Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Old Wounds, New Scars


Friday I slept all day and thought. I thought about the relationship, about Abe, about Not-for-Profit(my last 5 yr affair), about my ex-husband, about it all. When you are so raw, and so intoxicated with your own thoughts and memories, you close the door to everything exterior. There were two people I let in, my two closest girlfriends; Em and Lana.

Em

Saturday morning, I went over to Em’s house for coffee.  She is fostering a tiny puppy whose riding the joy jet to life. There is one moment I always want to remember Em by. I was driving up to her front yard and watching her play with this puppy for the first time.

It was cold, and she had on a black, heavy jacket. The wind was whipping her chestnut hair over and around her head to silent music, and the biggest smile in the world was dancing on her face. No matter where life takes us, I always want to remember Em in that moment. She was home.

Saturday morning was warm, and she just came home from picking up the little guy at his co-foster’s home. She immediately dropped him in my arms and I felt my head get light and the muscles in my mouth ache from smiling.

I said, “Look at his little penis.”

Em said, “His balls haven’t even dropped yet.”

We went out back to her patio table and I didn’t really want to talk about Abe. I felt like I made up my mind, I was sad about it but didn’t want to revisit to no end, you know? I just wanted to give my mind a break and breathe.

Em said, “You know you don’t need this right now. You are going through a hard time and you really just need to focus on yourself right now.”

I asked her if I was a piece of shit. I confided that I was afraid all my endless problems just make me into a black hole. I am afraid my problems were infectious. That I set myself up to constantly fail.

Em consoled me. She said I needed to focus on healing. My hands are still badly scarred from the Murray incident, where the pain this year really started for me. She reminded me of how I couldn’t use my hands for a time, and eventually they healed with all these red scarred marks trailing down my wrist. The scar tissue is raised into bumps, the doctor says, because I have more collagen in my skin than most people. It is permanent.

They look like the tiny studded pins on the revolving cylinder inside a music box, waiting for the steel tooth comb to pluck over them, ringing out the musical note of a greater story.

My heart would do the same. Let the little red scars all over my hand remind me of what’s to come.

My voice cracked and I said, “I really don’t know how I can start all over with someone new.”

She said, “You will. Don’t worry. Just focus on you right now. Get better.”

All the time before coming over to her, I worried that I was self-absorbed, distracted and not empathic enough to be a good friend. She helped me realize that sometimes you have to stick your head up your ass, so you can figure out what’s going on up there. I had to find my footing before I kept trudging down this muddy path.

Lana

I was on Gchat with Lana, who was my shoulder to cry on throughout a good chunk of the Not-for-Profit affair. I forwarded her the emails Abe sent.

What is precious about Lana’s friendship is no matter how I fuck up, whether I disregard her advice or follow it to the punctuation mark, there is never any judgment. No fear. All accepting. I have never had that with anyone before.

She read the emails.

