Everyday, people at work asked, “Is the Old Man back yet?”
“No, not yet,” I said. I didn’t know if he died out there, got lost or just disappeared. After two weeks, I knew I was on borrowed time.
After signing up for OKCupid (again), I only went on one date. A guy drove up on his motorcycle from Portland and spent an evening with me shooting pool, playing classic rock and watching “Golden Girls” with me. He stayed the night because we both had beer and it wasn’t safe driving the mountain freeway back in the middle of the night. We slept on separate couches and he said he lay awake all night, waiting for the Old Man to return. We hugged goodbye in the morning.
Once, Kelly, Tate and some random girl came over to smoke a bowl with me after work. We sat around and struggled to find a real conversation outside of work. They just graduated high school and lived in Skamania all their lives. I had just been back from around the world. We didn’t know where to start, so we sat around in silence as my dogs nuzzled between their legs for head pats. “Black Betty” scratchy and rough with Lead Belly’s voice came on … then “Crystal Blue Persuasion”.
“What the hell are we listening to?” Kelly asked.
“It’s called,” I took a toke and grumbled through the smoke, “good music.”
They all left after we finished the bowl. I wanted them to leave so I could do my thing; school work, walk the dogs, think. As soon as they left, I missed them.
One night, I got the message in that Nick (my very first boyfriend from 10th grade) had a lay over in Portland. He and I have a very long and complicated history. In recent blog posts I mentioned the Mormon boy who was hit by a car as a child, the top part of his skull hanging off the crown of his head just before he was put in a two week coma. His mother insisted that while he was unconscious he was speaking the language of angels. When he woke up, he was a genius and graduated college at 13. At 15, he was re-enrolled in high school socialize with peers his age. One of the few classes he took was Introduction to Drama. He arrived late the first day of class and took the seat directly behind me.
In fact, I remember the room being dark because something was being projected for us in class. I turned around and saw a preppy cut of blonde hair flap up in the air and back down against his head as he took his seat. His eyes almost immediately fell on me and we stared at each other for a moment. He asked me out and we went to a matinee of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” We made out and fell in love almost immediately. Most of our dates happened in the middle of the night, when I crawled out my bedroom window and hiked over a nearby hill to meet him at the gravel pit behind my house. Deep canyons of gravel were dragged, ripped and extracted from the ground. The trucks worked at night, but were far in the distance with bright headlights and growling motors. We just wanted to lay on a blanket somewhere and be alone. When you are 15 that is the hardest thing to do.
We lay together in the autumn air. Our ears and noses cold. Our hands, mouths and genitals hot. He gave me an orgasm before I even knew girls could have orgasms. I was blindsided when a tickling sensation rose like bubbles into spasms of intense pleasure. Though, when it happened, I knew what it was and that it was something I had been waiting for.
He knew more than anyone I ever met. And he insisted on fighting all authority all the time. He set off fireworks outside the school dance. He would get in trouble with the police by experimenting with explosives. He was also the first man I told my secrets to, secrets I didn’t know what to do with. The first man I said “I love you” to. He introduced me to techno music and I introduced him to the Doors. The weekend before Homecoming, with a new dress laid out on the bed fresh from a shopping trip, he called to break up with me because I wouldn’t convert to Mormonism.
This was followed by a year of revenge. It started with cutting up a tomato and lathering the inside of his book bag with it. During the pledge of allegiance, he picked it up and threw it at me. There were letters, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I think I probably first started honing my craft by writing break-up letters. I rode out to his house in the middle of the night on my bike listening to the Wayne’s World soundtrack. He rode to mine. Once, we figured out we were both at the other one’s bedroom window at the same time. Things escalated.
We started a food fight. Neither of us remember how. We chased each other down the hallways with little condiment cups of ketchup and mustard. In the end, I waited round the corner just before seeing his baby blue sweat suit turn the corner and slammed him with mustard. It exploded on impact. He chased me into the women’s restroom and we landed against the tampon machine. We were both suspended.
