Thursday, April 25, 2013

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

“Thank you for holding me while I cried,” I texted to Huck.
“I would have held you all night,” he wrote back.

Obviously, coming home drunk, in the passenger seat as my boyfriend drove me home from another man’s hotel room ... was shameful. He was patient and listened to me ramble, though at this point, I was so far gone in emotion and alcohol, I couldn’t properly articulate myself.  

I just kept saying, “I had to make peace with my parents through him ... I’m sorry ... I had to do it through him.” One thing Michael, my boyfriend, asked of me is to always be honest. He wanted to know everything that happened and, though I still think that is a “young” mistake, I honor it. His first girlfriend in high school carried on an affair under his nose. Later, he discovered the affair as they broke up and connected the dots. Though he is young, he is highly intelligent and the betrayal, the idea of being treated as an idiot under the warming lamp of affection, drove him crazy. So I answered his questions, honestly, and told him I spent the last few hours in Huck’s hotel room.


My dear boyfriend, patient as ever, listened, drove straight and tucked me in. First thing in the morning, outside on the front porch, we both smoked a cigarette.

“Let’s have talk time,” I said. The tension was thick and I always hate carbs for breakfast.
“You can go first if you want?” he suggested.

“I have nothing to say.”

He pulled out his iPhone, “OK, let me get out my notes,” opened the notepad app and then read it to me: “How dare you!” he said, pointing at me with the fingers, carefully balancing his cigarette.

“Is that it?” I asked, watching him tuck away the phone.

“Yeah, that’s it.”

I packed up my bags, exhausted from the alcohol, exhausted from the emotional outbursts and overworked on books and gigs up to the day before. I put on the next outfit I bought from Forever 21, my hair wet from a morning shower, and my eyeliner smudged over puffy eyes. My boyfriend walked me out to my car. I turned to him and felt the sting.

“Are you going to leave me?” I asked, in that voice I remember from Kindergarten.

“No,” he said, sweetly, with chocolate eyes.

“Do you promise?” I moaned, again, like a child sent off to her first day of school.

“I promise,” he said.

Michael with Maggie

It is a complex dynamic. Yes, Huck and I had something. Unfortunately, Huck left me. Michael was there for me. Trying to find peace with the man who didn’t, while loving the man who did put me in an awkward head space. I liked Huck, and it annoyed me. He was still funny and charming, not to mention, God help me, I saw someone in there who was precious- not only to me, but to the world.

It was a betrayal to continue any personal moment with Huck. My boyfriend honored me, he supported me, he held me when I cried over my parents and another man. He  fed me water at night, and coffee in the morning. He was nurturing my soul. My mind, though, wanted more. I couldn’t continue trusting men as I have, I couldn’t continue trusting relationships as I was ... I needed to understand the difference between Huck’s promises and Michael’s. For this, Michael has never forgiven me.

I was dropped off on campus and smoked another cigarette. I only smoke when I write or I am upset. With my back turned to the doors of school, I sat in the courtyard and waited for my damp hair to dry in the overcast. Huck showed up, bouncing towards me with his backpack, and sitting next to me without a cigarette. He managed to quit since our affair last June.

“I had a dream about Tom Cruise. He was mad at me. He wouldn’t play pool with me. And I was going to be in a play and I had one line but I forgot my line. When I entered on stage, my sleeve got caught on this girl’s sleeve. And I made out with her. I needed my car and then remembered I was in Los Angeles,” Huck said.  

“That is an anxiety dream,” I said, cooly, exhaling the toxins.

“The bill was $50 last night,” he said.

“And wasn’t it worth it?”

“Yeah ... it was fun.”

“It was fun ... ha,” I said.

“Things got crazy back in the hotel room,” he said.

Crazy Bitch Caution

Remembering what he said about his bi-polar ex and the type of girl he was attracted to, I said, “That’s your type. I am fulfilling your fantasies.”

He kind of chuckled. He looked healthy for being a young alcoholic. I guess they all look healthy when they are still young. His teeth were white. His skin clear. That beautiful hair of his still bright, and bold against the clouds off the morning ocean.

“I need water,” I said, hung over. “How much is it at the store?” There is only one store near campus, and everything is overpriced. I am sure things are marked up during residency, since we are all held captive for ten full days.

“You can have my Sprite?” he said, holding up a half empty bottle of soda.

“Nah ... I need water,” I said.

Then he turned his back pack towards me and handed me a fresh, new bottle of water. “Always thinking of me ... “  I said, teased. He chuckled. How unusually chivalrous for someone who boasted about how poorly he treated women.

We both ended up in the same lecture. I remember very clearly how Huck looked standing at the back door of the room. Most of the seats were taken, and he stood there with all his blond hair brushed forward and his glasses slipping off the end of the nose. He looked like a little boy, and I was compelled to get his attention. To motion for him to sit next to me and hold my hand. He didn’t see me, or pretended not to see me, and found his own seat in the back behind me. It wasn’t so far as an inconvenience to turn my head to watch him.
A few times throughout the lecture, our eyes matched. He smiled at me in a way that still reeked of last night’s martinis. I smiled back, not knowing what to do with the pockets of pus forming under my heartbeat.

That night I drove back home and traffic was a nightmare. I know some people can deal with it, but after 10 hours of intense study, lecture and workshop, I could not deal with a 2-hour commute back home. I was ornery. When I finally got home, the dogs had shit on the floor. I cleaned it up. Michael was trying to clean. My roommate, Frank, wandered out to talk to me, and I grew suddenly rude. I needed silence to concentrate. Silence to think. Silence to focus on my goddamn education.

Venice house

A few friends were renting a house in Venice for residency, and said I could stay there. It was big, modern, and cold. I needed to be close and disconnected from my life at home to focus. I also needed space to just think ... think about all the changes from who I was, who I am and who I was becoming. Michael tried to understand. He still didn’t have a car and bussed it out to Venice from Glendale (over an hour commute) to meet my friends and celebrate the beginning of residency at our house party.

He walked around the party as a free spirit. One writer told me later, “He just came up and said he loved you. He loved the type of person you were. And I think it is great when people openly say, ‘I love this person for who they are. They are great!’ That is so refreshing.’”