 11:18 PM Lana: LIKE WOAH
 me: I mean . . .
  its really unprovoked bullshit
 Lana: WOAH
11:19 PM me: its verbally abusive, right?
  like, uncalled for?
  I mean, I spent hours wondering if I was a pile of shit
  and then I realized I was right back where I started with Eric
11:20 PM Lana: ummm the first one where he called you a bitch crosses the line. but i dont think its verbally abusive. it just sounds so HOSTILE because its via email and everything is capped.
 GUH
 jesus.
Lawd.
he's just being a dick.
**
me: its bad
 Lana: yes, it's really bad.
 me: and it will just get worse
**
11:22 PM Lana: ugh,
  i can't deal. my pms makes me wanna go sob in a corner and burn an email. i wish emails could be burned.
  can they be?
 me: hahaha
  then I couldn't obsessively review them
  no, emails are forever
**
I already constructed a first draft break up letter
Lana: dont do this over email.
  you guys should talk to each other.
 me: everytime I think about seeing him I hear high pitched white noise
 eeeeeeeeeeeeee
 Lana: HAHAHHAHAHA
**
me: ok, I will try to get the flash drive back
  before I break up with him
  thats the new plan
 Lana: ok
  good luck.
 me: and then break up with him
 Lana: dont end up having sex with him instead.
me: its Eric
11:26 PM Its Eric all over again
  eugh, now I am getting cramps
  maybe he can read my letter in my presence
Lana: ok, he's a total dbag in these emails, but it's no eric. that's extreme. at least there is a semblance of love in between the lines of the rampage. but you are BOTH at the end of your rope.
  both of your emails say that clearly.
11:31 PM and you are both exhausted from negativity.
**
 me: I pushed him into becoming someone he isn't
  and he exploded
**
 me: I never asked for the money
 Lana: it's not about the money.
**
Lana: men lose it when they feel they can't provide.
dont read those emails. ugh, they make me nauseous.
 me: I am tired just thinking about it
must lay down
  reconvene tomorrow night
 Lana: ok babes.
  hang in there.
 me: thanks babe
 Lana: sending LOVE!!!!!!!!!

Trent

I went to the Doggie Daycare for work. I look forward to going to work now. I fall in love with the dogs of anonymous rich people, routinely dropped off at our doors. I have fallen in love with the same night crew I work with a few times a week.

One of them is named Trent. Trent is a psychology student, as well as a Hispanic homosexual with a multi-colored Mohawk.  He gets every joke I drop on the doggie playground. And he shamelessly laughs at every single one, no matter how bad, disgusting or redundant.

-We both look at a dog with saliva foam all over his face. Me, “That’s how I looked last night.”

-We had a beagle on the large side who tried to hump all the larger dogs. When he was humped, he would shriek. I said, “He doesn’t want to be on bottom.” Trent said, “Get over it Truman, its not that bad.”

-Trent asked me to pick something up in front of him while he was mopping and I said, “Any excuse to get me to bend down in front of you, right?” He threw his hand over his wrist and in his most feminine, gay voice, “Guilty!”

I can’t explain why I sexually bond with EVERYONE close to me- but somehow its my way to connect. Maybe I am sexually retarded.

Sunday night, I waited for the clock to reach 9 so I could go home and prepare for the break-up talk. Abe was on his way.

So our usual Doggie Daycare banter was off. I was distracted.

In the break room, Trent walked in. Without looking up, I held up my fist. “Need a place to sit.”

Both Trent and another kennel attendant were sitting at the small table with bruised fruit and dirty cups between us. Both of them were starting promising relationships. I felt toxic. Want to know how to fuck up promise? Date me.

Abe would be bringing the flash drive over. I wrote the break up letter and saved it for him to read in person. I can’t think as clearly when I speak, and am interrupted and thrown off . . . I needed to write this down so my thoughts were organized, edited . . . so he could understand. I am far more graceful on the page than in person.

Before I left, I told Trent, “I have to go break up with my boyfriend and I don’t have any alcohol at home. Except for that bottle of Whiskey you guys bought me when my cat died.”

Trent said, “Have a shot before he comes over. (in a Katherine Hepburn voice) A shot of whiskey to calm the nerves?” I laughed. For some reason, that last thing he said to me ran over and over in my mind. It made me smile and helped more than the whiskey. 

Abe

I went home and the first song sent from the radio gods was “Love Hurts.” Hilarious, God, frickin’ hilarious.

“Love hurts, love scars,
Love wounds, and mars,
Any heart, not tough,
Or strong, enough
To take a lot of pain,
To take a lot pain,
Love is like a cloud,
Holds a lot of rain.
Love hurts.”

I got home and took a shot. Then I drank some grapefruit juice. Eugh. I showered.

I heard him come in while I was drying off. I closed the door so he wouldn’t see me naked and got dressed. When I opened the bedroom door, I saw a bin with a change of clothes and his bong in it. He was returning to our routine.

