Tag Archives: car accidents

Light Me Up

Around the time Michael came into my life, there was a series of automotive misfortunes. There were so many supernatural disasters, I wrote a personal essay on  it. I planned on publishing it here in the blog, but for other reasons (grants, publication elsewhere) I am keeping it tucked away for now. So allow me to pussy foot around the car drama, what I not-so-fondly refer to as “Carma”, and address the relationship. My relationship.

Let me first lay some basic vehicular groundwork down:

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My 2007 hyundai was worth $5,000 in Portland. That was the price I was offered by a few small dealerships willing to do a trade. To make sure I got the hell out of the Northwest with my three dogs safe, I opted to keep the car and make it down to L.A. first before selling. However, in L.A., my car was only worth $3,000. This was a car I bought for $7k and just bought new wheels, new brakes and a new engine (twice over) for after three years of payments. When the brakes went out one night in Burbank, my wheels shut down, the car froze and everyone honked at me with all the care and understanding Los Angeles is known for. I parked the car, called a tow and then called Michael.

The car trouble followed me from 2011, when the engine blew out of the hyundai. Trekking back and forth to work from the border of the Angeles National forest was bad. Trying to pay off the $1,000 deductible while still making payments was worse. Fixing the car and being free for a few months was great until the engine blew again, 6 months later. Haggling with the mechanic, haggling with the insurance company and worst of all, depending on my senile, eccentric and catty parents for transport out of a very rural part of Washington state was the absolute worst. Now the goddamn thing was failing me on something as simple as brakes, now so severely damaged in just the month I was driving it, the minimum of cost to repair would be $500.

Michael and I had only been dating for a couple weeks and I was worried the latest of personal devastations would drive him away. There is always something bad that happens, and there is always a man who leaves around the time that something bad happens. When Michael arrived, he gave me a cigarette and laughed at me, watching as I kicked my car and made all the necessary calls. I negotiated a sale for the vehicle to the tow truck driver, ending up at $2700. Not bad … all things considered. I mean, it was a disappointment. I thought I could sell that car, buy a cheaper one and pay off the deposit on the new place maybe even get a new tattoo, replace the loose porcelain cap over my tooth, buy a fridge. I had to let all of that go now. So it wasn’t that bad considering I was at a bar in Burbank, nursing a martini and trying to make my 23-yr-old date laugh.  I’d hoped he wouldn’t notice how frazzled I was. It was just a car. It was just a bad investment. It was the end of my dreaming about what I could pull off, at least for awhile. He didn’t need to know all that yet.

 

Janisand my sundress

The car, I named Janis in 2009, took a pound of flesh out of me. The car payments I signed on for were fine on my salary, but I was laid off a month or so later. Those payments were my greatest expense for years, but I managed it while unemployed and, even at times, homeless. The mechanical problems with Janis were so emotionally and financially exhausting in the 3 years I owned her, that by the time her eyes rolled back in my arms that night, I really needed to let her go.

Michael, wanting to impress, offered me his vehicle to use while he bussed and walked to work. At the time, he was a receptionist at the same Doggie Daycare I worked for the few years prior to leaving LA. Now that I was back, I knew the resident sociopath there had been promoted to manager and there was no way in hell I was going to return as his employee. Not to mention, my former roommate, an emotionally retarded kid in her early twenties, was still working there. We ended on bad terms after she accused me of stealing her bed before leaving the apartment and leaving L.A. (Truth be told, the bitch withheld funds meant for flood damages to my unit from the landlord, and since I was subletting, my legal rights were limited in the matter … Not only did she lie about the amount refunded for the flooding, which drove me and my three dogs out of the unit entirely, but she reduced the “reported” moneys owed to me for rental of the bed I was using, so I took the bed as full payment. And I will sleep on it comfortably tonight.) She is fundamentally a bad person. Anyway, I didn’t need that kind of grief for $10 an hour.

working doggie daycare

Michael worked there for $12 an hour and didn’t have very many personality problems being that he was a boy (which put all males at an advantage with female upper management- I am assuming because they never got laid) and he was so easy-going. When Doggie Daycare got wind that he and I were dating, things changed. The imaginary war they had with me somehow transferred over to Michael. Managers were yelling at him for problems that occurred on the playground. For example, he was accused of failing to issue the proper naps to an aggressive dog who initiated a fight. During the time of the dogfight, Michael was greeting guests and filing paperwork in the lobby. Never mind the handful of employees left to supervise and monitor the dogs themselves on the playground. (Michael never worked on the playground, he was always stuck at the front desk. Something he hoped to change.) The HR woman, notoriously passive-aggressive, cut his hours- something she was famous for doing to employees who suddenly fell out of favor. I called her on it once. “That would be illegal!”she said.

