How We Grow Older
I was listening to a mixtape that Adam had made. I liked to think that Adam had made the mixtape specifically for me but he made it for the internet. The playlist for the mixtape was as follows:
Money by The Drums
Psychic Mesa by Total Slacker
I Only Know by Warm Weather
Actors by Elephant
The Place Where You Belong by Lemonade
Dies in 55 by Trailer Trash Tracys
Gold by Sundelles
Becoming by T|ines
Better off Without You by Summer Camp
One Day by Velcro
After The Sun by Princesse
I’m On One by Diamond
Teflon Heart by Caged Animals
Proud Head by Black Flamingo
An Old Photo of Your New Lover (Baths Remix) by The One AM Radio
Pentecost by Ben Varian
“I just realized that I don’t know your age. So I guess that would be a good question to ask.”
“Oh god, I’m old. This is where you’ll run, haha.”
“Well, now I think you’re 80 so telling me your actual age can only make things better.”
“I just turned 84. No, haha. I just turned 32. Ugh.”
“My condolences. Thirty is like the official adult age and you’re two years beyond that… So old. But seriously, that’s not that bad. But this is coming from someone who thinks that Noam Chomsky is still a babe and he’s 82.”
“So I might still be worthy at 32?”
“Totally. And if you were in academia you would have at least 40-50 more years of hotness. But of course, that’s only in the nerdy-girls-who-have-a-thing-for-professors demographic.”
Adam is not a professor. He probably only has about 10-20 more years of hotness judging by his jaw line.
Adam used to have a MySpace band that garnered moderate Internet relevancy in the early 2000s. Now he runs a music blog where he helps facilitate the Internet relevancy of other obscure bands that are too cool for Me to know about before he blogs about them. I enjoy a simple catchy pop tune.
Adam and I met via Tumblr when Adam anonymously messaged me saying,
“I’d love to talk to you in private.”
Adam liked to text me when he was bored and horny. Adam would only text me when he was bored and horny. I had phone sex with Adam only once. When I picked up the phone I was surprised by how high-pitched his voice was. It was perhaps because he was trying to stay quiet or it was perhaps because he simply had a funny little voice. I was just getting over the flu so whenever I moaned once, I would punctuate the moan with at least four sexy coughs.
When I would get bored, 2 a.m. eastern time, 10 p.m. pacific, I would ingest up to three Oxycodone pills and then text Adam about how I wanted to kiss him. I would feel very aroused in my head but I could not become aroused physically because I had ingested so many pills. I thought about kissing Adam and it seemed nice in my head. I wanted to remind someone of late 90s to early 2000s pop love songs. I wanted someone to play Mariah Carey and think of my lips. I wanted Adam to be Justin Timberlake in the early 2000s. I wanted him to write all of his songs for me.
“Where do you want it? I want you to beg for it,” Adam said over the phone.
In the beginning of our textual relationship we played The Question Game. It was like one of those icebreakers that grade school teachers don’t waste any time employing on the first day of classes in hopes of being The Teacher in later in life anecdotes that was responsible for facilitating lifelong friendships based around the calendar month of one’s birth. On the first day of school, all the way up through high school, they would always ask the same three questions: “Tell us your name, your birthday, and your favorite color.” I always stuttered on the last question. I felt like my favorite color was what would define me for the rest of the year. From the tender age of five my mantra was, and remains, “All black everything.” But I was afraid that if I said, “black,” like I really wanted to, none of the “Amanda’s” or “Stacey’s” would want to be my friend. It is very important to correctly align yourself socially on the first day of classes. I feared that I would be labeled an outcast and forced to sit next to a boy with greasy hair and a brown bag lunch that mentioned his stepdad in hushed utterances. This boy would sit hunched over in his chair, self-conscious of his body that was too big for the small, plastic, lunch table — too big for a 7-year-old. His index and middle finger on his left hand were fused together with webby skin. Good thing he was right handed. Or maybe he had no choice but to be right handed due to his index and middle finger being fused together on his left hand. At lunch he would try to offer up his milk to me with his good hand (or at least try to share it with me) and tell me that he loved me. This is how I knew love back then. I love you with webbed fingers. I love you with room temperature milk. I did not want his milk or his love.
“Is it awful that that just makes me want you to do it more?” Adam said.
His name was Stu, born July 8th, and his favorite color was black (“Sometimes I like red. Like blood.”). I did not want to sit with the Stu’s of the 2nd grade world and drink warm milk out of a second straw. I wanted to be a Stacey or an Amanda. I really wanted some damn juice.
That year I told the class that my favorite color was “light pink or hot pink depending on the day.”
“Is it still punishment if I enjoy it?” I coughed into the phone.
Despite my best efforts, I ended up learning a lot about Stu’s stepdad that year over warm cartons of 2% milk. Milk reminds me of sadness. In anecdotes about my second grade teacher I will sometimes mention Stu and talk about how we were both born in the summer months.
Adam asked me what I was doing right then, in the very moment that he was texting me at 12 a.m. I felt aware of myself wanting to sound smart and interesting. I wanted to sound not-19. I told him that I had just finished baking a vegan casserole and that I was now sitting against my windowsill reading Pettit’s theory on liberty in my dorm room. Adam texted back, “People have fallen for other people for way less than that. It feels like you should be telling this to me in French as you alternate between your casserole and writing a memoir about your time spent as a busker in the NYC subway tunnels.”
