The few days after Danny’s death were fairly horrific. There was Dora’s receding mental state and having to still go to work and cover both our shifts. There was also the fact that my unemployment benefits had fallen even further behind becoming almost 2 months late on any compensation. In addition to that, I had not received paperwork to even claim my benefits anymore.
I changed my address with the post office and unemployment, but nothing had come in 3 weeks.
I knew that we couldn’t afford the rent on our own, and frankly my first thought was Dora would move in with her family and I was going to have move ASAP.
I called unemployment for the sixth or seventh time and spoke to a new person who identified a new reason for the problem, as was standard at this point. I told them I was on the verge of being homeless, that I couldn’t survive like this and they were killing me.
Unemployment, “Your address is updated. You are approved for another cycle. Everything is in order. Check with your post office master.”
Me, “I did. He said I should check with you.”
Unemployment, “Well, I don’t know what to say- everything seems to be in order here.”
Me, “I need that money. You don’t understand. I am desperate here.”
Unemployment, “Everything is going to be ok.”
Me, “NO IT’S NOT!! YOU KEEP SAYING THAT BUT NO IT IS NOT GOING TO BE OK! My roommate killed himself, ok? I don’t know how we are going to make rent. Now STOP SAYING everything is going to be ok, when its not.”
Yeah, I pulled that card.
Unemployment, “Calm down, please.”
Me, “How can I calm down when you people keep saying the same thing over and over again. I mean, this would make anyone insane!!”
Unemployment, “Ok, hold on please.”
2 minutes pass . . .
Unemployment, “Ok, I spoke to my manager and we are going to make an exception this one time due to your circumstances. We are going to fax the paperwork to the nearest unemployment office. Can you be there in 30 minutes?”
Me, “YES! Thank you.”
I went there and waited an hour to fill out the paperwork correctly. The nice people behind the desk made sure everything was correct and faxed it back for me.
The woman from unemployment called me back and said, “Ok, we are processing this right now, you should get the next form immediately. Just keep sending them in and we will get you caught up.”
Me, “I can’t thank you enough.”
Unemployment, “No problem. Just take care of yourself, ok? Things will get better. God bless you.”
I came home and Dora was frantic, “Is Brad ok?”
Brad is my little terrier mix.
I said, “Yeah, of course. Why?”
She said, “I heard him screaming last night. I thought the coyotes got him or something.”
I said, “No, he was asleep with me last night. Everything is ok.”
Dora, “Was I dreaming?”
She was getting better since she started sleeping.
I still called Frank on occasion, he was my confidant, even though I hadn’t seen him in a few days.
I would call, cry and vent. He would respond with, “Yeah, you are beyond encouragement.”
He was done with me, I was no greater than a used kleenex.
Abe said he was going to come up Saturday.
I gave him the address to Doggie Daycare and waited for him.
I got a clean uniform shirt to put on at the end of my shift so I wouldn’t smell like BO, dogs and trifectant.
My shift ended, I stepped outside and looked around. No one. I texted him . . . no response.
My eyes filled with warmth.
The overnight kennel attendant came in and asked if I was ok.
I said, “My ex-boyfriend was supposed to come and see me tonight and he totally ditched me. I am totally worthless, they just want to fuck me and disappear.”
She said, “You aren’t worthless! Don’t say that! Who said that?”
I stifled my crying, wiped my tears and shook my head as if to shake off my own words.
The male kennel attendant just hung his head and drifted away. That’s what men do; they think they are giving you privacy, but they just make everything seem further away.
I drove home and was hoping I would see him on the road outside my apartment. There was no car.
I cried a little more, fed my dogs, loaded up my computer and then got a text that he was en route.
He was lost and needed directions, but refused to pull over, meet me or really listen to my directions.
As soon as I got in my car to go out there and find him on the canyon road, he pulled up. We hadn’t seen each other since before we broke up, so when we pulled up next to each other, both in our driver’s seats facing opposite directions, we smiled.
He said, “Hey, country woman!”
That voice . . . God, how I missed that voice. I was going to be mad at him but my face kept stretching into this dopey smile.
We got out of our respective cars and hugged each other. I remembered that sweatshirt. We had only been apart for 6 months, so everything was still deliciously familiar. The coarse material on the outside of his hoodie with the warm fleece on the inside. The smell of tobacco and Old Spice.