Hearing that later, and being reminded of it now as I write, warms me ... more than this cheap Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, he also put his arm around George and said he would leave his wife for him and move to Paris. Um ... Paris is MY thing, sweetheart. Don’t go propositioning my “gay husband” with MY dream city.
Needless to say, Michael was drunk. Not to mention, the feeling of the whole exchange awoke old feelings that I feared Michael was gay. I didn’t want to put myself totally in another human being, just so he could discover the female gender did not sexually interest him 5-10 years down the way. I mean, look at Fran Drescher.

He and I got into it outside the Venice house, on a porch covered in cigarette butts.

“Why did you go up to his hotel room?”

“There is no other place to go to in Culver City ... it is a strip mall. Everything was closed.”

“You knew what you are doing.”

“No, it wasn’t like that.”

“You aren’t even sorry. You don’t even apologize.”

“I don’t think I did anything wrong... I mean, the kiss was wrong. But going up to his room, no.”

“You don’t think you did anything wrong by going up to his room?”


“How can you be this naive?”

“I am not. I mean, my intention wasn’t to go up there and fool around. I told you that. There is no where else we could go. The school was closed. The mall was closed.”

“We have to break up.”


“It’s over. I can’t be with anyone who doesn’t think that’s wrong.”

Back and forth.

Then suddenly he was gone.

He left and took a bus back to Glendale. I texted: “Come back” but (apparently) his phone died.

The next morning, my eyes were even more puffy, I was even more tired and even more confused. There was a sudden liberation with Michael breaking up with me. Partly because I was free to focus on school and not worry about some high school emotional drama back home. I hated him for breaking up mid-residency. Partly, I was liberated because I was free to explore my relationship with Huck without guilt. Those were incentives, but I never took it seriously. I never really thought he would break up with me, and for a very simple reason ... because he had promised he wouldn’t.

After the bulk of my lectures, I saw on Facebook that he changed his relationship status. This may sound juvenile to most, why did it bother me so much .... well, because it acknowledged the break in front of our family and friends without a sober discussion. That still bothers me. It was the first time I thought of him as 23.

I called him to explain that I thought it was immature and we should discuss. He asked what there was to discuss. It was infuriating. How was I expected to go in circles in the middle of GOD DAMN RESIDENCY!? I was supposed to be focusing on my studies and my boyfriend was shaking the boat. OK, I rocked the boat, but he was flipping it over to beat me to the punch. He didn’t like that I was sleeping away from home, he didn’t like that I was so invested in something he wasn’t at all involved with ... he didn’t like that I was involved with a community that included Huck. I get it. I really do. At the end of the day, though, it became apparent that I was intended to turn my attention from my school to Michael and I resented him for it. Maybe, I still do in a way.

So what if I kissed Huck? So what if I waltzed up to his hotel room? We didn’t fuck. I thought about him. I spoke about him. I was mostly involved in my studies. All in all, I was working through shit ... and though I don’t expect Michael to wait at home with brownies ready and laundry folded, I needed the space. We (Michael and I)  JUST fell in love. We JUST moved in together. All I really wanted was space to study. And even though Huck was a threat to my focus, he wasn’t interfering with my education. Somehow, Michael was ... maybe because it was homebase, maybe because the relationship was stronger ... either way, there had to have been a more graceful leave than posting it on Facebook.

I called while I was driving my car.

“We need to talk,” I said.

“Talk about what?” Michael said, distanced, cold. It just wasn’t what I had anchored myself to. I will admit I am needy, I am strange, unpredictable, at times selfish, but part of the reason I invested in Michael is believing that he wouldn’t leave. He had become Huck. He had become Abe. He had become all the others.

“I will stay and take care of the dogs. That’s fine, don’t worry about that, but it’s over,” he said.  And it less than 2 minutes, our phone conversation was over ... just like the others.

My first thought was his younger brother. I recently friended him on Facebook and Michael’s mother texted to say she thought it was a great gesture and she couldn’t wait to meet me. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to lose another family.

At that point, I did what any self-destructive fuckhead would do ... I texted Huck that I was available and we should meet. We made a date for that night and I showed up to his hotel room, showered, shaved and ready for anything.

ep 2

When I showed up, he was already into a plastic container of vodka. He poured me a glass and filled it with water. I lay on the bed, while he sat in the corner chair and listened to the Michael drama as I lay on the bed. Huck was patient and occasionally responded, knowing he was putting in his time with the talk before a sure thing.

“This is stupid. He is going to come back,” I said, looking at my phone. No messages. I threw it at the wall and it landed in a pile of Huck’s clothes on the floor. “I hate him!” I screeched.

“He is upset because you aren’t reacting the same way you did with me. He read the blog and wants to know you feel the same way about him that you did about me,” he said.

“I DO feel the same way,” I snapped. Then there was a silence.

“You know what I mean ...” he said, taking a sip.

“You never wrote a poem about me,” I said.

“Not one that you saw,” he said, tilting his head to the side, softening his eyes.

I was sloppy. My vodka and waters were doubling his, and I felt my cheeks burn as my drink lit a fire down the back of my throat into my stomach.

“How would you like it if I fucked you and came inside of you?” he asked, staring at into me. We were still sitting apart from each other. I blushed and then was hit with a rush of fear. He scared me. My fantasy was always to let Huck come inside of me. I played it over in my mind a thousand times.  To feel the moment where the shaft shudders and slowly stops moving. Still. The sloppy, soft kiss while he was still inside of me, as the blood raced out of his cock and he fell out of me while still in his arms. The fantasy was a common one over the summer. It is what I wanted, and now that I was on the pill it was possible. Those fantasies stopped with Michael, though and the total recall was jarring. I didn’t know how to connect with it now.

I was embarrassed that I was spotting. I wasn’t sure what disease he may have collected in Wisconsin. Michael would never get over it and then it would really be over. All those thoughts spun through my head. The biggest one, the hovering thought that took my breath away, was fear. Huck paralyzed me.

He picked up on my hesitance and grew softer. He always alternated between soft and hard with me, waiting to see what I responded to, maybe to sculpt himself into my object of desire. He and I are very much alike. He lay down next to me on the bed and put his head on the pillow. I said stupid things you only say after three glasses of vodka on an empty stomach like: “You aren’t in love with me.”


“I feel intimate with you,” he said, through a wall of crumpled pillows and sheets.

“More than other girls?”

“I feel closer to you than other girls.”

