Friday, August 31, 2012

Nightmares, Whisky and Hitting the Wall

That night with Sascha ended after a videochat with Huck. He was drunk, but when he saw my face, I saw his eyes go heavy and his words slow down. He couldn’t hear me on Facebook video chat, (buggy piece of shit software) but I listened to Huck and his friend seminar about my blowjob and chatted a bit through the keyboard until Huck threw up and passed out.

That night, I had a nightmare. It was a familiar one, the house I grew up in Milwaukee was haunted with demons. They were destroying the house, and I had to get the dogs out and safe, but it was raining outside and I only had a bike, since my car was broken. I put them in one of those three-wheeler kiddie carriages and tried to push the door closed. A man, a sitcom actor from the 80s, came in to help me but his waist was suddenly pushed forward to his knees by an unseen force, snapping his spinal cord. I woke up.

I’ve had nightmares of that house since I was 7-years-old. I thought it was the prospect of moving back to Milwaukee that brought back all my old nightmares. Later, I would realize, as with the diarrhea and stomach problems, it came with moving back home and living with my parents. They wouldn’t stop until I left.



The next morning, we video-chatted again, and I sat to watch Huck make breakfast. I was worried he was like Eric, an alcoholic who often vomited and spiraled out of control after the second drink. He assured me that was unusual. We chatted about how I resented my Buddy for snubbing me, school, work . . . I asked him to move the laptop around so I could see my future kitchen. We flirted and dirty talked in that comic way that doesn’t work over text message. I thought this could work, if we didn’t communicate solely through text message and we had these video dates, this could work. I bent the monitor down a little, and Huck saw Jeph sitting at his desk behind me, stopped his pillow talk and said, “Hi Jeph”

Jeph threw his hand up awkwardly, “Hi, there.”

Huck suggested next residency that we get married in Vegas. I didn’t say anything but giggled, smiled, then thought, “That sounds like a terrible idea! I’ll do it!”



If I ever were to get married again, it would be the cheapest and most impulsive method possible. The other way just didn’t work in my favor, not that I had an elaborate wedding, but it wasn’t cheap and I enjoyed very little of it. My parents took complete control, and aside from a heart-to-heart I had with my father the day before my ceremony, all I remember is getting the silent treatment from my mother and sister, having a migraine and not being able to dance to the song I wanted with my new husband; my Father, who controlled the music, dismissed me with, “It doesn’t matter what song you dance to.” I just remembered that recently, and it really infuriates me. If it ever happened again, it would be between me and my man. That’s it.

The day was spent with Jeph, a vegan sundae, Santa Monica Aquarium, the pier. I remember hearing babies cry and whine a lot. Not just infants, but children. “What is with all the crying? Kids don’t act that way in France. All of a sudden I hear it all the time here and it’s so jarring.”



When I complained about it on Facebook, someone linked over a great article about an American author who moved to France and wrote a book on evolving as a mother for her infant. This is a sidebar conversation, but basically Pamela Druckerman wrote about why her child was the only one whining and protesting in a Paris restaurant. We micromanage our kids, we force things on them, insist, entertain and continue to treat them like they are unable to make choices or function as a small person alone. We never leave them to think, play or reflect by themselves. French parents ask their children to sample their food, not eat all of it. There are no kids’ menu, no hot dogs, no mac and cheese . . . they eat what the adults eat, with the adults, participate in conversation and take time to form their own thoughts and opinions, on the food and everything else. As a result, their children don’t need to declare war over the most unimportant issues in grocery stores, at home or at the Santa Monica Aquarium.  (Her book is called Bringing Up BeBe)


I like the Santa Monica pier, even though it is relentlessly busy. I used to frequent the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica with my husband all the time, but he is so faded in my history that I no longer associate him with my pedestrian corner of the city. Third street is closed to traffic, so we are all unleashed on foot to collide into each other, wading through street performers and vendors, big and small. A few years ago, all the small, independent book and music stores were replaced by Border’s and Barnes and Noble. Now those have been replaced with t-shirt stores and factory warehouses that will soon be replaced by something else, if not left completely vacant. There are still the movie theaters playing all the independent, foreign and studio films you could ever want to see within 3 blocks of each other. You can still have great Indian food or great Thai food depending on which direction you walk. A few brisk paces away from the Promenade is an old Blues club with great music and beautiful women hanging from the ceiling off of pipes. Or my favorite vegan restaurant, where I can have nachos, a burger, a cookie sundae, almost anything I could ever want. 



Jeph and I always go to Santa Monica together, for a movie and food. It’s become our thing. Often there is at least one Christian extremist, preaching with a bullhorn or plastering the crowd with Scripture. We stopped by a few Christian sign holders, one sign read: “The End of the World is Upon Us”

“What day is this end of the world happening,” Jeph asked in his typical, stiff but almost cartoony way, first crossing one foot over the other and then correcting it to look more confident.

“I don’t know,” the Christian said.

“If you don’t know then why should I believe you?” Jeph asked.

“Because the Scripture says so, here,” he handed Jeph a piece of paper, printed as a million dollar bill with little Christian slogans fit into format.

“No, thank you, I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe you.” Jeph snapped, keeping his arms crossed and his eyes on the Christian’s right shoulder as to avoid eye contact. We turned and left. It was unusual to see Jeph so confrontational, I wonder if he was trying to impress me. It worked.



When I first met Jeph while working at a Pet Food Store in West LA, a group of male employees were bullying him about his sexuality; did he like women, if so, which part, answer, answer! Jeph stumbled through the conversation and I felt protective of him. Now, Jeph is growing. Each time I see him, he seems to want to separate himself from the easy-going dork I met eight years ago, and become a man- complimentary, always coming to my defense, chivalrous, he even wrote a little poem on Facebook for me the other day.  My friendships are my favorite channel for watching the world change.


The evening was spent with Frank, a great friend at times but who ultimately becomes a man when its most inconvenient. He is short, white, balding- what you would expect from a typical, Jewish guy in his late 30s. I do love spending time with him, there is an ease with conversation and we riff together with the affection of old friends and the adrenaline of buzzed stand-up comics loitering at a diner after an open mic. Then there is always one night or one conversation that ruins it, and it always has to do with sex or more of what that drags in with it. On this afternoon, Frank wanted to pick up some ganja, but I knew I would have to pass a drug test if hired at the Hotel. So we walked Venice beach and went to a whisky bar. I guess I never really gave whisky a chance, but this afternoon I sipped it and felt my belly warm with the beginning of a new courtship. Its not bitter or overwhelming, it is musky and heavy, like a man. It slides down inside of you like hot oil. The drunk is different too, its friendly at first, but it can cast darkness over you.



Frank and I liked the bar, we sat and spoke about New York, after he lost his parents, the World Trade Center collapsed and then there was that airplane that exploded in the sky shortly after. He was so high on coke when it happened that when he described the experience this particular evening, it all felt too chaotic to follow.  Pieces of the plane landed in his yard, “It was just like ‘Breaking Bad’, it was eerie, the burned teddy bear floating in the pool, that was my place. I shit you not,” he said. Awhile ago, Frank asked me not to write about him. Sometimes he says things I find brilliant, and sometimes he does things that are brilliantly stupid. He has a rich life and is a gifted storyteller, therefore it hurts me to gloss over his stories- but ultimately they are his.

I confided in him, “My father asked me not to write about him until he was dead, so obviously he knows he was a bad father.”

“Oh My God, Oh My God!” Frank chanted with his hand on his head. “What?” I asked, “He never molested me. He was just a scary Dad.”

“Oh, ok. I was worried about that,” he said, removing his hand so he could sip a little more of the brown. “Is it wrong to steal back a dollar of this tip so I can buy Taco Bell later . . . shit did I say that loud? Did he hear me?” Frank asked, first in his New York voice, then softer in his Los Angeles voice. “I don’t think he heard you,” I said, studying the bartender.

Maybe he did, because soon after, we felt ignored by the bartender, who made it a point to help every other customer in there and polish glasses before wandering to our side of the bar. Even then, I reminded him we wanted to order another round, he said, “One minute” and was back to polishing glasses. After several minutes, I stood up, collected his tip off the bar and put it in my pocket. He wandered over then, smiling at me.

“We feel a bit neglected, so nevermind,” I said.

“Neglected? Ha ha. Why do you say that, honey?” he said.

“We have been waiting and you are making it a point not to help us,” I was smooth and calm. The whisky was still my friend.

Frank walked up from the bathroom, the Bartender looked at both of us and said, “I have been working here a long time. A long time.”



