Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pretty Dresses and Hard Goodbyes

Mid-December I felt cramps.

Dora said, “Let it all out. Let the stress bleed out of you.”

It did. I felt better. I felt more mentally and emotionally balanced.

Whether or not I liked it, my parents’ imposed April deadline made me feel that something will have to change soon. And living in a place with no central heat, where running a space heater the same time my roommate runs hers forces the electricity to knock out . . . keeps me really eager for that change.

Abe accompanied me to a Doggie Daycare holiday party, which was gloriously awkward as they all are. You get a group of people who are socially retarded and feel more comfortable around animals than people, feed them alcohol, throw in a women’s roller derby team and you have one of our typical parties.

One of the regular employees there greeted us wearing a leather sash with shot classes lining the front, holding a bottle of tequila.

He poured us each a shot. I sipped. Abe shot.

Sacha came face-to-face with Abe for the first time and said, “I love this. I just love (waving her hand around his face) THIS!”

Noah said, “Well, watch this.”

He threw off his hood and made his ears wiggle.

We went out back where Mitch was dancing alone with a cigarette and a bottle of Bicardi to raunchy hip hop music.


Sasha was tossed and throwing huge sarcastic statements into the sky. She opened up her whole chest and threw her arms wildly as she said, “I didn’t have time to change, so I have dog food on my pants. Veal, right here. And here.” She pointed at spots on her pants. “Which is . . . AWESOME!”

And, our boss- the most socially guarded of us all, has a stripper pole installed in her one bedroom apartment with a huge mirror leaning up against the wall facing it.

Taylor was there on his phone.

Sasha said, “Taylor is leaving for Florida. Don’t tell anyone.”

I said, “Permanently?”

She nodded.

My stomach sank.

Taylor’s brother shot himself in the chest about a month before. He went back to Florida for the funeral.

That was the greatest of many misfortunes he suffered in 2011. His girlfriend of 7 years left him for another man, the bar he was managing closed down due to the recession, and he was lost.

Once our boss approached the stripper pole, we all piled into her living room to watch. One of us videotaped on to a cell phone. Then she collapsed on her bed and vomited. Merry Christmas.


***

Now that I was single, I arranged for a meeting with Tom, the director I met 6 months ago while I was still with Alan. He asked that everything from now on be off the record, which is kind of tragic if I thought somehow seeing him would jump start my career.

I had a Werther’s Commercial Audition in Santa Monica, and we met up for a couple drinks. He took me to three bars in the one night I saw him.

The alcohol wore on me even though the places he took me to were fantastic, and so were their martinis. The waiters brought me free champagne and told me I was lucky to know him.

He said, “I know the lows in this business are low, but the highs are out of this world.”

This time I was very self conscious of my orange rain jacket. I was warm, but bulky. Words rung out in my head, funny enough from Alan and Jaq who were once a long term couple.

Jaq gave me one of her jackets once and said, “Here, have one nice jacket.” The sleeves were too short but it did become my one nice jacket.

And Alan’s words, “People get the impression that you are poor.”

Tom assured me the jacket looked warm. We talked about old movies with Paul Newman and James Dean. We talked about new movies that might make be remembered in the next ten years. It felt good. There was a relief that I could still hold my own with a sharp mind in my field.

***

The next day, I bought myself a nice new jacket from Forever 21. A Christmas present to myself.

Later that week, I had a background job with an American Express commercial in Hollywood. The wind was especially brutal those last few days. I didn’t even feel comfortable walking my dogs in the weather.

Doing an outdoor shoot in formal wear made me . . . uncomfortable. I was bleeding and I was cold. That’s generally a bad combination. So I wore my skinny jeans, a grey turtle neck and a big wool sweater. They mentioned there would be lots of walking, so I brought my Rolling Stones high tops.

Every other time I have gone to a job, I have brought options, but I knew they would put me in some flimsy dress and heels if I brought them. So I didn’t bring anything.

I was the fourth person in line for Wardrobe approval. This chick was some kind of olive skinned bitch with a British accent. She looked at me and shook her head, with that thick, exaggerated accent that would impress someone stepping off a tour bus, she said, “I can’t work with this. That sweater. Those shoes. No.”

I said, “Well, can you give me something from wardrobe?”

She said, “Stand over there.”

I did. Then she changed her mind and said, “Those shoes . . .” Yeah, they are Rolling Stones high tops. AND?

