A new adult story of Love. Sex. Addiction. Manipulation. Blackmail. And Power…
Some say love can be an addiction. Others say it’s the thing that makes life worth living.
Let me tell you everything I know about love…
Love isn’t patient, love isn’t kind. Love is a game, a chase. A thrill. Love is wild and war-like, and every man and woman must fight for themselves.
At least that’s how it was for me.
A high-priced virgin call girl by the time I started college, I was addicted to love and to sex.
Even though I’ve never had either.
I controlled love, played it, and held the world in the palm of my hands.
Then I fell down from those highs, and I’m being blackmailed for all my mistakes, forced to keep secrets from everyone, except the only guy I don’t regret.
With all the other women, I knew what they were. They were temporary.
They were pills, they were bottles, they took away all the pain, and numbed the awful memories that wore away at my ragged, wasted heart.
Until I met Harley.
She’s the only girl I ever missed when she walked away. But now she’s back in my life, every day, and there are no guarantees for us, especially since I don’t know how to tell her my secrets. What happened to my family.
All I know is she’s the closest I’ve ever come to something real, and I want to feel every second of it.
I’m a sex addict and a virgin.
I know everything about sex and I’ve never done it, though I came close last night.
I know nothing about love.
I know men.
I can size up a guy in seconds. If he wants my sweet and innocent side, or my sophisticated persona, or if he just wants me to shut up and nod while he talks about his day, because some just want to talk. I know how he’ll like it, how he’ll want it, and I know by the end of the hour or two if he’ll request me again.
But those days are behind me.
The past is the past.
This is now.
That’s what I have to believe as I walk into a church in Chelsea off Ninth Avenue to repent. It’s a fading white church, rather plain looking, unmarked by flying buttresses or soaring angels. The white brick is streaked with gray from soot and dirt and New York itself breezing by over the years. There’s a requisite steeple on top, unassuming, but still there pointing to the sky, and a small plaque outside the doors that declares its non-denominational-ness. Every flavor of fucked-up is welcome.
On Mondays, you can find the alcoholics. On Tuesdays the former drug abusers. On Wednesdays this place is home to those trying to kick the gambling habit. And tonight? I will spend the next hour with people like me, who are addicted to love and sex, sex and love.
Some to both. Some to only one.
I know both in ways I never wanted to. But in ways I still long for too.
That’s the problem.
I am nineteen years old and I have kissed twenty-one guys, which amounts to three guys per year since my first kiss at age thirteen. I kept a running list of their first names and how they rated. They were all ones or zeroes. Even so, all those names on the list are all the reasons why I’m pushing open these wooden doors, the brown paint cracked and peeling.
Fitting. I am cracked and brittle too, hardened by all the things I saw, and mostly all the things I heard over the years.
I spot the first sign and I stop in my tracks. The blocky letters wallop me with the reality that now I belong to a club I never wanted to be in.
On a sheet of white paper the words SLAA-College have been written in all caps with a big blue marker.
How embarrassing. As if anyone can’t figure out what the acronym means. But still, I follow the arrows on the sign pointing to the stairwell, then down the musty wooden steps that creak at every footfall as they announce my descent to the basement. More signs are plastered to the flimsy brown plywall, more arrows directing me through the dark hallway, around the corner, then past another bend, deep into the bowels of the church.
My insides are comprised of knots tightening in and wrenching around themselves, pinching all my internal organs.
I wish, I wish, I wish that I weren’t going here.
But yet, I have to.
I took the fall and that brought me here.
I run my fingers across the fabric of my red shirt that’s touching my shoulder, tender today after my new tattoo. My reminder of who I was. But even so, the reminder on my skin is not even to quell the nerves. They snake through me, setting up camp in every cell of my body, wending through me as I follow the arrows, and enter a standard-issue Sunday School room with thinning brown industrial carpet. Earlier in the week this room was probably teeming with cutesy blue wooden chairs adorned with drawn angels, clouds and fluffy bunnies. Now it’s filled with cold, hard, folding metal chairs for addicts. The walls are bare, except for a few inspirational posters — “Hang in There” with the kitten dangling from a branch, “Perseverance” with a man climbing a snow-capped mountain, and “Patience” with a lone woman standing at the edge of a cold beach in the winter.
I’m five minutes early and there’s one other person in the room. A thin woman with pink hair cut in a stick-straight bob rises and greets me.
“Hi. I’m Joanne. Welcome to the SLAA meeting,” she says, pronouncing the name of the group like slaw.
“Layla,” I mumble, not sure how words are even coming out of my mouth as I give her a fake name. There is no way I’d use my real name here. Besides, Layla is the name that brought me here. Layla is my other name. Layla is the other me.
I shake Joanne’s hand. It feels smooth, and she smells like lavender. Maybe she just put on lotion.
“Coffee?” She smiles brightly at me, as if coffee is the answer to every addict’s deepest desires. Because it’s the only acceptable drug.
I am a junkie. I take what I can get.
I nod, barely able to speak. I sit in one of the chairs, as Joanne pours coffee from a pot into a chipped ceramic mug with the slogan When in Doubt, Don’t.
Great. If only I’d had a collection of mugs emblazoned with Keep it Simple and Just for Today, maybe I’ve never have slid down that slippery slope into Layla.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Layla.” Joanne adds, flashing me another happy grin. “Do you knit?”
Do I have to make small talk with her? With anyone?
She gestures to her canvas bag, spilling over with yarn and steely blue knitting needles and what looks to be the start of a maroon scarf.