Giving a slight bow, “Goodnight,” Frank said shortly and he escorted me out.  We were silly, and loud, stumbling down Venice looking for a bar. He smoked his stub of a cigar and I smoked my Spirits. When homeless men asked me for a smoke, I was an asshole and threw out a trivia question, “Who was the third president of the United States?”



“Thomas Jefferson?” the homeless man said.

I turned to Frank, “Is it Thomas Jefferson?” Frank shrugged his shoulders with a the stink of cigar hanging out of his mouth. I looked on my phone, smiled and shouted, “It is! Correct!” I handed the man a cigarette.

We passed by a restaurant, and the boy hosting at the door looked just like a boy I wrote a blog about a couple years ago I named ‘Atticus’. The story starts with the “Social Network”, my friend and I just walked out of a movie theater in Los Feliz and were next door, paying for expensive cocktails when a tall, beautiful young man approached and jumped into a conversation with me about how the male and female brain works in relationships. He was sarcastic, charming and completely open about his last relationship, so the conversation was a good one. This was when I was obsessed with the book and theology of “The Female Brain” so I thought he was perfect, but I was with Abe at the time

When Abe broke my heart the first time, in the first year, I dialed up Atticus and we met the next night, at the same bar. I went home with him but didn’t have sex because I equated it with monogamy . . . we just fooled around, got stoned, joked with his roommates. I liked him. Around 4am, he gave up trying to have sex with me and sent me home. Silly me, I thought we would start dating, but he only answered a few texts and then disappeared.

Later, months later, being the self-therapeutic type, I emailed him about what a schmuck he was. His argument was that he went home with a girl and fooled around without wanting to date, big deal. Its a decent argument, but I called him on having a girlfriend at the time, which he all but admitted to. This reignited feelings that I am all-too-often categorized as the “Mistress” type, so when he asked to stay friends anyway, I called him a fuck hole. It provided closure on the whole thing. Its that feeling of being used that trails behind me like a string of tin cans. I despise it.

This boy, the host, looked exactly like Atticus and we stopped so I could ask, “Do I know you?” Is your name . . . Atticus?”

“No, my name is Phillip,” he answered.

“I swear, you look just like him,” I said.

“Oh really. Huh. Weird. This is my first day on the job. Would you like to come in and take a look at our menu?” he asked.

“Sure! Just because you were so nice about this,” I said.

“I hope Atticus was a nice guy,” he said, as I breezed passed.

“He was an asshole.”

Frank got a seat at the wall, and I brought some over-priced, exotic drink back to him. I told him about the blond woman at the bar:

When I ordered, I asked the bartender if I could pay part in cash and part on credit card because, and I said this while turning to a middle-aged, business woman at the bar, “It is a recession, after all.”

Smugly, “Oh is that still happening?” she said, stabbing a cherry tomato with her fork and stuffing it in her mouth. She was in her forties, obviously had money or wouldn’t be eating a green salad at an expensive bar/restaurant on Venice. The whisky was tugging my ponytail, “Yeah . . . its still happening,” I said. She refused to look at me.

So I took the drinks back to Frank and described the brief exchange. He sipped his black tea cocktail, “That Phillip likes you, he is watching you. Totally into you, you should get his number and have revenge sex on that guy.”

“I think he is just being nice, we kind of overwhelmed him at the door. Look at that bitch, eating her mozzarella and iceberg lettuce, her fucking Chardonnay. ‘Is that still happening?’ Yeah, you rich bitch, the recession is still fucking happening,” I was chewing on my words, drinking something that wasn’t mixing with the whisky.

“She really got to you, why?” Frank asked.

“I just hate how dismissive rich people are. ‘Oh, is that still happening?’” I did a poor imitation before each swallow.

“She is lonely, give her a break.”

“You just want me to give her a break because she’s pretty. I am not giving her a break. She has had enough breaks.”

In his Los Angeles voice, “She is sitting alone at a bar, eating a salad. She is lonely. Trust me,” he said. “Lets go, I don’t like this drink anyway. Its not really a place for us.”

“I am going over there and going to tell her about the recession,” I finished my drink and walked over to close out my bill.

When I turned to her, I said, “I take it you’re voting for Mitt Romney?” She held up her glass of Chardonnay and laughed from her stomach. “Hell no.” Perhaps I misjudged her. I gave her a tight smile, I still didn’t like her.

We walked out and Phillip asked if I would be back. I told him I was heading back to Washington and it was my last night in LA for awhile, but I would be back. “Be sure to come back when you do,” he said, like a teenager still fumbling with adult conversation. I looked at him and smiled, his hair was curly, and though it was combed back, it was still fighting between the ocean breeze and the draft of air conditioning from inside. He was tall, slender and very white, his skin vibrated against the night. His nose was distinct and sharp, but flattering. He would be a handsome man in less than five years. “Would you like a cigarette?” I asked.

He held up his hand, “Um, no, thanks, I have my own. But here, take a menu with you.” I grabbed it and walked down the curb to join Frank, who was smoking at the corner. “He wants you,” Frank said.



I blushed, “You think? He is adorable,” I turned to head back towards Phillip when Frank grabbed my arm, “Hold up, hold on! You are committed, remember? The uh, poet!”

“Damn it! I am getting married in Vegas. The sacrifices I make for true love,” I declared as another homeless man approached me for a cigarette.

“I can give you a quarter for a cigarette?” he offered.

“Nonsense. I want knowledge, not money. Who was the fourth president of the United States?” I asked, with a fresh cigarette hanging out of my mouth.



“Um . . . James Madison?” he asked.

I looked at Frank, who shrugged and puffed. I pulled out my phone, “James Madison, huh? ... Correct! I am impressed, sir!”

“Thanks,” he said with a weak smile, he held up the cigarette and said, “I appreciate it.”

Frank turned to me, talking fast, “So what do you want to do, do you want to go home, do you want to keep going? I could do either. I don’t care.”

“Let’s keep going,” I suggested.


We went to an Irish pub on Lincoln called Brennan’s. He ordered me another whisky and the first guitar strings of “LA Woman” suddenly cried overhead. I looked up and then around as Frank joined me at the bar, “Sound familiar?” he said.

“My song! Did you put this on?” I asked.

“Of course, you can’t leave LA without hearing your song.”

During this time, I was texting Huck. It was excessive, drunk, and totally over-the-top. We were already texting each other little, useless messages throughout the day, like, “Walking to the bank” or “Making something to eat”. I didn’t need that, I just liked hearing from him. I liked knowing he was still mine in some fashion.

The texts went from mundane nothing-isms to “I love you”. He texted back, “I love you, too.” Now, of course we really didn’t love each other. I was just having a good time and writing something I write to my friends all the time without a thought. I didn’t expect it back from him, so I wrote, “I thought I had to wait a lot longer to hear that from you.”

He wrote, “I felt kind of forced into it.”

This is where things downward spiral, and I don’t mind giving you the tip up front that I somehow ruined the pleasant harmony between Huck and myself by overzealous drunk texting and behaving like a teenage girl in love.

I called and Frank grabbed the phone from me, “She is crazy about you. She has been talking about you all night. Now, you should know, men hit on her all the time.  She can have anyone she wants. (silence) What’s that?” Frank listened then handed the phone back to me.

My smiled faded and I put the phone to my ear.

“I don’t like talking to your friend. You are drunk and having fun, and I am not. So this isn’t fun. Let’s just talk later, ok?” I said ok, and hung up.

“Geez, I was gonna have a fun conversation and I end up with Dylan Thomas on the other line. He’s kind of a drag,” Frank said, cradling another drink.

“No, he’s not. I don’t know, I think we fucked up,” I said. “Don’t worry about it,” Frank said, then he leaned in and said, “You won this round.”

“Won?” I asked, “I don’t like these stupid games.”

“It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, you have to play the game. Trust me, you are ahead,” he said, almost toasting me. My stomach turned.

We drove back to Jeph’s, and we tumbled through the door, laughing, joking, loud and happy. Jeph stood up and seemed happy to see us. Frank picked up some shortbread off the counter and said, “Are these dog treats or people food?”


“Its vegan shortcake. Its good. Try it. Jeph baked them for me,” I said, texting Huck, demanding he jump on video chat. When I didn’t hear, I texted, “Um, Husband?” Are you shaking your head at me yet? It all seems so glaringly bad from here, looking back at myself. I push the limit. Huck and I were building up a fantasy, and by my demented nature, I was fumbling to find the walls to the fantasy. How far would he let me go?

“Hitting the Wall” was a phrase used both at the Cannes Film Festival and at my residency for the writing program. It refers to constantly being on the go, high on over-stimulation while bogged down with fatigue. Both at Cannes and Writing School, I held my own, but with Huck and our affair, I certainly Hit the Wall.

