Pregnancy made me the most horny. As some women crave chocolate or bologna, I craved sex. Without Win’s hard-working dick, it seemed that old ways had to suffice.
Sticking yourself with a vibrator while watching gay porn…while pregnant…it might just be one of the most awkward things. But that’s what it had come down to and I couldn’t do anything about that.
Some days, Win would return home, looking like hell, and I’d ask him to just go down on me. But he started really refraining. He simple told me, “No.” Win would say no to sex. Maybe one of the more ironic occurrences of the time.
One night, Anna did ask me to fuck her. Win had been out really late and she told me, “I am so horny. Please, just this once.”
But I couldn’t. Anna and her bulging stomach. Anna and that baby. I couldn’t do that. I was trying to hold onto at least some degree of normalcy still. No way in hell was I going to fuck Anna. No way in hell.
Jax was no good for fucking. I told him it wouldn’t have been cheating, but he still wouldn’t. I don’t know. I don’t think he liked when I first revealed I was pregnant.
As her term progressed, I started becoming more and more weary. I started becoming worried that Anna and Win would run off with the child and dismantle that family that I felt we had already created. This kind of worry was totally self-destructive, but the possibility of something so good coming to an end can make anyone afraid. Can make anyone anxious. Anxious, that’s truly what I was during the time. Truly. And anxiety only builds if you let it.
And, yeah, it built.
Jax started on some anti-anxiety stuff. He was afraid of this baby. He really was. I think it represented an end of something for him. An end of something that he had come to really love and appreciate. The end of order, maybe.
I just couldn’t handle the truth of the situation anymore. I did start on the drugs and I also started drinking pretty heavily, which never goes well with anti-anxiety medication.
Yeah, he got drunk a lot. Really bizarre behavior. He’d start on beer at like five, when he got off of work. He’d have four of those and then move onto the bottle of whiskey. By the end of the night, he’d be in my bedroom, spinning in circles like the Black Swan, singing some early Emmylou Harris stuff. “Two More Bottles of Wine.” That was like his favorite. He’d come in and sing it while I’d be in bed either reading or sleeping. And then he’d eventually lie down next to me and say, “You are my best friend, you know.”
I’d reply, “I know.”
“I love you, my best friend,” he’d say.
“I know. Love you too, Jaxxy.”
“Fine. Bye.” Then he’d get up and leave, forgetting to turn the light back off.
I wasn’t being myself and I wasn’t really being honest when I was drunk, but I do know, looking back as far as I remember, that I was trying to be validated. I wanted Anna to make me feel secure. I wanted her to tell me that our “family” would continue on. I wanted her to promise our friendship. I wanted her to say that she would never dream of leaving.
When I drank like that, I became a different person. A much more annoying version of myself. Much more. Singing various songs and shit. Songs that I didn’t even like sometimes! And then I’d ask her if she loved me and if she would ever leave me. If I was also her best friend.
I don’t know if I ever did get the answer that I was really looking for, you know.
But I pressed for it. That’s the thing when you’re drunk. Especially when you’re drinking while on medication. You become a different person, but your issues come to forefront. Usually, I pressed a lot of issues that I wouldn’t have even pressed to myself sober. And even if I had pressed myself for them sober, when drunk, it was all I could think about; all my mind revolved around.
I’d wake up with a crazy hangover and then go to work. Sometimes, I puked in the bathroom stalls. But, of course, my work didn’t suffer. It was all I had had going for me, one; and, two, copywriting is something that a Shih Tzu could do.
I thought he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. He’d wake up all hungover and then he’d apologize for his behavior the night before. And I’d say that it was fine, because it really was. I was sympathetic to people’s drunken behavior. You never knew where it might go to. I felt bad for Jax. I did.
I felt like a plan was in development. That Win and Anna were planning their big escape. There seemed to be a teense of secrecy in the air. Something clandestine. Something that they were keeping for me. So I’d drink and press in order to be validated. I’d press Anna, because she was the only one of the two present.
Win was working really hard and I thought it really admirable during the time, but it really did start to take a toll on me. It really, really did. I was pregnant! Not just horny and needy. I was a pregnant woman! No one was there for me and I was bitter. I didn’t tell Win how bitter I was, because he was also doing the best he could.
It seemed like this little innocent baby had already started to ruin everything that we had created.
Anna was like six months in the night she came into my “room.” My room was like a small study area in the house; it wasn’t enclosed. Anyways, Anna sat across from me on my bed. I was relatively drunk, but I still remember this, because it meant a lot to me at the time. It still means a lot to me today.
