Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rock N Roll Suicide

It was the night of the residency party. Six months ago, it was the night Huck and I finally consummated our flirtation. I was looking forward to going, mostly because I had more friends in the program this time around. Also because it was happening at the Culver Hotel, a very old and classic hotel in the center of a modernized shopping district. As far as I am concerned, it is the only classy thing about Culver City.

Exterior-Culver_Hotel-

I was still shaking off brunch with Huck. When we first saw each other, the morning after a public, drunk blow-out in the parking lot, I said, “Well, obviously you are in love with me. But we don’t need to speak of it.” He smiled, shaking his head. Though Huck may not be in love with me, I do believe his feelings are stronger for me than he admits. He thinks he is maintaining power. I think he is just a scared.

As we were walking back from lunch, he pulled something out of his pocket. “I have your hair in my pocket. I don’t know how it got there but it is definitely your hair.” In the moment, I was touched he was carrying it around in his pocket. Chemistry and friendship is a powerful cocktail. If I was going to honor my boyfriend, I knew I couldn’t be alone and drink with Huck anymore. I didn’t intend to sleep with him. I didn’t intend to kiss him. I just felt myself laughing, smiling, caring about my puffy eyes more than usual. I was always wondering if he would show up around the corner, humming that song … “See the way he walks down the street … watch the way he shuffles his feet …”

I would like to think of myself as a good girlfriend. I would like to think I had the best of intentions. We were playing with fire.

We texted that night. Was he coming to the party? Why did I have to care if he was coming? I was with Cat, another poet, much older and very sophisticated (someone who made me feel beautiful and funny) and a handful of others who collected in the lobby. The older poet, who we called The Silver Fox, bought my first drink. Vodka martini. It was brought to me in a shaker, and not having any experience with such a high-end presentation, I spilled it all over myself and the floor. The waitress accommodated me with another drink. I have been humiliated in public so many times, it doesn’t even phase me anymore. The burn on my lips was the first delicious welcome into the evening, and I forgot about the vodka wet on my pants and shirt.

dirty_vodka_martini


The party was upstairs. I hadn’t been up there before, well yes, once for a photo shoot with Lana but the pictures were lost before I could ever save them. Now there were students collecting in clumps around the corners. I have socialized with all kinds of awkward people before: prisoners, prostitutes, actors, comedians. Nothing is more awkward than trying to socialize with writers. We all prefer hiding behind our computers and books because it gives us proper preparation with what to say. The hard covers give us a special shield to protect us from insult and rejection, and if it penetrates, we can just cower down and cry with no one able to see.

Huck was up there with a few other classmen who were graduating. Some were cold to me, others were decent if I was sitting next to him, and some suddenly tried to be kind. I just needed to plug in my charger and heard Huck call out a joke about my exposed ass crack . I stood up and pulled up my pants. “Well … why are you looking?” I said in a voice, other than my own.

Another vodka martini found its way to me, compliments of The Silver Fox. He had won me over one late evening at the Roosterfish when all the Queers cleared after drinking their beers. “We would have had a great love affair if we met twenty years ago and were around the same age,” he said.

I smiled. Poets always know what to say to me. “Your hair is beautiful. It frames your face perfectly. But your eyebrows are your best feature, and you play with them when you are nervous,” he said. I don’t see the face men see when I look in the mirror. I see an awkward girl with a round face that doesn’t understand make-up. Shapeless with wrinkles now forming around the mouth and eyes. Odd eyes, like quarter moon windows. Eyebrows that don’t know how to be manicured. A smile that diminishes the upper half of my face when I smile.  I grew up believing I was ugly. For two years as a teenager, my acne was so grotesque I broke a hallway mirror and kicked a hole in the wall from disgust. Once, someone asked my boyfriend how he could stand to look at me. Now, I am qualified as a flirt, sometimes a slut or a deviant. Someone troubled or unfaithful. I am really just a little girl who wants to believe she is pretty too. I like myself best through other people’s eyes, that is why probably I never like being alone.

