“Is the old man back yet?”
It had been five weeks, and the old
man who left me his house keys before an elk hunting expedition was
still MIA. His daughter-in-law was calling to see if he was back yet.
The neighbors said they were going to give it a day or two after the
season closed before going out there themselves to look for him.
“No, not yet.”
at the Hotel made me happy. I was getting tons of hours and I liked
what I was doing. The only downer was I hated our clientele- they were
entitled, rude and completely boring. Overhearing their conversations
put me in a daze, so I would wander over to chat with Gary, a huge
Native American dude who often blended into the background and was a big
“These people have absolutely nothing of any interest to say to each other,” I said.
because they are forced to be here together. The company makes them do
these retreats and conventions, they don’t want to talk to each other
but they have to.”
“Good point … so, do you have a dog?” I asked.
“No, but my friend had a big ole’ fucking rottie and she was really nice but once she bit my friend,” he said.
“Oh, I hope it wasn’t serious,” I followed.
yeah, fuck yeah it was serious. He fucking bled out all over the place.
It was hilarious,” then he would giggle over the silverware. “It must
have been because she was drunk.”
“Yeah,” he said. Then he laughed to himself for about 5 more minutes.
of the pm managers was a guy around my age, with light brown freckles
and a close, fuzzy crew cut. He wore small glasses and strolled like he
was a young Santa Claus, almost waiting to grow in a pot belly but I
found him attractive. Mostly because he gave me his jacket whenever I
was cold and working an event outside. It really takes something that
simple for me to start a crush. He was married and had three young boys.
It was strange to look at this person, smile, laugh at his jokes and
exchange drug stories knowing he was someone’s Dad.
“So when I
used to work at Safeway, all of us would go home together after work and
just get stoned. That is all we did, everyday. We were big time
stoners. We used to do these knife hits … you ever done those? They fuck
you up! You take these two heated knives and you press them on both
sides of the nug and you suck them through a bottle. I mean, we got
thrashed nightly. Well, one night I went home and decided to smoke a
whole bowl by myself. Then my roommates came home and kept pushing me to
get stoned with them? ‘Just one hit …. come on!’ So I smoked another
bowl with them. I took a sip of Pepsi and everything stopped. My friend
is like, ‘Dude, are you ok?’ I couldn’t answer him. I had a mouth full
of Pepsi and I forgot how to swallow. I fucking forgot … how... to …
Gary said. I was stoned at work this particular afternoon and couldn’t
stop giggling at QB (the Quarterback), my 18-year-old at work
flirtation. Gary, QB and I were killing time erecting odd structures out
of serving utensils on the banquet table.
I took a shit load of peyote on a Greyhound bus and I was tripping
hard!” When Gary wanted to emphasize something, his eyes would get wide
and he would stretch out the word like it was melting cheese. “There was
the big old cat that was chasing me on the bus. This big, fucking 25
foot cat. I was scared, and I couldn’t go anywhere because I was on the
I would buckle over laughing so hard, my knees
would give way and I would tip over the edge of the table. QB would give
me a crumpled look of disapproval and then grin through his closed
mouth. “You laugh like a Jew,” he said.
I was working my ass off
at the Hotel and knew that I had to leave soon. Ideally, I would leave
before the Old Man came back, but I knew it could be any day now. I knew
he would come back as soon as I got comfortable and felt ownership over
his dusty little farmhouse. So I put in my two weeks notice the last
week of September. I started telling everyone.
“That’s gay,” Tate said. He was a skinny 18-year-old with bad acne and too much confidence.
“Gay as in happy or gay as in homosexual?” I asked.
“Gay as in … gay.”
few of us were working insane hours. Sometimes 15 a day. Sometimes we
all worked 7 days in a row. I was exhausted, but I took everything they
gave me as long as they let me leave between my double shifts to go walk
my dogs. Everyone got surly, and I would sing all day long.
My shift would start at 5am, and with a sub-par but tolerable cup of coffee I would start, “♪ ♫ There's a fire starting in my heart, Reaching a fever pitch, And it's bringing me out the dark … ♪ ♫”
One of the 18-year-olds would scream, “Stopppp! It’s too early!” Everyone else chuckled.
I kept singing, off-key, following her around the back hall, “♪ ♫ The scars of your love, they leave me breathless, I can't help feeling, We could have had it AHHHHLLLL ♪ ♫”
“NO! STOP!” she said covering her ears.
“ ♪ ♫ ...Rolling in the deEEEEP... ♪ ♫”
“OH my God!”
“I am going to record it and make that a ringtone for ya!” I said, winking.
of the few things that kept me going was the singing, the espresso I
dropped in my coffee, the soda (which I usually never drink) and
cigarettes- which I took up again to keep me awake.
