I have taken a break from writing so I could go to residency at my writing school, apologies for the delay:
Where was I? In a house in West Hills Los Angeles, living with a polyamorous hippy named Alia who just broke up with her boyfriend and the Native American stoner I stole from the Northwest. There I was, finishing the reading of my last book for discussion and working on my final pages to submit before the end of the semester. When I finished, all I wanted to do was go out and party.
There were only a few friends to come and see me while I was away in Alia’s house, where time was lost in a fog of cannabis and privilege. “I will wash the dishes after work,” I said.
“Oh, I am spoiled, didn’t you know?” she asked, pulling the bong from her lips. “Rosa does comes once a week and cleans up the place. My Mom insisted I have Rosa and I kept refusing, ‘No, Mom, no!’ Then Rosa came for a little while, and I still said, ‘Mom, please, I don’t need Rosa.’ After a couple weeks of no Rosa, I called and said, ‘Alright, Mom, if you really want to send Rosa, I will let her come.’ She does my dishes. Just leave them in the sink.”
One of the regular visitors was Frank, my middle-aged Jewish friend with a dry sense of humor and a poker habit. Frank was one of the men who promised me a place to live but backed out unless I agreed to a monogamous relationship. While walking the dogs in Skamania County (Washington), I explained what horrible terms that was for a relationship. Though I had strong feelings for him as a friend, I knew that somehow we would ruin things. We didn’t work for the weekend that we dated. We wouldn’t work in a house with three dogs.
Nonetheless, I love Frank. He doesn’t get along with most of my friends because he is different. He insists that he has never experimented with sexuality. He asserts the traditional masculine identity he was taught as a child; competition, dominance, cigars. Surrounded by my medley of sexually unpredictable friends, he often feels attacked or aggressive. I guess with “real men” they are one in the same.
Either way, Frank was the first to come and visit with a bottle of whiskey and good tidings. I wasn’t surprised that he and Alia hit it off almost immediately, but it still made me jealous. Frank gently pined for me the last two years. To let him go peeled a little skin off, but not much.
Alia, in the meantime, had taken on a regular lover. She was open to sharing her lovers with me- mostly young, poor, confused boys which I must admit is my type. But I was living there rent free, and as long as I was there, I wouldn’t dip my toes in the pool even with permission.
Her most recent lover was a boy by the name of Ryan. He was 27 and looked like a Northwest hippie with a sunken face and a goatee. He was also a stoner, and the two would get together and listen to music, cook and coo to each other over the cluttered house as Gary, my stolen Indian, sat outside quietly by himself. Recently, Gary got a job at the Halloween store and was pulling in some income, though it was minimum.
I was hired by a pet sitting company that was interested in keeping me on for administrative duties and dog training on the side, so it seemed that things were working out. We were looking for a place, but I needed to be close to Glendale for my job and Gary knew his was temporary. Neither of us had money for a deposit. Gary was still waiting for his check from the Hotel and mine had come and was spent on gas. We were on the verge of a presidential election and the oil industry had hiked gas prices well over $4 a gallon. Commuting from West Hills to Glendale ended up costing me $20 a day, when my income was roughly $50 a day. It was dire, but you keep the faith.
Frank would come over with the whiskey and play Pink Floyd on the guitar. We all sat around, smoking pot and singing “Wish You Were Here” … Ryan made avocado sandwiches or Alia would cook up some organic eggplant concoction we would all scarf down before spacing out in front of her fire pit with a beer and cigarette. It was nice. It felt like a makeshift community of people who didn’t know how to connect to most people, but could finally connect to some people.
It was a utopia. Alia would sing to my dog Maggie as Ryan would pound on her forgotten piano. The place would smell of pot and rosemary. Her one request was to keep the dogs off the furniture, so I slept on the floor inside her spare bedroom to be with them. My back hurt. But I would sleep for 4-5 hours a night, wake up and make coffee before the dog food. Every morning, the dogs pranced behind me like a happy caravan, my blanket still wrapped around me like a bridal train dragging on the floor.