Sober, I would like to think maybe I could have handled things with more care. He didn’t know me. We were still establishing tone. If he was my friend first, maybe he would know that my dog responds to the name “Husband” and “Gorgeous” as well as “Brad". He may know I beg all my homosexual friends to let me carry their love child. He could understand everything I say when put in a certain whacky, outlandish mood, is a bad joke, but a joke nonetheless.

Huck got on video chat and saw Frank pace in front of the webcam, nibbling Jeph’s pastry, repeating, “Vegan Shortbread” over and over. I was amped up, and my eyes were wild as I flirted with Huck on the computer. Frank suddenly said he had to leave. I begged him to stay, he refused and hugged me goodbye. I knew it hurt Frank to see me talk to Huck, amorous, sexy and clunky, like a 13-year-old who just hit puberty. I felt bad about that, I can be a real insensitive asshole sometimes.

Dragging the laptop to bed with me, I don’t remember much. I do remember flashing Huck and almost immediately getting the feeling that his opinion of me was lowered. In my defense, a) I was drunk and b) I have never flashed a man (who wasn’t my boyfriend and cooking me dinner at the time) before in my entire life.

I watched Huck close out the video chat with a frozen smile and I knew things were spoiled. The next day I would hear how he thought I came across as “desperate” and we were moving too fast. Oh yeah, there is that wall. Congratulations, [StarFire], you found it.
 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blow-Jobs, Bye-Byes and the Counting Crows

The morning Huck was leaving, I was awake before dawn. I was tossing and turning next to him, dreading each minute that passed. Sometimes I would warm up next to him, curl my knees under his and press my cheek against his shoulder. Other times, I would get as far to the other side of the bed as possible and bury my head underneath the pillow.



The night before, I told him I would never expect him to keep faithful over a long distance, “Just use protection and don’t tell me about it,” I asked. “Of course,” he said.

Whatever it was with Huck, it spun my head around. I wanted to be mature and handle things as best I could, but the feelings of jealousy and fear mounted with nausea in my stomach. I turned and hugged my pillow on the other side of the bed. The first thing he said to me that morning was, “Stop fucking pulling away from me.” He turned around and saw my head buried underneath the pillow, “Are you hiding?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

He pulled me in like he cast out a fishing line and was dragging me back through the water. He was so warm. I wanted to do something special for him since the affair was more than I wanted or expected, but everything I would want to expect, if that makes sense.

I sunk beneath the covers and put him in my mouth, working very hard to give him one of the best blow jobs of his entire life. I heard him sighing and moaning over the sheets and blankets, as the fabric rubbed over my ears and hair. Then he warned me, but I stayed locked on to him. He asked if I was ready, and then I felt my mouth flood with him and swallowed.

I emerged from the sheets and didn’t look at him, instead I just buried my head in his armpit and held him close. He shuddered once, then twice. “That was amazing.”

“Good. Its the [StarFire] specialty.”

He shivered and drew me even closer to kiss my hair. I told him I had a stomach ache, and his first reaction was to inquire if it was a reaction to his sperm. That was adorable. Not often did Huck let on that he was younger than me, but in the moments he did, I thought it was precious.

He got out of bed and finished packing. I made coffee. I wanted to stay in the room, but when he was packed up, he asked me if I was ready, and I realized I had to leave with him and surrender our home the same time I would surrender him. He mentioned lots of things as I was frozen on the bed, holding my cup of steaming, watered down, sub-par coffee.


“We shouldn’t have been sexual at all this last night, it is making this too hard.”

“I was telling the truth, people have married in the program, we wouldn’t be the first.”

“If I bought you a ticket to Milwaukee, you realize it would be one-way, right?”

“I texted that girl waiting for me in Milwaukee and I told her it wasn’t happening. I told her I met someone and I didn’t want to fuck around.”

I was silent and still. That’s what I do, my mind wasn’t processing losing him or the hotel room or the end of the writing program or leaving Los Angeles, it just froze and went blank. He was tender with me, and my stomach turned. I felt acid crawl up the back of my throat and I dumped my cup of coffee.



We went down to the lobby so he could print out his boarding pass, and I used the bathroom in the lobby. It was the beginning of a two month bout of diarrhea and morning nausea. When I came back, he was still on the computer and I stared at his face through the mirror on the wall. I wasn’t thinking anything specific, I just wanted to stare at him. He caught my gaze and forced a Prince Charming smile. It wasn’t real, but when you don’t know how to act, you do what you think you should do. Or you just act like I did, trapped in an emotional coma.

He led me out to the front and we both smoked a cigarette. I rested my elbows on my knees and leaned over to stare at the pavement and my shoes. All my things were in several plastic bags by my feet, all the things I left at his place over the last few days accumulated and were now more than I could comfortably carry around with me.



“Why did you bring two pairs of shoes?” he asked, chuckling. I shrugged. I don’t know why I brought all those things, all of my things. It was like I was hoping I could stay and move in.

I was waiting to cry, but I didn’t cry. I was silent.

His taxi came, “He is here already? That wasn’t 15 minutes,” I sneered. He lifted my face in his hands and kissed me softly. He promised to text me from the airport. He promised lots of things. Then I let him go.
I sat down and had another cigarette and waited for the yellow bumper of his taxi to turn left at the light on the corner. The back light blinked.

A woman sat next to me to smoke and complained to her male company about something before they shoved all their luggage in the back of another taxi. I looked up, Huck’s taxi was still waiting.



I put out my cigarette and looked up. He was gone.

It was early in the morning and I still had time before class. I had to go to a store and buy a new t-shirt so no one would notice I was wearing the same clothes as yesterday- and then I had to get a new plastic bag since mine were ripping. I decided to smoke another cigarette first. Looking up, Huck was walking towards me smiling. The closer he got, the taller he grew. His size was always a surprise, even after I explored every inch of his body. I put down my cigarette and he grabbed my face again, smiling, “I forgot to check-out.”

He went inside, and I waited. I put out my cigarette and lingered by the two sliding, glass doors into the lobby, watching him as he leaned over the counter and spoke to the front desk. I didn’t know what to do with myself, or that extra minute I was afforded. What the fuck do I do?  He came back out, spun me around and kissed me, perfectly. Passionate, soft, long and perfect. Then he looked into my eyes, smiled and said, “Goodbye.”



I knew he didn’t have to check-out in person, and later he admitted it was a romantic gesture. It was a good one.

Finishing my abandoned cigarette, I roamed over to the nearest strip mall and bought a t-shirt for a couple bucks at a CVS. “Amie” by the Counting Crows was playing:

I can see why you think you belong to me,
I never tried to make you think,
Or let you see one thing for yourself,
And now you're off with someone else and I'm alone,
You see I thought I might keep you for my own.

Amie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you,
For a while maybe longer if I do.

The clerk gave me a few extra plastic bags to double up my luggage, and I walked back to campus. I avoided the hornet’s nest Huck warned me about and walked slower than usual. I already missed him. My friend.

Campus was empty, and I raided the breakfast cart as the nice Hispanic man was carting it away. He insisted I take a yogurt- I accepted so I wouldn’t hurt his feelings with some stupid speech about veganism. The same guy was setting up our breakfast and breaking it down every morning and knew I was always running a little late, so he tried his best to get me my very necessary cup of coffee and some fruit as we passed in the doorway every morning.

I hid my plastic bags underneath some furniture and joined the First Year students in our first meeting for the day. Texts from Huck were coming in, about how he missed me, how amazing the blow job was and he even wrote a poem that has since been lost in the sea of texts between us. (Fucking droids don’t keep all your texts like an iPhone)

My new friends were all abuzz about going out the night before, and they asked where I was. “There was dancing, there were cocktails and we kept saying [StarFire] would love this, where is she? Where were you?”

I filled up my cup of coffee, “I never heard from you guys.”

“Wait a minute, no one texted her?” They all looked at each other and laughed. I smiled. George and I spoke on the side, “I needed to say goodbye to him anyway, in private.”

“I figured you would be doing something like that,” he said, softly.

I was still high on endorphins, promises, last kisses. Huck was in my stomach, slowly moving through me, and the sadness was circling me, but hadn’t pounced. It was difficult to concentrate and I wasn’t feeling connected to the program or my fellow students. I was in a dream that was fizzling, the fog wasn’t clearing and I wandered through the day, listening to controversies and gossip, tales of the night on the dance floor, hearing their laughter but forgetting what they were laughing about . . . my mind was in the airport with Huck. I should have been at the airport with Huck.



My friends would ask for details, and I provided a bit. George could see my eyes were far away- but I would shoot a smart ass remark or toss out a little, too personal and disarming fact to keep everyone’s attention.

