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I suppose, by that point, I should have realized what I had become.
I should have, but I didn’t.
I should have realized when I went home to Ontario for a wedding, and spent the evening forcing a buddy to drive me all over Ottawa while I made out in his back seat with a Russian named Natalia whom I’d met only twenty minutes before. He was angry; driving more than 100 km/h on residential streets as the Russian and I savagely groped one another.
“Ow! Quit it!” she shouted, after I bit her hard on the lip.
But instead of stopping, I bit her again, playfully.
“Quit it, you asshole!”
Finally, annoyed, she asked to be taken home, and when we parted, she gave me a withering look, as if I’d just messed up something worthwhile.
“Well, see you, then,” I said, stepping back into the car without a second look.
“No, wait!” she called after me. “I should at least give you my number.”
“I don’t want your number.”
Then, we drove away.
I should have realized it when, a few weeks later, a girl I hooked up with subsequently read CONFESSIONS, and declared she’d never speak to me again.
I should have realized it when I received a phone-call from DJ StrangeLove. It was the first in a long time, and he was uncharacteristically upset.
“Ian. Buddy.” he said, tersely. “Don’t you think you’re going a bit too far?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The thing with this Erica chick…”
“What about it?”
“What the hell was that? We talked about this way back when: you don’t sleep with people you don’t respect, and you certainly don’t disrespect them once you do. That shit was totally unnecessary.”
“Thanks for the tip.”
“Dude, the way you treated her, it’s as if you thought sleeping with you was some kind of moral failing on her part. Women like having sex as much as men do, but they have to deal with a whole different set of social circumstances after it happens. The worst possible thing you can do is make her feel shitty about it. It’s like kicking somebody after they bought you a candy-bar. It’s a horrendous double-standard, and it’s shitty, outmoded thinking. That’s not what The System’s about, mate. I taught you better than that.”
I felt the blood pound hot behind my eyes.
“Thanks, man, but I don’t need your advice.” I snapped. “In case you didn’t notice, I haven’t needed it for months. I don’t need your opinion. And I certainly don’t give a fuck about your stupid fucking Dating Manual.”
“Fine, man. It just feels a hell of a lot like I armed the wrong man with the right tools.”
“Oh, I see what this is about,” I seethed. “This is about your ego. This is about you thinking that everything I do has some kind of reflection on you and your bullshit ‘teaching’. Well, it doesn’t. I don’t even think about that stuff. Ever. And, you know what? Fuck it. Fuck it, and fuck you. Confessions is over. It’s done. I’m done writing. I’m done posting. And you and I? We’re done talking. Keep the hell out of my life. This all stops now.”
Then, I slammed down the phone.
Like I said, I should have realized it, then.
But I didn’t.
And, at the time, I thought: Why should I? It was my life. I was finally succeeding.
Things were happening all around me, and, I was drunk on hedonism. It was as if, up to this point, the soundtrack of my life had been entirely Jack Johnson and Pat Boone. Now, it was the fucking Ramones. It was Iggy Pop. The Eagles of fucking Death Metal.
Fuck The Dependent.
Fuck the contrived “transformation from loser to ladies’ man”, I thought. It’s about liberation. Freedom. Fun.
Everything came to a head on the night I saw Ms. Manners for the second time.
She was leaving for Europe, and, in a fashion typical of her, had invited virtually everybody she knew to a drugged-out farewell dancefest at Celebrities downtown. So, I tossed on my fuck-off mauve shirt, my new jeans, and headed out.
“Ian!” she said, as I arrived. “You came!”
“Of course! Wouldn’t miss it.”
We exchanged a high-five.
“How’s single life?”
“It’s great,” I replied. “I’m free. I can do whatever I want, and, you know what? For the first time in my life, I don’t have to be nice to chicks. It’s liberating not to give a fuck.”
For a moment, her eyes darkened.
“Be careful about that,” she warned. “Reputation is serious business, being single. Don’t mess with people.”
I rolled my eyes.
Then, grinning, a bounce in her step, her usual flightiness further exaggerated by God-knows-what drugs she had coursing through her system, she led me by the hand into the throbbing mass of bodies on the dance-floor. There, I met two of Ms. Manners’ friends- a muscular Australian, and his girlfriend, a curly brunette.
“Just so you know,” she said to us, giddy, “because it’s my party, I get to make out with whomever I want.”
And yes, she actually said “whomever”.
Then, she grabbed my hips, and pulled me into a sloppy kiss.
“Hey!” shouted the Australian. “How come he gets to go first?”
“Because,” she grinned, “I’ve never kissed him. And I’ve kissed you all over.”
Cocky as I was, this was still too much information.
The curly brunette laughed. Then, Ms. Manners grabbed me again, and we continued to make out; a long, wet affair with powerful groping and open mouths.