“I know,” I returned. After a brief silence, “Ok, you can come in and work whenever you want to,” she said. And I did.

Only a few weeks before, everyone welcomed Michael back with open arms when he told them he wasn’t moving to Milwaukee afterall. Even the owner, known for being cold in person, embraced him. Now that he was in one spot and revoked his notice, he was thinking about putting in his notice again. He wanted to work somewhere he could spend more time with dogs, and less with people. Somewhere he wouldn’t have to worry about who defriended him, who was giving him the silent treatment and why … somewhere he wouldn’t be watched so meticulously for his next mistake so they could put pressure on him. Pressure to do what, exactly? Break up with me? I don’t know that I would go that far, or give them that much credit as thinking individuals. They were pushing him and no one would say why.

Pin down love

*

One day, while Michael was at work, I was pulling out of my driveway in his elantra when an Armenian woman, driving well over 35 miles an hour down a residential, took off the whole front end of Michael’s car. Despite the minor dent in her passenger side door, she cried, called the police and sued for injuries. Her father even came out (she was 45 years old, so don’t ask me why) and they obstructed our driveway for two hours after the incident until I asked them to move.

The small dent that won over my insurance and awarded HER injury

STUPID BITCH’S CAR: The small dent that won over my insurance and awarded HER injury

 

The car I walked out of without injury and with the full burden of the accident

MICHAEL’S CAR: The car I walked out of without injury and with the full burden of the accident

Leaning against yet another vehicle devastated by chance and bad luck, I lit up another much needed cigarette. A woman passing by stopped. “Don’t worry. You come into life with nothing. You leave with nothing.”

Michael walked to my house from work.  “You probably saved me from some horrible accident on the freeway. That car was a death trap. I am relieved really …” he said, holding my hand. “I am just glad you are ok.”

The insurance company found in favor of that Armenian woman since I was pulling out of the driveway and speed is nearly impossible to prove. That left both Michael and myself without a car. I have bussed it before, but with the sprawling city of L.A. and a job that required a vehicle, we were really screwed for a while.

My roommate, Frank, said “If that was my car and you were the one driving when that happened … I would be outta here. That was the test. It was his moment to save the day. Now nothing is going to break you two up.”

Michael put on a face for me, but I could tell by the brooding over his room-temperature 24 oz. can of Mickey’s that he was hit hard.  His kindness never wavered. He never lost his temper. He never raised his voice. He never held it over my head. It never resurfaced in arguments over other things. A few days later, he lost his iPhone while walking my dogs. When he came back, he fell face first onto my bed. I walked him to the 7Eleven and told him we could watch whatever movie he wanted and drink whatever he wanted … “The Bodyguard” he said.

“With … Whitney Houston?”

“Yeah.”

“… ok. Whatever you want.”

 

1563-THE BODYGUARD 保镖 pp 1563

 

Never once did he allow me to feel the pressure he was under. I wanted to be that kind of person. To be patient and kind, never a prisoner of resentment or negativity but always a solid, self-contained person who kept things in perspective. Unfortunately, I have the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old. Saying this aloud once to Michael, he crunched his brow and nodded heavily.

“Well, you know whose fault that is?” I said.

He knew the answer very well. “Your mother’s?” he said.

“That’s right. My mother.”

“That bitch …” he teased.

Instead of his patience and even-keeled mentality spreading to me, my ornery, argumentative and passionate mood swings passed over to him. In the beginning of our courtship, when we navigated around a bad driver who failed to put on their signal or cut us off, he would roll down his window and shout, “Hey, hey. I don’t like you! You suck!” Now, he would shout, “Hey, fuck you! Yeah, you! FUCK YOU!” Though, I never saw him at work, I sensed the attitude was carried over, and not without justification. That said, there was one person to blame for his sudden change of attitude, his willingness to say “no” to working a day he requested off or his refusal to absorb the blame from management on a bad day. Me.

I could also see my bad luck rubbing off on him and it scared me. He was the nicest person I had ever been with. He was working hard to impress me, so hard I could see it slowly killing him. He wasn’t smiling or laughing as much. He was exhausted from walking to work every day- initially he refused to take the bus because it was so unreliable. I didn’t want to lose him. It always seems as though I drag everyone I love down into my hole. Now, he was being buried in it.

“At least you acknowledge it,” Frank said in the kitchen one day. Hearing someone else say it made it real. So, I worked against it. I tried to make Michael laugh. I gave him blow jobs. Walked him to work with a thermos of coffee at 5am and told him outrageous stories as the sun rose. Then … I introduced him to drugs.

