We egotists are often accused of thinking that everything is about us. And yet it’s hard to beat that mindset when every now and then, we are proven to be right. So it is with the story of how a special calendar was created to provide me with three hundred and sixty-five days to rue having become Tess’s obsession.
It all began with a rivalry.
My girlfriend Dee hated my girlfriend Avah. My girlfriend Avah hated my girlfriend Dee. They had never met, but they hated, hated, hated each other.
I got both ears full of their rivalry.
Avah hated Dee because I spent so much time with her. Dee hated Avah because she was convinced that Avah was behind a series of awful anonymous attacks on her blog. To Avah, I explained, “I know you don’t like it, but I can identify with her situation. A bad marriage is rough.” To Dee, I deflected, “I don’t know who’s attacking you, but it’s not Avah. I know her very well. She would never do that.”
Each was jealous of attributes she ascribed to the other, aspects each was anxious that I might find attractive at her own expense. Dee was older, a parent and had money enough to take me on trips. Avah couldn’t aspire to those things. Avah was young, pretty and kinky. Dee would never be any of those.
Neither would stop complaining to me about the other. Avah referred to Dee as “that old cunt rag.” Dee referred to Avah as “that crazy blogette.” I listened, hoping they would eventually tire of potshots. Surely, I thought, they each appreciated that putting me in the middle of such bickering did not endear either party to me.
Dee alluded to Avah in her blog, but generally saved her complaints for emails and conversations that came to feel more like confrontations. One morning, I woke sick. I had plans with Dee, so I sent a note to cancel. She preferred to come anyway, saying that she wanted to take care of me. She brought chicken soup. I propped myself up in bed and listened as she complained about Avah. I could see a clock behind her. She complained nonstop for over two hours. I managed the occasional “uh huh” or “okay.”
By contrast, Avah complained about Dee in her blog and in emails to me, but rarely brought her up in person. When we were alone together, Avah was sweet and fun to be around. I couldn’t reconcile my kinky girlfriend with Dee’s mean-spirited attacker. At any rate, Avah denied making the attacks. Her assurance was all I needed.
Then, however, it became apparent that Avah was lying. Dee watched her Statcounter like a hawk—I now realized that if Dee was not asleep, she was online—and she repeatedly traced the anonymous comments to Avah’s IP address. Finally, after six months of lies and attacks, Avah admitted the truth. She had allowed jealousy and frustration to guide her to deliberate cruelty. Faced with this, I wondered if our relationship was still healthy. I didn’t want to make someone so unhappy she would act out in so mean a fashion, nor did I want such strong resentments in my life.
As my relationship with Avah faltered, Dee couldn’t contain her delight. Her insistent complaints and online vigilance had helped to eliminate her rival. Yet Dee seemed unaware of the cost to our own relationship. She hadn’t realized just how unpleasant it was to listen to her repetitive complaints against someone I cared about, or how controlling it was for her to fixate on severing two friends from one another.
As our affair continued, it became increasingly clear that Dee was intent on controlling me.
Dee found me through this blog, so she had always known that I had sex with other women. Yet once she knew me and came to care about me, she began to ask intrusive questions about my other relationships. I don’t like to reveal intimacies—protecting the privacy of myself and others has been a delicate balancing act of blogging—so I avoided saying much more to her than I said in my blog. She only asked about the women whom she read about in blogs; I offered nothing about other relationships that happened off-blog.
Dee read other blogs for any sign that anyone received from me some benefit that she had not also enjoyed. When Dee read that I had made post-coital scrambled eggs for Cody, she was irate. Why had I never offered her scrambled eggs? I could never anticipate what might anger Dee, but I began to see a pattern to her upset: she was primarily angry about younger women with whom I seemed to share genuine affection.
Whenever she fought with me over this, I tried to help her calm down. I understood that this was all very new to her, and by this time, I had a good deal of experience with the hazards of living a public sex life. I reassured her, but also reiterated: if this isn’t working for you, I would understand if you no longer wanted to see me, or if we remained friends in some other capacity.
Fights usually led to gifts.