We touched. He was warm and soft, sliding my hand down his torso was like gripping the edge of a wet, swimming pool. He climbed on top of me and pulled his erect penis out of his pants and I held it, squeezing it a little, feeling its length and weight in my hand, staring at him. I don’t remember kissing him. Of course, anything beyond the moment I was holding his cock in my hand, frozen with fear, gets hazy from here on out.

Love in a Hand

Apparently, he tried to seduce me and I said, “Why would I ever sleep with you?” and “You disgust me.” I don’t remember it, but Huck’s impression of me the next day seemed so spot on,  I have to believe him.

“Why don’t we go across the street and get a sandwich?” he said.

“No. You can get one for me and I will wait here,” I said.

“You really need to eat something. Why don’t we go together?”

“No, because you won’t let me back in,” I said.

“You are absolutely right, I won’t let you back in.”

Jesus. Writing this now, I kind of laugh, but can you imagine a drunk performing a sit down protest in your hotel room after rejecting you? What a fucking nightmare. I was so tanked, I don’t remember his escort out of the hotel as he tried to lead me across the street to the mall for food. I threatened to drive and then realize, as I was pulling out my keys, that I was too drunk to drive.

To Poor decisions

“Forget it! I will call Michael!” I declared, and crawled into the backseat of my car to nap until Michael showed up.

Huck let himself into the driver’s side and sat in the front street yelling, “I could have taken you to get something to eat! Then I could get you a cab home. I can do it!”

“Forget it!” I said disgusted. “You would let me drive drunk!”

“No, I wouldn’t. You’re crazy!” he said.

“Me? HA!” I said. My cell phone rang, casually tossed in the passenger side. Huck checked the phone and handed it to me with his head turned away. “It’s your husband.”

On the phone, I slurred through instructions and heard Michael promise to be there as soon as possible. “He’s on his way!” I said.

Huck left. I felt my head spin into a vodka haze and then the car door opened again. Huck got back in the car. “Why are you doing this? Why are you making it so difficult?” I laid there for awhile as he let himself in and out of my car to yell at me. Finally, I got out of the car and we screamed at each other in the Sheraton Hotel parking lot. Even in my stupor, I was aware we may be approached by security, but they ever came.

“Why are you here? Why are you still here? You’re insane. You are mentally off! You aren’t my boyfriend and you never were my boyfriend, so why are you arguing with me like one!?” I screamed.

“You’re the crazy one.”

“I would have had intercourse with you, but you had to kick me out for a sandwich!” I yelled.

“You rejected ME!”

“YOU rejected ME!”

“You’re crazy,” he said.

“You are insane. I mean ... really ... out of your mind,” I said.

Crazy GnR

Michael appeared from a cab parked just inside the hotel parking lot. In that moment, it hit me that he paid at least $40 in cab fare to make it all the way out to Culver City from Glendale. I felt guilty and stupid almost instantly. Michael handed the driver money and he bounced his way towards us. Huck saw him and cut off his sentence immediately to walk away. They passed each other and exchanged something mildly polite.

Michael cooed in my ear and got me back in the car. As we drove off, it became apparent who the crazy one really was ... me. I can tell you that I hadn’t really eaten that day, I recently started birth control pills and was hormonally off-balance, or maybe that I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in over a week. I could tell you all those things, but I don’t know why the switch went off in me right then. I started screaming that I hated my parents and I hated myself. I lay flat on my belly with my legs extended into the front cab of the car, kicking like a toddler having a tantrum. “I hate them! I HATE THEM!” and then I would growl until my voice cracked. “I want to die ... I don’t want to live anymore ... I just want it to stop..” I cried.

Michael reached back to keep my legs from kicking, “I need you to calm down, ok? Can you calm down for me?”

“No ...” I cried. I stopped from exhaustion for a few minutes then resumed the kicking and screaming. 

Everything I carried with me from August, my parents disapproval and general intolerance of my personality and lifestyle, having my things thrown on the lawn, having to live with an old man who thought I would become his lover and caretaker ... the stress ... all that stress and sadness foamed and spilled out of me like bile. I haven’t had a night like that since. It was insane and unmanageable and inconsiderate to both men, but I think I really just needed to have it out with my mind.

peace love rescue

“Let’s get you something to eat,” Michael said, pulling over to an all night liquor store.

“I want to kill myself,” I said.

“Come on, let’s go in and get you something,” he said.

Wandering through the aisles, I remember the fluorescent lights burning open my eyes, a few sedate Hispanics, curious about why I was crying and feeling relieved the place was almost empty because I didn’t trust myself. “Here, why don’t we get you some water?” Michael said, softly.

“I already had plenty of water ... with my vodka,” I said.

He chuckled a little and that made me smile. “Ok, and some chips or something? What do you want? You will feel better once you eat. I promise, baby, come on, eat something.”

“Oh, you would like that, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you just love it if I ate something and got fat.” He laughed again.

A white guy at the counter turned to me and asked, “Did he cheat on you? Is that what is going on?”
“Of course he did. They Alllllllll know him at the sorority house, don’t they, Michael? Tiffany, and Amber, and Thiessan?” I charged.

“Fuck, man,” the guy said, tilting his head as if to offer his condolences to Michael for getting caught. “Good luck.”

“OK,” Michael chimed in his nasally, Midwest accent, “Let’s just buy what we need and get out of here.”

I walked outside and stared at the traffic. I saw a bus coming and stepped up to the curb. It was a dark place, really fucking dark. I counted the seconds until the bus would accelerate through that intersection. Michael came up behind me and grabbed my elbow, “Are you thinking of jumping in front of that bus?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I should just do everyone a fucking favor and disappear.”

Man jumps in front of CTA bus Chicago South Loop

“I don’t want you to disappear. I love you. Come on, have some chips,” he said, opening the bag and munching on them in front of me like I was a dog. It worked, I grabbed a chip or two and felt the salt expand in vodka on my tongue.

“Why don’t I get us a hotel room for the night? Does that sound good? You can just relax and go to school in the morning,” he said. He was so calm about it all. I was broken like a lost, little girl. Here was a man, almost 12 years younger than me, leading me back home, becoming the adult.  I wiped my nose on my coat sleeve and nodded.

“Yeah?” he said, in that casual, cute accent. “Ok, let’s go back to the car and get a room.”