“You’re going to sell a best seller. You are crazy but you own it. Like Madonna, you own the craziness. And you control it, though it seems uncontrollable,” George said.

I raised my eyebrows, “You are absolutely right.” I think its that craziness that makes everyone uncomfortable, and the more people care about me, maybe the more uncomfortable they are. That is why I can never feel understood by the nice, stable guys, or why the people I am the most intimate with often keep me at a distance. I need my vibe to spin out like a dradle even though the secret is, no matter what it looks like, I am always ok.

The final classes were amazing, and a group of us went to lunch. They asked about Huck and I gave more personal details, and was able to make them sound like a joke so no one could see that I was feeling vulnerable and heart-broken. I am so good at it, I don’t even have to try anymore. They laughed easily.
“I told her, she is going to end up pregnant and knocking on my door in Milwaukee,” George said.

“We did have unprotected sex, well, only once because we ran out of condoms,” I said.

“See!”

“Oh my God, what’s going to happen if you are pregnant?” a beautiful, white female student said.

*
If you read through my France entries, you may remember an exchange I had with my Norway suitor, who I refer to affectionately as Mr. Darcy. He came inside of me and I said, “What am I going to do if I get pregnant?”

“Then you are fucked!” he laughed.

I posed the same question to Huck the day after we had unprotected sex. “What if I get pregnant?” I asked. Without hesitation, he said, “Then you are coming to Milwaukee.”

*

“Oh my God, what’s going to happen if you are pregnant?” she said. “Then we are all going to take turns punching me in the stomach,” I said, and everyone laughed. What I thought, though, in the back chamber of my mind, if I got pregnant, I would keep it and love that baby.

After lunch, I hustled through paperwork to finalize the residency and then went to a gathering where remaining students sit in a circle and share reflections, what they learned and how the residency impacted them. A few students cried, so I cried. At the end of these 10-days you are so exhausted, your brain is so overwrought with information, that you just wither into an emotional wreck. I was still posturing, so I wiped the tears away, filed my paperwork while someone ate a fucking sandwich in my ear and then walked over to Cat’s hotel room, two floors below Huck’s room in the same building.

I stopped to buy champagne to sip with the girls. “Can I help you?” the liquor attendant asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I am looking for your cheapest champagne.” He showed me the display of room temperature champagne in front of the wall. I grabbed three bottles.

“You aren’t even going to look at what flavors they are?” he asked.

“Oh, I know the colors of champagne labels by heart. Don’t worry about that,” I said.



Back in Cat’s hotel room, girls collected, and girls love it when you feed them champagne. I don’t know why men act as though they never know that secret- but Girls Love Champagne. They giggle, they get loose, even Cat’s grouchy roommate, who was trying to sleep in the same room as the celebration, came around and gave me a very supportive speech outside as we shared a smoke.

We all went out to dinner at a vegan restaurant, and I piled up my plate knowing my parents would never take me to a vegan restaurant. As long as my car was in the shop and I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with Mom and Dad, it would be soup and cereal. So I ordered everything to my heart’s delight, and as we drove back to the hotel, Cat looked back at me in the car, “[StarFire], what’s wrong? Why are you so quiet? Are you getting sad?”

I sighed, “Yes, I am sad. I am going to miss this,” I said.

She laughed and said, “Don’t worry. We will all see each other again. Now its time to work. Its good we will all be apart from each other so we can focus.”

I nodded heavily, a smile was forced, “Yeah. I just had a lot of fun.”

We all hugged a hard goodbye, and Sascha soon arrived to pick me up and take me out for drinks.

Now, I feel like this is all happening very fast as I write this, but that would be accurate. I flew from one social outing to the next, exhausted, high on Huck, in love, depressed, I just kept jumping from one car to another.



With Sascha, we tried to go to Saints & Sinners, a bar I have gone to for the last 10 years, reliably serving the best martinis in Los Angeles. Somehow, somewhere, it was converted to a lame hipster bar called Oldfield’s Liquor Room . . .



 . . . so we walked a few blocks down to a place called the Bigfoot LodgeWest and ordered some Bud Lights. I never drink Bud Light unless I am with Sascha. She was glowing and molesting her phone, which meant she was in love again.



I told her about Huck, acted out Huck-isms, laughed and hugged her. “I have never seen you so happy before,” she said. I showed her pictures, I read text messages and I told her about the proposition to move to Milwaukee.

“You should do it,” she said, “Fuck your feelings about Milwaukee. Just go back home, get your things and then go to Milwaukee for two weeks. Just do it, if it works, then you know its meant to be.” She was so definite about it. I texted Huck about her encouragement, and he sent me a link to Craigslist in Milwaukee for jobs.

This all felt very fast and maybe even foolish, but, “What other time in my life would it be more perfect to go move and live with someone I fell in love with than now. I am homeless. I don’t have a job. I have no obligations, really, the timing is perfect,” I said.

She tipped the neck of her beer, “Exactly.”

I smoked a lot that night, and I thought about it. Truth be told, I didn’t like the idea of moving in with an alcoholic, but Huck held his own. He seemed in control. I was scared, I hated Milwaukee, I was worried about the dogs, but as always, I am a big fan of letting Fate take me where she wants.

Maybe it was . . . Milwaukee, again. Ugh.

Friday, August 24, 2012

If I Fell

Huck.

I remember the burns along the inside of his arms from working in a kitchen, so many burns, I wondered if some were self-inflicted.

I remember how blonde his hair was, and how sweet it smelled. He was warm, and it was easy to hide underneath the sheets, hoping the day wouldn't find us.

I remember when he curiously asked to hear reactions to his writing, any criticism would first be met with a rough, "Fuck You" before he could take it in. I liked that, because it was honest.

I remember holding onto his shoulders when we made love. His back was broad and easy to wrap my arms through, so I could hold on to him, like it was keeping me afloat, and keeping me from falling each time I came while he was inside of me.

It was our second morning together, and my care free one-night stand with unexpectedly perfect chemistry began to put me a bit on edge. In my mind, I told myself I could let him go. My cold nose brushed against the back of his neck, and I inhaled all of him and us, and I brought him in closer, we had one more day.

When we woke up, we spoke of the future. He put his arm around me and delicately smoothed my wild morning hair, "You could move to Milwaukee ..." I gasped and then expelled all the hot air back out on him in disgust, almost like I spit the suggestion out on the sidewalk. "You know, your feelings towards Milwaukee are really unattractive," he said. "Well, the fact that you live in Milwaukee is unattractive," I tossed back. He brought me in closer again, "Don't you like the idea of moving in, starting a literary journal." He looked serious. "I have three dogs," I repeated- that usually shuts these things down enough.

"We will have a yard at the new house I am moving into," he shrugged. Huck was different than the other boys, he noticed things others hadn't noticed, and zeroed in on me somehow. He also was the first to act as though accepting the dogs was perfectly fine as long as it came with me, and that made me feel loved. Those couple years with Abe, I adored him and was willing to compromise almost everything to move forward but my dogs, and to him, that was too much. When you are in love, nothing is too much. You make room.  Huck made it look effortless, and that made me feel like a Princess.



We got up, he threw that button up flannel over those broad shoulders and I leaned in from behind, pressing my bare breasts against him, "We could move to France. You would love it there. We could rent a little place and write together." He stood still then said, "That sounds nice, actually."

"You know, people have married out of the program before," he said. "I don't think I would ever get married again," I grumbled. That morning, I resisted the fantasy. France opened up a world where I could do anything, and be anyone- which was the exact opposite of what my marriage felt like. Every change you make, every decision you make, every passing flirtation and new friendship deeply affects another person. I am not sure I would want that responsibility again. That said, I long to have a family- even if just one person called me home, it would be a home nonetheless.

I made a shitty cup of coffee using the machine in his room, and complained about it, but drank through the watery muck to avoid a caffeine headache. The room was bright when he opened the curtains, and the light spilled through his silhouette making him look small and thin. Ahead of us, through the window, was a freeway, congested traffic, a mall and smog hanging overhead. "Look at this fucking place," he said.



On our side of the window, the daylight made the wood finish on the hotel furniture shine, the white from the bed sheets beam, and the steam off my weak cup of coffee dance. I laid across the bed waiting for him to walk out of the bathroom, "I could smell you in there," he said, walking briskly out after slapping on the fan.

I blew the hot off the top of my coffee, "Yeah? Smells like roses, don't it?" He laughed, "Not exactly." I dumped mouthwash in the toilet to disguise the odor, take note, that doesn't work. He crawled up on the bed, hitting a button on his phone. "My Mom called again. And I thought our 45 minute conversation yesterday was enough to cover it all for awhile." I laughed. When he spoke about her, he never really looked me in the eye. He always looked away and lowered his voice. "She can be needy," he said, "I am worried about her." He stood up, kicked an empty beer box and said, "Fucking bitch!" I buckled over laughing.