Dee observed that I’m not that interested in shopping and not particularly acquisitive. One day, she told me I needed a new pair of shoes. “No, I’ll just get these resoled,” I said. “I’ve had these shoes forever.”
“They’re cheap shoes,” she said. “Just replace them.”
“Nah, they’re okay,” I said, wiggling my feet. “Anyway, this hole isn’t even that big yet.”
“Don’t be a dumb ass. Shoes aren’t expensive. I can find you some great shoes on sale. What’s your size?” I told her I wore a size ten-and-a-half, but really, I didn’t need new shoes.
Dee immediately barraged me with links to shoe sales. Which style did I like? Why did I always wear black shoes? What did I think of the brown ones? Look at the shoes at the first link I sent; I think they are cheaper in the link I sent a minute ago. Answering Dee’s questions about the shoes she wanted to buy me online took up the better part of an afternoon I had set aside to write. But how could I object? It was nice of her to buy me a pair of shoes.
She told me I needed sneakers. I haven’t worn sneakers since God knows when, I said, but when I last wore them, I wore black Converses, standard punk issue.
She didn’t answer for some time. I went back to writing. “I personally don't like Converse sneakers except on teenagers,” she finally replied. “Now, seeing you spend quite a bit of time with twenty-year-olds, maybe you do need them.”
I had tripped over her sensitive issue. I didn’t want to muddy the waters. I let her pick my new sneakers. It was her dime. I received several pairs of new shoes, a few dress blacks and a pair of gray Skechers I would never wear. I put the Skechers in a box with the brown Polo shirts and khaki pants she had given me after previous fights, all destined for charity.
I thanked her for the gift. “You are going to have to pay by the orgasm for each pair of shoes,” she replied. “Think you can handle that?” I felt up to the task, glad the fight was past. She wanted more from me. “Four pairs of shoes might cost you an entire weekend at some point,” she warned.
I knew how that worked. Some people give you things because they want something in return.
Dee and I had been dating for about six months when I needed to move. Since the end of my marriage, my children and I had been living in an apartment owned by my ex-father-in-law. Now, he wanted us to leave. I was concerned about finding a place I could afford that could accommodate a family of four, without causing the kids to switch schools.
Dee offered to help. She researched realtors and found a good company with plenty of apartments in my price range. Our dates now included tours of walk-up apartments in pre-war tenements. Dee always asked the realtor about proximity to parking garages, as she wanted to be sure my new home would be convenient for our dates.
As we looked at one apartment, the realtor noted that the front door lock had been incorrectly installed and would need to be replaced. “Look,” he said, “It locks from the outside. That would only be good if you were keeping a prisoner.”
“No, let’s keep that,” Dee said. “That way, I can lock him in and no one else can get at him.” She laughed as the realtor and I looked at each other uneasily. He must have assumed I was Dee’s kept man. Dee liked the joke so much that she repeated it over and again.
Dee sent me links to apartments as she had once sent me links to shoes. She made it plain that I shouldn’t look at apartments without her, as I was a dumb ass who couldn’t be trusted to ask the right questions about parking garages and so on. Quietly, I looked at other apartments on my own and with other friends. Lynsey joined me to look at places in Queens. Tilda looked up places in Brooklyn. Madeline suggested options I hadn’t considered. Pretty soon, I found a place on my own. Dee gave me some money to help with the move, but beyond that, she had no claim on my new home.
Once I had moved, Dee expected a reward for her help. A couple of months after the move, Dee and I had a date. It was our last before I took a two-week vacation with my children. We were relaxing in bed after sex, her head on my shoulder.
“I’ve been thinking,” Dee said. “I was thinking I could change my day off at work so that we can get together on Tuesdays instead of Fridays.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “Why?”
“Oh, you know. Your Fridays are weird. One week you’re free all day, the next week you have to go get your kids from school. You never have your kids on Tuesdays. This way, we can be together all day and sometimes, all night. Maybe I can get a hotel room near me and we can stay together until you get your kids on Wednesday.”