Coldly, I said, “I wrote something down and I want you to read it. I am going to leave you alone to read it.” He took a hit from his bong and wouldn’t look at me. “Ok.”

I pulled up my letter:

I have taken this time to really reflect on those two messages you sent to me.

I want to make sure what I am about to say is what I really want, and I don't want there to be any ambiguity or doubt that what I say comes with absolute truth and clear reflection.

There are a lot of things I could tolerate in the name of love.  I could tolerate those things with the understanding that we are all growing and have character flaws, quirks and aspects to our personality that kink when brought together with another life. And the Abe I have known for the last year is a beautiful, caring, intelligent and bizarre person I was endlessly fascinated with.

What I cannot tolerate is verbal abuse in any form. That wasn't the tone I set forth in my emails or communication. I don't deserve it and after a year I am shocked you would disrespect me, spit venom with such ease and over a conversation and email that were meant to repair, not tear down. All you have set forth to do with your communication is tear me down.

I realize I have been depressed the last few months with the financial crisis, Murray's passing and the Cake. It is hard to love someone when they are going through a dark time, but it was a good test to see how far we could have gone together given all the hurdles that remain in both our lives. It was a triple whammy, and no matter how we tried to dress it up . . . we couldn't make it through.

I am sure you will spin this in a million different ways (ie. I am crazy, I am negative, I want your money, I want you to move in, I want babies, etc etc etc) and there is nothing I can do about how you represent this to your family and friends. As you said so before, you make yourself look to be in the right when discussing our business. But this is just about the notes.

I am going to show you how an adult breaks off a relationship with respect and dignity. 

I promised myself after Eric that I would not put myself through the arguments, the hurtful comments, the bruising to my self esteem, the cyclical fights, apologies and nerves of what to say and what not to say for fear that he would blow up at me. That part of my life is over. I will not go through it all over again because I know the result. It gets worse. There is no reward, there is no repair and there is no love left.

I do not want to see you again, not as a boyfriend and not as a friend. 

I would never take back the time we spent together. It was precious to me, all the way up until the end.

I hope you reflect on my message and don't throw back negativity and darkness. I wish you only light, love and laughter. I hope you find your way.

Love 

I climbed in my car and lit up one of his cigarettes. Song #2 from the radio gods, “The End” by the Doors. Right from the beginning of the song, Jim Morrison’s voice crept into my smoke and sang:

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end,
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end

I’ll never look into your eyes .. . again”

I rubbed my eyes in the palm of my hands and felt the smoke sting. WHAT THE FUCK!

“It hurts to set you free
But you’ll ever follow me,
The end of laughter and soft lies,
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end.”

I listened to that song the first time my heart was broken by my first boyfriend in 10th grade. I wondered what I would have thought knowing 18 years later, I would be putting a new face to the lyrics.

I also wondered if that’s where the darkness found me, when I discovered the Doors at age 14. Then I thought about the weight of light and dark. No . . . my introduction to darkness was earlier.

Number #3 Song from the radio gods immediately started:

“The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother”

I slammed the radio off. Silence.

Climbing the stairs up, I slowly entered the apartment, and saw he was outside on my patio, his back was turned to the front door and he was smoking. I said, “We can talk about it when you’re ready.”

After what felt like several minutes, he sat down across from me and said, “Tell me why you don’t want to see me again.” His voice was soft.

I can’t remember this part of the conversation very well. I was ice cold and strong, up to this point. I could feel the tingling of feeling returning to my fingertips and toes. The warmth of blood pump out of my heart again.

I told him this wasn’t working. That the emails knocked the wind out of me. That cruelty would just perpetuate into future arguments. That I felt like a pile of shit and right now its hard enough living with myself . . . after Murray’s death.

He said, “I do think you are valuable. I know when I sent those letters, they were mean.” He repeated the word “mean” a few times while studying his hands. Every time he said it, I felt better. They were mean.