I was worried about staying too long. You see, there were a few possibilities regarding my living situation:
A) Frank get us a place
B) I move in with Michael
Michael was a friend from Doggie Daycare who was in a house occupied by dogsitters and computer nerds. The dogsitters were moving out and he promised me their room. When the computer nerds said they didn’t want to deal with dogs anymore, Michael stopped returning my phone calls and text messages.
C) I found a studio for $750 a month in Glendale. When I moved down to West Hills, the landlord informed me the previous tenant refused to move out, despite not having money for rent. He was forced to file a lawsuit for eviction and refund me the deposit.
“I want you to know I am grateful for staying here and want to do whatever I can to show you that gratitude,” I said to Alia.
“I am happy right now. I will let you know when I am not happy. As long as you can keep me high, we are ok,” she said.
I agreed until I found out Alia smoked a eighth a day, which adds up to $35-40 a day. I tried to keep the green flowing but ran out of money. She smiled at me and said it was ok. Still, leaving my dogs and a stoner at her house everyday I went to work was wearing on her. I could see it in the tension around her smile, in the receding green of her eyes. She liked me, so she tolerated them. Again, I was on borrowed time.
Amidst the working, the driving, the worrying, the reading and the writing- my friend George asked me to join him on his birthday at the MotherLode. George is a gorgeous, black, gay man who, sadly for me, is genetically perfect in every way. The MotherLode is a gay club in West Hollywood. I was functioning on 4 hours sleep and working everyday, but I had to honor his birth, so I drove down to meet him.
I left behind my three dogs and all the sad eyes that followed me as I dashed out the door. Gary, quiet on the couch, waved goodbye.
I parked my car somewhere close. It is hard off Santa Monica Blvd. on the weekend, but I managed. He and I met in the same class at Writing School. I was immediately attracted to him, so intuitively I knew he was gay. He was articulate, oddly intune to people, well read, agreeable so you felt immediately accepted, sharp and attractive. The man has no physical or personality flaw and you almost grow to resent him when he won’t share your eye roll in the middle of class. He simply nods and smiles, chewing on a piece of gum in a perfectly assembled outfit one might find suitable for the cover of GQ. A vintage, olive sweater. A white shirt accidentally washed with the reds, turned pink and flirting at you against his black skin. A New York scarf. Black rimmed glasses. Loafers that would look awkward on any other man bring a sophistication to his walk. When he laughs, his ivory white teeth open up to the back of his throat and I can hear the music of his soul bellow out. I could fall in love with George, but George could not fall in love with me.
I walked into the club and saw him at the bar in knee high sports socks, shorts and a t-shirt. He carefully put down his cocktail, threw his arms up and embraced me. I laughed like you do when you finally make it home.
“How are you? I have been following you on Facebook? I told my brother, you want determination, my friend has been working her ass off to get out of Washington. It was really inspirational,” he said, placing the straw back in his mouth.
I blushed and ordered a cocktail, knowing I shouldn’t have had a few shots of whiskey prior to driving. But he paid and when you are poor for so long, you never turn down anything free.
George and I spoke about the writing program, how it was low-residency but the spirit of writing works its way into your mind everyday. Each semester your talent and work load expands. George sent me one of his short stories while I was in Washington and it was a funny, poignant and unusual story about finding a man who claimed to be Jesus on the streets of New York. He and Jesus find their way into a gay club where the narrator bumps into an ex-boyfriend and grapples with heartbreak.
“So tell me about the old man,” he asked. I told him about the old man who took me in after my parents kicked me out in Washington and asked about his job and how the other classmates were doing, Mostly I was curious about Miguel who I was hoping might take me out for dinner upon my return to Los Angeles. As much as I loved my philandering with young men, I was hoping Los Angeles would signal a turn for me and ground me with a steady job and a nurturing relationship. The best guy I knew of was Miguel, the handsome Hispanic public high school teacher from writing school with a dry sense of humor and a great reputation for creative talent. He and George paired up in the semester for field study- something I haven’t yet plotted out for myself in the program.
