Nightmares, Whisky and Hitting the Wall

That night with Sascha ended after a videochat with Huck. He was drunk, but when he saw my face, I saw his eyes go heavy and his words slow down. He couldn’t hear me on Facebook video chat, (buggy piece of shit software) but I listened to Huck and his friend seminar about my blowjob and chatted a bit through the keyboard until Huck threw up and passed out.

That night, I had a nightmare. It was a familiar one, the house I grew up in Milwaukee was haunted with demons. They were destroying the house, and I had to get the dogs out and safe, but it was raining outside and I only had a bike, since my car was broken. I put them in one of those three-wheeler kiddie carriages and tried to push the door closed. A man, a sitcom actor from the 80s, came in to help me but his waist was suddenly pushed forward to his knees by an unseen force, snapping his spinal cord. I woke up.

I’ve had nightmares of that house since I was 7-years-old. I thought it was the prospect of moving back to Milwaukee that brought back all my old nightmares. Later, I would realize, as with the diarrhea and stomach problems, it came with moving back home and living with my parents. They wouldn’t stop until I left.

The next morning, we video-chatted again, and I sat to watch Huck make breakfast. I was worried he was like Eric, an alcoholic who often vomited and spiraled out of control after the second drink. He assured me that was unusual. We chatted about how I resented my Buddy for snubbing me, school, work . . . I asked him to move the laptop around so I could see my future kitchen. We flirted and dirty talked in that comic way that doesn’t work over text message. I thought this could work, if we didn’t communicate solely through text message and we had these video dates, this could work. I bent the monitor down a little, and Huck saw Jeph sitting at his desk behind me, stopped his pillow talk and said, “Hi Jeph”

Jeph threw his hand up awkwardly, “Hi, there.”

Huck suggested next residency that we get married in Vegas. I didn’t say anything but giggled, smiled, then thought, “That sounds like a terrible idea! I’ll do it!”

If I ever were to get married again, it would be the cheapest and most impulsive method possible. The other way just didn’t work in my favor, not that I had an elaborate wedding, but it wasn’t cheap and I enjoyed very little of it. My parents took complete control, and aside from a heart-to-heart I had with my father the day before my ceremony, all I remember is getting the silent treatment from my mother and sister, having a migraine and not being able to dance to the song I wanted with my new husband; my Father, who controlled the music, dismissed me with, “It doesn’t matter what song you dance to.” I just remembered that recently, and it really infuriates me. If it ever happened again, it would be between me and my man. That’s it.

The day was spent with Jeph, a vegan sundae, Santa Monica Aquarium, the pier. I remember hearing babies cry and whine a lot. Not just infants, but children. “What is with all the crying? Kids don’t act that way in France. All of a sudden I hear it all the time here and it’s so jarring.”

When I complained about it on Facebook, someone linked over a great article about an American author who moved to France and wrote a book on evolving as a mother for her infant. This is a sidebar conversation, but basically Pamela Druckerman wrote about why her child was the only one whining and protesting in a Paris restaurant. We micromanage our kids, we force things on them, insist, entertain and continue to treat them like they are unable to make choices or function as a small person alone. We never leave them to think, play or reflect by themselves. French parents ask their children to sample their food, not eat all of it. There are no kids’ menu, no hot dogs, no mac and cheese . . . they eat what the adults eat, with the adults, participate in conversation and take time to form their own thoughts and opinions, on the food and everything else. As a result, their children don’t need to declare war over the most unimportant issues in grocery stores, at home or at the Santa Monica Aquarium.  (Her book is called Bringing Up BeBe)

I like the Santa Monica pier, even though it is relentlessly busy. I used to frequent the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica with my husband all the time, but he is so faded in my history that I no longer associate him with my pedestrian corner of the city. Third street is closed to traffic, so we are all unleashed on foot to collide into each other, wading through street performers and vendors, big and small. A few years ago, all the small, independent book and music stores were replaced by Border’s and Barnes and Noble. Now those have been replaced with t-shirt stores and factory warehouses that will soon be replaced by something else, if not left completely vacant. There are still the movie theaters playing all the independent, foreign and studio films you could ever want to see within 3 blocks of each other. You can still have great Indian food or great Thai food depending on which direction you walk. A few brisk paces away from the Promenade is an old Blues club with great music and beautiful women hanging from the ceiling off of pipes. Or my favorite vegan restaurant, where I can have nachos, a burger, a cookie sundae, almost anything I could ever want.

Jeph and I always go to Santa Monica together, for a movie and food. It’s become our thing. Often there is at least one Christian extremist, preaching with a bullhorn or plastering the crowd with Scripture. We stopped by a few Christian sign holders, one sign read: “The End of the World is Upon Us”

“What day is this end of the world happening,” Jeph asked in his typical, stiff but almost cartoony way, first crossing one foot over the other and then correcting it to look more confident.

