Gary flew the coop. He left his girlfriend of 13 years and two daughters in Washington. He left to keep his mind. To breathe again. We got in the car together and drove. He didn’t say much. He was breathing, but he was quiet. He stared ahead at the open road and occasionally nodded if I asked him if he was ok. Then I asked him if he was sure.
He told me he once woke up and saw his girlfriend holding a knife over him in bed. He also described a time when they were both driving in separate cars, and his foot held over the gas pedal for too long as he considered slamming into her car on the driver’s side- killing her and hopefully leaving his baby, in the back seat, unharmed. He decided against it to spare his child. That was before they had their second child, who is now 8 years-old. I listened to the stories and wondered what it was like to hate someone that much. Not only to hate that person, but then create another human being with them.
He looked like he was in a daze. I kept the engine going, shooting us through Grant’s Pass, Yreka, Weed and finally Sacramento. We only stopped to walk the dogs and grab a quick bite before all piling back into the clutter and plowing even further. Gary was reluctant to eat my food or take anything from me, but I knew he only had $13 in his pocket and the clothes on his back.
I was exhausted. Originally, I was going to give myself a day to rest and pack before tearing out of town- but in true form I tore up the town before tearing out.
“Whooah, we’re half way there
Livin on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it – I swear
Livin on a prayer ..”
“Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell…” I sang.
“Fuck yeah,” Gary said.
“Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell,” I growled before breaking into headbang.
During the long drive down, the shared silences over Twizzlers and coffee, the mariachi music and Christian radio, Gary’s ex was all over Facebook. She was understandably in shock, angry and flabbergasted. Gary mentioned she had chronic migraines that seemed to coincide with when they were together in a relationship. The headaches seemed to thin out and diminish when they broke up. He asked me how I thought she felt. “Well if the tension is as bad as you say it was, she must have felt it too. Maybe she is relieved,” I said. “I would be.”
“Yeah,” he said, “that’s what I was thinking.”
We took turns driving. It was hard to sleep in the passenger side because my desktop computer was on the floor, the wind piping was still ripped and hanging off the door frame and Brad was switching between the driver’s lap and the passenger’s.
I fell asleep almost immediately. In the morning we headed to Los Angeles, and just as we crossed over the Angeles mountains, the static voices from the radio faded and classic rock came through crystal clear. Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Doors, Heart, Beatles, Billy Squier, Cat Stevens and Joan Jett. Song after song we sang in unison. The desert heat came down on the car and it felt good on my skin and bones. I was cold so often up north, the heat sucked out all the strain and fatigue and I melted into my stained, cloth car seat. My hand was held out the window and I felt the wind from traffic and the city fly through my fingers, like she was taking my hand. Tom Petty came on. “She’s a good girl … crazy bout’ Elvis, loves horses and her boyfriend, too …”
The chick who was letting us crash at her place lived in West Hills which is in the north valley near Woodland Hills. I didn’t know much about her but did message her “I left Skamania with a big Indian dude. Are you cool with both of us staying with you?”
She wrote back: “Just broke up with my boyfriend so I can do whatever I want. Sounds like fun.”
When we pulled into the valley, it was one long suburb after another, one ridiculously plump speed bump after another, and around the corner there was a house. We were there.
We knocked on the front door, and a petite fairie of a girl came to the door. She was around my age. Her hair was freefalling, layered in chocolate and blonde. Her eyes were blue and her cheeks almost rounded like a squirrel. Her mouth was young, there was still the child in her though she was close to my age.
“Hey, come on in …” she said. She wore a long blue, flower print robe that hung open most of the time. Her breasts, ankles and hands were small, but everything about her was small. Her features were so delicate, I thought she might be a life-size version of Tinkerbell.
“Hey, thank you so much for this. This is Gary and he just jumped ship and headed down with me,” I rambled. My hair was like a rat’s nest. I was still pissed about the watery coffee in Bakersfield and needed to just sit down for awhile. “So you broke up with your boyfriend? How do you feel?”
She stood lower than me but looked up into my eyes like a sunflower, “Hey man, I feel fine. You know? Shit’s in flux.”
“Shit’s in flux … indeed. I like that,” I said laughing. Whenever I laughed, she echoed my laugh in high pitched cackle.
“Cool, man,” she said, returning to her throne- a lounge sofa in front of a MacBook and a bong. The place was cluttered with books, papers, unopened mail, food that was left out and a few clothes strewn around a piano and a few other pieces to the sofa set scattered around the living room and kitchen nook. I was relieved. My dogs wouldn’t be too much trouble in a place like this. Though I didn’t notice it until later, she had a few fairies around in statute and in picture. A Labyrinth clock was hanging from her bookcase. “Are you guys cool with this?” she asked, motioning to the bong.
“Very cool,” I said.
“In fact, we were hoping you would be cool with us and the pipe. We weren’t sure,” Gary said.
“Yeah man, do you have any green?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Gary said, packing a bowl. We smoked it, and I felt the road, my parents, Skamania and work lift out of my torso with the delicious, earthy cloud rising out of my lungs.
“That was intense, man,” I said. “I was working like 12 hours a day and then just took off driving 16 hours a day … at least.”
“Here, you need to hear this. Relax your anus,” she said.