He never really went back to school after that semester. So I had to go to Mormon dances and taunt him there. One night, I approached any girl he showed interest in and informed them of his worst qualities. On the last girl, the last whisper, the last jab, he turned me around and punched me in the face. My parents filed a restraining order and Nick wasn’t allowed to ride the school bus anymore on our route. At the police station, my Father confronted Nick and his Father in a counter complaint that I harassed him. My Father said when Nick played my voicemail recordings as evidence (a small collection of songs I invented and fake orgasms) the police officers giggled.
I stopped thinking about Nick when I met my next boyfriend, who I would stay with for three years. But Nick reappeared and hit on me when I was 17. We kissed but even now I feel guilty for cheating on my boyfriend. That high school boyfriend of three years, who I am reluctant to give a name in this blog for some reason, was one of the best men I would love in my life. Jay. There, I said his name. That is another love story.
After that, Nick was arrested for a bomb threat at the local high school. He spent 6 months in jail and sent me a letter or two from there. Later, he had other legal problems he asked me not to mention in this blog. From there, my knowledge of him gets fuzzy. He bought land in Hawaii. On a layover in 2006, he spent the night and we had sex for the first time. It was awful. He was dirty talking and sweaty. Nick was now counter intuitive, the opposite of who he was at 15. And I didn’t know how to handle it other than shutting down with a pint of soy ice cream and watching “The Soup”.
We friended on MySpace, then on Facebook. Occasionally I would get a text from him, once every few months or once a year. On this lonely night in Skamania, I saw he had a layover in Portland, so I got in my car and I drove down to a La Quinta to see him … almost 20 years after we dated.
However, on the phone I did say, “By the way, I have a little bit of a pot belly now?” I was calling it my Summer 2012 beer belly. It was minimal but I was keeping it because I didn’t feel fat in Skamania and, to be honest, I kind of liked it.
“How big of a pot belly?” he said seriously. “Jesus, you men take weight so seriously,” I said laughing.
I parked in the lot and met him in the lobby. He still had blonde hair, was sunburnt and wearing long Hawaiian shorts. We saw each other and collapsed into each other’s arms laughing. “Hey, are you hungry? I have those coupons from the airline. I can buy you dinner, if it’s under $20.”
“I’m not hungry but we can go somewhere and get you something to eat,” I said.
“Ok, let me get my brother and his wife,” he said. I knew they were on this layover with him, but I was hoping I would be alone with him. His family, I assumed, hated me for all the drama back in high school. His brother’s family lived with Nick on the island. They bought land together and had lived there for a while now, almost eight years. When I met his little brother, now taller than me with the slightest evidence of age around his eyes, I searched him for resentment. He looked like nothing I remembered of the little Mormon boy in the 90s. His wife was also hard to read. I think they were both just tired and didn’t know what to expect from me. We all walked over to the Shari’s.
I ordered a black cup of coffee while everyone else had full meals and milkshakes. Nick and I revisited all the memories of high school, the food fights, the prank calls, the total misery we put each other through because we thought we couldn’t be together. It’s funny, with all of Nick’s resistance to authority, he let our relationship go under the pressure of authority. Now, when we spoke about it, we giggled.
“Wait, I thought you two hated each other,” his brother said.
“No, the opposite,” I said.
“Riding to each other’s houses in the middle of the night .. even the food fight was-” in unison we said, “romantic.”
Let me ask you a question,” his brother said, “When you and Nick were at that Mormon dance that one night, what do you think happened?”
“He turned me around by the shoulder and socked me in the face.” I said.
Nick laughed. “Cause, Nick always kept trying to convince mom that you slipped and hit your face on his hand,” he said. I wasn’t laughing anymore, that bothered me. I took a punch to the face and I took it standing. I had a black eye for an entire week afterward.
There was a shift on conversation and the “Butter Fingers” story was mentioned. “That isn’t a story for the dinner table,” his brother said. I asked to hear it and Nick waved it on when it was clear that we couldn’t go around the story in conversation, we just had to go through it. His sister-in-law started the story as Nick smiled at her, mouth agape, anticipating each beat to his own story out of someone else’s mouth. I also got the sense that Nick had a crush on his sister-in-law who he sometimes called his “wife-in-law”.
“So when Nick served those 6 months in jail, he got kitchen duty, which I guess was a real privilege. But after you work the kitchen shift, you have to be searched before going back out to the general population … you know for knives and things. Well, (she gave a breathy laugh), they told him they do cavity searches and that it really hurt when the guards went in …,” she struggled.