He said, “You have sent me mean text messages before, but they never ended things. I just figured we would make it through. And, you know, after I read what you said, I thought, ‘She is right. I do need a plan.’ That night I applied for a bunch of jobs in Los Angeles, and in Orange County and have an interview set-up for tomorrow.”

I thought, great, hope the next girlfriend appreciates that.

Instead, I said, “Congratulations.”

We continued talking, and he would beat himself up and say, “What you are saying is I am not man enough. That I am not worth shit. I am a useless boy, not a man.”

And I said, “You are a man, but you are on a different path at a different speed. And the girl that gets you at the right time is going to be really lucky.”

The conversation was painful. His eyes were getting glassy and his hands were shaking. He wanted to type me a letter too, with me in the room. I watched him stare at the screen, the white light from the monitor lit up his blue eyes like the old Lite-Brite I had in the 80s. His fingers were suspended over the keyboard.

I kept thinking, what could he say that would change my mind? I couldn’t think of anything. I poured us both another shot of whiskey and opened two bottles of beer he brought with him. I left them on the desk next to him.

The waiting is especially difficult for me. I went down to my car to have another cigarette.

Song #4 from the radio gods . . . “Touch Me” by The Doors.

I should probably mention here that I am obsessed with the Doors. That same teenager I was in 9th grade who wrote down all the lyrics as she played the cassette tapes over and over again, is still alive and well inside the walls of this body. I ration my Doors music to keep sane. The obsession is far too easy to slip back into.

It is also unusual to hear these particular Doors songs play. Now, I listen to the Classic Rock stations all the time and might hear the shortened version of “Light My Fire” (my least favorite song) or “Break on Through” but to hear “The End” is highly unusual and then on a different station “Touch Me” from their least popular album (which I thought was brilliant) “Soft Parade”. It felt like a sign, but they were pointing in two totally separate directions.

“What was that promise that you made?
Now, I’m gonna love you,
Till the heavens stop the rain,
I’m gonna love you,
Till the stars fall from the sky, for you and I . . .

It was around this time, it started drizzling outside. Horribly poetic, I know.

The next song started:

“Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind,
I’m older now but still running’

Against the wind.”

Slam. Silence. Back to Abe.

I walked in and read from over his shoulder. He was still struggling to find the words. I could smell the shampoo in his hair and the tickle of his new haircut on my chin. I leaned in and rested my face on his hair. He stopped typing. It read:

“When WE first started seeing each other, we had a lot of time together.  I thought, I like this woman, She can teach me a lot. When we first broke up for 2-3 months , I thought we should probably spend some time apart, because I can't be In LA so  often , I have things to tend to in oc.   

Now , I don’t feel Like we need to spend time apart, I think we need to spend more time together, If we are both wanting to stay together. 

I feel frustrated with some things that I think about also, and I do think about what you told me about my self tonight. I think about it a lot. And I work at it with the time I have. But nothing  seems to happen, it just stays the same, and I need something to happen so I can change and so more things. 

It’s not about me. Its about us . I think we could be happy together if we both work at what we want, right now it's not easy to get everything that we want, but we can get eachother... im i cant thinks of anything else to write....    

I wanted the make it work somehow, I just don’t have enough experience.   so i guess im a liar in the end.  I cant drink this booze because I have to go home now, and get a job so I can be a person that a woman like you can respect and get straight answers from and be confident and not mope around typing garbage like some wussy boy.    

I dont want you to be evicted and Im leaving you this $1,100  Please used it toward your advantage or what ever you decide to do with it.  I hope it helps you.

I'll stop writing and go and stop wasting your time.”

I said, “Drink with me.”

He said, “I have to drive home.” I thought, I should let him leave now, that would be the adult thing to do. Instead I pushed the drink closer and said again, “Drink with me. And I am not taking the money.”

He left the check next to my computer and I am still staring at it. On the Memo line there is a happy face with a finger pointing toward a heart.