It was a 200 person call to stand and walk around in the background. No one was going to see my shoes. You were going to make me walk up and down the Hollywood Bowl in heels . . . why? To punish me for better skin care?

She said, “Go stand over there. I can’t deal with you now.”

So I did. I was a little emotional about it at first because I was bleeding like a stuck pig. It was the first day of my period and being singled out had me feeling nauseous.

Then I got lost in my book, “Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation Of The Wives Of Henry VIII”. I was on his last wife, Catherine Parr who seemed to lucked out in the end, because a warrant was issued for her arrest shortly before Henry died of natural causes.

I thought, Catherine Parr had bigger problems than wardrobe approval.

Wardrobe Bitch approved a few petite girls with one outfit on. She said, “Well, you haven’t given me a choice, have you? Go on.”

She approved a large black man wearing jeans and sneakers with no other alternates. She said, “Go on, what can I do? Just go.” He turned and hung a last bite of watermelon over his mouth as he walked away. That isn’t racist. That’s just what happened.

None of these people were bothered about it in the slightest.

The older woman next to me said, “She has forgotten you are here. Go back in line, get approval.”

So I went to the back of the line, and she saw me again and said, “I saw you sitting over there. I am not ready for you yet.”

I turned on my rubber heels and returned to my spot.

I was finished with my book now, and hungry. Craft service was open, so I headed on over for some fruit, nuts and coffee. Then I remembered I had another book in my car I just bought. While buying Trent’s Christmas present (My favorite James Baldwin book), I found one I hadn’t read, which seems impossible since I had made a list I read from just after Undergrad, and collected every book I ever knew him to write.

It was called “If Beale Street Could Talk.” While I was down by my car, I grabbed my nice new jacket I bought. I threw that on and dumped my Navajo design, super comfortable sweater with the faux fur around the hood and front V-neck back in my trunk. By the way, that sweater was purchased for $1 at a thrift store, cozy yet dapper. Hollywood hippy. Chi chi. Whatever. I like it.

By the time I returned to my squatting spot next to the trash can, the Wardrobe Bitch was gone. No one approached me. So I just resumed as I was . . . I kept reading and walked to set when called.


“The same passion which saved Fonny got him into trouble, and put him in jail. For, you see, he had found his center, his own center, inside him; and it showed. He wasn’t anybody’s nigger. And that’s a crime in this fucking free country. You’re supposed to be somebody’s nigger.”

The Assistant Director had us all sit in a section of seating facing the stage. He said, “We need to pick 10 people to move to the foreground for camera.” He looked through our faces, “You, you, you . . .” I pointed a finger at myself, “Me?” He nodded.

Wow. Eat that, Wardrobe Bitch.

***

The next day, Abe and I went to see a movie on my day off and ended up seeing The Descendents, which was very good.

I was emotional during the movie. Abe kept asking if I was alright, but I couldn’t stop sobbing. Now, in public, I try to choke on my sobs, which generally gives me a migraine. So after the film, I got a martini  and he a Saigon Iced Tea at Chi Dynasty.

The dimmed lights made the red in the walls bleed. Only two seats were left at the bar, and they were ours.

The bartender put the tall glass of alcohol and tea in front of Abe.

Abe, “This is pre-destiny.”

Me, “What is?”

Abe, “See how the alcohol and the tea are still on top of each other, but they are sinking into each other a specific way, but it could be one of eight specific ways for the drink to mix. Its like that ball game. . . on ‘The Price is Right’? The ball can land in one of several slots. Where it lands on that specific turn is pre-destiny. You don’t know until it happens, and it happens on its own.”

I smiled.

I said, “Sorry if my Doggie Daycare party was so lame. Our parties are kind of uncomfortable.”

Abe said, “Your party had a guy pouring  tequila with shot glasses strapped to his chest. A DJ blasting music in a backyard during the middle of the night with no complaining neighbors. A helicopter with a spotlight going up and down the driveway for 45 minutes. I have been to lame parties before. That was not one. Lame parties don’t have stripper poles, or Sascha or roller derby players.”

I think of Abe now, and how much I love the way he smells. The feel of his beard scratching on my skin. The way he hides his teeth with his hand when he laughs. God damn him.

After drinks, we went shopping at Forever 21. We were both tipsy, so I went around collecting garments, rubbing my temples saying, “I deserve all the pretty dresses! All of them!”

I went into the changing room, and Abe tried to follow me. The clerk told him he had to wait outside.


As I changed into my strapless, pink glitter mini dress, I heard a thump! I turned around and saw Abe’s head over the top of the dressing room door just before he slid down.