She sat there quietly, Sheryl Crow’s Detours album playing. The song “Drunk with the Thought of You.” I told her, “I’m not gonna fuck you so stop fucking asking, Anna.” I sat up and looked at her then.
She had definitely been crying. Pregnant Anna.
“I know, Jax. I know.” She scooted a little closer and said, “I just wanted to tell you that I want you to be a parent here too. That this is your child too. It’s my child, Win’s child, and yours. We are its parents, okay? All three of us. You’re still a part of the family. Just wanted to make sure you know that I promise you this.”
It was all I had been needing to hear for months. It really was. I sat in silence for a while, because I knew a lot of anxiety had started to suddenly fade away. Anxiety that I had thought might stay forever. And when anxiety fades away, it usually leaves you feeling empty. Like there’s something to worry about still. But there wasn’t any more. I sat there, emptying like a gas tank that has just been knifed.
“Promise?” I slurred.
He deserved it. I had put him through hell. He had put me through hell. Win had put both of us through hell. And we, clearly, hadn’t put Win through shit. It made me feel more connected to Jax all of a sudden. More connected than I felt to Win I guess.
It was the defining moment for me. The one that really told me to grow up. To become an adult. To face life. Not once again, but for real this time. There was no other option. I cut down my drinking to a maximum of four beers a night. And I increased my level of smoking.
I made myself the definite promise. If I went down again, I knew I wouldn’t come out alive. I knew it. Everything was going to be okay. I just had to roll with the motions, because, really, every day is a winding road. It’s true.
I was glad that I had been able to make him okay. You have to do that sometimes. Give people something that you know they will hold onto.
Also happening during this time was basically Win’s physical destruction. He was losing a lot of weight. A lot. Originally, I just thought he wasn’t eating, because I didn’t really know if he had had the time to eat. He’d come home, worn out, still smiling, though. And he’d rub my belly and then pass out on the couch. He wouldn’t eat!
I confronted him on it eventually. I said, “You’re getting so thin. Are you eating food?”
“It’s fine, Anna. Please don’t worry yourself. It’s not good for the baby.”
“I can make you a bag lunch, you know.”
“A bag lunch?” he asked and then grinned. “So I can eat that in some motel room after blowing a guy. We can have ourselves a little picnic?”
He was right. I asked him to start eating some of those hotdogs and burritos they sold on those food carts on the street. He said he would, but I don’t know if he did.
Yeah he looked like shit, Win did. Seriously like shit. Pale skin. Warped. Some mornings, I’d tell him, “Please don’t work yourself so hard. You’re making plenty of money. Everything’s fine.”
He’d always reply the same: “Don’t tell me what to do.” And then he’d light another cigarette.
The baby arrived on December 6th. It was freezing outside. So cold. So cold in the windy city. Win was gone working already. It was Saturday. And he was gone. My water broke early in the morning and I ran into Jax’s room and screamed.
He looked up quickly and spotted the liquid dripping down my legs. “Oh!” he yelled, shuffling his naked self up from bed, running around the room looking for his wallet and something to wear. “We gotta go now! We gotta get a taxi!” he murmured. He was freaking out for sure.
He put on a pair of pajama pants and a tank top which was far too small for his frame. Then he put on a windbreaker coat and put me into something a little warmer.
We took the elevator to the first floor, got our taxi, and I guess the rest was history.
Jax stood there as they delivered my baby girl. The pain. It was like shooting out a bowling ball. So much fucking pain. I will never, ever be pregnant again. I swear to God and Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Yeah. I’m still a bit scarred from that thing coming out of her thing. That baby coming out of her vagina. It’s surreal. That’s not the best word, but it’s the best I can think of right now.
I’ll tell you, that officially turned me off of vaginas forever.
She was born healthy and so I was happy that I had quit smoking during my term.
I wanted to name her. I really wanted to name her, but Win still hadn’t arrived.
Win was so against technology that he didn’t even carry a cellphone. We had no way of reaching him, except by voicemail on the home phone. Jax told me that he left a messages, but Win never did come to the hospital over the day and a half that I was there.
Jax kept calling and calling. He told me he would go back to the apartment, but I really didn’t think I could handle being left alone, so I made him stay and I told him to just name the baby.