“Miguel likes you, he really does, He cares for you,” George said.
“He cares for me?!? What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means he is really a private person and doesn’t want to be mentioned in the blog,” he said.
In my switch from whiskey to vodka, I thought it wise to text Miguel to join us immediately and consummate his care for me. He responded promptly that he was at a Bachelor Party far away but wanted to know where I was staying. In all my intoxicated wisdom, I thought that meant he was asking if he could express our physical appreciation for each other somewhere private. I told him and he continued to say he could not join me but acknowledged he would like to remain anonymous with regards to this blog.
“If you don’t come down, George will take me home and I am sure you know how disappointing that will be,” I texted.
“He will take care of you,” he wrote back.
Around this time, I was sloshy and making jokes to the gay men around me. I bummed cigarettes and was indulged with the type of humor you only get from people who have been rejected by mass society; wicked, sharp and sardonic. Between the cheap cigarettes and the mixed cocktails, a woman started dancing with me. She was petite, not quite plump but not thin either. Her curves remained in her underwear. She had blonde hair and cheap eye shadow on. How we started dancing I am not quite sure, but I let my hands linger over her hips and breasts, occasionally cupping her groin just long enough for her to know it was intentional.
Soon, another woman joined us, also blonde but dirtier and taller than I was. She must have been 6 feet tall because I was looking up at her. With colder eyes, she yanked on my pony tail a few times. I submitted, taking turns between the two girls mouths, sampling the sweet flavor of cherry lip gloss. I love men, but women are better kissers. They are soft but aggressive, and men have trouble balancing between the two. It wasn’t long before an even taller gentleman joined the circle of dancing, kissing and fondling.
He must have been 6’3 and looked down at the two blond girls. “I like this one,” the small one said, pointing at me like a teddy bear in the window. He grabbed the back of my hair, tilted my head up and buried his tongue in my mouth. I could almost taste the cocaine. I took him in, though I didn’t enjoy it and resumed dancing. “I want this one,” the girl continued. I felt hands on my hips, tugging me into the circle of vampires when George grabbed my hand and shouted, “We have to go!”
George tugged me into the cool night and I stumbled out onto the street, calling Miguel. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember him erupting in laughter long enough I felt the need to pause before my next sentence. When you make a boy laugh, it is better than hitting five cherries in a row on a penny slot machine. It is better than a proposition for the night. When a boy unleashes a laugh from his belly, you know that is as close to his soul you can get without cooking a meal or making him cum inside of you.
George took the phone away from me, “She is drunk. Hang up now, and don’t pick up if she calls again,” he said.
I got the phone back and Miguel was gone. I called again and got his voicemail. “God damn it, George,” I said, swaggering to my parked vehicle. George stuffed me in the passenger side and drove us to his bachelor apartment downtown. He led me up the stairs and down dark hallways in a bare apartment complex as I stumbled over my feet and tugged my hoodie tighter around me.
“I love you, George,” I slurred, falling on his bed.
“Ok, we are going to go to sleep now, ok?” he said.
“You are so handsome!” I said, jerking at his clothes.
Around here, it gets confusing in memory. I will freely admit George is a perfect male specimen. His body, face and personality are molded perfectly for this white girl, Sadly, his erection was not. I pulled off our clothes and kissed the carob skin, remembering how I didn’t like the smell of the first black man I slept with but loved the smell of George.
“You know you have the soul of a gay man,” he said.
I crawled over him, dropping kisses along his chest and back. Dragging my fingers and tongue along his skin, I discovered an inch long scar on his upper back. I fell in love with that scar. George didn’t really fight me off, but I could tell from his semi-erection that he wasn’t easily surrendered. I only remember wrapping myself around his warm, sinewy body, watching his head bow down like an infant wrapped in sling and feeling my mouth drag down his skin.
Things stopped. I guess I just passed out.
However, I did wake up in his arms. We were both in our underwear and I felt him around me as I huddled in a self-sustained ball around his blanket. I woke up. “Oh my God,” I said, “I have to get home.”
