It was a miracle I was able to spend an entire night out drinking, and still get up early in the morning to catch a bus and make a lecture first thing in the morning. I believe it takes real talent to avoid hangovers on a 10-hour-a-day schedule. Or a calloused liver.
Around 6 or 7am, I would get up and through the crack in my door I saw my resident host, Jeph, laying in the futon on the living room floor, watching, waiting for me to get up, so he could beat me to the kitchen, start a pot of coffee for me and cook pancakes.
It is always hazy near the marina in the mornings. That is one thing I missed about being married, living in Venice and waking up to the ocean mist floating overhead. Lightly jogging through the fog of saltwater, I scrounged enough quarters for the bus. With a handful of strangers, we rode under the freeway and up the hill, forced to watch a television monitor popping up trivia: “What are other names for the Civil War?”
“Answer: ‘The Northern Aggression War’ or the ‘Southern Independence War’”
Turning to the older, black woman next to me, “It was?” I said. She shrugged.
When I arrived to school, I always tried to arrive 15-10 minutes before the lecture to raid what was left of the free fruit and coffee in the Student Lounge. One particular morning, I had time and was able to join my new friends, George, the gorgeous, black and brilliant homosexual and Cat, the white lesbian with a blond crew cut, the literary tattoos in various black font, and square glasses. Huck would later refer to them as “My Gays”. When I walked into the room, they gave a half-hearted cheer. I took my seat across from them in a nearly empty lounge.
They were talking about going out to lunch or dinner the day before, I always felt a little regret that I missed opportunities to bond with them. I was too busy being self-destructive, it was my own choice to set ablaze and violently tailspin down my own path, burning up in alcohol and infatuation. I looked through the large windowed walls to keep an eye out for Huck’s blonde head.
“Well, you know about how black people overtip?” George said.
“What? I have never heard of that,” I said.
“Oh yeah, well that’s what we do because we have that reputation that we don’t tip at all. So we all overtip now. I do my best to overcome stereotypes,” George laughed.
“He says as he holds up a piece of watermelon,” Cat said.
“My friends call me the white girl in relationships. You always whine about how broke you are, you know, you are the one who is going to wind up pregnant,” he said, as the pink of watermelon melted on his lips, looking to Cat he said, “You had your white girl moment.”
A few days before, Cat was trying to iron out some financial aid problems, and anytime you are stuck on the phone arguing about money, worrying that your education is on the line, you get psychotically frazzled. Well, we were at the deli where I was molesting Huck’s short story (later I found out this was a violation of school policy, but Huck was more flattered than anything when I told him), as I fingered through a chapter in his story, Cat was outside on the phone arguing with someone from the bank. Occasionally, she would fly back into the deli with the phone pressed against her face, “No, sir! I don’t appreciate that tone of voice. I want your name, sir! What’s your name? Mr. Mead.” Looking up she said, mouth and eyes wide open, “He just hung up on me!”
“Mr. Mead,” George giggled, “You know that’s not his real name, right?”
“It’s his pencil,” I said, as tomato spilled out of the back end of my wrap. George giggled, but Cat was less amused. Her milky white face, blotching in rage.
George always had a way of soothing our white girl nerves, “Don’t worry about it,” he said, “The school wants its money, they are going to help you. Don’t let it ruin your time here. Seriously.” I, myself, was dumbstruck, I knew how she felt and just couldn’t articulate anything nearly as well as George.
“You’re right, I just have to go and cool off. Sorry guys!”, she flew out the deli doors again.
Now, in the student lounge, over fresh fruit and half eaten bagels, George revisited the whole fiasco in his best white girl voice, “I am privileged. I deserve this.”
In good humor, Cat laughed. “I have had that moment so many times- it was good to see from my end,” I said.
“You can have your own white girl moment. You will show up in Milwaukee pregnant, knocking on my door,” George laughed, still plopping wet chunks of watermelon in his mouth. (Both George and Huck, the young man I was pining for, are from Milwaukee.)
Pretending to be outside George’s home in Milwaukee, I did a frantic, actress impersonation of myself, “Why won’t he let me in!?!” Cat and George exploded in laughter. “When I first started classes, I thought this might be the moment when I try lesbianism. The selection of men wasn’t terribly inviting. Well . . . Miguel.”
“Why don’t you try it?” Cat asked. “Eh, I would miss the penetration,” I answered.
“My girl likes this thing I do,” Cat held up her fist and rolled her knuckles like a little, bony wave. George shot his head back, eyes wide, “What is that?”
Measuring the fist, suspended in air, rolling around in an invisible vagina, I considered it. “I don’t know, but I like it. I should really have sex with a woman just for the experience.”
“You should. You really need to tackle that. Don’t put it off anymore,” George said, wiping the wet watermelon off his chocolate fingers.
I laughed, thought it over, then looked out the window for Huck again. He strolled out in the courtyard, bouncing with each step in cut off shorts, black, 80s sunglasses, backpack over one shoulder, smiling as he found a lily pad to smoke on.
Gosh, I really liked him.