Friday, October 26, 2012

Everyday, people at work asked, “Is the Old Man back yet?”

“No, not yet,” I said. I didn’t know if he died out there, got lost or just disappeared.  After two weeks, I knew I was on borrowed time.

After signing up for OKCupid (again), I only went on one date. A guy drove up on his motorcycle from Portland and spent an evening with me shooting pool, playing classic rock and watching "Golden Girls" with me. He stayed the night because we both had beer and it wasn’t safe driving the mountain freeway back in the middle of the night. We slept on separate couches and he said he lay awake all night, waiting for the Old Man to return. We hugged goodbye in the morning.

Once, Kelly, Tate and some random girl came over to smoke a bowl with me after work.  We sat around and struggled to find a real conversation outside of work. They just graduated high school and lived in Skamania all their lives. I had just been back from around the world. We didn’t know where to start, so we sat around in silence as my dogs nuzzled between their legs for head pats. “Black Betty” scratchy and rough with Lead Belly’s voice came on … then “Crystal Blue Persuasion”.

“What the hell are we listening to?” Kelly asked.

“It’s called,” I took a toke and grumbled through the smoke, “good music.”

They all left after we finished the bowl. I wanted them to leave so I could do my thing; school work, walk the dogs, think. As soon as they left, I missed them.


One night, I got the message in that Nick (my very first boyfriend from 10th grade) had a lay over in Portland. He and I have a very long and complicated history. In recent blog posts I mentioned the Mormon boy who was hit by a car as a child, the top part of his skull hanging off the crown of his head just before he was put in a two week coma.  His mother insisted that while he was unconscious he was speaking the language of angels. When he woke up, he was a genius and graduated college at 13. At 15, he was re-enrolled in high school socialize with peers his age. One of the few classes he took was Introduction to Drama. He arrived late the first day of class and took the seat directly behind me.

In fact, I remember the room being dark because something was being projected for us in class. I turned around and saw a preppy cut of blonde hair flap up in the air and back down against his head as he took his seat. His eyes almost immediately fell on me and we stared at each other for a moment. He asked me out and we went to a matinee of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” We made out and fell in love almost immediately. Most of our dates happened in the middle of the night, when I crawled out my bedroom window and hiked over a nearby hill to meet him at the gravel pit behind my house. Deep canyons of gravel were dragged, ripped and extracted from the ground. The trucks worked at night, but were far in the distance with bright headlights and growling motors. We just wanted to lay on a blanket somewhere and be alone. When you are 15 that is the hardest thing to do.

We lay together in the autumn air. Our ears and noses cold. Our hands, mouths and genitals hot. He gave me an orgasm before I even knew girls could have orgasms. I was blindsided when a tickling sensation rose like bubbles into spasms of intense pleasure. Though, when it happened, I knew what it was and that it was something I had been waiting for.

He knew more than anyone I ever met. And he insisted on fighting all authority all the time. He set off fireworks outside the school dance. He would get in trouble with the police by experimenting with explosives. He was also the first man I told my secrets to, secrets I didn’t know what to do with. The first man I said “I love you” to. He introduced me to techno music and I introduced him to the Doors. The weekend before Homecoming, with a new dress laid out on the bed fresh from a shopping trip, he called to break up with me because I wouldn’t convert to Mormonism.

This was followed by a year of revenge. It started with cutting up a tomato and lathering the inside of his book bag with it. During the pledge of allegiance, he picked it up and threw it at me. There were letters, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I think I probably first started honing my craft by writing break-up letters. I rode out to his house in the middle of the night on my bike listening to the Wayne’s World soundtrack. He rode to mine. Once, we figured out we were both at the other one’s bedroom window at the same time. Things escalated.

We started a food fight. Neither of us remember how. We chased each other down the hallways with little condiment cups of ketchup and mustard. In the end, I waited round the corner just before seeing his baby blue sweat suit turn the corner and slammed him with mustard. It exploded on impact. He chased me into the women’s restroom and we landed against the tampon machine. We were both suspended.

He never really went back to school after that semester. So I had to go to Mormon dances and taunt him there. One night, I approached any girl he showed interest in and informed them of his worst qualities. On the last girl, the last whisper, the last jab, he turned me around and punched me in the face. My parents filed a restraining order and Nick wasn’t allowed to ride the school bus anymore on our route. At the police station, my Father confronted Nick and his Father in a counter complaint that I harassed him. My Father said when Nick played my voicemail recordings as evidence (a small collection of songs I invented and fake orgasms) the police officers giggled.

I stopped thinking about Nick when I met my next boyfriend, who I would stay with for three years. But Nick reappeared and hit on me when I was 17. We kissed but even now I feel guilty for cheating on my boyfriend. That high school boyfriend of three years, who I am reluctant to give a name in this blog for some reason, was one of the best men I would love in my life. Jay. There, I said his name. That is another love story.

After that, Nick was arrested for a bomb threat at the local high school. He spent 6 months in jail and sent me a letter or two from there. Later, he had other legal problems he asked me not to mention in this blog. From there, my knowledge of him gets fuzzy. He bought land in Hawaii. On a layover in 2006, he spent the night and we had sex for the first time. It was awful. He was dirty talking and sweaty. Nick was now counter intuitive, the opposite of who he was at 15. And I didn't know how to handle it other than shutting down with a pint of soy ice cream and watching "The Soup".

We friended on MySpace, then on Facebook. Occasionally I would get a text from him, once every few months or once a year. On this lonely night in Skamania, I saw he had a layover in Portland, so I got in my car and I drove down to a La Quinta to see him … almost 20 years after we dated.

Some people get nervous and worry about how they look, who they are, what they accomplished. I don’t worry about those things with Nick. We always were and will always be, whatever it was still is.

However, on the phone I did say, “By the way, I have a little bit of a pot belly now?” I was calling it my Summer 2012 beer belly. It was minimal but I was keeping it because I didn’t feel fat in Skamania and, to be honest, I kind of liked it.

“How big of a pot belly?” he said seriously. “Jesus, you men take weight so seriously,” I said laughing.

I parked in the lot and met him in the lobby. He still had blonde hair, was sunburnt and wearing long Hawaiian shorts. We saw each other and collapsed into each other’s arms laughing. “Hey, are you hungry? I have those coupons from the airline. I can buy you dinner, if it’s under $20.”

“I’m not hungry but we can go somewhere and get you something to eat,” I said.

“Ok, let me get my brother and his wife,” he said. I knew they were on this layover with him, but I was hoping I would be alone with him. His family, I assumed, hated me for all the drama back in high school. His brother’s family lived with Nick on the island. They bought land together and had lived there for a while now, almost eight years. When I met his little brother, now taller than me with the slightest evidence of age around his eyes, I searched him for resentment. He looked like nothing I remembered of the little Mormon boy in the 90s. His wife was also hard to read. I think they were both just tired and didn’t know what to expect from me. We all walked over to the Shari’s.

I ordered a black cup of coffee while everyone else had full meals and milkshakes. Nick and I revisited all the memories of high school, the food fights, the prank calls, the total misery we put each other through because we thought we couldn’t be together. It’s funny, with all of Nick’s resistance to authority, he let our relationship go under the pressure of authority. Now, when we spoke about it, we giggled.

“Wait, I thought you two hated each other,” his brother said.

“No, the opposite,” I said.

“Riding to each other's houses in the middle of the night .. even the food fight was-” in unison we said, "romantic."

Let me ask you a question,” his brother said, “When you and Nick were at that Mormon dance that one night, what do you think happened?”

“He turned me around by the shoulder and socked me in the face.” I said.

Nick laughed. “Cause, Nick always kept trying to convince mom that you slipped and hit your face on his hand,” he said. I wasn’t laughing anymore, that bothered me. I took a punch to the face and I took it standing. I had a black eye for an entire week afterward.

