sex diaries

The Artist Who Likes Sex in Bar Bathrooms

Photo: James Gallagher

This week, a woman trying to leave a toxic relationship by meeting up with random men: 29, painter/writer, straight, Red Hook, “almost” single.

7:48 a.m. I jolt awake from another dream-slash-nightmare about my boyfriend B’s ex-wife, who, in my imagination, is a weird cross between ’90s Katie Holmes and my fourth-grade math teacher. I’m going to be late for work again …

10:02 a.m. I sit at my desk in Nolita trying to write something Twitter won’t actively hate. I’m already over it. I need to get B on the phone to ask if I can see other people. He’s older, frantically busy, volatile, and undergoing an increasingly acrimonious divorce from a woman he loved for over a decade. They still live together. He says he’s trying to make time for me, but I haven’t gotten laid in a month.

11:30 a.m. I glance at my phone and see a message from B. Apparently, his ex has sent him a particularly brutal text. He asks if he can forward it to me. Soon, I’m a paragraph deep into another woman’s achingly raw testimony of the emotional abuse she’s suffered at his hands for the past ten years. My chest tightens. I can and can’t believe what I’m reading — the fights, the failures, his restless self-absorption. This isn’t a text, it’s a report. I recognize cruel, emergent shadows of her pain in our story, too — moments he made me cry on purpose, concerned whispers from friends, the kind of palpable jealousy I was growing less content to ignore. I need to call my sister. He can’t be my boyfriend anymore — six months is both too long and too short an amount of time to waste on hollow danger.

1:08 p.m. I stand outside around the corner from the office and shout this morning’s drama over the phone to my sister, who is unreservedly ecstatic at the prospect of B’s departure from my life. He’s distracting you, she reminds me.

7:48 p.m. I sit at a German restaurant in Bed Stuy across from my best friend, fingering the lip of my third gin & tonic. I give her the rundown, grasping at every rhetorical device I can summon in an effort to make my disappointment funny, or at least amusingly scandalous. Her pained expression lets me know that my attempts have failed.

11: 54 p.m. Clumsy and booze-numb, I collapse onto my rickety Amazon bed.


11:45 a.m. I glance at my phone every two minutes. I have astonishingly limited interest in writing listicles today.

2:04 p.m. My sister texts me from her job in the Upper East Side to ask if I have a plan of action to break up with B. I do not. I need a coffee. I need a cocktail.

7:50 p.m. We’ll grab a drink and talk after he gets off work, B says. It will be my responsibility to end things, so I do my best to look devastating. I put on  a dress and the lipstick he likes. I pour a handsome pull of 115 proof vodka an ex left at my apartment months ago.

11:00 p.m.  B’s kid is in the E.R. She broke her finger. Can he just call me after?

1:45 a.m. On the phone, he cries, I don’t. We agree to leave each other alone as best we can. I hang up, open Tinder, and swipe until I find a comedian-cum-office temp who gladly pays for my Uber to some badly lit place in Bushwick. I absolutely refuse to waste this outfit. I text every unsaved number I’ve left dormant since meeting B the same picture of my tits from, what, 2016? Whichever year of my 20s I was thinnest.

2:45 a.m. Like most comedians, he isn’t all that charming up close. It’s too dark for me to ascertain whether or not he’s cute. I laugh absentmindedly at his jokes while I pour enough Tito’s down my throat to stun a medium-sized rhino. I wait until his nerves subside, and then kiss him on the neck and ask when we’re heading back to his place. Back at his apartment, I weep silently while he goes down on me. He hasn’t taken his shirt off, which should have tipped me off to how ill-equipped he’d be in this department. Why don’t guys know how cunnilingus works in 2019? At least I don’t have to look at him. I’m so liquored up I can’t really feel his fumblings, anyway. A framed picture of his recent ex-girlfriend stares vacantly at me from his bed-side table.

4:00 a.m. I don’t drunk-dial B.


9:38 a.m. I am so hungover my teeth ache. I’m late to work, but not disastrously, which I count as a triumph. I trawl online advice columns and wait for the iced mocha I’m chugging to make any discernible difference in my cognition. Via OKCupid, I learn that a red-haired Californian in town for work wants to tie me up and flog me in his hotel room. Fine, I guess. How pathetically comforted I am by a notification that reads, “Someone likes you.”

2:30 p.m. If I don’t take a lunch break, I can get home at 5:30 and change before meeting this slap-happy ginger man. High-waisted black panties to contain my booze-bloat, a black pencil skirt my mother bought me for job interviews, an off-the-shoulder crop top that looks better with no bra.

11:34 p.m. He is clinically attractive, boring, and clearly intimidated. Almost immediately, he starts to neg me about my “stupid” art writing job, my “enormous” height, my “pretentious” vocabulary. He’ll make for a good story later, so I stay. He switches from beer to whiskey on the rocks. This goes badly; he vomits on the street outside one of my favorite bars. I hold his hair back with one hand and consider the way his tight stomach flexes under his T-shirt. 