He drove me to a hotel in Marina del Rey, the only room available was the Penthouse, and he got it for us. I wouldn’t stop talking about Huck. “I didn’t mean to hurt him. He asked me, and I said I loved you. I love you. I don’t want to hurt him. I hope he doesn’t think I hurt him.”

“Huck will be fine,” Michael said.

“I love you ... I had to tell him I love you,” I rambled.

Michael brought me water and undressed me. He tucked me into the bed and made love to me. All the time, I wondered if this was some mad device to get him back. It is almost too shitty of an excuse for me to swallow, but maybe it’s true. I wanted both men but I was fucking up, I was fucking up big and getting lost in the midst of it. As we made love, I bled so much it soaked through the mattress and I felt horrible. Through the morning, Michael comforted me. “The housekeeper will be fine. Huck will be fine. I will be fine. Just sleep, please.”

I slept for an hour or two. I woke up and lay there next to him, wondering what I put him through, what I was doing, and finally relieved that intense self-loathing had left me with the night. The dawn was orange and breaking through the curtains. I wasn’t hung-over and I couldn’t figure out why. Huck later said I drank triple the amount of vodka he did. I was too emotional to fuck around on Michael. I was too emotional to be with Michael. I was too God damn emotional. School started at 9am. I took a shower with Michael and tried not to cry in front of him.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cheap Wine, Expensive Martinis and Messy Reunions: Residency

It was early December now. My boyfriend, Michael, was gathering his things from a thrashed Victorian house in Pasadena to bring over to my place. After living with several computer nerds, the type who left food out to rot and tangled surge protectors across the living room floor, for a couple years, Michael was planning on moving in with me and Frank December 17th.

Love is bracelet

My writing school runs an unusual program. We study, read and write from all over the world and usually discuss and share online. At the start of each semester, we all fly, drive or bus in to campus for 10-days of intensive workshops, lectures and parties. It is very intense, and to make it more intense, it would be the first time I would see Huck.

Huck is a tall, lanky, fair-skinned boy of about 27 from Baraboo, Wisconsin. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Wide eyes. His chin narrow. His ears big. He looks like a child that hit an unexpected growth spurt. Usually, he shuffles down the sidewalk in a sock hat, open flannel and back-pack so heavy it bends him forward like a cattail. He was in the Poetry program when I met him during the June 2012 residency, earlier that year. We flirted. We fucked. We fell. And in a hotel room with vodka, beer, and two computers we wrote, made love, laughed together, ate together and made a pact that we would try to make it last after we left residency.

Cartoon drawing heart

You know the end of these kind of stories. Two fuck-ups like us, it never could have worked. He went home to Wisconsin and fucked another girl. I went home to Washington state to live with my parents and cry over it. We both drank. We both texted. Huck less and less. Me more and more. And then it stopped and I felt totally alone. I was in a rural town in Washington state, without any friends, with a broken car, all the while relying on my parents for companionship, comfort and support. My parents were never good with the parental side of being parents. They recoil, explode, shut down. The more uncomfortable it was with my parents, the more I realized they were living somewhere between senile and psychotic, and the more I drank. Thank God, all of that that ended, too. I would rather not write about it now. Those cuts are still burning.

I wanted him to save me. Whether or not Huck could save me, I don’t know, but he certainly didn’t try. He disappeared.

Hearts and brick wall

I came back to Los Angeles to start over, but with a little help from my friends. And with a little sunshine, a little love and laughter, I thrived again. Huck and I rarely were in contact. There was a conversation here and there on Gchat. He liked my blog. I wished him well. The more I healed, the more I hated him. No... hated is the wrong word. The more I resented him. I needed to in part to let him go. More importantly, I needed to remind myself that the people I was drawing into my life, the ones who discarded me, who reminded me of my parents, those people needed to be removed from my psyche permanently. Whether Huck fits into some greater pattern of dysfunction or not, he was rolled up in my summer back in Washington. I wanted to dump those memories; the parents, the house, the desperation and the heartbreak. I wanted to begin again.

I did. I was reborn. I was happy. But now, I was about to see him again ... all over again. And I was scared. The campus is small- of the four classes attending residency at one time, there are about 30 people per class. People would say, “Can’t you just avoid him?” I guess I could try, but we would be in the same room several times over the course of 10 days. And did I want to? I avoided thinking about him. I had a great boyfriend. Michael adored me. I kept Huck’s doors closed, but Michael kept asking what I was going to do. “It is just hard. Every time I bring up Huck you get this far away look in your eyes and it scares me,” he said.

“I don’t know. I just can’t even imagine seeing him again, I have no idea what it will be like,” I answered.

The next morning, we both just kind of laid there, side by side in bed. “I have already made up my mind that you are going to sleep with Huck,” he said.

“What? No I won’t.”

“Just do what you need to do. After residency, December 17th, we will look at it again. We can be in a committed relationship and I will move in. I am even putting it in my phone. There. December 17th. Feelings talk.”

Picture 028

A night or two before residency, my phone buzzed. It was Huck. “Are you going to be civil this week?”
My roommate Frank was coaching me from the sidelines. “Don’t answer! Don’t answer!”

I slowly typed. “Of course.”

“That’s the right answer! That’s the right answer!” cheered Frank.

I was working on a manuscript on the couch while Frank watched sports from his lawn chair, placed all alone, in the middle of the living room, in front of the TV. The volume was low and there was a mellow kind of harmony about our two worlds. My phone buzzed again:

“Good. We'll have to get a drink, or smoke up if you can get hands on some,” Huck wrote.

I read the message, screamed and threw the phone across the room like it burned my fingers.

“What are you doing? You should be enjoying this. He loves you. He is crazy about you. Relax,” Frank said, waiting for the next commercial break before smoking the cigar rolling between his fingers.

Why was I so anxious about this one person? This one fucking hipster from Milwaukee. We only knew each other for a week. Just a week. It was a fling. That’s all.

I retrieved my phone and carefully typed, “I don't know about that. Lets leave it at civil for now.”
“Understood,” blipped back from the screen.


For better or worse, I told Michael that I wanted to be in a committed relationship now. There was no point in waiting until after residency, I knew he was the man I wanted to be with.

The day before class, I had gone on a rampage at the local Forever 21. Sascha gave me a gift card a long time ago, and I used every last dollar (even a little more) to look as cute as possible for the first day of class. Ripped jeans. Off the shoulder tops. A purple vinyl jacket with sweatshirt sleeves and a hoodie.

