Monday, January 10, 2011

Knocked Up by the Ghost of Christmas Present

Now I am able to write.

Again.

Abe says, "Everything always happens twice." More or less, it did.

The first days of 2011 are a whirlwind of self examination and, frankly, it sucks.

A couple days after Christmas, I was working at the Doggie Daycare and felt very nauseous. I could feel bile crawling up my throat. Moments later, I could smell everything. The feces outside, the dog food being poured in bowls for dinner feedings. I could smell steak in one of the dog's bowls, and it smelled goooooood.

The knot in my stomach got heavier. The thought occurred to me, has 9 months of unprotected sex come back to bite me in the ass? Could I be pregnant? Gesus, we all go through this a few times a year. You wonder, dream and freak out all at once.

I had one pregnancy test at home waiting for me, but it was old. In fact, it expired in 2009, that's how old it is! It was just the pee stick with no box or instructions. I thought I could remember how it works, there is just a window for pregnant and for not pregnant- right?

I peed on the stick. There were two windows on the stick, neither labeled. Both windows had a horizontal line appear almost immediately. My heart stopped. That can't be good.

I went on-line to look up what it meant. There was nothing in google images so I was jumping on chat threads trying to figure it out. One person said, "If there are two lines, you are definitely pregnant."

Pot was a no-go at this point, so I grabbed one last cigarette. Just one to help me deal with what this all meant.

When I smoke, I sit in my car and play music. Keeps my apartment from smelling like a dirty bar. I would prefer it just smell like a kennel, and not like a dirty bar next to a kennel.

Everything flashed through my head, my relationship with Abe would be under tremendous strain. We would move in, but probably in San Clemente close to his parents (who would be helping us). They would pressure me to give up my dogs and my acting career.

At Christmas Eve/Shabbot dinner, his Grandmother said, "Maybe its time to do something different than the acting thing." Later I told Em, and she said, "But you have only been trying it for a year. Its one thing to give it up after 12 years of nothing, but you are just starting out."

If I had to defend my creative career in the first year of dating, what would happen if I was knocked up and living with their son.

Then I thought about my parents, who looked ecstatic in my imagination. Everyone was happy. I would be happy for the first couple years, then before you know it I would be 40, in the PTA and wondering what my life would be like if I had a couple more years to try and make it work as an actress/writer.

I called Em and told her that the test said I was pregnant. (You know you have a good friend when they pick up the phone after 11pm on a week night, and their husband is already in bed)

Her voice was soft, "Well, its tough because this is what you wanted." I said, " . . . yeah." Well, its more complicated than that. I do want a baby with Abe- but I want a career as badly. With girls it really is one or the other. The gender revolution has only created one major difference in the 21st Century, one or the other doesn't take over the rest of your life, you now can manage to alternate between the two.

Em said it would work out, but I really needed to pee on a pregnancy test that wasn't expired. I agreed. She said she would wait up for me.

I drove over to the only thing open after 11pm in Pasadena, a Ralph's. I walked in smelling like American Spirits with frizzy hair and shell-shock pale. I grabbed a test, those things are so fucking expensive.

I got to the counter, where the check-out clerk was a Middle Aged Black Man with just a touch of grey in his hair. He rung me up and said, "What are you looking for?"

At first, I thought he meant food . . . we are at a grocery store. Then I realized he meant the test.

I said, "I don't know. Its complicated. I don't want to talk about it." I was trying to be friendly, but I really didn't want to talk about it with him right now. I was still processing.

He said, "I am a minister." Of course he is. This recession has a real sense of humor. "And I always tell people you get what you get. You didn't go in with your eyes closed. When you play with God's plan, it ends up coming back at you."

All of these half-baked, poorly refurbished bumper sticker slogans were not helping.

I said, "Oh yeah. Well, I always say it is what it is." I grabbed my bag and waved goodbye.

He said, "Good luck. Hope it all works out for you."

