I pinch my eyes again. “Yeah?”
“Even if I make you miserable?”
There’s a long pause before he murmurs, “You don’t make me miserable. You make me want to live. And I want to live with you.”
My throat closes for words. I sniff and rub my nose and wipe the last of my tears.
“Okay?” he breathes. “So about tonight, you need to tell me what happened.”
I nod to myself. Right. “These past couple of months, I’ve just been masturbating a ton. And this boat trip was supposed to be better than last time. I wasn’t supposed to turn into this compulsive monster.” I f**ked up. But telling him this is easier than I thought it would be. Probably because we were always best friends before we ever became a real and true couple.
“I couldn’t stop. I was using my vibrator and then Ryke bulldozed into my room because he was scared he was about to get raped by a sixteen-year-old girl.”
“Seriously?” he says in disbelief. I’m not sure what he’s referring to, and so my nerves jostle.
“What? Which part?” I scratch my arm.
“The part where Ryke is scared of a high school girl. What a p**sy,” he says with a laugh.
I relax. “That’s mean to say about your brother.”
“Half-brother,” Lo snaps back. Okaaay. Obviously there’s some issue going on that I’m not aware of.
“I thought you guys were cool.”
“Oh yeah,” Lo says sarcastically, “I just love being the bastard.”
I guess before Ryke showed up, Lo thought he was a child caught in a nasty divorce between his parents. Come to find out, he was the cause of their separation: a product of infidelity.
He sighs heavily. “Look, I can forgive him for lying to me because he’s been supportive of my recovery, and besides you, he’s the only person who knows what it’s like to be around my father. But he can be so f**king abrasive.”
I smile, glad we agree on something. “I know. He bugs me all the time, but I kind of have to put up with him.” Because he means well. And he’s one of the reasons we’ve reached this place. If Ryke hadn’t injected himself in our lives, I’m afraid we would have continued to enable each other.
“About that…” Lo trails off, trying to pick his words carefully. “I’m not feeling particularly loving towards him when I’m stuck here and he’s over there…” He refrains from adding with you, but I hear it anyway. “It’s just not an ideal situation.”
“You wouldn’t want to be here anyway,” I tell him. “Daisy’s friends talk nonstop. Your ears would start bleeding.”
“But I would still be with you,” he says and then lets out a frustrated groan. “I just want to hold you right now. It’s killing me.”
“Not as much as me,” I breathe.
Lo pauses. “What happened after Ryke walked in on you? He didn’t see you nak*d, did he?”
I blush. “No, no…” I quickly explain my comforter snafu and waddling to the bathroom. “I should have stopped, you know. That was the point where I should have ended my self-love for the night.”
“But you didn’t.”
I bite my fingernail to the bed. “Afterwards, I got sad. I broke down. Ryke came in and called my therapist. I talked to her and managed to stop crying. That’s it. That was my glorious night.”
“I thought you got rid of all your toys,” he says, confused. I imagine his brows furrowing and his forehead wrinkling in a bit of disapproval.
Shit. I did tell him that the first time we talked. Along with trashing my p*rn (which was the truth), I told a lie about ditching my sex toys.
“I lied,” I blurt out the truth. “But I really did throw out my porn.”
“No more lying,” Lo says roughly. “Not with each other and not with our friends. We have to do better.”
“Yeah, I know. I will. That was…that was all before I met my therapist.”
I hear him shift a little, the chair creaking.
“Are you on that ugly orange chair?” I ask.
“No, I’m in my room at my desk.”
“Oh...” I try to picture his room, and just when I’m about to ask, he pipes in.
“What did your therapist say tonight?”
I cringe. “No more self-love for me.” I press my forehead to my knees. “I think it’s going to be impossible though until you get back. It’s been so long; I can’t even imagine…” Not touching myself? Not reaching that high just once….it seems infeasible.
“How old were you when you started touching yourself?”
I kiss my kneecaps, knowing the first moment well because Dr. Banning made me dig through my memories and give it to her. “Nine, but I started doing it to p*rn at eleven after I found that magazine at your Dad’s place.”
“Okay, that’s disgusting,” he snaps. “Please never mention how you masturbated to my father’s p*rn ever again.”
“It was yours, you jackass,” I say lightly, not as offended as I should be I think.
“How do you know?”
“It was in your shoebox of p*rn on your shelf and in your closet.”
“Oh. Never mind then.”
I smile. I miss talking to him, even if our conversations aren’t normal on any standards. I don’t think we’ve ever been normal. Maybe that’s why it works.
