“This kind of sucks!”
That’s all I could come up with, as I drove up I-95 North back towards the City. Behind me, the Washington Monument stood tall and majestic against the fast-fading Washington, D.C. backdrop.
“It does sort of look like a penis,” I thought, if you looked at it long enough, but visualizing penises had never really been my thing. I turned my attention back to what had irked me to begin with.
It all started two days beforehand. Chula and Dustin had invited our group of merry-go-drinkers down to D.C. for a weekend of doing what we do best, which is imbibe in some of the best cocktails known to man. This was a circle of friends that I didn’t mind being a part of. There was Chula and Dustin, the couple and glue of the group. I had known Chula long before I met Dustin, but Dustin and I became fast friends. Chula was Peruvian and hot as hell, but I had never hit on her, though I can’t say the same for everyone in the group. James was immoral and very much non-committed to anyone, but I liked him just the same. I had seen him eyeing Chula for years, and he often made sly comments when Dustin wasn’t around. Still he was harmless (at least to her). James and I watched soccer matches together up in Brooklyn. Funny guy, super smart and pretty successful. I think James knew Dustin first though I remember hearing some story about a picture, Chula, and a friendship. My guess is James only befriended D because he thought his woman was attractive. Don’t’ bristle, guys do this kind of thing all of the time.
Aside from James and myself there was Amber who worked on the Hill and claimed she knew Monica Lewinsky because they both had interned at the White House together; though I’m not sure that was the calling card you should be dropping. She was actually a brilliant political strategist of some sort, and her ideas just got better the more we drank. She was cute. I liked her as much as I liked most women. We had slept together a couple of times, but I wouldn’t say we were best friends. We enjoyed each other’s company and that’s not a bad thing.
Dustin had these two girls that used to work at the same bar with him, named Angela and Jewel; ultimate party girls and pure fun. Personally I thought Amber wore too much make-up and I promise Jewel was a guy in her past life. She had so much game for women that I sometimes had to sit back and just admire her. They loved Dustin to death (threesome I assume, but who cares), and if we all ever got into an argument they were always on his side.
This was us. The East Coast Party Crew. Dustin and Chula had seamlessly managed to merge their two inner circles and this appeared to be a seven-way match made in heaven.
At least that’s how it was for a while.
Two days earlier the band had gotten together to have some fun. Things were amiss from the start. Dustin and Chula kept arguing and that was never a part of their relationship. Angela and Jewel kind of tried to make light of the situation, which only seemed to piss Chula off more. A couple of F bombs later and it was official, we were headed the way of Aerosmith.
We managed to make it (somehow) through the first night but things were never going to be the same.
“He’s been cheating on her for years,” Amber told me as she and I and James sipped wine at her place.
“So,” I replied, “Why is she still with him?” Secretly I wondered why Chula never told me this. Was that a twinge of jealousy I just felt, I remember thinking? Most of my friends told me when they had problems and though it bothered me most of the time, I was always glad to help. Chula had always declared this a “no drama zone” so perhaps she just thought it would be best to keep it to herself, I reasoned.
“He got some woman in Richmond pregnant,” was Amber’s reply.
Well damn. Talk about fast and furious.
“Oh really.” James perked up. He smelled blood in the water and I knew it was a matter of time before he was giving Chula the “comfort call.”
Inside I knew what was coming next. I debated on throwing my bag back in the car and just driving back to New York.
This wasn’t going to be a pleasant trip for anyone.
The next day all hell broke loose.
By the time we got to Dustin and Chula’s the cops had already arrived. No one hit anyone, but there were enough Disturbances of the Peace and Destruction of Property charges to go around. Angela and Jewel were in Chula’s face. Amber tried to defend Chula. I tried to break it up and I believe, though I’m not certain, Jewel took a swing at me; while James tried to talk Chula down. Dustin for his part remained pretty cool. I think the man was done with the relationship and there was no turning back.
An hour later they both were in jail, booked on misdemeanor DOP charges. Both were released on PR bonds and ordered to stay away from each other.
Now as I drove back home, I reflected on all of the good times we had together; the trip to Negril, Cape Cod, the Outer Banks in NC; it was one nice ride, but now it was over. We had been a fun group, probably had another three or four good years left in the tank together but now two selfish, self-centered individuals had to go and break us up. In that instant, I knew how Ringo and George must’ve felt, when John and Paul set the castle ablaze.
It did really suck.
But then as I drove, I realized that when you’re friends with a couple amongst a circle of people, you go as they go. When they’re up, you’re up, when they’re down, you’re down. When they break up, well you all break up. I thought about Amber for a moment. Would I really want her to come up to New York to visit me? Probably not. I thought about James, would we still watch matches together? Maybe. We had somehow managed to leave the circle years ago, so if we wanted to connect, we would.
I thought about Chula. She hadn’t even told me about Dustin so I had to question the depth of our relationship. I’d leave the ball in her court. Dustin, Angela, and Jewel…I knew we would never see each other again, at least not as we were.
