No.1b “How to surf the pulse”

Lizzy DiSanto

The Manic Manual

[Ed.'s Note: Welcome to “The Manic Manual”, a first hand look into mental health, specifically manic depression, through a series of stories told by Lizzy DiSanto. The narrative began last week in No.1a, released from a mental hospital DiSanto takes to the streets of Boston, Allston to be exact. At a show she encounters Julian Hamburger. We pick up No.1b of “How to surf the pulse” with DiSanto once again in the company of Hamburger, this time at a house show with a jealous groupie standing in her way of Hamburger.]

And now, here he is again. The area of the basement where we are standing has better light and Julian is absolutely beautiful. Nadia, the girl whose house is hosting tonight's show is standing near him, shielding him almost. She follows him around, a nervously doting groupie who invited Julian to stay at her house. Nadia helped set up Julian's show last night. She wanted to fuck Julian Hamburger so she fucked Julian Hamburger. He had been living with her for at least a week. I don't find any of this out until later. For now, Nadia is talking about cats, abortion and cat abortions or something. She is so short that I can hold my camera at my chest and point it at her while Julian and I make the eyes at each other. Nadia talks as Julian makes a dick-in-the-cheek gesture behind her, which makes me laugh. I ask him if he wants to have a cigarette outside. Smoking is perfectly permissible in the basement but I want to figure him out and get him all to myself. I am still manic so I have succeeded in drawing him to me like a drunk moth to boozy flame. I'm not a Julian Hamburger groupie like Nadia and I am all about myself right now. Still clocking if Julian is sending real “fuck me” vibes, or if I just have an audience to externalize my mania, I tell jokes and hog the conversation, smoking cigarettes while gesticulating wildly, all hyper and excited. I am on. He sits down, looks up at me and laughs. “You're funny”, he muses. We go inside and he offers me some of the red wine in the bottle that he has been clutching to his chest. I feel so touched by his generosity. I ask him if he likes klonopin. Of course he does. Julian Hamburger first smoked weed when he was 8 years old. He started doing heroin when he was 10. Downers are his get down.

Julian mentions that there's a cool porch in this house and asks me if I would like to go and see it with him. Sure, I tell him, but Nadia won't have any of that. We get upstairs to Nadia's room—me, Julian and Nadia—and she is tending and befriending her raging jealousy. I am too loaded to notice. She talks about books and shows me her collection. Since the porch is forbidden I ask Julian if he'd like to hang out in the room. We sit down cross-legged on the floor and I tell him that I want to play a game. I put a klonopin tablet on my tongue and try to put it on Julian's tongue with my tongue. He is supposed to do it back to me.

The game has a catch: the pill is melting away in our shared serum. Oh no! It's just our tongues touching now! No worries—I have plenty of pills to practice with until we get it just right. Hypersexuality, also called nymphomania, is one the hallmark traits of mania and while I have a poor self-image, I have charmed Julian enough that I can at least hope for a make out. Julian is too beautiful to want to sleep with me, I think. I had only been with two guys: my first boyfriend (who was 31, I was 18) and an Allston acquaintance earlier in the summer. The show candy game is spontaneous but it is at least effective. We sneak away and smoke more of my cigarettes. Julian begins to tell me that, “the girl whose room this is…is, like, sending me really bad vibes. She wants to bring a guy in the room. She wants me to leave. I don't know. I don't have anywhere to go. I don't know. She's telling me to leave.” He hugs himself in his sweater. I play right into his manipulation.

“I live about seven minutes away from here”, I tell him. “You can crash at my place. I know what it's like to be somewhere and feel like people want you to leave.” It's generalized empathy that feels bigger and pertinent because I'm manic. I'm not thinking that he wants to sleep with me. We make a plan to buy a blunt and smoke with a friend. As we go from the show house, we cross the streets. It is late night thus it is early morning. The neon Allston streets burn bright with insomniac promises. Julian takes my hand as we cross Brighton Avenue and continue down Harvard Avenue. “I'm sorry”, Julian apologizes. “I didn't mean to imply anything.” “Oh, that's okay”, I offer. “My dad still holds my hand when I cross the street and I'm 21.” The glaring uncoolness of that statement perches in the air until I ask him, “What would that imply?” We share a gaze and look away. It's an answer that so obvious it doesn't even need an answer.

