I discovered a lump in my throat. I don’t know what it is, but it is definitely there, a couple inches below my ear, on the left side of my throat.
When I went to see the free community doctor, he said it was too small to be malignant but we should do blood tests, just in case. In my follow up appointment with a whole new doctor, I spent 45 minutes waiting and 15 explaining the lump to someone who didn’t even read over my file. Then they told me to take a few forms over to a lab in another part of the city for a blood draw.
There I sat, in the waiting room with Abe.
I was telling him about a conversation I had with my friend Jeph’s family on their seder.
Jeph’s Aunt explained at the dinner table that they had a young man living in their back house for the last couple years, free of rent. He was the son of a friend and now unable to get a job, yet managed to quadruple their electric bill as a single person in a smaller unit.
She kept saying, “I don’t want to speak ill of him, but he needs to move on now. We can’t afford to be in a whole other tier with our electric bill.”
As I was explaining to Abe, I said, “I don’t know any women or minorities that get to live rent free in someone else’s back house. Do you? I keep hearing about these white boys that get a free ride . . .”
Abe, “Well, she is friends with his mom.”
Me, “So, my mom is friends with lots of people, no one ever offered me a place to live rent free.”
Abe, “Well, he is going to move out now.”
Me, “I know, there is just a pattern I am seeing with white boys.”
Abe raised his voice in the waiting room, “I get it. You think I get to live rent free and can’t get a job and have it easy. Ok, I get it.”
Me, “I was talking about this other kid, not you.”
Abe raised his voice even more, “But you are really talking about me. And now you told everyone in this waiting room all about how privileged I am, all about how I have trimmed my body hair (earlier conversation) and made me look like a total lazy asshole.”
His voice got louder and louder as my cheeks burned.
Abe never raises his voice in public. In fact, he usually speaks so low around other people, I can’t understand him. This was totally unlike him.
I felt the eyes of the people in the waiting room on us, so I got up and waited by the reception desk. I usually did that anyway, to speed up their process.
I stood there waiting as he hurriedly walked towards me and said, “I will be in the car.”
With the blood test forms, I walked out and got into Abe’s car. We drove towards Old Town Pasadena for lunch.
He said, “I am not even hungry anymore.”
I responded curtly, “Well, I am. I am starving and have to work later.”
We drove to a parking garage and parked on the lower level. We each sat on the hood of the car, each on a different side, facing a different direction, smoking.
A car drove by playing my cell phone jingle:
Oh, there ain’t no rest for the wicked,
Money don’t grow on trees,
I got bills to pay,
I got mouths to feed,
There ain’t nothing in this world for free.
I know I can’t slow down,
I can’t hold back,
Though you know I wish I could,
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked,
Until we close our eyes for good.
My bitterness towards rich kids was undeniable. To be in love with one creates quite the rip tide.
I said, “I get it. You are just upset that I am leaving.”
He blew out a cloud of tobacco, “No, I am not upset that you are leaving.”
My body turned cold. I turned to get lunch, and he followed.
When we got to the restaurant, we ordered lunch and sat in silence. He asked a question or two and tried to find my smile.
I ignored him and read the news on my phone.
We walked out after lunch, and drove back to my place.
When we got to my little hole in Sylmar, the clouds were keeping the sun away and I laid down on my bed to cuddle with my dogs.
Me, “I would like a massage.”
Abe, “You are so demanding. You can just ask for whatever you want.”
Me, “Well I wouldn’t be upset if you didn’t say you weren’t upset about me leaving.”
He said, “Of course I am upset that you are leaving. VERY upset.”
I said, “You said you weren’t upset I was leaving.”
He said, “That’s not why I was upset . . . just forget it.”
I said, “I would like a massage.”
He crawled on the bed and rubbed my back, as I buried my face in the pillow.
In sing song he said, “Love you.”
Pandora was on my “Ganja Rock” station. Abe and I made love for the first time while he wore a cock ring.
The pleasure of something new killed the dull, brief pain from the metal inside of me. And, at that moment, I wanted to feel a little pain while we made love.
“Freebird” came on . . .
If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see
But, if I stayed here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you can not change . . .
When I think back on that afternoon of lovemaking now, I can smell the sweetness of his body, I studied his haircut, too short and very boyish for a man about to turn 30, and the tickle of his chest hair on my breasts.
The occasional dull pain flooded with the brush of excitement against my G-spot made my eyes well up.
Bye, bye, baby it’s been a sweet love
Though this feeling I can’t change
But please don’t take it so badly
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame
But, if I stayed here with you girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you can not change . . .”
I used to associate the song with Abe. When were first about to break up, I sang the song for him at a sex toy store. He feels spiritually entwined by the bird, and his Mayan sign is the Eagle and/or the Sun.
In that moment, of Lynyrd Skynyrd, sex, frustration and goodbye, I realized the bird was in fact Me.
When he came, there was no time to reach for him after he pulled out. His orgasm shot the length of my bed alone, untouched. I was just the audience.
I left for work 40 minutes later, and every time I thought about his skin against mine, I felt a slight shiver down my arms and the echo of music in my mind, like I was far away from the concert now, out the door and down the street. The notes and vocals withering from distance.