Michael drove me to school in the 1996 Saturn I just bought from a friend of a “writer” I met. It took a little over an hour to get to campus from Glendale. When we finally pulled near the campus parking structure, I hyperventilated.

“I can do this. I can do this. I am smart. I deserve to be here. I am smart,” I kept chanting.

Tears squeezed out from the corners of my eyes and the air burned my lungs as I panted through the mantra. My hands were shaking, so I threw them in the air to straighten them out. I was having an anxiety attack.

“You are smart,” Michael said, touching my back. “One of the smartest people I know. You do deserve to be here.”

The program was fairly exclusive. Students complain, but only 6 or so applicants are invited into my genre (Non-Fiction) every semester. There was a waiting list. And after studying film for 15 years, I was way behind on my knowledge of literary basics like modern books or even specific rules with regards to grammar and comma splices. My writing experience, up to this point, was only this blog and a few screenplays. The other students taught English or authored published books, sometimes both.

“I can do this ... I can do this ...” I said, closing my eyes, wiping my face, breathe in ... breathe out. I wiped my nose and looked at Michael. “I can do this.”

love never fails

He hugged me and I stepped out of the vehicle. I climbed up a steep, concrete staircase along the edge of campus and felt my knees wobble. A couple smiled as they passed me on the way down. I stopped and then put on my act. “Pretend to be confident.” I smiled, bounced and casually found my friends.

In the program, there was my friend from Oregon- a tall, kind of sizable lesbian named Cat. She is very fair, with blue eyes and milky white skin. I bet in winters she turns blue. Her short, blonde hair and thundering presence often confuse people. She claims at least once a day she is mistaken for a man. It is kind of hard to believe with a rack like that. One of her breasts is bigger than my entire head.

George is a gorgeous, sculpted, eloquent homosexual. He is the closest thing to a perfect human being I have ever met. Always kind, considerate. Always smart and witty. Always wearing the perfect colors to compliment his carob skin, with the scarf thrown over his shoulder just so.

They are both brilliant. Both talented. Both unmistakable in a crowd. And as I climbed those concrete stairs, I found the bagels and then I found George & Cat- slipping between them with a little sarcasm, occasionally checking out of conversation to daydream or look for Huck.

The first time I saw Huck was in a lecture called “The Literary Marketplace”. I walked in and found Cat right away. She towered over me and spoke excitedly about this or that to a few other students. Through the corner of my eye, I saw the back of that blonde head of fine hair. His yellow hair is the kind that breathes light, onto lazy sunflowers, through glass pitchers of lemonade, the moment of yellow before white. We sat down for the lecture, but I couldn’t stop staring at the back of his head. I wondered if he knew I was in the room, two rows behind and over the aisle.


People around the room asked questions, and we all turned to look at them. If I turned back, I caught the curve of his chin, the rim of his glasses, just before he swung back around to face the front of the classroom. I tried to concentrate and ignore him. Everyone said ignore him. I took notes, I focused on the presentation, but that yellow light flared in the corner of my eye and I gave into staring at him. Even in the moment, I wasn’t looking for anything. I wasn’t trying to catch something or figure anything out. I just had to wrap my head around months of pining over someone who was now roughly six feet away.

After class, I squeezed through the wall of people piling up behind the first exit. Cat was trying to lead me through, but I patiently waited to leave, knowing my ass was in plain sight of Huck.

The second time I saw him, I was sitting between Cat and George in the student lounge. “I just don’t know if I should say something or ignore him ...” I vented.

“Just be polite and say hello. You are about to get your chance,” George said.

Huck walked up to the door of the lounge and looked in. Cat, George and I all turned to look at him. Awkward moment. Then he walked away.

I felt bad. There was always this tension. Would I run into him? Did everyone know about us? He was alone most of the time. He wasn’t as social a creature as I was. Walking around campus, the looming anxiety of bumping into him got to me. So I emailed him at the end of the first day:

“I think we should have a drink to cut the tension.
I don't have your number anymore.”

He wrote back immediately, “Alright.” We exchanged numbers. Typing back and forth, little sentences, standing in the lobby on campus with my friends, he suddenly appeared. He was strutting now, confident, smiling even. He tilted his head to the side, his back still bent forward to roll the weight of his backpack back and forth. He kicked his chin up and smiled at me. My friend turned towards me with her upper lip snarling in disgust.

We all waited for the free dinner opening night of residency. We were all poor and desperate for cold cuts, bad lasagna and cheap wine in little plastic cups. The line for food was out of the room and down the hall. We patiently filed in, as I chatted happily with a few other students around me. Then I saw him sitting at a table across the room. He shoved a bit of food off his fork into his mouth, winked at me and then casually looked away. My heart started pumping double the oxygen and blood to my head. I felt dizzy.


He wasn’t traditionally good-looking. He just fascinated me. I can’t say why for certain, some people just capture you.  My only hope to completely avoid anything complicated with him was if he was disinterested in me, or interested in another girl in the program.

We ate on opposite sides of the room. After the dinner, he passed me in the hallway, cupped his hand over the edge of my elbow for a few seconds and said, “I will call you later.” Before I knew it, he was gone. I turned to my friend, extended my elbow and said “Can you wipe this off for me?”

As the night went on, everyone went home and Huck hadn’t called. I texted him.

He wrote: “I am not drunk enough to see you” or something like that.

“Let’s just get it out of the way,” I wrote back. I walked down to the same Sheraton where we fell for each other, a few blocks from the school. He was staying there again. I was so nervous, I felt my muscles tighten over bone. I was walking sideways to avoid bumping into things. I straightened my hair and face in the Hotel lobby and walked into the bar. He wasn’t there yet. I waited. I thought about the pain. I just needed to remember the pain. I hated him. I despised him. I wanted him to get an extraordinarily bad case of genital herpes. Wait a minute, why was I here? Why was I seeing him? I should leave. I should get up and leave right now.

I sat still.

Then he walked in, bouncing a bit on his feet. He suddenly slipped into the seat across from me, his knee and foot tapping nervously. We ordered drinks and waded through some awkward small talk. How are you? 
Yeah. Good.

Somewhere early in conversation, awkwardly, the word “sorry” fell out of his mouth.

“Sorry for everything or ...” I said, swishing my weak vodka martini around.