I named her April. And I signed the birth certificate…
Jax, Baby April, and I entered the house a day and a half after the birth. Jax opened the door and there, the TV blaring, sat Win on the couch, watching. He turned to me and smiled. He got up very quickly after spotting the girl I had brought with me. “Why didn’t you call!” he shouted, giving me a gentle hug. He looked at his daughter. I felt like crying but I didn’t. Win kissed April’s cheek and said, “My baby.”
“I’ve been calling, Win,” Jax said. I’ve been leaving voicemails.
“God, I should have learned how to use that machine.”
“It’s a phone…” Jax added.
I was really mad at Win, but I kept that to myself. I also kept the fact that Jax had named her to myself. Kept the fact that he had signed the certificate to myself. Win was supposed to do all that. That was who I wanted to name my baby girl, but he didn’t show. And that’s just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. You definitely don’t always get your way; no matter how manipulative or greedy or whatever.
I knew Anna was really upset about Win not being there. But I was…and, I don’t want to sound like a dick here, but that made me feel good. It made me feel like my position had been solidified; that Anna would always make sure that I was around. Until we all died.
Win slowed down on the sex circuit which was really a huge relief. He still wasn’t gaining much weight, but he wasn’t losing it at such a rapid fire pace either. He was there for the baby and that made me most happy. Sure, I resented him for not being there for April’s birth, but I couldn’t change that and so I decided not to dwell or ruminate anymore. You can’t change things that have already happened. And you definitely can’t change people.
Win was really good with the baby. He really showed up for the kid and made up for lost time; the time that he hadn’t been around and hadn’t been there for Anna and the coming child. It made me happy to see it. He was good with the kid. And it made me happy that I was going to be a large part of this baby’s life. Of this family.
I must say, I was good with the kid, too.
I eventually explicitly told Win that Jax was also going to raise the kid. Win was, naturally, very cool with that. Those two men pampered the hell out of me until I was ready to go back to work.
The two of them put together the crib and changing table and play pen.
God, soon our house turned into a real circus. It looked like a nursery. It really did. But that was because it was so fucking small that it didn’t really have an option to not be a nursery, you know.
It was our weird life. And I was excited for it. I really was. The three of us were going to see this baby grow up! It made me so happy to be a mom. Much happier than I had ever thought; especially at the beginning.
Win and I spoiled the hell out of Anna and the baby. We basically fed the both of them. We wanted Anna to be in tip top shape. We wanted her to be happy. And I guess a lot of it had to do with the fact that she had just given us a really, really great gift, see. Everything was kind of on track again, it seemed. Everything was possible once again.
I felt like a princess.
Anna returned to work two months after the birth. Win said he’d stay home with the kid until he felt comfortable enough putting her in daycare. It was during this time that Win totally stopped having sex for money. It surprised me. It really did. But it was his official decision. He wanted to be Daddy now and not Prostitute.
He wasn’t having sex with me either. I was really worried. I thought he was going to leave any day. Something imminent hung in the air. I fear that while I was at work one day, he was going to run off with the baby and never return. It scared the shit out of me, but it wasn’t entirely implausible. It was something Win would have been totally capable of doing. It was something that I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if he’d done it.
It was all I could think of at work.
Win’s physical condition and all started to make sense one night. One night I’ll never forget, but I try to. So I got up from bed to go get some water in the kitchen. The bathroom was adjacent, so I noticed the light on. And I knew it had to have been Win, because he was a man and it seemed men got up more often in the middle of the night to pee than women.
I cracked the door slightly to see what he was up to. I don’t know what compelled me to do so, because bathroom visits are supposed to remain private. You do weird things when you’re hardly awake, I guess. I thought that maybe he was masturbating, but, no, he was puking. I leaned in and then watched him continue to puke.
I saw some blood in the yellow flood.
Win was sick. He was really sick.
“Win,” I whispered, terrified.
I hadn’t really surprised him. He just looked up and slammed the door.
I waited up for an hour in the kitchen and then he finally emerged.
He walked slowly toward the table.
“How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“Few months. Thought I had mastered the art of the silent puke.”
I didn’t smile. I looked down at my worried fingers. My fingers that wouldn’t quit thumbing each other. “Have you been to a doctor, Win?” My voice cracked in the middle of that. My voice was shaky. Shaky like it was my first time on stage singing my rendition of “Mother and Child Reunion.”
“No. I don’t need one.”
I stood up, pissed. “You know, that’s fucking bullshit!” I didn’t want to wake Anna, because that would have created quite the shit show, so I whisper-yelled. “You know, you can accept help sometimes! You can’t always be your own boss! Your own individualist self. There’s gonna be times when you have to accept the hand of someone else.”
