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.
You are a very vibrant, exciting, smart and sexy gal. All you have to do is Be [StarFire] and things will turn out right.
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”