Friday, September 28, 2012

Two Hicks and a Hot Tub

The next day, I rode my bike around the neighborhood talking to Abe on the phone (my ex-boyfriend). It was a good long talk, typical stuff. He was looking for work but couldn’t find any. I challenged how hard he was trying, knowing his parents cover all his expenses. He lives a low key life,  likes smoking cigarettes, smoking pot and thinking about numerology, crystals, the Old Testament, Mayan history, and philosophy. Once he told me, “I don’t think I am supposed to work, I am just supposed to think all day.”

He is also the drummer for a Christian Rock band, even though he is Jewish.



After our conversation about how there are “no jobs” and no one calls him for interviews because he doesn’t have a Facebook page, he concluded with “I guess I am just too comfortable.”

“Well, that’s the truth. I am glad you finally said it out loud,” I said.

There was a silence, then, “Ooo-k,” he said, “What else is going on?” I told him about how my father insists on defecating in my bathroom and my theory that it’s a form of claiming territory.

“People are funny about their space. I have noticed, when I leave a dish in the sink, Mike (his roommate) leaves a glass on top of my plate. If I leave anything in the sink, he has to place a dirty dish on top of my dirty dish. There always has to be something touching my dish. And then a week ago, there was a piece of broken glass on the sink. It hasn’t moved . . . it’s weird. I wonder what he thinks I am going to do with it,” he said. I do miss Abe and his twisted, paranoid, cannabis-inspired monologues.

“Oh, there is the drug dealer. He is waiting for me again, at the end of the street,” I said, making big, slow circles in the middle of the road on my bicycle. Lawrence (my parents called him “the drug dealer”) was habitually riding his bicycle back and forth in front of our place. He was in his 50s, had long silver hair braided behind his head and always wore a baseball hat with sunglasses. He also started walking his junkyard dogs up and down the street, passing me and my dogs by every morning on our walk.

When my parents spoke to the neighbors, they were assured, “Don’t worry about [StarFire], she is too old for him. He only likes the little girls.”

“He already hit on her!” they said. My Father would shake his head whenever he saw Lawrence or stare at him from the blinds. I thought it odd he was so protective of me when he and my Mother seemed to dislike me, in general.

QB (my neighbor/teenage quarterback/co-worker) referred to Lawrence as my boyfriend the first month I worked at the Hotel. The jokes went on about how I would wake up in his basement with the other victims. Or I could be his next child bride and carry water back to his shack for him. (Lawrence had no running water and always smelled of BO) If I wore pigtails, I would say, “Fixed my hair up for my boyfriend today.” Everyone would laugh.

“He used to follow me in my jeep,” QB said.

“I wonder why . . .” I asked.

“Because he wants to fuck me. He likes little kids,” QB said.



One day, Lawrence approached me on our walk and said he would like to take me out sometime. “I heard you were a child molester,” I said.

“I have heard the same thing about myself,” Lawrence said, “but there is no truth to it.”

“That is still a troublesome rumor,” I said.

“Yeah, it is. My neighbors’ had a couple kids who told their teachers I was touching them. Really it was their parents not me. Its just because people in this town are out to get me. You know .  .” he said in a nasally voice.

“Why are they out to get you?” I asked, flatly in that way only meant for smart people.

“Because I went to high school with them, same bullshit,” he paused and smiled at me. He was creepy, leering behind his sunglasses like an insect sizing up his prey. “We should go out sometime and I can buy you a beer.”



“I don’t think so, my parents asked me not to go out with anyone in this town,” I said.

“I am not sure I can let you go,” he hissed. “A woman has her place.”

“She does?”

“Don’t you think so?” he said, raising his voice again like a reptile spinning his tongue.

“I am standing in my place,” I said. It occurred to me somewhere deep down inside that I looked forward to my chats with Lawrence because I was lonely, no matter how uncomfortable he made me. The attention was reassuring in an odd way. Now that I had my car, I didn’t need to limit myself socially to Lawrence and the kids at work. Vancouver was a bust. On my next day off, I went to Hood River.



***

Twenty miles away, east of Skamania, along the windy, mountain highway, and across a very narrow bridge into Oregon, there is the city of Hood River. The town itself is very small, but it is built for tourists. Quaint breweries and restaurants, quirky coffee shops with fancy drinks turn into absinthe bars after dark, expensive clothing boutiques for women, their babies and their dogs line the quiet streets where SUVs and sports cars drip lazily from one block to the next- it has a very yuppie smell to it. Parasailers and windsurfers come to the Gorge during the summer for recreation or to train for the Olympics, Hood River is where they usually stay.



With my mini laptop, I parked my car and walked up to the nearest brewery on the hill, Big Horse Brew Pub. I sat down, checked my email and waited for service. A small cluster of female servers looked on from behind the bar but didn’t move until an older couple walked in and sat down.  One of the servers left the group to hand them a menu and returned behind the bar. So I left.




Down the block and around the corner was a little diner with a long, wood bar inside. I grabbed a booth, ordered a $2 PBR and started writing. It wasn’t just that it was away from my parents, there was energy around me. The bartenders flirting with the regulars. The shoppers drifting up and down the sidewalk. The traffic, the music, the smell of food on a grill, the clanking of glasses and town gossip, all those things I missed being hidden away in a room for so long.

When I was done with whatever I was working on, I ordered some food and decided to sit at the bar next to some strangers. A good looking couple, around my age, were splitting a side of tater tots.

“Do you want to try my tater tots?” the man asked.

“Sure,” I said, grabbing a couple and popping them in my mouth. They immediately fell to pieces on my tongue, and the taste of potato tumbled down the back of my throat in warm oil.



“Mmmm,” I said.

“Aren’t they good? I don’t think I have had tater tots since I was a kid,” he said.  “So, I am glad you came to sit down because I need someone to talk to and make my wife jealous.” His wife was a beautiful mixed race woman with short hair, politely engaging in conversation with a lumpy, hairy local in overalls and a baseball hat.

I spoke to the husband for a while, and he ended up buying me two more beers. We chatted about writing school, about France and my sexual adventures, then, around the time my posture shrank to the shape of a spoon, we inevitably spoke about Huck, my last lover from writing school.

“He said he was going to hurt me, so it isn’t as though I didn’t know any better,” I shrugged with my bottle of beer.

“No, I don’t like that,” the husband dismissed, his eyes in half moons, “I don’t like that he said that to you so he doesn’t have to take any responsibility. That is a set-up. No, no, no. I don’t like this guy.”

“Thank you,” I said, chuckling. I was getting over Huck. Talking about him didn’t throw me into a rage or reduce me to tears or shake me with longing. He was becoming a memory now.

“Whatever happens now, keep living life the way you are and please keep writing about it. Do it for the rest of us who have boring lives,” he said, smiling. That made me happy. His wife was now involved in the conversation and listening with a more sober presence.

“What are you writing about now?” she asked.

“Love. Can I fall in love in 7 days? I guess you have to first ask yourself what is love, and the most common answer is to love someone more than yourself,” I said.

“I don’t know that is true,” she said looking from me to her husband, “I wouldn’t say I love him more than myself. I would say . . . I love us more than myself.”

“Hm,” I said, nodding with a tater at my lips.

Columbia River at Night


A very tall guy came up to the bar and started chatting between us. He had a t-shirt and a baseball hat on, definitely a local. Immediately we started flirting and the husband threw up his fingers and said, “I won’t interrupt if you would rather talk to him.”

I looked over to see if the man’s pretty wife cared that her husband was behaving like my jealous boyfriend. She was looking over the taters, trying to make the right selection before popping them in her mouth. I kind of threw my hands up in the air, staring at the husband with wide eyes, trying to pass the psychic memo not to fuck up my chance at finally getting laid. He turned away.

I wish for the life of me I could tell you how I got on this topic with the tall boy in a hat, but things quickly moved from small talk to “I can give you an orgasm.”

“Mmm,” I said, sipping the new froth off the neck of my beer, “Thank you.”

“I could give you 4 orgasms,” he said again, smiling.

“Even better. The good news is I am multi-orgasmic,” I said.

“I will give you more orgasms than you have ever had,” he said, leaning back. He almost looked like Vin Diesel with his macchiato skin and big features; wide nose, excited eyes, black cherry lips.

“That would be difficult,” I said, “since I have given myself 23 orgasms in one sitting before.”

“Whoa,” he said, “Seriously?” He pushed his baseball hat back like this factoid blew a gust of wind against him.

“Seriously,” I said, “but that’s ok. That was really too many. It isn’t really satisfying at that point, it is just a numb forearm and sweaty pajamas.”