Me on Set for BH Cop Pilot

I was always aware of Huck in the room, but I made my respective circles. My comfort zone was to stick by the gays, but knowing I was already unpopular with some, especially the faculty, I tried putting myself out there, sipping on the olive juice and vodka for courage. Huck couldn’t help it, and ducked around the room, suddenly pulling up a chair across from me. I smiled under the rim of my glass.

This semester, there were a handful of women who were pregnant. We were all talking about how odd it was. I can’t think of a worse time to have a child than in the middle of a rigorous and time consuming creative writing program. New mothers were everywhere, the one in my class skipped this residency because motherhood was too demanding.

“I wonder about names,” a young woman said. Female writers brightened with all the names we store away for our favorite characters, those kept safe in books on the shelf and those who have yet to be printed.
Huck was sitting across from me. “How about Huck?” I said. Now, audience, you must know by now that Huck is an alias for the real poet. He, of course, knew his alias already having read my blogs for the last 6 months and kicked his head back with a smile. The girls were none the wiser.

“Huck . .. I like that. And it is never used,” they said.

I made my way to George, sitting by the window. He was talking about Miguel, the Hispanic teacher who I had my first interest in last residency, and how he was flirting with a new student.  It irked me. Though Miguel didn’t outright reject me, he never looked me in the eyes when we spoke and wouldn’t hang out with me when I came back to LA. It is juvenile and nonsense, but that is the psychosis of a a rejection phobic. If you don’t laugh at my joke, you have rejected me.The conversation stalled and Huck found his way in the sliver of a seat between George and myself. We got on the topic of the night before, and how I got drunk in his hotel room. Everyone thought we fucked. There was more innocence at play than everyone really could understand.

I laughed at Huck. Loud. Big mouth. Hair down. He called me Julia Roberts. I thanked him. George said he didn’t think it was a compliment.

“So she is laying there, with my cock in her hand and she said, ‘I would never sleep with you … you disgust me …,” Huck said. I laughed again.

George shot up from his seat. “You two need to fuck,” and then he walked away.

“But you didn’t hear the rest of the story …,” Huck said.

I put my arm around Huck and kissed him hard on the cheek. I think that is what happened. I don’t remember the taste of his skin or any drizzle of romance. I only remember he leaned back laughing. He looked happy. His drink tipped back and all of a sudden we felt easy, like we did the first time in June. Easier than last June. There was just the case of the man I loved, walking my dogs, waiting, hoping I wouldn’t be unfaithful. I took another drink.

On the other side of the bar, champagne glasses were being filled. A good foot of the bar was covered in glass and bubbles. “Who is this for?” I asked the bartender. He was an actor, I could tell.

“They are for all of you,” he said.

Self-filling-Champagne-Glasses

I grabbed a glass in each hand, and walked away sipping the first one before starting on the second. Huck watched me over his shoulder, laughing. His smile is gorgeous. I wondered if tough guys always had pretty smiles. When I look for pictures of Jim Morrison (on lonely nights), once in awhile I stumble on a photo of his smile and it makes my fingertips cold and my ears warm. A man’s smile can paralyze me. I wonder why they keep it such a secret?

Jim Smiles

After both glasses were drained, I returned for two more, and slowed down a bit. My intention was to give Huck space at the party. To really give all conversations a chance, but he kept hanging around me. It wasn’t unwelcomed. I thought he liked me. I felt like I had a hook in him, no matter how temporary, and I enjoyed dragging him around with me for the night. Outside we had a cigarette and spoke about something mild and general.  I can’t recall it now. I just liked that we were outside, sitting on a bench together alone. Buzzed but not drunk. Happy but not touching. I didn’t have to touch him, I knew we were in the same moment.

One of the upper classmates came out to talk to us. It was the first time he acknowledged me all semester, I assumed the friends in his circle had opinions about me and Huck and me. I wanted to be rude, but I never can be when someone is nice to me. It was a pleasant, casual conversation. I liked that he saw I was with Huck and that we were civil with each other. It gave the whole sordid affair a dignity.