We checked our email and finalized our paperwork on our computers, once again, as we shared that desk. I played "If I Fell" and sang it with perfectly awful pitch (to be fair, Paul and John alternated vocals because the song is so difficult to harmonize in one voice). Oh, and I am just a horrible singer. It’s tragic really. He swallowed the first part of his laugh and then let the rest of it fly out. "I like your . . . confidence."

"If I fell in love with you
Would you promise to be true
And help me understand?
'Cause I've been in love before
And I found that love was more
Than just holding hands
If I give my heart to you,
I must be sure
From the very start
That you,
Would love me more than her
If I trust in you oh please,
Don't run and hide
If I love you too oh please
Don't hurt my pride like her,
'cause I couldn't stand the pain . . .”

He stopped laughing and said, "There is no her."

We spoke about our exes briefly, mostly through our writing. I knew he was still in love with his ex, and that didn't bother me. It still doesn't. I am still in love with most of my exes- that is the beauty of a love affair, you experience the best version of a person. Why replace all of that color and life with bitterness? Though it softens the absence, it makes you forget. I don't want to forget.

He mentioned his ex-girlfriend's roommate and how she told him that his Tumblr website, where he publishes his poetry, would show up on her most recently visited sites off Google. I could tell by the curve of his mouth, this gave him pleasure that our two-day fling just couldn't. Again, I was ok with that, but there was indeed a "her".

When we left the hotel room, the door closed behind us and I wondered if I would ever be back. He turned to look at me in the hallway, smiled and then galloped away after a "Ha!". I skipped behind him, laughing. We were like kids- smart, sexy, goofy kids.

We walked to school together, and he grew paranoid about who would see us. It hurt my feelings a little but we agreed to be discrete when we arrived to campus. So we climbed the wavy roads behind Fox Hills mall, trail blazing through the strip malls and office parks. We walked by an empty office building, "I used to work here, a long time ago," I said.



"Seriously?"

"Yeah, I was a different person then. I wasn't even married yet. I quit and we sailed on a small boat from Nicaragua to Hawaii."

"Are you serious?" he asked again.

"Yeah, that's where I got this dolphin tattoo." I lifted the back of my right foot. When my husband (at the time) and I finished a three week voyage up the Sea of Cortez and across the Pacific to Waikiki, I wanted a tattoo to commemorate the dolphins who escorted us there. Hundreds of dolphins in various pods, each with a trademark trick they would perform for us, followed the boat for several miles at a time as we sailed adrift on an empty ocean. It was the only life we saw, with the exception of a seagull we named “Hans” who spent one night on our bough.

I worked with a tattoo artist in Hawaii who made a tribal dolphin for me, and my ex-husband got a larger version of it on his back. I wonder if he regrets that, or if he thinks of me whenever he passes a mirror or explains it to a new lover.

"You have really lived, maybe its time to settle down," he said, bouncing on his toes as he walked. He kept reintroducing the domestic fantasy to me, and I had worked so hard to rub it out after Abe, so I kept quiet.

"I walk on this side of the street, because you see that tree over there, next to the fire station?" he asked. I nodded. "There is a hornet's nest over there. I have been meaning to tell the firefighters about it," he said. Later, I would avoid that side of the street because of his advice and realized that little mention was meant to protect me. He was being a gentleman. Oddly, that is still one of the first memories I keep of him.

We got to school, and hung out in the courtyard as everyone collected. It was a busy day, we were finalizing our groups for the semester, our paperwork for residency and finishing workshops, so everyone was there at the same time. Huck lay on his back along the concrete bench and played songs off his phone, "Will I see you . . . in September . . . or lose you . . . to a summer love."

I jumped in on vocals, "I'll be alone each and every night . . . While you're away, don't forget to write . . . " He joined me in poor harmony, and together we sang as all the depressed and fatigued writers collected around us. The classmate who lent me Huck's story a few days before, walked up and said, "What a surprise to see you two together." We ignored him and continued to sing in duet, he just stood there with his mouth open.

"Have a good time but remember . . . There is danger in the summer moon above . . . Will I see you in September . . .Or lose you to a summer love . . . "

Kate, the nicer version of my assigned class buddy, briefly approached us, then double backed, "You two are too happy to be around right now."

"Will I see you, in September-" we sang, then, out of time we corrected, "in December . . ." (December is our next residency)

"Or lose you . . ." I quickly fit in an awkward, "To a Milwaukee love." Huck laughed. So much for discretion.



***
We parted ways for our mentor groups. The program incorporates "mentor groups" which include 5-6 students who share one mentor (a faculty member), a reading list and facilitate discussions on those selected readings once a month. My group was (and still is) all women. It was easy talking to my mentor after spending most of the week over-analyzing eye contact and fishing for validation from the other faculty. Something about my mentor reminded me about the film industry, and I was in better form when speaking with her. The other students gathered in a circle, eating sandwiches and wraps from one of the two over-priced delis in the office park, and we all presented our mentor with a personalized academic agenda. Mine was written wrong, of course.

As we wrapped up our paperwork and paper wrappers, caught the napkins that flew away and clumsily stuffed our papers back in our book bag, I found myself in a unique, blunt conversation with two other students- one was molested by a family member, and the other came home from school as a child and witnessed her father's suicide. All three of us were so light with our confessions, there was no reluctance. In fact, we even laughed a little bit about the trauma, which might sound weird, but as one student said, "What else can you do? There is no proper reaction. Sometimes all you can do is laugh." I realized artists, not just writers, started as little children who learned the day was determined by sensing the tone of the room, the subtle behavior of our fathers, details other children didn't need to worry about. We learned how to survive by studying everyone around us- and that can make you a bit mad but it provides you with the skills set to see people.

Artists are children who studied to survive and were silenced in some method, by trauma, by abuse, by life somehow, and grew up without the ability to use their voice. In this case, we learned to write instead. What made me the most proud of our sacred circle at school was how unashamed we all were. Shame keeps us from identifying and understanding each other, and now we were children in grown-up bodies who cheated the system and found a way to make all the ugliness absolutely magnificent.

***

After class and meeting with George, Cat, and my other classmates, I headed back to Huck's hotel. He told me the day before that he needed to be alone the night before his flight. I didn't intend to spend the rest of the night with him, but I couldn't help it.

I walked into the hotel room, to find him laying across the bed with a book in hand.



When he peeled himself off the bed, I remember the afternoon light turning his hair to gold, and he said, "I told my friends back home I may have met someone who is a keeper." My same old joke, "Oh yeah? Who?" He recounted the conversation for me, describing me to his friends. I remember thinking to myself yet again, "Don't fuck this up!" but how don't you fuck something like this up? I love Huck, I do. He is beautiful and talented and made me feel like I belonged with someone, or at least somewhere. He and I were magic in the same room together, but it was an intoxicating combination of vulnerable, proud, content, weary- so much was there I wanted to keep and protect, but at the same time it left me feeling completely powerless and uncomfortable. I would have to let him go the next morning. The distance and time would dirty and confuse the bond, maybe even break it.

I couldn’t run to his doorstep on a bad day, and get stoned watching Seinfeld with him on the couch. He couldn’t stop by for conjugal visits when he was drunk and horny. We couldn’t sit, eat and talk about our day, face to face, or rely on the other person being there, in the flesh. Develop a routine. See the other person’s face when asking them something, confessing something, venting about something. Those are staples to any relationship.

We both held each other as the afternoon light dimmed. "I don't want the sun to set," he said, his head buried in me like a child. "I know, me either, but . . . the Sun Also Rises," I said slowly to really nail that punchline.

"Oh God," he laughed.

The skyline blackened, with chalky clouds of pollution drifting out to the ocean. I held him and waited for my phone to deliver directions for the night's festivities. My friends were planning on going to a lesbian bar. Huck wasn't thrilled about that plan and hadn't committed, but it was unspoken that we would spend the night together anyway. Our bodies were done with sex, they wouldn't work, despite our starts and our stops, our oral acts interrupted by random conversation points or laughter.

"My safe word is 'hugs', by the way," he said, on top of me. I stopped what I was doing and said, "How can I say a safe word with your big cock stuffed down my throat?"

I was sore and we decided we wouldn't have sex again, to save our bodies and hearts the pain.

His classmates called and asked us to join them in Venice. We paid for a taxi and rode in silence. I was smoking more than usual. He held my fingers and said, "I could break your little finger in this position."

"You can't scare me with your insanity," I said, turning to look out the window. He was testing me, and it did scare me a little.