“I will when I really need to,” he muttered. He really looked unaffected.
“You need to. You need to go to the emergency room. Tomorrow. Figure out what the fuck is going on with you.”
“I have AIDS. I got tested after having sex with this dude. This dude that had all those marks all over. I got tested. I was so stupid. So fuckin’ stupid. I knew he had to have given it to me. He offered three thousand bucks, though! I took it. I took the chance. This rich, straight guy with AIDs. This dude that had been living a lie his whole life. A guy who lived the lie and got AIDs and still had yet to change himself. To run for life instead of from it. I did it, because it was the furthest I knew I could go. I really hope I set him free before he died. I don’t know if he’s died, though.” He sat pensive. Me, stunned. Absolutely stunned. “After that night,” he continued, “I started just giving blow jobs for money. Giving various men just tastes of what their missing by living a lie. I got AIDs dude. I have the lesions all over. Anna hasn’t seen me naked since she got pregnant. Nobody has. I got AIDs, dude.”
I started to bawl and he just walked away.
I sat up all night bawling. And he had just walked away.
Fuckin’ Win Carlisle was going to die.
No, I hadn’t even noticed that Win had been getting up in the middle of the night to barf. I don’t know if I’ve forgiven myself for that yet. I don’t know if I’ve forgiven myself for not realizing that I hadn’t even seen Win naked in so many, many months. I really didn’t, but I didn’t even realize it, because I guess I had been busy thinking about birthing a child. Preparing myself for that. I don’t know. I don’t know if I can even rationalize it. Yeah, I felt guilty. Really guilty. I mean, the most skin of his that I had seen during that whole term was his hands, feet, and face; all of them had been untouched by the lesions. I want to cry just thinking about how oblivious I had been. So oblivious.
Sometimes, I think, I could have saved him if I had been more attentive, but he would never had wanted me to blame myself.
He did a selfish thing in hiding it. But it was so selfless at the same time.
The next morning, Anna woke me at the table. She put her hand on the small of my back and said my name. I looked up at her; her and the Baby April. I immediately thought of the night before and knew that I might just cry.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked. It was at this moment that she truly looked like the woman that I think she was always meant to be. She had grown up, but I didn’t know so much about myself anymore.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I muttered, still a bit startled.
“Why don’t you go to your bed? I’ll make some coffee or tea or something.”
I stood up from the table and tug gently at the baby’s cheeks. “I’m calling in today. Don’t feel good.”
“Did you drink too much?” she asked.
“Not nearly enough,” I replied and then I headed for my faux bedroom.
I pretended to sleep until she went off to work. Win had already gotten up before her departure. Him and his AIDs body.
Once I heard the door close and Anna was gone, I got up from my twin bed and walked into the kitchen to Win who was feeding the baby via a bottle.
I sat across from him at the table. “If you’ve known, you should have told us.”
“Worry. I don’t need anyone worrying about me, mate” was his quick reply. He didn’t look at me. He only looked at his daughter.
“Shouldn’t you be seeing someone? Someone for your AIDs?”
He chuckled. “The doc said I should and then I told him it was against my religion.”
What the fuck.
“What the fuck, Win?”
“It’s not worth it to be all tied up to tubes the rest of my life. Taking bullshit meds. Let me just go naturally. Go like a man.”
“You need to tell Anna tonight.” I pointed a harsh finger at him.
“I do what I want.” He mocked my pointing. “I don’t want her worrying. You aren’t supposed to know, so don’t you dare get involved. She’s bound to find out anyways. I got bloody underwear and I puke all the time. She’s got to be catching on. You just got it quicker. I guess that makes you Mr. Smartypants.” He smiled at me and then at the drinking baby.
“No,” I replied. “No. That makes me a victim of your life.”
“Please. Please. Don’t give me that. Victimhood is a death sentence.”
“Why don’t you explain to me what has created your death sentence?”
“Freedom. Freedom might kill you early, but at least you let it. At least you gave it your all. I hope you take this with you when I go.”
I went off to my bed and cried some more.
I didn’t know ‘til three weeks after Jax had found out. Win’s weight stayed thin, but not skeletal, but his face. His face went to the depths. He surely wasn’t cute hot anymore. He had turned into a ghost. I thought that maybe after the baby was born and he had quit working so much, he might gain his old self back. It never happened. It just seemed to continuously get worse. You could see pain. I could see it, but I didn’t want to believe it. Also, when you live with someone, you don’t always see the progression to disaster. That’s an inherent truth.