“Dry,” I filled in.
“Yeah,” she continued, “dry. So they told him to put some butter around and inside to make the search more comfortable and …”
“I did it,” he said, smiling. “I thought that sounded legitimate so I did it.”
“Do they do cavity searches like that in jail?” I asked. His sister-in-law shook her head laughing.
“The guards checked his pants, saw it and-” she tried to continue. “And they said, ‘What the hell is this?’” Nick finished.
“So, from then on, the other inmates called him ‘Butter Fingers’,” she said. I laughed. It was comfortable sitting with them, especially with her. I liked her. She was a mom but still young and intelligent.
“In Hawaii, I just can’t stand how they treat their kids. They aren’t educated, they curse a lot, there is no responsibility. And the school system is terrible. Kids are walking around without shoes. I just don’t want that to rub off on my kids so … we are coming back,” she said. They were moving back to Oregon to start over. It seems like everyone was starting over lately.
“Nick is really a good guy, he just doesn’t have a filter and he says things he shouldn’t. Most women can’t deal with it. He needs someone who can get through that part of him. Someone strong,” she said. It was clear from the beginning, everyone was wondering if I was the perfect candidate.
When we got up to pay the bill, Nick saw the tattoo on my lower back. A purple sacred heart. “You’re heart is in the wrong place,” he said.
“That’s clever. No one has said that to me before,” I smiled.
When we walked out, I patted my stomach, “You see the Summer 2012 Beer Belly?”
“That’s nothing a small jog couldn’t take care of,” he said. He was sore and sunburned from working the Oregon State Fair as a clown. Oh, did I tell you he is a professional clown? Yeah.
I asked his sister-in-law about a tattoo on her wrist and she said it was from surviving abdominal adhesions. “I lost an ovary, my uterus and half of my bladder from it.”
I looked at her body and thought about everything she was missing inside of her. She was my age and had seemingly half the organs. “I am sorry, what happened? I don’t understand.”
“When you have a C-section and it isn’t done totally right, they can leave scarring tissue that grows into adhesions. They are like fibrous bands of scar tissue that grow between internal organs and your tissue. Nothing grows back right, it starts growing together and pulling on everything internally. Once you have had one C-section, that is all you can have from that point forward.”
“No vaginal births,” I said.
“Right. And the second time I had a C-section, the adhesions got worse. They grew up and around my organs. It hurt, I mean, it really hurt. In Hawaii, they kept telling me I was fine, and there was nothing to worry about. Then when the pain got unbearable, they would remove something. They took out almost everything trying to cut out the adhesions. They took out everything but a vital organ. What was next? If they took out anymore I would be dead. The doctors kept telling me this condition wouldn’t hurt, but every time you eat, have a bowel movement or even turn, you are straining those organs and it hurt. I couldn’t have sex for a year. They knew that and did this ultrasound on me vaginally to see what was wrong. It hurt. And I told them it hurt, but they kept telling me it shouldn’t hurt. I was treated like I was fishing for drugs, all the while this disease was straining my organs. So I went to Germany to see a specialist for $12,000. It was three surgeries and the third one was free. Still half the price of what it was to see an American doctor who didn’t take the condition seriously. And now I am good. I have a friend going through the exact same thing and I gave her the number to Germany. Our country isn’t as evolved as it should be.”
“I didn’t even know this existed,” I said. I studied her tattoos, some on her feet, some on her hands. She was quite pretty and was shaking off the scales of a tired mommy in sweatpants. As she laid next to me in her bikini, I thought this slinky girl in glasses still had life in her.
The couple said goodnight, and I retired into Nick’s hotel room. He chatted with his father who requested a picture of the two of us together. Probably because it was hard to believe. It was late at night or very early in the morning. I laid on his bed exhausted from work, from walking the dogs, from worrying about an old man coming home any day to kick me out. Here, on a queen sized bed in a generic room far away I was safe from it all. No one knew where I was and nothing was expected from me. I just had to worry about falling asleep. Above all else, I didn’t want to fall asleep.
Nick sat next to me and leaned up against my legs. My arm was over my head as I occasionally played with my eyebrows, a bad habit I have when I think too much.