I said, “Hi. So, next time, could you call me and let me know where you are going and what time to expect you? Cause, I was waiting at Doggie Daycare, looked outside, saw you weren’t there and cried. Then I came home, looked to see if you were here, saw that you weren’t . . . and then cried again. “
He smiled and hung his head heavy over on one side, “Sorry. I know. I’m sorry. You know I am not very good with . . . communication.”
Me, “I know, but I want you to absorb the stress you put me through.”
He said, “Do you want to take the dogs for a walk?”
I agreed and off we went with my two pit bulls. My deaf one, Esther, was particularly excited to see him. In fact, I had never seen her so excited to see anyone. She was impossible to calm down.
Brad, was of course, weary and defensive but warmed up to him faster than most men. Maggie, my eldest, just doesn’t really give a fuck about anything anymore . . . except food.
So we walked and talked. I hadn’t done blow in a week or so, but was talking a mile a minute. I told him everything about running out of money, moving in, Danny hanging himself, the coke, the dogs, the everything. It was hard to breathe and talk.
We walked deep into the canyon, stopped at a local dive bar and hung out in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.
I put my head on his shoulder and said, “Thank God you are here. Just thank God.”
He said softly, “Its good to see you. So . . . this guy you were seeing . . . who was he?”
I dismissively spit out, “Jaq’s ex. He was an asshole.”
He said, “Wait, which ex? The white trash guy?”
Me, “No . . . no, the one in Irvine.”
Him, “Wait, the assfucker?”
I said, “Yeah.”
Later I realized, he meant another assfucker. Jaq had an assortment.
He said, “Why would you date him?”
I said, “Because he told me everything I wanted to hear. And I believed him like an idiot.”
He said, “What does he do?”
I said, “He is in law school.”
He said, “How old is he?”
I said, “30. Do you really want to know all of this?”
He said, “I don’t know. Yeah.”
I said, “Well, it doesn’t matter. He is a fuckhead.”
He said, “I wonder what my nickname was after we broke up.”
I said, “Probably something similar, if not also fuckhead.”
Then he said, “Hey . . . um, you are looking really skinny. It looks like you’ve lost a lot of weight.”
I manically said, “Well, yeah. I have been living off of El Pollo Loco bean and rice burritos and the peanut butter sandwiches at work.”
Abe said, “Wait . . . you have been eating bean and rice burritos . .. at El Pollo Loco . . . and peanut butter sandwiches . . . and . . . that’s it?”
He said, “Yeah, (softly) you look really skinny. Can I take you to 711 and get you something to eat?”
I agreed. We walked the dogs back, and Esther was still jumping all over the place after a 90 minute walk.
It was after midnight and we drove to the 711 for bananas, corn nuts and coffee. He bought two of everything. And we sat outside on the curb and talked some more.
I could feel myself leaning into him. I just wanted to touch him. Fall into someone’s arms. Go back in time to when I had my Pasadena place with all our extra time, early mornings, foggy windows, and Abe making tea in my kitchen . . . before everything fell to shit.
Abe was trying very hard to make me comfortable. He set up the passenger side car seat for me so I could sit, eat and be warm as he sat on the curb outside.
I leaned in, hoping my arm would brush his knee.
He had his usual Abe-isms, “Sorry, I know you just said that, my short-term memory is really short.”
And . . . “What we need to invent is a levitating surface, just a floating plane.”
I said, “What for?”
He laughed, “For everything.”
I laughed. It was his turn to talk a mile a minute, about the guy who hired him to put together a website, stopped paying him and is now holding his computer hostage.
He complained about there being no respect for the value of his time or the hard work put into the project.
I said, “Welcome to the working world. That’s how the rest of us feel.”
He asked me to eat his banana and finish his coffee for him. I did.
It was hard concentrating on everything he was saying. He talks fast and about complicated things.
Many people will claim he is less intelligent than me, I assume because he makes random remarks and lives like a stoner. The truth is, he is highly intelligent but in a totally different way that anyone I have ever met.
He said, “You know I was thinking about the symbol for health . . . the Caduceus. It’s that rod with wings on it and two serpents wrapped around it.”
I nodded my head.
He continued, “I was just thinking how similar that is to the cross, you know, Jesus’ cross. And before that, there was the Ankh. They are all the same basic symbol, one after another. I believe, they are all the same symbol.”