The next day, I was writing a blog in my apartment.
Periodically, I will smoke a cigarette while writing. It was raining out, so I ran in and out with my boots and a rain coat.
Somewhere in the middle of my blog, I opened the door, and a wave of water crossed over my floor boards.
I quickly closed the doors and said, “Oh shit!”
What was I going to do? I had to get out there and stop the water.
I opened the door again. Another wave of muddy rain water came crossing under foot.
I closed the door again, then said aloud, “What do I do? What do I do?”
All three of my dogs looked at me concerned, then rested their heads back down.
After propping up my computer, my clothes, anything I could immediately see on the floor- I then opened the door again and jumped out.
I grabbed bricks and concrete blocks to pile a wall at the top of my small staircase. The water was washing downward into my lower level apartment. The rainwater found its way through the barrier I was making.
I used a discarded plant window box Dora abandoned in my front courtyard to scoop up the rainwater off my doorstep and toss as high above ground as possible. It took about 15 minutes before I was able to almost completely diminish the pool of water waiting to dump into my studio apartment.
My hands were wet, dirty and red. I kept saying, “Think practically.”
I jumped back inside and closed the door. The water inside was almost ankle high.
Stepping back, I watched the crack under my door and saw a constant current of rain water freely drain into my apartment. There was nothing I could do.
I shouted, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!” then lifted my arms and head to the ceiling, “I hate this place!!!”
Looking over at my dogs, they were safe on top of the bed. I said, “Well, we gotta get out of here.”
There was patio furniture outside I dragged in to keep everything I could grab off the floor. I grabbed my surge protectors from underwater, and propped them up on TV trays.
In my knee high, merlot, Mary Jane rain boots, I picked up my 60 lb pit bull, Esther, and carried her out of my apartment, across the muddy courtyard, down the uneven stone steps, and across the road into my car.
I went back for Maggie, 70lbs of pit bull muscle balancing on my hips and shoulders. I knew Brad would wait for me.
They held on to me like little black bears on a tree trunk.
When I returned for Brad, I grabbed my overnight bag and purse. He held onto me and smacked his lips as if to say, “Thanks Mom. I was getting worried.”
I kissed his fluffy, cairn terrier hair, and closed the door.
Off we went to Doggie Daycare.
I called Dora, no answer. I texted that my place was flooding.
She called me back and said, ‘What about my place?”
I said, “I didn’t have time to look. You are higher up, the rainwater is draining down so I am sure you are fine.”
She said, “I am not sure. I have to go home!”
I texted HR and asked to bring in all of my dogs. They said Ok.
When I arrived, I put Esther on the big side, Brad on the small side, and Maggie got her own room with a Himalayan Chew. I like to stimulate her palate.
Mississippi was on the small side and said, “Did your place get flooded too?”
I laughed, sarcastically, and said, “TOO! My place IS the place that got flooded. I know everything is about Dora. If something happens, it has to happen to Dora but my place is FUCKED right now.”
He smiled and tuned me out eventually. I expect that’s how most men tolerate me.
Dora came back after a couple hours and I asked how everything was.
She said, “There was some water on my bed, my jewelry and CDs got wet, they will rust now.”
She threw her arms up.
Later I found out that the bed mattress didn’t get wet, just the outer frame.
Dora said, “I am just done with that place.”
I nodded. My pants were soaked up to mid thigh from trying to dig through the water, my hair was sticky from mud and sweat and I hadn’t had time to eat between the flooding and my work shift.
When I told Abe, he offered to find me a motel room.
At his first attempt, he said, “I found a place. $130 for two people and $50 for a pet deposit for 3 dogs. Total $180.”
I said, “You are doing it wrong. Its a motel for 1 person. Call Motel 6, they allow dogs no deposit. And tell them I am only bringing 1 dog.”
Abe texted back, “Ok. Motel 6 in Arcadia for $69.”
I texted back, “Good job!”
After work, I trekked all the kids over to the motel and met Abe there. He was nervous about us being found out- but no one cares at 11pm on a Friday night in the middle of nowhere.
I checked in, brought the kids up and they all laid down on their own Queen bed. I drew a bath and slipped in the hot water.
Nothing is better after shoveling muddy, cold water than a hot bath.
I sat there and thought about the victims of Hurricane Katrina who had a lot more to lose, swum through cold ocean water and were put up in the convention center without a hot bath, water, food, their dogs and an ex-boyfriend. The last place you want to be after seeing everything you have left destroyed, is in a large, dirty holding cell with strangers.
I was safe, I was warm and I was loved.
Wandering out of the bathroom, Abe had matzah with a fruit spread. He pulled out a mango, he peeled and gave it to me in slices.
After a hit of weed, I was in bed listening to the lull of his monotone voice.
He was going through his wallet and pulled out a large piece of wax paper with various pieces of band-aid on it.
He said, “Look at what I made here. Its spare band-aides on a piece of paper. And look what I did here, I made some kind of little eye patch.”
I fell asleep. I was still going to France.