I see the world through a very specific set of eyes. The eyes of addiction. Obsession. I’m not talking drugs. None of those collegiate boredom remedies. I’m not stupid enough to stick a needle in my arm, to cower in a corner at four in the morning, poking and prodding to find the perfect place to satiate. But the need for sustenance — that’s the most familiar feeling I know. That throbbing that runs under my skin, replaces the blood in my veins with pure adrenaline. It creeps up the hairs on my back, shuts down the mitochondria in my cells, snips the nerves of my corpus callosum one by one. Bundles of little vermicelli dissolving into worm shit until the halves of my brain aren’t connected anymore. Or at least until I get that next shot, and then not only am I stitched up brand new, but I’m ten times the person I was ten seconds ago. It’s the only kind of magic there is. Not the sawing-Vegas-showgirls-in-two kind of magic, but the explosions of chemical reactions. Maybe manipulation and the fabrication of perfection are amphetamines. And if they are, then I’m guilty of abuse. Of addiction.
The way they lean their elbows against coffeehouse tables, dig their heels into New York sidewalks, I know I need them, but most importantly, that they need me. Girls who want to sink their teeth into something so badly, crave someone inside of them so deep, want love so much that they turn a darker shade of lonely the minute I walk into the store, through the subway doors, wherever. They tuck a strand of hair behind their ears with their unpainted nails, the same ones that are always manicured the next time I see them, the same ones that dig into my back a few hours from first encounter. They shift their weight back and forth until they’re standing perfectly pencil straight. This is where the rush of need starts. Their gazes peek over the top of little silver laptops, sketchbooks, whatever soul-searching crap keeps them busy. Those eyes dart back down the minute I look up at them, flashing my own tangle of dark lashes. I feel it deep in my gut when their glances come back up again, the montages of blue and brown and green and hazel becoming a watercolor created with lust instead of a paintbrush, and slim lips, full lips, plush lips crack sheepish, tight smiles. They’re the ones I’ll penetrate with my tongue — and whatever else I give them — t-minus two hours and twenty-five minutes from when my small black coffee slides across the counter. There’s always one sitting in there, wherever there is, and I always know that she’s inside, can smell the brown rice maki still lingering on her breath — all before we lock eyes for the first time.
This isn’t about the chase. If it were, I wouldn’t be looking into the eyes imploring me to take them home. The eyes that don’t know they’re doing it. The instant her body’s covering me, her pores breathing through mine, that’s when I start to feel the braces holding reality in place.
While they’re easy to spot, and even easier to tear down, they’re all a little different. They all have their stories. Names and details I’d never forget, the warped childhoods and deep-seated insecurities that fashion the perfectly imperfect girl. They’ll cover up their flaws with the blankets when we’re in bed, or fall asleep clutching a pillow sandwiched between their knees, across their stomachs, pressed tightly against their chests. I know why they do it. And they think I’m their cure. The fucking messiah. By holding them the way no one else ever has, the way they think no one else ever can or will, they put a meaning to my every move. I’m going to save them when I touch their skin, hold them into me, rest my fingers into the curves of their hipbones, slide my tongue across their clavicles. My breath is such a savior, they’ll swear the frequencies are humming a lullaby, each note written for them as it scales their figures and lands straight between their legs. Pink, perfect folds.
The girls with little rituals are the best. Elyse, she alphabetized cold cuts in her fridge. First by type, “H” for ham, and then by subdivisions: black forest, then honey glazed. Brooke, she swallowed her pills in the morning with water from a shot glass, a different one for each med. Bridget, she spelled out notes about me by circling letters in the book she was reading, the pages so deeply dog-eared, the corners looked like they’d tear with one false move. She always used green pen. Wet ink she smeared with her left hand.
To most people, these little quirks are nothing. But for girls this insecure, just my mention of them makes each girl feel even more imperfect. Trying to repress their idiosyncrasies, they create their own new rituals trying to be more normal. Less screwy. Less clinical. Whatever that means. Like I’m in a position to judge what normal is. Casey, when I made her nuts about the fact that she always blinked in threes, she dug her nails into her knees trying to control it. By the end of the second day, those milk-white legs looked like they were blown to bits by a land mine, as if I had needed to spend the entire night pulling shrapnel from her skin.
It’d seem by now, in these tight Brooklyn and Manhattan circles that make the city feel like a big town, girls would know my face. My distinctive features: the mustard seed eyes with the top quarter of the right iris strangely flecked a rich brown, like a pie chart. Slim shoulders and tall. Six foot one, if we’re talking details. Easy enough to spot in a crowd. It’d seem they’d tell their friends to stay away. Or that they’d have names for me. The worst imaginable. I’m sure I’ve been called an asshole more times than I blink in a single day, or more times than Casey blinks in a single day.
But I’m not completely the villain, and I know they come to realize that down the road. They build me up in their stories of epic heartbreak. They want so badly to communicate that they were wanted, needed, even if it was only for a couple of weeks. And the poor, pathetic girls that are listening, they’re all starving for that kind of affection, too. And those poor, pathetic girls — one of them will end up panting next to me in less than a week. It’s visceral in the most baffling way possible.
No one should be able to get away with this. But I can week after week, month after month in the same neighborhoods, on the same city blocks. It’s so easy to make them feel like I’m moving on since everything is their faults. They all feel so insecure, so inadequate, all I have to do is make them feel like they single-handedly wrecked “the best thing that ever happened to them.” Sonja, right before I cut her loose, I planted the seed by telling her I couldn’t take the way she wouldn’t hold eye contact with me for more than a few seconds without looking down and smoothing the pad of her thumb over her pinky nail. I told her it made me feel like she didn’t trust me and could neverreally love me, baby. She got so self-conscious, her shoulders tensed up, and the color vanished from her face like it was seeping down a shower drain. A couple of days later I listed all of the “reasons” I knew she’d never be in this all the way. How bad it hurt to know that. Go in for the kill to satisfy the need.