Walking out of a wedding reception we just finished, I would start, “♪ ♫ Rah Rah LA LA LA LA. GAGA OOH LA LA LA ♪ ♫”
Another girl, “Oh my God, no!”
“♪ ♫ I want your love, and I want your revenge, You and me could write a bad romance … ♪ ♫” I kept singing.
loved everyone that worked there. The snotty teenage girls were cute
and friendly to me now. The few am workers who showed up everyday were
my confidants. And then there was QB, who heard I put in my two weeks
and got moody. He was the only one who was working even more hours than
I would be checking the Banquet Event Orders (BEOs we called
them), turn around and see him sitting there with puffy eyes staring at
my ass. “Why is your ass so flat?” he asked.
both worked a 40 person banquet alone together and he harangued me
about everything “You aren’t supposed to have your arms crossed, they
are supposed to be behind your back or at your sides.”
“You aren’t filling water glasses!” he said.
“Excuse me, I am bussing and serving 40 people by myself. I will get to it,” I curtly responded.
are behind, hurry up!” he prodded. Things got intense. We were both
exhausted and the sexual tension was snapping like a cheap rubber band.
If we served on the same event and briefly passed each other, I could
feel his red arm hair tickle me. My vagina throbbed. Later, I would
demonstrate this effect on my friend Frank: “He made my vagina do this-”
and I slowly squeezed his arm.
“That’s really beautiful. He made your vagina skip a beat. Lovely.”
last two weeks, strolling into work, QB would dig into me almost
immediately. “You want to fuck me. I can smell it on you,” he said.
“That would be charitable on my part. I mean, the greatest experience of your life . . ."
"Please, it would be the greatest experience of your life," he said.
offered me a fortune cookie in a wrapper and wouldn’t let go of my hand
after giving it to me. He smiled at me as he crushed my fingers over
the cookie, demolishing it into small crumbs inside its plastic wrapper.
In my palm, under his hand, I could feel the clammy sweat from his work
on my skin and smiled back at him. I liked him.
Once after a
service, he found me and said, “You are going to cream yourself when I
show you what I got for you,” then he revealed a huge plate of curry
“That is my favorite food, thank you!”
“Are you being sarcastic?” he asked.
“No, it really is. Thank you!”
We alternated from hate to love throughout the day.
don’t you just say you want to sit on my face?” he yelled down the back
hall. I was working doubles, trying to finish my school work and walk
the dogs at least once a day. I was exhausted and grouchy.
“Why would I waste my time?” I snapped.
the single moms hi-fived me and I turned away just before seeing the
dazzling smile on his face as he opened packages of cocktail napkins and
straws. I will never forget that smile. The one where he showed me his
teeth. It was beautiful.
“Is the old man back yet?” Lilith, the 50-year-old painter who fiercely hated her job asked me one Sunday morning.
“No,” I answered, “but I found his supply of 1989 Penthouse magazines yesterday.”
“Forget the acting career, you have a gold mine in writing about your life,” she said.
“These lemons were out on the am breaks and for the lunch. Should I throw them away now?” Kelly asked. She was 18.
you should dip each one in clorox and put them back in the fridge,”
Lilith said, rolling her eyes. I steadied myself on the counter laughing
as Kelly stood frozen with a container of old lemons. God, I miss that
Then the day came. The one day I left my weed out, the
beer can bong, the dirty clothes on the bathroom floor and one dirty
dish. It was on that day I drove home from work and saw the light on in
the house. The old man was back.
I walked in and was greeted by
my three dogs, happily jumping on me and dancing back and forth between
him, seated on the chair by the window, and me, standing in the kitchen.
I was friendly and smiled. I even walked over and tried to talk to him.
“I was worried about you,” I said.
“Why?” he asked, kind of smiling without looking at me.
“Because no one heard from you.”
“Oh. (pause) I was fine,” he said. He wouldn’t look at me as he studied envelope after envelope. “Bills.” is all he said.
The next afternoon, he came home drunk. He popped through the door, barely able to stand. “You’re home early!?” he said.
“I had an early shift,” I said carefully.
He stumbled towards me and held on to the cabinet in the living room to keep from falling.
“How are you?” I said, slowly.
he cheered with big eyes. I kind of chuckled. “My friends asked me,
‘Who is that woman living in your house?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know
...’” He said it almost sing-song and that made me chuckle again.
my deaf pitbull, Esther, started growling at him. She didn’t like that a
man was stumbling towards me and wavering around like a garden flag on a
windy day. I didn’t like it either.
