Alaska Or Bust

Before the most recent presidential election, only once before had the state of Alaska been such a powerful and obnoxious presence in my life.  Few people know this, but about a year ago, I had given serious thought to moving there, away from all things civilized.  A place where shopping malls are scarce and the idea of  “privacy” is less common than a drunk college girl using protection.  A place where polar bears are considered as docile as chipmunks and where policy is handled with automatic weaponry.  Alaska.  What in the world was I thinking?

Sometimes I’m almost inexcusably foolish when it comes to men, and the “let’s run away to Alaska together” is testament to that.  Last year, I had met, via MySpace of all places, a very sweet guy named Andrew.  We were talking on and off for a few months and inevitably lost touch.  One day, I opened my mail and saw a message from him asking me out to coffee.  I figured I had nothing to lose, so I accepted, suggesting Mocha, a quaint cafe and bistro in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.

I took the bus from my new place on Belleview and got there at 6:45, fifteen minutes before the date’s start time, just to make a good impression.  At 7:00, I was settled in my seat, sipping on a cafe au lait, and peering nervously around, waiting for this Andrew character to strike. 

At 7:15, I started to worry.  I began to observe all of the other patrons at the cafe.  I could feel them mocking me, silently and secretly mocking me.  I had been alone for almost thirty minutes, and with no book, no laptop, and nobody on the opposite end of me, I started to look as miserable as I felt. 

At 7:30, I was mashing the redial button as if it was a life raft button on the Titanic that just wouldn’t budge.  I almost began to cry, and I’m pretty sure I was sweating profusely, partly out of nerves and partly because the fire in that place could have baked a pizza from halfway across the room.  I was leaving crazed voicemails and people around me began to look worried rather than judgemental.  I was trying my hardest to smile and stay positive, but at 8:00, I finally threw in the towel and realized that I was completely and totally stood up.

I was walking back to the bus with tears streaming down my face.  I wasn’t like I had high hopes for the date or anything, but the pain and public embarrasment of being stood up is rivaled to a pack of wolves coming in your house and eating all the cheese popcorn, or your children I suppose, depending on where your faith lies.  The wind was whipping past with incredible force, and all I wanted now was to go home and sleep.  The entire night, I figured, was essentially ruined.

When the bus arrived, I was literally standing on the platform when my phone rang.  I picked it up.  It was Andrew.

“Hey!  I’m so sorry…I had really bad car trouble.  Do you think we could still do coffee tonight?”

Someone who was self-empowered, intelligent, and had a set of nuts would have told him to fuck off for making me wait an hour and fifteen minutes for him to show up.  I, however, was not one of those people, so I said, “Of course!”

Of course.  Gag me.

I got off the bus and started walking back toward Mocha, feeling much better and even more excited.  I figured this way I could redeem myself with anyone who was in the coffee shop, or at least prove them wrong.  I had a short fantasy that involved me bringing Andrew in and pointing at him emphatically while shouting, “SEE!  SEE!!  I WAS waiting for someone!”

I was only waiting about five minutes when Andrew got there.  He looked, to his credit, remarkably like his  picture online, which is more than I can say for most men.  He seemed reserved and timid, but maybe it was just in comparison to my personality.  He had a strong jaw, strawberry blonde hair, and even still one of the most ravishing smiles I’ve seen to this day.  The date, minus the dramatic waiting period, went off without a hitch.  We took a walk afterwards and just talked for a good hour, not caring at all that it was probably below zero with the wind chill.  I was positively smitten.

When we were walking, Andrew began to tell me about his past.  More specifically, about past ex-es.  Usually I find this taboo on the first date, but I was pining so much at this point that he could have body slammed me and I still would have given him at least a peck on the cheek at the end of the night.  His most recent ex, who for security purposes we’ll just call Big D, was, in all senses of the word, completely and utterly insane.  I also learned that Andrew’s car troubles that he referred to weren’t of the typical kind.  He couldn’t get his car to start because he didn’t have his keys: Big D had taken them from him because he knew about the date with me.  For the next two weeks, whenever Andrew would mention Big D, his eyes would flicker with fear and his voice completely changed inflection.  It was clear that he was not only upset when talking about him, but he was also afraid of him.

We started to see each other almost every day after that, and every time I would learn something new about Big D that was unbelievable and downright cruel.  The stories ranged from throwing Andrew’s car keys into a lake to beating Andrew when he was drunk.  I couldn’t believe that such a wonderful man was with such a monster, and I never missed an opportunity to remind Andrew that he was not just special, but much, much better than his snake of an ex.

