Looking back I can see the clues I missed. At the time I was too busy lying to myself to pay attention. In my defense, no one wants to admit that they wasted 13 years being faithful to a man who became a meth-addicted prostitute, living on the streets of Hollywood.
“i miss u sooooo much,” emailed my ex-boyfriend earlier this year.
His email was like punch in my gut. I hadn’t heard from Chace since he threatened to break into my apartment to bathe, and I subsequently changed my number. That was a year ago when he was on a meth binge, roaming L.A. with other homeless addicts.
The last time I talked to Chace was after I realized he’d probably never go to rehab. Well, there was indirect communication like that time a dude parked outside my apartment and yelled, “Chace said hi!”
To say our relationship was complicated is an understatement. Maybe I’d better explain things from the beginning.
It was in our high-school English class when I first saw Chace. He was a skater/artist and native to L.A. I was a transplant, a raver who wrote dramatic short stories about dropping acid and being anorexic. We’d flirt with our eyes during class.
Chace was shy and still a virgin. We didn’t talk until randomly taking the same college art class. A year later we dated. Chace read me stories over the phone until I fell asleep. Late at night we’d sneak into college classrooms to have sex on the desks and later on the rooftop. I taught him to drive a car, and he taught me to roll a blunt. We’d stay awake until morning, making prank calls and collages. When he broke his leg skateboarding, I gave him sponge baths. I loved Chace like I thought no one had loved anyone before.
We had a good five-year run until Chace’s friend introduced him to smoking meth. He was hooked. I smashed the first glass pipe I found in front of him. Call me naive, but I thought that demonstration would scare him. It was just the start of his addiction.
One night Chace became violent, choked me and demanded money. With my mom’s help, Chace moved out, and I transferred to a college out of state.
We didn’t talk for some time. I distracted myself by juggling three jobs and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Then he called, claimed to be sober and we started a long-distance relationship. In 2008, I graduated from college and moved back to L.A.
At the time I believed Chace was clean. But two years after I returned, Chace’s bones were protruding out of his already-lanky frame, and his behavior was erratic. He’d disappear for days. Once when I confronted Chace, he ripped the cabinet doors off the hinges. The neighbors called the cops, who busted into our apartment with their guns drawn. Chace was handcuffed. I told the cops he was having a shit fit. They told him to leave, cool off somewhere, and removed the cuffs.
Chace moved back in with his mother, and we stopped talking. The day after Thanksgiving in 2011 he disappeared longer than ever before.
“Have you seen Chace?” asked his mother over the phone.
I was busy pretending to love single life, swigging cocktails on weekends with friends, and on the weekdays alone at home.
“When did you see him last?” I asked. A week ago, she said. I knew where Chace bought drugs and promised to send a search party.
Months passed without any word from Chace. His mother filed a missing person report. I’d call the morgue and bite my cuticles while they checked the unclaimed bodies. At night I’d drink so much liquor that I ran out of room in my recycling bin. I didn’t care about my health, stopped eating and focused on being a workaholic and finding Chace.
Drunk on vodka, I’d put on my winter coat after work, stuff missing-person fliers and tape in a bag and wander on foot through the streets of Hollywood.
“Have you seen my boyfriend?” No, no one had seen him. Every face I saw on the streets looked like Chace.
My sister got a psychic who used coconut rinds to communicate with the dead to give me a reading.
“Is he dead?” I asked.
“No, he’ll die in a car accident or something. Now, your lucky numbers are 7, 10 and 4. If you win, remember me,” she said.
The first time Chace disappeared, he got high using benefits he cashed out after being fired. He called me crying when the money dried up. It was wintertime and he was at a payphone, sporting only a pair of shorts, and a gash around his eye where someone smashed an ashtray against his face.
He would disappear and reappear so many times I lost count.
Sometimes he’d ring my apartment intercom, reeking of filth and nodding off from not sleeping. He’d talk of famous porn stars buying drugs in Hollywood and almost getting stabbed.
“Do you still love me?” He’d ask.
“Always. I still believe in you,” I’d say.
One night he took off his shirt to reveal white patches covering his back. “The crystal is eating me,” he said. He liked to manipulate me, so he could feel loved. “This isn’t a movie. There’s not always a happy ending,” he’d add. In the mornings before I could take him to rehab, he’d run.
The second time he disappeared I auditioned for the show “Intervention.” I pitched a show about a drug addict artist and emailed the producers. They got hundreds of emails a day, they told me, and rarely responded. I was told how to trick Chace into going on TV. But then Chace reappeared, sick with a fever. I told the producers we were rehab-bound. They told me not to lose their number.
In the ER, his mother and I hugged. It was just strep throat, but combined with his exhaustion, Chace couldn’t walk. He promised to enter rehab. We stupidly believed him.
Instead, after regaining his health, he opted for the street life and got arrested several times. The last time he served over two months in jail for possession. He was released before ever getting the birthday letter I sent him. By that time I had become agoraphobic and couldn’t leave home without performing obsessive-compulsive rituals. Chace was tweaked out, calling me non-stop. I changed my number. That was last year. It wasn’t an easy decision.
For a long time I felt responsible. Domestic violence was normalized in my family. My dad used to beat my mom before she, pregnant with me, pulled a gun on my him and eventually left.
I knew Chace was a meth addict, and that he hung out in an area frequented by gay men. But I never thought he was having sex with them. A year after we stopped talking, I found out he was prostituting himself when he accidentally forwarded his Cragislist communications.
The first email read, “i miss u sooooo much.” I was shocked to see a string of emails attached with strange men using vocab words like: “boy pussy,” “pnp,” “party favors” and “masc top.”
I hacked into his Gmail and found hundreds of emails. It’s hard to process that someone you love is dying from an addiction. It’s even harder to see proof that your heterosexual ex-boyfriend is having sex with men for pleasure and for drugs. I closed his email.
There were other emails he sent me. I drafted many responses, but sent none. If I knew I could help Chace, without hurting myself, I might have responded. The last email I wrote sat in my draft box for months until recently.
I used to mutter, “I miss you,” until it lost its meaning. You gave me a lot of writing material that I could’ve lived happily without.
For years I felt like a failure because I couldn’t help you. I thought: Try harder, love more and you can saaaaaaave him! But who the fuck was saving me? And I realized you didn’t want my help. Shit, I didn’t even know you.
For ever I let people treat me like crap because I thought I deserved it. But then I learned I didn’t.
But (and maybe I say this to the Chace I knew) I hope you learn that you deserve more. I pray you’re clean and happy today and for the rest of your life. I still believe in you.
I used to put people before myself. Then I learned to love myself. Now wherever I am I walk one foot in front of the other, hearing a chant that’s meant only for me: YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE STRONG!
The cursor hovered over the “send” button. I stared at the email with tears dripping down my cheeks before deleting it.