I wished for a life that romantic. I felt concerned as I became aware of myself thinking, “Am I bohemian enough?” in earnest. I spend my time eating a casserole directly out of the casserole dish because I don’t have silverware or plates and didn’t get my roommate to steal any from the dining hall. I spend my time talking to people online and practicing my Sexy Phone Sex voice. Am I bohemian enough? Or am I just disgusting.
To continue the question game I asked Adam about his band.
“What your favorite song that you’ve written?”
Adam replied in an email:
The song I attached definitely isn’t the best song I’ve ever written or the best that I’ve ever recorded, but the intention behind it has always meant a lot to me, so it somehow, years later, remains my favorite thing that I’ve ever written.
Right before the group I had brought together signed our record deal, we went on our first US tour. We didn’t have a booking agent or any sort of footholds to use, so I just booked it myself. We were gone for about a month and a half and played every single night, sometimes doing two shows in one day if we could. It was intense, it was cold, our crappy van at the time broke down a few times, we were all stressed out. I made us dive in headfirst because this was the only life I had ever wanted and still want. My best friend had been the first person that I’d brought into to start this group with me. He and I had been playing music together since literally the first day we met when I was 15 and he was 14. He joined my band in high school before I’d even learned how to pronounce his name properly. Anyway… he became incredibly distant while we were out on the road and it became hard to not be angry with each other. We just weren’t communicating. When we got home, I ended up canceling our practices for about a month using some stupid excuse every time just to not have to deal with the situation. Eventually, we had a big show coming up right before Christmas and I realized we had to practice or deal with the situation. We all sat down to talk and eventually he said that he felt like it would be best to leave the group since we were continuing to grow and were wanting to be on the road more and it wasn’t something he could sustain. I didn’t say a word the entire time. I think I was in shock. We had gone in with the intention of asking him to leave the group and none of us could spit out the words, so he did it for us.
It took a few months, but he and I eventually started to spend time together again and yet, we just sort of left the situation with the band alone. It was easier to not bring it up. This song was the only way that I could communicate how I was feeling to him. I don’t know if I got it right, but it meant a lot to me and still does. Seventeen years later, he’s still my closest friend and we talk every day.
It’s silly, I know. Like I said, there are much better songs, but you asked which one was my favorite. I’m sentimental, I guess.
Sentimental. The first time Adam asked me to send him “dirty messages” he apologized immediately after.
“What are you up to at the moment?” Adam asked via text message.
“Nothing really. I’m just listening to the same YouTube video on repeat and laying down. So, nothing at all actually. What are you up to?”
“About the same. I’m just laying in bed with my laptop.”
“I feel like for a creative person I lead a boring life. I should be more proactive about being exciting, maybe.”
“I feel the same way all of the time. I need to convince myself that every time I go to watch a movie or something on TV or go eat, that I should pick up a guitar instead.”
“Just don’t ever eat.”
“How daring are you feeling?”
“Check your email.”
I had sent Adam a fully nude picture of myself. I thought I looked pretty in the picture. I feel confident when I’m naked. More confident than when I am clothed or when I am speaking.
“Oh my god. You look stunning. So completely beautiful. My mouth literally fell open. I promise.”
“Can I dare you?”
“I dare you to show me everything. Spread your legs wide for me. Bend over, spread your ass apart for me. (Is that too much?)”
“Well, I don’t think I’ve ever said no to a dare.”
“Do you like this dare?”
“Yes, very much. Check your email.”
“Do you want to be even more filthy for me right now?”
“I want you to make and send me a video right now of you doing whatever you are doing at this very moment. I want to see you rub your wet cunt. I want to see you groping your tits. I want to see you teasing that dirty little asshole of yours. I want to see that beautiful face of yours and those amazing eyes. I want you to do everything I can’t.”
“You like that idea?”
“Do you like it when I just tell you to do stuff? When I demand you to do things?”
“Yes. Check your email.”
I enjoyed performing for men online, men that I had never met in person. I liked the aspect of detached intimacy. I liked the aspect of seeming untouchable and ethereal. With older men, especially, I could feel the urgency with which they desired me. A young, attractive, girl that appeared to want nothing but them and in turn, they wanted nothing but her. I found the phenomenon empowering. This was my easy way out of the loneliness that I had become accustomed to. The loneliness sat with me, like a party guest that was a friend-of-a-friend who stayed long after the party was finished. It sat with me in my bed, where I lay facedown, wine-drunk and pensive. It rubbed my back in a way that was too familiar for a first encounter. Loneliness watched me as I slept and it remained in my bed when I woke up the next morning. And every morning.
One day I awoke and I could feel a lack of something. I had stopped feeling the presence of loneliness so intensely. I had become content with my new roommate. We coexisted in silent acknowledgement. Now I felt like a balloon that was cut free and floating, skimming against the ceiling of a closed-in room. I could only feel loneliness in an abstract and detached way. Sometimes, during casual conversations, the lack of feeling was so distinct, I felt as though I needed the person who was speaking to me to crush me with the entire weight of their body so that I could be sure that they were actually trying to communicate something to me. That morning my iPhone lit up to a text message from Adam. I did not text back. That night, I dreamt that Adam and I had invented an elaborate board game that involved spelling out code words with coins and writing sizable topical essays.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.