There was a shift on conversation and the “Butter Fingers” story was mentioned. “That isn’t a story for the dinner table,” his brother said. I asked to hear it and Nick waved it on when it was clear that we couldn’t go around the story in conversation, we just had to go through it. His sister-in-law started the story as Nick smiled at her, mouth agape, anticipating each beat to his own story out of someone else’s mouth. I also got the sense that Nick had a crush on his sister-in-law who he sometimes called his “wife-in-law”.

“So when Nick served those 6 months in jail, he got kitchen duty, which I guess was a real privilege. But after you work the kitchen shift, you have to be searched before going back out to the general population … you know for knives and things. Well, (she gave a breathy laugh), they told him they do cavity searches and that it really hurt when the guards went in …,” she struggled.

“Dry,” I filled in.

“Yeah,” she continued, “dry. So they told him to put some butter around and inside to make the search more comfortable and …”

“I did it,” he said, smiling. “I thought that sounded legitimate so I did it.”

“Do they do cavity searches like that in jail?” I asked. His sister-in-law shook her head laughing.

“The guards checked his pants, saw it and-” she tried to continue. “And they said, ‘What the hell is this?’” Nick finished.

“So, from then on, the other inmates called him ‘Butter Fingers’,” she said. I laughed. It was comfortable sitting with them, especially with her. I liked her. She was a mom but still young and intelligent.

“In Hawaii, I just can’t stand how they treat their kids. They aren’t educated, they curse a lot, there is no responsibility. And the school system is terrible. Kids are walking around without shoes. I just don’t want that to rub off on my kids so … we are coming back,” she said. They were moving back to Oregon to start over. It seems like everyone was starting over lately.

“Nick is really a good guy, he just doesn’t have a filter and he says things he shouldn’t. Most women can’t deal with it. He needs someone who can get through that part of him. Someone strong,” she said. It was clear from the beginning, everyone was wondering if I was the perfect candidate.

When we got up to pay the bill, Nick saw the tattoo on my lower back. A purple sacred heart. "You're heart is in the wrong place,” he said.

“That’s clever. No one has said that to me before,” I smiled.

When we walked out, I patted my stomach, “You see the Summer 2012 Beer Belly?”

“That’s nothing a small jog couldn’t take care of,” he said. He was sore and sunburned from working the Oregon State Fair as a clown. Oh, did I tell you he is a professional clown? Yeah.

Back at the hotel, we all got in the hot tub. I couldn’t find my bikini in my parents’ frantic packing job so I went in with a bra and panties.

I asked his sister-in-law about a tattoo on her wrist and she said it was from surviving abdominal adhesions. “I lost an ovary, my uterus and half of my bladder from it.”

I looked at her body and thought about everything she was missing inside of her. She was my age and had seemingly half the organs. “I am sorry, what happened? I don’t understand.”

“When you have a C-section and it isn’t done totally right, they can leave scarring tissue that grows into adhesions. They are like fibrous bands of scar tissue that grow between internal organs and your tissue. Nothing grows back right, it starts growing together and pulling on everything internally. Once you have had one C-section, that is all you can have from that point forward.”

“No vaginal births,” I said.

“Right. And the second time I had a C-section, the adhesions got worse. They grew up and around my organs. It hurt, I mean, it really hurt. In Hawaii, they kept telling me I was fine, and there was nothing to worry about. Then when the pain got unbearable, they would remove something. They took out almost everything trying to cut out the adhesions. They took out everything but a vital organ. What was next? If they took out anymore I would be dead. The doctors kept telling me this condition wouldn't hurt, but every time you eat, have a bowel movement or even turn, you are straining those organs and it hurt. I couldn't have sex for a year. They knew that and did this ultrasound on me vaginally to see what was wrong. It hurt. And I told them it hurt, but they kept telling me it shouldn't hurt. I was treated like I was fishing for drugs, all the while this disease was straining my organs. So I went to Germany to see a specialist for $12,000. It was three surgeries and the third one was free. Still half the price of what it was to see an American doctor who didn't take the condition seriously. And now I am good. I have a friend going through the exact same thing and I gave her the number to Germany. Our country isn’t as evolved as it should be."

“I didn’t even know this existed,” I said. I studied her tattoos, some on her feet, some on her hands. She was quite pretty and was shaking off the scales of a tired mommy in sweatpants. As she laid next to me in her bikini, I thought this slinky girl in glasses still had life in her.

The couple said goodnight, and I retired into Nick’s hotel room. He chatted with his father who requested a picture of the two of us together. Probably because it was hard to believe. It was late at night or very early in the morning. I laid on his bed exhausted from work, from walking the dogs, from worrying about an old man coming home any day to kick me out. Here, on a queen sized bed in a generic room far away I was safe from it all. No one knew where I was and nothing was expected from me. I just had to worry about falling asleep. Above all else, I didn’t want to fall asleep.

Nick sat next to me and leaned up against my legs. My arm was over my head as I occasionally played with my eyebrows, a bad habit I have when I think too much.

"You remind me of all the boyfriends I have had since, it’s weird," I said. Nick sat at the computer and rambled like Abe. His boyish features and hair were the same color as Huck’s. The sun burn and flip flops reminded me of my ex-husband. The crazy, the passion and unintelligible genius reminded me of Eric.

“I feel the same way,” he said. He told me about losing his virginity to another childhood love when he was 18. The story was melancholy. “She lied to me about being a virgin and she lied to me about other guys. Men were coming to her door while I was there visiting her, reminding me of where I stood.”  He kept staring up at the ceiling. I suddenly felt a wave of jealousy. “Whatever we had was special. Whatever bond it is. I know we didn't lose our virginity together but it feels like we did,” he said. All of a sudden he was deep and clear. Around his brother and sister-in-law he was amped up and goofy. Alone he was calm and articulate.
“I know, I feel that way too,” I said.

“And we had to have sex back in 2006 to bridge the gap, to fill that void, even if it wasn't very good. We had to complete it to step out of that state of wonder. But now enough time has passed that we are back at that state of wonder and getting to know each other all over again,” he said. I smiled. He was familiar in an odd way. His face filled out but he was still the same kid, struggling to make all of us stupid people understand amazing things, while we tried to make him understand regular boring things like etiquette and conversation skills.

“You used to talk out loud. That is something I got from you. You would say everything you thought out loud and make it funny,” he said.

“I did that when I was 15?” I asked.

“Yeah. That is one of the things I liked best about you. At least you don't do that oKay thing anymore, when you wanted to make fun of people,” he said.

“I don’t remember saying oKay.”

“I remember,” he said, quietly, smiling. “I remember how quiet you were, you barely spoke until I kissed you. Then you just opened up.”

I smiled and crawled over to his bed and nuzzled him. It was nice cuddling with someone familiar. He kept apologizing for touching me, but I wanted to be touched. I wanted to be held by someone that knew me and loved me. I wanted to feel warm and safe and ok, just for a night. I brushed my nose against his neck until he kissed me.

“You have two kisses, the soft, passionate kiss and the brief, peck like this (he pecked me). . . I can feel the hard shape of your upper lip. It comes out and kisses me before the rest of your mouth. That is the same,” he whispered.

“And your mouth is the same. I thought the braces forced your upper lip to pucker like that, but I guess it’s just the way your mouth is,” I traced his lips. We made out until he pulled my pants down.
“I don’t think you would want to be with me if you knew what type of year I have had. You wouldn’t approve of my sexual history,” I said.

He ripped off my pants, “You wouldn’t approve of my sexual history.” He crawled on top of me and disrobed.