***

As the party broke up, and I always feel like parties break up too soon, Cat and I jumped in the Silver Fox’s car to go sing karaoke at the Tattle Tale Room, the bar where Huck and I first met last June. Half of my favorite people were there. A female poet who read a translated poem earlier in the day that took my breath away. The non-fiction writer who lives in Paris, wears her hair short and speaks her mind with such confidence, it demands respect. Her manuscript was flawless. A few people in my class. The Silver Fox. Huck slid into the back booth where we met.

“She turned to her left, and there he was,” he said. He was referencing a line from my blog, describing the first time I met him.

“I turned to my left and there he was,” I said, jerking my head to the left, laughing. I did it two or three times. No one was in on the joke. “It is our anniversary. Six months ago, at the school party …” I said.

“That’s right,” he said. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t know. It was innocent. I wasn’t trying to stir things, they were already stirred. I just appreciated the synchronicity of it all. The same bar where we met. The same booth. The same night.

We took turns on karaoke, turning off the locals, as usual. I selected my Rolling Stones song for the residency: “Start Me Up”. Now, there are theories on why I obsess over which Stones songs at what moments of life. The truth is there are original videos out there I discover, and they click in my obsession, and I watch Mick … I watch Mick ... and I step inside the song. At home, I dance like him to feel it and I feel alive.

Start Me Up

So when I had the microphone in hand, and the guitar kicked in, I felt the white pants, the purple v-neck, the improvised shoulders and arms of a British rock star who belonged to another generation.

“If you start me up”

“If you start me up,
I’ll never stop.”

I tried to climb onto a nearby table, but it rocked and the couple sitting there laughed, leveled and invited me back on their table top with their spilled drinks. I shook my hand and continued singing. In karaoke, people rarely notice how bad my singing is because I perform. I never feel better. Music gives me superpowers. It is my most loved drug.

The Parisian writer came up and wiggled next to me with her mouth open. Truckers stopped talking and stared at me. Mimicking Mick, and I assume most people don’t recognize the original dance moves from the original 1981 video, made me sexy. My father never liked Mick Jagger. “He thinks he is doing Elvis,” he said. “It looks ridiculous.”

“No, no!” I said. “It’s a broken doll kind of thing. No one else can do it. It’s new.” Well, it is new to me. I just discovered the Stones roughly 10 years ago, after my sister dragged me to see a tribute band perform. The music sunk in, deep. And swinging my hips, throwing up my awkward, long arms and tilting my head back with my off-key voice made me right for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Mick made different sexy. Now I could be sexy, too.

Me and the Stones

We all performed songs. The Silver Fox and I did “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Someone in my class did “American Pie”. Huck did “Rock n Roll Suicide” by Bowie. Writers might be awkward, but they have great taste in music. I video-ed Huck on my phone.

“Oh no love! You're not alone,
You’re watching yourself but you're too unfair,
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only,
Make you care.

Oh no love! you're not alone.
No matter what or who you’ve been,
No matter when or where you’ve seen,

All the knives seem to lacerate your brain,
I’ve had my share, I'll help you with the pain,
You’re not alone.”

Huck didn’t sing last semester. I think he is too shy, or was too shy. The more we cheered him on, the more he got into the song, kicking his head back and smiling.

“Lets turn on and be not alone (wonderful),
Gimme your hands cause you're wonderful (wonderful),
Gimme your hands cause you're wonderful (wonderful),
Oh gimme your hands.”

“My hand?” I asked, reaching out my hand from behind my phone. He put his fingers through mine and sang for a line or two before letting go. We laughed. It was a good time.

Afterward, he sat down and spoke to Cat. He sat down and spoke to the Parisian writer who told him he wasn’t invited to poetry readings because she doesn’t care for misogynists. I saw them talking and laughing, hands thrown in the air and lightly dropping on the shoulder. He was making friends. Even though he was a class ahead of me, I was helping him get to know everyone. That made me happy.