10:45 a.m. I text B about the vomiting ginger, largely because I think he’ll laugh, but also because I know this fits his impression of me as a wild girl with untouchable darkness that sparkles under low light. Why am I texting him? We left things open to friendship, but neither of us wants that. I must be trying to prove my indifference, partially to him, partially to myself. B tries to pretend he thinks it’s funny, but can’t hide his concern. It never occurred to me that he’d find that anecdote worrying.

2:05 p.m. My boss isn’t in, so I hop to the bar across the street for my lunch break to meet some finance guy I’ve been sexting for the past 24 hours. We’ve agreed that I will get him off in a bathroom but I suspect he will be too chicken to show up. I am correct.

9:58 p.m. I arrive alone, bottle in hand, at the Airbnb I’ve rented in Brooklyn Heights for the night. The memory of B has begun to haunt my apartment, so a change of scenery seems appropriate. I can’t afford it, however, so I put it on a credit card I have zero business stretching to this kind of limit. I pour myself a gin and tonic, strip, and proceed to take a smattering of well-lit nudes before my hookup arrives. I’ve been stress-eating, and I can see some new pink stretch-marks on my lower stomach. I carefully Facetune them away before distributing my smut.

1:47 a.m. I can’t remember what this guy does for a living. Lawyer, maybe? He’s reluctant to fuck, which is strange, since we had sex  six months ago, so we watch old episodes of Queer Eye on my laptop while he drifts in and out of sleep on my shoulder. Men often tell me  that they feel comfortable around me, and safe. When he wakes up, I notice that my skin is damp with his tears. He divulges nothing, and I don’t ask what he’s crying about. I let him stay the night, clinging to me like a worry doll, and pretend I don’t hear him leave before the sun comes up.


12:30 p.m. I’m drying off from the shower and see a missed call from B. We planned to get together this week, mostly at my behest. I’m not sure what I want. Not a fight. Closure, maybe? Do I miss him? I shouldn’t. He wants to grab dinner, which is unusual for us; most of our relationship took place in bars long after dark, the kind of publicly clandestine meet ups of the woefully mismatched. He got me something for my birthday. Tonight? Tonight. I don’t tell my friends about my plans, as they’d fight me for the chance to break my phone. There hasn’t been a day this week that a loved one hasn’t reminded me that the man I dated for the past six months is a monster. I’ve got to let this go.

9:16 p.m. B looks drawn and haunted, but gorgeous, as always. He’s slighter than the men I typically date — close shoulders, nervous hands, a sly, knowing smile. His job makes him a night person; I’ve grown accustomed to his face by candle-light. We talk, we laugh, we grin at each other anxiously. He passes me a beautiful book across the table, and I thank him effusively. He’s quiet. “Is this weird?,” he sighs, finally. Here it comes.

10:48 p.m. We’re standing on a street corner while I watch him smoke. He could use a script, but prefers to improvise, vacillating between apologies and professions of gratitude. His eyes well up as he asks me if I still think he’s handsome. I kiss him so he can’t talk, then announce that I’m going to the bar next door for a night cap should he want to accompany me. He protests, but complies. “I don’t want you to hate me,” he insists. “I’m afraid of your judgement.”  This has to be the vaguest breakup on record.

11:32 p.m. He hugs me from behind while I wait for our drinks. I crane my neck to kiss his head, drinking in his soft gray curls for what very well might be the last time. I hit on him, mostly to keep things upbeat, but he turns me down. He then bolts through the entrance, openly sobbing under streetlights as he marches home, offering nothing in the way of a formal good-bye. Minutes later, he reappears to apologize for his hasty exit. He cries into my parted mouth. “You’re being so reasonable about all this,” he gulps. “You didn’t give me much of choice,” I reply.


11:45 a.m. I should be making paintings for the shows I’ve got coming up. I should be meeting my deadlines, I should be practicing “self-care,” whatever the fuck that is, I should call my father. Instead, I’m getting ready to meet a stranger, the Tinder Bartender, at his work so I can get drunk enough to suck his dick, because if my mouth is full, I can’t hear myself lie.

2 p.m. The Tinder Bartender is busy. He’s also awkward and plainer than advertised. When he does speak to me, he seethes with resentment at his clientele. He makes me three stiff gin cocktails, which I suck down on a stomach I don’t realize is empty until I’m uncomfortably drunk. I run to the falafel spot next door and inhale a pita stuffed with something unidentifiable. I fall asleep on the train home and miss my stop.

9:06 p.m. I wake up to a series of strange, declarative texts from the Tinder Bartender. He was impressed by the neckline of my dress, and the fact that I look like my pictures. He then asks me for help compiling a writing portfolio…


8 a.m. My alarm goes off. I’ve got two drafts due to different editors tonight and a painting waiting for a second coat. I also have to haul ass to a gallery in Harlem and retrieve two little sculptures I made months ago, one of which involves a deeply felt portrayal of B’s right eye. I need to stop making men my muses.

6:45 p.m. I’ve slithered my way back to Red Hook and ordered some dumplings. What on Earth am I going to tell my therapist in an hour? She’ll be incredulous, at best, and she’ll give me the same advice she always does. Put down your phone; concentrate on yourself. Never has that advice felt more relevant.

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The Artist Who Likes Sex in Bar Bathrooms