But I eventually confronted Win. One day when Jax was gone on a date, I asked Win, “What’s going on with your health? You don’t look good.”
“I have AIDs,” he said quietly. He said it like he was saying “It’s Monday.” It wasn’t Monday. It wasn’t any day anymore. It was just the day that Win finally revealed that he would die sooner than later.
I cried for a week. I held my baby girl in my arms and cried. Every time I looked at her, I cried. Every time I looked at Win’s frail body, I cried. I cried about the future. I cried about the past. But, for the present, I cried the most.
I hated myself. I hated myself for not noticing. For being so naïve; for not saying something when I had first noticed the change. God, how the fuck had he hidden it that long? I guess he was just that good. I don’t know. I can’t rationalize. I can’t explain it. I can’t tell you how stupid I felt.
I slapped him on the face that night he told me. And then that was when he finally showed me his lesions. I really just hadn’t seen my love naked in so long. The gay love of my life.
For so long, I had figured that maybe Win had become simple tired of having sex with me. In truth, he didn’t have sex with me, because that would have killed me eventually as well.
In all reality, he had simple hidden the truth so well. He had manipulated his way to ensuring that I only knew when he deemed it essential that I did. God, Win’s days were so numbered. So fucking numbered.
She knew that I had known; Anna. No, she didn’t resent me. I don’t even know if she had even thought about me. She loved Win. She really fucking loved him.
And, now, I think I just hated him. Hated him for not letting us help. For not letting us take him in and make him seek help; help that could have prolonged his life.
I was destroyed. This kind of thing is really when you realize just how fragile life is. You face the worst situation that you could ever have possibly imagined and it humbles you and it grounds you. It makes you see just how important the things in life are; the things that you let pass you by. The things that skip over you because you are so focused on the past and the future.
I say fuck those fucking elements and take in what’s happening. If there’s a future, you’re still subconsciously aware of it. But not a whole hell of a lot of dwelling goes into it. You want to go to graduate school? Well, then work hard in school and then apply in the fall.
Doesn’t take any more than that. How we spend our lives thinking about how we might just be single forever, how Mommy and Daddy don’t love us so much anymore, how you’d like to have kids, how you’d like to meet a man and marry him, what song you’d like to play at your burial, who will get your money when you die, what kind of flowers you want at your wedding, where you’ll die, how you’ll die, what kind of car you want when you’re rich, how the house really could use a fresh coat of paint.
Fuck the paint.
Or, paint it whenever you have time. Whatever.
Fuck the paint.
We are so consumed with bullshit and bitching. We bitch about everything! Complain, complain, complain. How our job sucks. How we’re lonely. How things just aren’t ideal quite yet.
Shut the fuck up, everybody. Take what you have or leave it. It’s pretty fucking simple.
Anna didn’t get out of bed for like a week after Win revealed the truth. She just sat there listening to the Tapestry album over and over again. What a mess she was. More of a mess than she had been during that time in college. That time when she had taken up the art of knitting.
An absolute mess. She didn’t shower for a week.
I wanted to feel the pain, because that’s a free feeling. That’s called experiencing the present. You don’t escape it. You take the pertinent shit happening to you in the present and if it really fucking sucks, then you cry for a week. And then you go out and find a specialist to help out the death bound love of your life.
After Anna’s slight mental breakdown, we found someone who could help. Win’s prostitute money helped in this discovery. This discovery of this doctor who could give a proper medical opinion. One that wasn’t laced with sugar-coating. One that was going to tell us just when he was going to die exactly.
This doctor, I don’t remember his name. All I remember is that he said, “One month, maybe two.”
Win had done himself in. He had intentionally done himself in. No, it wasn’t suicide, but it was the ultimate surrender.
I figured we had about two weeks to live it up before he died. Before he left me as a single mother.
We took the baby to the zoo one day. Then the next we went for long walks in the park. And then we went to the mall one day. The mall…the fucking mall. It was absurd. Such an absurd place. Win hated it. He hated any kind of public institution. I really think he truly hated the zoo even. Crowds, not his thing. But he went with us, because that was where we said we were going to go. Where we thought we might be able to spend the most quality time together. Where Win would be able to have simple fun. Not sexual fun. Where he could have an outing with his daughter.
By the end of the two weeks of outings, Win just told me straight up, “The largest connections you’re going to make are at home. In the confines of your home, where you can sit and watch a movie and then afterwards talk about it. Where you can shut the fuck up in silence. Where you can experience true life together.”