One night, we were having cheese pizza and watching movies at my new place, when he randomly suggested we take a walk and talk for a bit.  I swallowed my first bite, shrugged, and made my way out the door.  As we walked through the cold, I started to wonder where we were going when he began to direct me with turn signals.  About ten minutes later, we were by the water tower on North Avenue that overlooks the lake.  It was around 1o o’clock PM, and the moon was glistening in the night like some giant shiny vanilla wafer (remember, I didn’t get to finish the pizza).  It was a magnificent sight.  I looked over at him, and he grabbed my hand.  I could see his breath colliding with mine, as we were standing there, both paralyzed with excitement and indecision.  Finally he said something: “C.J., I would like to ask you to be my boyfriend.”

I was elated, “Of course!  Of course I will!”  There’s that “Of course!” again.  And so we were boyfriends.  And we kissed under the moonlight, just to make it official.

Later in the night, around 12, we had gone into my room, and all of the romance had apparently made Andrew very horny.  I, however, was one who believed that since the relationship was so fresh, picked only two hours prior, the chastity belt hadn’t gone out of style just yet.  I allowed only certain things to happen, but when I started to feel uncomfortable, he noticed and asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just…um…I don’t really think I’m ready for that yet.  Sorry.”

He smiled and kissed my nose. “Don’t be sorry.  It’ll happen when you’re ready.”  We went to sleep, and all I could dream about was how I had the best boyfriend on the whole planet.

I was woken up about an hour later, by Andrew shifting around, trying to find his clothes.  I was a little perplexed by this, so I cooed to him: “Hey…what are you doing?”  He was jolted by the sound of my voice, but then he flashed a smile, “I have to get home…early morning tomorrow.  I didn’t want to wake you.”  ‘How considerate!’  I thought to myself.  I gave him a quick peck goodbye and collapsed back into deep slumber.

I woke up the next day around 10 AM, refreshed and ready to start the day.  My roommates and I celebrated my new relationship with a bowl, some Family Guy episodes, and a helping of cracker nachos.  Around 12, when the haze wore off, I called Andrew, but he didn’t answer.  I tried again at 2, and again at 3, still with no answer.  Because I was such an insecure wreck, I started to worry that he was having second thoughts about pursuing a relationship with me. 

Around 5, I was walking down Farwell avenue, when my pocket began to vibrate.  It was a text from Andrew.  Sort of.  Well, the text was from Andrew’s phone, but his fingers did not touch the keys.  Instead, the text was written by none other than the notorious Big D.

“Hey this is Big D, Andrew’s ex.  He left his phone here last night, so that’s why he’s not answering.”

I was stunned.  Fuming, I texted back:

“Why was over there in the first place?”

I received, not a minute later:

“I don’t really feel comfortable telling you.”

At that point, he didn’t really have to, but I still wanted to see it.  I wanted to know exactly what he was talking about, without inferring anything for myself.

I texted: “Tell me.  Please.”

After about five minutes of pure agony, I finally got a response.  And it was exactly what I had feared.  Andrew had cheated on me, and it was only six hours into the relationship.

Around 7, Andrew called me and pretended like nothing was wrong, something I’m not very good at.  I began to scream at him, calling him all these names, and I told him it was over.  I stressed the fact that I couldn’t believe, after everything he told me about Big D, he still slept with him.  Andrew was begging me to give him a second chance. 

“Please, C.J., I’m so sorry…can’t we just have coffee and talk about this?”

Once again, I was a total pushover: “Fine, but I’m not promising anything.”

We went to Rochambo later in the evening, and for the first three minutes I did nothing but glare at him or look away, and he did nothing but smile at me and try to hold my hand.  The cat and mouse game was getting old fast, so I decided to end it by saying, “What am I doing here?  Don’t you have something to say to me?”

Andrew began to explain himself.  The explanation seemed pretty decent: he can’t seem to get away from Big D, since he lives so close to him.  He says Big D has so much control over what he does and he doesn’t know how to stand up for himself.  He began to emotionally beat himself, which was too difficult to watch, so I interrupted.

“Well, what is it you plan to do about it?”

“I’ve been thinking…I need to get away.  I can’t stay here anymore, C.J.”

“So you’re thinking of moving into the city?”

“No, further…much further than that.”