The Washington Monument was gone now. “Sweet Emotion” was on the radio.
It was a good run, but now it was over.
Stay thirsty my friends.
“She gave me Herpes!”
The voice on the other end was high pitched and cracking as it spoke. I hadn’t even been able to get out a “Greg how’s it going?”
Greg was in a panic, which he did quite often, but this time there just might be some validity to it.
“Dude calm down. What happened?”
“This chick gave me herpes bro. How f@&*ing calm do you want me to be?”
“How do you know?”
“Because she told me. What am I going to do?”
I sat down on the couch and took a long swig of my Jack and Coke.
Whoa. She told you.
I have always considered myself lucky in terms of STD’s because frankly I’ve never had one. I think all of my closest friends at some point or another have told me that they’ve been “burned” or whatever, but luckily it never happened to me. And that’s a minor miracle in itself. I took unfathomable risks and chances either out of some sort of mental block, death wish, or just plain ol’ stupidity. Of course I’m much more cautious these days but as a young guy in my 20’s condoms and sexual responsibility just weren’t part of my ideology.
And apparently, for Greg now in his 40s, it wasn’t a part of his either.
I poured another drink. This might take a while I thought.
Greg was a late bloomer. He had always been a pudgy fellow and women weren’t exactly beating down his door. However about five years ago he decided to get involved in this whole P90X workout, started running, changed his diet and the weight started falling off quickly. In a relatively short period of time, he transformed himself into a dude who could easily pass for a GQ model, albeit a much older and seasoned version.
Women came calling and Greg thoroughly enjoyed his new lifestyle. Had I known he was going to be so irresponsible, I would’ve probably sat him down and talked to him about sex and showed him the proper way to put on a condom….
Okay, maybe that went a little too far, but you get where I’m coming from. Dude was behind and needed a crash course to catch up.
But meanwhile, back to the herpes.
“What exactly did she say?”
“She said I need to tell you something. I have herpes. And then she told me about how when she was in college this guy had given it to her and you know. She’s been living with it.” Greg’s voice had calmed a bit.
“What did you say?” I had to ask the question.
“Nothing. You call me because you think this chick gave you herpes. How about you asking her why she didn’t tell you to begin with?”
I knew that wasn’t the most helpful thing to say, I’ll admit and there wasn’t’ much positivity to come out of that comment, but I just went with my gut.
“But she did tell me. She told me when I first met her.” Greg’s voice trailed off, like a kid who had been caught stealing in a grocery store and now had to call home.
I took a long swig from my bottle of Jack. Straight up.
“Wait let me get this straight. She told you she had Herpes and you still slept with her without a condom and you’re surprised you have it?”
Greg was silent. “G. Bad move bro. Bad move.” Still silence.
I took a seat next to the window and glanced down at the traffic below. The fact is the woman had done everything she was supposed to do. She was forthcoming and honest. G on the other hand was dumb and blinded by lust (I just had to say that). They both acted irresponsibility all things considered but I didn’t need to go into all of that with G at this point. The guy was already under enough stress.
“What did the doctor say?” I finally asked.
“Haven’t gone yet.”
“So how do you know you have herpes?”
“Because she has it. I slept with her without a condom and that means I have it.”
“Not necessarily,” I interjected.
I could hear Greg perk up. I’m not an M.D., but I did know a little bit about herpes and STDs in general. I gave Greg the rundown, explaining that exposure doesn’t always mean you’ll get it. Ultimately he needed to see the doctor in a few weeks and get tested. I also suggested that he talk to his lady friend and tell her to go get tested for any other STDs.
When I was done, I felt like how my 7th grade health teacher must’ve felt after we watched “The Miracle of Life;” relieved and hopeful, yet ultimately pessimistic.
Eventually we hung up; after I agreed I would get tested as well. I knew my status already but I didn’t mind supporting my friend.
The next day I went and had my tests done. My doctor looked at me strangely when I told him what I wanted. I had just had a complete physical a couple of months before and I was no longer playing a game of sexual Russian Roulette. Still, I don’t think you ever really get comfortable taking HIV and STD tests no matter what. At least I don’t.
A few days later my results arrived and as I knew, I was all systems cleared.
Greg on the other hand had yet to be tested. His female friend however had agreed to also get tested for any other diseases.
A few days later, Greg called me ecstatic. She was negative for everything else. I could only imagine how much stress the poor guy was under. I remembered those days and was glad they were behind me. I was tempted to ask him did he sleep with her again without protection, but decided I didn’t want to hear the answer. And Greg had already demonstrated that he was fine with a momentary lapse of reasoning.
The weeks went by and one day Greg showed up at my place, with a bottle of champagne in hand. He didn’t have herpes or anything else. We drank champagne and cracked jokes about the whole thing.
But then in a moment of clarity, Greg turned to me and said, “You know D. I think I’m going to marry that woman.” I was drunk so anything I said would’ve come out wrong. Instead, I just grinned and said, “Okay.”
A year later they were married and have been for the past three years.