Barcelona Pt. 3: Love, Lunacy, and the Shedding of Toxic Layers

The yellow dress goes to Lisbon.

I want to tell you about my yellow dress.

I bought it at Forever 21 when I was 21 years old. It was highlighter yellow with ruffled sleeves and fell five inches above my knees. Being shot by a hunter while wearing it was an impossibility.

I had been in Chicago for what was supposed to be a few weeks, but it turned into six months when my alcohol use spiraled out of control. A calm week at my parents’ house quickly transformed into a blacked out Fourth of July, a toxic friendship with a heroin addict, a four day house party that almost ruined my relationship with my little brother, a week of drunk driving, and three car accidents. I would later spend three months in treatment.

The yellow dress is in almost every picture from that time, not because I was wearing it everyday, but because I tended to wear it when I was feeling particularly out of control, which is usually when people wanted to take pictures of me.

One picture was taken by my friend, Ryan. In it, I am clinging to a large outdoor umbrella, leaning back so it looks like I´m flying away, my eyes drunk and wild. I saw this picture recently. It was terrifying.

Another picture was taken on a children´s slide in Michigan. Again, my eyes are wild, hair is bright white, life is falling apart. My heroin addict friend and I spent the rest of that night drinking and driving and laughing and pulling over to pee outside the car door.

The last time I wore the yellow dress was on Wednesday. I was with Laurent, the “I sink I am in love with you” Frenchman. I had run into him the day before, which, though weird, was relatively nice (mostly because I was also with a lovely German girl I met the night prior). But this is a much longer and much more personal story that I don´t feel obliged to write right now. Give me a few months.

Laurent told me I could use his name, so I´m also going to use his picture.

So, against my better judgment, I met up with Laurent outside Maria Del Mar the next day. Here are the things I already knew about him: He is an alcoholic. He is technically homeless, though he was sleeping at his ex-girlfriend´s house until he brought another girl there while she was away. The night I met him, we slept in a squat (not a big deal, but goes with his aesthetic). He plays music in the street to make money. He hangs out at the port (a world in its own — I am planning to write an essay about it. Suffice to say, it is a very dangerous place, not physically, but mentally) every night. He’s a brilliant trumpet player, but refuses to play music unless he’s being paid or trying to pick up a girl.

After we met up on Wednesday, I watched Laurent play guitar and sing for tourists eating dinner. It’s a manipulative job and fascinating to watch. Smile, sing loud, make them laugh, go table to table with a hat. Laurent blatantly flirted with a group of Scandinavians in front of me. I laughed it off.

He played another terrace. Another. He got drunk. Drunker. He asked what my name was.

“Are you joking?

“Of course.”

He told me he wanted to have my babies, but not take care of them. He told me he wanted to marry me, but only to get a green card. He told me he loved me.

“You’re so fucking French, dude. You’re going to fall in love with someone else in an hour. Don’t give me that shit.”


“Laurent, do you actually want to know anything about who I am?”


And I still slept with him, wearing the yellow dress. Afterwards, at five in the morning, he left me on a dark street to find my way home so that he could continue to get drunk. It was the second time in a week that a man left me on a random street in the early hours of the morning.

This morning, I took my laundry out of the machine at Petter´s house to hang it on the drying rack. I reached for and unfolded the yellow dress.


Petter yelled from the other room, “Are you trying to get me to ask you what’s wrong?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

“Okay, what´s wrong?”

I held up my yellow dress. An enormous black stain ran straight down the middle.

“This is my dress! My Leif dress!”

“Maybe it’s a symbol. Maybe you’re growing out of something.”

And so I took the yellow dress in my hands and tore it down the middle, inviting Petter to help with the bottom half, then took a photo to document the ritual and threw the dress in the trash.


I think Petter is right. I would like to think that a layer has been shed. I would like to think that I’ve said my final goodbye to people like Laurent, to the port, to the days of inviting other people to treat me like an object. Today is day five of not acting on any of the urges that destroy me from inside.