I smiled and nodded. He is right. And he will just say these things at random and throw my mind into a totally different universe of thought. That’s why I fell in love with him.
Albert Einstein said, ““Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
He had a lot to talk about; lots of thoughts he was carrying around with him that he had no one to share them with. My mind kept going back to Danny, to moving, to breaking up with Abe and now Alan. Everything happens so fast. I can barely keep my mind straight before the next thing happens.
We went back to my place and I invited him in.
I said, “You can give me a massage if you want.”
He smiled and climbed on the bed, “Alright.”
I just wanted to be touched, by someone nice.
He rubbed my back and I buried my head in my pillow.
He said, “Did Alan give you back rubs?”
I said, “Oh . . . my . . . God . . . do you really want to know the answers to all these questions?”
He offered a low chuckle and then said, “I guess not.”
I just kept saying, “Thank God you are here.”
His hands were warm and he smelled good. I could feel that tingle, like my body was coming back to life after all the circulation was cut off; the prickling tingle of blood returning to your limbs, breasts and body.
The sun was coming up now and he was laying down close to me. He kept kissing my hair and as he got closer to my mouth, I said, “Kissing me comes with the promise that you will return my text messages in a timely fashion.”
He laughed and said, “I know I am not the best with communication. I just don’t get the whole phone thing.”
I said, “I am not asking for an immediate response. Just something within a couple hours.”
He said, “I promise.”
His lips fell over my mouth, with the warmth, a curl and a tickle. My stomach felt that dull flicker along the inside of my skin. What is that?
I curled up into him. “Thank God you are here.”
Abe, “Awww. The sun is coming up. I have to go to my parents’ today.” Of course.
Me, “Ok.” I buried myself into his arm. I love that detergent he uses.
Abe, “Whose blanket is this?”
Me, “Its Alan’s.”
Abe, “Where is the one I gave you?”
I said, “In the dogs’ crate.”
Me, “Well, I hated you. I didn’t want to masturbate on YOUR blanket.”
Abe, “Well, Alan gave you a shitty blanket.”
We kind of dozed and floated for a while until he had to leave.
My mind was racing. I was just with Alan a couple weeks ago. I kept seeing him in my mind and feeling like nothing was synching up right. The smells and the thoughts were trying to fall in place, but I was moving to fast for them to land softly or in order.
A couple days later, we went to Danny’s funeral.
Dora was not invited since the family, in all their infinite wisdom, blamed her for his suicide and told her to stay away.
I woke up early and met Sasha and Taylor, both blonde, beautiful and tatted up managers at Doggie Daycare, and we took Dora to the funeral home.
When we tried to enter, we were blocked by a large man who was a friend of the family, and, apparently, an ex-cop.
I said, “This isn’t right. You are RUINING this poor girl.”
He said, “I know its not right, but its a private funeral and there is nothing we can do about it. Everyone is hurting right now.”
Dora was determined to see his body. She was weeping and whining, “Please!!! Please, I can’t go on with seeing him like he was. I need to see him in a different way so I can forget what it looked like.”
He said, “You don’t want to see him in that casket.”
She said, “Yesss!! Yes, I do.”
She is still very much a little girl. The way she talks and holds herself. Maybe that’s why we were so protective of her.
She said, “It wasn’t my fault. It was the drugs.”
The man said, “I know. Danny always had problems, since he was 14. Even then there were drugs and another girl.”
Sasha and I argued the case a little longer but there was no getting around this big mother fucker.
Friends of Dora and Danny passed through. Dora said, “That is Danny’s ex-girlfriend of 3 months who cheated on him. She gets to go in but I can’t?”
And, in passing to another girl, “Great, say goodbye to my boyfriend for me.”
Dora asked me to go inside and take a picture with her cell phone. I tried but was blocked at the entrance.
Now I was getting pissed.
The funeral hostess said, “None of you are allowed in. I am so sorry.”
I said, “I was his roommate.”
She said, “I am sorry.”
I was kind of relieved. I didn’t want to take a picture of a dead body with a cell phone. But WHO THE FUCK ARE THEY to think they can prevent me from MY closure. Jesus, how the fuck am I supposed to cope with leaving for a couple hours and finding out my roommate died while I was gone? I just never heard of such a thing as blocking people from funerals.
