The Slutty Cat's Cradle

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“I wonder what it would look like if we drew up a chart of who slept with who?” said someone terribly unwise in our social group.  And because we were all stupid, we agreed this would be a fantastic idea.
Now, we were all in our mid-twenties, a bunch of slutty punks, and infamously incestuous.  Also pretty gossipy.   But we loved each other, a wide circle of probably about thirty friends of varying levels of friendship, and we all hung out to mosh at concerts and drink to excess and watch this new “Simpsons” show, you’ve gotta see it, it’s the fuckin’ bomb.
So one of us put up a piece of posterboard on the wall and wrote each of our names down: the “central” members of the group floating near the center, the people we didn’t see that often hovering towards the edge.
We decided on colors to connect these names: blue for dating, a broken blue for dated-but-broke-up, red for a single hookup, green for FWB.
Then we started drawing lines.
It was easy, at first: everyone knew I’d dated Jennie for years, and everyone knew that Bryan had once dated Gracie.  Then again, Gracie was infamously trampy, and proud of it, so when she stormed into the room and drew what seemed like a firework of connections to all her past lovers, it was with a tinge of pride.
And after a bit, the board looked like this:
Which is to say, a fair number of lines, but… comprehensible.  You could see the scope of things.
But after the page had been up for a week or two, people had gotten wind of it, and decided to drop by to see if their personal nexus was accurate.  So we had more visitors to the apartment, and each of them made clucking noises with their tongue.
First, they’d correct their own chart, adding a few lines that we hadn’t twigged to.  And then, invariably, they’d smirk, saying, “Oh, you hadn’t heard about Debbie and Clyde?” and then proceeded to add a few more bits culled from gossip that hadn’t wended its way to our ears.
This happened over and over again, until the chart started to look like a spirograph:
And in that tangle of lines was madness.  We weren’t that slutty, were we?  We couldn’t have been this hungry to fuck, collectively.  I mean, each of us liked having sex, and we’d been friends since high school, but… this couldn’t be a typical social group, could it?  It was like Robert Chambers’ Yellow Sign, a sigil that teased out madness the longer you looked at it… and yet none of us could look away.
The madness grew, because of course there were buried resentments embedded in the chart.  Dayne had slept with Lynn when she was on a temporary break with Phil, but Phil hadn’t known that.  Mike had outright cheated on Liz with Jennifer, and whoops, we’d remembered that Mike had slept with Liz but had forgotten when.  Happy couples who looked at the chart did so at their peril, for their past history was laid out for all to see: all you had to do was hunt down your lover’s name in that tangle of threads, place your finger on them, and follow the lines to every bit of sexual history they had.
Shoving matches broke out.  Couples broke up.  Friendships took huge dents as past betrayals bobbed to the surface.
And I?  I hid, happily, because though being a slut I was a major focal point in that web, I also knew of at least two women I had hooked up with under dubious circumstances… and those connections were mercifully absent on the chart.
If I was missing connections, then others doubtlessly had to be.
This chart, crazy as it was?  Was incomplete.
After enough psychodrama had been churned up, someone – we never found out who – threw the chart out in the trash before it could cause any more trouble.  The people who had yet to see it moaned a little, sad that they’d missed out on such a treasure trove of gossip, but they didn’t complain overmuch.  I think they knew what would happen, and in that they were way wiser than we were.
But I’ve been talking a lot about cheating lately, and all the people who’ve said, “Well, if you sleep around, you’re sure to get caught.”  And I don’t know, man.  A lot of affairs don’t ever come to light.  We shined an dim and guttering lantern upon our own social circle – which was, as noted, admittedly incestuous – and turned up a lot of cheating incidents that would have remained successfully buried for, like, ever, if we hadn’t stupidly decided to open-source our own gossip.  And I had at least two regrettable events in my past that, despite that, never were revealed – and, years later, have never been revealed – which means that others might be so.
When I think of affairs, and cheating, I think that they’re actually pretty easy to do.  And I think that while the consequences of being discovered are dire, the actual number of people who get away with it is far higher than anyone knows.
I think of charts.
I think of madness.
I think that chart was incomplete, and Lord knows that we’ll never get a full picture of anything.

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