I ripped open the box, peed on the stick and looked at the instructions. The two lines were not indicative of pregnancy. One window was simply a test window. The one horizontal line = not pregnant. If a cross appears that means your pregnant.

I wasn't pregnant. My heart sank again. Its so hard being a girl. I was torn. I do this to myself from time to time, put myself through a hypothetical pregnancy crisis and it usually comes with its highs and lows. This time, I felt really upset about the negative result. Could I ever get pregnant again? Why wasn't I pregnant?

I called Em and explained that it was a false alarm. I kept it brief because I knew everyone in her home was asleep and she was waiting up to hear from me.

After I hung up, I smoked a lot of pot.

The next day, I had to make copies of my key for the dogwalkers since I was going out of town for a few days. I stopped in a hardware shop. Two men were behind the counter. One was over the age of 60 and looked very much like a caricature of a Norman Rockwell picture. The other was an overweight, younger Hispanic dude. They pretty much sum up Pasadena.

They asked me how many copies and I stuttered, I said, "I'm sorry I didn't get a lot of sleep last night and I am only halfway through my latte this morning. Of course, I left it in my car for reasons unknown."

Hispanic Dude, "Were you partying last night?"

Norman Rockwell, "Don't ask our customers that?"

They both stared at me for a moment.

Me, "Actually I misread a pregnancy test last night."

Hispanic Dude excused himself, while Norman Rockwell decided to light a pipe and put me on his knee.

Norman, "Is it what you wanted?"

I said, "Yes, negative. I am not in a good place to have a child right now. I am in a very new, promising relationship and I don't want to put any strain on it."

Norman said, "Yes, thats good. You are young right, 23?"

I nodded. Why not?

Norman, "You need to wait and get to know each other."

I added, "And have things like a savings account."

Norman said, "Yeah, exactly. Unfortunately, I have been married four times and have had a lot of girlfriends. And you know what I learned about relationships that could solve a lot of problems?"

I listened intently.

Norman, "Temperature. My wife is always cold and I am always hot. No matter where we are, in the car or in the house, she is always blasting the heat. I can't take it. So I think people should find someone within their own temperature level of comfort."

I said, "Well, I think most women get cold before men, so that might be tricky. You know, I wear a lot of long socks to keep me warm."

He said, "Oh yeah? (pause) Knee highs or thigh highs?"

Hey dude, I am only 23.

I said, "Well, thigh highs. It helps."

He said, "My wife wears these cute little knee highs all the time. They look nice."

Keys done!! I said, "Well, thank you!"

Norman, "Thank YOU! Come back in and see us again soon."

The next morning, Abe and I were driving up to Lake Isabella to visit his family and I told him about the botched test.

He said, "Why didn't you call me?"

I said, "After the last pregnancy, I promised myself I wouldn't tell any prospective fathers until I was in a safe place with the pregnancy. Last time, I was yelled at a lot and I asked the OBGYN if the stress contributed to my miscarriage, she said it could have. So I am not putting myself in that position again."

He said, "Why would I yell at you?"

I said, "Because . . . you would be mad . . . at me?"

He said, "How could I be mad at you?"

I said, "I don't know, cause you feel pushed into a corner. You know I would never get an abortion."

He touched my knee, "I know."

He was taking this so well. His voice was soft.

I said, "And you would have to get a job."

He smiled and looked away, "I know, baby."

It was weird. Emotional support. So foreign. So new. So much easier.

He said, "You still seem depressed."

I said, "I know. I started my period."

He said, "Oh."

I said, "What if I can't have babies anymore? I am going on 33. Oprah says after the age of 35, your eggs become 10 times less likely to be fertilized."

He said, "Come on, you are fertile, baby. Women have babies over 35 all the time."

I said, "Without hormone injections?"

Him, "Yes."

I said, "What if I was pregnant and this period is like . . . one of those really early miscarriages. Its heavier than usual this month."