“You need to get a condom. Seriously,” I said. I didn’t explain why because anytime I do men just shrug it off and penetrate me bare. I didn’t want to give him a disease. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Though I had no symptoms, no cause for concern, I have seen enough Made-for-TV movies to keep me on edge. Did you see that one with Molly Ringwald? She got HIV after only 6 partners. He got up and walked to his backpack. “Oh look, the condoms are with the beef jerky, how appropriate,” he said.

He entered me and it felt good. Anytime you make love to someone for the first time (in a long time) there is a guard up. You can’t melt in his arms the first time, you try to hold yourself up and let go at the same time. “Remember the gravel pit, how we made a little spot and were on top of each other like this ... we would look at the stars, well, we didn't have stars. Light pollution,” he said. I laughed.

Then I came.

When we finished, we held each other with the light gloss of sweat on top of us and the heavier swamp of wet sheets beneath us.

“So, tell me about the ghosts in your house, they … played on your spinal cord like a xylophone?” I asked. Yes, the above inquiry of Hawaiian ghosts playing on Nick’s spinal cord like a xylophone was briefly mentioned at dinner. Nick brought it up, as if it passing and I said, “Like a xylophone?” turning to look at his sister-in-law. She smiled wickedly and raised her eyebrows. Yeah. Like a xylophone.

“I built this house on this land, right? And things started happening the more I built on it. I could leap out of my body at night and I knew they didn’t like that. I was having nightmares and it was getting bad. I was telling some of the locals about it and they said, ‘Oh, you need a healer. You got spirits.’ So they told me where to go to pick up this healer and when I drove down to grab him, he was waiting on a corner in rags. I mean, he looked like a homeless guy with rags just hanging off of him. When I took him up to my house, he walked around the property and said, ‘Oh … oh, they don’t like you.’ So for 45-minutes, he walked around the house, would stop and say “whoa whoa whoa’ pounding this stick with yarn and beads around it on the floor like this,” Nick demonstrated in a low, gentle voice the rhythmic pounding of his spiritual healer.

“He would stand there and talk to them, like they were right in front of him. It was crazy but whatever it was it worked. All that time and all I had to do was buy him a sandwich. He said, ‘You got to leave and take care of whatever you got to take care of out there before coming back here.’ So that’s what I did. I went back to school again and got my degree. They are still there but they only come out once in a while, like when I look at internet porn. I am addicted to internet porn.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” I said.

“I don’t know what it is, sometimes I just can’t stop myself from looking at naked girls. But when I give in to that temptation and get stuck staring at internet porn all day, I feel those spirits come back. To keep them away I avoid porn altogether. It makes me a better person, I feel better. I know it’s ok to tell you these things because the spirits of Hawaii told me you would understand,” he said. People have said similarly bizarre things to me.

“I love Hawaii, there is a magic there. The island is a spirit of its own. When I was away, I would put on Hawaiian music and I would just feel happy. I would feel good. Hawaii is a positive spirit, You have to come there. You can live with me in my house,” he said.

“I am sorry, I have to step out for a cigarette,” I said. I was back to smoking. My brain was getting crammed listening to everything he said. I wonder how normal people deal with all the information someone like Nick deals out on an average day. It made my head hurt with new ideas and fantastic stories. It was information overload. Sneaking out the back exit, I made it to my car and sat on the back steps nursing a Spirit. I didn’t have any underwear on and wondered if we would have time to make love a second time before I headed back. I was back to work in the morning. The sky was changing color.

I walked back into the lobby and ran into Nick on the way out. “I thought I would come and join you,” he said.

“That’s alright. I am done.”

“No, I thought I would like to try one. Just out of curiosity,” he said.

So I took him back and he insisted we split a cigarette.

“What’s crazy about salvia is when you take it, the whole world changes. Like, we are looking from this perspective at this white truck. On Salvia, you are thrown out of that perspective entirely and see what the other side of that white truck looks like without moving. It is crazy. Salvia is an acronym. People don’t know that, it comes from one plant people found and bred a long time ago,” he said while holding my burning cigarette. He maybe took two puffs, and any time I tried to grab it he pulled back as if to take another drag but let it burn down.

“There are six levels to salvia. Level 1 is ‘subtle’- just a chill, mellow high. Level 2 is ‘altered’. ‘A’ altered. See? Then you start hallucinating, your perception is warped. Level 3 is ‘Light’, you can stare at something, you know how you can stare at wood or carpet or walls and it looks like it is moving?” I nodded. “That. Then ‘V’ for ‘visionary state’ you start tripping hard. On Level 5, ‘I’ ‘intense’ you can actually leave your body. Yeah? It’s crazy. You can actually leave your body and walk around. Then Amnesic, the last stage. You black out. No one knows what happens then because … well, you are blacked out.”

My cigarette was out now. “Oh sorry, I just held it and kept talking, huh?” he said.

“That’s alright, I shouldn’t be smoking anyway.”

We walked back into the lobby giggling. He made me laugh, and I put my arm through his. The graveyard shift consisted of two men, one old and one young, at the front desk. Their moods soured as the night went on. Having us trip over each other into the lobby didn’t amuse them at 3am. “Sorry,” I said, laughing.

“We are just really happy, guess why?” he said.

“Stop,”  I slapped his hand. “Don’t tell them that. It lacks a kind of respect.” He acted dumbfounded and led me into kitchen for complimentary breakfast.

“Breakfast already?” I asked.

“Yeah, for all the truckers who have to get going before sunrise. Ooooh! Waffles!” he said. He quickly walked over to the iron press and poured the batter in. I reminded him to spray that stuff on the toaster so it didn’t stick.

“That’s right. The oxidizing chemical reaction on an iron surface makes magnetite,” he said. I looked around for the two people at the front desk and was suddenly paranoid they hated us for being loud. “ … yes …” Nick said.

“I think the people in the lobby hate us and I feel bad. We should keep it down,” I said.

“We are their guests. They are here to serve us. It isn't an emotional thing. They have no relationship to us. Just enjoy yourself,” he said, biting into his double waffles. I admired that, not that I totally agree with it but I like it when privileged men explain how to live without apology. In a lot of ways, I think it is the secret to happiness.

We went back upstairs and I laid down on his bed and set my timer for 5am so I would be back in time for work. I felt my head get heavy and my contacts burn. The pillow was sucking me in and I felt my body start to float around the sound of Nick’s voice.

“Do you know Dubstep? I love dubstep. You haven’t heard dubstep? Let me put some on. I was getting paid to do dubstep at the fair, but everyone just thought I was a crazy guy dancing in a clown outfit. Dubstep made me burn 1000 calories. There are 100 calories for every real food calorie. A candle burns 324 watts per calorie. All things considered that’s not too much. A cinnabon is 1700 calories,” he said.

“Rub my back,” I groaned. “Touch me.” Yes, I had sex once in a while, but what I really wanted was to be held. The sad fact is the best part of my Skamania philandering, my casual flings in cars and on baseball diamonds, was being held. My heart was broken and I was homeless. All things considered, I was ok. That doesn’t mean a girl doesn’t need to be held once in awhile. A stranger can hold you and it will keep the pain from grinding. It will put you in a good mood the next morning. But when someone you know holds you, someone who you shared your body, your childhood, huge sections of your life, you begin to grow again.

My alarm went off and I groaned. “I can’t make love to you again. I don’t have time,” I said. I rolled over.
“That’s ok. There was just too much to talk about,” he said.

I got up and dressed. I was worried about my dogs. I was worried about the Old Man being home and waiting for me, worse yet, all my things moved outside. I grabbed my purse and heard my keys clank against my phone. Then I looked around for anything I might be missing.

“There is something you leave behind in your energy. I feel it. Its not lust, or just lust, it’s something else,” he said. I smiled and crawled across the bed to kiss him. “Thank you.”