“Well, that sounds like a solid plan,” I say. “I’ll try to minimize now, but completely eliminate self-love when you return home.”
“That’s the shittiest plan I’ve ever heard.”
“What?” I frown. This is not normal. He usually agrees with me.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m there or not. If your therapist doesn’t think it’s a good idea, then it’s probably not one.”
“But that means…I won’t be able to have any kind of sex until you come home…” My pulse speeds up in sudden fear. I know Lo is cutting alcohol completely from his life, but my therapist said that recovering sex addicts shouldn’t strive towards celibacy forever. It’s an impossible standard to maintain. Sex is a part of human nature.
“Unless it’s with me,” Lo adds.
Now I’m really confused. “I don’t understand. You’re not here. Unless you’re going to mail me a dildo of your dick,” I say hopefully.
“Uh, no. I’m not letting anyone mold my c*ck for your pleasure. You can have the real thing at the end of March.”
“Then how am I supposed to have sex?”
“What about phone sex?” Ohhhh. Wait…
“Isn’t that the same thing as me masturbating?”
“Not if you’re doing it to my voice and only my voice. That way, you know when to stop, and it’ll set up a system for you. The hardest part about recovering from sex addiction—for you, I think—is going to be establishing limits, right?”
It sounds like a really good idea, and I’m kind of surprised he came up with this on his own. “Yeah, how do you know so much about it?”
“I’ve been talking to some counselors who know a lot about addictions, some have worked with sex addicts before. They’ve been giving me some advice.”
I smile. “So can we have phone sex now?”
“What? But you just said—”
“You have to earn it.”
Huh… “That’s kind of mean.”
“I never said I would be nice. I’m done enabling you, which means we’re not going to have sex whenever you want it. You’ll have to find the strength to hold out until the time is right.”
“And you get to choose when the time is right. How is that fair?”
“I’m not the sex addict.”
Touché. “Jeez. I thought sober Lo would be nicer.”
“I’m nice when it counts,” he says. “You love me anyway.”
“I do,” I agree. “But if you wait another month before we have phone sex, I might hate you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Ryke knocks on the door frame, and I jump at his sudden presence. I forgot he was even still here. “You done? You’re killing my battery charge.”
He hates that I’m talking to Lo, but I actually feel a thousand times better. Dr. Banning must have known that he’d be the one to say the right things and in the right way to make me believe the words. He’s given me hope again. That I’ll kick this addiction. And I won’t have to be alone when I do it.
“Lo, your brother wants his phone back,” I tell him.
I smile and climb out of the bathtub.
I needed this.
“I’ll call you later. I love you.”
“Love you too.” I hand Ryke the phone with an added glare.
He touches his chest. “Hey, I called him for you.” He snatches the phone. “You shouldn’t be scowling at me. You should actually kiss my toes.”
“With this,” I say, pushing past him into the room. My comforter lies in a ball at the base of my bed. I tug the tangled blanket out and wrap up in it, hopping on the mattress. I close my eyes but can’t seem to wipe the silly grin off my face.
No more self-love, sure. I’ll probably be in a world of pain tomorrow, but for right now, I feel like I’m in the clouds.
I almost peed my pants. Ziplining should be banned from all civilized cultures. What I thought was a mild fear of heights intensified to the millionth degree as I propelled across a rainforest. Never again.
I almost had a heart attack as well. Only it spurned from watching my little sister gliding on the line completely upside down. All her friends kept yelling at me for screaming at her as she zipped headfirst over the hundred foot drop. Am I really the insane one in this scenario?
When we decide to go eat lunch back in the village, I could nearly kiss the safe, flat ground. Daisy chose an outdoor café with tiki lights and Mayan-themed masks dangling from umbrellas. We gather around a long picnic table, and I barely concentrate on the menu. My nerves have fried from all the anxiety, and the craving for a release irritates my skin. It’s like someone keeps pinching me, and my mind just responds go to the bathroom. Release. Release and you’ll feel better. I hate it.
And I know that I can’t do it anymore. Time to make better choices or at least ones that do not involve ditching a table of girls to masturbate in the bathroom. Thinking the words actually causes guilt to surface. Yeah, I want to avoid that shame. Besides, Lo says I have to earn phone sex. Giving into the urges the day after I make a commitment to stop will award me zero points.
So I try harder.
I take a deep breath and train my eyes on the menu, debating between fish tacos and a chicken enchilada. The girls start discussing boys in their grade and successfully ignore Ryke and me since we have nothing to add to the conversation.