Monday, October 31, 2011

"Alex Forrest"

Remakes are now the norm. Do overs. Redo’s. Some of them don’t need to happen, but they happen anyway. I’ve been rehearsing for a remake of Fatal Attraction, retitled Obsessive Attraction for 2011. Glenn Close gracefully handed the role of Alex Forrest to me, but there’s a problem. I’ve been living in the character’s skin outside of rehearsal. I’ve been having a hard time separating fantasy from reality.


There comes a time when you have to look back and see yourself; learn from your actions.

I have to see my past and learn from it. Those aren’t just words. I mean them. I really have to learn from my mistakes. I have to move beyond the regret of my actions into the growth of changing them by realizing what I’m doing when I’m doing it. Different outcomes are possible. I just have to make the effort.

Let me tell you a story. I fell hard for someone who didn't fall for me. He's a good guy, but not the right guy for me. I became obsessed with him. Sometimes the obsession didn't affect me negatively and other times it became a debilitating existence with a whiff of desperation.

My connection to Ms. Forrest ends at the obsession. Her obsession was fuel enough for her to push further down an emotional, impulsive path of self-mutilation. I isolated myself and drank. I listened to sad music. I took sleeping pills and slept. What I didn’t realize was that I was making him uncomfortable. Things weren’t normal anymore. I knew it, but I didn’t know he knew it. I play like I’m not that transparent, but I am that transparent.

I recently wrote about changing my pattern by staying friends with someone after realizing he didn't want me the way I wanted him. (Wow, he didn’t want me the way I wanted him. Wish I had paid attention to my own story. I would have begun to heal sooner.) Well, here's another pattern: I change my true self to fit what I think the other person will like.

I realize that means the person will be falling for a fabricated individual and that our relationship stands no chance of surviving. I don't know why I do it except that I must think I'm not good enough or desirable enough as I am. What bullshit!

There comes a time when you have to believe that you are good enough.

I'm scared to be my truest self for fear that whoever he is, (a) he will run away when I say my first off-color comment in the middle of some story, (b) he’ll be unimpressed with my hair one day, (c) he won’t like my sense of style, (d) I’ll be too effeminate for him. Blah, blah, blah, fear, blah, the list could go on, blah.

Well guess what? I'm off-color and I like it. I like my sense of style. I like my choices in music and television programs. I like my hair (most of the time). I can be a big girl sometimes, but I’m also a guy. I don’t walk around with my wrist limped out in front of me. I may not be the butchest man on the bar stool, but I am a man. I don't need to compromise who I am and what I want in order to make myself more appealing to a guy that doesn't want me anyway! When am I going to learn that lesson? I know relationships have to be based in truth so why am I altering myself? I realize that if the guy is truly attracted to me and wants to get to know me, all of my “stuff” will be part of my charm, not a deterrent.

I don't need to go out, and stay out, later than I normally would in order to impress someone. I take responsibility for my life and require of myself the utmost in being responsible. So what if I want to go to bed at 11 pm? I’m not a stay-up-until-the-wee-hours kind of guy. That doesn’t mean I can’t throw caution to the wind sometimes because I can; I just don’t want to throw it to impress when the impressing gets me nothing but a lonely cab ride home.

Expectations are a bitch, too. I’ve been told they only lead to disappointment. I can say, with some degree of knowledge that is the truth.

I went to parties I didn't want to attend because this person asked me and I saw it as an opportunity to hang out with him. Hindsight: he was just being nice. I was misreading. Yeah, maybe he genuinely wanted my company as a friend, but boy did I see those invitations as openings.

I bought music I knew he liked thinking it would impress him and give us something to talk about. Hindsight: thankfully I liked the music, but it was a dumb move on my part nonetheless. Music holds memories; emotions connected to time and place. When I buy a song or album because of someone else, that memory is eternally connected to it. Most of that music I can now listen to, loving it because I love it, not because he loves it. The memory is now more of a vapor of smoke than a thick cloud I can’t get through. Why do I do it to myself?

I've acted more stupid lately than I care to really admit! Checking my pattern: the frequency is nothing but white noise. This isn't the first time I've acted this stupid and probably won’t be the last. Hopefully, I will detect my behavior sooner next time.

