Fiction: “Men with Potential: A Guide to Getting Sober and Staying Sober” by Kate St. Germain

Schedule a date with a tall someone with salt-and-pepper hair who finds you online. He will play drums. He will be part of an art collective. This will be interesting to you. Order beer, he will order tequila. Get drunk. You will be turned on by the fact that he is almost a decade older than you. Now tell him that you will take him back to your place to listen to music but that you will not have sex with him that night.

Have sex with him. The sex will be good, made great by the fact that this man wants to be having sex with you.

When he leaves your apartment, cuddle your elderly Yorkshire terrier—the one with her tongue perpetually sticking out of her mouth. Put water on her tongue so it doesn’t feel like sandpaper anymore. Tell the terrier that you are excited to have met this Man, he has so much Potential!

***

Man With Potential will tell you that he is in school. He will tell you that he has a difficult job. He will be stressed and cannot see you very much. When he does make time for you, he will take you to exhibitions you’ve never heard of, movies you would have never chosen, or cool parties with his cool friends who are cooler than your friends. Everything he says will be brilliant and better than you could have thought up.

***

You will notice that Man With Potential is often unprepared. When it’s raining, he will not have an umbrella; when his phone is out of battery, he will not have a charger; when the check comes, he will have brought the wrong card. You will be angry at yourself for being annoyed.

***

Go over to MWP’s apartment for the first time. He will be worried that his allergies will act up if you bring your terrier to his apartment. Be understanding; she will be fine if left alone for a night. Bring two bottles of wine with you. He will show you videos on the Internet. Try to think of obscure videos to show him, but you won’t be able to because your mind is flooded with wine. Next time prepare a list.

Man With Potential will pull your leg up over his head, and you will watch him roll his green eyes back in pleasure. You will not cum but this image, stored in your memory, will more than make up for it.

***

When you sleep over at MWP’s apartment, find it nice that he offers to walk you to the subway. He will ask you to buy him a medicine you have never heard of. He will say that it helps him sleep. He will not be able to buy it because they only allow people to buy a certain quantity a week. He will tell you that they always remember him. You will say you feel you are being used. He will be defensive.

Go home, feed elderly Yorkshire terrier, put her heart medicine into her food. Start to panic that you have lost MWP and message him. Apologize for not helping him buy his medicine. He needs his sleep to fulfill his potential.

***

Go away with him for the weekend to an art opening of one of the Man With Potential’s friends. On the train ride there, he will explain their art to you.

Feel interesting at the opening that you are with someone so interesting. Be sympathetic when, during the after party, MWP has a panic attack and needs to take one of your Xanax. Learn more about how sensitive he is and be attracted to him because sensitivity is one of the things that they say makes a good man.

***

Man With Potential will always be late and constantly canceling or modifying your plans together. Be understanding about this, encourage him to speak to you about his feelings, but understand when he is too tired to do so. Give him all the support you can, but let your anger start to come out when you drink.

Watch MWP rummaging through messy piles of laundry searching for stray Klonopin.

Get scared. Take a Xanax. Drink red wine. Repeat.

***

Start to fight. Start to fight a lot. End things with Man With Potential with all of your intelligence but not with your heart. Get back in touch with your friends whom you have neglected during this time. Tell them that you are done with this man. Your friends will be relieved. Men With Potential scare them.

Man With Potential will soon realize he loves you. He will say so and tell you he has a problem. He needs help. Feel stupid. Feel sympathetic.

Tell your friends that he begged.

***

Have a brief period of tepid reconciliation. Lie in bed with Man With Potential and keep the terrier on the floor. Man With Potential doesn’t like your Yorkshire terrier to lick his hand in bed. You won’t worry about his lack of affection for the dog. You will know MWP is an animal lover because of how much time he spends talking about being a vegetarian.

***

Man With Potential will not see a therapist even though you will ask him to. You will think back to your last boyfriend and not remember what was so wrong with vanilla sex.

***

Start to bend your rules about drinking so that you don’t see yourself as drinking like your (insert family member). You won’t be drinking in the morning because you won’t wake up until the afternoon. Your friendships will be few and far between at this point because you will be obsessed with getting the potential out of this man.

***

One night, when you are alone in your apartment, you won’t be able to breathe.

At the hospital you will be alone.

Try calling the Man With Potential. Try calling again. Message him. Cry. Try calling and messaging again after they give you a sedative and tell you that you’re having a panic attack. Before the sedative kicks in, try calling your last boyfriend. This time this man will answer. He will offer to come to the hospital.

The Man With Potential will call you in the morning and be apologetic. You will ask him to come over. He has a paper due. He will come over but he will not be happy about it. He will stay up and write his paper all night. You will drink red wine and watch reality TV. You will wonder if you needed the company.

***

Go to dinner with your last boyfriend. End up telling him about the shortcomings of dating a Man with so much Potential. He will not want to hear this, but mixing alcohol with Xanax makes boundaries disappear. Kiss him at the end of the night. Cry and say you miss him. He will tell you he will always wait for you, and you will neither respect him for nor forget this comment.

***

Bring old terrier to the vet. Man With Potential will be an hour late to meet you. You will stay with the old terrier until she has to be taken into her surgery. He will show up as you are leaving the vet, looking manic. Sob, lash out, lose control. If only the Man With Potential would actualize into a useful human being.