When we arrived, we were grouchy from fatigue and famished. We stopped at Cairo Cowboy, a mediterranean restaurant right next to the beach. Conversation was strained a bit, mostly, I believe, because our brains were in overdrive, not just with each other, but school and going back home. It was hard taking my eyes off of him, it was delightful just studying his mannerisms, how he tightened his jaw after saying something he wanted me to take seriously, how he didn't like to move his drink when sipping out of it, how simple and almost short he was with our waitress- who was stunningly beautiful. I took pictures of him, and he asked, "Can I do no wrong?"
 


I actually got the sense that taking pictures made him nervous, as it does with most people. Its a shame because I just really love the pictures I take of people. He rattled off some excuse why he didn't take pictures of me, but I didn't care. I just wanted to remember him this way, just in case, I never saw him again. Or worse yet, if I saw him again and nothing was the same.

Outside, a homeless man sang Led Zeppelin in acapella for us. "You can't pay for this kind of entertainment," I said.

His friends cancelled, everyone was tired. I was insecure it was because of me, but Huck and I analyzed and refuted the theory before paying for a taxi to take us all the way back to Culver City again.

We crawled back into our lair, and slipped back onto the bed with beer. "Do you like to be strangled during sex?" I asked.

"Yeah," he shrugged.

I adoringly pet him, as he lay on top of me, gently stroking his hair. "Do you like to be hit?" I asked.

"I like to fight," he admitted.

"I don't hit."

"Its not the only thing I like," he said.

"The girls that you have sex with, do they battle with you?"

"One of the last girls I had sex with, it got kind of ugly. I accidentally ripped out her earring during sex, so there was blood coming down over her, and I kept fucking her and slapping her. She liked it, but . . . it was just fucked up."

I was quiet. Stroking.

"Are you taking notes to use this?," he charged, "Are you going to write about everything I say, is that why you are asking me these questions?"

"I am always taking notes," I said, "But I won't write about you unless you give me permission."

"No, you can," he said after a few seconds, "but I don't want to talk about this anymore."

I reached for my beer and tried to drink from it without lifting my head off the pillow. It spilled. "Why can't I ever figure out the secret to drinking while lying down?" I said. "Its called using a straw," he said, smiling.

I would struggle to fall asleep that night, and I struggle to end this blog. I would do almost anything to slip right back in under his arm and feel everything he was all over again. It was the last time I was truly content.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Four Fried Chickens and a Coke

It is hard to say when one falls in love. Is there a moment that defines the meaning of love? Can you find that moment within 24 hours of making love to someone? I have read about Oxytocin, and the chemical cocktail that weld a woman to the man who can make her orgasm while he is inside of her. Still, I hear Beatles:

Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine



Is it love to wake up next to someone and ache at the idea of leaving them there on the bed, warm, groaning from the crack of day after vodka, sex and poetry?

It was 8am, and I had to run to class. He offered a pair of shorts and t-shirt to lend me so I could attend class in a different outfit than the day before.  We made sure it was something no one would recognize as his. Oddly, the t-shirt and summer shorts looked like something I would probably wear on my own.

“You can leave your stuff here while you go to class,” he said, buried under wet sheets.

I thanked him, not knowing what to expect. In France, I had 5 nights that were each a little love story with a different person. There was the chemistry, the romance, the passion- and when the morning came, I started all over again with someone new. Each man had the makings of a possible soulmate, each in different ways.

So when I left Huck, tangled in our dirty sheets, I prepared myself for ending it. If it was like France, I could let go almost immediately, and start all over again, but I ached for his arms around me, to feel the weight of his body on the mattress, and the heat of his breathe through my hair.

For the first time, I showed up to class with my hair down. I wasn’t tired and in great spirits. There was that fuzziness to the world that warmly clouds over you the morning after falling in love. You feel like the sidewalk is made of sky.  When you relax, you still smile.



What separated Huck from all the other suitors in France was the levity to his company. I can’t recall a time I laughed so much in one night. Sure, the conversation, the exchange of our bodies and writing, all of that had us bound. There was no doubt something special happened. I didn’t believe enough on the “special” to make a bet on it, not yet.

After class, I was reluctant to go back and tinker with him, or tinker with us. He had offered to let me leave my clothes there, so the invite to return was open but I wanted to be sure we wouldn’t ruin it by going any further. There is a delicate exchange of power when you court a man, who initiates, who agrees. Who initiates.  Who agrees. I hate it.

Huck gave me fair warning, as did his peers, that he had the propensity of being an asshole- though I saw nothing like that myself.

And then there is me; if you were to independently interview some of the men I have been involved with, I am sure they would say I am an asshole, though most of them still communicate with me. I can get flirtatious and sometimes surly when I have had too much to drink. I think about the moment I had with an American Professor my first night in France, the kiss we shared, only for the next night, when the Professor wept over his beer in front of our peers, sharing a story about his ex-wife saving him from a house fire, I openly flirted and obtained a number from a French stranger in the middle of the story.

Sometimes I think about who I am, and it scares me.

After a lecture, and a quick conversation with my mother, I texted Huck asking if he wanted me to bring him something to eat. I waited . . .

Huck: “Sure. Anything is fine.”

I stopped for sandwiches, got fries and soda, and returned to his hotel room. I knew bringing him food after multiple orgasms was making a step, did I want him more? I did. I wanted a whole lot of him. He was making me happy. And I was in the poor habit of continuing to do anything that makes me happy without the care of foresight.

Walking down the hallways of Huck’s hotel and riding the elevator up with another hotel patron, a man, I waited as we both reached the 7th floor. The man, in his 50s and looking distinguished enough, walked down the hallway to where I remember coming from earlier that morning. He heard my footsteps behind him and looked back to smile at me.

“I am not following you, I swear. I am just headed down this way,” I explained without question.

“That’s fine. We are neighbors, huh?” he said, smiling.

I kept my face and smile down, calling Huck on my cell. In my mind, I repeated, “Don’t flirt. Don’t flirt.” It is something I have to stay on top of, and usually a cause of friction with my suitors. Usually, I am not really flirting, just engaging, laughing, smiling- to men it gives the wrong impression, so I force myself to be disinterested and brief. My friend George calls it the “Julia Roberts Effect”. If I were homely, overweight or much older, my signals wouldn’t be misinterpreted. I could laugh a little too loud, touch a shoulder, stare intently in someone’s eyes, and no one would bother to rethink it. Being who I am, I can be slinky, tomboyishly sexy, maybe my smile, on first impression, is often thought to be personalized just for them. It is just who I am, to everyone. In 15 years, that will all change and I will miss leading men on with a flash of my hazel eyes and Lolita-esque smile. (May face not look like 14, but my fucking teeth look like a 14-year-old's)




That said, there is no denying I have a large libido for a woman, so maybe not all of it is misinterpreted. Abe always gave me the silent treatment on the rides home after a party. I didn’t want to fuck up with Huck. Did that mean I was falling in love? For the first time since Abe, I wanted to deliberately not fuck up, sometimes for me that is like trying to walk a straight line when you know you have had too much to drink, just to see if you can do it.

Waiting next to the man, I held my cell phone up to my face, keeping my eyes down. Huck picked up the call with a cold, “Hello.”

“I am at the end of the hall, which room are we in again?” I asked.

He repeated the number of the door I was outside of and I said, “Knock, knock.”

The stranger was still standing next to me, as if waiting to open his door, “Have a lovely afternoon.”

“You too,” I said, blushing.

Huck opened the door and I waltzed in with my bookbag and food.

“Meeting the neighbors?” he asked.

“Yeah, I had to follow him all the way down the hall, it was a bit awkward.”

He was writing, in his underwear and a blue and black flannel that wasn’t buttoned up, revealing the skin I spilled, kissed and sweated on the night before. His blonde hair was all brushed forward, over his face, and his glasses drooped slightly over the end of his nose.

We ate together, and I set up my mini-laptop to join him at the desk. Something terribly romantic happened here, there we sat, side-by-side, and we wrote together. We only spoke on occasion to share a large, blue-ish, Naked smoothie, or fries, while playing 50s music.

“Don’t spill anything on my shorts!” Huck said.

Smiling, “Well, I wouldn’t be concerned with that. I am not wearing any underwear,” I said.

Never in my life, have I been able to write with a lover. Usually, I am pestered; they constantly bother me, ask me to write when they are gone or get restless. Abe especially hated it and called it “wasting time”. Huck just sat next to me, typing away. It was an intimate space with no interruption.

Occasionally, I got up to stretch using some old hamstring stretches I used to do before soccer practice.

“What did we do last night? Why do my hamstrings ache?”

“That was some rigorous lovin’,” he answered, smiling, sipping.

