Love & Sex

5 Peculiar Stories: Dating Mementos

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5 Peculiar Stories: Dating Mementos

Nerve editors on the weird detritus of past loves.

Spike and Jim

In Hong Kong, most kids have Chinese names and English names. English names come from two places. If your parents speak English, they pick one for you, usually from the late eighteenth century. (That’s why there are so many Winstons and so many Winifreds.) If they don't, you get to pick your own. Which is how I ended up dating Spike Hui. 

When I left a month later, he gave me a parting gift.

He’d originally named himself something like Lucky, but then changed it when he was twelve (to the much more normal “Spike”). We met at a bar in Bangkok — both there on vacation — and when I came back, I started climbing over the wall of my boarding school so I could spend the night in his tiny flat. 

He was a product designer, a bit more than ten years my senior, and charmingly strange. He spoke perfect English (with the Queen’s accent), and liked to take me to avant-garde furniture shows or “to look at some fabric.”

Spike had made his name in the design world by creating a rabbit lamp that you had to stroke or it would turn off. (Everything he liked was exactly that twee, and exactly that practical). His best friend was a huge grey rabbit, Jim, who irritated my allergies, tripped up my feet, and offended my sense of the proper degree of man-rabbit separation.

One evening, as we sat smoking cigarettes on the fire escape (with Jim, of course), I remember asking, “If you had to leave one of us, Jim or me, who’d it be?” I was half kidding, probably, and half feeling insecure since I was actually about to move home. Spike, typically, interpreted the question very seriously. He paused, and then said quietly. “You would find a new boyfriend."

“What?” I asked. 

“If I left Jim, he would die.”

When I left a month later, he gave me a parting gift. It was a twelve-month calendar, hand-drawn with a designer’s skill and professionally printed on large, heavy paper. Each of the illustrations features a smiling light-haired boy and a big gray rabbit on some sort of weird fairy-tale adventure — walking on the beach wearing giant seashell hats, or sailing a pirate-ship on a jungle river. 

It’s hung on my wall ever since. — Ben Reininga, Nerve Editor 

Let your voice be heard! Submit to our next series — Student-Teacher Romances. Have you ever made good on a teacher infatuation? Or, even better, are you a teacher who's hooked up with your students? Tell us about it in 300-500 words. Click here for more details or email your story to submissions@nerve.com

The Penny Bracelet

We met in a variety show when I was a senior in high school. We had known each other in passing, but it was never anything more. He said he was a Hollister model. It was a lie. I didn't care.

We dated for a few weeks, and it was as simple as teenage non-love should be. I met his extended family for no reason, he got a god-awful tattoo of Chinese characters on his back, and I refused to sleep with him.  

The last two are unrelated. We broke up shortly after.

He gave me rides in his uncle's Jeep, an excuse to sit in the tenor section during choir rehearsal, and ten pennies welded together into a bracelet. 

He gave me rides in his uncle's weird Jeep and an excuse to sit in the tenor section during choir rehearsal, but most importantly, ten pennies welded together into a bracelet from a garage sale. I've worn it every day since. The copper turns my arm green, and when it breaks, I order a new one online and still pretend I "got it as a gift" when people ask. It's the one memento that I still cling to — and I have mindlessly, for more than seven years. I didn’t even like him that much. 

We lost touch after Christmas break in our freshman year of college, at that time when drinking punch mixed in a fraternity trash can on a Tuesday night trumps staying in touch with people who know the old you. Since then, he's become a pretty famous actor with as many fan sites as he has roles, which makes my accessory attachment invariably more creepy. I, on the other hand, have moved across the country, gotten fired, given other men handjobs, and even written this story, all with a green left wrist. — Carlye Wisel, Nerve Writer

Let your voice be heard! Submit to our next series — Student-Teacher Romances. Have you ever made good on a teacher infatuation? Or, even better, are you a teacher who's hooked up with your students? Tell us about it in 300-500 words. Click here for more details or email your story to submissions@nerve.com

James Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

My first serious boyfriend in high school was a nice guy. He watched cartoons with me when I was sick. He took me to the nice part of the park to make out. My teenage heart had already been broken once by a sexy athlete and by fifteen I was determined not to let that happen again. So I reeled in nerdy, funny, quiet James.