“Sure, I guess that would work,” I said, wondering when I would write and what I would do with my other dates if I lost one of my free weeknights. Dee had already expanded our Friday lunch dates to include some overnights at a hotel near her home. I would drive up after taking my kids to school, join her for lunch and sex, stay in the room while she returned to her family for dinner, and then have more sex with her back in the room. Afterward, I’d either stay in the room or drive back to the city.
“It will work, babe,” she said, running her finger over my chest. “And I was thinking, see, you know I like to beat traffic, so I could come in early.”
“Uh huh.” I readied for the conclusion of her plan.
“So I was thinking, I could be here around seven or seven thirty in the morning. I know, that’s early for you. But if you gave me a key, I could come in and just get into bed. You wouldn’t even need to get the door.”
“Right. But you know, my two weeknights without the kids are Monday and Tuesday. So I’d have to be sure any Monday dates were over by seven in the morning?”
“I was thinking,” Dee whispered into my shoulder. “That you wouldn’t see anyone on Mondays. I want you to be fresh and ready for me when we get together.”
“At seven on Tuesday mornings.” I shook my head. "And you'll have your own key."
“Now, come on. If you fuck some blogette on Monday night, you’ll be tired on Tuesday morning. I want you to be ready for me on Tuesdays.”
“You want me to avoid sex on Mondays so I can be waiting for you to let yourself in at seven on Tuesdays mornings and stay over until Wednesday.”
“I can’t always stay over,” she said. “But sometimes. Or you could come to the hotel near me.”
“I have to say,” I said, stroking her hair. “I don’t think this is such a great idea.”
She slapped my chest. “Yeah, you don’t want to give up a night of fucking some blogette for me?”
“It’s not that,” I said. “But do you hear what you’re saying? I have two free nights each week. Your proposal has me giving you both nights. You do know I have sex with other people, right?”
“Yeah, don’t rub my face in it,” she said, her voice growing sour. “Now you’re going to fuck up my other question, dumb ass.”
Her body relaxed. She nestled back in the crook of my arm. “I want to be the first person you have sex with when you come back from vacation,” she whispered.
“That’s a nice thought,” I said. “But, thing is, I get back on a Tuesday night. We wouldn’t get together until Friday. You want me to wait a couple of days without sex? Just so you can be first?”
“Yeah, come on. You can manage a day or two.”
“But why? What’s the point? I mean, I could tell other people I can’t see them and wait, but what would that prove? I know I can go a few days without sex. My marriage proved I can go months without sex. Shit, it proved I can go years. But why do you want me to abstain? Why do you need to be first?”
Dee pulled away. “Never mind. Don’t do me any favors.”
I sat up on my pillow. “I don’t mean to make waves, but . . .”
Dee turned away. “Tess was right. You can’t even do this for me.”
My brow furrowed. What did Tess have to do with this? “Look, I’m sorry, it’s just that . . .”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dee interrupted. “Just fuck that new blogette. Have fun.”
So that was it. Dee was upset about Mariella.
Mariella had contacted me that spring. She was about to turn twenty-one and she wanted to lose her virginity. She had the summer off between semesters and thought it would be fun to have some adventure. After we took care of her virginity, we chased other cherries. She started a blog to chart our stories. I linked it. Her blog was smart, funny and full of literary allusions.
Dee barely had time to be satisfied with the demise of my relationship with Avah. Now, along came another lover. Another woman who was young and pretty. Another woman who read books. Dee wasn’t young or pretty. She didn’t read books.
I had discussed this with Dee. There was no reason for her to compare herself to my other partners. Besides, I added, Mariella only wanted a fling. She was going back to school in the fall. We might have eleven or so dates before she went back to her life and I went back to mine.
“Eleven?” Dee said. “How about nine? Or eight? Are any of those dates on Fridays? I bet they’re on Monday nights, right?”
Dee was annoyed. Avah was out and another girl was ready to replace her. Dee felt she would never be able to rid my bed of pretty young women. I felt bad that Dee was hurt by reading about my sex life in blogs.