However, just as I began to get aggressive, she pulled away.
“By the way, that last article you published was horrible,” she said, and then she was gone.
“Whoah,” said a voice beside me. “Dude. Is that your girl?”
Almost everyone I knew was at Ms. Manners’ party:
Leon and his girlfriend Brittany.
Even DJ StrangeLove was there, with his girlfriend, a sultry, leggy blonde. The two of them were high as kites, dancing amongst a group that included the Australian, the curly brunette, two blondes, and a redhead; Their pupils were dilated, their bodies sweaty.
“What are you doing here, and why aren’t you high?” DJ StrangeLove shouted, at the back of my head.
I turned, and he suddenly realized who he was talking to. His face hardened, and we exchanged a lengthy glance.
“Enjoy the party,” he said, dismissive.
Then he danced away.
“What are you doing here, and why aren’t you high?” It was certainly a good question. A moment, and two caps of MDMA later, I had my answer.
Dancing increased in ferocity. I made a point of grinding with as many girls as I could, and drank- as was the special of the evening, vodka redbulls from a large, plastic beach bucket.
And, as it continued, it became clear that this evening was going to be hedonism exemplified.
Ms. Manners was making out with the Australian.
Ms. Manners was making out with DJ StrangeLove.
DJ StrangeLove was making out with the curly brunette.
DJ StrangeLove’s girlfriend was making out with Ms. Manners.
I couldn’t decide whether I was looking at heaven or hell.
Somewhere in the night, Leon and Brittany danced up beside me, both of them no doubt tripping out as severely as I was, and just as inspired by what was going on around them.
“Kiss her! Kiss my girlfriend!” Leon bellowed.
We looked at each other.
“Do it!” he shouted.
I knew he was high. I knew we both were. But, the night’s vibe served to make it so I didn’t care.
So, I kissed her.
And, she kissed me back.
“Now, kiss my boyfriend!” Brittany ordered.
I went for it.
“Whoa, whoa!” Leon shouted, backing away.
He disappeared into the crowd. By now, the remainder of the party had vanished. Ms. Manners had taken DJ StrangeLove’s girlfriend and the curly brunette to the bathroom to make out. DJ StrangeLove himself was grinding up on a patron of indeterminate gender, his tie wrapped firmly around his forehead.
I grabbed Brittany by the shirt-front.
“We should probably kiss again.”
She looked unsure for a moment.
“I don’t know.”
I gave her a stern look.
“Okay,” she said.
I should have realized it then, of course.
I should have, but, I didn’t.
We kissed for another five minutes. I was aggressive, all biting and hair-pulls. The music in my head was The Clash, all rampaging drums and Joe Strummer guitar-solos. Eventually, Brittany pulled away, looking sheepish.
“We should probably find Leon.”
“Yeah. Yeah, of course. We should.”
So, we waded through the crowd. Eventually, we found Leon outside, smoking a cigarette. At this point, I was a train-wreck of alcohol and drugs, and, though I’m not sure how it happened, a bunch of us ended up back at Leon’s place. I spent some time in the living room. Some time in the kitchen. I drank Scotch. I may have eaten some Coca Leaves. I don’t remember. I met Brittany in the living room. Leon was, once again, nowhere to be found, so, with nothing else to do, we began making out again. First standing, and then laying on the couch. I groped at her breasts. She groped at my ass. Our breath was heavy.
A friend came into the room and we stopped, guilty, though I continued squeezing the inside of her thigh.
“Ian, man,” our friend said, his voice sharp. “Not cool.”
“Dude. Leon said it was fine.”
“Look, I don’t care what Leon said. This is definitely not okay.”
There was a momentary silence.
“Fine,” I said. “We’ll go somewhere else.”
Which is how we ended up on the porch, and it was here that I pushed her underwear aside, and slipped my fingers inside of her. However, we’d scarcely been at it a moment when there was a rap on the window behind us. It was Leon, his pupils grotesquely dilated.
“Hey, guys!” he shouted.
A moment later, he was sitting beside us. But I didn’t stop, even as he sat right there right beside us. Talking. Hanging out like nothing was going on. Whether Leon noticed or not, I’m not sure. But, one thing’s for certain: eventually, the conversation faded, and silently, he went inside. Brittany and I resumed making out. Our breathing intensified. And, when I looked in her eyes, I knew that, if left unchecked, this interaction could very quickly lead to sex right then and there.
Our eyes locked.
Neither of us moved.
“I don’t know,” she said.
And, it was then that I realized it.
At what might have been the lowest moment of my entire life; sitting on a porch, a headful of chemicals, fingering my best-friend’s girlfriend, while he sat by and did nothing, it was then that I finally realized:
I’d turned into a fucking asshole.