Honestly, I'm embarrassed and I feel foolish!

I write stories. Stories that I sit at my desk and make up – people, places and instances that I create in my brain and transfer to typed word through my fingers. It's not such a leap to believe that I would create fantasies in my head about a real person that I like. I'm aware when fantasy and reality collide and fizzle in front of me. I usually keep the spark of hope alive though and think that if I try again maybe the fantasy and the reality will ignite. Pattern detected.

No bunnies were harmed during this experience.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I'm spiraling. The orange glow at the end of my cigarette is becoming more and more frequent, the swirl of alcohol and rocks a daily occurrence. Popping the top off of that beer that’s waiting for me at home is something that I look forward to. It's because of him! The Taylor Swift song “Haunted” makes more sense to me now than ever – “He would try to take away my pain, and he just might make me smile, but the whole time I’m wishing he was you instead.”

I feel lonely. I feel alone. I have begun to wonder who would miss me if I were gone. I don't mean gone from New York City; I mean literally gone. I'm not going to jump in front of a bus or anything so don't freak out. There are no prescription pain meds or illegal substances in my house. These are words with no real sincerity behind them, but they pass through my mind. The sleeping pill container in my bedroom is less full than it used to be though.

I feel like the writers who script my life abandoned me. I’ve been left to improvise the storylines they laid out before they left. I don’t like improvisation. I like having more control than that – knowing what happens next. That inability to relinquish control has always been my problem.

I find myself desperately seeking a connection. I often wonder if pushing it away for so long means that now that I truly want it, it won’t come. Did connection finally give on me? “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor” as Cinderella states in Into The Woods. Have I missed all of my opportunities by scoffing in the face of anyone who wanted me?

I’ve begun to freak out in situations where freaking out has no point. I’m playing out both sides of the conversation in my head without any true facts. I’ve been sad one minute and giddily happy the next. I have erased phone numbers and asked for them back. I have deleted others with no care for reconnecting. Some of these actions I’m truly sorry for and others I couldn’t care less about.

There are songs that I keep coming back to over and over that seem to sum up my life and situation right now. In particular there are two Lady Antebellum songs that hit me in the heart as if there was a bull’s-eye hovering over it, beckoning the heartbreak arrows to fill me with their sting. The titles, “Wanted You More” and “As You Turn Away” already speak to the pain I’m feeling, but the pain is more fully expressed in the beautiful, heartbreaking lyrics of each song. Where’s my royalty check?

I keep putting myself in situations where the outcome is disappointment. I keep hoping for a different result each time, but it’s always the same. The interesting part is that I always keep this little spark of hope that this time it will be different, this time there will be a positive payoff for trying. The question I keep asking is why I keep putting myself through it? Why do I send an email or text thinking this time the response will be quicker or something that I want it to be? It hasn’t been that in months. It’s always the same. I feel like an afterthought. I wish I was important to someone – to him – but I’m not.

What is it inside of us that makes us keep up the masochistic machinations that cause so much emotional upset? What bothers me the most is that I’m angrier at myself than I am with him. I am the one with hopes. I am the one with the fantasies. I am the one with the expectations. I am the one with the desires. He can’t and won’t fulfill any thing that I’m looking or wishing for.

Lady Antebellum song lyrics sum up my present: sometimes “I wish I was cold as stone,” then again, “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” I guess, “I love this pain just a little too much.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 2

3 days later


How are you settling in to college life in Delaware? Are the dorms at Elmhurst U cool or challenging? Have you met anybody cool enough to be friends with yet?

California is pretty awesome I must say. The weather is better than I could have expected. It’s really nice during the day and gets a little chilly at night. You know how I like to wear a sweatshirt with shorts so it’s right up my alley.

I’m sure you’ve seen that I’ve sent you a couple of texts. You haven’t responded. I figure you’re busy. It’s okay. I just wanna talk to you.

Write back when you can. Oh, forgot to ask, how are your classes so far? Anything too crazy?