He pulled aside another guy, smaller than him and blonde, equally attractive, “This chick says she has given herself 23 orgasms.”  I winked at the other guy and finished my beer.



The bar got crowded fast. The beer cast a shadow over conversations from the bar, to the two guys’ in their booth, to conversations outside under an expanding cloud of cigarette smoke. I wasn’t brooding or depressed, the alcohol hadn’t altered my mood, there were no tears and no texts- there were just conversations, kisses with one guy and then another.

The taller guy with dark skin and big hands asked to take me home, along with the guarantee of now 6 orgasms. After I agreed, I found myself cornered in their booth, alone with the smaller one, the blonde. He was grabbing my hip underneath my shirt and pushing me in for a kiss.

“I am already spoken for, by your friend,” I said, nodding towards the Dark one.

“He doesn’t care, trust me,” the blonde said, closing in on my mouth. I submitted, thirsting for the touch, the want and the lust. My eyes were kept open and I saw the Dark one across the room, rapping on the karaoke machine.

After his song, I pulled him outside and said, “Your friend is hitting on me in there. If I go home with you, I am just going home with you. I don’t want some weird set-up with the two of you. I really need to know what I am getting into, do you understand?”

“I understand,” he said earnestly. “I promise you are safe with me.”

“Ok, and six orgasms, right?” I asked, with one eye closed, like I was pointing a gun.

“Yeah, six,” he smiled.

We got in his car and waited for the blonde to find his way out of the bar to our parking spot. The two men lived together. The Dark one was from out of town but was childhood friends with the Fair one, the blonde. They were living together in a house across the river in White Salmon, Washington. They had a hot tub. That is really all I needed to know.

The Fair One decided to stay in the bar and try to pick up a girl of his own, so Dark and I crossed the bridge over the Columbia back to Washington. Each time you cross, you must hand over a crisp $1 bill to someone sitting in the toll booth.   We fumbled for a buck, crossed and I felt the bridge under the tires, the sound filled the cab like someone spinning a big rubber bowl over our heads with a spatula.



“So, what movies do you like?” he asked.

“Movies? Like to watch?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know, movies. For fun,” he said.

This must be normal folk conversation. “Well, I like all sorts of movies, but right now I like watching ‘Natural Born Killers’, probably because of my parents” I said, though it is my favorite movie.

“Why? Is your Dad like Rodney Dangerfield in that movie or something?” he asked.

“No, because living with them makes me want to commit mass murder.”

He chuckled then pulled over to a liquor store. “I really don’t need any more. I am done drinking,” I said.

“Ok,” he said. Then his phone buzzed with messages. “That dick needs me to go pick him up at the bar.” I groaned and leaned back.

So we crossed the bridge again, handed over another crisp dollar bill and pulled up outside the bar so Fair One could jump in the back seat. “Those girls were bitches,” he said.

“You have to watch your mouth. You know we could have gotten those other two girls to come home with us if you weren’t such a dick,” Dark said.

“Which two girls?” Fair asked.

“The two who were laughing at all my jokes, then you called one of them a slut and they totally went cold on us. You have to keep your mouth shut,” Dark said. It was almost as if I hadn’t been sitting there all this time, to hear about how they fucked up not getting the two girls before me.

I wasn’t offended. My interest in Dark was purely sexual, so I listened as they bickered like brothers, and we handed yet another crisp $1 bill over to the toll booth woman and crossed the bridge one more time.



We got to the house, and it was on a hillside with only a few other houses. The stars scattered everywhere around us, and the evening was warm. As we pulled up to the house, the boys were still bickering. “You need to stop challenging him and relax. Have a good time. Stop arguing,” I said.

“Why don’t you stop being a bitch?” Fair said.

“See? Now when you use that kind of language, I am uncomfortable going inside of your house,” I said.

“Take it back, man. Take it back! Come on! Don’t fuck this up, too!” Dark said.

“I’m sorry,” Fair grumbled, stumbling out of the car.

Walking into their house, clothes and beer cans strewn about, I quickly said, “Ok, where is this hot tub?”

Dark smiled and pointed outside the back porch. He flipped on a switch so one light bulb could stand guard overhead, and the bubbles in the tub began their dance. I stripped off my clothes to just my panties and bra, then jumped in.

Dark took off his shirt and slid inside the tub with me. He pulled me onto his lap, we kissed and he unhooked my bra. I looked up and saw Fair standing just beyond the tub, outside the back patio door, staring at us.



“Are you coming in or staying out?” I asked.

He threw his hand at us in dismay and disappeared inside. “He is going to bed,” Dark said.

After a few more warm minutes, lips on my mouth and neck, hands on my skin, hot water churning around the base of my neck, and the night air teasing my hair, Fair appeared again. I climbed off of Dark’s lap and leaned against the side of the hot tub.

“Come on in, man!” Dark said.

Fair took off his shirt and climbed in the pool.  The bickering started again, it was never over anything important. I arched my back so my bare breasts peaked just above the water, and my ears submerged in silence. I looked up at the stars and hoped my dogs were ok. I just needed this- the tub, the sky, the hands. Like a mermaid, I flipped my head back above water, plunging my breasts back under the heat. Both men had stopped bickering and were staring at me with open mouths. I wiped the chlorine out of my eyes and smiled.

“Go get me a beer,” Fair ordered Dark.

“I was going to get her one anyway,” he said. Dark disappeared inside. Fair pulled on my leg like a fishing hook, found my thigh and slowly inserted his finger inside me.

“I am with your friend,” I said lazily, my eyes sinking with a faint smile of encouragement. Dark came back out with the drinks.

“I got to talk to you!” Fair said, climbing out of the tub.

Waiting outside, soaking alone, I took a few sips off the beer and then set it down. Leaning back further into the water, I waited . . . and waited as their voices grew louder and louder. Through the patio door, I could see them standing across from each other arguing. My arms hung down from the side of the tub and I pressed my cheek against the edge of the pool. “Fuck, am I going to have to get out of the tub now . . . ?”

Fair grabbed a duffle bag and threw it at Dark, who started collecting loose clothes off the floor and stuffing them in his bag.

“Fuck . . .” I said to myself. Getting out of the pool, I wrapped myself in a towel and opened the glass door. “What the fuck?” I asked.

“He is kicking me out!!” Dark said.

“Come on .  . . “ I ached.

Fair approached me, earnestly, “You don’t have to leave, just him.”

“But he’s my ride, man!” I said.

They both stared at me and honestly, it didn’t matter who I had sex with. They were both attractive. I simply needed to pair off with the more grounded of the two, just to insure I could get back to my vehicle in the morning.

Dark grabbed his bag and jumped in his car. I climbed in after him, still wet, hair down, no bra and no shoes. “He fucking does this! He told me to leave you two alone so he could fuck you. I said, no, I promised her she was coming home with me, alone. I mean, I would have left you there with him if we didn’t have that talk, but you made me promise to stay with you so I said, ‘Fuck you, kick me out then!’ So now I have no place to live. Fuck this, I am going back to California!”

I sighed, “Do I have to have sex with both of you now?” I said, half joking, half fantasizing.

“No,” Dark said, “Fuck him. So, where should we go now?”

“Can we go park somewhere or something?” I asked.

“There is a school down here . . .” he said.

“That sounds appropriate.”

He drove us down a small, windy road and we parked. I thought about the two Englishmen in France I went home with, how it was both civil and erotic while shared between them. Here, in America, everything was a fight. He leaned back my seat and slowly undressed me. I liked how big his hands were, like he could hold me between all of his thick fingers. I put my feet up on his side of the car, propped up between the windshield and the dash. He removed my panties.



“You have a pretty pussy,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said, leaning my head back on my seatbelt.

“I almost want to eat this pussy it’s so pretty. Can I?” he asked.

“Oral sex requires a certain level of intimacy, lets stick with regular intercourse,” I said.

He shrugged his shoulders and entered me. In about three to four minutes it was over. Orgasms = Zero.

We shook back into our pants and drove back to Fair’s house, thinking he would be passed out or calmed down by then. When we arrived, Fair was nowhere in sight but there was a new guy on the couch playing video games. Dark enthusiastically retold the tale about their fight and being kicked out as I tipped over on the couch between both men and quickly poured myself into sleep without a care in the world.

Opening my eyes, the first thought I had was, “I feel good.” I smiled and looked up at the ceiling. The second thought I had was, “No nightmares.” My head focused on the ceiling and I turned my head to the wall. My third thought was, “Where the fuck am I?”