That afternoon, we put aside our disagreement and had sex again. We didn’t leave time for lunch. When we parted, she pushed herself close to my chest. “I love you,” she whispered. “And one day, you’ll feel the same. I want to be here for you. I want to be with you and your children.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I kissed her head. I told her it would be okay. But as she drove off in her SUV, I knew we would need to have a talk when I returned from my family vacation. I wasn’t in love with Dee. We had never talked about love. She was never going to meet my children. What was she imagining? She was a married woman with three children of her own. She was cheating on her husband. Did she harbor thoughts of divorcing him to be with me?
I had a nice vacation with my family. On the night I returned, I left my children with their mother and had a late night date with Lynsey. We had drinks and sex at my new place. She stayed over. I cuddled close to her soft body as we slept.
Two days later, I received notice that my ex wife was suing for full custody of our children. She had discovered this blog. My sexuality, as described in this blog, was the basis of her motion.
I received notice of the custody suit on a Thursday afternoon. As my ex-wife had filed on an emergency basis, there was a hearing scheduled for the following morning. I wasn’t sure what to do. A friend who is a lawyer advised me not to go to court until I had representation. I needed a lawyer, fast.
I had a date with Dee planned for that Friday. I contacted her to cancel. She was upset by my wife’s filing and wanted to come to see me anyway, to take care of me. Remembering her care of me when I was sick, I declined. I needed a day of clarity to make phone calls, to do research and to find a lawyer. I couldn’t deal with Dee being around all day, needing attention for her own anxiety about my case.
Dee instant messaged Tess about our canceled date. Tess urged Dee to come to the city anyway. They would meet for lunch. When Dee showed up at Tess’s office, Tess handed her a remote. It controlled the vibrator Tess had inserted into her vagina. Tess had arranged a lunch date with a sex writer named Rachel. Dee had first met a published writer when she met me. Now, Tess offered her another. Over lunch, Tess encouraged Dee to tell Rachel all about my case, reminding her not to leave out the stuff about my new blogette.
As I began to work on my case, a group of my friends organized an ad-hoc committee to help with fundraising and to lend me supportive ears. All were mature career women with whom I had, at various points, enjoyed sexual relationships. The “Friends of Jefferson” worked well together and offered their expertise in law, publishing, information technologies and other areas involved in my case.
I researched resources available to those involved in legal disputes based on their sexuality. Lolita Wolf, among the Friends of Jefferson, steered me to the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. Valerie White, a community activist who served as the organization’s Executive Director, explained to me that she could only recommend the creation of a legal defense fund after careful consideration of my case. The organization’s board would need to review the motion against me to be sure it qualified for their support.
I had been told to expect that the case would cost me around twenty thousand dollars and I would need that money quickly. My ex-wife had already spent over twenty-five thousand dollars in filing the motion; the expectation, clearly, was that I would be unable to keep up financially. Valerie appreciated that time was of the essence. I made copies of the motion—which was as thick as a phone book—and overnighted them to her. The board reviewed the documents and as the motion was entirely concerned with my sexuality as described in this blog, they supported the creation of a legal defense fund. Once that was in place, I posted an appeal on my blog.
Tess was outraged. It was already unfair that my blog was widely read. It was unfair that I was popular. Now it seemed that my readers would be supporting my efforts to win a custody case. It angered her to think that a community could be formed around someone to whom things seemed to come so easily.
Meanwhile, Dee had made an awful discovery. While reading Mariella’s blog, Dee followed a link to her Twitter feed. There, Dee began to investigate all of Mariella’s followers. She clicked through to their Twitter feeds and read their blogs, following trails thought their blogrolls. Dee wasn’t interested in new reading material. She was stalking quarry. Her obsessiveness paid off when she found a fresh blog. It revealed that I had had sex with someone new. Someone young and pretty.
Dee wrote me furious emails. I responded for a while and finally gave up. I was far more concerned with my custody case than with Dee’s perennial upset about my public sex life. If her love for me was so wrapped up in her jealousy of others, we were likely to break up in time. Perhaps, in light of my other concerns, now was the time.
