I studied abroad in Jerusalem in 2008 where I met a handsome Israeli with a beautiful smile and a gorgeous fresh-from-the-military body. Together we shared that devoted gay monogamy that I once thought only existed on Rosie O’Donnell’s gay family cruise line. We had nine months of “I love you” and “I love you too”. Nine months of wonderful, exciting Middle Eastern lovemaking. But come August I had to leave, and he had to stay.
The Israeli and I stayed in close touch with each other. We wrote emails and letters and we had six months of “I miss you” and “I miss you too” and for me, six months of not knowing if I was single or not. We never said that we would do long distance but there we were: long distances from each other and still communicating regularly in that fuzzy, romantic, Skype-sex kind of way.
Whether it was from missing my Israeli or just the excitement of returning to the more open gay scene of these proud United States, I found I was making the rounds with more than a few gentlemen. Still, I couldn’t tell this to the Israeli. And I couldn’t tell him that I loved him either. It was puzzling, but luckily, just as he and I were planning his March flight to come visit, fate sent me a messenger (or rather, a team of messengers) to clear up once and for all my ambiguous relationship status. I had crabs. I was definitely single.
It was Christmas Eve in Massachusetts. Being a good Jewish boy, my Christmas Eve plans consisted of nothing more festive than lying on my dad’s couch in my underwear, watching TV all night, and smoking cigarettes out the window. After all, I’m the boy who celebrates Hannukah and keeps Kosher. But while I had avoided eating shellfish for two years, I apparently hadn’t deterred shellfish from eating me.
I reached into my pants for a quick and vigorous ball scratch. Pulling what felt like lint into the light I made a startling discovery. It was rounding four in the morning and Saint Nick still hadn’t shown up. Saint Tick, however, was right on time.
I hurried to the bathroom and dropped my shorts. The creature I had found was apparently one of many. The ambassador of a great and industrious people who had set up a thriving Utopian Kibbutz on my crotch. I quietly exited the house and drove to the 24-hour pharmacy.
A weary cashier in a Santa hat shot me a scowl before I hurried out of there with arms full of shampoos, lotions, and disposable razors. At home, I went into the bathroom to consecrate the tiny colonists to the history books. I spent hours reapplying the treatment over and over, in the paranoid fear that some resilient louse had found shelter under a testicle or fled north to hide in my bellybutton. I shaved everything that could be shaved. I covered myself from my neck to my ankles in the lice killing shampoo, and once I had showered I began washing every article of clothing I owned.
When the laundry was done and I had crawled out of a pit of shame I dug for myself, I went about my business, which means that over the following weeks I slept around and dated cute boys. When I returned to school his visit was quickly approaching and I had been sleeping with a certain someone who made me feel even guiltier towards my Israeli than all the rest. His name was Andrew, and to my horror, I liked him. I began to answer the Israeli’s emails with less passion and less frequently. But I grew upset when I noticed that he had cooled towards me as well. In a fit of obsessive paranoia, I asked him the question we had both known instinctively to never ask. “Are you involved with someone?”
The thought of it killed me. I threw myself upon my bed in agony and vowed to never love another man again, but I managed to compose a rational sounding email to send him. It was short and to the point. “If you’ve been secretly seeing someone behind my back, you shouldn’t come here.”
I ignored Andrew’s phone calls, trying to imagine that he didn’t exist. I pretended that I had been waiting faithfully and celibately for my Israeli. I told myself that he was my boyfriend, my fiancé (if you think about it), and that he had cheated on me. But as I reflected on my grievances against him I felt a familiar itch. I hurried to the bathroom and gasped. The crabs had rebuilt their society from the ground up.
Two bottles of pubicide, seven loads of laundry, and one long ass night later, I had an epiphany and I sat down to write my Israeli a second email. I apologized and told him that I missed him. I let him know that I wasn’t angry and that I would be more than happy to host him as a dear friend. This, I realized, was exactly what he had become.
I sat down on my clean sheets in my clean pajamas. My crabs had returned to reiterate a painful truth. The Israeli and I were no longer together. Too much time had passed and at some point both of us had let go. I didn’t know if he would still visit, or if I would even ever see him again. After all, there are some things in life that appear and disappear, never to be seen again. And there are others that cling, leaving and returning over and over. To be honest, both are a bitch.