“I’m not very crafty,” I say and leave it at that, as she talks about the scarf she is working on, and how she’s going to pair it with a matching sweater, and I simply smile at her without showing any teeth.
There. I’m keeping it simple.
I’d rather go mute for this meeting because my mouth feels like cotton and my head is a pinball machine and the last thing I want to do right now is talk about how my life has spun out of control.
Except for last night. Because there is one guy who didn’t make it on my list. One guy who never felt like a list. The guy from last night who inked my shoulder, and kissed my body, and who gave me something I’ve never felt before – touch without agenda. A true and real want. He didn’t want anything more from me than me. It was such a foreign feeling, but such a wondrous one.
I’ll never see him again.
Soon the room starts to fill and I keep my head down, doing everything I can not to meet their eyes. I don’t want to know what other addicts look like. I don’t want to know if they look like me. I stare at my shoes, my Mary Janes, the black buckle shiny because it’s always shiny because that’s what made me top of the line. I was the whole package – the shoes, the plaid skirt, the white blouse, the beyond-innocent look on my face.
I hate that I miss that me.
I miss her terribly.
Even after last night, and all that it could have become, all the ways it was different from the past, I still miss me when I was Layla.
The circle of chairs has been filled in with guys and girls and as I scan their faces all I see are their secrets.
Then my blood goes both hot and cold when I see him. The guy from last night with the scar across his right cheek.
This is the last place I want to be even though it’s the only place I should be.
Seeing as how I have a permanent reminder on my face now of what happens when you go too far.
I’d be able to handle this better if I could extradite the memory of last night from my stupid head. But I can’t, because she’s staked a home in my skull, and the images aren’t going away anytime soon. That girl who walked into No Regrets, the West Village tattoo shop where I work, was the hottest girl I’d ever seen, and so damn innocent looking – a combination that killed my self-resolve to start over. She had a sweet smile, a sexy tee-shirt and a skirt that left just enough to the imagination at first. She wasn’t like the women I was used to. She was the total opposite. She wasn’t like my regular customers at the shop either. She’d never been inked, and she didn’t look like the type who’d want to mark up her body. She was the kind of girl who’d wear pearl earrings, and blow dry her hair, and apply pink lip gloss. She was all Manhattan preppy, gorgeous blond hair, and brown eyes, and so not the type for a tat.
“Can you do a red ribbon? Like this?” She handed me a drawing that was printed out from the Internet.
“Yeah. I can do whatever you want.” I held the paper, appraising the illustration. I figured it was a cause tattoo, like for all those charities that use red ribbons. “Anything special about red ribbons?”
“They’re special to me,” she said, and that was all she said on the subject. But we talked about everything else – drawing and music and school and what we wanted out of life – as she sat in the chair, and pushed up her sleeve to her shoulder, and it was a damn good thing I knew how to concentrate because I could smell her. She had on some kind of wild cherry lotion, and the scent drove me wild, along with her hair, her eyes, her body.
Which made zero fucking sense since I’ve never been attracted to girls younger than me.
Never ever ever.
But maybe the scar I’d landed last month was all I needed to change my ways.
When she was done, and I gave her the post-care instructions, she said thanks, and then turned on those hot little heels and started to walk out.
But I wanted more. My shift was over, so I followed her to the door, and said, “Don’t go.”
I didn’t have time to craft a line, or feed her some bullshit, and trust me. I know how to feed lines. I know how to spin them on the spot.
But I didn’t want to lie anymore.
We went out for coffee, and we wandered around Manhattan, and there was this strange vibe in the air, like we were in Europe and had met on a backpacking trip, and only had twenty-four hours to spend, and so we spent them together.
There was a ticking clock all night long.
We went back to my apartment near school, and I hadn’t had a thing to drink, but I felt buzzed and tipsy just being near her.
We didn’t go all the way. But she let me touch her. She wanted me to touch her. She told me she’d never let anyone touch her the way I did. Hell, if that wasn’t a crazy turn-on I don’t know what is.
Nothing could even compare to it.
So when I walk into my first meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, I grab the doorway, and hold on. This whole room is rocking, like we’re on a ship, and hit choppy waters. I must be seeing things. There’s no way she can be here.
My heart trips over on itself, then it sputters out of control and collapses.
She’s the only girl I’ve ever been with who’s not older than me. She’s the only girl where it didn’t feel like a fix.
And, evidently, she’s a lot like me.
No wonder the clock was ticking last night. We both took one last hit before going on the wagon.
I grab an empty chair and try not to think about her during the meeting. But it’s impossible. Because the night with her is the last I’ll have like that for a long time. Even this Joanne lady running the show issues the reminder – some sort of rule we should follow. A guideline so we can stop being fucked up from sex.
“And it’s recommended that you abstain from sexual, romantic or any type of love relationships in your first year of recovery,” Joanne says, while her knitting needles click faster and faster.
At the end of the meeting, I do something I’m willing to bet is forbidden in whatever group laws have been laid down. I doubt we’re supposed to chit chat with the opposite sex, with someone who could be all our temptations, who could be a fix.
I walk up to Harley, who calls herself Layla. “What were the chances?”
She seems nervous, worried. She looks down, away, then at me and whispers, “Everything I said last night was true.”
My heart thumps faster.
“Good,” I say, and wish her words didn’t turn me on so much. I know I need to stay away from her. But I don’t want to. I want something with her. “We could be friends maybe.”
She nods and smiles. “Yes. Let’s be friends.”
At least it’s something.