He was two years older so when I was sixteen, a junior, he packed up his Dodge Neon and drove off to college in Boston. We resolved to do the long-distance thing, like all dutiful high-school sweethearts. Every night, I pulled the phone into my room and called him, feeling like a queen as he told me how none of the university girls were as pretty or fun as I was. I traipsed around school each morning with the smugness of a high-school girl who has an older boyfriend.

In October, my mom drove me to Boston to visit James for the weekend. His room had the institutional look of freshman digs: two narrow beds, a sad little desk, some dog-eared Dave Mathews posters. I squeezed onto James’s tiny twin mattress with him and contentedly breathed in his trademark hair gel.

Then the girls started stopping by. One girl said in a sickly sweet voice: “Oh this must be your high-school girlfriend.”

Then the girls started stopping by. Some would poke their shiny-haired heads in to tell us about various parties. Some caught sight of me and offered only a fleeting tight-lipped smile before retreating. One girl said in a sickly sweet voice: “Oh this must be your high-school girlfriend." And then I found a dainty white sock underneath his bed. "It’s my roommate’s girlfriend’s," he claimed with a shrug. 

Paranoid, I started stalking the halls of his dorm with the offending sock, eyeing girls’ feet for a match like some sort of lunatic Cinderella prince. Any girl might be Her, the slut stealing my nice guy. I was out for blood.

“Who is she?” I screamed at James on our second night together. “Tell me! I deserve to know!” I melodramatically pounded his chest, like I’d seen scorned women do in the movies. James stood silent in the face of my fury. He didn’t even have the decency to look guilty.

I knew things were over. I also sensed that there was not one girl, but multiple new women in James’s life – more than a few from the parade of women who had been stopping by all weekend had thrown a knowing look my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s way. On Sunday morning, I packed my things, called my mom to collect me, and walked out on my teenage relationship. But not before taking James’s name tag off his dorm room door. I remember clearly thinking that if I removed his name from the door, then none of those honey-voiced co-eds would be able to find him. He’d be stuck all alone, pining for the swollen-eyed sixteen-year-old girl he’d let slip through his cheating fingers. And then he’d really be sorry.  — Rachel Friedman, Nerve Writer

Let your voice be heard! Submit to our next series — Student-Teacher Romances. Have you ever made good on a teacher infatuation? Or, even better, are you a teacher who's hooked up with your students? Tell us about it in 300-500 words. Click here for more details or email your story to submissions@nerve.com

An Emerald Necklace

I was about twenty-four, and I'd just gotten an awesome job at a company with offices in Los Angeles and New York. This was really convenient, because the girl I was with was about to move to Los Angeles herself… or at least, it would've been really convenient, except that I wasn't sure I actually wanted to move to Los Angeles. I kind of wanted to go to New York. That's not to say I didn't have feelings for her — actually, I really loved her — but, you know. Twenty-four.

He then took me, on the back of a tuk-tuk, to an underground market, where old women smoked out of long pipes and where I spent more money than I'd ever dropped in one place

With time to kill before the job started, I headed off to Southeast Asia for a couple months of backpacking. Alone in Bangkok, I thought often of my girlfriend. I still hadn't told her that I was thinking of going to New York. Every couple of days we exchanged emails; this was a while ago, so sending email meant heading to a sweaty internet cafe and buying five minutes to figure out what I wanted to say. We missed each other, and our correspondence was emotional.