My next song was “I’ve Been Down So Long” by The Doors. It was a personal joke for me, and me alone. The karaoke guy handed me the microphone, “This time, don’t scream into the microphone. It breaks the levels.”

“Of course not, that was my Mick Jagger. Now I am doing Jim Morrison. He doesn’t scream,” I said, dismissive. He handed me the microphone. “Pffft … obviously,” I said, like a drunk bitch.

“Well, I've been down so very damn long,
That it looks like up to me.
Yeah, why don't one you people,
C'mon and set me free.”

Off the LA Woman album, the song has a bluesy feel to it, and with that raspy, angry poet.  I got down on my knees and rocked back and forth on my knee caps. I could feel everyone going about their business, but a few people walked up to me, looked down on me and I kept singing my blues.

“Baby, baby, baby,
Won't you get down on your knees ….
C'mon little darlin',
C'mon and give your love to me, oh yeah.”

That bar is a dump, but it sure has a fucking fantastic karaoke selection.

As midnight spun round, and beers were drained, it was time to leave. It always takes someone else to tell me when. Singing classic rock, dancing to classic rock, that is when I am most alive. That is when my spirit has a real voice. This blog … well it is clunky, rough. It doesn’t slide through me like the music. Other people’s words put to harmony can work through me like water. This blog, it is smoke, crawling through my throat on shoes made of sandpaper. Writing lights a match in my lungs I can’t release until I exhale. Music is more pleasant.

Top-Classic-Rock-Songs

The night had to end. Everyone left and I waited to pay the bill at the bar. Female bartenders always seem more exhausted than men. I tip the same. I turned around and saw Huck had walked back into the bar. He grabbed the back of my head and kissed me hard on the lips. It almost felt like he bit my lower lip. It stung.
“Happy anniversary,” I slurred. He pecked me again on the lips, this time I leaned in a little but it was still hard and brief. Then he left.

***

I got into the car full of writing students. “Where is Huck?” someone asked.

“He wanted to walk back,” someone else said. It was about a mile back to his hotel.

“Why?” someone asked but the car was overtaken by more chatter. Another writing student had gotten in an argument with a local who had a knife on him. The police were called. We drove out.

Back at the Venice house, I danced in and threw myself on the first bed I saw. A beautiful, mixed race, writing student had her papers spread out. Her final presentation was in the morning.

“Do you know how beautiful your freckles are?” I said, with her papers screaming underneath me. “Each... little … one.”

She was patient with me. “I am working right now. Can you give me this time to prepare?” she asked behind tired eyes, a little smile and heavy glasses.

“You are my little flower. My precious, little flower,” I said. She smiled.

I crawled into Cat’s room, straddled her and spanked her. She screamed and laughed. “Buy me dinner first,” she said … or something like that. I steam rolled her.

The Silver Fox called me to the couch and laid me down. “Follow my breathing. Do you hear it? Just follow my breath. In and out,” he whispered. I slipped away into darkness and let go of the music.



original-let_go_cover

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We Should Get To Know Each Other Sober

The next morning after my meltdown, I sat in the school courtyard smoking. I am a stress smoker. I smoke to keep awake, to process, to alleviate.  Once again, across the courtyard Huck pranced quickly on those long legs to the door of the school, wearing his tan, sock hat and open, blue flannel. Earlier that morning, I texted:  “We are ok. I am not mad.” He caught my glance and quickly changed direction. We both smiled and shook our heads at each other. Last night was … terrible.

He leaned against the concrete block next to me and asked for details from the rest of the night. I can’t remember what I told him, but I am fairly certain I skimmed the intense moments just to set up the funny ones. He laughed.

“We need to hang out sober some time,” I said. He shrugged in agreement. “Do you want to get breakfast?”

“How did you know I was hungry?” he asked, correcting his posture.

We walked. It is a difficult city to navigate because there isn’t a lot to walk to. People are expected to drive, either to the mall, the strip mall behind it or the corporate mall. Mall. Mall. MALL.

 heart and hand
“Michael (my boyfriend) is really short. I felt like a giant standing next to him,” Huck said.