I left and drove home. There was a thick fog lifting off of the Columbia river as a teal sky ripped open to bleed out the dawn. I was still the same person I was a child, but this time it felt good.

He sent me a text message a couple days later:

"I wanted to tell you something . . .I noticed that myself and my DNA have been resonating a higher frequency since we met and consequently more blood has been flowing  throughout the cell membranes therefore I have been experiencing my same life in a new special way."

The old man wasn’t home. I was giddy for a couple days. I thought about moving to Hawaii. I wondered if we could make it work. I knew that I promised myself not fall in love with the same guys after Huck. I had to radically change the type of man I follow. No more troubled minds. No more lost souls. No prophets who believe they are mentioned in Revelations. No more trust fund babies who think they “aren’t meant to work” and finds ways to complain about it. No more alcoholic poets who promise to break my heart. No more.
It doesn’t mean I leave Nick, it just means I don’t move in.

He built what he called a “writing room” for me on the house. He investigated laws on bringing dogs over from the mainland, vaccination requirements and fees. He wrote about where we might live and when. Children.

I sent him this message:

“Just take it slow, sweet heart. Please. I like your house a lot. I like everything about it. I don't know that my lifestyle is child friendly. I like my hallucinogenics and my adventures. I like not living anywhere permanently. I love writing and living for the moment.

Even if we don't end up together, I love knowing someone out there cares about me, and wants me. That said, we still don't know each other as adults and should take our time. It takes years and friendship and trust. Right now, I am plum out of trust. It's just this moment. I was kicked out of my parents house and the last guy who said he wanted me to move in is writing poems about some other girl 2 months later.

I don't mind all that much. I like flirting. I like not knowing what tomorrow will be like. I like the idea of living in a small, eco-friendly, self-sustaining house on a mountain in Hawaii. I like knowing that I will be dancing to the Rolling Stones and going through haunted houses next month. I like that young boys and old men give me gifts at work. I like that my dogs are happy, even when we are homeless.

There is nothing pinned down, nothing lost, nothing at stake. There is just this.”

He wrote back “<3 p="p">

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Quarterback

During the summer, I was poor. It is still hard for me to understand why I was broke when I wasn’t paying rent and working all the time, but I was paying off my car, buying dog food and covering my storage units in Southern California. I cut out the alcohol and cigarettes because I simply didn’t have enough money. To keep my stomach from growling, I would boil spaghetti noodles and flavor them with black pepper and chili powder.

I didn’t mind. I was happy to have a house to myself and waited for the Old Man to come back. I studied and memorized the sound of different trucks that drove by. I grew familiar with the neighbor’s pick-up, with the occasional lumber truck and the various engines marked in distance from the driveway.

My desk on someone else's kitchen table

I wrote on my computer which took up most of his kitchen table, always hitting my head on the low hanging chandelier when I stood up and cursing it. The shower head was level with the base of my neck and I was too tall for the guest bed. I slept on the living room couch, getting stoned and watching “Golden Girls” until I drifted off in sleep under a handmade pink shawl and a blanket of dogs. The dust in the air triggered quite a few migraines, so I slept with a heating pad on my head and sometimes fell asleep in the Old Man’s bedroom where no ray of sunshine could find me.

When the hours at work picked up and a good deal of us worked seven days a row at the Hotel, I rarely slept. I would work 10-12 hours, go home and read as much as possible before falling asleep. Once in awhile, I would squeeze in an intense writing session for school or the blog, just to keep me from falling too far behind. There was no time to see Matt, the 25-year-old I went out with twice before. I texted him that I was busy but really wanted to see him, hoping he would understand. He took it as a brush off and stopped texting me. Occasionally, I would remind him of the end of my work week or the day after a school deadline. We stayed in touch and made a date on the one day I had off.

Driving down to Vancouver, I paid for a bikini wax at Priscillia’s with the same violent waxist, this time she brought in another girl to train on me. They hotly discussed the art of torture in foreign tongues, holding me down by my clitorus as each strip tore more and more out of me. The new girl would then rub at the pink, raw area making the pain last several minutes longer than it should. I would have been annoyed and frustrated had I not been laughing into my hand. It ended with each woman pulling apart an ass cheek and ripping hair out of my butt. I thought I had to ask for that service … oh well. It just needed to end.

I texted Matt on my way back to Skamania and he cancelled our date for no good reason. I get it, he needed to prove that he wasn’t available only when I was available but we never had a chance to see each other again. If I could do it again, I would like him to show me all the things he promised- hiking trails, dirt bike riding, shooting guns, Panther Falls just so I could have really had a Skamania love affair. Like everything else in my life, all was pushed back so I could work. Work. Work. Work. And that is all I did for the rest of the summer.

My love affairs were all flirtations at work. The men at the hotel were now comfortable with me. Two of the dishwashers flirted with me, one a pudgy, dough-faced 24-year-old who wore skull handkerchiefs around the top of his head like an aging rock star. The other dishwasher was a 7-ft tall guy with small nubs growing on his face, spacey teeth, no hair but always wore a baseball hat. He would get intense when he was overwhelmed, but kept himself in check around me. The dishwashers always helped me, and I helped them. I racked dirty glasses up for them when they were swamped, I organized the dirty dish line so they wouldn’t have to, I took back the clean dishes and snuck them desserts. They never forgot that. When we were out of glasses or dessert plates, they took care of it for me on the spot. They were never rude or curt with me like I had heard with the others.

There were a few line cooks that would stop everything when I walked past so they could smile and wave at me. One of the cooks was a Hispanic who didn’t speak clear English named Modesto. No one could understand what he said, and after giving me long mumbled instructions I would say, “No one can understand what you are saying, Modesto.” Everyone in the kitchen chuckled. When I dropped something in front of him, everyone stopped to look and I said, accusingly,“Modesto!” He thought that was hilarious, so anytime I dropped anything back in the kitchen, which was often enough, I shouted “Modesto!”, even on his days off.

One day he asked me out while working an omelette station. “You want to go out, I take you. Give me your number. I call. When you off?”

I dodged giving him my number while his was poorly printed on a paper towel. “I never give you again. You lose! Not give to you again,” he said.

“Ok,” I said. When it got busy, he cornered me, “You work very hard. Why?”

I laughed, “I need the money …”.

“Why am I so happy when I see you?” he asked. “I guess you fell in love,” I said. He smiled and gave me an “I Love You” sticker that is still taped to the back of my phone. I flirted with all of them, and when Modesto felt like I was blowing him off he would say, “You say you want to see movie, I can take you to movie but you no call.”

“I still haven’t seen a movie! I am really busy with school and work, I can’t even see the boy I was seeing,” I said.

“It’s ok …” he always said, with palms out, “It’s ok … you busy, I busy, I make time. You don’t.”

Once, on payday, he followed me to the one grocery store in town and offered to buy my groceries. I refused until he offered to buy me vegan ice cream. I let him buy me a box of Soy Delicious ice cream sandwiches. On the way out, I had had maybe 5 hours sleep and 500 pages to read, he followed me to my car, “You don’t call, I buy you ice cream, why not stop by and watch movie at my house?”

I turned, “I don’t have the emotional capacity for this conversation right now. I have to go home and study. But thank you for the ice cream!” I was exhausted. My hair sloppy and in my face. My eyes puffy. I didn’t even have the stamina to masturbate, much less make out with anyone (if you know me, you understand what a grand statement that is!).

The graveyard shift included two middle-aged men who were so pale, they looked blue. The one with a mustache would always say, “There she is!” whenever we crossed paths, whether it be at the end of a night service around 2am or at the beginning of a morning service at 5am.

The In-House Dining guy was tall and good looking. Once he chased me down the hallway, “I have a question for you,” he said.

“Yes, I am single,” I said, smiling. He laughed then said, “I have my eye on you.”