“You remind me of all the boyfriends I have had since, it’s weird,” I said. Nick sat at the computer and rambled like Abe. His boyish features and hair were the same color as Huck’s. The sun burn and flip flops reminded me of my ex-husband. The crazy, the passion and unintelligible genius reminded me of Eric.
“I feel the same way,” he said. He told me about losing his virginity to another childhood love when he was 18. The story was melancholy. “She lied to me about being a virgin and she lied to me about other guys. Men were coming to her door while I was there visiting her, reminding me of where I stood.” He kept staring up at the ceiling. I suddenly felt a wave of jealousy. “Whatever we had was special. Whatever bond it is. I know we didn’t lose our virginity together but it feels like we did,” he said. All of a sudden he was deep and clear. Around his brother and sister-in-law he was amped up and goofy. Alone he was calm and articulate.
“I know, I feel that way too,” I said.
“And we had to have sex back in 2006 to bridge the gap, to fill that void, even if it wasn’t very good. We had to complete it to step out of that state of wonder. But now enough time has passed that we are back at that state of wonder and getting to know each other all over again,” he said. I smiled. He was familiar in an odd way. His face filled out but he was still the same kid, struggling to make all of us stupid people understand amazing things, while we tried to make him understand regular boring things like etiquette and conversation skills.
“You used to talk out loud. That is something I got from you. You would say everything you thought out loud and make it funny,” he said.
“I did that when I was 15?” I asked.
“Yeah. That is one of the things I liked best about you. At least you don’t do that oKay thing anymore, when you wanted to make fun of people,” he said.
“I don’t remember saying oKay.”
“I remember,” he said, quietly, smiling. “I remember how quiet you were, you barely spoke until I kissed you. Then you just opened up.”
I smiled and crawled over to his bed and nuzzled him. It was nice cuddling with someone familiar. He kept apologizing for touching me, but I wanted to be touched. I wanted to be held by someone that knew me and loved me. I wanted to feel warm and safe and ok, just for a night. I brushed my nose against his neck until he kissed me.
“You have two kisses, the soft, passionate kiss and the brief, peck like this (he pecked me). . . I can feel the hard shape of your upper lip. It comes out and kisses me before the rest of your mouth. That is the same,” he whispered.
“And your mouth is the same. I thought the braces forced your upper lip to pucker like that, but I guess it’s just the way your mouth is,” I traced his lips. We made out until he pulled my pants down.
“I don’t think you would want to be with me if you knew what type of year I have had. You wouldn’t approve of my sexual history,” I said.
He ripped off my pants, “You wouldn’t approve of my sexual history.” He crawled on top of me and disrobed.
“You need to get a condom. Seriously,” I said. I didn’t explain why because anytime I do men just shrug it off and penetrate me bare. I didn’t want to give him a disease. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Though I had no symptoms, no cause for concern, I have seen enough Made-for-TV movies to keep me on edge. Did you see that one with Molly Ringwald? She got HIV after only 6 partners. He got up and walked to his backpack. “Oh look, the condoms are with the beef jerky, how appropriate,” he said.
He entered me and it felt good. Anytime you make love to someone for the first time (in a long time) there is a guard up. You can’t melt in his arms the first time, you try to hold yourself up and let go at the same time. “Remember the gravel pit, how we made a little spot and were on top of each other like this … we would look at the stars, well, we didn’t have stars. Light pollution,” he said. I laughed.
Then I came.
When we finished, we held each other with the light gloss of sweat on top of us and the heavier swamp of wet sheets beneath us.
“So, tell me about the ghosts in your house, they … played on your spinal cord like a xylophone?” I asked. Yes, the above inquiry of Hawaiian ghosts playing on Nick’s spinal cord like a xylophone was briefly mentioned at dinner. Nick brought it up, as if it passing and I said, “Like a xylophone?” turning to look at his sister-in-law. She smiled wickedly and raised her eyebrows. Yeah. Like a xylophone.