Clerk, “Sir! SIR! The manager can see you. Please leave!”

I picked up the dress, because I deserve all the pretty dresses but can only afford one.

Shortly after, I got a text from Taylor that we were meeting at The White Horse (a bar in Hollywood) as a final goodbye.


We got there a little early, and parked outside. I put my head on Abe’s chest.

He said, “You know, I am scared.”

I said, “Of what?”

He said, “I am scared of my feelings. I am sorry I keep running away.”

I kissed his cheek.

I said, “Its ok. We are just friends.”

His hand fell loosely around my shoulder.

We went inside and met with Ocean, her boyfriend Mississippi, a drummer from his band and Lori- the woman who lives at Doggie Daycare. I heard she used to frequent the White Horse back during Hollywood’s Drug Hay Day in the 70s and early 80s. Lori’s hair is somewhere between carrot and Clairol red. Her lips are thin and she talks so fast, it takes about 9 months to a year of working there to get the gist of what she’s saying.


She said, “I keep hoping I don’t recognize anyone.”

I patted her knee. “You won’t.”

I introduced Abe to Ocean who in turn introduced Mississippi, “This is my sexy, hot, rock star boyfriend.”

Me, “If hot is having a receding hairline, don’t worry, he makes up for it on his backside.”

Now, Mississippi and I go back on our venomous insults. Recently, I was trained for feeding the dogs and during training he said, “I don’t know why they are bothering to teach an old dog new tricks.”

I am on the older end of kennel attendants at Doggie Daycare. ha. ha.

I said, “You thought of a decent insult, Congratulations”

Back to The White Horse:

Mississippi, “They were training her feeding and I said, ‘I don’t know why they are bothering to teach an old dog new tricks.”

Me, “Wow, you DVR’ed your only good joke. I guess I would too if that's all I had. You hold on to it. Its yours, forever.”

Abe got caught up in a conversation with a lone drinker at the bar. When I walked up to check up on him, Abe said, “Hey, doesn’t he look like the boy character in that movie we just saw, but without the long hair and beard?”

Me, “No, that guy was a teenager, and short, and Hawaiian.”

Abe, “Oh, well, you know me.”

During all of this, you may wonder where Taylor was. He was on his phone trying to get Sascha there, I am assuming. And I was on my phone trying to get Sascha there. She was reluctant and “bad at goodbyes.”

We all went outside to check on him, he was on his fifteenth cigarette. I didn’t want to smoke, so I went back inside.

That left Abe and Lori.

Lori said, “Are you into Astrology?”

Abe, “No . . . are you?”

Lori, “No.”

Silence.

Lori went back inside with her whole cigarette.

Abe took it personally, I said, that’s Lori. Doggie Daycare is filled with emotionally damaged, substance abusing social failures with great hearts.

Sascha never showed.

The bar was closing.

I stood up and said, “Well it was great watching you chain smoke and stare at your cell phone, but we gotta go.”

A friend of his laughed in the background.

Taylor hugged me. Hard.

That hug lasted a long time. He held me close and didn’t let go.

I closed my eyes and felt the sting of saltwater.

He hugged me harder.

His friend was to my far left and I saw his smile fade, and his eyes turn down and away.

I said, “I am going to miss you so much it hurts. I can’t even think about it. Take my love with you, ok? Take it and go be happy.”
I kissed his cheek and broke away.

I ran outside and saw Abe smoking.

He said, “Everything alright?”

I said, “I can’t take it. I have to go.”

We got in the car and he said, “Why are you crying?”

Me, “I am losing another friend.”

Abe started the car and sighed, “Baby . . . he is doing what he has to do.”

I nodded. “I know.”

I got a text from Sascha 20 minutes later, “I am with Taylor now.”

I smiled. I never asked about their final nights together, but the romantic in me doesn’t want to be disappointed. So I will imagine soft kisses, sunrises and a soiled air mattress.

The next morning, Abe and I walked the dogs.

All of a sudden I broke down crying.

Abe said, “Come on over here, let’s sit down.”

We turned into the driveway of the local bar, completely abandoned at 10am on a weekday morning.

I crashed down on the pavement and said, “He was such a good friend. He helped me move. He helped me and never once hit on me.”

Abe lit a cigarette, “I know your sad. His parents need him. He has to be with his family right now.”

I sobbed, “I know, of course . . .”

Abe, “Can you tell me why your crying?”

Me, “It was a hell of a year. You know?”

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