The following post is fictional. Any likeness to people or 12-step programs real or imagined is tough shit.
For the panty liner commercial I run barefoot on the beach in a white gauze blouse that is mostly unbuttoned and shows my nipples, exactly the way all women prance when they spring a leak south of the border while wearing the unscented pads with folded wings—big as paper plates. The light weight white shorts, executive, yet wispy bangs and frosted pink cheeks beam “what bloody chunks?”
I’m clean, bleach white and bloodless, jogging into the icy water. The director loves the wet t-shirt effect and he jogs alongside me. I smile innocently and lick my lips because I know these pads suck blood. I’m freezing my tits off and it looks terrific. Running in wet sand sucks.
It’s 6a.m. and I’ve barely slept. The 5-hour energy has settled into a dull headache. A few days before I was panty liner girl, Spike came home drunk and in a feisty mood. I wish he’d just get tipsy and horny, but he is such an asshole when he drinks. After our big fight, I slept on the couch after chasing him down the street in my underwear but I’m ahead of myself. It’s the 5-hour energy. I’m jittery. I need a smoke.
“Hey Joey, can I take five?” the director shrugs and nods. I wipe the cold sand out of my eyes. I’m not even sporting the gigantic panty liners for the shoot, but boxes of them are stacked on the sand; a pyramid just out of reach. For, in downy gauze and hard nipples, I am the fresh panty liner.
Malibu is chilly this morning. The ocean is glorious and the sky delicate pink-orange Day-Glo. I suck in Marlboro smoke and shiver. It feels good for a sec. Even though I’m not bleeding out everywhere, my insides are carved out with a spoon. Break up club helps. The director asks, “Kit, can you run the other direction? We’ve got too much light on you here.”
“Sure, no prob,” I say. I toss the butt in the water and rinse my numb feet, now turning blue.
With Spike, I figured I’d wait it out. He’d pull his head out of his ass and get sober again like he had before. He’d return to the sweet, gentle, funny, accomplished man I met at The Whiskey. It was unsettling to watch his ugly bits get so big they took over the good parts like the Hulk bit by a zombie. I wanted to scream, “Where did you go?”
I loved him still, reckless and loyal and hopeful and stupid. I never snooped.
Then I snooped.
Every Sunday night he disappeared for a few hours, with his hair slicked back, dressed up nice in a plaid shirt. I never pry in phones or read texts or ask many questions because I figure if you go looking for something, you’ll find it and it won’t be good, so don’t go looking.
One Sunday, I broke my rule. In his office on his desk was a post-it note with an address and wrote it on my hand. And then I drove away, presumably to get groceries and I drove until I found the address, which was an old dive bar in the neighborhood. Inside, Spike was talking extra close to a girl in a cowboy hat. She laughed with him the way someone does who knows his charm and adores it. She poured him wine. Back home I asked about her.
“Who the fuck is the cowboy hat chic?” I asked.
“She’s married,” he yelled. “You’re jealous and dramatic,” he said and grabbed his jacket.
“Can you not make it worse by leaving?” I asked. My desperation and fear bled out everywhere. I asked again.
He bolted out the door and I chased him down the street in my underwear. When he was gone, I looked for more clues, even though I had all the information a girl could ever need:
The guy I loved was zombie gone. Hulk gone. Bitten.
In his bathroom, behind a tin of cold medicine were fresh razors, q-tips and anti-gas pills. Behind that, HIV meds. I recognized them from my years of being a counselor for HIV positive youth back in San Francisco. I called Allesandra and she told me about breakup club. One rule of Break Up Club is “No Snooping.” I drove away from Spike’s that night and never came back. I lied to the group and told the girls I found Herpes medication because I was terrified of their judgement of me and of Spike. I arrived early to her house to set up chairs and boil hot water and open wine. It helped me stay busy.
At breakup club, we cry into our cups and try to move on even when we find that we cannot. Breakup club cheered me on when I ran a marathon and when I booked a shampoo commercial in Prague. “Stay busy,” the girls said. I picked up shifts at The Whiskey. I got tested for HIV. But busy doesn’t heal a broken heart— it only clutters it with chatter.