With two days before a friend was going to join me to head for the countryside, I decided to get my girlfriend something great from Bangkok. Now, one thing about Thailand is that you can get gems for really cheap. Thinking I was worldly as hell, more than a match for your average Thai black-market gem salesman, I was resolved to do it. I met up with a guy who knew a guy at a Buddhist temple. He then took me, on the back of a tuk-tuk, to an underground market, where old women smoked out of long pipes and where I spent more money than I'd ever dropped in one place — and probably a lot more money than it was worth — on a necklace laced with emeralds. 

What I didn't know was that back in the States, my girlfriend's friend had somehow gotten wind of my uncertain plans and told her. Now, I want to emphasize again that while my feelings might have been ambivalent, they were certainly strong. So I felt like I'd been punched in the gut when, flush with the success of my gem-buying adventure, I headed to the internet cafe and got an email that said, quote:

"FUCK YOU."

For the next month, I backpacked around Thailand, devastated, with my friend. I never told her about the necklace, but after I moved to New York, I did have it appraised. The guy who'd sold it to me made off like a bandit, but he wasn't one; the gems, at least, were real. Still, I decided not to sell them. Ten years later, I still have that necklace. It feels as wrong to give it to someone else as it does to sell it, so in a box under my bed is where it remains. — Kevin West, Nerve Editor

Let your voice be heard! Submit to our next series — Student-Teacher Romances. Have you ever made good on a teacher infatuation? Or, even better, are you a teacher who's hooked up with your students? Tell us about it in 300-500 words. Click here for more details or email your story tosubmissions@nerve.com

Lunch Poems

A few years ago, a guy I was dating left a pocket copy of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems at my house. It’s plump with water damage, sitting on the shelf among the other transient books I’ve collected over the years.  

It reminds of that relationship, in which I learned three things: a man's ability to rock an old geezer cardigan, what the phrase “sexual chemistry” actually means, and what a flooded bathroom looks like when you live in a teeny, tiny three-bedroom apartment.

It wasn't me." Shaggy's bombastic words filled the soggy living room.

One morning, when the two of us left to go eat French food and listen to jazz, he left the faucet running in the bathroom. The dollhouse-sized bathroom filled up pretty quickly, the furious faucet greeting my furious (and unsuspecting) roommates. Later, when I happened to check my phone, I saw roughly nine hundred missed calls and text messages. We tore through the crisp fall sunshine to return to the sinking ship that was apartment 2A on 13th Street. Every towel in the house was piled up to sop up the mess. I, still blissful from a night of fun sex and a morning of lamb sausage and mimosas, was calm and collected. I was ready to laugh away the water, the blame, and the angry stares of my roommates — until my boyfriend vehemently denied any part of it.

"It wasn't me." Shaggy's bombastic words filled the soggy living room. 

"But… you were the only one who used the bathroom this morning, and everyone else was sleeping…"

It's not that I'm not down with liars. I lie all the time. Did I make those Mediterranean appetizers for my tenth-grade history class? No. They were frozen phyllos from Costco. Was I was late for work a few weeks ago because my train was delayed? No, I overslept and missed it. Did I really "run errands" all day like I told my roommate yesterday? No, I sat around in my pajamas and caught up on my DVR… but that wouldn't be a good explanation for why I didn't do my dishes, now would it? So, yeah, we all lie. But, by the same token, when I fuck up, and I often do, I own up to it, apologize, or laugh it off. (And I'd make especially sure to this if I were in my thirties, living at my sort-of girlfriend's apartment.) 

That’s not why I broke up with him, but it sort of sealed the deal. Now I have a water-logged book and a love for Frank O'Hara, instead of fun sex, boring conversations, and endless arguments about “getting a real job.” I’ll take it. — Ri Kennedy, Nerve contributing writer

Let your voice be heard! Submit to our next series — Student-Teacher Romances. Have you ever made good on a teacher infatuation? Or, even better, are you a teacher who's hooked up with your students? Tell us about it in 300-500 words. Click here for more details or email your story to submissions@nerve.com