“I don’t know,” the Christian said.

“If you don’t know then why should I believe you?” Jeph asked.

“Because the Scripture says so, here,” he handed Jeph a piece of paper, printed as a million dollar bill with little Christian slogans fit into format.

“No, thank you, I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe you.” Jeph snapped, keeping his arms crossed and his eyes on the Christian’s right shoulder as to avoid eye contact. We turned and left. It was unusual to see Jeph so confrontational, I wonder if he was trying to impress me. It worked.

When I first met Jeph while working at a Pet Food Store in West LA, a group of male employees were bullying him about his sexuality; did he like women, if so, which part, answer, answer! Jeph stumbled through the conversation and I felt protective of him. Now, Jeph is growing. Each time I see him, he seems to want to separate himself from the easy-going dork I met eight years ago, and become a man- complimentary, always coming to my defense, chivalrous, he even wrote a little poem on Facebook for me the other day.  My friendships are my favorite channel for watching the world change.

The evening was spent with Frank, a great friend at times but who ultimately becomes a man when its most inconvenient. He is short, white, balding- what you would expect from a typical, Jewish guy in his late 30s. I do love spending time with him, there is an ease with conversation and we riff together with the affection of old friends and the adrenaline of buzzed stand-up comics loitering at a diner after an open mic. Then there is always one night or one conversation that ruins it, and it always has to do with sex or more of what that drags in with it. On this afternoon, Frank wanted to pick up some ganja, but I knew I would have to pass a drug test if hired at the Hotel. So we walked Venice beach and went to a whisky bar. I guess I never really gave whisky a chance, but this afternoon I sipped it and felt my belly warm with the beginning of a new courtship. Its not bitter or overwhelming, it is musky and heavy, like a man. It slides down inside of you like hot oil. The drunk is different too, its friendly at first, but it can cast darkness over you.

Frank and I liked the bar, we sat and spoke about New York, after he lost his parents, the World Trade Center collapsed and then there was that airplane that exploded in the sky shortly after. He was so high on coke when it happened that when he described the experience this particular evening, it all felt too chaotic to follow.  Pieces of the plane landed in his yard, “It was just like ‘Breaking Bad’, it was eerie, the burned teddy bear floating in the pool, that was my place. I shit you not,” he said. Awhile ago, Frank asked me not to write about him. Sometimes he says things I find brilliant, and sometimes he does things that are brilliantly stupid. He has a rich life and is a gifted storyteller, therefore it hurts me to gloss over his stories- but ultimately they are his.
I confided in him, “My father asked me not to write about him until he was dead, so obviously he knows he was a bad father.”

“Oh My God, Oh My God!” Frank chanted with his hand on his head. “What?” I asked, “He never molested me. He was just a scary Dad.”

“Oh, ok. I was worried about that,” he said, removing his hand so he could sip a little more of the brown. “Is it wrong to steal back a dollar of this tip so I can buy Taco Bell later . . . shit did I say that loud? Did he hear me?” Frank asked, first in his New York voice, then softer in his Los Angeles voice. “I don’t think he heard you,” I said, studying the bartender.

Maybe he did, because soon after, we felt ignored by the bartender, who made it a point to help every other customer in there and polish glasses before wandering to our side of the bar. Even then, I reminded him we wanted to order another round, he said, “One minute” and was back to polishing glasses. After several minutes, I stood up, collected his tip off the bar and put it in my pocket. He wandered over then, smiling at me.

“We feel a bit neglected, so nevermind,” I said.

“Neglected? Ha ha. Why do you say that, honey?” he said.

“We have been waiting and you are making it a point not to help us,” I was smooth and calm. The whisky was still my friend.

Frank walked up from the bathroom, the Bartender looked at both of us and said, “I have been working here a long time. A long time.”

Giving a slight bow, “Goodnight,” Frank said shortly and he escorted me out.  We were silly, and loud, stumbling down Venice looking for a bar. He smoked his stub of a cigar and I smoked my Spirits. When homeless men asked me for a smoke, I was an asshole and threw out a trivia question, “Who was the third president of the United States?”

“Thomas Jefferson?” the homeless man said.

I turned to Frank, “Is it Thomas Jefferson?” Frank shrugged his shoulders with a the stink of cigar hanging out of his mouth. I looked on my phone, smiled and shouted, “It is! Correct!” I handed the man a cigarette.