***

Break up with Man With Potential; this time you will swear is the last. Send him a text so you don’t have to see him. He will not respond.

***

The panic attacks will get worse. You will stay up late and call your last boyfriend. Sometimes when you wake up you will remember these calls.

***

Think about MWP whenever you hear the drums (he played drums), whenever you ride your bike (you rode bikes together once), whenever you eat food (he was known to eat food). Social media stalking will be your second job, as you have to make sure that the MWP hasn’t found a lady with similar potential.

***

Weeks pass, months pass. Nothing gets easier until happy hour. Freak out. Keep calling your old boyfriend every night. One day you will wake up and be back together. Feel relieved. Decide to move in with him. Quit your job. Pack up your terrier, get ready to go.

***

One night receive a message from the Man With Potential. This message will account all of the ways that you have helped him, the ways that he needs you, the ways that he wants you. He will ask you to meet him. Tell him you can’t.

Meet him the night before you’re supposed to move. Tell yourself that you will get a coffee and that you need closure.

The conversation will take a turn before the end of the first bottle of wine. You will need him to ask you to stay, be with him, live with him. Maybe he will ask but you won’t be able to remember the next day.

Go home with him to his apartment, rip each other’s clothes off frantically. Fuck him.

Wake up feeling nothing. Call the old boyfriend and tell him you cannot move in with him. Vomit. Go home, get your things, get your terrier. You will have already given up your apartment, so go back to MWP’s apartment. Buy a bottle of wine, drink it, and wait for him to come back from work.

***

You will now be unemployed. MWP will tell you that it’s okay that you’re drinking more because you are going through a stressful time, and he will drink with you.

You will walk your elderly Yorkshire terrier in the afternoons when you wake up in his dark, cluttered apartment, one that you used to clean, but what’s the point when it will just get dirty again?

***

After weeks of your parents’ coercing, you will agree to go home. MWP encourages you to go, but he is reticent to take care of your terrier while you are away. He will agree when you bring up how expensive a dog sitter is.

Go home, bask in your comfortable bed with clean sheets and the smell of your mother’s pancakes in the morning. Keep a bottle of wine in the bathroom to sneak so that you can appear to sip wine at a human pace at the dinner table.

MWP will call you frequently during this visit because he will be overwhelmed with your terrier. He will not be able to get her to eat her food with her medicine in it. She will be lethargic and unresponsive. Ask him to take her to the vet when he calls, he will say that he will in the morning.

***

The terrier will not run to you when you come back into Man With Potential’s apartment.

Beg MWP for money to take her to the vet. He will say that he can give it to you but that will be all of his money for the rest of the month. Call your dad; he will give you his credit card number.

Take terrier to the vet. The terrier’s heart couldn’t handle any time without her medicine. The kindest thing to do would be to put the terrier to sleep.

Call MWP. He won’t answer. You will hold the terrier’s paw while she fades into oblivion. You will not cry because you will not deserve the tears anymore.

On the way back to the Man With Potential’s apartment, realize that you have forgotten your keys. Go to a bar near his house. At the bar you will sit next to a familiar-looking man. He will tell you that he is your brother’s friend. Remember how much he made you laugh when you were a girl. He will buy you a tequila soda. You will talk about anything but your dead dog. He will ask you if you party. He will take out a baggie of cocaine from his pocket and flash it to you under the bar table. You will take it into the bathroom stall and do a line. He will follow you in. He will kiss you, you will resist. One more line please.

You will suddenly feel the need to explain the year that you have had with the Man With Potential to this man! Tell him all the ways the Man With Potential has wronged you! Tell him about the Man With Potential’s unreliability! Brother’s old friend will ask about your own potential. This will be a new thought to you.

Go to a club, another bar, a park, it won’t matter. Keep doing coke and drinking tequila until sunrise. Finally go home with your brother’s old friend. He has been so kind to you.

By sundown go back to the MWP’s apartment, bang on the door until he answers. Don’t speak. Fall into bed.

***

Man With Potential will wake you up in the afternoon. He will tell you that he is worried about you and that he thinks you should go home to live with your parents for a while. You will laugh because if you don’t laugh, you think that you might die right then and there.

***

You will get off of the plane feeling flu-ish. Avoid eye contact with your parents so that you don’t see how they see you.

***

Turn off your phone. Get in your bed. Sleep for days. Mom will bring you cups of tea and try to open the blinds. Scream for her to leave you alone.

Wake up from hunger. Go downstairs, eat the crackers, eat the ice cream, eat the leftover chicken parmesan that your mother was saving for her lunch the next day. You will not be able to really taste any of this because your nose will be so clogged from a flu that will not go away because you aren’t trying to get it to.

***

Take a bottle of wine from your parents’ collection, take two, take three.

***

Your father will suggest AA. Say no.

Relent when you turn on your phone and there’s not a single message.

Put on your sweat pants because none of your other pants fit anymore. Go to an AA meeting in a church basement.

It smells like cat pee but it is nice to be able to smell again.

 

 

***

Kate St.Germain spent the past six years in Asia teaching English as a second language while traveling extensively to places like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Taiwan. She holds a BA in International Studies from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. In 2018, she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop summer fiction workshop. She volunteers at the Literacy Network of South Berkshire and continues to teach ESL to students in Asia through a distance learning program. She enjoys yoga, meditation, and running with her Taiwanese puppy, Francis.

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