The real relationships were with the couple men I worked closely with. Every morning, I saw Martin, the 58-year-old Banquets server who managed the department for the first 15 years the Hotel was open. He took a back seat and demoted himself to server so he could relax with his wife, work on his house and build for retirement on land in Hawaii. Of course, this came with criticism towards the new management. “Don’t tell me what I need to do when I am holding two hot pots of water. I need you to get out of the way, not tell me what to do. Hello? Half my life was spent as a waiter. Hello? Culinary degree? You know … now get the fuck out of my way.”

Martin always smiled when we worked together. My inappropriate jokes and off-key singing always made him happy. We would work services together as a two person team, and working with someone who is good, who is really good, made all the difference. You develop a rhythm. One works on food, the other on service. You anticipate each other’s needs, nodding in understanding from across the room. When you finish, you close the doors to the Banquet hall, pour yourself a glass of something and crash down together on an empty table and talk. It was more fulfilling than having sex with a boy I picked up at a bar.

“I set up a coffee station and put the garbage by their knees so it wouldn’t knock in to them too hard when they filled their coffee. Not too hard. Now, they still left their empty sugar packets on the table next to the coffee. So I put a small container on the table for garbage. I came back to refresh the station, and there are still empty sugar packets on the table next to the container. So I take a sugar packet, rip it open and drop it in the container so they can see … hello? … that is where you put your garbage. Didn’t matter. Didn’t make one bit of difference,” he said.

Martin was my “work husband” on the day shift. The night shift, I had my “work boy toys”.

Tate and Harry, the cousins in their late teens, were breaking down the ballroom arguing about who could bench press me more times. Harry was so impassioned by it that he dropped to the ground and did a backwards karate flip back up to his feet. It was ridiculous but it made me feel pretty. Gary, the 6’5 Native American steward who was large, quiet, worked a lot of shifts but did as little as possible, suddenly threw a chair across the room. “Are we going to start throwing shit? This place makes me want to throw shit,” he said. It was such a break in his soft spoken character that I fell to my knees crying in laughter.

I loved breaking down a wedding after hours. We would put dance music on the speakers, stuff our faces with what we could and all tease each other until we were too tired to stand anymore. Tate loved making me laugh but didn’t understand half the things I said:

“I need one more water goblet out there,” I asked.

“A what?” he asked.

“A water goblet?”

“What the fuck is a water goblet?”

“A water glass … like now!”

“Why not just ask for a water glass, Jesus, don’t use old woman talk. Why not ask for a spot of tea while you are at it?” he said.

When we were packed with weddings and conferences and dinners, we ran low on basic supplies like linens, plates, silverware and glasses. While Tate was checking all the 16 oz. glasses for water stains, he made a comment, “That party sucked. It was faggy.”

“That’s derogatory,” I said as I grabbed a rack of his clean and polished 16 oz glasses away from him, “so I am taking your rack of clean glasses as punishment.”

“Wha? … You talk funny,” he said. The other teenage girls laughed and looked at me sympathetically, as if I should be sensitive about having a broader vocabulary. The truth was these kids had no kind of education whatsoever.

“I know I nod my head whenever you talk to me, but I don’t understand half the words you say,” Kelly once said to me.

“What is the context? What is the root word?” I said.

She once asked me what 36 plus 7 was when polishing champagne flutes for a wedding. “What is 6 plus 7? Carry the 1. Do the work,” I said. And they did, with some reluctance but overall they just needed positive influence.

“I don’t like that you know more than me,” Tate said once, at the bussing station, “I like girls that know less than me.” I laughed, “At least you are honest about it.”

Harry was less in touch with himself. As he worked there more, he grew more moody and more talkative. It was difficult to understand his low rambling. I gave up towards the end of the summer. I walked into one of the banquet halls to help Gary fold napkins and caught the end of a Harry monologue, “My sister only eats ramen. That is the only thing she eats. And she never washes dishes, so there is nothing but ramen packets and pots on the sink and on the stove and I say to her, ‘Why don’t you eat something more than ramen?’ She says she doesn’t care. Girls are the messiest. My sisters especially.”

Harry was called away and Gary came up to me and under his breath said, “That all started from asking him how his day was. I am never doing that again.”

Shueman, the gorgeous Houseman out of high school and already trapped in his hometown relationship, would walk past me in the parking lot and smile. His sleeves rolled up over his shoulders and the curve of skin over muscle. I smiled back. That was the quietest love affair.

The one who paid me the most attention, who I looked forward to the most, was the Quarterback fresh out of high school with all the promise in the world. He would alternate approaches with me. One day he came up to me and gave me an indian burn on my forearm. “I could have made that really hurt,” he said.

Another day, while detailing silverware, he stood in front of me and pressed his ass into my crotch. I grabbed a handful and squeezed. “Whoa whoa whoa whoa!” he protested.

“I am in my sexual peak,” I explained, “If you are going to shove your ass in my face, I am going to grab it. That is just the way it is.”

We would still play the flip each other off game. Finding new ways to pop each other the middle finger while embedded in an average day of service. If I was looking for parking, and past him in the employee lot, I would push up my heart-shaped sunglasses with my middle finger.  If I was walking by and casually talking to someone else, sometimes I would turn to look down a short hallway or room and see QB standing there, stoic, with his middle finger erect.

Once we got our schedules, and QB was polishing glasswear, I walked out and said, “Do you want to see what shifts I am working? I know you do,” holding up the schedule with two middle fingers.

He refused to look at me, “I don’t have to look at you to know what you are doing right now.” I cackled and turned to walk away, catching the eye of his mother, our boss, watching us with concern.

“You are so immature for 44,” he shouted after me.

After that, we were never scheduled on the same service together unless another supervisor shifted things around.

The next day he handed me a wood fan left behind from a wedding. “I got you a present,” he said. When he handed me the fan, I kept it in my pocket all day until I saw him walking towards me. I leaned up against the wall, pulled it out and fanned myself. He would grin at me, like a man not a boy.

It was ridiculous having a young, tall, redhead follow me around with insults and indian burns, but it made me happy. If I walked in for night shift, he would see me, turn his head and cover his mouth as he smiled. When he found out I was on Facebook, he reviewed my profile eagerly and read some of my posts, “The first rule of bike club is there is no bike club,” he said chuckling, then held his hand up to cover his face. “You are stupid,” he said. I could see the smile through his fingers and wondered if he really had a crush on me, or if I was just a conquest like the other girls in town.

“Please don't tell me you are going to get some girl pregnant and get stuck in this town like everyone else,” I said once, between lunch and dinner service.

“My mom wants me to have babies,” he responded.

I rubbed my temples and he gave me that squinty look of confusion before giving up the smile. “God, that gives me an anxiety attack. There is a whole world out there. Go find it. See things. Fall in love with other girls. Then come back and have babies,” I said.

“What did you do before this?”

“I was in the film industry?” I said.

“Doing what?”

“Production, Distribution, Web Producer.”

“It seems like, I don't know, you are too good for this job or something...”

“I decided I didn't like working for assholes. I prefer to be here, in the walls between the assholes.” I studied his face to see if he knew what I meant but realized he was still too young.

He asked about my writing program, what my specialty was …”Creative Non-Fiction” I said.

“What are you writing about?”

“My life.”

“Did you put me in your novel?”

“I did,” I said, grinning and walking alongside him. He turned to look at me and gave me that look, that unforgettable, sexy look men give me when they find out I have written about them. Hope. Curiosity. Satisfaction. I try to remember those faces once I disappoint them.

We walked into the linen closet together for table cloths. “Your eyes are blue today, I thought they were green the other day,” I said.

“They are both, depending on what mood I am in.”

“Come on …” I said.

“No really, an optometrist said I have a very rare eye color he has never seen before.”

“In Skamania County,” I dismissed.