“Shhhhh, lay back down,” he said, burying his head under the covers.
Giggling, I stumbled into his bathroom. Over the door was a pull-up bar. The bathroom was bare and bachelor.
“Oh my God,” he said, “Come lay down …”
I hurdled myself over him, laughing, “I am sorry, I am a morning person.”
“Shhhhh,” he cooed, trying to pull my hand closer to the bed. I felt my cold breasts nestle into his backside through my bra and kissed his skin one last time before retreating to my phone.
“I have to go take care of my dogs,” I said, moving to the chair in front of his computer. I rolled over my email and Facebook to jumpstart my brain. “I think I made out with someone last night…”
“Those girls,” he mumbled into his pillow.
“That’s right, those girls,” I said. “I hope my memory is a lot dirtier than what I did to you last night.”
“You did touch my penis,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“What kind of gay guy would I be if I didn’t understand that,” he retorted.
I laughed into the cold morning air and typed our exchange into my FB update before pulling on my coat and kissing him goodbye. His eyes stayed shut to keep his birthday morning quiet as I danced out into the checkered hallways of his average, forgettable, grey, Los Angeles apartment building.
My car had a parking ticket, but I plucked it from the windshield and drove home before the other Angelenos woke up. When I arrived back to Alia’s house, she was staged on her throne, upon the couch and holding her bong. Her hair was wild and hadn’t been brushed. Her robe was slightly open. “How was it?” she asked.
“I smell like black man,” I said, opening my jacket and taking in the scent. “I love him …”
That night, Gary fell asleep with his Facebook open on my computer and I saw a message from his ex, Mary:
“I am worried about you, I heard this girl you took off with is bi-polar and hasn’t been taking her meds. And she broke into her parents house and stole some things. You need to know what type of person you are with.”
My chest caved in. The only people in Skamania who knew I was ever diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder as a child are my parents. I left on such a good note, with my employers, with my co-workers and with the Quarterback. Now, my personal history was poisoned in the well of small town gossip.
As Gary slept, I emailed her:
“I know about the rumors you are hearing about me. They are not true. I work very hard, I am in school full-time and work full-time. I rescue dogs. I am single. I don’t need to deal with character assassination because you feel you need someone to blame about Gary. He is safe with me and a good friend. It might be easier to believe every weird fucking rumor about me from people who never spoke to me … and being someone who has had her heart broken many times, I will understand that.
Just know it is a lie and that’s what you are perpetuating. It doesn’t hurt me now, down here in LA, but it is wrong.
Best of Luck,
“Yeah, I don’t know what to think about you. It’s perplexing, this situation. My first emotions were erratic, this is true. Shocking, mostly.
I don’t hate you, just confused as to why you would support this act. He had a full-time job -in which he was waiting for it to become- and two children who love him. I still love the guy too, he seemed “off” and in a moody daze for three weeks prior to you moving to Cali. He would never converse with me when I’d ask what was wrong, just shrug it off. Something is bugging him and it worries me.
He didn’t say a word about wanting to leave, or being unhappy. He was unapproachable to the point I didn’t want to talk for fear of an outrage of emotion from him.
I have fibromyalgia and thoracic outlet syndrome and finally overcoming my chronic migraines I’ve had for 18 months, the week before his departure. When he became full-time, the state cut off my health coverage and I’ve been off pain meds for 9 weeks. So I admit to being difficult to deal with, but after we moved from Stevenson to Carson-out of a moldy trailer-I’m FINALLY feeling better, then he disappears.
All I ask is for him to call me. I miss him very much and it hurts me that he couldn’t even tell his children goodbye.
I appreciate your communication, greatly.
Gary was miserable and was saying things like he hoped he would die of lung cancer before returning to work.
The night we left, I asked him a hundred times if he was sure. He said he was and then just sat in my car with my 3 dogs for the trip. I wanted to help my friend. I want him to be happy, but also encourage him to communicate to his family. I don’t know how much he does.