We passed by a restaurant, and the boy hosting at the door looked just like a boy I wrote a blog about a couple years ago I named ‘Atticus’. The story starts with the “Social Network”, my friend and I just walked out of a movie theater in Los Feliz and were next door, paying for expensive cocktails when a tall, beautiful young man approached and jumped into a conversation with me about how the male and female brain works in relationships. He was sarcastic, charming and completely open about his last relationship, so the conversation was a good one. This was when I was obsessed with the book and theology of “The Female Brain” so I thought he was perfect, but I was with Abe at the time

When Abe broke my heart the first time, in the first year, I dialed up Atticus and we met the next night, at the same bar. I went home with him but didn’t have sex because I equated it with monogamy . . . we just fooled around, got stoned, joked with his roommates. I liked him. Around 4am, he gave up trying to have sex with me and sent me home. Silly me, I thought we would start dating, but he only answered a few texts and then disappeared.

Later, months later, being the self-therapeutic type, I emailed him about what a schmuck he was. His argument was that he went home with a girl and fooled around without wanting to date, big deal. Its a decent argument, but I called him on having a girlfriend at the time, which he all but admitted to. This reignited feelings that I am all-too-often categorized as the “Mistress” type, so when he asked to stay friends anyway, I called him a fuck hole. It provided closure on the whole thing. Its that feeling of being used that trails behind me like a string of tin cans. I despise it.

This boy, the host, looked exactly like Atticus and we stopped so I could ask, “Do I know you?” Is your name . . . Atticus?”

“No, my name is Phillip,” he answered.

“I swear, you look just like him,” I said.

“Oh really. Huh. Weird. This is my first day on the job. Would you like to come in and take a look at our menu?” he asked.

“Sure! Just because you were so nice about this,” I said.

“I hope Atticus was a nice guy,” he said, as I breezed passed.

“He was an asshole.”

Frank got a seat at the wall, and I brought some over-priced, exotic drink back to him. I told him about the blond woman at the bar:

When I ordered, I asked the bartender if I could pay part in cash and part on credit card because, and I said this while turning to a middle-aged, business woman at the bar, “It is a recession, after all.”

Smugly, “Oh is that still happening?” she said, stabbing a cherry tomato with her fork and stuffing it in her mouth. She was in her forties, obviously had money or wouldn’t be eating a green salad at an expensive bar/restaurant on Venice. The whisky was tugging my ponytail, “Yeah . . . its still happening,” I said. She refused to look at me.

So I took the drinks back to Frank and described the brief exchange. He sipped his black tea cocktail, “That Phillip likes you, he is watching you. Totally into you, you should get his number and have revenge sex on that guy.”

“I think he is just being nice, we kind of overwhelmed him at the door. Look at that bitch, eating her mozzarella and iceberg lettuce, her fucking Chardonnay. ‘Is that still happening?’ Yeah, you rich bitch, the recession is still fucking happening,” I was chewing on my words, drinking something that wasn’t mixing with the whisky.

“She really got to you, why?” Frank asked.

“I just hate how dismissive rich people are. ‘Oh, is that still happening?’” I did a poor imitation before each swallow.

“She is lonely, give her a break.”

“You just want me to give her a break because she’s pretty. I am not giving her a break. She has had enough breaks.”

In his Los Angeles voice, “She is sitting alone at a bar, eating a salad. She is lonely. Trust me,” he said. “Lets go, I don’t like this drink anyway. Its not really a place for us.”

“I am going over there and going to tell her about the recession,” I finished my drink and walked over to close out my bill.

When I turned to her, I said, “I take it you’re voting for Mitt Romney?” She held up her glass of Chardonnay and laughed from her stomach. “Hell no.” Perhaps I misjudged her. I gave her a tight smile, I still didn’t like her.

We walked out and Phillip asked if I would be back. I told him I was heading back to Washington and it was my last night in LA for awhile, but I would be back. “Be sure to come back when you do,” he said, like a teenager still fumbling with adult conversation. I looked at him and smiled, his hair was curly, and though it was combed back, it was still fighting between the ocean breeze and the draft of air conditioning from inside. He was tall, slender and very white, his skin vibrated against the night. His nose was distinct and sharp, but flattering. He would be a handsome man in less than five years. “Would you like a cigarette?” I asked.

He held up his hand, “Um, no, thanks, I have my own. But here, take a menu with you.” I grabbed it and walked down the curb to join Frank, who was smoking at the corner. “He wants you,” Frank said.

I blushed, “You think? He is adorable,” I turned to head back towards Phillip when Frank grabbed my arm, “Hold up, hold on! You are committed, remember? The uh, poet!”

“Damn it! I am getting married in Vegas. The sacrifices I make for true love,” I declared as another homeless man approached me for a cigarette.

“I can give you a quarter for a cigarette?” he offered.

“Nonsense. I want knowledge, not money. Who was the fourth president of the United States?” I asked, with a fresh cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

“Um . . . James Madison?” he asked.