I am an advocate of drug use. For some reason, people turn my words and hear, “I advocate drug abuse.” No. I advocate drug use. I didn’t open up the crystal curtain to cure Michael of depression or distract him from life, I led him into that world to give him something back, to kick up some magic dust, to help him see the world beyond work every day, looming parking tickets and temperamental co-workers. I don’t have very much money, but you don’t need much to hop a comet and ride through another universe.

ecstasy bro feel the love

While we were car-less, he was dog-sitting in a mansion. During the early stages of courtship, it is difficult spending time away from each other. So I would drop by. Being a professional pet-sitter, I had no qualms with making myself at home there. Afterall, we played with the dogs more than we played with each other. Michael told me I could help myself to anything in the house, including a stocked beer fridge in the garage. One night, instead of beer and champagne, I brought a few pills of MDMA and my gay boyfriend, Trent. (I should add that Trent is also a professional dog-sitter, so though there might be a question of ethics here in violating the home of a client, those dogs were WELL taken care of.)

Michael insisted he didn’t feel it, even as he paced back and forth on his phone, sweating and shouting to a friend back home in Milwaukee how much he loved him. You could see Michael’s testosterone surge, which is a bit of a surprise from his typical boyishness. His voice, face and small(er) physique lead you to believe he is younger than he is, innocent, naive … and he is to some degree, at least more so than the rest of us. But on this particular night his voice deepened and he became more argumentative, more hard-headed, maybe even a little intense.

mdma pills

“I have never seen people respond to MDMA like this except when I am with you,” Trent said. A couple years before, we rolled with Frank in his Hollywood apartment, long before we were roommates. Out of the blue, Frank punched the couch. It put us on edge, but now I am beginning to understand that straight men, when flooded with dopamines and emotion, snap a little. I won’t pretend to suggest why other than acknowledging the obvious- men are raised to resist emotion, unless it comes in the form of anger.

“Can we have feelings talk, please?” Michael asked and asked and asked.

“Let’s just enjoy ourselves,” I said. “Feelings Talk” is always a push for Michael when he has had too much to drink, but now, more than ever, it was bouncing off the side of the wall and back in my face like a rubber ball and paddle.

“No!” I said finally. “NO we can not have feelings talk!”

“How dare you!” Michael said. Then I slapped him in the face. He claims it was hard but, if my hand wasn’t burning, it was just a love tap. He retreated to the master bedroom on the upper level, and I followed to ease his mind. The first time you do any drug, it is always good to have a veteran there to guide you through, keep your mind on track and your nerves soft. So I seduced him. There, the first time we made love that night, a small drop of blood smeared on the bed covers.

“Is that blood?” I said, turning pale.

Michael clapped his hands together, “It’s a mitzvah!”

The love-making resumed downstairs, in the guest bedroom. Trent would come down the short staircase occasionally, “Um, is this the bathroom?” he asked.

“Yeah, help yourself,” we said, not even thinking to close the bedroom door while we made love, even as Trent walked up and down the hallway. Every few hours, his head would pop around the side of Michael’s swinging scrotum, “Um … sorry to bother you again, but is the beer down here?”

“Yeah, come on down,” Michael said.

bidet

The guest bathroom had heated floors and a bidet. The bidet could spray warm water towards the genitals or the rectum. It was around this time I discovered the joys of “pulsating” mode. It also was wired with a companion drying device, oscillation available. The MDMA put my body in a constant state of engorged sensitivity. A touch of the human hand, a spray of hot water, the chill from cold bed sheets, the soft grain of fur on a dog’s back, it all engulfs you and the world is heightened. When I think about MDMA, I remember the night I discovered magic in the Puget Sound. In 1996, I went to school around there as an Undergrad. At night, we hiked down to the water and someone could take a stick, shove it down the placid black pool of water gently lapping up against the muddy beaches, and a trail of light would ignite behind the movement. The dinoflagellates (a single-celled organism that floats with the plankton) is bioluminesce; meaning when stimulated, it glows in the dark “either as a continuous glow or an instantaneous flash”.  Watching the unseen life light up like steps of vertebrae along the spine could only be, exist and happen, for one reason, at least one reason for an 18-year-old who didn’t know any better … simply to be beautiful. To reveal a world of wonder that has yet to be discovered. Those flashes of light find their way along the body and spirit when the night, company and drug line up perfectly. And in the magic of science, you find your place in the universe, if only for a few seconds.

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Tumbling around with Michael downstairs, and joking around with Trent upstairs was divine; my two favorite men in one house and all my senses tickled with physical and emotional love. It was one of the best nights of my life.

You don’t need drugs to appreciate the world, to reinvigorate sex and friendship, to make you laugh and cry about all the beautifully tragic things webbed into a fragile and complicated human being- but it helps.

 

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When morning came and we sent Michael out to find us food, I apologized to Trent. “Sorry we spent so much time having sex and leaving you up here alone.”

“That’s ok. It was sexy listening to all those noises. It really was. By the way, he is definitely straight.”