“Shut up. SHUT UP!” he
yelled. She couldn’t hear him but she didn’t like that either and
growled some more. “This is my house. MY HOUSE!”
“She’s deaf,” I
said softly as I drew her close to me and buried my hands in her warm,
caramel coat. I was touched that she was trying to defend me.
he turned towards me and waved at me as if I was to join him in the
bedroom. My eyes got wide and I kind of twitched my head like I was
saying “No” but hoping it could pass as “I don’t understand.”
“I am going to take a nap,” he said, “Don’t come in there after me.” He smiled to indicate the sarcasm.
“I won’t,” I said.
disappeared into his bedroom. I was angry and worried and anxious, so I
fell back on my shitty coping mechanism and went to the Bungalow to get
drunk. I was scared and told everyone there what happened. They
listened but didn’t know how to help me. They didn’t know me.
drove home drunk, swerving into the opposite lane and stumbling into the
house. He was awake, watching television. I drunk emailed something
nasty to the Eric (my ex-boyfriend of 5 years), Abe (my ex-boyfriend of 2
years) and Huck (the lover who dumped my ass shortly after I moved back
“Fuck you all . ..
I loved you and you left me to fend for myself with my 3 dogs.
They love me despite imperfection. And you ALL love your pot, alcohol and women more than anything. SO fuck you!!!
I am sorry I gave you three my heart. And I truly ;loved all 3 of you.”
remember trying to keep my eyes forward and my finger steady so I could
hunt and peck for each key on the computer. Then I collapsed on the
couch in the living room and felt the Old Man’s hand stroke my hair. My
mind was submerged in whiskey and beer until the morning, when he was
back in his bedroom and I was on my way to work. The only one who
responded to my drunk email was Huck who wrote, “What’s your problem?”
I thought that was hilarious. Partly for being so wonderfully simple, and partly for needing such a complicated answer.
day, I came home and he was sitting in his chair staring at the TV set.
“You and me gotta talk!” he said roughly. I knew this would come. I was
allowed to stay there as his lady friend, not as a down-in-out girl
studying and working full time. Now that would just be ridiculous.
“You had a friend over,” he said firmly.
mind reviewed the one night Matt was there in the guest room and the
kids who smoked a bowl with me on the back porch. Both fairly harmless. I
“Once,” I said.
“I had to wash my bed sheets. I don’t smell like that,” he said.
“Um … you are implying I had sex in your bed.”
face was red and he nodded. “That is insane. You realize you sound …
insane. I slept in there once or twice when I had a migraine but no one
went in there. No one. You are losing your mind.”
He leaned back. “I am not an unreasonable man. I won’t kick you out, but you have to find somewhere else to live,” he said.
mean you are a better person than my parents,” I thought. I nodded and
said, “I am already working on trying to find another place to stay.”
“Oh, then you knew something I didn’t,” he said.
“I knew after I rejected you that you would ask me to leave,” I said.
He slowly nodded and I followed up with, “Give me a week.”
“Ok” he said, “You have one week.”
of me wanted to stay. I kept drilling people I worked with about
whether or not I could move in with them. Many of them simply didn’t
have room for the 3 dogs, me and their kids. Some had cats, which my pit
bulls would eat. I didn’t want to put money down on a place and get
stuck there. The money I was earning was for Los Angeles, not Skamania.
I had been working my LA connections for a way to get back. Frank was
looking at places for both of us and I believe he got frustrated with
the pet policies and threw an ultimatum on me:
“I will buy us a
house right now, but we have to go in as a couple. I want us to start
this off the only way I know I can. Commit to me and I will do
everything I can for you and the dogs.”
I sighed … “No. I can’t do that and you know it. And that is no way to start a relationship.”
“Then I can’t do it. I can’t move in with you.”
friend from the Doggie Daycare where I used to work said that I could
bring the dogs down to his house and stay with him anytime. He would
drunk dial my dogs, which I always thought was hilarious:
“Hey … hey … put Maggie on. Put Maggie on. I have to tell her something. Maggggggie. Maggggie,” he would say.
The house he lived in already arranged for a new roommate who had a cat. So that was out.
was endless walls. Wall after wall after wall. I was sleeping with my
shoes shoved under the door to jam it from being opened. I stole one of
his fishing knives and kept it on the bed stand. Drunks are
unpredictable and I was scared of sleeping, all the while exhausted from
insane doubles at work.
Then a Facebook friend in Los Angeles I never met in person pinged me. A girl named Alia.
“Do you need a place to stay? You can come here,” she wrote.
“But I have three dogs,” I wrote back.
“That’s ok,” she posted.
One week to work my ass off. One week to say goodbye to Washington. And one week until my new life back in L.A.