I put my hands on the chair, as I pushed one leg forward at a time, “Jesus Christ.”

We shared music. He played something called “Paranoid in B Flat Major”. I played “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline.



We briefly invaded each other’s Facebooks; mine littered with rescue posts for homeless dogs and cats, his less frequent- pictures, posts, sometimes a girl cuddling up to him. I asked if he had animals, and he said he had a cat, then said, “But I think I carry a different view of dogs and cats than you do. I don’t think they should be domesticated.”

“But they are already domesticated. They are drawn to people. Its in their nature to pair with humans.”

“I don’t know, I mean, I have a cat. I just don’t think we should be keeping them as pets and trying to save all of them all the time. I know you think about it differently.”

I thought a lot about this one thing he said, because in a way it made sense. I think we overproduce everything- including people and animals. It’s stressful to realize how much is born and how much must suffer. When looking through my Facebook feed and seeing graphic pictures of dogs that were injured or put down, dead cats dumped outside a county shelter or animals skinned in China, my mind is blinded in anguish. Not just the animals, the stories of children being raped, women being beaten and killed, men dying in a war everyone has forgotten about, it creates this white, screeching blank screen in my mind and I can’t function. All the information out there, and our heads have to be held under it all day long, drowning, gasping for a moment of silence, for a moment of personal reflection.

If we didn’t, as a society, create more than we consume, we wouldn’t need to wade in so much misery, shop through so much crap and carelessly throw so much away. And we have come to treat life like a product, so in a way, I did agree with Huck. I long to simplify all the time, pair down, love only what is in front of me and do away with desire, want and longing. It all can snuff out a person’s spirit.



Huck’s mother called, and I put on my iPod to give him privacy, occasionally lowering my volume to eavesdrop. He crossed his legs while resting his feet on the edge of the seat. His legs looked like a woman and the thought occurred that he would probably walk better in high heel shoes than I do. Then I took a cigarette break outside on a tiny patio outside the only window; we had to climb over the wall and through the window sill using a footrest from the corner chair. I like to smoke and write, it gives me a chance to catch up on what comes out of my fingers.

In mid-cigarette, on the glass window, Huck jumped against the pane and sang whatever tune was playing on his computer. I watched his face bend down and coo, realizing he was indeed effeminate. I believe the bravado and low voice he uses on introduction throws you off of the real Huck. Sometimes, when he gets too comfortable, you might question if he was gay. My first thought was, “My mother won’t like that about him.” Who gives a fuck about what she thinks?

He came out to join me and saw my bare feet. The pedicure I paid for just before France was wearing off, the nail polish was chipped, the nails just a bit too long, and my pinkie toe was bashed up nicely from all the walking I did in Paris. It was the day after our anticipated night together, and he noticed my first flaw.

“What is going on with that pinkie toe?” he asked.

“I know, she is in bad shape.”

“You need to cut that thing.”

“Usually I get pedicures, but I didn’t have time between France and school so . . . there it is.”

The nail was a little too long, and a piece of skin that was once a blister was hanging off the side. I turned my foot over to reveal an even larger blister that faded into dead skin.

He jerked out, “Eugh.”

“I ran out of money for the metro so I had to walk everywhere in shitty shoes.”

He was mesmerized by how battered my feet were and I tried to overturn them so he wouldn’t stare at them anymore.

Every woman remembers the first time she is dethroned from a man’s imagination. We are often expected to whirl into a man’s room, smelling of perfume and feeling of satin. It’s hard to disguise how human you are once he’s orgasmed, and the daylight shines on your face. We try though, as exhausting as it is. So when the moment comes that the fantasy has faded from satin to polyester, I try to keep my head high.

I have a friend who was hotly pursued by someone on the heels of her last relationship. She resisted him initially, because she was still heartbroken and self-conscious. This played nicely into the game of chase- and he won her. The moment they were intimate, and he was holding her in bed, whispering how badly he wanted to enter her, she admitted to him she had genital herpes.



Despite how much character she exhibited with such an uncomfortable truth, she said that was the moment she fell from grace. He leaned back and decided he didn’t want to enter her so badly anymore. Eventually, they did have sex and the affair dried out shortly after, but she marks that moment as the first time she clumsily tripped out of his fantasy. I told her, “We all fall from being the fantasy girl. Its just a matter of time.”

My pinkie toe didn’t seem all that bad. However, the veil was lifting and it was soon to be decided if he really liked me or if we were only the affair we invented for each other on Facebook.

Back inside, “I told my Mom about you,” he said.

My eyes brightened, “You did!?”

“Psych.”

I smiled and threw a pillow at him.

The only place to sit together was the bed, and we spoke about his mother. Huck was worried about her because of how other people in the family were treating her.  And somewhere in the moment, as I rested my chin and pressed all my weight on his chest, I asked about his father. “He abused my mother the first couple years until he left. And then he remarried and he never . . . uh . . um, hurt her. Just my mother.” I wondered what it was like to know your father only beat the woman who created you, not the new one- the one who has nothing to do with you.

“Did he ever hit you?” I asked.

“No, just her. He did hit me before my grandmother’s funeral. I said something disrespectful to him, something about the way he was dressed . . . something terrible. I was sitting in the backseat and he turned around and punched me in the lip. Then he got out and tried to open up the back door. I hit the lock on the door and was laughing, with blood coming down my face and he kept tugging on the door, saying, ‘Open the damn door. God damn it.’”

Huck acted out his father with this very comical, old-school Midwest voice. “Then he got back in behind the wheel, and I started crying, ‘I am bleeding, you hit me in the lip . . .’” He overacted his own part, again, to the point where it was funny. I laughed along with the story. “He just kept his head turned, (mimicking his father again, this time over-emotional and on the verge of tears) ‘I can’t  . . . I can’t look at you.”

I laughed again, feeling my breasts patter against his ribcage. And he looked into my eyes, lazily, took a finger to stroke a piece of hair out of my face and said, “Yeah, that was it.” He mentioned earlier that he noticed green in the browns of my eyes, no one ever really has before, so I knew he was looking into me when we stared at each other.

We had already started on our first beers of the day, and planned on staying in for the rest of the day. It was towards the end of the week, and both of us had hit our fair number of lectures, seminars and workshops. One faculty member said, “If your creative soul wants to go down to the beach one afternoon, that is what you should do.” My creative soul wanted to bounce on the bed with Huck, drink beer, have sex and make him laugh for the rest of the day.

I think back on that day, and I remember never wanting to leave the room. We were hungry and kept bringing up what to eat, where to eat- but neither of us really wanted to leave our sanctuary. He motioned towards the room and would say, “I mean, look at this place . . .”

The trash was overflowing with a huge, empty vodka bottle teetering on top. Anytime we threw something away, it bounced back out onto the floor. There were beer cans everywhere, the bed sheets and blanket were kicked off and the bed looked well worked in, pieces of paper lay on piles by the floor or the nightstand, notebooks left open on the chairs, his suitcase open and neat in the corner by the door, my book bag and clothes scattered all over the other corner by the window . . . it looked like true love to me.

There was something about falling for each other in a neutral space, without his roommates and my dogs constantly interrupting us. Without jobs and everyday life knocking on the door or calling on the phone. We were in a bubble; a fresh, clean, pristine bubble where nothing could touch us. It also kept us from really knowing the other person, since there was no evidence of our real lives there.

I couldn’t flip through his book collection and see what pictures he kept, which poems lingered and about who. He couldn’t see how happy I am when I wake up and see my dogs first thing in the morning, he couldn’t taste how good my coffee is or what jazz sounds like after a morning orgasm.

The sun was setting, and I waited. I waited for him to give me the cue to leave. He really wanted me to have the impression that he was a womanizer, and here we were getting used to each other’s ticks. He knew I needed the commercials muted on the television. I knew that I needed to keep 20 feet away from the bathroom if he used it. When I lay on the bed, taking notes from my reading, he would tickle the bottom of my feet as he passed by.  “Look at us, we are so domesticated.” I giggled like I should have as a little girl.  “Look, um, you can’t spend the night tomorrow,” he said.

My first thought was I was invited for another night, the next thought was, “Why not tomorrow?”

“Because I need to get sleep.” He chuckled a little, as if this was obvious.

“I am going to have to go back to my friends’ for clothes and toiletries, at some point. I have had my contacts in for over a day. I have to take them out tonight.”

“I will go with you.” He flipped over the “Do Not Disturb” card and said, “Should I have them clean the room?”

It made me a little sad to surrender our pit of lechery, but I nodded and said, “If for nothing else than the clean sheets.”