“I built this house on this land, right? And things started happening the more I built on it. I could leap out of my body at night and I knew they didn’t like that. I was having nightmares and it was getting bad. I was telling some of the locals about it and they said, ‘Oh, you need a healer. You got spirits.’ So they told me where to go to pick up this healer and when I drove down to grab him, he was waiting on a corner in rags. I mean, he looked like a homeless guy with rags just hanging off of him. When I took him up to my house, he walked around the property and said, ‘Oh … oh, they don’t like you.’ So for 45-minutes, he walked around the house, would stop and say “whoa whoa whoa’ pounding this stick with yarn and beads around it on the floor like this,” Nick demonstrated in a low, gentle voice the rhythmic pounding of his spiritual healer.
“He would stand there and talk to them, like they were right in front of him. It was crazy but whatever it was it worked. All that time and all I had to do was buy him a sandwich. He said, ‘You got to leave and take care of whatever you got to take care of out there before coming back here.’ So that’s what I did. I went back to school again and got my degree. They are still there but they only come out once in a while, like when I look at internet porn. I am addicted to internet porn.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” I said.
“I don’t know what it is, sometimes I just can’t stop myself from looking at naked girls. But when I give in to that temptation and get stuck staring at internet porn all day, I feel those spirits come back. To keep them away I avoid porn altogether. It makes me a better person, I feel better. I know it’s ok to tell you these things because the spirits of Hawaii told me you would understand,” he said. People have said similarly bizarre things to me.
“I love Hawaii, there is a magic there. The island is a spirit of its own. When I was away, I would put on Hawaiian music and I would just feel happy. I would feel good. Hawaii is a positive spirit, You have to come there. You can live with me in my house,” he said.
“I am sorry, I have to step out for a cigarette,” I said. I was back to smoking. My brain was getting crammed listening to everything he said. I wonder how normal people deal with all the information someone like Nick deals out on an average day. It made my head hurt with new ideas and fantastic stories. It was information overload. Sneaking out the back exit, I made it to my car and sat on the back steps nursing a Spirit. I didn’t have any underwear on and wondered if we would have time to make love a second time before I headed back. I was back to work in the morning. The sky was changing color.
I walked back into the lobby and ran into Nick on the way out. “I thought I would come and join you,” he said.
“That’s alright. I am done.”
“No, I thought I would like to try one. Just out of curiosity,” he said.
So I took him back and he insisted we split a cigarette.
“What’s crazy about salvia is when you take it, the whole world changes. Like, we are looking from this perspective at this white truck. On Salvia, you are thrown out of that perspective entirely and see what the other side of that white truck looks like without moving. It is crazy. Salvia is an acronym. People don’t know that, it comes from one plant people found and bred a long time ago,” he said while holding my burning cigarette. He maybe took two puffs, and any time I tried to grab it he pulled back as if to take another drag but let it burn down.
“There are six levels to salvia. Level 1 is ‘subtle’- just a chill, mellow high. Level 2 is ‘altered’. ‘A’ altered. See? Then you start hallucinating, your perception is warped. Level 3 is ‘Light’, you can stare at something, you know how you can stare at wood or carpet or walls and it looks like it is moving?” I nodded. “That. Then ‘V’ for ‘visionary state’ you start tripping hard. On Level 5, ‘I’ ‘intense’ you can actually leave your body. Yeah? It’s crazy. You can actually leave your body and walk around. Then Amnesic, the last stage. You black out. No one knows what happens then because … well, you are blacked out.”
My cigarette was out now. “Oh sorry, I just held it and kept talking, huh?” he said.
“That’s alright, I shouldn’t be smoking anyway.”
We walked back into the lobby giggling. He made me laugh, and I put my arm through his. The graveyard shift consisted of two men, one old and one young, at the front desk. Their moods soured as the night went on. Having us trip over each other into the lobby didn’t amuse them at 3am. “Sorry,” I said, laughing.
“We are just really happy, guess why?” he said.
“Stop,” I slapped his hand. “Don’t tell them that. It lacks a kind of respect.” He acted dumbfounded and led me into kitchen for complimentary breakfast.
“Breakfast already?” I asked.
“Yeah, for all the truckers who have to get going before sunrise. Ooooh! Waffles!” he said. He quickly walked over to the iron press and poured the batter in. I reminded him to spray that stuff on the toaster so it didn’t stick.
“That’s right. The oxidizing chemical reaction on an iron surface makes magnetite,” he said. I looked around for the two people at the front desk and was suddenly paranoid they hated us for being loud. “ … yes …” Nick said.