I bolted up, my contacts rolled back into place. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I stood up and shook Dark. “Get up! I have to go home! Oh fuck!”



I texted my parents that I was at a friend’s house and safe. It was still only 6am, but they were up by now. Hunting for my bra and panties, still hanging to dry in the bathroom, I pulled everything together. “Get up! Please! Hurry! We have to go! Drive me back to my car!” I said.

Dark slowly sat up like he was crawling out of a grave, rubbing his eyes, “What the fuck, man? Get some more sleep.”

“No, my parents are going to kill me!”

“Fuck them,” he said, laying back down. I pulled him back up and threw his hat at him. “Now! Up!” I said.

Pacing outside on the patio, I smoked a cigarette. I only had a few left after buying a whole pack the day before. How the fuck did I smoke so many cigarettes in one night? And why the fuck was I so worked up about what my parents thought when I was 34 years old? I was even shaking.

“You are a fucking adult. So what if I stayed out. That is my business. Jesus,” I said to myself, trying to calm down. The sky was the color of a freshly sliced peach, and the air was so fresh it cooled the tobacco over my lungs. If my parents didn’t have such a hold on me, I would enjoyed the morning. Instead I was frantic, my throat was sore, my eyes foggy and the day uncertain.

Dark came out and slowly got in his car. We drove back over the bridge and offered another crisp $1 bill at the toll booth.



He told me about how he was back in Washington to visit his two kids, one was only a year old and the other was four. Dark was 30 years old, but married to a 24-year-old who kicked him out a little over a year ago.

“We aren’t divorced yet, but its in the works. I just wanted it to work so I could be with my kids. But she met someone else now,” he said.

“Well, women change, especially young women. She must have been very young when you two started, like what? 20?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I thought she was it for me, you know? I wanted it to work.”

“People change, especially young people. Its ok. Do what’s best for the kids. I don’t think people should stay together just for the kids. It sets the wrong example.”

“Yeah. The one year old is totally used to just seeing me every so often. Its the four year old who doesn’t understand,” he said.

“That’s hard, I am sorry.”

“Its ok. Its just weird having her call this other guy ‘Daddy’,” he said.

“What does she call you?” I asked.

“Daddy #1,” he said smiling. “Wait, how old are you?”

“34,” I said.

“Why don’t you have kids?” he asked.

I laughed.

“No, seriously, why don’t you have kids?” he asked.

My first thought was, “So I don’t have to deal with bullshit like that!”

My second thought was, “Because I use birth control.”

My third thought was, “Make a joke about abortion.”



I just didn’t answer. “Have you been tested for disease? Like STDs?” I asked.

“No, the last person I was with was my wife,” he said.

“Ok, but she may have had intercourse with someone else. I am not saying that to upset you, I just want you to understand my concern.”

“No, not since I have been with her. How about you?”

“I haven’t been tested recently, but I have had unprotected sex with other people,” I said. I rolled down my window so I could breathe in the air off the river and mountain. It almost tasted like snow.

“You don’t have to worry about disease unless you have had sex with black guys. Have you?” he asked.

“I wish I had sex with a black guy,” I responded. Fucking ignorants. Jesus.



We circled around the town until we found my car on top of the hill. “You are a really cool girl, I almost wish we could stop for coffee and talk some more or have breakfast or something,” he said, searching my face for affirmation.

“I really have to go back to my dogs. I have their organic kibble in my car,” I said. He parked the car and walked me to my door.

“I had a really good time, sometimes its weird after one night stands, but I feel really good about this one,” he said.

“Good, I am glad,” I said smiling. He was handsome. I liked this muscle thing occurring in these Northwest boys. Their arms had some curve and their hands some callous but not too much. They were used to working with their hands, so they knew how to touch something with the intention of molding, learning and mastering it instead of monotonously pounding buttons on a keyboard and expecting a result. They were taller than me with broad shoulders that could block the wind and sun from my eyes so I could see their faces. And they all liked to smile, which gave the exchanges a tenderness.

“You also have a great pussy,” he said.

“Thank you, I appreciate that.”

“No problem,” he said.



"You should probably take the morning after pill," he said.

"No, that's ok. It fucks up your whole hormonal system and I am not ovulating anyway," I said.

"You know that stuff? That's cool. No seriously, you should take it. My sperm is really strong," he said.

"I will be ok," I said.

"If anything happens, you are on your own," he said, stuttering, slicing his hand through the air.

"Don't ruin this. Just stop," I said. He did.
 
We kissed goodbye and exchanged numbers without the intention of calling. Then I drove back, bracing myself for an argument.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into my parents driveway, opened my trunk and carried the dog kibble in over my shoulder.

My parents were out on the front lawn with the dogs. Brad, my smallest, saw me first and ran to me like a rabbit. The two other dogs followed, leaping towards me, smiling with their tongues out of their mouths. I laughed light-heartedly, and let everyone in so I could get a pot of coffee brewing.

“Good, you have dog food. If you came back empty handed, I would have had to say something,” my Father said. I offered a smile but didn’t say anything.

“We are going into town, are you going to stay home for awhile so the dogs aren’t left all alone? We don’t have time to watch them all the time,” my Mother said.

“I will be here,” I said, stoic.

“Good, because we have to go out too, you know,” she said.

When they drove off, I stretched out on the couch to watch some TV and cuddled with the dogs. Then I read a book. My stomach felt strong for once, and the gravity of fatigue made the day chimerical, slow and warm. I lazily hung out in my pajamas and snacked on food, flirted with the dogs, tried to nap but made tea instead.



Then, my parents came back. Stones formed in my lower intestine. My dogs jumped up and charged the door barking. The garage door opened slowly as one pair of footsteps approached the front door.

I went back to my room.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Filthy or Soiled?

Around the time I started getting antsy, living in bumfuck nowhere without a car, my Father felt inspired to give a speech: “The people out here are really not good. They are just different, a different type of people. The way they treat each other, what they do, you don’t want anything to do with them,” he said.

“Aww,” I said, checking my phone for anything.

“No, seriously. Even those high school boys you like. They will change, too. Stay away. And please for our sake, don’t fool around with anyone in this town. It is too small a town and we don’t want anyone in our business,” he said.



“Ok,” I said. I knew as soon as I got my car back, I would rush out to the city of Vancouver, find a bar and hopefully a man to thrust an ego back into me.

“Just focus on your work for now. You don’t need to do anything else,” my Mother said.

“Um, I need more than work in my life,” I said.

“Why?” she asked, dumbfounded.

“Because I am not a spinster, that's why. I need dancing and life and boys and . . . dancing.”

“Oh, give it a rest,” she said.

For a while I tried to live like a monk, like a drunk monk who didn’t need contact, who didn’t need friends or male attention or to be touched.



It didn’t last long. Inevitably, I became close with my co-workers. There was nothing especially unusual about the people I worked with. The Housemen loved Star Trek. The women were planning camping trips with their kids. The young kids made bad jokes and the old people held the door open for me and nodded every morning.

It is a small town and everyone is in each other’s business but its not a big deal. Gina and one of the Houseman, Gary, live together.

Checking over a Banquet Event Order, “Oh, look, this company sounds like one of the porn sites you like,” Gina said.

“Well, maybe if you pleased me more I wouldn’t have to go elsewhere,” he snapped back.

“Well, if you gave me something to be pleased about, maybe it could come full circle,” she returned.

Two of the younger servers live in a house together. Kelly was kicked out by her Step-Mother after her Father abandoned her. She now shares a room with her best friend, who is cousins with Harry.

While dumping out water glasses and putting them on the dish rack, they argued. “You aren’t doing it right! Why don’t you listen to me?” Kelly scolded.

“I am doing it right, you stupid bitch,” Harry said.

“No, you’re not! Get out of my life and get out of my house,” she said before turning away.

“It’s my house, you get out! I hate you!” he yelled.

Those moments happen during the tension and busy dinner services. On the flip side, everyone helps each other. If someone’s car broke down, everyone already knows where they live and someone on shift is delegated to pick them up. They all know each other’s favorite foods, favorite shifts, favorite movies- who they have loved and who broke their heart, who is related and who wandered into town because they had nowhere else to go.

When I was still a snob about the small town and frustrated with only a bike and a broken heart, I asked one of the young bartenders why she moved back to Skamania. “I grew up here,” she said warmly, “and I like how everyone chips in for each other. One of my friends got in a car accident once and had $21,000 in medical bills. That night he was admitted into the hospital, everyone in town pooled together the money for him.”

