Things My Exes Left Behind: Lavender Lotion Scented With Heartache

Sometimes your ex leaves more than a broken heart and an aversion to Neko Case. This is part 2 of my series documenting the things my exes have left behind.

The nurse gave me the nod and I lifted the phone to my ear. My mother exhaled. And then nothing—the static-y silence that arose between us seemed a more treacherous distance to traverse than all the cities and forest wildfires that separated our physical bodies.

"Do you want to come home?" This was a routine we knew by heart.

"I can't. I'm on a lease."

"Okay. But you can."

"I know. I'm sorry. I'll get better."

"Call me when you get out."

"That might be a while."

"I hope so."

I sat on my cot and jotted lopsided pinball machine designs. I refused a sleeping aid, working through the night to make a list of everyone I had wronged by trying to hurt myself (i.e. everybody) and what I could do to adequately make it up to them (i.e. nothing).

I'd give my roommate a case of diet coke. I'd teach my friend how to do a hurricanrana. I'd get a good job so I could help pay for my little brother to go to college.

And if you all look under your seats, you'll find a placatory bribe of your own! Woo! Cut to commercial and let's not ever talk about this again.

Suicide is a game of Mystery Date where all your dates are the absolute worst or absolute best sides of the people in your life. And you never get the same game twice, no matter how well you know the person on the other side.

Your best friend suddenly asks you to cease contact with them. Your roommate asks you to move out. A college classmate you haven't seen in 8 years sends you money for psychiatric meds until you're back on your feet.

It's hard to tell who will be on your side—or who's side you'll be on.

Sometimes you reach out to someone at their lowest, at their most vulnerable, and your love helps pull them safely to shore. They get better, and you have coffee dates and hold hands when laughing at jokes. You're both just so grateful for the chance to become this close, alive together in the moment. You don't mind the cost it came at.

And sometimes you reach out to someone you love—yes, I said love, and I'm sorry I couldn't say it to you then—and do everything you can to help them. You feed them, you clothe them, you help them undress to take a shower because they can't even get out of bed on their own. And as soon as they're better they run off to Santa Cruz and never speak to you again.

I met "Luna" in an Eritrean coffee shop in Temescal. It looked good on paper. They were younger, interested in service bottoming, and had hopes to move out of their mother's house and be a live-in submissive. I was older and owned a lot of boots. We made do.

I used to pull my hand away from theirs when we were in shops because I was afraid I seemed a braggart, to have such a young and beautiful androgyne carrying my bags and opening my doors.

I worked as a tech support stooge. They sold organic, cruelty-free lotions to small business supermarkets. Our relationship was a bad Amazon erotic novel and I wanted to write the first draft on their supple, easily-bruised skin. Which did not come from the aforementioned lotions.

They would offer them to me with a sort of embarrassed "I know, what a stupid thing but it's a job, yanno?" I would roll my eyes and close my laptop and say "Gosh, this fucking thing is killing me, we should just run away and start a BDSM commune in the redwoods."

We did our best to try and stick to the script of May/December slapstick.

They were the age I was when I came out and transitioned. There is no shame in an age gap and I defy you to scandalize me. I once turned down a date with a 65-year-old woman in cat-eye glasses named Peggy Sue and it remains one of my greatest regrets. Physical and emotional intimacy between two people of different generations can be empowering, enlivening and really hot.

That said: Looking back I can see how dressing them in my old shirts and painting their nails with the first polish I ever bought for myself may have compounded their shame around needing to be cared for.

"Comfort" is hardly objective. I bake cookies and bring out the color books because that's what would comfort me—if I could let people in and let them take care of me.

They had called me at work, crying. They didn't feel safe on their own. They wanted to die and needed to be somewhere they couldn't die. I brought them to my house. I put their rats on my bookshelf and I held them and told them it was OK and it wasn't their fault. Stay with me as long as you need.

I didn't have all my shit together. I still haven't completed my first record. I occasionally call myself names in front of a mirror. But I had a chance to be the older dyke who brings in a vulnerable youth and teaches them the value of self-compassion through strawberry pancakes.

I would come into the dining room to find them just staring out the window, not having touched their food. Can I put a record on? Do you want me to run you a shower? It's going to be OK.

Here, take some gas money if you're gonna run errands today. I packed you a lunch. And maybe when you get back we can talk about you seeing a therapist, maybe? I know a good—

And that's the last time I saw them, officer.

They didn't even take their lavender lotion with them. I put it on my skin for a week after they left, hoping that it would bring me some sort of stop-gap solace until they forgave me and came back. It didn't. It just smelled bad.

Still, I hold onto it. Both as a reminder, a gentle plea for moderation in my motherly affections, and just in case a girl who stays the night sometime in the future really really likes lavender and pictures of apes.

In every bed and breakfast operator there is a polyamorous dyke clawing their way out ever so slowly.

Sometimes "saving a life" means you risk being cut from it. I fucked up, maybe, but they are still out there and if I had anything to do with it I will consider that a win.

But it's a risk I am reticent to take with my mother, or any of my partners. I want to, I really do—to lay on my mother's couch or my girlfriend's lap and wake up after the world's ended (again).

It would make for a nice story, but not necessarily one that we could tell together, however much we'd want to.

Those of us with suicidal tendencies fight through the heights of emotional excruciation to keep our loved ones and also, I feel, to keep it away from our loved ones.

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