I am a big fan of a few of the deadly sins. I have lust in my heart for men—and for women, like former President Carter. I have from time to time been wrathful. I am often slothful, though I prefer to call it “procrastinating.” I can be alternately gluttonous and prideful, though I don’t take pride in my gluttony. I don’t have much avarice, unless you’re talking about the subset for possessions, in which case I can think of a few handbags and rooftop apartments I’d like to get my avaricious little fingers on.
This story, though, this one is about jealousy.
I was quite the pariah in high school, even before I became the slut I became. I just didn’t fit in—I was the quintessential hip peg in a square school (I was the first person in my school to wear designer jeans. “Who’s Calvin KlEEn and why is his name on your butt?” one girl asked me). And like most adolescent oddsters, I had that invisible forcefield around me that kept people from wanting to befriend me; one person had the fecklessness to become my friend, however; her name was Kim.
Kim was, in short, pretty much everything I wanted to be. Willowy and 5’9”, she had a delicate dusky rosy beauty; caramel highlights shot her chestnut hair, freckles dusted her perfect nose, size seven shoes clad her narrow feet. She had traveled. She could speak French. She lived with a perfect younger sister and a perfect younger brother and perfect parents (her father a world-renowned doctor) who gave her both rules and leniency in a perfect three-story log cabin decorated with antiques. She wore her great-grandmother’s petticoats and chemises as outerclothing. She looked charming.
She could dance. She could draw. She could be sarcastic. She was sweet and giving and as much as I adored her, I was consumed with jealousy for her. I was jealous of her family, her body, her gifts, her life. She was just…so…perfect.
For example, when she lost her virginity it was not to someone in the front seat of a truck in a semi-drunken stupor. It was after an outdoors Mozart concert, while on a blanket under the stars. She was not loaded on PBR; she was slightly buzzed on white wine and strawberries. She was not partially stripped of her down coat and Levis; she was tenderly removed of aforementioned great-grandmother’s vintage undergarments by her loving boyfriend. The defloration cherry on the hymen-popping cake? She had an orgasm.
Kim’s life was so perfect that she came when she lost her virginity. It still—almost thirty years later—fries my proverbial ass to think of that. And lest you think she lied or was mistaken, I’m relatively sure she neither did nor was. She knew full well what an orgasm was—we both had vibrators and orgasms and talked at length about them—and I had never seen evidence of her being deceptive.
I, however, I couldn’t be trusted as far as you could throw me.
Kim was a year older than I, and so she went to college during my senior year of high school. She went to UVM, close to where we both lived, and she invited me often to parties or to hang out with her. Her first month in school, Kim started talking up this guy named Michael. He was perfect for me, she said. He was sexy—he was all about sex—but he was also smart and caring and athletic and the whole kit and adjective caboodle that girls pile on about the guys they like.
After a month or so, Kim shifted her talk from how great Michael was for me to how great Michael was for her. Within a couple of weeks, she was talking about how in love they were, how he kissed the inky spots that she left on her fingers and called them her “Kim tracks.” He was, of course, perfect; I know, because I met him.
The first time we met, I don’t remember. I do remember, however, that I was struck enough that I finagled a night out with the car just so that I could drop by Kim’s dorm room, which happened to be on the same floor as Michael’s, when I knew full well that Kim was out of town. I spent the night talking with Michael, listening to his eighteen-year-old pretension while I gave him my seventeen-year-old own and a long back rub. We didn’t kiss, but I touched his back from his head to his ass-cleft, kneading with my strong bread-baking hands his Frisbee-player muscles, and making up for technique with an excess of verve and bullshit.
I never told Kim about the back massage. It was like Tony Rocky Horror’s massaging Marcellus Wallace’s wife’s feet. There’s no sex in it, but it’s pretty intimate, and so I never told her, nor did Michael. It was our little highly erotically charged secret.
A year later, I was in college, the same college as Kim, though we had fallen out from being very close friends. Somehow I ran into Michael—I think it was near the dance center where I had started taking class. Somehow that run-in turned into a date and somehow I ended up spending a night under the tight eaves of his very charming attic apartment, drinking red wine and fucking to Keith Jarrett’s Kohn Concert album.
I don’t remember much about the sex. I remember that I wanted to like it very, very much. I wanted it desperately to live up to its year-delayed hype, the many, many orgasms I’d given myself to the idea of Michael’s vaguely Dan Fogleburg-soulful brown eyes looking into mine as the scruff of his chin brushed not uncomfortably against my pussy mound. I wanted it to be good sex, and maybe it was, but probably it wasn’t.
It’s hard for anything to live up to that much hype, especially when you’re under twenty and have unfathomably high expectations and very little solid knowledge. But we kissed and we fucked and we licked one another’s privates and it went on for quite a while.
When I look back on it now, I see that Michael worked the emo-boy act before there was one. His shtick was extreme genuineness, a kind of earthsome earnestness that was embodied in the way that he planted his avocado seeds and recycled before there was real recycling. He had the kind of chicory mellow voice that could make you believe pretty much anything, and I’m guessing that I was not the only girl who found her way into his bed to fornicate to the mellow jazz stylings of Mr. Jarrett. It was clearly his go-to album, and one only has a go-to anything if one has gone there before and seen that it works.
We never talked after that night that in the moment seemed very romantic, very steeped in lace-curtain, chipped-pottery tea, and now in the cold light of memory seems kind of pre-packaged and pro forma. He never called me, and I never called him. I suppose I wanted to, but I didn’t, and in no small part because as much as I felt jealous of Kim, I also felt guilt for fucking her boyfriend.
I fucked Michael because he was perfect, in part, but I fucked him more because he was Kim’s. Because finally I had something I could do that would give me access to her life, to her slender and romantic existence, to her magical world. I fucked Michael because I was jealous of Kim and angry that she had all this goodness while I had nothing that I could see.
Of course he told her. Kim called me up and wailed into the phone that I had ripped out her heart and stomped on it in my stiletto heels. I suppose, in a way, I had, though both the ripping and the heels were metaphoric. Her heart, though, that was literal, and I had hurt it.
I betrayed her trust. It’s not something I feel good about; even now there remains the residual granules of guilt. But what’s worse is that I did it not because I had to fuck him, but because I had to fuck her. And that it’s taken me all these years to realize that.
Jealousy. Lust. Wrath. And a soupcon of avarice. Four out of seven in one fell swoop.