Big towns, small towns. People are people. Families quarrel, but at the end of the day, everyone was taken care of. If I told one person about my parents or my car, everyone knew. People took turns driving me home. And once in a blue moon, when the Kitchen had a call for a tofu entree, someone always saved me every last bit of the leftovers- no matter what shift I worked that day. I am the only vegan most of them have ever met.



One of the older bartenders on the night shifts, a short woman with the posture of a hitchhiker’s thumb wearing heavy blue eyeshadow, teased me and touched my back. She teased all of us. Once I caught her grabbing the Quarterback’s ass. I hadn’t been touched in such a long time, when her hand rubbed my back warmth spread out along my torso and my skin prickled. “That is the most intimacy I have had in a long time,” I said. Everyone laughed, but it was true.

***

Sometimes, I wouldn’t call my Dad for a ride immediately after work, but slip into the Hotel bar instead. I asked for a dirty, vodka martini, and the bartender, around my age, short, bald with a thick black goatee, stopped everything for the Hotel guests and asked, “Do you want that filthy or soiled?”



“Filthy,” I said. With a tight smile of acknowledgement, he made me one fine martini. The burn of vodka on my lips cauterized my wounds for a few seconds just before my head wilted, dipping closer to the counter by the second. The voices of everyone around me grew faint. The Olympics played on the big screen TV, but I didn’t care. My injuries burned then went numb.

The bartender put his hand on the counter in front of me, “You ok?” he said gently. I fell in love with him. Smiling, I nodded and dipped my head back into the palm of my hand. “You want another one?” he asked like an angel.

“Well, since you twisted my arm,” I said a little loud for someone brooding. He gave a curt nod and gave me another equally anesthetizing martini.

He didn’t charge me for it.

***

The day did come. The day of my liberation. The day I got my car fixed!

The mechanic called and I expected them to just give an update, but they said it was ready to pick-up. I felt my soul leap up before I could stand, “Are you serious? Right now?” I asked.

“Right now,” he said.

I ran into the living room and sang, “My car is ready. Someone drive me to White Salmon!!!” (that is the city with the closest and most reliable mechanic) It had been several weeks since my Hyundai puttered into the shop. No more biking to get cereal. No more walking to escape the constant scratching, itching and bursts of insanity at my parents’ house.

My parents collected in the living room, smiling. “Really, its ready?” my Dad asked.

“Yes, now, right now!” I said, facing both my parents, dancing. My Mother stood in front of me, rubbing her crotch, absent-minded. Maybe it itched her, whatever the case, I found it distracting and slowed down my sentence until I stared at her hand, rubbing up and down over her genitals. Then I stopped speaking entirely and said, “I really hope you don’t do that in public.”

“Hey!” she said, then stuck out her front teeth and manically rubbed her crotch, “I will do whatever I want to do.” She shook her head like I was completely out of line and looked at my Father with a smirk. He chuckled back at her, as if it was a shared joke that their daughter was demented for bringing it up.



They drove me out to White Salmon, which was a 20 minute drive along the windy, mountain highway. Before they could park the car, I opened my door to jump out. “Would you control yourself!” my Mother snarled. “We aren’t that bad, are we?”

Now, the last pair of Hollywood bosses I worked for asked me the same question, and it got the same response: Silence.



I retrieved the key for my vehicle, got in my car and waved at my parents, “See ya!” And I took off to Vancouver, WA.

Driving again was fucking phenomenal. I can tell you it was better than sex. I rolled down the windows and blasted Tom Petty then flew down the highway along the Gorge. The windsurfers and parasailers cut across the choppy waters of the Columbia River. Mt. Hood was watching from afar, capped in fresh snow. The trees played shadow puppets with the sun overhead, as I zipped through more and more forest.

When I got to Vancouver, I filed for a replacement Social Security card (which I have needed for years), then I found a nearby salon where I could finally get a pedicure and a wax. The closest place was Priscilla’s Salon, buried between a gas station and a smoke shop.

*

Vancouver, Washington is where I grew up from the age of 13 to 18 (not to be confused with Vancouver, BC). When we moved there, to me it was paradise. Of course anything was paradise compared to where we came from, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the 1990s, Vancouver was a few apartment buildings, a movie theater or two and just fields of land. It was gorgeous. I would walk out into tall grass and admire the sun melting into pink and orange on one side of the field, while the moon and a few stars slowly appeared through shades of periwinkle and lavender on the other.  I would walk everywhere, just to cut through the thick grass. There was space to stretch out and think.



Now, Vancouver has no more fields. There are no more pastel sunsets through tall grass. There is no space to stretch, explore and admire. All of it, and I mean every last acre, has been paved and built on, used for parking lots, Starbuck’s, car washes and Border’s bookstores that have been built and now remain vacant. New streets cut through new blocks and new strip malls, making it confusing to navigate and easy to get lost. One block would look identical to the next, but streets would wind around in circles like they were an afterthought.

It also seemed dreary. The sunlight on the mountaintop by the Hotel in Skamania was warm and pure. Here, in the city, it was just a bulb behind a dusty shade of clouds and industrial fumes. Even though I drove down the same streets from high school, through the old haunts- the Shari’s, the Safeway, the Computer Shop where my boyfriend worked, the Gas Station where I asked a stranger how to use a pump . . . there were no real memories. It all looked too different now, and they all looked sad, somehow.



***

So to Priscilla’s Salon I went, first was the wax. The woman was older, Asian and barely spoke English. I should have known what I was in for when she cued up the soft music. I laid down and heard her say, “This hurt . . . you ready?”

“Oh, I am used to it,” I said, waiting for the first pull of hot wax. The sound of a meat slicer rose up over us, and I winced. Then she held down my torso just over my clitorus. At first, I thought, “Wow, someone is finally touching my clitorus.” Then I felt pressure, fingers and grinding from her wrist and arm as she put all her weight on my delicate flower to yank out even more pubic hair. I cried somewhere deep inside, but didn’t open my mouth.

“You strong,” she said. “Good girl!”

“Thanks,” I mumbled in a cough. She took off everything, it was a full on Brazilian wax- which I never ask for because a) it reminds me of being a little girl and b) it is a lot more expensive. Off it all went, and I thought, “Might as well. Fresh start.”

“All done,” she said. “Most women complain. Not you.”

I sat up and caught my reflection in the mirror, all my eyeliner was melting down my face. That bitch made me cry without me even knowing it.



After my pedicure, I stumbled on over to the nearest dive bar, barefoot, and ordered a shot of whisky and a beer. My hair was in Princess Leia buns, I was wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt, small blue shorts and my heart-shaped sunglasses. The daylight was smearing through the opaque windows and the clack of pool balls sung in the background. I looked around for a man, and found none to my liking. The afternoon was still early.

So someone bought my next round, a Mexican who barely spoke English. “You come home with me?” he asked.

“I am not that kind of girl, sorry,” I lied.

“I pay you. How much? You say how much and I pay,” he said.

“Excuse me,” I said, staring at him.

He giggled then waved his hand at me. “Nevermind.”

“Are you asking how much I charge for sex? Wow. That is . . . a first. Thank you,” I said.

“Misunderstand. No. No. Sorry. No,” he said.

An older guy bought my next round and played a game of pool with me. He killed it, and I was impressed. We got to talking. “Why don’t you come home and I will have my daughter cook you something special for dinner? I am just around the corner here. The whole family is there. I have dogs too,” he said, sweetly. His hair was turning from gray to white. He kept his goatee and baseball hat on to feel young. I just felt sorry for him.

“Maybe,” I would chime until he finally left. He made me promise I would stay at the bar until he got back.

By the time it grew dark, I was wasted. There was always a beer and shot of whisky on the bar next to me. Every time I looked up, I felt bad looking at the tall, frothy ale and the respectable, small spirit staring back at me. They became a familiar couple, but I knew I was in over my head. Eventually, I had to walk away from them just to save myself. I stumbled across the parking lot for Vietnamese restaurant and filled up fast, but I was still too drunk to drive.



So, I sat in my car and I do what any girl does when she is alone, some place she has never been and intoxicated beyond belief. I tried to call my exes.

The first choice, unfortunately, was Huck, the last boy I fucked. Luckily, I was smart enough when sober to delete any remnant of our conversations off my phone, any call logs, any text messages . . . however, there was one mystery number that was 608, and I called. A woman answered. I apologized and hung up.

Then I called Abe, my on-again off-again boyfriend of the last 2 years. It had been months since we spoke. When I returned from France, he never bothered to schedule a time for us to chat on-line or over the phone, despite his missed chats and texts and my muddled sleeping schedule, so I blew him off. Huck was an easy distraction for awhile and, to be completely honest, the best thing Huck ever did was help me get over Abe.

