Male Bag

This column is devoted to love letters, hate mail, and other correspondence from guys that I’ve saved over the years. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

Paul H. had three balls and that wasn’t the weirdest thing about him. What made him most unusual was the fact that he wrote the only letter I ever destroyed. I didn’t do it out of anger or despair — I did it out of respect. It was something he wrote in sixth grade and he sent it to me and asked me to burn it for him. However, I didn’t do it right away (you know me better than that, dear reader).

All of Paul’s letters were a little dark and disturbing, especially the two-pager about his discovery of a sack of drowned kittens in a sewer. But this thing he wrote in sixth grade was really fucked up. It seethed with so much self-loathing that it bordered on suicidal. I don’t know why I didn’t destroy it until now. I shouldn’t have held onto it for so long. I shouldn’t have held onto him for so long.

Paul was a good guy. Despite the perverse nature of his letters, they were eloquent and intelligent and sweet, and they were always riddled with cartoons and coffee stains. They were as much fun to read as he was to talk to. We could talk for hours, probably because we liked a lot of the same things — poetry, grunge, Twin Peaks, Henry Miller, Monty Python, Beethoven, tarot cards, The Simpsons. Reading his letters made me feel like I was listening to him talk while sharing a cigarette with him in bed, which is inevitably where we did most of our talking.

In the beginning I believed that he got me into bed because he was on a quest to sleep with a woman whose name started with each letter of the alphabet, and I counted for two (C and T). While his quest was for real, I soon realized that it wasn’t the reason he wanted to be with me. I don’t know if what he felt was really love, but it was intense.

His passion and his dependency were flattering for a while but they became overbearing. He told me once that I was one of the two people in the world who understood him (the other person being, ironically, my then-friend now-husband Carter). This was not what I wanted to hear, especially since I had started sleeping with him to escape my boyfriend, who was freaking me out by telling me similar things. I was certainly not looking for a serious relationship.

I had been attracted to Paul because he’d reminded me of John Malkovich’s character in Dangerous Liaisons, always playing the game and really damn good at it. He even had a virgin and a frigid woman he was trying to corrupt. He seemed like the perfect no-strings-attached one-night-stand.

But then one night became two, and then ten, and before I knew it he had fallen for me. I broke it off, clumsily, and then I broke it off again, and, eventually, it stuck. He sent me the thing he wrote in sixth grade right after the weekend I started dating Carter. I had seen him that weekend. We were trying to maintain our friendship after the final breakup, and we had hung out during the day and gone to a party at Carter’s house that night. Walking me back to my friend’s house after the party, he kissed me in the middle of the street and I had to push him away.

He mentioned the kiss in the letter he sent with the thing he wrote in sixth grade, and he tried to explain himself. He wrote that he always felt insignificant and small and worthless, as if he couldn’t make anyone care. I think this was this was the problem in our relationship. I think he compensated for his low self-esteem by letting himself get too emotional, and while the turbulence of his passion made him feel lovable and desirable, it scared the shit out of me.

But enough psychoanalysis... back to his three balls! Believe it or not, I never saw them. I heard about them second-hand from our friend Steve. So maybe that was the weirdest thing about Paul — the fact that he slept with a woman who didn’t know he HAD three balls!

© 2003, Christina O’Brien
Images:, Christina O’Brien

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