He said, "Awwww." He touched my knee again, this time he left his hand there. Warmth. I have never been with someone who felt like he was sitting on my heart with me. I could tell him everything and he was going to love me and be there with me. The heaviness in my heart picked up a little bit.

When we made it to the house in Lake Isabella, it was nice, but it felt very much like I was living someone else's life. I watched my drinking, watched my conversation . . . I can be a little weird funny and I am not sure his family is ready to deal with who I really am. Much less the full account detailed in this blog.

Ringing in my head was, "I don't deserve this." I am in a relationship that belongs to a younger woman who is in school, studying something like psychology or education. A girl who has enough money to avoid a constant state of crisis, with parents who would pay for a big wedding. She would be calm, have a clean apartment with lots of IKEA furniture and have a whole, normal life ahead of her. That was never me.

Driving back, I thought about what life would be like if I just had a series of miscarriages and no baby.

Abe, "Are you thinking about miscarriage?"

I said, "Yeah. I love how you can read my mind."

He said, "Huh? About what? Oh shit, am I driving on the right side of the street? (pause) Yeah. Whew." I love him.

My 33rd birthday is coming up and with the New Year, there is lots of commotion in my head. I am in love with a younger man who doesn't have a lot of experience with women (and may want some). I am starting a new career with no money. A career where looks matter a great deal, and I am noticing lines around my mouth I never saw before. In fact, I am obsessing over them.

Whenever I look at any other woman, I study their wrinkles. I still feel like I have the worst wrinkles of anyone I know. So I have been watching a lot of Nancy Meyers movies lately, because Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep have the same wrinkles and are happy in-love. Keeping the dream alive that I won't have to self terminate around menopause.

The few days up at the house in Isabella were good. Though, Abe was ranting a lot about his roommates who failed to pay any of their utilities or cable for the last year, and one just asked him to co-sign on one of his three girlfriends' new apartment. The family started pushing him to move out and get a job. They laid it on thick, but he needed it. Abe will rant for a long time and still not really do anything over the predicament. He lacks drive and execution.

I call him the Ghost of Christmas Present, because he is always very forgetful in the moment and he lives in the moment, making him a creature of contentment. Kind of like my dogs.

When New Year's Eve came around, I got my pay check for all the holiday shifts I was working with holiday pay, and it was only half of my rent. My unemployment is suspended at the moment due to earnings discrepancies and I had no other income coming in. I cried on the car ride home from work and came into a dozen roses, two mimosas and a camera timed to take my picture on my entry.

I looked haggalicious. Abe came out and hugged me, did the math on my paycheck and found it accurate. He told me not to freak out. It was going to work out. I was determined to enjoy the last few hours of the year, so we went to an old martini bar in Pasadena and had blast.

With the vodka in my blood, I spoke freely about moving in together. It would solve both of our problems. I pay my bills and he would cut my overhead in half. He agreed with me, then we had hot sex, though I don't remember enough details to store in my mental archive. Seems like a waste if I can't masturbate to it later.

Well, the next few days, I brought up a little here or there how we could find a place in Alhambra so he would be close to the 710 freeway to Orange County. I wouldn't let him clean up so much, and then demonstrate what a clean, organized roommate I could be.

He said without looking at me, "I can't move in with my girlfriend, baby. I am not in that place in my mind. And I don't think I will be there in 3 months."

But in 3 months we will have been together for a year . . . and Gawd, I NEED this to save my family.

I can't sustain $1095 rent on a place for 5 animals for the rest of the year, much less NEXT MONTH! What was I going to do? My heart sank.

I couldn't push him on this. If he isn't ready, he isn't ready. And me forcing the issue would only make things worse. So my period/miscarriage-depression soon expanded to a financially destitute/I am $$ fucked anxiety-depression-distracted mood that I am still trying to shake.

The sex stopped. My laughter stopped. My heart stopped.

Abe tried to counsel me a little, but his advice was so poor. He has NEVER had to fend for himself.