Certainly Tess felt it was time. “That’s it,” Tess told her. “You can’t see that dickhead any more. We’re going to fucking destroy him.” Tess’s obsession now went for the jugular. She realized that in order to take me down, she needed to eradicate any support for my custody case. My blog was down and on good advice, I was largely silent about the case. Tess would fill that silence with another narrative. My custody case had nothing to do with my sexuality, she maintained to others over cocktails. I was at risk of losing my children because I drink. My claims otherwise were simply lies. I lied, Tess told people, because I was not just a dickhead and an alcoholic. I was also a sociopath.
When word of Tess’s claims got back to me, I was stunned by her vindictiveness, but moreover, I worried about the possible effect of her gossip on my case. I knew that her claims were simply factually inaccurate. Tess had never read the motion against me. She had no idea what it contained. The motion had been reviewed by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund and by the individual members of the Friends of Jefferson. It was clear to all that the case was based entirely on my sexuality.
Despite my request that bloggers refrain from writing about me during the duration of my custody case, Tess and Dee made every effort to get gossip into ears and online. They did this knowing my ex-wife read their blogs and might use their gossip against me in court. In fact, Dee had supplied me with my ex-wife’s IP address; Dee’s relentless monitoring of her Statcounter had revealed that Lucy read her blog.
Concerned about the possible impact on my case, I shared their blog entries with my attorney. After she read the links, we discussed them during a meeting at her office.
My attorney shuffled the print outs on her desk. “So you say these people were friends of yours?”
“I thought so,” I shrugged. “I mean, to varying degrees. I was chums with Tess, and I was having an affair with Dee.”
“Dee’s the married woman cheating on her husband?”
“Well, they both are. Dee is the one who was cheating with me.”
“Ah, right. Well, I’ve looked this all over. It’s nothing.”
“Really?” I exhaled. “Good. Why?”
“It’s just hearsay and gossip,” she said, dropping her palms to her desktop. “See, the court is concerned about you as a father. It really doesn’t care if your ex-girlfriend doesn’t like you very much. It doesn’t even care if your ex-wife doesn’t like you very much. That’s where Lucille often goes too far, which I think will hurt her in the end.”
“Yeah, she does want the courtroom drama of having a judge condemn me as an asshole or something.” I indicated the blog excerpts. “I seem to inspire melodrama in people.”
“Apparently, huh? But it doesn’t matter.” My attorney stacked the papers neatly. “Lucille’s tantrums have already shown the judge that part of her character. As for this stuff, the blogs, none of these people are relevant. Do they have anything to say about your children?”
“No.” I shook my head. “None of them has ever met my children.”
“Very wise,” my attorney nodded.
“So Lucy can’t use any of this, huh?”
“Well, Lucy can use whatever she wants. But I can tell you, this gossip is just that: gossip. If Lucy tried to use it, we’d just subpoena these two women—what are their names? Tess and Dee? Are these their real names?”
“Do you know their real names?”
“Well, we’d need to have them come to court to testify under their real names. If they have evidence that your drinking or whatever affects your parenting, they would need to offer it. If they don’t have any evidence . . .” She shrugged. “Look, I know this kind of thing is upsetting, but don’t let it bother you. Still, word of advice?”
I shifted in my chair. “Yes?”
“You really should avoid these types of people.”
I laughed. “You think? Well, who knew they would be so mercurial? So vicious?”
“Well, not every married woman wants to fly you to the Caribbean for a second date, right?” She bobbed her head slightly. “Given the way it turned out with Dee, maybe that was a sign that maybe she was a bit . . . ?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s all clearer with hindsight.”
My attorney was right. I needed to just tune out the nonsense with Tess and Dee. They would eventually have to tire of gossiping about me.
As I focused on my case, Tess and Dee continued their campaign against me. One afternoon shortly after my first court date, Tess had lunch with our mutual friend Elizabeth. Tess unloaded the dish on me and gradually, talk turned to another topic. Wouldn’t it be fun, they thought, to create a pin-up calendar featuring New York City sex bloggers? Elizabeth and Tess had come to know many of them though Viviane’s tea parties and readings that Rachel organized. The calendar would be a nice promotional tool and if it sold well, it could generate revenue for some worthy charity.