“Sorry for everything. I knew when I went to a motel with a 21-year-old while I was still with my last girlfriend that I was doing it all over again. I know it is something I am doing. And when I destroyed that relationship I felt almost as bad as I did with y- .... are you ok?” he asked.

My head was turned. “I am seeing spots.”

“I saw some of those texts I sent last summer when you texted me tonight, and they were pretty ugly. I am sorry I did that.”

The waiter asked if we wanted another drink. I nodded. “Yes, but I need a strong martini. I want it to burn the back of my throat.” The waiter nodded, kind of amused or maybe curious, then slinked away.

“Anyway, I obviously have some kind of pattern ...” he continued.

His voice made me sick. I needed to be drunk for this. I couldn’t take it, whatever hole he dug in me was still wide open and I couldn’t close it, not in front of him over a cocktail table in a hotel bar.

“So ... did you get a haircut before residency?” I asked.

“Yeah, my Hitler Youth haircut,” he said. It was a close shave with bangs. His hair was so blonde it would look white on black and white film. “I went to the barber and had to ask for Boardwalk Empire meets Mad Men. You can’t just say Hipster in Baraboo. I should just ask for ‘Faggot’.”

hitler youth haircut

I laughed. He was still funny. The moment I warmed to him was somewhere around the second martini, still not strong enough to fire up my mouth like a bottle of Listerine, but enough to cauterize my wounds for an hour. A group of girls were laughing at the bar behind him. Huck put on his over-the-top gay voice, “They are really loosening up over there!” he said. I laughed. The release felt good, all the tension, all the wait, all the worry just slipped out of me and we sank into our seats.

I was checking my phone. “Are you still with Abe?” Huck asked. Abe is my ex.

“No. Not at all. I have only seen him once since I moved back to LA,” I said.

“I thought you said you were back with him.”

“No ...” I checked my phone again. Michael was picking me up but he wasn’t answering my texts. “My boyfriend has my car, I am waiting for him to pick me up but he isn’t answering.”

I knew mention of the word “boyfriend” would kind of kill the mood. Not because we were flirting but just because it put rules on the night, almost immediately. I felt Huck lean back a little, he seemed more uncomfortable all of a sudden.

He ordered another drink. I think I did as well. The bill was big, too big for a writer who just quit his job before flying out of Wisconsin. He made a suggestion that we go back to his room for cheaper drinks. I said I didn’t think it would be a good idea.

A happy, black couple at a nearby table engaged us a little. “Where are you from?” they asked.
“He is from Louisiana,” I answered. Huck hung his head and twisted his smile. “I am not from Louisiana,” he muttered.

“Oh, Louisiana!” they said warmly. “What part?”

“The part saved from Hurricane Katrina,” I said.

Huck stood up and promptly paid the bill, then made quick strides to the elevator. I put my bag over my shoulder and looked at my phone. No word yet from Michael. I followed Huck up to the hotel room.
We walked into the room, one lamp in the corner was on. The lights outside in the night shimmered through the curtain like mutated stars. I sat and waited for another beverage, then picked up the book on his desk. “War & Peace?” I smirked, “You are just trying to impress me.”

“I thought I would do some reading while I was here,” he said, coolly.

The evening gets sloppy right around here. He definitely tried to seduce me, and I drew it out and pulled away to tease him as much as possible. I remember his shirt off, his legs on either side of my torso as I lay flat and drunk on his bed. I waited until the last moment to dodge his kiss.  “I am not going to play these games,” he said. He teetering back and away from me.

I had told him about Michael and his expectation that we sleep together. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was playing with fire. Huck and I were drunk. We argued. I left the room, I paced down the hallway and back, then waited outside the door less than a second before the door opened for me. I walked back into the room, threw my bag on the ground and collapsed on the bed.

Cartoon of couple at night

I kept him at a finger’s distance for all but one moment. One moment in a kiss where you don’t remember anyone leaning in, where there was no tension or runway to the collision. We just kissed. He consumed me. My tongue was numb from too many cigarettes and I immediately regretted all the anxious chain-smoking. It may be the last time I taste him. My fingertips drizzled down the sides of his ribcage. A drum stick tattooed on each hip. My hands wrapped around his skin and I remembered how soft he was. He was warm and inviting like a clump of my mother’s skin cream. So soft, you could barely feel it on you.

Where the night put us at different moments, I can’t say for certain in what order. I remember we were standing at the door and he said, “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know ...”


“That song ...? Nevermind,” he said.

“That awful pop song?” I asked. “And I thought you were a Poetry major!”

Michael was texting me now, and I asked him to wait for me. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was drunk and in the thick of memories, trying to understand how to put this love to bed. Huck and I argued more. We circled each other. Then we would lay on our stomachs.

“Where is your ass?” Huck asked, staring at collapsed jean pockets over my behind.

“It doesn’t exist.”

Between dodging kisses and dragging out unpleasant memories, I collapsed on him, crying over my parents. They had kicked me out of their house in the summer, dragging my things on the front lawn and unleashing my dogs to the night.  They have not made contact with me since. He held me as tears and snot ran out of my face all over his bare chest and shoulder. I wept like a 5-year-old, occasionally screaming into the pillow under his head. I even kicked my foot up and down into the bed.

“Now, here is the real rejection,” he said, holding me close.

“I hate my parents. I hate them!” and I kicked, and cried then stopped.

He put the Rolling Stones on YouTube for me. Per my request, a 1964 performance of “Not Fade Away”. I gurgled through my tears and turned my head quietly towards the screen, then I felt better. I even started singing.

Rolling Stones 64

It was psychotic. It was intimate. It was ugly and messy and loud. It was a perfect reunion.

I texted Michael to pick me up, then saw Huck logged into Facebook on his open laptop and posted a status update while he was in the bathroom. “Sorry for fucking over all the women in my life.” Then I left.

I would have to face Michael after all of this ... then go back to school at 9am.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cowboy Confidence

Cocaine. Our very first introduction, when I was an adolescent, was through various scenes in the film “Goodfellas”. I believed it was a white powder that made women insane, tearing apart their bedroom closets shortly before they broke down in tears.


Later in life, I heard it was good for porn actors. Around Hollywood I have been told about casting calls for background actors who show up to a house in North Hollywood, stroll into a garage full of people in bathrobes and are asked if they want a line before greeted with a “hello”. Stevie Nicks was forced to rebuild her nasal passageway from so much drug use. It burned a dime-sized hole through her cartilage.