“I think the people in the lobby hate us and I feel bad. We should keep it down,” I said.
“We are their guests. They are here to serve us. It isn’t an emotional thing. They have no relationship to us. Just enjoy yourself,” he said, biting into his double waffles. I admired that, not that I totally agree with it but I like it when privileged men explain how to live without apology. In a lot of ways, I think it is the secret to happiness.
We went back upstairs and I laid down on his bed and set my timer for 5am so I would be back in time for work. I felt my head get heavy and my contacts burn. The pillow was sucking me in and I felt my body start to float around the sound of Nick’s voice.
“Do you know Dubstep? I love dubstep. You haven’t heard dubstep? Let me put some on. I was getting paid to do dubstep at the fair, but everyone just thought I was a crazy guy dancing in a clown outfit. Dubstep made me burn 1000 calories. There are 100 calories for every real food calorie. A candle burns 324 watts per calorie. All things considered that’s not too much. A cinnabon is 1700 calories,” he said.
“Rub my back,” I groaned. “Touch me.” Yes, I had sex once in a while, but what I really wanted was to be held. The sad fact is the best part of my Skamania philandering, my casual flings in cars and on baseball diamonds, was being held. My heart was broken and I was homeless. All things considered, I was ok. That doesn’t mean a girl doesn’t need to be held once in awhile. A stranger can hold you and it will keep the pain from grinding. It will put you in a good mood the next morning. But when someone you know holds you, someone who you shared your body, your childhood, huge sections of your life, you begin to grow again.
My alarm went off and I groaned. “I can’t make love to you again. I don’t have time,” I said. I rolled over.
“That’s ok. There was just too much to talk about,” he said.
I got up and dressed. I was worried about my dogs. I was worried about the Old Man being home and waiting for me, worse yet, all my things moved outside. I grabbed my purse and heard my keys clank against my phone. Then I looked around for anything I might be missing.
“There is something you leave behind in your energy. I feel it. Its not lust, or just lust, it’s something else,” he said. I smiled and crawled across the bed to kiss him. “Thank you.”
I left and drove home. There was a thick fog lifting off of the Columbia river as a teal sky ripped open to bleed out the dawn. I was still the same person I was a child, but this time it felt good.
He sent me a text message a couple days later:
“I wanted to tell you something . . .I noticed that myself and my DNA have been resonating a higher frequency since we met and consequently more blood has been flowing throughout the cell membranes therefore I have been experiencing my same life in a new special way.”
The old man wasn’t home. I was giddy for a couple days. I thought about moving to Hawaii. I wondered if we could make it work. I knew that I promised myself not fall in love with the same guys after Huck. I had to radically change the type of man I follow. No more troubled minds. No more lost souls. No prophets who believe they are mentioned in Revelations. No more trust fund babies who think they “aren’t meant to work” and finds ways to complain about it. No more alcoholic poets who promise to break my heart. No more.
It doesn’t mean I leave Nick, it just means I don’t move in.
He built what he called a “writing room” for me on the house. He investigated laws on bringing dogs over from the mainland, vaccination requirements and fees. He wrote about where we might live and when. Children.
I sent him this message:
“Just take it slow, sweet heart. Please. I like your house a lot. I like everything about it. I don’t know that my lifestyle is child friendly. I like my hallucinogenics and my adventures. I like not living anywhere permanently. I love writing and living for the moment.
Even if we don’t end up together, I love knowing someone out there cares about me, and wants me. That said, we still don’t know each other as adults and should take our time. It takes years and friendship and trust. Right now, I am plum out of trust. It’s just this moment. I was kicked out of my parents house and the last guy who said he wanted me to move in is writing poems about some other girl 2 months later.
I don’t mind all that much. I like flirting. I like not knowing what tomorrow will be like. I like the idea of living in a small, eco-friendly, self-sustaining house on a mountain in Hawaii. I like knowing that I will be dancing to the Rolling Stones and going through haunted houses next month. I like that young boys and old men give me gifts at work. I like that my dogs are happy, even when we are homeless.
There is nothing pinned down, nothing lost, nothing at stake. There is just this.”
He wrote back “<3”