He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black
The next day, at Jeph’s condo, the hired Hispanics were chopping down all the trees in the courtyard outside his windows. I don’t know who thought it would be a great idea to leave several bare tree trunks cluttered throughout a steel, glass courtyard, but there it was.
The sound was brutal with my whisky-induced hangover, so I crawled in bed with Jeph and moaned. He rubbed my back until I was collected enough to crawl out of his futon and make myself a cup of coffee, light a smoke and remember that things were poisoned with Huck.
I explained things to Jeph, who reassured me nothing I said or did was that big of a deal, but soon enough, my phone was buzzing with one text after another, a fragmented novel of why things were moving too fast, how I turned him off, how he didn’t like my friends (except for Jeph) and more.
I wrote: “A week of resistance, doubt and restraint is still a week of my life. I would rather fall in love.”
Looking back on my text, and the heavy price tag that hangs from it, I am not sure I still feel that way.
My friend Jerry picked me up for lunch and a few Los Angeles errands before dropping me off at the airport. We waited in line at the Marina del Rey Chipotle. My ex-husband works out of that Marina, the Chipotle opened towards the end of our marriage, and I kept an eye out for him- though I am not sure he would recognize me now, seven years later, ten pounds lighter with long hair.
Describing the Huck affair to Jerry, the tears after making love, he looked down on me from over six feet, baby blue eyes with the thick lashes of a China Doll, “You are emotionally retarded,” he said, “the best thing for you is to go home to Washington with your parents.” I laughed, knowing he was wrong but agreeing anyway.
I was haunted by my drunk missteps the night before, though looking back now, I can say they were innocent. I was overzealous and affectionate. That was the tone of the whole affair. Somehow I knew making his photo the desktop to my laptop, posting pictures of him on Facebook and telling my parents about him would tip off Murphy to apply his law- it would cue the descent.
My Facebook status was even re-posted, people seemed to love it: “”In between the people that kinda like you, and the people that kinda don’t like you, the people that really like you and the people that really don’t like you, you can find someone that really gets you. And when that happens- you don’t really need anything else from anyone.”
There is always the small voice in my head that tells me to hold back, to take it slow, but my instinct to express and publish is part of what makes me a writer, and part of what makes me a terrifying courtship.
“And why did he get a blowjob and no one else in France?” Jerry asked. I shrugged my shoulders, “Because I fell in love.”
As a woman, my biology forces me to repair and obsess over whatever unit I have as a family, or superficially posing as a family. I could describe how my family was never suited as a unit or one that could be a candidate for repair- but that comes later in my story. For now, Huck was the closest thing I had to a family, outside of my circle of Los Angeles friends of whom I was leaving behind for some unknown amount of time.
Jerry kindly and patiently took me to the DMV to file for a replacement Driver’s license (which I am still waiting for), as we waited I said, “Its just ‘I Love You’, is it that big of a deal?” He stopped to look down on me again, waiting at the counter as a woman with long finger nails pounded on her computer, “Yeah, it is,” he said.
“Men are so sensitive,” I said. They are just a string of words. It doesn’t mean I am holding him at gunpoint to marry me, it means in the moment, I cared for him, I loved how he made me feel. I had already said it at the foot of his bed after our first rigorous love-making session. The truth is, Huck needed an out. Huck needed to fuck someone else, and he needed an excuse to do it, so this was it. My happy and well-intentioned confession was just what he needed to throw in my face as an excuse to sleep with the girl that was waiting for him in Milwaukee.
And that’s what he did, just before telling me so . . . one of the two things I asked him not to do.
You go back to her
And I go back to…..
In the airport, on my way home, I ordered a double shot of whisky, at the time believing that going home would set me straight. I thought I would stop smoking and drinking, and get on the straight and narrow. The cloud of doubt hanging heavy over my head, I nursed that whisky as everyone in the airport on a Monday afternoon tried to piece together why a girl like me would be having a drink like that alone so early in the day.
When I arrived in Portland, the buzz dulled and my father wasn’t waiting for me. I called and he pulled up outside the baggage claim somewhere, but I couldn’t see him. So I looked and looked, with him yelling at me on the phone, “Over HERE! OVER HERE!”
“‘Here’ is not specific enough, that doesn’t help me,” I spun around in a circle.
“That’s right, look inside the lobby! God, Jesus Christ. OVER HERE!” He shouted.
I turned, saw him and entered the vehicle. For the 45 minute drive along the river and over the mountains, we didn’t say a word between us. Huck texted a bit, and I responded in short answers, watching myself and watching him.
You go back to her
And I go back to…..
It wouldn’t be until the next day that I learned he fucked another girl and wrote a poem about her. He would never publish a poem about our affair because, somehow, penetrating a girl of whom he has a low opinion and handing her a dirty towel to clean herself off with was a more resonant experience than anything he had with me.
Forgive me, I am on my second glass of Chardonnay.
Let me take a moment to describe where I was being sent off to. My parents live in a town called Carson. It is a small town you would pass while cruising down the Columbia River. When you use the word “river”, you think of a body of water you can cross on foot or sail a boat calmly along. My association with the Columbia River is a wide, violent river that swallowed one of my closest friends before I graduated high school. You can’t swim in it, though people try, and every year people die. It is wide, rough, majestic and commands respect. While driving beyond the waterfalls, of which my cell phone camera can not do justice, you cross “The Bridge of the Gods” from Oregon, then watch the orange sun melt into the water, the waves collide against the logs dragged by tugboat from one side to the other, the rocks always falling against the course of time, and you feel small.
Sitting next to my father, who didn’t ask one question about school or Los Angeles, while receiving short, polite texts from Huck somehow made me feel reduced even more to the size of a chess piece.
