The man I once thought of as my true love still lives in Baltimore. He is seven years or so my senior, which when we dated made him seem painfully cool, and because he was old enough to buy drinks he would buy them for me—sweet cocktails called things like “Vampire’s Kiss.” He had four black cats named Angelus, Lucifer, Morningstar, and Spike, and the cats would shit on the floors of his falling-apart house during the days while he was at work, then he would meet me somewhere, both of us in elaborate black evening gowns and pretending we liked to dance. The whole thing is mortifying now.
First thing in Boston I slept with Brad because it meant I got to move from his couch, where I’d camped out until I could find a place, to his king-size mattress. Brad introduced me to Chaz. As a teenager, Chaz invented a skateboard you can bounce off a trampoline.
The proceeds from the patent allowed him to buy a condo on Newbury Street, where we ate corn chips with mango salsa from the Trader Joe’s around the corner. Last I heard Chaz was a DJ, but for a while he also got paid to rough up old men—his true calling. He dyed his mohawk, his eyebrows, and his chest hair bright red. At the time, I also had bright red dreadlocks, eyebrows, and pubic hair. Chaz was desperately attached and we looked good together, but I lied about the stacks of cash under my bed and where it all came from, and how can you feel close to a guy that gullible?
After Chaz, but only by several minutes (it took years before I could even ask his forgiveness, until the Days of Awe in 2008, and then Chaz gave it freely), was his friend Ben, the statue, whose mohawk was electric pink. Ben gave me strep throat. He would disappear for months at a time, wander back into town, leave. He would smear metallic paint over his whole upper body and dress as a pewter cowboy, his chest gleaming through an open vest, posing for photos with tourists in Faneuil Hall. Eventually Ben taught me how to be a statue too, and the job stuck for years, long after Ben himself moved to Hawaii with that tattoo artist he married.
There was Matt, who in 2007 convinced me never to fuck for money again. Beast, whose real name I will never remember, lived with his mother in Southie, and the woman used a new racial slur every time I saw her. Jeff drove a bus for the MBTA, and after I told him to let me be he came by my pitch in Faneuil jittery with cocaine, then he stood on top of his motorcycle mimicking my poses. There was a folk singer named Ryan, from whom I learned that practically all musicians are in Alcoholics Anonymous, and another folk singer named Allan, who wasn’t in a twelve-step program then but probably is by now.
There are more men locked away in the vaults of my brain, waiting to be recalled next time I feel guilty, or lonely, or unhappy in a more general sense. I remember one or the other each time I listen to The Magnetic Fields, or read Hellblazer, or see a rocky beach, or tell someone I’m an anarchist. It’s enough to say that I was a void, tabula rasa, a thing, a woman, and that I fed on these guys in hopes their subjecthood would transfer. It did, but since then I've learned to think myself in circles, and finally (I sometimes wish I could tell each of them), I’ve come to understand regret.
About the Author: Cady Vishniac is a former street performer and current copy editor/mom/undergraduate. She has work out in Literary Orphans and Sporklet, among others, and was a finalist for Cutthroat's 2014 Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award.
Story Song: "Takes His Place" by Mary Prankster
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone