My last real boyfriend was named Jave, and we were together from 2000 to 2002. By “real” I mean, he didn’t exist solely as a product of my overactive imagination following a night of pasta, Chianti, and decent sex. He was two people, actually – but because of the similar dysfunction of both relationships, I’ve condensed them into one name and one singular train wreck.
I got to know the specs of the first half of Jave back in the early 90’s when I was bartending at a restaurant in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. The manager was an erudite gentleman with impeccable taste in gabardine and literary aspirations along with an old-school ability to read people without having to scan a resume or do a background check. He pulled together a staff as united as it was motley. Everyone got along and loved being there. One such happy co-worker, while waiting for me to mix Negronis to bring to a table of waifishly thin model types and the men that photographed them, would regale me with tales about her friend Jave in Los Angeles. “He’s a writer, a teacher, a cook and he builds shit. You’d love him,” she said. My interest was piqued. By the time she and I had separately made the transcontinental trek westward—and I’d experienced the difficulties of dating in a city as singular in its aspirations as it was socially stratified—anticipation had built to a fever pitch.“Set it up already.”
The moment finally came one summer evening at a bar in Atwater Village. In retrospect, I remember subconsciously clocking that Jave was somewhat less dazzling than the resume that preceded him. He had just driven back from the desert and was triumphant over some Xanax he’d managed to score. There was no instant chemistry, no deep familial recognition. Instead, I saw in front of me a weasely man with some pharmaceuticals in his pocket and an interesting style of male-pattern baldness. Again, hindsight being what it is, I realized I could have been anyone. Me, and everything having to do with me, meant very little to Jave. But nonetheless –perhaps because of that – I was intrigued.
He called the next day, affecting a familiarity I found flattering. “I hear you like jazz.” And we were off.
It was all so heady and glamorous—not unlike bartending in SoHo in the summer. He, a journalist for a local, trendy magazine; me, an aspiring screenwriter. Us hitting the town, often on the magazine’s dime, savoring zucchini blossoms stuffed with something and pretty much all the hip fare—culinary and cultural—the city had to offer.
That first week ended in bed in a Palm Springs hotel. I was loaded up on Sauvignon Blanc and Xanax, and I was in love.
Jave loved to cook elaborate meals. “Let’s go to Bristol Farms and buy a chicken to roast!” he’d screech excitedly many a Sunday afternoon. “Let’s go have salmon skin rolls and Asahi!,” became a popular weeknight Cri de Coeur. What soon became apparent in these epicurean adventures was that Jave’s paycheck didn’t necessarily cover Jave’s tastes. If I wanted to partake, I had to pay. And pay I did.
But I didn’t mind. Being drawn into that kind of swirl always felt novel to this one-time anorexic and self-denial addict. It was made that much sweeter by Jave exclaiming “Oh my God! We’re the same person! I love you!” loudly and often. As a half-Jew, half-German who grew up in the South and never quite fit in, I was neatly oozing into all of Jave’s empty places, and he into mine.
Jave talked about wanting us to get married. We looked at rings at an antique jewelry store in Beverly Hills adjacent. Then I got a job as a script coordinator on a new, hot, high-concept show on Fox. I worked long hours and made new friends. I was sometimes late getting home for the seared monkfish over a bed of wilted escarole that Jave had prepared, and he didn’t like it. “I have spent hours cooking for you!” he’d exclaim. Overnight, he took the subject of marriage off the table. I started to become nervous all the time and distracted at work. I backed my car into a BMW in a Starbucks parking lot and neglected my best friend—my dog. My dog who, truth be told, hated Jave from the start.
Jave became more distant and started communicating with old girlfriends. I clung harder, pushing for answers, or just a wedding date – anything to feel secure. We took Ecstasy on weekends to rekindle the relationship. After one drunken night—barhopping with an ex of his while in the midst of a major argument we could never have since we were never alone—it dawned on me: Jave had no empathy and no compassion. He was a horrible person. I got the fuck out of that mid-Century Eagle Rock pit of hell and never went back.
I started to heal. I had about forty-thousand dollars of credit card debt largely due to Jave’s extravagant tastes and my need to keep up with them. I started chipping away at that. I left the Fox show for one where there was a slight chance I’d be given the opportunity to write a script. I relished having my life—and my dog—back.
Then, not three months later, a friend from the Fox show told me a guy working on it had been asking after me. Had I noticed him when I was there? A British art director who rode a motorcycle? Enter the second half of Jave. Jave, the sequel.
Jave 2 invited me to dinner at his Toluca Lake condo. He made rigatoni in vodka sauce. Jave 2 was more masculine than Jave 1. Unlike Jave 1 whose handsome looks were fast fading, thus inciting a panic that was always bubbling beneath the surface, Jave 2 had never been handsome. In fact, in some light he resembled a snapping turtle. “I don’t want to have sex straight away,” Jave 2 said. I was charmed.
When it happened, sex with Jave 2 was a piece of performance art, often set to side one of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day …
“Yes… yes… yes…”
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way …
I was in love. I loved his bald head, his puffy British cheeks. I loved how he cooked and spoke and fucked. I tolerated having to listen to him drone on endlessly about his work. It would go something like this: “I built the back wall of the office set out of foam core and reinforced it with rebar. Fucking genius.” During times like those I would generally just nod, knowing that the same mouth that was uttering that blather would be put to much better use in an hour’s time. I also tolerated the fact that Jave did not leave the house except to go to work and that his doing so, in the early stages of our relationship, was just for show. He called his domicile perched above the 101 Freeway his “little cave” and would often lie on the floor in front of the TV with nothing on but a t-shirt all the while sucking his thumb.
That wasn’t enough to deter me from Jave 2. Jave 2 himself put an end to things very quickly and non-surgically. “It’s your little dog,” he said.
“What about my benign, 12-pound, house-trained terrier mix?” I asked.
“It’s me or your little dog.”
“What? What are you talking about? You’re breaking up with me because of my dog?”
“I can’t. I can’t do it.”
So that was that. There was nothing to move, not many adjustments to make, just me reeling from what seemed like the most ludicrous allegation ever. And I was a woman used to ludicrous allegations coming from men.
Several months later I ran into Jave 2 at a party. We drunkenly flirted, and I found myself asking for a ride home and then him to come in for “a nightcap.” “OK, but just for casual sex,” Jave 2 romantically insisted. That was that.
WHAT THE FUCK? What in me could have allowed that three-person mosh pit to happen? Was I that fucked up? Yes, yes, I was. I had walked into it not once, but twice, one right after the other, not having the time or space to analyze the first experience before the second one slammed into me. In both, I had seen something shiny and grabbed it. And not just grabbed it, put it in my mouth. It wanted me and that was enough. But not me, oh no—it wanted anyone that could taste and marvel and listen; it needed an audience, and I was that audience because my own severely damaged sense of self was so hungry for those tiny moments of approval and so used having to hide myself in order to make them happen that I didn’t realize how stingy they were. I was my little dog standing at the counter on her hind legs for minutes at a time waiting for a crumb to drop. It took a long time to figure that out.
Years after Jave 2 and I parted, I’d still experience a full-body shudder when his memory flitted across my brain. I wasn’t shuddering about Jave 2; I was shuddering about the person who wanted to marry Jave 2. And because I knew there was always another Jave 2 sitting in some apartment that had been converted into a five-hundred square foot controlled substance, I steered clear from all men. It wasn’t Jave 2 I was worried about, it was me.
I started watching. I was studying—like they were primates and I Jane Goodall—women not tied to the “Javes” of the world. Absorbing all I could through my poorly wired brain, hoping that the information would make its way deep into my being where I could actually feel love and where I could sense, just like that restaurant manager, when the right person was walking toward me. The idea of love—what was it exactly? Some people know it inherently. Others don’t, and wrack up a lot of credit card debt to replicate it.I’m still figuring that out.
In recent years, I’ve met a few Javes, but find myself so uninterested it’s not even about steeling myself against them so much as walking calmly away. And now, when I think about Jave, I shudder less and laugh more. And so does my little dog. In heaven.
Originally published on April 6, 2015