“They are rare, you have never seen eyes like this before in your life,” he said, getting close to my face and holding his eyelids open until the white of his eyes popped out at me. He leaned into me so much, I took a step back. He pulled back and looked down on me. This 18-year-old child looked down on me and I smiled wondering if I would kiss him in the linen closet. That would be bad.

We walked out into a hallway, perpendicular to the Back Hall.

“I know you want to fuck me, why don't you just come out and say it? I am tired of this cat and mouse game. Lets … get it on,” he said, pressing his hands on either side of a cart so I could see four years of football in his forearms.

“Don't talk to me like that,” I said, spinning around with my nose in the air like a Jane Austen character. I walked a few feet down the hall until I was in the light of the Back Hall and saw Martin. “Only Martin can talk to me like that because his eyes don’t change color.”

“You want Martin?” he asked.

“Are you jealous?”

“Yeah,” he said. I used to hate men that loved young women, especially young teenage girls. I can tell you, as an older woman, there is something wonderfully fascinating about how alternately earnest and silly young men are. They don’t know how to use people yet. They only know they want something, and if you are lucky, that something might be you.

He would follow me down the hallway and tug at a loose curl, “Your hair is so funny, [StarFire]. You have it tightly wound up in buns, and there is always hair that is falling out.”

“It wants to be free,” I responded, as he delicately released my curl so it could bounce back into a wild spiral.

I sang to myself, all day long. On any given day I would sing Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” or “Makin’ Whooppee” on a wedding service, or switch over to Cake, the Stones, the Doors, whomever.

Usually, QB (the Quarterback) would walk by, bobbling his head and giving that grin. My singing voice is horrible, but it always put most people in a good mood. While bussing, in off-key and complicated scale I sang David Bowie’s “Golden Years”:

“♫ ♪ Don't let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, (high here) angel,
Come get up my baby . . .,
(deep here) Run for the shadows, run for the shadows, run for the shadows in these golden years … ♫ ♪” I sang.

“You should become a professional singer,” he said, sarcastically.

"You know, I have actually heard that before,” I shot back. He grinned, mouth closed, ears spread, freckles danced. I loved the banter. Every day was like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It wasn’t just the back and forth, it was the fucking potential in that kid. When we worked a service together, he was always on top of the food, the set-up, the details of the banquet service. Despite the fact that I was one of the best servers on staff, he still rode my ass about clearing plates and filling water glasses even if I was the only server allotted to his 40 guests. I respected that. He was a leader and he wanted his service to be as smooth as possible, no matter how perfect it already was. The visiting supervisor, who took over some of the supervisor shifts during the busy season (since we were already understaffed) called us the Dream Team. We were good together, and he wasn’t afraid to tell me what to do.


“I know you want to sit on my face,” QB said before ducking into a service.

“And do what? Read a book?” I called after him.

“Fuck you!” he said, with that freckled middle finger popped up at me from a distance.

All day I heard about what small tits I had, what a flat ass I had. “My tits are perfect!” I proclaimed in my defense.

“Gary has bigger tits than you,” he said. Gary giggled and I narrowed my eyes.

“The breast pockets on this uniform diminish my bust line,” I said.

The next day, I wore a white lace tank top underneath my work shirt so I could show him my figure. Little did I know when showing up that day QB forgot his wedding uniform shirt and was given the only one available in a woman’s medium. He kept complaining about the shirt being tight in his armpits, stretching his arms out from the small cotton sleeves. When he wandered into my empty banquet hall, tables were dressed but not set and lights were dim, I heard him complain, “I can’t wear this. It’s too tight.”

“You have a woman’s medium? I have a men’s medium! That’s all they had when they gave me this uniform. Wanna switch?” I suggested.

“OK,” he said.

“I have a tank top on today, this is a happy coincidence,” I said, proudly, knowing he would finally see the shape of my breasts.

“Well I don’t have an undershirt, so keep your eyes closed. I don’t need you getting all wet when you see my chest,” he said.

Alone, in the soft light of a wedding to be, we both unbuttoned our tops in front of each other. I closed my eyes for the most part, not because he asked me but because I was shy. My eyes cracked open for a second and I saw the perfect curves of his pectoral muscles. “Eugh, shit, I saw your chest. My eyes are burning.”

“Shut up . . .” he said softly.

I took off my shirt with my eyes still closed and handed it to him. I cracked open one eye and saw him smiling at me with his uniform shirt unbuttoned and hanging loosely off of his broad shoulders. My heart sped up. I felt a little sweat tickle my arm pits. My smile wouldn’t fade. I closed my eyes shut again and felt him take the shirt from out of my hand and replace it with his.

He walked behind a high stack of chairs to button up the new shirt. I turned away from him but circled back to him. Again, I saw the soft light on his perfectly sculpted body before turning away in embarrassment. “My breasts are perfect, huh?”

“Yeah … what a waste,” he said, looking down with a smile.

The visiting supervisor walked into the room to let us know some minor detail of service and broke the tension in the room. As I buttoned up, he professionally explained what he thought we needed to hear. I looked down and nodded, feeling his eyes on me. It annoyed me. My tank top was for QB, not for him. The smell of Old Spice and Freckled Boy rose out from underneath the shirt.

All day I could smell him and it drove me mad. Later, when I went to the bathroom, I found a perfect tear drop of moisture in my panties from his scent alone.

I had to remind myself he was a kid. I had to remind myself what it was like to be 18. How scary adults were. How new everything was. How exciting it was to think someone older was attracted to you but how paralyzing it was when sex was set into motion. I looked at him, I took the slaps on the back, the punches to the arm, the sarcastic insults and hidden smiles, and I reminded myself that he was just a kid.

Our eyes would often meet and I would replicate his expression, a squinty smile, a quizzical look. “Why are you looking at me like that?” he always asked.

“Because that is how you are looking at me,” I said. “When you look at me with that squint, it looks like Luke Perry. Do you know who Luke Perry is?”

“No, I don’t know who fucking Luke Perry is,” he said, walking past and dragging a handful of ice along the exposed skin of my hips peeking out from underneath my work shirt. The chill ran up my back and plucked my nipples. I turned to look at him with an open mouth and sparkle in the eye wondering if he knew how erotic that was.

“You gonna let him get away with that?” a 60-year-old Houseman said, walking towards me.

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “I encourage it.”

One night on an evening service with Tate, we all sat down to eat whatever food was left over. With me, being vegan, the only food was green beans with almonds. Snore. QB and Tate ripped into the pork loin and discussed sex as if the only educational tool available to them on the subject was the internet. I sat next to QB and Kyle was seated at the table across from us.

“My brother took home this whore, remember? And he fucked her in the next room,” Tate described.

“Do not refer to her as a whore. I won’t tolerate that language,” I said.

“But she was! She was a stripper!” QB said.

“That isn’t a whore. You should refer to women with respect. I mean it. I won’t talk to you two if you use ugly words to describe women.”

There was silence before the flirtation was back on the upswing. Tate and QB spoke not-so-cryptically of tag teaming me, as I stuffed my face with green beans.

“Do you know what an Eiffel Tower is, [StarFire]?” Tate asked.

“I know what the Eiffel Tower is. What is an Eiffel Tower? A sexual position?” I asked.

Tate giggled and QB shook his head in dismay. “Shut up, Tate,” QB said.

“An Eiffel Tower is when two guys are on a girl and high five over her,” Tate said.

“God, you kids make me sad. Sex is better than internet porn. I hope you have the opportunity to figure that out,” I said.

“That’s stupid, Tate,” QB said.

There was a silence, and Tate stared at me and QB. We all sat, eating in silence.

“Do you want me to get [QB’s Mom] out of the house for an afternoon so you can fuck QB?” Tate asked.