P.S. I’m rushing Delta Sigma Phi

There was no response to the email and still no response to the text messages. Atwood had a difficult time dealing with his feelings. He was never more grateful for the distraction of a new city and a new life with classes, homework, and pledge party mixers to keep his mind occupied. 

It was the alone time that was the worst. His mind would wonder down strange fantasy passageways with Kinlin standing next to him. They would be laughing and talking and sometimes holding hands. He didn’t know where the feelings were coming from. How could he have feelings for Kinlin? He had always looked at him merely as a friend. He was his go to person when anything exciting or traumatic happened.

In these high-glossed, multi-colored, heightened-reality fantasies he and Kinlin sometimes kissed again and sometimes had sex. He had to shake his head to clear it of those thoughts. He didn’t understand why they were there. He had never to his knowledge had feelings for Kinlin before. Why was he now somehow all consumed by Kinlin’s image?

One month into the fall term of his freshman year at UCLA he awoke with his heart pounding. He had been dreaming of Kinlin. They were in a bungalow on some deserted island. They were alone. They were naked, wrapped in each other’s arms. There was hardly any space to be found between them. The bungalow had no doors; only sheer curtains to block the view should some outsider try to peek inside. Those curtains were billowing in the warmest, yet coolest, breeze Atwood had ever felt. 

In the dream he whispered, “I want you” into Kinlin’s ear. As time has no chronology or linear respect in dreams, the next thing he knew he was being spooned by Kinlin and was feeling the pressure of Kinlin inside of him. It wasn’t as painful as he thought it would be. If fact it felt better than he could ever have anticipated. He felt himself pushing back against Kinlin, driven by desire. The pleasure was intense. So much so that he couldn’t hold on any longer. The breathing and movement between the two of them was gaining speed and Kinlin could sense Atwood’s desire for release. He reached around and took hold of Atwood in his most excited and vulnerable state and Atwood couldn’t control the guttural sound that erupted from inside of him as he lost his grasp on all that was real around him. He shuddered hard against Kinlin’s body. 

It was at that moment that his racing heart had awakened him. It was the most intense dream he had ever had and the first wet dream he’d had in at least a year. He was covered with his own semen.

“What the…” Atwood said aloud as he looked at the mess on his body. “A bungalow?” he then said realizing he’d never been inside one.

More than anything else he was confused. He lay there taking deep breaths in an attempt to slow his racing heart and calm himself down. His phone buzzed on the table next to his bed. The first thought through his mind was that maybe it was Kinlin.

What was happening to him? He was dreaming about sex with Kinlin. More than even sex—intimacy. He was thinking that his buzzing phone might be communication from Kinlin.  He wanted to—had to—shake these feelings free from his mind and body. 

He grabbed his phone and saw that it was nothing more than an email reminder of a study group meeting for the next night.

He got out of bed and grabbed a towel to clean himself up. He stumbled down the hall to use the bathroom. Clean and empty he fell back into bed. Sleep proved an elusive visitor for the rest of that night. He just lay there lost in the images of the dream. 

Finally after six weeks Atwood’s email inbox showed a response from Kinlin.


Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to you. Things here in Delaware are great. I’m enjoying college life very much. I have a really cool roommate. His name is Jack. He’s from New York. He came for a visit with his boyfriend over the summer and decided to stay and go to school here. Yes, he’s gay. He’s really cool. I know, I already said that, but it’s true. His boyfriend, Henry, is nice too. Sometimes we hang out on the weekends. Henry’s family owns a big department store here so they have a gigantic house. Well, his grandmother has a gigantic house. It’s fun to hang out there.

I’ve been really busy with school and stuff. I’m pledging the Kappa Sigma fraternity. I didn’t really know if I wanted to join a fraternity or not, but it’s pretty cool. There are lots of parties at the house. Not crazy parties like you might see in the movies, but parties nonetheless. I’ve hooked up with a couple of girls already. High-five!! Surprised to hear you’re pledging Delta Sig.

My classes are okay. The only one I really enjoy is Introduction to Marketing. The rest is just math and English and the shit we already did for four years of high school. 

Okay man, I’ve gotta head out to a mixer with the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority tonight so I’ll talk to you later.