I often prod him to talk since he mostly just thinks to himself since we left.
I don’t know him well, but help when I can, if I can. I don’t want to hurt anyone.
He mentioned your migraines and feels responsible for them, since they occur more often when you two live together. I also get migraines, so I know how hard that is, I can’t imagine as a Mom.
I tag him [on Facebook] for his friends and family, so you guys know he is ok. Not to hurt you.
As for the rumors, I was diagnosed bi-polar when I was 15 and stopped taking the meds when I was 17 because I thought it was bullshit. I am 34 now, and I still think it was bullshit.
I broke into my parents house after they kicked me out and ‘stole’ my loofa sponge, my disposable razor and some soy chicken nuggets because I couldn’t afford to replace them before payday.
My parents kicked me out because I went to a bar after work, but was home before 8pm. I think they are going senile. It is painful to hear bad things about myself when I loved everyone in Skamania, but that is the way life goes. It doesn’t matter my intentions, how hard I worked, how I paid people back, all that matters is what is a juicier story. I have to let that go, but it stings.
I am always here to chat, I know men don’t and I hate that too,
“I apologize for listening to the rumors, it’s how people want to ‘help’, I guess. Feed me information that they think will be useful. Assuming isn’t something I enjoy, yet that’s all I had. I don’t know you and Gary rarely spoke of you when he chatted about work.
Gary is a private person and it hurt that he’d speak of me in a bad way to people I don’t know. He’s been the only man I’ve been with, father of my two girls and was the best friend to share secrets and stories with. To lose my best friend in one ‘swoop’ feels horrible. I cry after my girls go to sleep, or when they are in school. He’s made me feel so horrible,
“I suspect my parents started the rumor and that hurts. Lets friend [on Facebook].
Gary is nice, and never once hit on me,
“Lol, I had to make the ‘moves’ when we met. Been attracted to him since the day we had to introduce ourselves in camera class in New Mexico.
Let him know his ‘ghouls’ love him, but are hurt by his actions.
They spoke to a school counselor the day after he left, Ebony was hurt the most (she’s I’m afraid they’ve learned, from us, to hide their feelings and I hope they still talk to the counselors. I haven’t been able to talk to them about Gary. It makes me emotional and I don’t want them to worry about me too,
“I know its hard. I can’t influence him, he needs to decide for himself. I suggested he call the girls this afternoon and left it at that,
“Thank you for that,
“I just want to do the right thing. Please remember that. Shit is in flux,
My parents. My God damn fucking parents. I bought a bottle of white wine and a pack of American spirits and I brooded in Alia’s backyard. Then I emailed them one last thing:
“Some rumors about me being bi-polar, refusing to take medication and stealing from you are circulating around Skamania, which makes me sad because I left on such a good rapport after working my ass off all summer.
I know some part of this came from you two, and I hope you know you are only hurting yourselves. Darkness begets darkness.
I am staying in the light.
Shame on you.”
I never heard back from them.
That night I got trashed and Alia didn’t know how to deal with it. “I have poor coping mechanisms,” I slurred, leaning on her quiet piano. She calmly smiled before I slipped into the spare room to bury my head in dogs and pillows.
Around 4am, I woke up and I spoke to myself. “You are ok. Focus on getting money and getting a place to stay. You will be ok.”
Alia appeared in the crack of the door. “I heard you talking so I thought I would get up and talk to you,” she said.
“Sometimes I talk to myself to calm down,” I said.
“That’s ok. Just know your parents found each other and fell in love. They thought, how awesome is this I found someone just like me, who understands me! Then they have this beautiful baby who is nothing like them. She has high energy, she sings all the time and can’t sit down for too long. They look at each other and think, ‘What do we do with this?’ They just didn’t know. That’s all. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you,” she said.
In the dark, I smiled for her, even though she couldn’t see me. “Thank you,” I said, softly. “I love living with you.”
“I love living with you, too,” she said, “but you are a lot easier to talk to when you haven’t been drinking.”