The new one, Carrie, I’ve been seeing her since last week. A Saturday, late afternoon, in some atrociously hip Williamsburg bookstore. She was leafing through a collection of Paris photographs, a poetry book tangled in some white headphones that popped out of the top of her canvas tote. She was wearing a blue slip dress – the kind that’s as easy on the imagination as it is to take off when imagination’s no longer necessary – plastered to her curves with summer sweat. Her posture made me spot her, a slightly hunched torso that eventually melted into thin legs with shy ankles. We needed each other. I walked to the other side of the table where she had picked up the book. Like clockwork, the wavy strand of dark hair behind her ear, the blue eyes peeking out over the top of the book, only to dart back down. I smiled, picking up a Nabokov novel, fingers running the pages. I never stopped to look down at the words. Lolita. Right. I don’t even know what I said. Something banal about photography, some compliment on one of her features. Part of the process is finding a way to tickle their insides without seeming like I’m just prowling for sex. But really, when it comes down to it, they’re staring at me so intently that I could say anything, speak Polish or Pig Latin. Mindless dribble, alphabet soup. Doesn’t matter. With me, she’s lost right at the moment that I make her my world for those five minutes and promise her our future on the sixth. Carrie dropped the book, letting it slide off her fingers like it was waterproofed and fall with a stereo thud. She followed me out to a café next door, and two hours later, we were against her sheets as she whispered into my neck. I’ve seen her every night since then — it’s been five or six — and those blood red fingernails keep digging deeper into my back and under my skin while my touch teaches her what love is supposed to feel like. She keeps back issues of foreign lifestyle magazines, snipping clips she finds compelling and putting them into a pink plastic three-ring binder she hides under her bed. She scrawls anything and everything on the back of old ATM receipts, then stuffs them in her day planner until it’s bursting at the seams. She’s the only person in New York who still carries a day planner. During the day, she’s an advertising assistant for a fashion magazine in Midtown. As a kid, her mother always told her she was fat, father left for some Brazilian waitress. She thinks I was raised by a single parent, too, abused by the men that walked in and out of my mother’s life. She thinks that’s why I know how to treat a woman, really know how important love is, value only the good stuff. She knows, after four or five days of instant monogamy, that I’m the solution to her future.
Carrie’s in bed right now, lying on her side like a fetus, clutching the extra pillow against the bare little nubs she has for breasts. She’s wrapped tightly into the blanket. She’ll wake up to see my eyes first thing, eyes that make her come on cue. I’ll make her a cup of coffee, bring her the Times, and watch goosebumps transform her skin. She’ll want me again. And again. And the whole time, while she’s getting off, I know that she thinks she commanded my fingers inside of her, that, for the first time ever, she’s controlling something, when really I’ve set the whole chain of events into careful action.
Here’s the thing. I’m not addicted to sex. Sex is merely a part of the bigger picture. Sex is about control. The passing of power. Lighting a torch between bodies, lips flint and friction, and sending the spark back and forth until she’s got the sensations she’s always wanted, whether that means delivering a soul-shattering orgasm that strokes every single internal organ, or letting her ride me to the bone, telling me exactly what she wants. Whatever it is, I give her exactly that. If it’s to hear me talking about a house in the suburbs and a golden retriever while I’m up in her, I give her the most perfect tactile picture of a meticulous green lawn and a swing set for the kids in the backyard. Whatever it is, I give her the feeling that she’s calling the shots. That my desires align exactly with hers. That I want it slow and gentle just like she does. Just give it to her.
Next, I get my face between her legs like it’s the first time I’ve ever explored, like her taste is the first one I’ve ever wanted to carry on the tip of my tongue all twelve hours of the day when I’m not with her. I grab one of her wrists, put my finger on her pulse, and start breathing into her, making her limbs tickle, making her swell. From there, she’s mine. Whenever Carrie is about to come and her breath gets heavy, she’ll start meshing the morphemes of my name into her breathing, emphasis on the second syllable. Chris-TIAN, Chris-TIAN. Stays with me for hours.
Carrie flinches as if she’s going to wake up, but pulls the pillow tighter into her chest. I watch it rise and fall as she breathes, and then she settles back against her white sheets, becoming more naive with each second fatigue keeps her eyelids drawn. Carrie is no different from the others — she won’t be around long. It all depends on how restless I get, how deep in she falls. At the first sign that they’re starting to get in over their heads, it’s time to let them go. I’ll break Carrie down by convincing her that she doesn’t care about herself, harping on her little flaws, probably just like her mother did. I’m not trying to make these girls kill themselves. They’re not going to do that. Really, I’m just reeducating them, making them feel wanted, feel loved, feel connected like they never have before. Like they have the ability to be in control, and I’m making them realize they have to assert that control if they ever want to really live like a human being. After they’ve met me, they’re metamorphosed.
All lessons come with some sort of price: pain, rejection, guilt, shame — something that stings up and down. But ultimately when the dust settles, they must be so thankful that they’ve got the scars on their bodies. I can’t forget the lacerations on my own, and sometimes, when I think about my own past, I almost regret my actions with these girls. When I think of the source of my needs and compulsions, I almost feel remorse for my interruption of their lives. I almost open up and identify with them. But feeling is part of the problem, so I just do. Breathe, focus, and continue.
Meredith Turits was born in New York in 1987, and spent most of her youth riding the 6 train in and out of the East Village. She is the assistant online editor at Glamour, and a freelance writer working towards publishing her first novel. She is a graduate of Tufts University. Meredith can be found in South Park Slope, Brooklyn and at suchsmallhands.com.
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