That said, when you are alone in a parking lot at 10pm, trying to shake off whisky, heartbreak and eccentric, controlling parents . . . you have to call someone. Abe picked up, and lightly coughed before saying, “Hello?  . . . Hello?” He always did that, followed one hello with another with that tickle in his throat, probably from smoking so much. He smokes so many cigarettes when he was in Europe backpacking with his cousin, the locals nicknamed him “The Chimney.” He also smokes weed every day, all day.

“Hi,” I said, “I am drunk and in a parking lot. I need you to talk me down.”

He chuckled a little, “Ok,” he said.

The conversation was friendly, foggy and he stayed on with me after I turned on my engine and headed back on the freeway. I told him I hated my parents, how living with them was unbearable, the comments about me looking fat, the scratching and rubbing of genitals. “I am glad I haven’t had kids yet because I wouldn’t want them to ever know them.”

To Abe parents meant love, support, comfort, big houses and lots of food, concern and warmth. I loved his parents, and part of the reason I wanted us to end up together so badly was the allure of his family. No matter what stories I told, no matter how critical or rude or irritated I was when I spoke about my family, Abe could never absorb what they were to me, and I resented him for it.



“They are probably being over-protective because they are so happy to have their daughter back home,” he would say.

“NO! No. No. No,” I said. “Listen to me! They don’t want me there. At all!”



He listened and somehow the conversation jumped tracks to our relationship. Though I was in a blistering meltdown of whisky, dark highways and general aggravation, I do remember saying, “When you broke up with me before your cousin’s wedding, that really fucked me up. You know?” I started crying and put one hand on my face to stop my eyes from watering, like it was a gauze.

In April, before France, Abe proposed that we move in together, found a great duplex in Orange County and bought me an expensive dress for his cousin’s wedding later that month. For two weeks I was in heaven. Even my roommate said, “It is everything you wanted.” Skeptically, I responded with a “ . . . yeah. It is.” Abe would have rescued me from poverty, from moving in with my parents, from all the things I felt bogged down and worried by- he could have rescued me- but he backed out the Thursday before the wedding. He said we would never work out and he asked me not to attend the wedding. I can describe to you many moments of disappointment and humiliation, but the one that rings out with the most poison, with the loudest, blood curling echo is hearing this man I love (and I do still love him) tell me I wasn’t good enough for his family.

“Why did you do that? It fucked me up, man.” I said, holding my face up to see the highway.

“I know it did. I know it fucked you up. I am sorry,” he said. That is all he could say.

When I pulled into my parent’s driveway, the lights were out. For the first time, they didn’t wait up for me. I stumbled into my bedroom and fell asleep, still unsatisfied, still sad and still looking for something else. All that time I waited for the car to set me free, but it just wasn’t enough.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gimme the Car, Come on Boy, Give Me Your . . .

Come on dad gimme the car tonight
Come on dad gimme the car tonight
I got this girl I wanna....
Come on dad gimme the car

My parents tried as best they could, I will start with that.

They asked me to watch Roman Holiday, so I joined them in the living room for a night, watched the film and then retreated back to my room. I just didn't know how to talk to them anymore.

My mother and I were friends growing up. She would take me shopping sometimes, we would get our hair cut and then she would buy me an ice cream cone. None of those things interest me anymore. I am an adult who hates shopping, but we both love reading, and I thought with my heavy reading in the writing program and her hobby of avid reading we could talk.

"I am reading 'Down and Out in Paris and London' by George Orwell, it's very good. Have you read it? Do you know George Orwell?" I asked.

"I know George Orwell but I haven't read that," she grumbled. Then she would walk away and turn on the TV, which was unusual, since she usually didn't watch a lot of TV.

"I don't think he cares for women too much," I said, again.

"That's not hard to believe," she mumbled again, before walking away.

She was passive aggressive, even while growing up, she disciplined using the silent treatment, which probably contributes to my poor/comedic habit of constantly expressing everything unsaid. As a child, when she grew quiet, I would interrogate her about what, if anything, I did wrong. My favorite little phrase was, "Do you still love me?" Annoyed or amused, she would say, "Of course."

Now, when she was quiet, she waited for me to push and prod, for me to question her, circle her, stare at the back of her head like I did as a child and beg for her attention. I just didn't see the point anymore. So she walked away, and so did I.

When she picked me up from work once, and I was always grateful for the ride, I climbed in and fiddled with my phone, "I am having trouble with my phone, I think its broken," I said.

"All you do is complain!" she shouted. There was an awkward few minutes of silence before I asked her to drop me off at the store. She did, pulling up parallel to the store windows, staring out the window until I got out of the car and then peeling out of the parking lot. I really don't know what she was so upset about. I just knew I needed more wine, more cigarettes and Cap'n Crunch.



My Father was more easy going, but his mood swings were more unpredictable. When he drove me to work one morning, the Hotel guests were straying off their pathway and into the road. My father slowed down from 10 miles an hour to nearly a standstill. "People are like zombies, have you noticed that? Just walking around in a daze. WAKE UP!" I said.

"Zombies are better than vampires. Vampires will suck your blood," he said.



"Well, I have plenty of that gushing out of me at the moment," I said, before sipping the last of my coffee.

"HAHAHA," he broke out laughing. I loved his laugh. "You never miss an opportunity for a joke! I will give you that," he said.

My Father did little things that got on my nerves. He would insist on using the bathroom two feet across the hall from my bedroom door to shit in everyday, instead of using his own bathroom in his bedroom, on his side of the house. The smell of his shit combined with a lit match was always so stifling I had to close my bedroom door and open the window for half an hour. I was trying to keep my bedroom door open for my dogs, so they could easily wander from them to me, but between the periodic blasts of sound from the television and the smell of my father's asshole, I kept the door closed.

Also, one morning, I was masturbating in my bed first thing in the morning and he opened my door, looked around and walked away, leaving the door wide open.

Finally, the moment that annoyed me the most was when he came home from Vancouver (the nearest metro-city) with dog food that was not up to my standards. I am a bit of a dog food snob, I need to make sure there is plenty of protein, no wheat and no corn by-products. I told them what was acceptable and always paid them back. The last time they bought dog food, it was filled with wheat and soy. "This isn't acceptable," I said, "You have to return it."

"You said you didn't know if it was good enough or not, so we got it," he dismissed, walking past me. He had suggested a brand to me a few days earlier, but the ingredients were not on-line.

"I said no wheat, corn or soy. This has all of those as fillers."

"You said you didn't know," he said, filling the Vittle Vault full of bad kibble. That drove me crazy. Two things I insist on for my dogs, in poverty and homelessness, is premium food and walks everyday. He just took one of those away from me.

Time goes by I can feel myself growing old
Burning inside makin' this boy turn out cold
What's wrong, What's right
I don't care when I hate my life
What's wrong, What's right
Y'know people don't care when they hate their life
 But how can I explain personal pain

During our heart to heart in his study the week before, he said, "You were the perfect child. You were easy. Then you turned 14 and everything changed." I didn't say anything at the time. Later, I reflected and thought about my childhood. Most of the time I was anxious, worried, miserable and scared of him. I was a stressed out kid with major stomach problems. I remember having anxiety attacks about learning cursive in the 3rd grade, or dosing on Pepto-Bismol over Bs on math quizzes. My father's temper was unpredictable and I would deliberately avoid him.

When I was 14, my menstrual cycle became heavy and painful, my body shaped into a woman, and my temper grew equally intense. This time, when he stormed into my room to stomp on my boombox because he hated the music, I walked out into the living room and kicked a hole in the wall, or smashed a dish. He would destroy my things, but in turn, I would destroy his. It became a war. So, yes, I was no longer the "perfect child" but I was standing up for myself the only way I knew how.


Come on dad gimme the car tonight

Eventually, on the day shifts, Martin started picking me up and driving me home. Martin is my 58-yr-old friend from work, has a great sense of humor and is always dispensing advice, which gets on everyone's nerves. It is actually incredibly helpful and I find his diligence amusing. I call him my "Sensei."

After a morning shift, covering a breakfast and lunch for Banquets at the Hotel, sometimes we would stop for a beer on the way home. A new brewery opened up nearby and we would sit outside, sipping homemade beer. My eyes warmed and leaked saltwater one afternoon when I opened up about Huck, "I said awful things to him, really bad things."

"I say awful things to my wife sometimes, but I don't mean them," he said, softly.

"I meant them. I meant to hurt him. I just hope he forgives me," I said, with a cracking throat.