Tess was inspired by this idea. A calendar would be fun, as Elizabeth suggested, but more, it would serve two of Tess’s main goals. Tess would limit participants to those people she wanted to impress and thereby create a new cohort—or, as she called it, “a secret sex blog cabal”—with her at its center. If calendar sales raised money, so much the better. It didn’t matter what charity benefited, so long as it wasn’t my custody case. The calendar would be a great distraction from the attention I received.
Dee was excited about Tess's scheme. She continued to send me emails deriding me for the end of our relationship. She told me she could have given me twenty thousand dollars with no problem. She could’ve funded my case for as long as it took. Instead, I had fucked some blogette. Did I expect some young girl to help with my legal bills? Who? Avah? Mariella? This new slut?
Now, by helping to raise money with a calendar, Dee would demonstrate just what I had thrown away.
Neither Tess nor Dee had any charity in mind. Dacia suggested they donate funds for an organization she was starting, focused on raising media awareness of sex workers’ rights. Neither Tess nor Dee had ever given a thought to sex workers’ rights, but supporting Dacia was a good move for Tess’s plan: Dacia was a popular sex blogger who had been close friends with me. Drawing Dacia into her new cabal, Tess knew, could get her into cool circles while having the added benefit of being seen as a snub to me.
Tess built her cabal over lunches and cocktails. She had met many female bloggers through Viviane’s tea parties and now she found many of them willing to take part in a pin-up calendar. She fueled her appeals with gossip about me, supplied by her private source. Dee usually picked up the tab.
Pretty quickly, though, Tess saw the limits of Dee’s information. We had only dated for a short time, and mostly, we had just had sex and eaten cheeseburgers. Dee’s knowledge of my other lovers was largely limited to what was already published on blogs. There were only so many times Tess could repeat stories about me having sex with someone young and pretty. Everyone already knew that I had a lot of sex. That really wasn’t news.
Even Tess tired of listening to Dee prattle on about me. Dee became anxious: she needed Tess to make her feel interesting, and in order to interest Tess, she needed fresh gossip about me. Finally, she recalled a fresh lode of unmined gold.
Dee despised Avah, but she knew my ex-girlfriend was upset with me. Avah’s blog was filled with moping about the end of our relationship. We had dated for a couple of years; surely, Avah had information to share.
Dee sent Avah a note, introducing the concept of the calendar. Avah was surprised to hear from Dee, but glad to learn about the calendar. Dee told Avah she had never really been all that interested in me. Avah said she felt the same. Dee said I was not even all that attractive. Avah LOL’d her concurrence. Dee said she thought I was a dickhead. Avah agreed.
The two fell into an intense correspondence.
Over the course of the next two weeks, they traded dozens of notes. Dee’s emails were very long, offering paragraph after paragraph of complaints about me. Avah responded to Dee’s themes, sometimes adding some of her own.
I read the correspondence in its entirety several months later. It took seven hours to read it all.
Dee was glad to have Avah’s interest as she unpacked every moment of our relationship, hoping Avah could help her to see how it had all been terrible and all of that entirely my fault. Avah had once been fixated on my relationship with Dee. She couldn’t believe how much information Dee now made available.
First of all, Dee needed to find more gossip for Tess. She told Avah that it was very important that she post stories about me being drunk. Avah said she didn’t really have any. Sure, Avah had attended parties with me for a couple of years and I drank at the parties, but she could only remember one time when I seemed drunk. Dee encouraged her to post that story. They needed to show I was an alcoholic and the only story Dee had was useless. We had gone out with friends so that Dee could have her first martini. Tess had come along and got wasted. That story wouldn’t work.
Dee outlined Tess’s plan for her cabal and the calendar. The goal, she said, was to raise at least twenty thousand dollars. Dee wanted the satisfaction of showing me that she could’ve paid all my legal bills out of pocket or through fundraising.
Dee reported that Tess was dividing the sex blog community Viviane had worked diligently to foster. The community was now to be comprised of those loyal to Tess—with Dee as her support—and those who no longer mattered.
