It was the perfect time to be in love. After warm months spent in unrelenting solitude – having abandoned an obscenely endowed lover to his madness after a wild, desperate February stunt – the leaves around me gave up their vernal habitations, and with them dropped love and ass the likes of which I had not seen since I had a steady supply of opium and they called me Five O’clock at the Beer Depot.
This rotgut tale had its genesis in a late afternoon fall semester Polish culture lecture. One day, on emerging from this lecture at about 6:30 and discovering that I had almost quite missed sundown, I decided on the spot that I needed to become very, very drunk. And so I walked past my badly appointed lodgings on William – badly appointed being the kind of rephrasing reserved for those bitter things which grow sweet with the liver spots of hindsight – and marched myself straight to the liquor store, where I elected for the first of countless consecutive days to spend part of my considerably limited wealth on a half pint of bottom-shelf vodka and orange juice.
They might have called me Five O’clock at the Beer Depot, but I preferred to think of myself as screwdriver man. I was not seen anywhere for months without a screwdriver. I can still feel exactly how those two bottles fit, back to back in a small paper bag I would hold from the bottom on the walk home. Once arriving on my porch, where someone might be playing the banjo or a doing a heroin-induced striptease to the horror and delight of credit union patrons across the way, I would take several drinks out of the orange juice – or equally as likely poor some of it into the yard – and then empty the vodka into the juice bottle. Having thusly poured my drink, I could wonder what or whom I was going to do until the next one.
And there is something about being a constantly sub-drunk flat-ass broke dumpster cheese eating college senior in the humanities which requires a lot of sex. And sex I had. I fucked education grad students, two virgins (one of them considerably older than me), men I walked home from the library who said they didn’t do this very often, a boy caught a month later on camera in a diaper at a costume party being held up by two friends, a man who wore sandals with socks, and a reporter for the Ann Arbor News, which folded a month a month later due to the foundering economy into which I was about to graduate. He was at least thrice my age, and it was the best head I have ever received.
All right, so it was mostly ass with very little love, but what could you expect from a man who had a nickname at a liquor store? And it’s not like I was entirely alone after parting from the obscenely endowed man in February, whom I do not believe I loved but who insisted time and again he saw “a future with me.”
It was an almost entirely self-aware spring fling, some fun to have before he packed it out to the east coast for the summer to not do drugs and sit around the woods and talk about ponds for hundreds of dollars a day. I say almost self-aware because I made the mistake of buying him one very expensive gorgeous tropical flower before our second date, and he hate-fucked me for my attachment before calling it quits while the ridiculous orange condom was still on his penis.
“I want you to cum inside me!” I remember calling out, looking up into his eyes, the first time I let him fuck me. I could, frame-by-frame, sense myself morphing into a completely different person, a lunatic who was imprinting on this boy who wanted to go to the woods to talk about Thoreau. There was no volition; it was like he was fucking the crazy into me. To be fair, even though I would catch myself masturbating in the future to revenge fantasies, he had the far better line in response: “Uh, ok?”
The last straw, really, was the boy for whom I made soup when he was sick and never showed up to my dinner party. I made him soup. He got high and watched cartoons and I drove to his apartment in the ass of Ypsilanti to bring him soup and he didn’t even call to say he wasn’t coming to my dinner party. I made French onion soup. It took seven goddamn hours. I made French onion soup and I didn’t eat any because I thought he was coming and he didn’t come. Soup!
With every new indignity that befell me on the unseen countdown to my relationship with Rift, I became convinced that I could suffer no more and would finally fulfill my threat of getting a dog instead of continuing to look for a man I wasn’t going to find. Something about this arrangement seemed vaguely unfair to the dog, but I had no health insurance and there is only so much tooth to grind.
I even had a friend, an attractive shaggy boy of German extraction who pointed out to me one night at 8 Ball that he only saw me on nights of romantic malefaction, and it wasn’t like we saw each other so infrequently that we needed to catch up. (This friend, the handsome German and incidentally heterosexual fellow who taught me how to roll cigarettes so well that I can now do it one-handed in a windstorm, insists that, one night, after disappearing copious flows of cheap vodka, he awoke on the floor of my room on William and I was wearing no underwear and had an erection. This story is ridiculous and I tender as proof the fact that I never sleep in the nude.) And while a gent can take comfort in knowing that his handsome heterosexual cigarette-rolling friends of German extraction will always be there for him in bars that smell ever increasingly of vomit, a bloke at the age of 22 shouldn’t have a friend he sees regularly with troubles from a new relationship each time.
And that is why it was the perfect time to be in love. Some might say there’s no better time to be in love than the time in which you are in love, but that is for Russian writers who insisted their characters cling to youthful engagements so as to not create another name pun that would be lost in translation anyway. There is a great time to be in love, and it is the time in which you have completely dismissed all regard and desire for love, resolved to get a dog that you promise not to name Alice B. Toklas, in the very heart of the squash harvest when you have decided to pin everything on a tall lean man named Rift who reaches for your hand on Halloween night when the moon is disappearing behind milky clouds and smoke rings and says to you, “Let’s do stuff together.” That is the perfect time to be in love. And I was going to prove to Rift that the universe was indifferent, lest the whole thing split open like a poor abandoned squash.