He suggested I get a second and third job, ask the doggie daycare for an advance, ask a woman at work who has a reputation for making personal loans for the money (I don't know her, why would I ask her for money?) . . . oh! And my favorite:

Abe, "My grandfather used to always say look on the ground for money. When I was little he would throw coins on the ground in front of me so I would find them. Then one day, I threw a paper airplane and it landed right next to a $50 bill."

Dude, that was your Grandfather's $50. For fuck's sake?

My sister says, "Well, he's young." I said, "When I was 28, I was married, divorced and financially independent. He is not that young!"

I felt myself building a wall around us. Before he headed back to Costa Mesa, he took me to his grandfather's grave. His grandfather is always present with his family. They talk about him all the time and just before they embark on a story or detail, they all smile. I have never seen a family honor someone like that before, its a beautiful thing.

We went up to the grave which is near my credit union and I saw his gravestone there. I did't know what to do but hug Abe and kiss the back of his neck, thank him for showing me.

Abe rambled on about rocks he brought to the grave and a little lego his 3-yr-old cousin jammed next to the stone that was still there.

I saw a stretch of land between his Grandfather's grave and the cliff that plateaued several feet away. I thought about how his Grandmother would be buried there, then his parents and then maybe me. Its hard for me to picture. I always imagined I would be dumped in an unmarked, communal grave like Mozart.

He went back to Orange County and I thought about everything.

I thought about giving up acting and getting another office job to support my little family. On-line those jobs are around the same pay as Doggie Daycare. Fucking recession!

I looked up selling my eggs, but I am too old and I can't be a surrogate without one successful pregnancy.

I looked up selling a kidney. Its illegal.

My blood lacks iron so I can't sell that, though that wouldn't make up for the $700 bucks short on rent. I would probably only come out with two movie tickets. Still kinda worth it.

I thought about finding a roommate. On craigslist there was an ad for a girl to move in with a Filmmaker who would cover her rent. Pets ok.

I looked up jobs for bikini bar, sex phone operator . . . anything. I would be lying if I didn't think about a benefactor. An older gentleman looking for a young woman to help financially in exchange for . . .

Before you judge me, think to yourself, WHAT THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO?

Relocate the animals and move into a studio? That would be like ripping my heart out. Maggie, Esther, Belle and Murray are like my kids. Cupcake is like the foster kid that crashes the sitcom in the 8th season.

Move to Washington? To where? My family won't take me in.

What do you do when you are desperate? You think about everything. I would sell drugs if I knew how. I am so bad at math and I think you got to measure stuff.

The anxiety became worse a bit. I sent a few text messages:

"Ur going to lose me. If you don't save me. You'll lose me."

"You don't like my lifestyle. It just won't work out, ok? I love you but there is no future here for me. I have to think about myself and my animals."

He texted me back not to feel bad, that he would help me sell a few things on eBay.

I texted back, "Forget it."

I was sabotaging this.

I wrote again, "You will never want to live with dogs and I won't give them up. I need to move or make a lot of money and I don't know how to do that with a boyfriend. I know you have never been financially destitute so you don't understand. Maybe you will read about how I made it in 10 yrs or you will just forget about me."

He wrote, "Reverting mindset. But U don't need anyone to help U, do U? So why u toublin me? So find the next guy wholl save U from the next thing. Don't communicate with me like I dont care. What BS!"

I wrote, "Ur right. Its not your responsibility to save me. Looking back, I see I put a lot boyfriends in a bad position because of my finances. I am an asshole and will figure it out on my own."

He wrote, "Stop looking into the future and seeing all the negatives. Stop hanging on negative thoughts. Especially about me. Please baby. U haven't lost yr treasure yet, don't lose ur mind first. Ok? :-)"

I took some time. He is right, I can't lose my mind. But I see no way of making up half my rent for another year. I just don't see it.