I sincerely thought after everything was said and done, they would come to their senses.
They didn’t and we left.
Not before I spit on their Mercedes SUV.
Sasha doubled back to spit on their windshield, too.
Then we went home and went back to sleep. It rained.
The place had this web of despair over it. Neighbors didn’t come out. Otis, the little, old pug, kept escaping and running up the side of the hill. He would sit down halfway up an old, wood staircase, shaking and waiting. I got so used to tracking him down, I would just head over to his spot and talk him down.
I said, “Hey Otis. Danny isn’t coming back.”
He has this Ewok underbite, and bulging eyes. With his skinny legs shaking, he just looked up at me as if to ask, “What the hell is going on?”
I shrugged my shoulders and picked him up. He surrendered all of his weight in my arms. I felt bad I had to take him back to our apartment, which was now cold and empty.
Dora would have a temper tantrum every once in a while, bouts of crying and then silence. Sometimes I heard furniture thrown around.
My poor fucking cat was stuck up there with her. All those animals.
I got sick for a while, but kept working. And time went by.
Abe came to see us more often, showing up with bags of groceries; bread, dark chocolate, begging me to eat up.
My unemployment finally started showing up at the new address. I still can’t wrap my brain around why I got nothing for so long, and then after my intense sob story to unemployment, everything smoothed out . . . like my name is flagged for pity with this whole story in their database.
The next week, we went to visit Danny’s grave, just me and Dora.
There was no tombstone yet. Just a pile of flowers.
We had to scatter ourselves across a section of lawn until we found the plot number.
I asked if she wanted to be left alone. She said no.
So I laid down on my back, in my heart-shaped sunglasses, as another funeral started right next to us. That was awkward.
Dora played their song on her cell phone and knelt down next to the flowers.
She started talking to him.
“Hi Danny . . . I hope you found peace now and aren’t suffering anymore. We are doing ok.”
I rolled my eyes. I am pissed at that motherfucker for killing himself. AND for having such a shitty family. AND leaving me to clean up his mess when I barely knew him.
She kept going, “Otis misses you. He keeps running away and looking for you. I just don’t know how I am going to make it without you. Remember, we said we were going to do everything together. We were going to break out of this and have a life of our own. We were going to do everything. We were going to get married.”
She was crying. I didn’t touch her.
There were other things . . . I tried not to listen since it wasn’t my conversation.
She ended it with, “Me and (me, Starfire) need you to watch over us now, ok.”
I jumped in with a deep, “Yeah.”
She continued, “So help us get through this.”
She whimpered a high pitched goodbye, grabbed a flower off his grave and we left to go to work.
That was the last of Danny I will ever see.
He was just one person, but he destroyed everything around him. The ricochet of misery he created just kept bleeding out. He is the one who got out easy.
I couldn’t help myself, I had to fall in love again.
I know this sounds pathetic, and its fairly obvious I have a problem with men. Rather, an addiction. But I needed something beautiful.
Now people can keep saying, work on yourself, work on yourself . . . but WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? HOW DO I DO THAT?
I got a therapist and I went back to work.
I took care of my dogs and I got sober.
There was something more I needed, just that little pink from a blossom to bring me hope that beauty could still be found somewhere around me.
I was living on a gravesite. God help me, I needed a man to warm my bed, to make me laugh, to make me feel like I had a chance.
I allowed Abe back in my life under the contingency that we do not have sex. He pushed it, but stopped when I broke down crying after an orgasm.
He asked why.
I said, “I am just feeling too vulnerable for this . . . I’m sorry. We have to stop.”
He did. He wiped the tears off my face and let me fall asleep in his arms.
Dora, alone, upstairs had to endure all of it. And for that, I am deeply sorry. Perhaps it was cruel of me, but as long as I was discreet I believed I could fill myself up with magic again and find the energy to keep taking care of her. Maybe that was naive.
When Abe and Dora were alone together, smoking outside, Dora said, “If you plan on disappearing again, let me know. She has been through a lot and doesn’t deserve to go through anything else.”
Abe quietly nodded and blew out smoke.
Later he told me about the exchange and admitted, “She is right.”
I nodded. If he disappeared on me again, I would cut him off without question, forever. But, for right now at least . . .
Abe was back.