He first met her at a friend’s party—she’d come with someone he’d seen around but barely knew. “She’s different, man—she’ll treat you right.” And boy, did she ever.
The night was already wild, but the handful of times they got together, it was like a dream. A whirl of color and sound and the suggestions of better times to come. He was 6’2” and 180 pounds of high school muscle gone a bit soft, but at parties, he played the Jokester well: the carefree comedian with the infectious smirk. And she… she was different.
Three days later, he thought about her.
Four days after that, he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
His fingers hovered over the freshly-added contact, the light of the screen glaringly bright in the darkness of his kitchen. One text and maybe he could see her again that evening. He hesitated but eked out a faltering “hey u in the area?”
For the rest of the day, his mind was abuzz. His phone was not.
He woke up the next day, late for work but grateful for circumstance. The night before was a moment of weakness, and he didn’t need distraction. He was stronger than that. And to prove it, he erased it all. The text, the contact, and the memory of the party. Until that evening.
“sorry been busy, ill be around tonight”
The text glowed brightly in the darkness of the bathroom. His eyes lingered on the screen as the notification appeared, persisted, and winked into darkness. He couldn’t touch the phone now. As long as he didn’t see the message again, he could pretend nothing happened.
“i can show you another good night ;)” the screen winked on again.
5 minutes later, he was hitting Send.
“We never see you anymore, man.” His friends ribbed him. “Used to be every Friday you were out with us. Now we’re taking a back seat to whatever you’re doing. Looks like someone’s in too deep.”
“Nah man, don’t even play,” he said too quickly. He missed her. And his face must have showed it, because they laughed and went to grab another round.
“Listen, bud…” His best friend hung back. “I’m worried about you. You look like you lost 15 pounds. What’s going on? She not treating you right?” His friend wasn’t at the party, but he’d heard about how they met up.
They’d had a rough night last night. Things started off great. She stopped by after he got home from work. And they spent a glorious evening and night laughing, enjoying each other’s tastes and scents. The buzz and noise of the outside world slowly receded and he felt at peace, less alone, less confused, less scared. But when she headed to leave, he sobbed and begged her to stay. She laughed at his weakness and said maybe if he was lucky, he could see her again. And noted how much more attractive he was when he was laughing.
Just like the week before. And he’d spent that week in between hoping and praying they’d be together again.
“Dude… you’re better than that. You need to just drop her already. It’s fine if you’re having fun but you can’t let her get her hooks into you like this. Man up.”
By day he re-adopted the mask of nonchalance. By night, he ran in the park, pumped iron, tried to push her out of his mind. If he was too exhausted to stay awake, he wouldn’t lay alone all night wishing he was with her. He was training for his life, for his sanity it seemed. But the harder he fought against the hint of seduction, the stronger it beckoned. He snuck out and saw her twice, three times a week now.
Our strengths are often our weaknesses. She thrilled to his newly-honed physique, the blood that coursed strongly through his veins. What began as a storm of the sensual developed into a typhoon, and she would ride him fiercely two, three, four times a night. He spent all of his time at the gym, in the park, and with her now. But still, always, she left. And still, always, he fought to forget her, pasting a smile upon his face.
He was down to 135 now, granite and stronger than ever. “You don’t understand! No one makes me feel the way she does. No one else helps me when I’m down. No one else makes me lose my mind like she does. We’re perfect when we’re together…” he trailed off.
“But you know it won’t last,” his sister said, her voice quiet in the darkness of his living room. “It’s temporary. You’re out of control. Look at yourself.”
“Don’t push me away too. I have had it with your bullshit.”
“You’re just jealous,” he roared, blood racing. “You see how good I have it and you know you’ll never get even close. You cannot get over how I found something that makes me feel amazing.”
“This is amazing?” she asked softly, gesturing around the darkness of his apartment. “You’ve lost your job, you have no money, and Mom and Dad are so worried that they asked me to come see how you were doing. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I already knew. I’m not going to watch you do this.”
He’s since quit using, cold turkey. He’s been clean for 6 weeks now, back up to 150 pounds, starting to slowly rebuild muscle that the drugs tore down from his frame.
The nights are the worst. At least he’s learned to sleep once more—no longer shivering, reflexively craving the warmth that used to pulse through his body. Still, in moments of doubt, as he lays alone in the night, his mind flits back to the euphoria of escape. He’s since deleted the number of the guy who gave him his first hit at that party ages ago. And he’s learning to cope with the idea that he can’t erase knowing what it felt like—how amazing the world seemed without problems or cares.
After still more time, he will smile again. But it will never be the joking grin he wore at that party. He knows himself too well these days, and his costume stays tucked away in the darkness of his closet.