Carson is a spot of land where a few people live. Everyone hates it because there is nothing here but a bar, a lumber mill and one, overpriced gas station. The entire county has a population fewer than 2,000 people. You cross the bridge, drive through Stevenson and then take a left off the one-lane freeway into a spot of land with trailers and empty houses up for sale due to foreclosure. Wild, white dandelions fly through the air in clouds, which I find to be quite charming. The trees are so large and thick, you hear raindrops and the wind blowing through before you ever feel it. If more than one car drives down your road, you feel inconvenienced from the flow of traffic. Everyone has dogs. Everyone has broken vehicles rusting and rotting in front of their homes. The poverty is overgrown by the flowers, grass and trees.
You go back to her
And I go back to . . .
My parents house is another environment entirely. There, I was parked and escorted into my prison cell, a small room with white walls smelling of chemical cleaner. The room and house itself have no personality, rather, my mother has cleaned and polished it to the point where it would be suitable for a manufactured home model that real estate brokers could sell to prospective couples. The carpet, a generic blend of peach and pink, the walls sparse with impersonal pictures I ignored even in high school. The place is so clean, you couldn’t tell much from the people that inhabit it. The one things my parents had, that I used, was alcohol. They always had several bottles of wine and the fridge stocked with beer.
The first drink is pleasant, sweet and subtle. The second comes with a ringing that drowns out the voices of specific regrets but amplify your general feelings of self-loathing and doubt. By the third drink, you can’t feel anything. That was always what I was aiming for- to maintain that third drink numb. The cool freeze of sweetness that wipes away your failures, the texts you shouldn’t have sent, the love you don’t feel- you just feel like floating over the world so it can’t nip at your feet.
When learning of Huck’s new direction with our relationship, or as we renamed it “the bond”, I helped myself to a ready, chilled supply of alcohol. Usually, alcohol is the last drug I turn to for comfort, but out in the country with only a little money and no car, my only comfort was my dogs and a bottle of wine. Even my dogs weren’t too much of a comfort. My mother had them trained to wait outside her bedroom door, as they were not allowed inside their room and were always waiting to be let out in the yard or to be fed. Both pit bulls would lay, heads and bellies low to the carpet, watching her footsteps under the door. They were happy to see me, but knew she was the mistress of the house and dictated their day by her actions, or lack thereof.
The only one faithful to me was Brad, who stayed close to my foot falls, slept with me, and insisted on being within eye shot at all times. My parents would chase this behavior with, “He needs to be with an old woman that can give him a lot of attention and baby him.”
“No, he doesn’t. He is my baby,” I would answer. From there, they decided to say, “He came from an old woman who spoiled him a lot, you can tell. He was a spoiled dog.”
“When I got him, he was emaciated, sick and covered in fleas. He hates other people. No part of him was spoiled. I was the one who brought him back to health. I was the one who spoiled him, not some old lady,” I said. He still attacks almost everyone who approaches me. Usually, people think its cute, but let’s be honest, the dog wasn’t spoiled; he wants to kill you.
“Maybe he was abused at the shelter, but whoever had him before you spoiled him,” my Mother would answer.
This seems like a small controversy, but the truth is, one of the best things I have done with my life is taken these three abused dogs and turn them into healthy, happy, well-adjusted souls. To take that away from me was just the beginning of a total dismantling of my self-esteem.
“They are great dogs. Some of the best dogs I have ever met,” my Father said.
“That’s because they are mine,” I answered. Maggie always loved people, but was abused and afraid of my key chain. Esther was also emaciated, afraid of brooms and cell phones, completely terrified of everything. Who they are now, almost five years later, is because I flooded them with exercise, training, premium food and love, nothing more. My parents refused to give me credit, but loved my dogs, which is why I stayed as long as I did.
My mother scratched and fondled herself with twitching fingers, constantly rubbing dry skin off herself, sometimes leaving her fingers to hang in front of her crotch to flicker as if touching herself like a three-year-old. My father walked around with his belt and pants undone, breathing heavily, opening doors, including my own, without knocking and managing me. They both managed me.
They watched how much I ate, how much I drank, when I woke up and when I slept. I was a new project for them to focus all their attention on. Did I know I was gaining weight? “You look pregnant,” my Mother said. “Don’t get pregnant, Maggie has enough to worry about,” my Father would follow up. Yes, Maggie is my DOG.
“You drink too much,” my Father would remind me, “You eat too much.” “You slept a lot last night.” The litany of observations was constantly relayed each morning like I was supposed to modify every part of myself in their company because I, of course, was already so flawed.
They still invited me to watch “Fraiser” and “Jeopardy” with them. We ate together and my mother always commented on how much I could “pack away” off the dinner plate, nevermind I had been living in poverty for the last year and was ecstatic to have food available for my infinite consumption.
She worked on her jigsaw puzzle. My Father worked on the garden. And I worked on Huck. I asked him to videochat with me about things, because I always feel text and email is the absolute worst way to handle an intimate relationship.
You go back to her
And I go back to . . .
We had a videochat, and he was surprisingly cool with me. He asked, “Why do you think you can make demands on me, like I owe you a video chat? I am not your boyfriend,” he said. His demeanor was entirely different. He described me as “desperate”. I asked him why this seemed like a “bad break-up speech”. He said it wasn’t a break-up speech, and later admitted he was doing what he had to to avoid all the things I “must be feeling now.”
I asked him to recognize this turn in the relationship as somewhat devastating after being separated from my friends in Los Angeles and going back home. My eyes were watery and my mother was calling for dinner. He said, “I know . . .”
Though he acknowledged it, I am not sure anyone knows what home means to me. Home means being watched, being judged, being managed, no privacy, no respect, no conversation, no equality, nothing a human being (no matter how young) should have to endure in their living space. He said he understood and asked what was for dinner, but he didn’t understand. No one understood. Not at all.
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black