The plan for the blunt is scrapped once we make it to my street. We get to my porch and as I'm getting out my keys, Julian cups my face with both hands and pulls me in for a kiss. I have to stand on my toes while trying to kiss him back and unlock the door. I am genuinely surprised. I still somehow thought that he just needed a place to stay. Luckily my bedroom is the first room in the apartment but I don't have a bed. Sometimes I “punished” myself when I was depressed by sleeping on the hardwood floor. During an Allston bedbugs scare I decided to throw away my whole bed despite never having an issue with bedbugs. It made for easy justification. During my manic state at the show, I had forgotten that my room is my sanctuary of sadness and now I have company. We decide to take a shower. We take off our clothes and Julian fucks me behind while bending me over the bathroom sink. We fuck on the bathroom floor. He tries to fuck me standing up but even though I am 5’9” I again have to stand on my tip toes. We get in the tub and he strokes my legs as I recline. We shower and I wash his hair. I stare into his eyes and I am absolutely transfixed. We get out of the shower and dry off. Julian says that he wants to go down on me. I let him. One of my roommates knocks on the bathroom door and asks if I'm okay. I let him know that I'm alright through the door while I gasp and moan. Some good that shower did. We are dirty, horny manic fuckrats.

The blankets and pillows on my bedroom floor are sufficient and we resume our carnal efforts. I ride him. “Sit on my face”, he demands and I say, “Okay”; I go back to riding him. It's been three minutes and Julian hasn't come yet. I am not used to this so I grow despondent and pretending that I'm crying. I bury my face into my pillow. “Am I doing something wrong? Am I not hot”, I ask him. “I was withholding it so that it would last longer”, Julian says. That is all the validation that I need. I straddle him again, this time verbally demanding, “You're gonna come, huh? You're gonna come? I'm gonna make you come, huh?” Not only does Julian come but he gives me my first orgasm during sex. The crescendo of pleasure tires me out. I had never had sex during a manic state, let alone had somebody give me an orgasm. Burroughs was right: perhaps pleasure is a relief from tension.

Julian rolls over on his back. “I want to rape you…in a good way.” His eyes are closed and he cannot see that the remark literally makes my jaw drop. Nevertheless, we continue our consensual romp until we are both tired. Julian falls asleep and begins snoring viciously. I nudge him hard with my elbow. I'm used to sleeping alone.

I wake up before Julian in the morning to get cigarettes and hot apple cider from Dunkin Donuts. I see my upstairs neighbors. They are cheerful and apparently, on acid. I learn later that my roommate was also on acid. He knocked on the door because he was afraid that I had drowned in the bathtub. “I just kept thinking about how deep that bathtub is and how you had been in the bathroom for such a long time.”

I wasn't drowning in the tub but maybe I was drowning in everything else: loneliness, suicide, pills, death, drugs; drowning in myself. I drowned in Julian. I thought that night that Julian must have been crazy to want a girl like me. I find out later that Julian is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (manic depression and a milder form of schizophrenia) and a personality disorder “not otherwise specified.” As with many experiences I've had with manic depression, I somehow managed to make it out alive. These days, however, Julian is still drowning; committed in a mental hospital somewhere in Europe. He has been drowning for a long time and when we began a romance; we swap stories and wash in each other’s bathwater. It will sometimes be a folié a deux but we will carve out our own little world: us against the normals. Being a touring musician is a good way to try and outrun his demons, even if he picks up some new ones along the way. There are some days when the waves engulf him. Julian is a life drifter: not really living, just visiting. But for me, life is starting to feel like home. I'm planting my feet in the surf. I am here to stay. Every manic depressive—and everybody else—knows that it is too easy and too tempting to drown.

Lizzy DiSanto is a pseudonym the author assumes so her current boyfriend, Jesus Christ, does not read this and get wicked jealous.

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