I looked at Frank, who shrugged and puffed. I pulled out my phone, “James Madison, huh? … Correct! I am impressed, sir!”

“Thanks,” he said with a weak smile, he held up the cigarette and said, “I appreciate it.”

Frank turned to me, talking fast, “So what do you want to do, do you want to go home, do you want to keep going? I could do either. I don’t care.”

“Let’s keep going,” I suggested.

We went to an Irish pub on Lincoln called Brennan’s. He ordered me another whisky and the first guitar strings of “LA Woman” suddenly cried overhead. I looked up and then around as Frank joined me at the bar, “Sound familiar?” he said.

“My song! Did you put this on?” I asked.

“Of course, you can’t leave LA without hearing your song.”

During this time, I was texting Huck. It was excessive, drunk, and totally over-the-top. We were already texting each other little, useless messages throughout the day, like, “Walking to the bank” or “Making something to eat”. I didn’t need that, I just liked hearing from him. I liked knowing he was still mine in some fashion.

The texts went from mundane nothing-isms to “I love you”. He texted back, “I love you, too.” Now, of course we really didn’t love each other. I was just having a good time and writing something I write to my friends all the time without a thought. I didn’t expect it back from him, so I wrote, “I thought I had to wait a lot longer to hear that from you.”

He wrote, “I felt kind of forced into it.”

This is where things downward spiral, and I don’t mind giving you the tip up front that I somehow ruined the pleasant harmony between Huck and myself by overzealous drunk texting and behaving like a teenage girl in love.

I called and Frank grabbed the phone from me, “She is crazy about you. She has been talking about you all night. Now, you should know, men hit on her all the time.  She can have anyone she wants. (silence) What’s that?” Frank listened then handed the phone back to me.

My smiled faded and I put the phone to my ear.

“I don’t like talking to your friend. You are drunk and having fun, and I am not. So this isn’t fun. Let’s just talk later, ok?” I said ok, and hung up.

“Geez, I was gonna have a fun conversation and I end up with Dylan Thomas on the other line. He’s kind of a drag,” Frank said, cradling another drink.

“No, he’s not. I don’t know, I think we fucked up,” I said. “Don’t worry about it,” Frank said, then he leaned in and said, “You won this round.”

“Won?” I asked, “I don’t like these stupid games.”

“It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, you have to play the game. Trust me, you are ahead,” he said, almost toasting me. My stomach turned.

We drove back to Jeph’s, and we tumbled through the door, laughing, joking, loud and happy. Jeph stood up and seemed happy to see us. Frank picked up some shortbread off the counter and said, “Are these dog treats or people food?”

“Its vegan shortcake. Its good. Try it. Jeph baked them for me,” I said, texting Huck, demanding he jump on video chat. When I didn’t hear, I texted, “Um, Husband?” Are you shaking your head at me yet? It all seems so glaringly bad from here, looking back at myself. I push the limit. Huck and I were building up a fantasy, and by my demented nature, I was fumbling to find the walls to the fantasy. How far would he let me go?

“Hitting the Wall” was a phrase used both at the Cannes Film Festival and at my residency for the writing program. It refers to constantly being on the go, high on over-stimulation while bogged down with fatigue. Both at Cannes and Writing School, I held my own, but with Huck and our affair, I certainly Hit the Wall.

Sober, I would like to think maybe I could have handled things with more care. He didn’t know me. We were still establishing tone. If he was my friend first, maybe he would know that my dog responds to the name “Husband” and “Gorgeous” as well as “Brad”. He may know I beg all my homosexual friends to let me carry their love child. He could understand everything I say when put in a certain whacky, outlandish mood, is a bad joke, but a joke nonetheless.

Huck got on video chat and saw Frank pace in front of the webcam, nibbling Jeph’s pastry, repeating, “Vegan Shortbread” over and over. I was amped up, and my eyes were wild as I flirted with Huck on the computer. Frank suddenly said he had to leave. I begged him to stay, he refused and hugged me goodbye. I knew it hurt Frank to see me talk to Huck, amorous, sexy and clunky, like a 13-year-old who just hit puberty. I felt bad about that, I can be a real insensitive asshole sometimes.

Dragging the laptop to bed with me, I don’t remember much. I do remember flashing Huck and almost immediately getting the feeling that his opinion of me was lowered. In my defense, a) I was drunk and b) I have never flashed a man (who wasn’t my boyfriend and cooking me dinner at the time) before in my entire life.

I watched Huck close out the video chat with a frozen smile and I knew things were spoiled. The next day I would hear how he thought I came across as “desperate” and we were moving too fast. Oh yeah, there is that wall. Congratulations, [StarFire], you found it.

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