Once,on an internet date, I toured the music studio where “Rumors” was recorded. “There used to be punch bowls of coke laid out right here,” my date explained. I tried to imagine that ... punch bowls of cocaine.


In an interview with Oprah, Stevie says, “It turned people into nutcases ... Mick and I never would have had an affair had we not had a party and all been completely drunk, messed up and coked out. [We] ended up being the last two people at the party. So guess what? It’s not hard to figure out what happened -- and what happened wasn’t a good thing. It was doomed. It was a doomed thing, caused a lot of pain for everybody, led to nothing. I’m like, ‘Gee, could you have just laid off the brandy and the coke and the pot for two days?’”

It all sounds pretty negative. The word may conjure up images of Lindsay Lohan, Scarface and clips from Charlie Sheen’s meltdown. There is a flip side to what you see on television. Cocaine is an emotional drug. You feel like opening up about your past, you feel oddly connected to the other people in the room, there is a strange kind of spiritual shake to snorting blow. It is when you cross over to the compulsion of it, that is when you start to lose. It usually happens around 3 or 4am, when you know you are running out because you have tripled the amount of coke with each snort. You start licking tabletops and debit cards. Around 5am, you wonder if buying more is a good idea.


My roommate likes to blend crushed xanax into his lines, which can dull the edge. Let me rephrase, it may dull the edge. The last time I shared coke with him, he was blending xannies, slurring and still staring at the lines on the table until it was his turn. I made sure to do half the amount than everyone else with each turn, and was the only one bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the morning, already in shorts and a pigtail, ready for a dogwalk before everyone crawled out of their corners. I am not always that disciplined.


After Thanksgiving, Frank, my roommate, had a birthday. I baked a cake. We were all so broke, Frank ended up financing most of his own party. He is the only one of us not scraping pennies to fill a quarter tank of gas. He was a good sport about it though. The coke was stationed in two spots, privately in my room and privately in Frank’s walk-in closet. Only a few party-attendees were invited. The girls mostly. It was also Michael, my boyfriend’s, first time.

He clicked into it a little bit too easily. He kept asking to go back to the room, constantly reminded of the lines waiting patiently for us on my dresser. I realized he could easily cross-over. His eyes turned black and he kept looking back to my bedroom door. Next month it would be his bedroom door, too. We were moving in together, though we didn’t know each other all that well. One month before, we started dating hot and heavy, and Michael felt swept up like I have before with others ... but now I was more cautious, more skeptical. It seems the less I expect the more I gain in return. He was good to me, the sex was great and I liked him. Did I love him? It was hard to really reflect on our relationship, the bond, when I was in survival mode- desperate to make rent, desperate to get a working car, desperate to prepare for school starting the following week.  Library books were stacked on the small kitchen table. My laptop was in the kitchen. My socks and glasses of tea and water sprung up out off the furniture; the bathroom counter, the shower, the empty DVD rack (which is still empty).

Prepping for residency

I already felt that I had ruined Michael’s life. Since our first date in October, he lost his job, his car and iPhone ... his pet-sitting clients, a few possessions, most of his savings. As one of my cohorts at writing school once said, “Oh, you are that kind of girlfriend.”

Michael was never bitter. He insisted he was happy, and mentioned his mother was supportive of our relationship because she sensed he was happier than he had ever been. Only a 23-year-old would make such fantastic claim. I just turned to him, “Happier ever or just since another time you last remember?”
“Are you kidding me?” he said, “Happier than I ever could have imagined was possible.”

I believe Michael was living under a lot of heavy expectations up to this point. His mother, who believes he holds the most promise of her three boys. His bosses, who used guilt and pressure to motivate employees. He was trying to please everyone else because he hadn’t looked at things from a different angle yet; not as someone's son, but as a man.  Somehow, my attitude and lifestyle gave him permission to do whatever he wanted to do. Experiment with drugs. Yell at bad drivers. I call it “Cowboy Confidence”. He can get carried away and tell everyone off. After his former employer delayed his final paycheck by almost a month, he called and told them he was showing up and wouldn’t leave without a check in hand.  When he came home after the incident, he was bouncing on the soles of his feet, “I am on a warpath.” He told everyone exactly what he thought of them and I could see the fire lit in his eyes. Not to mention his paycheck in hand. Michael got the taste of freedom.

Now, he got the taste of cocaine. We all circulated around our little house as characters from Frank’s life dropped in for birthday wishes. Happy Birthday was sung. Candles were blown. I danced with my little dog Brad in the kitchen, cradling him in my arms, swinging him back and forth to the music. He lay back, completely trusting that I would never drop him. The crowd started chanting, “Go Brad! Go Brad! Go Brad!”

Brad at Franks party

Outside in the smoker’s circle, Alia, her boyfriend Ryan, Michael and I all gathered together, mumbling nonsense and declaring secrets. “You know what is great about unprotected sex,” I said, wishing Frank’s friend Jim would go back inside, “Feeling the semen drip out of you when you are alone, somewhere else later in the day.” Alia nodded with a kind of nobility. Jim, a New York stand-up comic, pulled out a notepad, occasionally making notes for his next show. Frank hovered somewhere in the background.

“You need to have protected sex,” Alia said, “And (she pointed at Michael) as the man, it is your responsibility to make sure it is safe sex.” I suddenly felt regret for mentioning it at all. A few weeks ago, after my period, Michael and I continued to have unprotected sex.

“Did you cum?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he moaned.

I slapped him in the face. “What the fuck, man?” I asked.

“What? You told me to.”

“I was talking dirty … you weren’t actually supposed to do it,” I said, getting dressed.

“Well, I thought you knew what you were doing.”

“I am not on birth control.”

“I know, but I thought, hey it’s [StarFire]. She knows what she is doing.”


I took the morning after pill, then started taking the pill a week later. This threw my menstrual cycle on a loop and left me in a bloodless limbo for several weeks. After a couple weeks of maybe, maybe nots ... I was lucky to make it out motherless. However, the surge of hormones made me crazy for a good month.

CokenWoman in Goodfellas

As it turns out, bragging about unprotected sex in social circles doesn’t make your opinion very popular. Perhaps, I was suffering from my own version of Cowboy Confidence. I will say that one-on-one, every person will agree unprotected sex, with all its risk and vulnerability, eclipses the condom any day.