“Yeah … he is short.” I shrugged. With Michael I never really notice.

Sometimes the sidewalk would end and we had to walk in a street with no visibility over the hill and under the turn. Sometimes, we had to walk under a freeway, flagged and littered with abandoned construction. He wouldn’t stop for just any food, he wanted to make sure it was a place I could enjoy a vegan meal. I thought that was nice.

“Your cock is bigger than I remember,” I said.

“I have gotten that before,” he said.

We got on the subject of what people at school thought of him. “It’s just … you talk about how you fucked some married girl to your mentee group and they all know you are just saying it to reinforce some kind of image.”

“But it isn’t an image, it is who I really am,” he said.
 
“Come on,” I said. “I know better.”

Roosterfish mural

At the school’s Queers for Beers event at the Rooster Fish bar in Venice, I described how I fell for Huck last semester and summarized how things didn’t work out to new friends. Another poet in Huck’s class got very quiet then said, “Do you like rescuing puppies?”

“Yes,” I said. “Actually I do.”

French Market Cafe plate
The French Market Cafe
Another morning, with two female writers in the program I am the closest to, at the French Cafe on Abbot Kinney, I defended him over French strawberry jam and a baguette.

“But why does he have to be such an asshole?” one of them asked.

“It is just a defense mechanism,” I responded.

“Yeah, an effective one,” the other writer said.

His womanizing alcoholic bit seems so overly rehearsed and silly compared to the person I really see. My friends, and especially my boyfriend, seem to think he is who he presents himself to be, and... anyway, who cares, that is who he wants to be. It isn’t work for me to like him. As we teetered along the crooked sidewalks together, it was work to dislike him. Life is already so difficult to figure out, why double over it like an origami fortune teller? Hanging around Huck made everything nicer. I laughed a lot. I never felt bored. Everything came naturally, the friendship, the quips, the destination. Time didn’t really matter.

As we waited for a car to pass, Huck put his hand on my lower back to push me away from the street and the passing traffic. The driver, a beautiful, black woman, smiled at us and tilted her head from under the steering wheel. “That woman thinks we are a cute couple,” I said. Huck looked and smiled. I wondered what he thought about me, about us, especially after the stress I put both Michael and Huck through the night before.

Howard hughes
Howard Hughes Center Mall

Michael left me his debit card, and as I withdrew some cash for lunch, Huck peeked over my shoulder to check the balance. “He works hard,” I said, grabbing the limp bill and receipt. Huck pretended an imaginary dog was leading him on a leash. I raised my eyebrow but smiled. Michael and I are both dogwalkers and I know not everyone can do it.

We ditched school for the first half of the day and found a nice Thai place in a sterile mall. We found a table and both ordered beer even though it wasn’t noon yet. “I didn’t win the lottery,” he said. Then he let out a slow sigh, “If I did, I would say [StarFire].”

“Are you romanticizing us? Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Because I am insane,” he said, looking out the window but taking a moment to spring his eyebrow up over the word “insane”.  The night before, I called him insane at least 11 times in one conversation. I smiled a little, hoping he liked me but thinking it was odd he would after I made a scene in his hotel parking lot. I assumed he would not want to speak with me again. This lunch was unexpected.

He gave me a letter of recommendation given to him by his mentor. He hadn’t yet read it and asked me to read it out loud. I did, and watched a smile of self-congratulation appear and disappear. It was a bit of an intimate act, I thought, and also a way to flaunt a little intellect and ability. “So, are you going to the party tonight?” I asked, putting away the letter for fear I would spill on it. Every residency, the school throws on one party, at a high end venue, to blow off steam and confirm or dismiss rumors among faculty and students.

He nodded over his beer. “Bringing anyone?” I asked.

“No, but not for lack of trying,” he said, then he turned his glow on me.

“Don’t look at me!”

“I am trying not to!” he said, turning his head.