“Well, then why am I here?  If you want to go, then go.  I can’t understand why you’re trying to get back together with me if you’re flying out to Bangkok or wherever in the morning.”

“Because I want you to come with me.”

I hadn’t expected this.  I sat with my mouth slightly agape for a second, thought better of it, and resumed consciousness.  “You’re insane.”  But as I started sipping my latte, curiosity caught up with me.  “Where exactly were you thinking about moving to?”  I figured if it was L.A. or Paris or Milan or something, I could at least weight the pros and cons.

He grinned, “Actually, Alaska.”

‘Alaska?!’ I thought.  Hardly L.A., or Paris or Milan for that matter.  My immediate judgement of Alaska was non-cultured hick-sicles huddling together with harpoons to stay warm and search for weak Democrats to poach.  It wasn’t my idea of glamorous whatsoever, so my immediate reaction was to say, “There’s no way that’s happening.”

I’m usually easily convinced into doing things, specifically wrong things, but I thought that this time, since it involved moving into a remote corner of the earth, I would be headstrong and stick to my word.  But the more he began to explain it, the less crazy the move seemed.  At that point, I didn’t really have much keeping me in Wisconsin.  I had my job at the Rep, yes, but that was no career.  He claimed that he would be able to take care of me, which now seems patronizing and ridiculous, but back then was actually one of the reasons I considered it so much.  And I really did like Andrew…I didn’t want to see him leave.  So I was a dumbass and said that we would start fresh, and that I would think about Alaska. 

A few days later, I decided to air the idea to my mom after I had gotten done with work.

“Have you lost your marbles?  They skin homos up there and make them into parkas!”

I told her I doubted it, and I also reassured her that I can’t even keep my own body warm, so I doubt I’d make a good coat.

“Seriously, Christopher, this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard from you!  You can’t just…up and MOVE to Alaska?  When we will see you?  What about your job?  What about your friends?  What about your life??”

“Awww, Mom, it’s not that big of a deal.  I can scrounge up money for plane tickets to come back and visit.”  I couldn’t believe that I was defending this idea, as if I had made the decision to actually go through with it.

“Well, you need to think this through.  You can just go waltzing up to Alaska like you own the place.  You need to have a plan, if, lord help you, you do go with him.  But I’m telling you right now that’s it’s a bad idea.  I don’t want to have to say I told you so, but you know damn well that I will.”

I essentially ignored the comment, telling her my bus was here and that I had to go.  If history had taught me anything, it would be that my mother’s instinct is spot on, but at the time, I wasn’t really catching on to that.

Later that evening, I had called Andrew to talk to him a bit more about the Alaska situation so I could tie up some loose ends.  But when I called, he wasn’t interested in that.  In fact, he wasn’t interested in much of anything.  I kept talking, but I got little back, just the occasional “Mhm” or “Okay.”  About five minutes in, I noticed he sounded strange too.

“Do you have a cold or something?  You sound weird.”

“Huh?  Oh, yeah, I’m catching something.”

Stupidly, I believed him, but since he seemed uninterested in everything I was saying, I told him to get better, and that I’d talk to him later.  I hung up the phone, layed down, and opened up a book.  About two minutes after that, my phone started vibrating, and I saw it was a text from Andrew.  Sort of.

“Hey fag, it’s Big D.  Just so you know, Andrew’s over here again.  He gave me head while I talked to you.”

That was just the beginning.  There was much, much more he wanted to tell me.  And as hurt as I was, I really wanted to hear it, because I apparently love mental abusing myself.

“By the way, he told me to tell you that you give hand jobs like you’re milking a cow.”

I didn’t even really know what that meant, but it set me off.  I turned my phone off, set it down, and cried.  I cried for my foolishness, my optimism, my stupidity, and my hopes.  I cried for Andrew, and for Big D.  But most importantly, and probably the least dignified, I cried for myself.

I didn’t hear from Andrew after that, and sometimes I wonder whether or not Big D was telling the truth.  I thought to myself…maybe it was a ploy to get me to end it with him.  Just a cruel joke so that I would react exactly the way I did.  All in all, it doesn’t really matter in the end.  I told myself that I was stronger because of this incident.  That I had learned something, and I’ll be able to apply it to the next relationship.  But I never did.  Men continue to walk over me, and I continue to let them.  It’s a vicious, vicious cycle, that’s only fueling my cynicism towards relationships.  I haven’t a clue how to reverse the spiral, but I do know that I can’t just run from my problems, even if I run all the way to Alaska.