And so we stayed home for one week. And I watched Win take care of my baby girl. Our baby girl. I watched him make dinners. I watched him watch movies like My Own Private Idaho and Mysterious Skin. I watched him read The Catcher in the Rye one last time. I watched him listen to Paul Simon and No Secrets and Exile on Main Street and The Globe Sessions and Rumours. I watched him go down on me one last time. I watched him crumble. I watched him walk further and further up the staircase.
It was not until the first time he fainted that we finally took him to the ER. We all knew that it was now time to surrender his life over and allow doctors to assist him. Someone to assist him.
He fainted two weeks before his death. In between this time, he just did things around the house. He played with his daughter. He just did things. He did what Win had always done outside of sex.
Apart from this was one more happening between Win and me. Some afternoon, a few days before Win was transported to the hospital, Anna went out to get milk. Milk.
And Win simply asked me, “Can I go down on you one last time. Please. I want to die knowing that a dick was the last genital I kissed.”
And so he did. He did and then he did it again. The baby, asleep. I think. Asleep in Win and Anna’s bedroom.
He went down on me and I came on his face. He went down on me again and I came in his mouth. And then we were over. He got up and cleaned his face off. The face that was now full of lesions.
I was the last dick he ever sucked.
It makes me strangely proud.
Seeing him all tied up in tubes and with a catheter, it was maybe one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced. Definitely. Seeing this person who had once been so full of life; to see him fall to death. A painful, painful death.
He puked constantly. He diarrhea-ed all the time. The nurses had a mess with him. Yet, they seemed okay with that. With helping. There isn’t anything wrong with helping or accepting help. That’s the one thing that I think Win left this world not truly knowing or maybe just finally understanding. Other than that, I think he had it pretty well down. And I think he had affected enough people to offer the opportunity for them to also get it down.
I think he was in the hospital a couple of weeks before he finally went. He was losing everything. All of his immune system. His eyesight was slowly going.
I still remember the last conversation I had with him.
I walked slowly in. Anna wasn’t there or anything. She was home, putting the baby down for a nap.
I sat next to him and said, “Tell me something.” And that was it. I knew he’d say something that would be important to me forever.
He said, “See, I’m gonna die. But, it’s not for nothing. I had the balls to create my own reality in this life. Not many people do that, you know. I hope you do, Jax. I think you will. You gotta choose your own reality. I’m happy I was able to.” His voice was pitiful and cracked and aged. He sounded like he was dying of lung cancer or something. But no. God, he looked like death.
And tears. Tears. Lots of them. “I will,” I slurred.
And I would.
He told me then that he wanted me to father Baby April and I replied that that wasn’t even a question.
I would assume fatherhood for real this time.
And, yeah, that was the last time I ever saw my dear friend alive. And I hate him for it. I hate him for taking his life to such a selfless place. To taking death; to grabbing it when it had only inched forward. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.
I wasn’t there when he took his final breaths. But April and I did get to see him the fay je did die. I don’t know exactly when it was. But we sat with him. And he could hardly talk anymore. The last thing he ever said to me was, “Take what I taught.”
And I knew what that meant.
It was that night when he died. His eye sight had basically gone. His breathing had slowed to a horrendous pace. Everything in him was dead, except that heart.
And then that gave out. Gave out that night. And I am glad I wasn’t there to see it, because maybe mine would have just fallen with his. Maybe.
We got the calls; the inevitable calls. We had been crying for so many weeks, though, that tears didn’t even mean much anymore.
We ultimately had him cremated, because that seemed, most certainly, preferable to burial for him. It was what he would have wanted.
We thought of scattering his ashes in Oregon, but that had to have been more of a joke. His mother was dead. And he was going where she had now. We didn’t have to go back and scatter him. Instead, we threw all of his ashes right out of our apartment window, creating this great white cloud of AIDs.
Sorry, that’s inappropriate. We scattered a white cloud of a master. A master of life. I’m sure of it.
I smile when I think of him still, but I do wish to God that he had fuckin’ gotten help. It’s so terrible that he hadn’t. That he hadn’t told us. Sometimes, I think I should have known better. I should have said more when I started recognizing the fact that he was getting thin. But he would have just said, “Stay or leave. I do what I want.”
You can’t change anyone.
Life didn’t start after Win’s death. What I ultimately discovered was that it had always been happening. It was during the times that I turned to the past of future, that life took a detour. Those sorts of detours, I learned, were pointless. Life had been happening. Distractions had always been what had taken me out. Fear and anxiety had taken me out.