I asked to not talk to him for a couple days so I could freak out alone. The idea was I could protect him from the black hole I call my life while I sorted out a solution or a plan.

Then . . . my computer crashed. I got the blue screen of death stating it was dumping all my physical memory.

Now, I hadn't really cried yet about how behind I was in rent and how fucked I was in 2011. Watching the last year of my life disappear in 10 seconds on my computer screen sucked the oxygen out of my head and my hands started shaking. No tears, but I was having some kind of Out of Body Nervous Breakdown.

I called Abe and left a voicemail, got choked up about the computer and asked for his help.

I had a few other things to take care of that day . . . audio issues with my pilot, my sister was in town, fucking everything else. Someone on Facebook offered to have his tech guy check out my computer and pay for any minor problems he could clear up. That was sweet- so I drove out and dropped off my laptop.

With all my bad luck, there is a lot of good luck.

No word from Abe for 10 FUCKING HOURS! TEN!

He finally texted me, "I was frustrated: the comp, calculating my roommates debt, not finding jobs, sending mail, buying oil, getting water, eating, making endless lists of shit to do."

I wrote, "Welcome to Adult Life."

I called him and just said, "What the fuck?"

He said, "Look, I have shit to do too."

There was some overlapping dialogue here before he said, "I am gone for ONE day and everything falls apart. What now? What do I have to fix now?"

I said, "Go FUCK yourself!" And hung up.

Then texted, "I always pick the wrong fucking guys."

At this point of my story, Abe goes MIA for three days. No returning of phone calls or texts or anything.

The old "Abe Disappearing Act" from last summer. We broke up over it, and now, here it was again. He is establishing a pattern that I will never be able to break, no matter the consequence since clearly, breaking up with him wasn't enough! My anxiety-F$ked-depression was now a I-am-alone-and-f$ked-for-the-rest-of-my-mid-life-crisis nose dive.

He texted me on Saturday night about how I am asking for negative attention, blah blah blah. I left it.

The light in my chest that carried me to the end of the year dimmed.

An older gentleman I know said, "Life is hard enough. If you can't get through the easy stuff in the beginning ... and I mean coast through it happily, there is no way you can get through the hard stuff later in life. Its like climbing a greased Christmas tree."

Why did it have to be a Christmas tree in this metaphor?

Today, I am at Em's and while she made me lunch, her husband shed some light on it all.

Em's Hubby, "Look, you throw the pregnancy thing at him, then the rent thing, and then computer? That's your fucking problem."

I said, "But he knows computers and he had a couple days from the other issues before I called."

Em's Hubby, "Look, deal with some of your own problems on your own. You can't share all of them with him and expect him not to get overwhelmed. Be considerate."

Me, "I thought I was."

Em's Hubby, "Considerate? The word considerate means consider his thoughts and feelings. He needs time to process."

Me, "I need a rock who can be there and pick up the phone no matter the crisis. He isn't just my lover but my best friend."

Em's Hubby, "We don't want to be your friend. We want to have sex with you. You ladies don't have sex with your friends. Maybe there is something there too."

Me, "Great. So I am not dating a friend."

Em's Hubby, "Do something for him. Don't make it all about your problems."

Me, "But he doesn't really have any problems, besides the job thing."

Em's Hubby, "Well . . . thats cause he isn't bringing them to you. There has to be more than great sex. I mean, you are a handful."

Me, "Well thats the trade off. Can you have great sex with someone who isn't a handful?"

He laughed.

Em's Hubby, "Just give him a break."

I did, I called. It was rough. I will spare you the negative details. In the end, he drove up to my place that night to put together a computer for me. He didn't realize my computer crashed. Ghost of Christmas Present.

I felt guarded from him and depressed, I didn't want to touch him or make love to him- but somehow in the morning all of that passed. We apologized. Made love. Ate food.

As Count Laszlo said in English Patient, "Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again."

Whether I deserve him/this or not, the truth is without hope we are dead. I am not ready to die yet.

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