When the food came, he shared. Towards the end of the meal, he dumped his rice into my curry and insisted I eat more. The little things may not mean much to you, whoever you are on the other side of the computer, reading about a random, uneventful day in December. To me, the little things like that, they mean the whole world. Now, I am not a girl who is easily manipulated. I wondered why I had the honor of all this fresh charm after months of silence between semesters. I know Huck loves attention from women, and maybe just the fact that I was the woman who gave him the most attention was enough.

I will say this, there are a lot of superficial reasons why we form friendships and connections. In the end, what lasts longer than a conversation, with more sustenance than a Facebook friend request, is who they are when you need them. Huck still had more to prove to me, but he was  astute enough to know helping me onto the sidewalk and giving me his rice would open a door.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t want more from him than his company. His company was enough. You see, being around Huck makes me feel like I am bouncing around like a happy, music note in an old pop song. Huck makes me happy. Could it be that we just liked each other? Or does all the self-awareness, diagnosis and advice kill the magic; the magic of children, young lovers and best friends. It felt innocent and light. So few things do these days.

bf

After lunch, we hit a bookstore. He seemed self-conscious about whether or not I wanted to spend the time there with him. Cat had already texted me asking me where the fuck I was. I told him to take his time. We already missed morning lectures and no one is expected to attended all of residency, all the time. It would fry your brain. So I watched him wander the aisles of the fiction section. “I had to fart,” he said. “I am sorry.”

“I don’t smell it,” I said. “Now, I smell it.” I walked away and back. I thought about whether or not I as being unfaithful to Michael by sharing a meal and a used bookstore with Huck. In a way, it felt wrong. In another way, I knew my time with Huck was short and born of good intentions.

I came back to his side. “I had to again … I’m sorry …” Huck said.

“Made another deposit?” I took a whiff of the air and got a noseful of ass. “Jesus, if you have to fart, go to another genre, will you?” He laughed and I circled to the other side of the bookshelf to take pictures of him. He likes it when I take pictures of him, almost as much as he likes it when I write about him.

We headed toward school and he mentioned he got sap on his hand from a tree he touched on our walk back. I asked to feel it and placed my hand on top of his. His hands were big, a little rough but nice. I wanted to leave it there, but I knew that would be wrong so I withdrew.

“Now that I know how to deal with your drunkenness, I think I have a better idea about how it would work,” he said.

“What? You and me?” I asked. “What about my drunkeness? That I am unmanageable?”

“No, just that you can’t hold your liquor,” he laughed.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “It will be easy now, after that.”

“No,” he said, “Then we have to deal with my issues.”

I remembered how he liked to fuck other girls and the curry burned. He started quietly singing “You’re Gonna Lose that Girl”. In fact, whenever I remember that midday walk, that song plays over in my head. He stopped himself quickly and made some silly, cocky statement. I responded with a theatrical, “You rebel” or something like that.

“What songs use rebel?” he asked.

“Rebel Yell is what I thought.”

“I was thinking ‘He’s a Rebel’ … how does that start?” he asked.

Hes a Rebel

We both tried to patch the lyrics from The Crystals 1962 hit:

See the way he walks down the street,
Watch the way he shuffles his feet …

We crossed the street to school. “Hold on, hold on! Let’s harmonize,” I suggested. He leaned in to hit a note and it couldn’t hold through my off-key nose. He broke down laughing. Then he brought the song up on his phone, and we skipped back to campus on the bells and bass of a harmonized voice of five New York, black women a lifetime ago, chased by the occasional sluggish horn.

He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good
He's a rebel 'cause he never ever does what he should
But just because he doesn't do what everybody else does
That's no reason why I can't give him all my love

He's always good to me, always treats me tenderly
'Cause he's not a rebel, oh, no, no, no
He's not a rebel, oh, no, no, no, to me …

We giggled as we stumbled back in front of the school. I caught the eye of another poet in my year. He read the blog. He knew how badly Huck treated me. And he quietly watched.