Life had been happening. Yes. And it continued after Win left. Just in a different way; with a definite absence. But it continued. I had my daughter and I had Jax who told me he’d father her. He’d give his life for her. And, yes, I was appreciative. I knew he’d be a good dad. I knew it.
And so we had our little family minus one. The two of us grieved for a while. A long time probably. I hated him for leaving his child to me. His biological child to me. But I also felt really blessed, because I was going to step in his old shoes and be a dad.
I did hate him for sure, though, for leaving nothing behind for his child. No video recordings. No letters. Only old CDs and books and DVDs. It was up to me and Anna to make that legacy live on I guess. And I suppose, with April, it would.
That whole “minus one” thing, Win wouldn’t have wanted me to think like that. He would have wanted us to not even grieve. He would have wanted us to just continue on. He would have wanted life to go on as normal. So we tried our hardest. We really did. We tried to retain the order that we had felt upon our original arrival in Chicago and the order that had been in place for so short a time after the baby’s birth, but it seemed a little more difficult this time.
I really loved him. I really loved him. And I knew, from the beginning, that we had something so unnatural. That we had formed something that might not work out. But we made what we could of it. And I’m glad to have known him. To have experienced life with him. You don’t get the opportunity to be around people like that very often.
I loved him. I really did.
So life did go on for Anna and me. It was funny, because we kind of ended up the way we had started: together. This time though, with child. Still our own kind of fucked up little family. Anna would wake up in the morning and make toaster strudels and then I’d wake and drink coffee and maybe put on a Neil Young record or something. And then we’d go off to work. She’d take April to daycare and we’d both go our separate ways to work.
Then we’d go to work and work hard there to maintain our apartment (though Win really had left behind a lot of dirty money…I still don’t know how he had found so many people to blow in the city…but that’s just the amazing thing about him) and our life and then she’d cook dinner or I would and then we’d watch some movie and go to sleep. Life was simple. Life was really simple.
Mundane might be the better word for it. The excitement was suddenly gone. But I do think joy can be found in anything and, I’ll tell you, I tried really hard to be excited by every day in our life. I met some men during the period and had small flings. And I think Jax did the same. But nothing compared. You create your own joy and, if you can’t find it anymore, then you leave. You have to leave and try to find it somewhere else.
It happened on some kind of Tuesday. To me, it’s not a Tuesday anymore. It’s the day that Anna left me. They day she left me and took with her the child that I had promised I would raise as my own. The day she broke her promise.
You leave. You know. You have to do things like this. When it doesn’t seem possible to attain freedom and joy anymore in one place; when only bad things come to mind when you look around your apartment, you leave it. Only the good things are worth looking back on and telling a story about. The bad things, you keep them to yourself, you get over them and yourself, you leave them behind, because that’s the only way to totally release yourself to life’s ways. You have the power. You have the power to move forward.
And so, here I am, writing a story about something that was good and bad. Sometimes, you have to do this too.
I left because it was the only option I had. It was all I could do for myself. Jax went off to work and I told him that I’d see him tonight. I wouldn’t, though. I knew I wouldn’t. This had been a week in the works, like some kind of suicide. I had rented the car, I had secretly begun packing things, I had cut-off the daycare program, I had paid my final bills.
By noon, April and I were on our way to California. In a rented car. Listening to Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle.
We said goodbye to our lives because I was the mother lion and the mother lion gives up everything for her cub. Because I was the mother and I had to do what I felt was best for me and my daughter.
Because we come into this life as ourselves and wake up each morning as ourselves and then leave the world as ourselves. We all live for ourselves. You may all think that your boyfriend is the most unselfish person ever; you might think that someone you know only has a heart of gold, but, no, in all of us is that selfish quality. We do things for ourselves; to make our reality better; to do what we have to do. Some, yes, they take advantage of it and are total fucking manipulative assholes, but, me, right there, on the road, listening to classic Americana music with my daughter, I was doing something that was selflessly selfish.
I came back to the apartment that night and, yeah, all of her shit was gone. April was gone. There was no note, but I knew what had happened. The money that Win had made hooking, it was gone.
Life could only be simple so long. Order might not be the solution.
Of course, Jax could have tracked me down. It would not have been hard. I was only taking up a new life, not a new identity. But he didn’t, because I think what I did also set him free in a way. He might never admit it, but I’m sure.
