that’s the landfill, dora. or rather those are the chemicals they release every so often so you don’t smell the landfill.’ ‘ah! i love getting out to the country!’ i felt vaguely like i was in russia on that walk. and it was sort of romantic. ‘it’s weird—it was so bleak but i think that walk cheered me up! or maybe you did! but i’m in a pretty good mood now. i don’t feel like i want to go home and brood.’ ‘i sort of do.’ ‘you feel like you want to brood? you don’t strike me as the brooding type.’ ‘i can brood with the best of them.’ ‘oh no! have we transferred moods? did i give you my bad one?’ he had gotten solemn. we talked about seeing each other again but we didn’t exchange information. i felt like neither of us wanted to burden the other person with any expectations. and that was the end of it. and that was fine.
however. of course that meant i couldn’t tell him that i had chlamydia—but i wasn’t too stressed out about it. i didn’t exactly remember but i was pretty sure he’d used protection. but then about a week ago Bort gave me his phone number. ‘he’s quite….enamored of you….very impressed by your knowledge of literature….’ (Bort was drunk. Bort is pretty regular at my bar, especially on sunday nights.) ‘i don’t even remember talking about literature.’ ‘well. in any case. he wanted me to give you his phone number.’ ‘well. all right! let’s have it! i’ve got nothing going on and no prospects at the moment.’ (Bort was so drunk he couldn’t figure out how to navigate his contact list, so i had to try to find the number myself.**)
so i texted the guy i hoped was Bunyan; indeed it turned out to be him. we had a little conversation and then he got quiet—i was planning to give it a few days and then say, ‘hey, FYI, chlamydia.’ but then i ran into him. in Bort’s company, too. it was not a good moment to reveal that information. (at least i was exercising discretion?) and then, of course, eventually we had sex. and he did not use protection. so i may have given myself my own infection again. wanh wanh. a total failure of maturity, discretion, common sense, common decency, etc. yes i know. believe me i know. i couldn’t even admit that to my therapist. (i did admit it to The Gift Horse who said: ‘i don’t even know what to say to that.’)
i don’t know exactly how it happened—because i don’t remember how or when we started having sex, i only remember already having sex and thinking ‘oh dear. wait a minute. this isn’t good. and if he’s not using protection now…maybe he didn’t before.’ though we were at his house before. in any case, yeah. i know. it’s gross. and it’s immature. i’ll tell him in a few days. and i solemnly swear that i will tell everybody else i need to tell before i go to scotland. (in only two weeks! i need to get planning.) maybe all in one day. make a day of it. and make up a grand name for it. like The Thursday of My Past Indiscretions. insert smiley emoticon here.
well. we’ve come to the end of my confession. ‘sometimes i feel like it’s such a disadvantage—if i’m going out with guys who are my age or older, they’ve been in relationships before, they’ve gotten hurt before—they’re cautious.’ ‘yes?’ ‘and. i’m not cautious.’ ‘no! going to the casino at four in the morning, i wouldn’t call that cautious!’ ‘you could call it a hell of a fun night, though.’
* explanatory: we didn’t go to my house because he’s allergic to cats. that’s also why we ended up in his friend’s roommate’s room.
** for the record, it’s my boss who overserves him. and at times this makes me somewhat uncomfortable.