"You have to forgive yourself. I am sorry, but listening to your problems, they sound mundane compared to everyone else's. You have to be easier on yourself. And I think its that last beer's fault. One beer too many," he said, gently.

"No, it has nothing to do with the beer. I always cry in public," I said, laughing, wiping the tear away.

As he dropped me off, he complained about the heat and turned the a/c on higher, "It is hot in here."

"I thought that is just because we were sitting next to each other," I said, hiding behind my sunglasses, smiling. He always punctuated my jokes with a high pitched cackle, looking away at the console or his phone. I love that laugh. Even writing "Martin's high pitched cackle" has me smiling, alone at this kitchen table on a Saturday night.



On the night shifts, it was QB, my High School Quarterback, who drove me home. We became comfortable bantering with each other, though the flirtation that took root felt incestuous at first. He grew up working at the Hotel so he would inevitably be the Go-To Guy for anyone training on those evening shifts. Walking with me, we would carry dirty linens to the laundry room or drag carts of food and plates out to a Banquet hall.

When we walked together, he would walk backwards, to ask me questions while looking me in the eye.
"Why are you walking backwards to talk to me? It's hard to take your eyes off this, isn't it?" I asked, making big, awkward circles with my hands over my body.

"No. Gross. I just don't want you to be tempted to touch my butt."

"That's right, that's the part of you I am most tempted to touch."

"Shut up!" he said, turning pink and then spinning around.

Another thing he does, because as I write this we still work together, he checks his fly when ever we chat. I ask him about it, and he always blushes.

"Jesus, don't turn pink on me," I say.

"I always check my fly," he says.

"Only around me. I know, I know, new and wonderful things are happening to your body when you see me. It is called puberty."

"Please. Your head is too big for me," he says. It is stupid and immature, but I laugh and I laugh hard. It was such a relief to laugh again, feeling it heavy and sloppy spilling out of my chest. Whenever I laughed, he would squint at me like he couldn't see me very well and then relent to a big smile, his ears would spread out even further from his red head, and I could see the boy, but I could also see the man.

What complicates our flirtation breaks in two parts: A) He lives next door, and we have known his family since my parents moved in. He is one of four children, and is the youngest boy. Christ. He is the youngest boy. I have known him since he was 6 years of age. B) His mother is ten years older than me, always kind and was the one who got me the job at the Hotel. She was promoted to Manager of Banquets while I was in residency at writing school and hired me without an interview. She manages most of the day shifts. QB works mostly the night shifts.

Come on dad gimme the car tonight

QB would drive me home when we closed Banquets at night, often around 1 or 2am. I would climb into his jeep with the broken passenger door and no working windows, and we would fly down the windy, mountain highway bickering about whether or not I should buy him alcohol.

"Buy me a 40! Come on!"

"I got carded last time, and I didn't bring my purse today," I said.

"Try. So what? Just try!"

"God, peer pressure."

He kept looking over at me, his smile was big but he insisted on hiding his teeth. His teeth were straight, so I don't know why every smile was concealed with a closed mouth. Maybe we do that when we feel insecure.
"Fine," I said, "I will try."

We pulled over into the one gas station open after midnight on the way to our houses. He stayed in the jeep outside in the parking lot. I got out and picked up one 40 of Olde English for him, and as I approached the front counter, I ran into our Banquets Manager for that night, Chastity. She looked down at the bottle and her eyes grew wide.

"I never thought you would be that kind of girl," she said.

"Um, rough night," I said, then shrugged my shoulders and brought it to the counter as QB walked in. My eyes widened with him, and he smiled. "Just stopping by for a soda," he clucked to Chastity.

"Oh, are you driving her home?" she asked, innocently.

"Yeah," I said, slugging a low-key smile over the 40.

We all left the market, first me, then Chastity and then QB, all with our own beverages. She climbed in her car, "That better not be for you, [QB]!" she shouted. We laughed, I shook my head and I climbed over the passenger door to slide into my seat.

"Oh fuck, oh fuck! She knows," I said.

"Calm down, no she doesn't," he said. He pulled us out of the market and onto the windy, mountain road. The wind slammed against us like waves, looking for the ocean. With no car windows and a teenager's heavy foot, we fought through it like our lives depended on it.

"I respect your mother and I would hate to lose that if she were to find out about this," I said.

"God, don't worry so much."

"I am keeping the 40 and your change," I said.

"No, you're not. Keep buying me 40s or I will say you made me drink and you tried to touch my weiner."

"In your wildest dreams."

"Yeah right, you're like 50. You are 50!" he said, looking over at me, grinning with a big smile kept taut behind his lips.

"I am in my sexual prime, ripe for the plucking. Actually, so are you at this age. Weird," I said, immediately regretful for saying everything unsaid out loud. Then there was that silence. Oh dear, God, why did I say that?



I tell'ya what I'm gonna do
I'm gonna pick her up
I'm gonna get her drunk
I'm gonna make her cry
I'm gonna get her high
I'm gonna make her laugh
I'm gonna make her...shh
Woman, woman, woman

We pulled into his driveway, both our houses were still in the middle of the night.

"Thanks for not freaking out," he said, sarcastically. I laughed but capped it off with, "Your mom better not find out. I will kill myself."

"She won't," he mumbled. And we both drifted apart, making the gravel crackle under our feet as we sauntered back to our separate doorways.

When coming home, I usually stripped off my uniform and stuck it in the washer, showered, microwaved food and hid in my room with a bottle of wine. That was my ritual. I never drank more than half a bottle after work, because the truth is, I am a light weight. Can you be a light weight, heavy drinker?

On this night, I sat still at my computer, with wet hair, listening to QB's feet on the gravel outside, wondering if he knew it was my bedroom light that was on. Then I thought better of it, closed my blinds, turned on music and sucked down a glass of wine. His Mom is my peer in age, and he is my peer at work. That is already a tricky beam to cross. Now, there was flirtation. That would be . . . bad. I used to hate older men who flirted with younger women, it was a big pet peeve a few years ago. Now I see the appeal. The flirtation lacks that dirty grime that comes with manipulation, distrust and experience. That grime slowly collects when young people end up fucking emotionally troubled people  . . . like me.



She gotta knows she's it
Cause I'm gonna touch her
All over her body
Gonna touch her
All over her body

It was about that time I started wearing eye liner to work. God, I can't believe I am writing this. I stopped wearing glasses to hide bags under my eyes and religiously wore my contacts to work, trimmed my bangs and wore eye liner so I would be more attractive. I wanted to be pretty for them.

That weekend, the weekend when I remember my depression finally lifting, I was working a Mormon wedding set for the back lawn behind the Hotel. The back lawn is on a slope, which forces you to tread carefully back and forth from the bar and buffet table but it overlooks the Columbia River and the canyons. It  is truly breathtaking. I was assigned the job of handing out hors d'oeuvres. QB was not assigned that job, but was still hanging around me, grinning. He had started mooning over me, which is exactly what I needed. My ego was shattered and my confidence choked. Looking up to his smile all day put me back on my feet.

A new waitress asked what we were serving, while unsteadily holding up a silver platter. "These are mushrooms stuffed with an artichoke red pepper mousse, and this is a cherry tomato and mozzarella skewer with raspberry vinaigrette," I explained. The red hair and green eyes were looming over me from the corner of my eye. I turned to QB, "Would you control yourself!" I whispered dramatically. That grin spread out over his closed mouth, the ears reached, he leaned back and coolly walked away.



How can I explain personal pain
How can I explain my voice is in vain
How can I explain the deep down
Driving, driving, driving,

This wedding was different than the other weddings. The Hotel attracted a lot of upper-middle class people, mostly couples who were just a bit older than me, making a last ditch effort at storybook happiness. I thought I would enjoy working weddings, but grew bored with the long, disingenuous toasts, the same playlist of songs over and over, the fake compliments and the complete disregard for the servants waiting around them. The Mormon wedding was filled with people who were genuinely happy to be there. Young people were dressed in vintage tuxedo vests and dresses you would only find at a thrift store one lucky afternoon. They were kind and insisted on learning my name when I circled around with the food. The actress in me learned to make an act out of the tray, if I saw someone eyeing my tray I pretended I was fighting a gravitational pull towards them, making it look like the food wanted them. They laughed and helped themselves to more and more food. They loved that act. The Beatles and Frank Sinatra played on speakers over the lawn. I was happy. I was really happy.