“Relax my anus?” I asked.
“Relax your anus,” she said, definite and clear. There is no doubt. She was asking me to relax my anus. “Somebody told me that once and I realized my anus was never relaxed.”
“Yeah, I am trying right now and I am not sure I can relax it,” I said.
“You can,” she said, “Trust yourself. That is one of my motto’s: ‘Relax your anus’. My other one is ‘Fuck freedom!’” When she spoke with conviction, I could see the whites above her eyes and her head buck up.
I felt myself move my sphincter around and couldn’t tell if it was relaxed or not. The weed was packed for another bowl, I passed it up as Gary and Alia took another round. “I don’t know how the hell you guys can do another bowl when I am already talking to God.” I felt myself rise to the ceiling and float outdoors to the backyard. It was enclosed. My dogs romped around and pooped. There was a pool. I dipped my legs in the ice cold, emerald bath and felt the desert on my skin again.
“Can I tell you about my movie treatment?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said, leaning back, wet and hot.
She told me about the characters and plotline, the fantasy story twisted and turned through specific details and I found it hard to follow her. I stared at her face, she was hypnotic as she leaned back on a white sofa stationed near the back of the house. She was under a white tarp, her legs were up and she was holding the bong. “Wow,” I said, “that sounds awesome.” I couldn’t absorb anything.
“How do we know each other?” she asked.
“I am not sure. What are our mutual friends?” I asked. We found the friend that linked us and shit talked her- not because that is who I am but because the mutual friend is a woman who has since defriended me anyway. (On my last birthday, I got so drunk I asked everyone on Facebook to do me a favor and defriend me. I knew my real friends would call my bluff.) I wouldn’t even really identify her as a friend. She was an acquaintance at best and of the entitled white girl’s club; used to spending other people’s money and not used to giving in exchange of taking. It was no loss on my end, but I got the sense from Alia she really loved this girl at one time.
The green kept me from feeling much of anything. I had a few days to read and write about the two books for school, submit my new workshop piece and prepare for this job interview. I always work. I don’t know how to not work. That is an imprint my family has burned on me forever. I call my mother the “shark” because she must move. It is part of her being. I envy families that know how to relax together. I wonder what that is like.
I sat outside in the dark, listening to the quiet of suburbia. No voices. No music. Just the still of night and the rush of an occasional car. I smoked a cigarette and stared at the stars that survived the pull of smog. Alia opened the back patio door and stepped out in her bare feet. When I think of her now, I see her gliding on her tip toes like a character out of a book, who coasted on wings more than feet. “I got three bad hands at on-line poker so I thought it was God telling me to hang out with you,” she said.
“That’s the way shit works sometimes,” I said. She laughed. I could tell we came from the same code. We both had a little hippie magic, maybe even a little older- though her magic was different. She cast her spell on me- the ganja, the music, the house, it all locked me into a timeless spell where I didn’t feel movement. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. No push to make money. No push to finish my work for school. I was floating under her fingers, laughing at her eccentricities, sinking into her furniture and falling in love.
“I am a poet,” she said.
“I love poets,” I said. “What color are your eyes, blue or green?”
“They change from blue to green,” she said, walking away smiling.
“Uh oh, I fall in love with poets whose eyes change color,” I said.
“Uh oh,” she laughed.
Alia was talented but had trouble focusing. Her place was a wonderland of entertainment, organic munchies and most importantly ganja. Her father died several years ago after buying her the house. It wasn’t left for her in his will, she picked the house and he bought it for her. When he passed away, like many I have known before, Alia went through a mental shift. She was determined to become famous. She is shameless about it which, say what you will about the aspirations of becoming famous, at least she isn’t pretending it is any more noble than it actually is.
Her relationship with her mother is a lot more complicated. From what I gather, her mother is trying desperately to help her but doesn’t know how. She helps with the bills, she sends a maid and pool man once a week and keeps rocking the nest so her baby will fly. Though Alia has wings to carry her across space and time, she is still, in a way, held captive in her fairy dust cave.
Her cloud wasn’t destined for me. I could hop from cloud to cloud and visit, but my fate was different. I am a worker bee. I needed to get a place to live and a job. I couldn’t let her release me up into the sky like a loose balloon, as alluring as that was. My obligations were very real, and no amount of drugs, sunshine and fantasy would make that reality vanish.
I had to get myself back as soon as possible. The first thing I did was pull out my desktop computer and set it up in the kitchen nook on a TV tray. I plugged everything in, turned it on and logged into school. Then I started writing.
“Awwww, you are a dork. You have a desktop,” she said. I laughed. She would bring in young men to make love to, handsome young men. She prefaced each visit with, “I want you to know you can feel free to have them if you like.”
“The boys?” I asked.
“Yes, if you want to make out with them or do whatever, feel free,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said. A young white boy came in and was escorted to her bedroom. He looked nice standing over 6 feet tall, broad shoulders and a clean cut- I would take him in a second. I hadn’t had sex in a long time, and though I had my own booty call lined up for Los Angeles I needed to write. Above all, I had to write.
So as she disappeared around the corner with the boy, living my fantasy in a life I could never know, Gary fell asleep in a haze of marijuana and I got back to work.