It was important for Tess and Dee to believe that anyone who agreed to work on the calendar hated Jefferson. Jack and Sinclair were designing it because they hated Jefferson. Elizabeth, Jamye, Dacia, Rachel, Calico and others who modeled did so because they hated Jefferson.
In the new order of Tess’s cabal, it was not enough that people enjoy Tess’s company or care about raising money to promote awareness of sex workers’ rights. As Dee expressed it, they must also hate, hate, hate Jefferson.
Dee boasted of a great victory: even Jefferson’s stupid new blogette Mariella was in the calendar. Dee loved that. Tess had really scored by turning Mariella against Jefferson. Dee was sure I must be heartbroken about that.
Even prior to reading Dee’s correspondence with Avah, I had caught wind that Tess’s sights were set on Mariella. When Mariella told me that she had been asked to be a model for the calendar, I said this was a great idea, given Mariella’s love of the art. Classic pin-up art was evident in her blog, where each post included a vintage sample.
Not long afterward, a friend wrote me. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I hear you are pretty torn up about Mariella.” Puzzled, I asked how she knew this. I had barely stopped laughing when Mariella answered her phone.
“I just wanted to let you know,” I said. “I forgive you.”
“Oh, good,” Mariella sighed. “What did I do?”
“I hear I’m heartbroken since you dumped me.”
“Yeah, look, I’m very sorry about that,” Mariella said. “Wait, when did I dump you?”
“I’m not sure, but Dee says you did, so it must be true.”
“Oh damn, I hate that you heard about it this way. Well, at least it’s out.”
“And I forgive you.”
“You are a big man, Jefferson.”
“I do what I can, heartbroken and all. So, how’s it going with your boyfriend?”
I wondered, in reading Dee’s boast, how this must have sounded to Avah. She was a long-time sex blogger who looked plenty cute in a corset. She was an avid amateur photographer who had apprenticed to a professional. Surely, she would have relished being asked to be on either side of the camera for the calendar shoot.
Apparently, it never occurred to Dee to ask her to participate. Of course it wouldn’t. Dee hated, hated, hated Avah.
Now that Tess had taken things to a new level, Dee gloated to Avah, who was left with Jefferson? Just some young blogettes and the Friends of Jefferson. But who were they, anyway? Dee said that most of them were “nobodies.” Viviane was a “has been.” Lolita was a “troll.”
In the new order of Tess's cabal, it was not enough to destroy Jefferson. As Dee expressed it, anyone associated with Jefferson must also be discounted. Beyond holdouts perceived as too loyal, Tess and Dee wanted my friends to turn on me, just as the two of them had.
“What’s up with this Dee asswipe?” Wendy wrote to me. “She says you’ve been talking shit about me, but that doesn’t sound like you.”
“Sorry about that,” I replied. “She and Tess are trying to destroy my relationships.”
“Why should they bother?” Wendy said. “You can do that all by yourself!”
“Exactly!” I replied.
Marcus called me. “Do you know this Dee person? Did you fuck her or something?”
“Yes, unfortunately,” I said. “She’s the one who took me on the cruise. Remember? I think I told you that.”
“Huh. No, I don’t remember, Jefferson. I can’t keep track of every woman you fuck who takes you on a cruise. Anyway, she sent me some email asking me to buy dates on a calendar or something. I was like sure, whatever, and she begins going on and on about you, about how this calendar is all about destroying you.”
“Yeah, I don’t get how a calendar can destroy someone, but whatever. I told her I wasn’t interested—you’ve been one of my best friends for over twenty years. Why would she think I would want to destroy you?”
“That’s creepy, right?”
“She told me I was drinking Kool-Aid. Jefferson, are you running a cult or something?”
“I only know what I hear,” I said. “I gather Tess and Dee consider me to be quite the Svengali.”
“No, your only superpower is using your dick to find crazy people.”
“Yeah, I’m gifted like that.”
Dee was frustrated that people who loved me so stubbornly refused to hate me. She had far better luck running me down with people who didn’t know me. Still, she couldn’t get new dirt from them. Keeping them interested would require even more gossip. Dee and Tess fretted as the taps went dry. There just wasn’t much more to say about Jefferson.