I don’t know if I’m over it yet. That really hurt. Really hurt, but I knew I wouldn’t face depression again. Great things come to an end. They all do. But only when we least expect it. Everything was put in place, but sometimes, I guess that’s the worst way for them to be. Anna knew this and so she left me to my gay life. She left me and went off and did whatever she did. She does whatever she does. After this book comes out, I guess I will know where she lives, but I won’t see her. I’ll let her continue on in her life. Because I have to do that for me.
He might resent me, but I think he was thankful. He had ultimately been thrown into a situation where he never had any control. All he had was dependence. Dependence on me and Win. Then, when Win was gone, he only had dependence on me. Me and the baby, I guess. But I’m not sure if that was ever something Jax wanted. I think he always wanted to be free. He deserved to go out into the world and find himself again. To find love and give his unborn babies to the faces and throats and assholes of many men. I wanted him to. What I did; it was selflessly selfish. I don’t regret it to this day.
After the lease at the apartment was up, I packed up and left. I left to go somewhere new, because all Chicago represented was the death of a lot of things. I moved to Seattle, because it just seemed like a nice place. A nice gay-friendly place. A place where I could develop more. I’d never touch Illinois or New Mexico or wherever again. Life was going to start again for me in Seattle. I was free. Yeah. And I hate Win and Anna for setting me free, but I am thankful, because I at least know I had that time in my life where they were there. A long time in my life, actually. I had made some connections of a lifetime. I had. And I was happy I had.
I decided to go back to school and get a graduate degree in something that might allow me a more profitable life.
And, in the meantime, I fucked various men and always wore a condom. I’ve since found and lost some sorts of loves. But that’s the way it goes.
At this moment, it’s me, though. Just me looking back at a really beautiful time. A time that I will let go of once this book is finished being typed.
I’ve taken up residence in California and have scored a few nice jobs since my stay. April is older and looking very much so like her wonderful father. She’s got that smile. I know it. Those eyes. It’s my most important job to make sure he lives on. I take that seriously. And I can only do that by living the way that Win taught me. He was a teacher and, yes, I was his student.
His death was tragic, but I do think that people live on even when they leave. No matter what. They’re somewhere. Some piece of this earth was impacted by them; by him. Win made an impact. He made an impact on so many people and he knew it. I’m glad I knew him. I’m beyond glad. Glad isn’t even the word. I’m beyond thankful for the time that I spent with Win. I loved him, I really did.
And I’ve been in relationships since that and met a lot of nice men. Men that were most certainly straight. Men that didn’t mind that sometimes I liked watching gay porn. Men that didn’t mind that I had a child. Great men. Nothing like Win, probably. But men. Right now I’m in a nice relationship with a man. I don’t want to talk about it, though. That seems unnecessary. I’ll just say this: I haven’t loved a man since Win Carlisle.
I know I have to let go of my grudges and continue on. I think after this book is written, I just might. I had once been a father. I had once lived that life. Lived that life that I’m about finished talking about. It’s the past and we have to let that go and find some other story to tell. Build some other story for ourselves. I’ve started doing that in Seattle. It’s been in the works for some time. Sometimes, things creep in, but I’ve made it my duty to keep from it; to rid myself of that; of the past. I continue on. I do.
But, in all reality, I think life has just been happening. It’s all a story. What’s happening right now, though, that’s the real story. I am happy. I have a date tonight and it’s all pretty good. My story continues on, but the previous chapters, they’re about to be gone.
Grudges. If you hold them and you negatively connote experiences from the past for yourself, you only fuck yourself over. You only fuck the present moment over. It’s once we can forget everything we’ve ever done and everything that’s ever been done to us that we can move on. I know there will be less things to bitch about, but, let’s be honest, that will most certainly be for the best. Let’s all stop bitching, shall we? And forget about all the shit in the past. Let’s forget about the bullshit happening now, too. Let’s just live; live in a peaceful state. Once you make that promise and then follow through, you’re free. You free yourself to yourself. Not many people can do that. But I know I’m at the point where I can. Where I can forget everything and go on as myself, a man.
I am free. But probably more free than I even realize. It’s my mission now to discover it. I have to forgive. I have to move on. I have to leave it behind and move on.
So this book marks the end of something.
Also, I’ve yet to “come out” to my family. Surprise, Mom and Dad! I just had to throw that out there. Love you.
So what is it that makes someone’s story worth telling, anyways? Why is it that Win’s story is being written about? Why is some publisher paying Jax and I to tell it? What makes his life that important and someone else’s not?
It doesn’t make sense to me, either, but, man, Win’s story. It’s one worth knowing I suppose.