While he was drafting out the letter, I saw him write, “You are comfortable when you are agitated.” Just before backspacing and deleting the letters slowly. 

I told him it is similar to a comment a friend made to me when I was 21. She said, “You pamper yourself with sadness.” 

He said, “Huh.”

I said, “I have been thinking about what you said. How I create an environment where I am uncomfortable. I think its because when I was little I was always uncomfortable. I was scared of my Dad. He needed to cope with coming back from the war so he played all these Vietnam movies over and over and over again. I watched all of them with him. I knew all the words to Platoon in Elementary school. The first movie I remember seeing when I was 4 yrs old was Deer Hunter.”

Abe’s eyes grew large for one of his signature expressions then retreated back to his stoic self.

Then I told him a secret. Damn it, why wouldn’t this whiskey take hold?

We all have a terrible secret about ourselves. Maybe not all of us. I have a few. This was the worst one.

I don’t know why I told him, I just wanted him to know that . . . I knew I was troubled. And the phantoms he sees over my head are not his imagination, they are my memories.

He then told me something about his childhood. He said, in Kindergarten, while playing "Duck, Duck, Goose", he thought he would impress a girl he liked by cutting across the circle and tagging her. Instead of everyone thinking that was brilliant, he was teased. He felt like no one wanted to be his friend after that.

I smiled. It was around Kindergarten where no one wanted to be my friend either.

He talked about elementary school, and middle school and high school. It was during this speech, that I realized what the magnetism was between us. We were the same. By that I mean, we were different from everyone else, and that made us the same.

I identified with everything he was describing; things adults said, things kids did, feeling like no one would be your friend because it would hurt their image, not knowing what they saw in you, you couldn’t see yourself.

I told him I was thinking which story I could share about those feelings, but there were literally hundreds. The difference is I stopped caring while I was still a child. I came to accept it and lost myself in a dream world. Abe was still fighting to reason with it.

Around this time, I noticed how his jeans were fitting on him. Lana’s words echoed in my mind.

dont end up having sex with him instead.”

I stood up and felt dizzy. The Jack finally got me. I felt lighter and smiled.

Abe asked if the secret I told him was true. I nodded and my smile faded. Then I crawled into my bed and buried my head under a pillow.

He followed me in but kept a distance. He stood in the doorway. He asked questions. I occasionally mumbled an answer.

Then I sat up and buried my head in his chest. He was still standing in the doorway. I felt the fleece from his sweatshirt kiss my face. My fingers clutched on to his pockets. He kissed my head and said, “Can I tell you a secret? Is that ok? Can I tell you my secret?”

I nodded my head like a dazed child interrupted in the middle of the night. Then he told me his.

It was here that I grabbed fabric on either side of his sweatshirt and lifted my head up to his mouth. He tightly closed his eyes and kissed me hard. His hands gently cupped my head. I never want to forget his face in that moment.

I didn’t have to rationalize his love, or feel it in my chest cavity or prove his feelings through the examination of words and behavior. I saw it all over his face.

It’s so hard to write about these new memories. I struggled with the idea of revealing my secret here, but I think it would hurt me . . . and it would take away how special our moment was. 

His new haircut made him look younger. His shoulders and ears are big, like they are meant for a bigger person. Instead they wear heavily on a skinny boy.

I dragged him down on top of me and we made love.  We made love five times.

During breaks, we would ask questions about each other’s secrets:

“Did you tell your parents? If you did they could have helped you. You might be on a different path now.”

“Did he find out? What did he say?”

 “They have support groups for this, it could help you a lot. I will help you look some up.”

His secret had more levity. I teased him. He asked if I thought less of him.  I hugged him and told him about the other things I wasn’t proud of. I have done his secret three different ways to Sunday. 

We would drift off to sleep, then wake up and make love again. The smell of whiskey was rising from my body. His eyes are so large, so blue, they can be scary to look at. They swallowed me whole.