Take care,

“Take care?” Atwood said to himself. He had been so excited to see the email from Kinlin, but so disappointed upon reading it. He didn’t know what he had expected from it, but certainly not what he got. He wanted Kinlin to ask how he was doing. He wanted a sense that Kinlin missed him or thought about him during the day. None of that was present in the email. Kinlin was just being Kinlin. Sharing his two random hookups proved that he had no feelings for Atwood at all. Sensitivity was not his strong suit.

Atwood felt a little sick. Had he been nothing more than a random hookup himself? A conquest? He had to distract himself. He wanted to write back immediately and confront Kinlin, but he couldn’t let himself do it. He knew he needed to calm down, take a breath and think before he wrote.

He decided the best thing he could do was hit the campus gym. The treadmill and his iPod would be his best distraction. Running and sweating would allow him to clear his head of all thoughts Kinlin and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. What he needed to do was walk away from the situation. He had to figure out a way to stop obsessing over Kinlin and to focus on himself and the new life he could create in California.

Over the next two weeks Atwood studied and went to the frat house and tried to focus on anything other than Kinlin. He enjoyed his fraternity brothers. They gave him a sense of camaraderie and family while everything familiar was across the country on the other coast.

One evening at the frat house he got caught up in a drinking game and found himself more than buzzed, but less than stinking drunk. He was in a place where nothing mattered and his cares seemed to have left his body. He found himself upstairs in one of his frat brothers’ bedrooms, the light of the computer beckoning, calling him to it like a bug drawn to the purple light of a bug zapper. 

He sat down and accessed his email account and reread the letter from Kinlin. He wasn’t as disappointed in it this time. What he felt was the desire to be honest with Kinlin. 

Dear Kinlin,

I’m so glad you wrote back. You seem to be having a good time. I’m glad you like your roommate. That is important. 

I miss you. I was hoping that your letter might tell me you missed me too, but it didn’t
We never talked about what happened between us, Kinlin. We spent the night together. A night different than any we’d spent together before. I still don’t understand why it happened. Are you gay? I might be. I don’t know. I haven’t had another experience like that with any one else, but I also haven’t slept with a girl. I never thought I was gay, but I enjoyed what we did so much that I’m now confused.

I think about you every day, Kinlin. Do you think about me? I think I love you. I don’t mean that I’m in love with you, but I think my love for you is deeper than just friendship. Is that weird?

Do your regret what happened? I wish you would talk to me.


He pressed “send” before he could talk himself out of it. He didn’t even proofread the letter. He had said the things that had been gnawing at his insides and waking him with anxiety. All that was left was to wait for a response. Thankfully, his buzz was still there and he wouldn’t have to worry about that tonight.

When he woke the next morning there was more than a headache waiting for him. Kinlin had responded. Atwood was excited to see an email from Kinlin in his inbox, but then he remembered that he had sent an email the previous night while intoxicated. His stomach lurched. He wanted to vomit.

“Shit,” he said out loud to himself. 


Part of me regrets what happened between us, but the other part (possibly the biggest part) is happy it happened. Maybe we both should have been adult enough to not do what we did. I know I started it. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you. I was just curious. I used you to kill that curiosity. I don’t think that I’m gay. As I said in my previous letter I’ve hooked up with a couple of girls since I’ve been here. 

You really think you might be gay? You know I think you’re a cool guy. I would love to hear about your feelings. I have to run now though. Class calls.


P.S. I do think about you every day.

“I do think about you every day” kept running through Atwood’s mind. Whenever his mind seemed clear of all thoughts, that line in Kinlin’s letter would run through it like the crawl at the bottom of CNN; impossible to ignore. 

All Atwood wanted was to see Kinlin’s face—a text or phone call would be just as good; the cherry on top of an already decadent sundae. 

He shook his head as if to free it of its thoughts and images. He was more miles away from Kinlin than he knew. There was no chance of seeing him. He could call, but he wanted Kinlin to be the one to call. He had to put all thoughts of Kinlin and his kiss—his body—out of his mind. He wanted to rid himself of his feelings. He couldn’t fathom owning up to them. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to be gay; he couldn’t imagine it. He needed to find a girl to hang out with and see if things changed.

©2011 Michael Rohrer