On my breaks, I would sneak off to the Employee Lounge, a hole next to the laundry room, cluttered with flies and dirty dishes, to quickly chug a Pepsi and wolf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hated the Lounge because they never restocked it with clean glasses, coffee was never made and fruit flies or black flies were always swarming. It used to piss me off, but I have learned to just grab the rich people's food and coffee instead.

There I was, standing with my sandwich, watching the Olympics on the big screen TV gifted to us in this sewer of a room, and QB walked in. "What a coincidence! Look who's here!" I said, with a mouth full of bread and strawberry jelly.

"Just here for my glass of milk," he said. When I started that job, he insisted on drinking half and half in the Back Hall like it was milk. Now, with my periodic visits to the employee lounge, he switched over to milk entirely. We sat down across from each other at a table. "So are you going to college or what?" I asked.

"Um, I was looking at a college in Arizona, but I was going to go with my brother. He knows this coach out there that wants us. Now my brother is having health problems, so we might not go," he said, licking the milk off his upper lip.

"Why don't you just go by yourself?" I asked.

"Um, I don't know," he said.

"Are you scared? Its scary doing something by yourself," I said, taking a bite out of my bread. "That's what the Native Americans do, they send their young out to an adventure alone so they can become men."

"No. I don't know," he said, thoughtfully. Then, after a good silence, "I guess I am scared, a little," he said.

"Its ok to be scared, just don't get stuck," I said. "Are you going to get a girl pregnant and get stuck in this town for the rest of your life like the others?"

He smiled, "No . . . you remind me of your mother."

"Eugh, please. I am eating."

"She is the biggest sweetheart in the world, why don't you like her?" he asked.

"She is a sweetheart to you because she prefers boys. That is what she always says, she prefers boys to girls. She wishes she had boys," I said. In truth, my mother recently confided that she was glad she didn't have boys because my Father would have been a lot rougher on them.

"She is so nice, always coming over to talk. She is the nicest person in the world," he said, smiling.

"Ha! You don't know her," I said, picking up my dirty plate and glass.

"You looked just like her when you said that," he said, still sitting down, grinning with those devilish green eyes. He found my nerve.

We're driving, we're driving, we're driving
Ahhhhhhhh ...
Hey dad speaking of driving
 Come on dad gimme the car tonight

"Thanks. She looks like a crumpled up witch!" I threw my dirties in the plastic bin and walked out, but I looked back to see QB's face just before the door closed behind me, and he was smiling down at his milk. I felt my face aching like I was smiling. My breasts were sensitive. My body ached. I needed to stay away from that child and get laid, ASAP.

Come on girl gimme your...

Cause I ain't had much to live for
I ain't had much to live for
Y'know I ain't had much to live for
Y'know I ain't had much to live for


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Four Weddings and a Fuckwad

The last paragraph of my last blog was erased. I deleted it for a couple reasons. One, I thought it belonged to a new period of time. Two, it bothers me to think that Huck, the boy who hurt me, might allow his ego to feel any form of pleasure from this portion of my life. Though his association of me is not “strong” by his definition, I don’t want him to take credit for the darkness that came. Recently, however, a friend reminded me that I need to include the pain, all of it.

So, let me put those words back in to start off this blog: “For three days I lay on my bed, with my lips chapped, my stomach growling, and I barely moved. I was officially depressed.”




It pains me to think of how Huck will package this as “She was so in love with me . . . “ I have to be true to the blog and tell you my story, even if he inevitably pockets this and recycles it to his girlfriend or his friends as a tale of unrequited love. It is, in part. In total, this is a story of finding out to whom you belong.

There were times I tried to talk to my parents, but they would turn on the television in mid-sentence. My mother would grumble an acknowledgement before walking away or changing the channel. I was totally alienated.

On top of feeling small by them, I was beating myself up over the text messages and my behavior with Huck. I am not sure men know how much women blame themselves. Biologically, we are pre-dispositioned to take responsibility for any family unit, any intimate affair, any friendship or infidelity. It is part of our design. And when you pull away, things change, affection sours, we inevitably hate ourselves for letting it happen. It spins around and around, and no matter how many sandbags of logic you pile on the opposite end of the see saw, there is a feeling of failure.

You feel not good enough.

And that’s how I felt. Not good enough for my parents, not good enough for Abe (who broke off his proposal to move in with me and withdrew my invitation to join his family at his cousin’s wedding in April) and not good enough for Huck. There is plenty of argument here. From where I sit now, I don’t think any of these people are good enough for me. That doesn’t change the time and the place, laying on the bed, watching the sun rise and forcing myself out of bed only to use the toilet.




Already, I was wondering about the heroin houses I had heard about in Skamania County. It was appealing to wonder about going out with the angels. I could leave my dogs with my parents since they were all so happy together, and just fade out. You have these fleeting thoughts. It was just a thought. It was a plan. It was the only way I knew how to extinguish this feeling of being a totally hopeless fuck-up. The longer I was with my parents, the more it felt like kryptonite in my week old pajamas. Every drop of energy was leaving me and I was just there, left to review all the mistakes I made over and over. It was a personal hell.

Unfortunately, after Huck texted me that the “bond was dead”, I had three days off of work. Three days stuck with my parents. Three days of crippling depression until I could return to the Hotel and work, move, laugh, talk with anyone.

My friend Frank and I connected, though I can’t remember who initiated it. He was putting all his things in storage before giving up his lease and going back to New York for awhile. He still had a few of my things including this hideous dress one of the managers at Doggie Daycare bought for me and he wanted to know what to do with it. I called and left some rambling message about keeping my stuff and life sucks, blah blah blah.

He left a voicemail in return (it is really hard to get reception where I am) and he mentioned that it made a difference hearing my meandering voicemail as opposed to my typical text message. He said he loved hearing my voice.

Finally, we got through to one another for a real, actual phone call. He asked how I was doing, and I broke down in tears. I wept, “I hate them! I hate them! I hate living here! I hate being related to them! I just want to fucking disappear . . . “

He grew quiet and concerned, “Awww, I’m sorry,” he said.

Our second conversation, which was the next day, I told him about Huck. Walking the dogs, I had my phone hooked up to my ears and I rambled about everything, “I hate what I did and how I acted. I want to drop out of school. I don’t want to go back and see all those students whispering about how desperate I was. I can’t stand the idea of seeing him again.”

“No, no, no! Don’t do that. Come on! Don’t worry about it. This is just a blip on the screen. So you got your heart broken over the summer, big deal. It happens to the best of us. And you- you are this beautiful, amazing, funny, quirky, fascinating writer chick who . . . fucked France! I mean, COME ON, you fucked France, for Christ’s Sake!! Who else DOES that?” I laughed.



He continued, “And him? I mean, you are pining over a guy who has a horn tattooed on his knee. I mean, really, that is just bad.” I was sniffling and smiling, rubbing my nose with the bottom of my sweatshirt cuff like a little girl. “Thank you for making me laugh. This is the first time I have laughed in days,” I said.

“Totally unrelated, well not totally,” he said, “I was talking to my neighbor, she and her girlfriend broke up again. She had some extra zannies and said, ‘Xanax is a must for break-ups.”

I cackled, “God, even pot would help me through this better. Xanax would be divine. I am drinking so much, Frank, it's bad. I have never drank this much before, but I don’t know what else to do. I have to numb this out. Of course, I know if I was in Los Angeles right now I would be doing tons of blow.” Frank was quiet, with a soft giggle. He would be the one to get it for me too. “I was thinking about just ending it all, you know? Maybe France was my high point and maybe this is it for me,” I said.

“Don’t think about suicide first thing in the morning, come on, it’s more of a night time thing.” I laughed again. “God, I am killing it with you this morning,” he said, like a comic who hit a roll with an audience.

We spoke some more, and later I told him I was thinking about jumping off a nearby bridge. “Can 140 ft. break my back before I drown? I have a bridge picked out, but I promised myself if I ever tried to kill myself again, I would have to go through with it.”

“ . . . 130-140 ft. should do it,” he said softly.

“Its called The Bridge of the Gods. I thought that might be a poetic way to go,” I said.



“Are we still in the joking phase of suicide, I hope? Come on, don’t kill yourself,” he said.

“Yeah . . . I probably won’t. Knowing my luck, my car will be fixed the day after I jump.”

***

I am going to take a moment to appeal to my audience here. The last thing I need to hear from
anyone is that no guy is worth killing yourself over. It wasn’t about one guy. It was a conglomerate. In my mind my family and my intimates, collectively, had me feeling like a giant disappointment. One feeling that is intolerable is that of disappointing someone you care about. If you even know what 20 seconds of that feels like, imagine a month of it. Thirty days. It was crippling.