Yes, these experiences are painful and embarassing and disgusting in so many ways, but I don’t regret what has happened. I can’t. I am learning how to say “no” and trying to figure out what I need to do to protect and respect myself. Petter has been a key figure in this. He´s not afraid to call me on my shit. When I went out the other day, he texted me, “remember to have respect for yourself.” So I did.

And that´s part of why I´m starting to believe in fate. I met Petter at a very low point, shaking and sweating and utterly confused. He took me in without expectations. He listened. He made me cry in a good way.

He sees right through me. And he’s not the only one.

Example of fate/the universe/whatever number two: The night Laurent left me on a random street corner, I met three French boys sitting on a bench outside of Cafe Babel in the gothic neighborhood. While Laurent was busy drinking and drunkenly swaying and attempting to play music with a toothless “anarchist,” I struck up a conversation with the wild-haired French boy, who knows the most English of the three. He played my favorite song on guitar — a song that´s followed me for years and that I´ve heard three times since arriving in Barcelona. Unfortunately, he was cut off by a woman who said she would call the cops if he kept playing, buuuut…

This picture has no reason to be here, but I wanted to break things up.

Meanwhile, I tried to hide the fact that I was intently staring at the French boy who sat in the middle of the group. When they got up to leave and we kissed cheeks, I whispered in his ear, “you are so fucking pretty.”

I met up with the three of them two days later. While walking through the gothic neighborhood on the way back to their place, my arm brushed against the pretty boy´s. Electricity. We held hands. Dying. We kissed around a corner. Dead on arrival.

Funny things about the French boys: They are obsessed with mojitos. I´m not sure how many I´ve seen them drink, but the number is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population.

The wild-haired boy is constantly waving a GoPro around. Last night, he immitated a gorilla. Before we met, he was pronouncing ¨la cuenta” like “la cunt” until I told him what it meant in English.

The other French boy doesn´t like America and, thus, never learned and doesn´t want to learn English. I respect that. He has twice gotten up to leave in my presence because he gets sick of not being able to understand what we´re saying. He´s blunt. It´s cool. We did manage to communicate about his favorite music and TV shows (most of which are American) and both of us were very excited about it.

But the other boy, my God. Let´s call him… uh… Julien. Yeah, that´s nice and French. My French is terrible and his English isn´t great, so we write back in forth in each other´s presence like preteens. But it works and it´s sweet and, for the first time in maybe forever, I haven´t jumped into bed with him within the first few days of meeting. That means something. It really fucking does.

Julien embodies a completely different universe than Laurent — he embodies the universe that I know I belong in. The one where people actually care about me and want to know who I am, not just to fuck me. It´s sad how foreign this universe feels. It´s sad how much easier it is for me to go through the motions and fuck someone with my eyes closed than to be genuine and intimate. It´s sad that I´ve never heard someone say, “I want to know more about you before we have sex.” Even Dustin and I had sex within two days of meeting each other, which basically meant the initial foundation of our relationship was, well, sex.

And okay, I´m not trying to fool myself with any of this. I don´t want to pull the PrincefuckingCharming card again. I don´t want or need to be saved. But it feels good and weird and terrifying to not be objectified by someone.

I probably won´t write much more about this. Shockingly, it feels sacred enough for me to want to keep my big-ass mouth shut. As you all know, that’s a very rare thing.

But there´s a difference between writing honestly and being honest. I can write my fucking heart out in a very real way, but there´s still the distance of computer screens and keyboards and a whole goddamn ocean. And I can speak honestly but still be acting. With Julien, I constantly feel tears forming behind my eyes.

I keep wanting to say, “If you only knew who I really am, if you knew all the mistakes I´ve made, you wouldn´t like me anymore. You would be afraid. You would leave me.”

But he learned some of those things last night and, as we sat together on the port, our feet dangling above the water, he said to me, “I think I can see who you are — who you really are. And I think you are a beautiful person.”

It made me want to hide and cry and fall apart. It´s easier for me to hate myself. It´s more comfortable.

I need to get the fuck over that. I think I´m ready to give it a try.

Love you guys.

By the way, I’m using a Spanish computer that tells me that every single word I write is a typo, so I can’t actually find my typos. Whoops.


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