We swung by an old diner nearby for a bland and overpriced meal. I could see his eyes swinging around, looking for anyone familiar from the program. My usual leads into odd, personal stories that capture any man’s interest didn’t seem to catch his, but it didn’t bother me. I found him more interesting than myself. He was eating a lot of fried chicken, I think he ordered a side order of fried chicken to go with his fried chicken.

“Do you know this quote, ‘Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke.’ ‘You want chicken wings or chicken legs?’ ‘Four fried chickens and a Coke.’ ‘And some dry white toast please,” I recited in various high and low voices. He shook his head at first and I giggled through the answer, “Blues Brothers.” He smiled, remembering the film. We would quote it for the rest of the week.

When we left, I felt I had to ask permission to hold his hand, and he grabbed on without reluctance. We walked from Culver City down to Playa del Rey, which ended up being about a 40 minute walk through an industrial area, underneath the freeway, swinging our hands. He gave me his sock hat to keep my head warm. It reminded me of Junior High courtships, when you had no privacy and no car, all you could do was roam the streets, keep warm and talk about the future.

The light died overhead, and we sang songs to kill the time on foot. Anytime we started a song, I rang out several lyrics until I lost my place or he switched songs. One tragic note about myself, I have a terrible singing voice and a superhuman ability for remembering and loving music.  My parents think I am tone deaf, but how could I truly be a lover of music if I don’t hear the tone?

We sang George Michael, Roy Orbison, Michael Jackson and the Beatles.

During a chorus break, I said, “You carry your body in a very graceful way.”

He laughed,“Thanks, most people would call it effeminate.”

I thought about whether or not it bothered me that he was so effeminate.  A woman always likes being with a masculine man, and I don’t mean the beefy kind of guy who lifts weights, trims his eyebrows and drowns himself in cologne. I mean the type of guy who walks on the traffic side of the sidewalk to protect you from cars. The type of guy who won’t let you carry a grocery bag even if its not that heavy.

Even as I look now at synonyms for effeminate: womanish, dainty, delicate, fragile, impotent, sissy, feeble . . . none of these properly describe him. Its even as if our own language refuses to acknowledge that femininity can be about strength and quality.

Huck was still harboring qualities of a boy before manhood, despite being 27-years old. He had a rhythm with his body movement, he was more elegant than I was. He had a confident stride, while I occasionally slipped off the edge of the sidewalk into a flower bed trying to get ahead of him to explain a story or idea. That grace and confident sophistication didn’t rob him of his virility or strength. He was still my lover.

Though he isn’t what my parents would picture for me, and there would be questions towards our compatibility and his sexuality, I didn’t care. There were some women, not a lot but a few, that I found more attractive than some men. I wouldn’t let anyone else’s box keep me from loving someone who was different from everyone else I loved.

***

Huck and I walked, hand-in-hand, up to Jeph’s condo, and I let us into the dark kitchen. The roommate was behind her bedroom door, with only a sliver of light through the door frame to alert us of her presence.

He was tired, and dragged his body onto the futon to settle in a spot for a moment and play with the cats. I gathered some things and sat with him in the dark. Our bus wouldn’t leave for another half hour.  He suggested we could stay there for the night, but I thought that was a bad idea, mostly because I was more comfortable in his hotel room. He already felt like more of a home than anywhere I had been the last few months, maybe even the last year.

We walked to the bus stop and saw the bus waiting there with its engine off and the driver in a seat, texting on her iPhone.  “It must be her break,” I said.

We were a little early and hung from the tree branches singing:

“Yeah, you got satin shoes
Yeah, you got plastic shoes”

“It’s plastic boots,” he gently corrected.

I started again, “Yeah, you got plastic boots . . .
Yall got cocaine eyes
Yeah, you got  . . . something.

Can’t you hear me knockin  . . . on your window”

“That’s such a good song,” he sighed, exhausted.

The bus driver opened the doors. We dropped from the branches and watched as she slowly walked away.

I asked, “Is the bus leaving . . . at some point?”

She turned her head, thrusting her obese hip away from us, “At some point.” She was a middle-aged black woman with thick, wavy hair. I could see that was the one part of her she took pride in. That and the elaborate acrylic designs on her fingernails.

We saw her disappear in the horizon. “Well, they can’t just leave the bus here,” I said.

Huck slumped and hung his head over like a rag doll, “I am so tired.”

I hugged him and lifted his body up, in baby talk, “We’ll be home soon. Don’t worry. Just a little longer.”

Ten minutes later, she came back, opened the bus door and climbed the steps to her sovereignty. Huck leaned in through the doors, still folded open, “The schedule says the bus was supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago. Is there another driver coming? Or maybe another bus?”

She silently withdrew her iPhone, and punched a few buttons. Huck continued, in a low, monotonous voice, poorly masking irritation, “Maybe you could tell us when the bus is leaving?”

“It leaves when I make it leave.”

Then she closed the door on him.  He kept his arms outstretched on either side and hung his head like Jesus dying on the cross. I thought this was hilarious, and broke out laughing.

Ten seconds later, before Huck could even move, the bus door opened, he lifted his head to the light and we ascended to our long awaited seats. Huck was rolling up into a ball, and fading before my eyes.  I kept laughing and retelling the story, “When she closed the doors on you . . . that was hilarious . . .“ Chuckling, struggling to finish the thought. He smiled, but I could tell the story wasn’t captivating him. I swallowed the laughter and smiled at him. His cheeks were cold from the night air.

“This is our story. We are making stories right now. This is one, right here, on this bus,” I said.

He smiled and looked down at his shoe, “Maybe.”

When we arrived to the clean hotel room, we slid into the fresh sheets with a couple of beers. He turned on the television and we watched “Total Recall”. We fondly chatted about the film as it played, both of us liking the old special effects and the poor performances. I felt myself falling asleep, and mumbling. Huck would ask a question, and then I felt him jerk my shoulder and shout, “WHAT?”


I hadn’t felt close to someone in a few months. I enjoyed my freedom, floating around the planet without commitment to a place or a person. I made lots of friends and lots of lovers, but no one I could just be myself, without monitoring what I said, what I did, without worrying what they thought. Even at Abe’s, I was always cold and a little uncomfortable with how clean it all was. Huck laughed at every joke I made, and that was the first anyone had picked up on my humor so quickly and with such affection.

Digging further under the covers, I kicked off the top sheet- something I do at home.

“Don’t like the top sheet, huh?”

“I just don’t see the point,” I mumbled.

“You know, there is a toe nail clipper in my bathroom.”

I ignored this at first, as well as his notice of the hair in my armpit growing just above the surface of my skin. I just wanted to sleep . . . then I remembered how much I liked him, enough to work a little harder on that fantasy.

So I forced myself back up and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes trying to saw off my pinkie toe nail, then realized the whole thing might come off if I kept going. Reaching inside his small, black travel bag, I pulled out his razor to quickly trim off any evidence of hair growth.

Quickly shuffling out of the bathroom, I crawled back under the covers and pressed against him. He smelled sweet, like faint cologne or deodorant with that musky scent you love immediately during sex or when you wake up with a man.

We made love again, despite being too exhausted to stand, his face hung over mine, and we both shared the same breath, like our spirits were firing into a ball of hot air, slowly exchanging from one mouth to the other.

Occasionally, he would put his hand around my throat and squeezed. I never fought it. I never was scared about being strangled, or losing consciousness. I knew it was part of his fetish, part of the need to be in control, and the instinct to be his father the “Dominator”, not his mother the “Victim”.

After sex, bathing in the blue hue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he asked what I was thinking about. “I was thinking about how I am forced to trust you when you put your hand on my throat, or hit me during sex. I immediately have to trust that you won’t hurt me. And I never thought that you would hurt me. But I had to trust you immediately, and I don’t think most couples do, or aren’t forced to initially . . . the way I do with you.”

Huck took a moment then chuckled a little, “God, ask a guy what he thinks about after sex, and you will get a much simpler answer.”

“Look, I identify with you, so I get it. I identify with the darkness. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been attracted to you.”

His arm around me, his low voice returned for pillow talk, rattling his ribcage,  “You are attracted to the darkness?”

“The darkness and the innocence.” I repeated it, over and over, turning my head from open palm to another, “the darkness” “the innocence”, “The darkness” “the innocence” . . .

“Awww, that’s kind of sweet.”

“I don’t know if you know this about me, but I rescue pit bulls,” I said.

“That explains everything!”

With a half empty beer warming on the nightstand, I let my mind drift to unconsciousness, sadly knowing it would be time I spent away from him. Are you falling in love if sleep means you miss them? Are you falling in love when you know their happiness is contingent on yours? Their hunger, contingent on yours? Their orgasm, contingent on yours. They become a part of you, for a day, a week or a lifetime. There they are- in you.

I was in love.