I would wake up and feel fine for the first two seconds of consciousness, then I remembered where I was and what just happened. I was sickened by it, laying there in bed, I was just sickened.

Also, none of this was Huck’s real responsibility. He knew me for a week. It wasn’t his job to know how deeply he hurt me, or how stressful or demeaning living with my parents would be. This darkness closing in on me was not his fault- it was mine.

***

That conversation with Frank carried me through until my next day of work. I was still miserable, but at least I was moving, folding napkins, bussing tables, filling water glasses. There were a couple moments I remember quite clearly in those first couple days.

I remember going inside the Employee Smoke Shack to suck down a few cigarettes by myself, while everyone gathered around the picnic table outside to chat. And I remember Terry, the woman in her late 50s with freckles and missing teeth. She was grouchy with me on a shift the week before. I was new, so I would fuck up every so often, and when it got busy, the other waitresses would be short with me. I sat in the dark corner, inside the Smoke Shack, bent over my cigarette thinking. That’s all I would do all the time. Think about what I did. Who I am. What will happen to me next month, or next year if I keep giving my heart away to men who lie to me, who make false promises, who . . . don’t really care as much as they say they do.



Terry saw me and she moved inside to sit next to me as I smoked. I smiled. She asked how I was, and we chatted a little. I told her I was heartbroken and “I should just try not to care so much.”

“Its hard to be a human and not care,” she said, melting her eyebrows. That made me feel better. It still does. Also, it meant a lot that she moved inside the smoking shack to sit next to me on a hot day, with no ventilation. She sat inside to be by me.

Inside the Hotel, I was doing a set with Martin. A “set” is when we put all the tables, chairs and silverware in place for an event the next shift, so the next crew has minimal prep work. Martin is the 58-yr-old guy who is a Banquet Service Nazi, strong phobia of food borne disease and has little to no tolerance for laziness on the job. I flirt with him just because its fun, he is the complete opposite of a womanizer, so every reaction is a by-product of total innocence and blunder. “You are bending down all the way for that ice,” he said.

“Just the way you like it, Martin,” I said. There is always a high pitched laugh and then he stumbles through a few words in an incomplete thought before walking away.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?” he asked this particular afternoon.

“How am I looking at you?” I responded.

“Like you want to smash my face in,” he chuckled.

“Oh, I am just thinking about someone else,” I said.

“Good,” he laughed again, “I would hate it if that look was meant for me.”

“No, this stupid boy broke my heart.”

“I am sorry to hear that. What happened?”

“It’s my fault. I texted the shit out of it,” I said. That was always my response, and everyone always laughed at it- no matter how pale I was, or how serious, or how sad. Everyone thought the way I said it was hilarious. I guess it was.

Martin closed all the doors in the banquet room, “There is something I have to tell you,” he said.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

“No, no, no,” he came to sit next to me. “I want you to know you have friends that care about you. I know this guy hurt you, and I am sorry, but you don’t need him. You don’t need any guy. You have people around you that really care. You can always talk to me if you need someone, ok?”

My eyes burned. Jesus, as I write about this I feel . . . just good. I looked up at him and said, “You don’t know how much that means to me. Thank you.”

“Well, its true,” he said, slapping his hand down on the table. He got up, “I can’t be your lover, for that you will have to go somewhere else,” high-pitched chuckling, “but I will always be your friend.”

The job, you see, did become my salvation. Martin’s words made me realize the people around me didn’t hate me. They actually kind of liked me.

That weekend after Huck and the 3-Day Emotional Coma, I stopped making jokes. The word “immature” pressed against the inside of my head hard. I thought about all the employers who didn’t appreciate my humor. I thought about how I acted like a kid all the time. I stopped smiling. I stopped wisecracking. I never laughed.


*

I was pissy and depressed, not to mention we had four weddings on this particular weekend. Walking into a room we set for a wedding reception, the tables were covered in hearts, and rose petals and glitter and girly, calligraphy bullshit. The teenage girl I was working with kept mooning over all of it, “Oh, this is so cute. This is how I want my wedding.”

“Stop,” I said, “Don’t waste your money.”

“So, when you say you had a lover, what does that mean exactly?” she asked. All the other co-workers must have gotten together to discuss this word, because it kept surfacing in conversations.





“That means it was someone who I wasn’t in a relationship with but was still intimate.”

“But lover, like . . . what is that?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I just never heard that before. Lover,” she said again, slowly, fondling the rose petals on the tablecloth.

“Its just a word for someone I had sex with,” I said. “Ok, we have water glasses, champagne flutes, tables are set . . . I hate myself. Great. Next room.”

*

One wedding brunch ended with the groom introducing his wife to a guest with Alzheimer’s. Mind you, this couple was half doctor half entrepreneur- so this was no Disney film.

“This is my wife,” he said slowly, in a patronizing voice. Walking away with a dirty plate or two, I mumbled, “Congratulations, Fuckwads.”

*

As I hung the lemonade urn over the sink and washed it out, spilling soapy foam all over my uniform shirt, “Oh good, splash on me some more. Great. Thanks. Yup, spill more water all over me. I love that. Thank you,” I grumbled. I looked over my shoulder and saw Chad, the resident stoner, watching me, shaking his head and laughing. “You are hilarious,” he said.

*

We use carts to load up with plates, appetizers, glasses, whatever we need to move from room to room. When I was pushing my cart through the Back Hall, my depth perception failed me and I rammed into my manager. “Sorry!” I said. 10 feet later, I rammed into a wall. Everyone laughed and chuckled my name sweetly, even the teenage girls.  God, it felt so good.

Even when I wasn't trying to be funny, somehow I was funny. I already set the tone with my flat sarcasm and my clumsy antics. I am glad. I needed to see the people around me, who were really around me, actually liked me. Not some boy 2,000 miles away. And not my parents, even further away somehow. They didn’t matter. They weren’t my judge of character. Only the people who really spent time with me, who shared a smoke with me at dusk, or worked with me to build a whole wedding out of table tops and linens, or ate leftovers with me in the closet or shared a cup of coffee with me before sunrise on the first shift, those are the people who saw me. Those are the people who know me.

And not just them, my friends. My real friends who, for some reason, I never really tried to talk to as long as I thought I had Huck.

***

Trent: “Write . . . then write . . . but still write.”



***

George: “We are all broken birds when it comes to love”



***

K: Suggesting that the two of you get married next semester and dropping you within a week after should tell you everything you need to know. You may have found somebody less stable than you!
 ;)

Me: Why did he have to go and hurt me?

K: Because he's a dick.
Listen:
You are a very vibrant, exciting, smart and sexy gal. All you have to do is Be [StarFire] and things will turn out right.

StarFire


***

Me: I just felt bad about those messages. I sound insane.

Jerry: You sound like a girl ;-)

Me: I don’t want to see him again. I want to drop out.

Jerry: FUCK THAT. Don't you dare do that. If he goes back to the program and begins telling people about you and what you guys did, then he is a gigantic asshole and everyone will think less of him but don't you dare think about dropping out. You need to build your self confidence.
Just move on, it's done, focus on something to do for the next few weeks. Be a bit embarrassed, but not ashamed.

Me: and its not about wanting him
 its about the rejection

Jerry: yeah, but that's all you at this point
 he's already rejected you
 and you keep revisiting it
 every time you reach out, you relive the rejection
 he doesn't have to do anything else
 you keep doing it do yourself
 . . .
 and you need to learn to have casual sex
 which is what this was
 fuck for the fun of it, and move on



Jerry’s last note there still turns my stomach a bit, but it was important I hear from the men in my life (even if half of them are gay).

In all of this, moving home, and my adventures in France and in writing school, starting a new job and living someplace completely new every 4 weeks . . I thought I would remember who I was, but I forgot. My mind had to go backwards, and I had to drag my fingers across those familiar stones.

It wasn’t my intimates who have been there for me, it has been my friends:

When, Murray (my 2nd cat) died. Abe left.
Em (my friend) stayed.

When my roommate hung himself and died. Alan (my boyfriend of 3 months) left.
Trent, Frank, Sascha and Taylor (my friends) stayed.

When I ran out of money and had to move somewhere, anywhere, Abe left again.
Frank, Jeph, Jerry, Lana, Sascha, Trent . . . all my friends, they all stayed.


Yeah, I have terrible taste in men, but I have great fucking taste in friends. Even now, and you will find out where I am now in the coming chapters, my counsel, my heart and my trust will now and forever belong only to my friends.


***

My Gmail buzzed with a new email. “Huck would like to start a ‘Words with Friends’ game with you” First word on the board: “Happy”