Dee lost interest in Avah. Tess lost interest in interrogating my other friends. The focused on going to bars and tweeting to make new contacts with distant bloggers and online sex celebrities who didn’t know anything other than what they were told about Jefferson.
Meanwhile, I was offline, trying to keep my family intact. The new “Jefferson” concocted by Tess and Dee was largely theirs to define.
All of this drama had subsided by the time I read Dee's correspondence with Avah. By that time, it was clear that Tess and Dee had failed to have any impact on my custody case. They had done all they could to make people hate me. Reading how important that had been to them, in Dee’s own words, seemed pathetic and appalling, but, in terms of its impact on my real life, not all that important. “Jefferson” had served his uses to them as a straw man. None of it had much to do with who I am, or who my friends are.
I noticed that in the course of the correspondence, Dee explained to Avah how she could track my custody case through online documents. My attorney had previously pointed out the irony of this; in filling her motion, my ex-wife had unwittingly outed me. I was not at all surprised that Tess, Dee and Avah would uncover that trail.
Reading Dee’s instructions to Avah, I recalled hearing that Dee and her husband had separated since our own break up. Good for her, I thought. She was really unhappy in the marriage. Based on what Dee had told me, her husband seemed like a real jerk who didn’t care at all about their children. I now realized that in following Dee’s instructions, I could also find out online if she was getting divorced.
I found the documents in no time. Dee had not filed for divorce; her husband had. Though Dee had said he didn't care for their children, he sought joint custody. The case was still in court and would be for months to come.
Apparently, Dee’s husband had no knowledge of his wife’s affair with me. He didn’t know about the money she had spent on me, nor had he discovered her blog or her current fascination with sex work.
The online documents included the names of each party’s attorneys. A quick search and I had contact information for Dee’s husband and his attorneys.
Dee had spent a year trying to ruin my reputation. She had repeated gossip on her blog, and encouraged others to do likewise, with the stated hope of interfering with my family and my custody case. Dee had done her best to sabotage fundraising for my legal defense fund. All because she loved me and I had sex with other women.
How easy it would be to repay her in kind. One phone call and her husband’s attorneys would have Dee’s blogs, outlining her affair in her own words. They could find photographs of Dee in a calendar supporting sex workers. If he wanted, Dee’s husband could show up at any of the events Dee now attended with Tess, to see her socializing with a whole range of people involved in sex in various ways. Dee's children could attest that she had introduced them to sex workers. What sweet vindication there could be in giving Dee a taste of what she had served to me.
But who wants to live that kind of life? Who would do such a thing, particularly when someone else’s family is involved? Tess and Dee, certainly, but would I?
I may have been alarmed by Dee’s behavior, but revenge is not in my blood. I figure given time, Dee’s character will be revealed to those she uses as an audience for slander. They may tire of her. They may not. It’s not my concern.
In the meantime, I could be sure her divorce would be fraught with bitterness. After all, she had rehearsed it with me.
Not long after her husband filed for divorce, Dee sent me an email, apropos of nothing, to say that a blogger named Nikol Hasler hated me. “That might have more meaning,” I thought, “If I had ever met Nikol Hasler.” The real meaning seemed to be that Dee continued to derive satisfaction from encouraging strangers to dislike me.
By that time, I hadn’t seen Dee in nearly a year. I didn't respond to her note. I hadn't responded to anything from her in a very long time.
The other night at a party, Selina brought up a mutual friend. “John was really sad to hear you don’t like him,” she said.
“I like John,” I said, surprised. “Why would he think otherwise?”
“Dee told him. She said you just don’t like him.”
“Ah,” I nodded. “Well, if Dee says it, it must be true. Please give him my sincerest distaste.”
“Guys, I can’t believe they are still so obsessed with you,” Viviane said. “The other night, Tess cornered my friend Tom to ask him what he knew about Jefferson. He answered honestly that he’s never met you.”
“Let’s face it,” I shrugged. “Evidently, I’m pretty fascinating.”
Selina laughed. “Such an egotist.”
Viviane joined along. “No, he’s a dickhead.”