I felt my cheeks burn. “No,” I said, “Why would I want to fuck QB?”

“Because you do,” he said. I refused to look at them and said, “I don’t want to fuck him.”

“Yeah, you do,” QB said. The testosterone in the room made my breasts sore. Heat rushed into my pants and I leaned back, coolly, wiping my mouth. “You wish,” I said.

Later, when we put away our dirty plates and cleaned up the empty tables outside in the dark, QB rushed in after me and leaned up against the table. His face was close to mine and in a whisper he said, “I know you want to fuck me. When the day comes that you and I fuck, and that day will come, you will . . .," he stopped and thought about something to say, "you will say I have a great physique. That’s what all the girls say.”

I stared at his face in the night. I could only make out the line of his jaw, the dulled red of his hair in the moonlight, the pulsing forearms holding up his weight on the table and the smell of meat on his breath. I smiled at him, “Will I?” I said.

“You will,” and he walked away.

That night I went home, aching for a man to take my purse out of my hand, feed the dogs, rub my feet and make me tea before opening my book and starting in on notes for school. It was cold at night and in the morning since the Old Man left because I didn’t know how to use the wood burning furnace. I laid there and I thought of him, the boy who prodded me all day. The boy who tugged lightly on my curls and covered his smile with his hand when I walked in to start a service. The boy who didn’t back down from the banter and paid attention to everything I did.

Huck, an ex-lover from writing school, accused me of falling in love with all my characters. In a way I do, writing about them becomes as intimate as sex. Here I sit, with a splash of whiskey and a computer in a dark corner of another person’s kitchen, typing down the words and images of a boy who tried to seduce me and I feel more alone than I did a few hours ago when I started writing this.

He was just a kid, right?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Smells Like teen Boys

During the peak of the season at the Hotel, we hired a few new people, mostly kids around 18-19 years old. One was a girl named Kelly, who was cinnamon brown like she was of mixed race but later, when I heard her speak about seeing black people in Skamania County (which was a rare occasion), I realized she considered herself totally Caucasian.

“I was walking out of the parking lot at the Fair when I saw a few black people, then I thought, ‘Did I lock my car door?’ So I spun around and ran back. HAHA! Is that racist?” she said, smiling. She had a big smile, brown eyes like a deep mahogany and the physique of an athlete. Her posture always made me wonder which sport ironed out her spinal cord with such a hard distinction, like an exclamation point.

“You are one suntan away from being black yourself,” I said. She laughed warmly, “I KNOW!”

Kelly doesn’t like to work hard, though she will when she has to. Otherwise, she walks around chatting and lighting various things on fire, like straws, paper, pens, anything. On slow days, I got used to her smell of burnt plastic. She and I had an odd connection, we were both kicked out by our parents. She was moved out of her biological mother’s care in the 3rd grade because of a methamphetamine addiction. Her father took her into his new family with a new wife, but disappeared when she was 17 years-old. “He was never around, so I didn’t notice he was really gone until a year later. It was like ‘Wha, haven’t seen Dad in a year? What the hell?” She always raised her voice and spoke like a rapper when she made a joke.

When her father disappeared, her stepmother kicked her out, so now Kelly lives with her best friend. “What is it with you and Kelly, you both have moms that kicked you out?” the Quarterback asked. “We are in the Evil Mom’s club,” I said. Kelly turned and gave me a fist pump. After that, we had a kind of unspoken alliance. No one really knows what it does to you, the abandonment and rejection of being thrown out by the people who are your final safeguard, until it really happens to you. The shock alone takes a major readjustment then the realization that you are totally alone.

Kelly also had a good sense of humor. The kids in general would talk low and fast, it was difficult to understand what they were saying. “I can’t understand a God damn word you kids say. How do you communicate with each other?” I asked.

“Text message,” she answered.

She also liked to slap my ass when walking behind me. “That was …” I slowly turned around, “perfect.”

The other girls laughed and said, “That was not what I was expecting you to say!”

“I feel my eyelid twitch, why am I twitching? Can you see it? My eyeball is twitching and I don’t know why,” Kelly complained one afternoon while we were all setting up a large platted dinner.

“Because you are a meth baby,” I said.

“Too soon!,” she said, “Too soon!”

“Third grade is too soon?” I asked. She laughed. She caught on to my humor a little faster than the other kids. I fell for her too, encouraging her to go to college and reminding her of her potential. She was beautiful and I could see Skamania’s shackles slowly appearing around her ankles. I fought the compulsion to pick her up and carry her out of there.

“Worse comes to worse, get an abortion. They aren’t that bad,” I advised her one afternoon. She chuckled, “Fucking [StarFire], man.” I got used to hearing that close out my jokes. I miss it.

Kelly’s best friend, with whom she lived, was cousins with Harry who started during peak season. Harry was very difficult to understand, when he spoke it was a long mumble. I rarely understood any part of what he said. The thing with Harry was he looked a lot like a 19 year-old version of my ex-boyfriend Allen. It was almost jaw dropping when I saw him, his hair cut, nose and eyes almost identical, but with a small constellation of brown freckles that reminded me of Eric, another ex-boyfriend of 5 years. On top of all of that, something about the way Harry smelled drove me crazy. If he was anywhere in the back hall, I could smell him.

Unfortunately, Harry was kind of a mess. When he ranted about something, good or bad, he would sound like a cartoon character and finish his sentence with a slow exhale that melted his back and dropped his neck below his shoulders with a slight whistle. He would get frazzled around Kelly, their tension from sharing space at home manifesting itself in the stupidest arguments over how to set a table or refill water glasses. She was especially hard on him, following him around and barking at him like a little dog until he snapped. “Shut the fuck up, you stupid bitch! I hate you!” he would shout.

Unhappy Relationship print

“I hate YOU,” Kelly returned. And so on, and so forth. Or she would come in, “Last night I drove Harry home and he wouldn’t stop talking. He just kept talking and talking, so I turned on the radio. He still kept talking. So I started singing, and I never sing. He still kept talking. He didn’t stop once. So when we got home and got through the door and he was still talking, I had to freak out on him.”

“You freaked out on him?” I asked. “Yeah, it had to be done,” she said. Harry would follow into work soon after, completely silent with rage. The two of them had a troubling dynamic, they skipped being kids and jumped right into being an old, unhappy married couple.

During busy service, Harry would suffer from bloody noses under the strain. He would often be hovering over the garbage can in the middle of service, dropping paper towel after paper towel down until the only thing you could see when cleaning off a dirty plate was Harry’s blood. In addition to handling stress poorly, he also was very moody and would often turn completely off and cold during a busy service.

The first few weeks we worked together, I would stare at him. It was hard to see a younger conglomerate of two ex-boyfriends in front of me, bumbling and tripping like a puppy. It was almost irresistible.

The first few days, he shadowed me and flirted, showing interest in every little thing I did. He opened up to me about how his father held his family hostage at gunpoint once while high on drugs and then went to prison for a very long time. Since then, his father has found God. I watched him rattle through several disjointed and highly disturbing stories wondering who he would become. He was dorky but in that way girls secretly love; awkward, vulnerable, funny. I was surprised when he said he wasn’t going to college because he considered himself a “more active type.” Nothing about him seemed athletic like the others, in fact, he had potential to make it in the entertainment industry. His impression of Ace Ventura was spot on and he was constantly narrating his emotions like a stand-up comic. He just wasn’t self aware enough (or at all) yet.

While cleaning out the Ballroom from a wedding, he kept saying he hated Kelly. I stopped him and said, “Have you ever considered that maybe you are sexually attracted to Kelly and that is frustrating to you?”

“Yes,” he said like a cartoon mouse mumbling through cheese, “but I am sexually attracted to you too. I am sexually attracted to everyone.”