A troupe of lesbians came in and occupied the living room, cooing over my dogs. It must have been around midnight when Michael and I sat with them and endured an interview about our relationship. In that moment of reliving our brief affair, I turned and saw him sitting on the couch. His eyes were a deep brown, glazed with puppy dog love and buried sadness from somewhere else. His beard was growing in. He looked back at me and my heart swelled. I was really falling in love with him. I could feel it now, after the champagne and cocaine suspended my body and her flinching affection, all doubts and broken hearts, all logic and sensibility, I felt that seed in my mind burst into a sprout. I reached out to caress his face in front of our audience.

“You guys are making me sick,” a girl said. I removed my hand, but never let go of the feeling. Not when I sobered up. Not when we suffered through our first fight. And still not now, as I write this.


Frank’s one single, straight female friend was there. I knew she suffered from alcoholism and a serious cocaine addiction, after all, she had money. As the evening went on, I saw her stumble around on heels, grabbing onto counters and tables to steady herself. She was in her forties and an actress, skinnier than she should be, wearing heavy make-up. “What is that song Alice in Chains does?” she slurred.

“Type in the lyrics and I can find it on YouTube,” I said over a passed joint.

“Type it where? I have never used this before.” I patiently showed her the search window in Google and watched her slowly type “Black Hole Sun”.

“Oh, that is Soundgarden!” I said.

“Right, Soundgarden. God, I am so stupid. Why am I so stupid? I hate it when I do things like this.”

“You aren’t stupid. You just mixed it up, that’s all. We all do that.” She stopped talking and I could feel the blades and shadows cutting her up on the inside. I felt sorry for her. Frank told me about their relationship. They watch football and hold each other. Sometimes he spends the night. “I know I am seeing her tonight because she has a date,” he once said. “If it goes bad she calls me, but what is worse is when it goes really well. Then she sabotages it somehow ... and calls me.”

Last week, I asked to use his scanner and he pulled out a photograph from the last scan. “What is this? Oh yeah ... this is [her] after she passed out on me. She never believes me so I took a picture.” And there she was, collapsed in brown hair, face down, as if she died.

I believe she is in love with Frank. To Frank, perhaps, he loves her for the sentiment. We all have fail safes in are back pocket. And we all want to be loved.

The evening passed through the house slowly. Around 3 or 4am, I started playing Rolling Stones and James Brown on my laptop and got a few people dancing. Jim watched. Because Jim just watched, Frank watched.  “This is a really good night. This kitchen is great right now,” Frank said.

Jim laughed, cool as always. “This is a great kitchen.” The two fondly echoed each other’s sentences. The drug made them one.

Outside, alone with Michael, he chattered through the drug. “You know what my favorite dinosaur is? The stegosaurus, because it reminds me a lot of me. You know, everyone criticizes it for being slow and stupid but it is just doing its thing. I don’t think I like cocaine, cocaine isn’t really my thing. Do you remember Shelley Duvall? Remember when she used to read those kids books on TV and then they put her in ‘The Shining’? Do they know how much that fucked up kids?”


I listened to him, occasionally laughing, trying to fight down my own thoughts and memories, kicking at the curtain in the back of my mind.

Inside the house, everyone was gone. “Puff the Magic Dragon” sung by Peter, Paul and Mary played on Pandora. Back on the couch, I sat on Michael’s lap. He kept chattering.  “This song is so sad. I love this song. It used to make me cry. Little Jackie Paper loved his imaginary friend and then he had to go away. Why did he have to go away? He loved him.” There was a moment of quiet between us, in the dark, as the harmonized voices serenaded the powder dripping down the back of our throats, turning to a thick syrup. Then Michael wept, and I held him.

Like I said, it is an emotional drug.

Jim and Frank took frequent smoking breaks. Jim with his spirits and percocets and Frank with his cigars and xanax.  Late in the night, closer to morning, I left Michael on the couch to play “My Funny Valentine”, threw a pillow on the floor in front of Michael’s feet, and sang it up to him. With big, black pupils he stared at me. Jim and Frank walked in and I could see plainly that Frank was agitated. So we went to the bedroom and made love.

Michael drew this for me
Michael drew this for me

When Michael passed out, I returned to the living room to finish my annotations for the semester. They were due that day. I stood in front of the kitchen table, typing, typing and typing. At 6am, the sun rose and Frank walked into the kitchen alone. “You are doing homework now? You can’t be serious?”

“Due today” I said, flatly, hunching down to peer into the screen. Reading. Re-reading. Making sure the drugs hadn’t scrambled my grammar or common sense. As soon as I pressed "send", Frank and I had a smoke.

“We have to talk. Now, when I moved in here, I thought I was moving in with a couple of artists. I didn’t think I was moving in with a young couple in love. I can’t stay here. I am not saying I am leaving now or anytime in the near future, but down the line, I think ...” he said.

“Before the lease is up in October?” I asked.

He nodded, with a fresh cigar hanging low but erect from his lower lip. “It isn’t that I don’t like Mike. I love Mike. He is a great kid.”

“He is so nice ...” I said.

“He is so nice, he is solid. I really like him. I just can’t live here with you two.” He paused. My head hung low. “I won’t pull a Gary and leave you hanging. I will find someone to rent out the room and take care of all that.”

“What about the cable!? It’s in my name and it is a year contract. I don’t watch TV!”

“Oh, I didn’t think about that ... maybe we can break the contract. I don’t know. We will figure it out later down the line, when it becomes more serious. I am fine for right now.”

I blew out a cloud of smoke. It slowly rose into the sky. “I just have to let these crises pass through me like a wall of water. The money, the car, the lease. I can’t control any of it so I just have to surrender to these moments,” I said. “That’s life, I guess.”

Tidal wave tsunami art

Frank looked as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. “Sometimes you say really profound things.”

“Great,” I said, dryly, sucking on my cigarette.

“God, feelings talk really works!” he said, cheerfully. Then he patted my shoulder. In that moment, I hated him. I despised him. No one was loyal. But as it is with everyone else I love, it soon passed. I just wanted everyone to be happy. And despite the huge reading list and all the preparation I should have done for school coming up, I spent those last few days before school troubleshooting and reviewing what the worst outcome could be with everything; with Frank, with Michael and with school.

I blew the coke and blood out of my nose, sent in my final paperwork and went back to work. That’s life, I guess.