In the morning, I woke up next to him. The only time I’ve experienced intimacy on this level was during cocaine binges with Not-for-Profit. We would make confessions, talk about ideas and fantasies and fears, make love and keep going until nothing was left but bloody Kleenex and the alarm for Monday morning.

This time it was innocent. It was the children we were in Middle School making love like it was the only time it really mattered.

He rolled over me and held me. I thought, “Could this be a mistake.” My gut didn’t click against time with doubt, or stress or regret. It was cut wide open and it felt free to bleed all over him. The scar tissue would heal, like Em said it would, but it would fade into his skin.

Our new skin would close over the opening we created.

He had to get ready for his interview that evening, and I asked to come with him. He carted me around to his place to change, then to Fountain Valley, then back to his place to work on a project.

I was so exhausted from the evening before, from the secret and the thinking and the working; all I remember is fading in and out of a shallow sleep in his car and on his bed. The only thing clear to me was that I didn’t want to be separated. When I fell asleep in the car, as he drove, my head rested on the edge of the back seat with my arm heavy across his lap.

I wanted to hold on to his smell as long as possible.

We drove back to my place that night and watched some TV. We laughed. We ate some really good food. Then he apologized for having to nod off as he fell into his deep sleep.

We woke up and time ran circles around us.

Made Love.

Ate left over, vegan blueberry-coconut cake. Abe would lather some margarine on it.

I said, “Would that taste good? Its cake.”

Abe, “Its not cake. It’s a muffin.”

I said, “No its not. It was cake on the menu.”

Abe said, “Yes it is. Who do these people think they are, going around calling muffins cake?”

**

We played with the dogs. I would sing a song.

**

Abe, "Let me try a spin off of Elvis' leg dance twitch. (trying to dance like Elvis) Wait . .. here, no .  . now here. Wow, I shouldn't do that. I could hurt somebody."

**

We took an enormous bong hit. I took off my shirt and lay down on the bed. He trailed his hand over my naked chest and said, “Let me see if I can imagine what it would be like to be older and married. Would I get bored and try to pick up someone new? No, I don’t think so. That seems strange to me.” He looked down at me.

I said, “Sorry, I was just thinking, is it better to send an employment inquiry email with the resume in the body or attached?”

**

Back in the kitchen.

I leaned against my fridge and said, “I don’t want you to leave.” Then grabbed a long, French roll he brought me, sloppily took a bite off the end like I was cutting edge from my cigar and slumped over with my back to him.

He laughed. “You’re funny.”

**

I said, “The chemical high in my brain as strong and intense as snorting cocaine. I mean, its almost the exact same.”

Abe, "MMMMMMM, that makes me want to eat another piece of bread!!"

**

We made love again.

Abe said, “I really have to go now. I am going to be late for band practice.”

I said, “I know.”

Abe said, “Are you upset because I am leaving or not saying something?”

I said, “No . . . I just have a hard time letting you go.”

**
He said, “If I had a fairy godmother show up and say 'Do you want a house in LA to move in with [me] tomorrow?' I would say, 'Hell ya! Thanks, Lady!"
Me: "You would call your Fairy Godmother 'Lady'?"
Abe: "Well, I haven't seen her before, so yeah . . . she's a 'Lady'. I got to get a job first, baby.”
Me: “I just go through this separation anxiety when you leave. You are gone days at a time, all over again . . . it wears on me.”

Abe said, “I know. I am trying to accelerate things. I just need a little time. Let me get a few more interviews. We can work towards this, I just need time.”

He held me tight and kissed me. He said, “I know it bothers you I don’t feel upset in the same way when I leave. Its because I know we will see each other again.”

I said, “I know. This is just my nest and I don’t like it being disrupted. I want security with this part.”

He said, “I will come back. Who knows, I might have an interview.”

I let him go, with the smell of sex lingering on my hands, on my bed sheets, in my home . . . I let him go so he could come back.


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