“Thank you,” I said sarcastically, “That makes me feel very special and pretty.”

Later, we were walking dirty linens through the kitchen and down to the Laundry Department. QB, the Quarterback, was walking the trash down with us. He was walking backwards so he could face me while tossing insults.

“You are so ugly, anyone is better looking than you. I think your mother is sexier. Harry, would you ever have sex with something that looked like her?” he said.

Harry paused with his eyes big, a slight smile and turned his head. That was usually his response to anything playful. “He already said he found me sexually attractive,” I said, smiling.

“You did!” QB said, outraged. Harry nodded and belted out a “Yeah, I do!”

QB and I locked eyes. I chuckled. I won that round.  The last time QB cornered me with stories of his sexual accomplishments, I knew he was propositioning me in a roundabout way. “I would break you in two,” I said. He fell quiet with a small smile.

This round was pivotal though, from that moment on QB knew he had competition, so instead of insulting me and just standing around like a statue (in the parking lot, by the time clock, at the bussing station) with a blank expression and his middle finger up, he got more aggressive.


While putting seating covers over the chairs for a fluffy, pink wedding, QB asked me questions about sex, about boyfriends and always felt the need to let me know how much sex he has had. If someone entered the room to help us he would force them into the conversation. “Do you know [StarFire] wants to fuck me?”

I would laugh from my stomach, having to stop what I was doing and lift my head up to get it out. “So what if she does?” a girl responded. They never got on that QB was actually flirting with me. If he insulted me, they would smile, “That’s mean.” Eventually, QB was so focused on critiquing my tits and ass that everyone just walked away out of boredom. In fact, QB spent so much time discussing my body, I am pretty sure he could hold a fairly prepared lecture series on the subject.

“She just wants to crawl on top of me and ride me,” he said.

“I am sure that would be a thrilling 60 seconds,” I said, plainly. The others laughed.

“Yeah right, I would last more than 60 seconds. I can go so long, I have had sex without cumming at all.”

“Not sure that is something to brag about at 18,” I said. QB savagely tore at the plastic packages of bows.

 No matter when I took my break for lunch in the break room, QB would always show up, even if he was just starting his shift.

“Oh, look who showed up?” I always said, spreading generic peanut butter on a slab of bread.

“I am here for my glass of milk,” he always answered.

“It is too early for you to take a break.”

Then I sat right next to him, so our thighs were pressed against each other. All of a sudden, I felt a wall of heat hit my right side, like QB’s body caught on fire.

“Do you want me to sit on your lap?” I asked.

He suddenly pawed at me, hard and fast like his hands were large, metal shovels then suddenly stopped. "I will give you lunch,” he said smiling. Then he turned back to the television, propped up high on the wall of the break room.

“You have a dirty mouth for a little boy. And I mean . . . little,” I said turning into him. Our eyes locked, our faces were no more than 2-inches from one another and he slowly smiled. My heart stopped.

“You are looking old today,” he said, turning back to the television.

“You Bastard!” I said, dropping my sandwich, “You are funny, though.”


Around this time, Kelly’s ex-boyfriend (also Harry’s cousin) Tate started working there. Tate was young as well, 19 or 20, with black hair brushed completely forward over his face like a pop idol. He was also tall and slender, the acne on his face and neck giving away his age. Tate was more socially adjusted than Harry and very confident, especially with the girls. I got the feeling Tate was considered a heart throb at high school and was annoyed that I didn’t immediately fawn over him.

“God, you laugh at all Chad's jokes, he is not that funny,” Tate said as we closed out a service rush in the back hall.

“Yes I am,” Chad said.

Tate imitated my laugh, “HAHAHAHA,” then stopped short,  “... so stupid.”

“I laugh at your jokes too. We had a very nice conversation passing hor d'oeuvres together,” I said. Before dinner service, Tate and I wandered around a reception holding heavy trays of bacon and scallops. He and I would smile at each other from across the room, so much so guests would stop to look at both of us, trying to get the joke. There was no joke. I just thought he was adorable and he smiled back.

“But you didn't laugh at my jokes,” Tate said.

“Say something,” I demanded.

“I am not saying anything to you-”

I cut him off with a dramatic “HAHAHAHAHAAAA!”

“You're stupid. And it wasn't like your laugh with Chad,” he said.

“Someone’s jealous,” Chad sang out while walking away.

It was sweet. They were all being so transparent about things that it felt nice in contrast to adult men offering beauty secrets or dispersing advice in that passive-aggressive way to dominate me or my confidence. The young boys just tried to make me laugh and made it essential each day at work, even just to start out a shift. I couldn’t help but fall into it. What more could a single, heartbroken woman want than four boys trying to make her laugh all day?


Another day, in the Back Hallway with Chad and QB, they were teasing me as I picked grapes off their breakfast cart.

“You guys have to work every service together,” I said. “Are you in love?”

“We are the A-team,” Chad said.

“Of the A-train,” QB said.

“You know what the A-train is?” Chad asked.

“What?” I asked.

“She doesn't know what the A-train is,” Chad said to QB.

“Come on, a slut like you knows,” QB said. I narrowed my eyes.

“Do you know how men line up and move like a train?” Chad asked.

“Like a train gang or whatever,” I asked.

“You want the A-train?” QB asked. I should note here that QB’s first name begins with an A. He looked at me, I popped a grape in my mouth and gently rested my knee on the seat of an empty chair before looking up at him smiling. He smiled back at me, and in that moment I felt my cunt throb. I should have asserted my feminist, independent and adult voice and stopped them from speaking that way in a professional environment. I don’t know if it is my sexual nature or my sexual peak, but the woman in me swelled. I looked at QB, as he comfortably leaned back in a chair and gracefully received my first “Fuck me” look of the summer. He didn’t look away and that impressed me.

“First dibs,” Chad said.

“Nu uh, we flip for it,” QB said.

“Do you know what we are talking about now?” Chad asked me.

“Of course. A gang bang,” I said.

Both QB and Chad chimed in over each other, “WHAT!?!? Oh my God, you are so sick. How could you think that? Pervert!”

“Fuck you!” I laughed.

“Right here?” Chad asked, he was now getting competitive as well.

“QB is rubbing off on you,” I said, polishing silverware.

“I could be rubbing off on you,” Chad said.

"Yeah? You gonna make a woman out of me?”

“If that’s what you wanna call it,” Chad said. He was short, maybe 5’5, Hispanic with a large head. Though he was a slacker and always stoned, I liked him.

“You would need a stepping stool to make love to me,” I said.

“Who would you rather do, me or Chad?” QB asked.

“Chad is more experienced,” I said, wiping water spots off a fork.

“I have had way more sex than Chad.”

“Are we going to start this again?” asked Chad.

“Sex gets better in time, way better. Of course, biologically I am at an advantage- my orgasms are longer and more intense with age. But also my partners get better. You know the best sex I had was with a 28 yr old,” I said.

“How old were you?” QB asked.

“32. He put two vibrators on me but didn't turn them on while he manually rubbed me until I was just about to cum and then he turned them both on. That was hot,” I said, putting down the silverware and looking them over. They both studied the silverware on the counter.

“You said manually,” QB said lightly, “That’s weird.”

“And I guess I discovered this tid bit by myself, but I told him that when my G-spot and clitorus are stimulated at the same time, it makes the orgasms way more intense. He gave me so many, I had to beg him to stop. God, he was hot. Its a shame it didn't work out,” I said.

Diagram of the Vaginal Nervous System

Then there was silence. I looked over at them, the levity and laughter stopped. Both stood frozen in front of the silverware realizing I was way out of their league.

I didn’t expect the Quarterback to come back strong the next day but as he walked past me the air filled with a heavenly odor, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my head grow light.  “Is that you I smell?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling, “I switched my deodorant to Old Spice.”