Later, Michael would complain about the evening, “I don’t know, you were kind of a downer. You brought me down, man.”

“Michael, you realize we had sex about 12 times in one night …”

“Oh … yeah.”

Later that week, Doggie Daycare suspected something was going on. Unfortunately, Trent, Michael and I all had ties to this Doggie Daycare. We all worked there, we all had friends who once worked there and some who still do. When we posted pictures to Facebook, someone squealed to management and before we knew it, the promoted sociopath of Doggie Daycare was making unexpected visits to the house.

“They said they found a marijuana pipe, saw all the beer was gone and claimed 500 miles was put on their car. Oh yeah, they also found the bloody sheets,” Michael said following a reprimand at work. I buried my face in my hands, horrified. There is no secret at Doggie Daycare. My previous boss, my previous co-workers, my ex-roommate, my enemies, my acquaintances, my friends all knew I had bloodied those sheets. It was a side effect from taking the morning after pill a few days before. My cheeks burned. The air was sucked out of my lungs. I lifted my head up, “Haven’t they ever heard of a party?”

Michael laughed. “They didn’t fire me, but I quit. I had to. I’ve worked there for years and they are going to send [Sociopath] to check on me? I’m sorry, but that’s an insult. I don’t need it.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah, fuck that place,” he said. “Anyway, I can’t go back now.”

My friend, Sascha, gave him a job at a dog training facility in Hollywood. Michael took a slight pay cut, lost hours in his work week and now had to bus it an hour each way into Hollywood. He claimed he was happier but I could see he was tired.

So, in the month we dated, Michael lost his car, his phone and his job.

“I am ruining your life,” I said.

“That’s ok,” he smiled, “I am having a good time.”

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No Respect!

Michael was in the habit of asking me out for drinks and dinner, almost daily. I was poor and thrilled with the invitation, but I knew the kid probably didn’t have enough money for a full on courtship. He was 23 and working at a doggie daycare for $12 an hour.

One night, he asked me out for drinks and I agreed. When he arrived he said, “Would you like to drive or do you want to take my car?”

“Let’s take your car this time,” I said.

“Ok …,” he said, “It sucks. Just so you know …”

“I don’t care,” I said, walking out to his hyundai four door. I tried opening the door on the passenger side. “Does this open?”

“Nope,” he said. I climbed in through the driver’s side and sat down. The passenger side of the car was completely smashed in on itself. I tried to roll down the window, “Does the window work at all?”

“Nope,” is all he said again, while lighting a cigarette. I could tell he was embarrassed. What did I care? I never understood the fixation on cars, cars as part of our identity, cars as reflection of our life … who the fuck cares? I didn’t. As he drove, the gear slipped out every few seconds, so he popped it in neutral then back in drive, lunging the machine forward. “Wow, this is bad,” I said.

“Yup,” he said, sucking on his cigarette, not looking at me.

“Oh well,” I said.

piece of shit car

He took me to a bar we had never been to on Brand Ave. in Glendale, between car dealerships. We parked and walked into the hole in-the-wall, with a heavy door and absolutely no life on either side of it from the street. It was an odd sort of place for a bar. There was no foot traffic, no restaurants, absolutely nothing would lead you to its door unless you happened upon it from buying a new car at a nearby dealership or found it on Google, like we did. He opened the door for me, and as I walked in I knew immediately we were the only white people in the bar. To the right were a couple of Hispanic men playing pool. At either end of the bar, more working class, Hispanic men. The only women were behind the bar, around my age, also Hispanic and carting a chip around on their shoulder the size of Rhode Island.

“Can I have a Bud Light and a shot of whiskey? And for the woman …” Michael started.

“No,” one of the bartenders said. They were both there side by side, with their heavy eye-make-up, tired tank tops and cheap, sparkling hair clips bought from a street vendor downtown.

“No?” he asked.

“No,” the bartender said.

“The Bud Light or the whiskey?” I asked.

“We only serve beer or wine here,” she said, flatly in a thick Spanish accent.

“Ok, well can I have a Bud Light?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

He threw his hand up on the bar. I could tell he was having a bad day.

“No Bud?” I asked. “What beer do you have?”

“Well, we have Bud, just not on tap,” she said.

bud_light_bottle_decal__70472

“Oh,” Michael said, “Well, that’s fine.” He turned to me and lifted his heavy hand off the bar as a motion to get my order.

“Can I just have any beer? Surprise me,” I said.

She looked confused for a moment but then a little excited by the task. I have trouble ordering, especially when faced with a lot of options. Often I will just ask the waiter or bartender to surprise me. They know what is best anyway, so rarely am I disappointed.

“So, I was having a tough day and just wanted to talk about a bunch of stuff that has been going on,” Michael said. He looked crouched over but still confident. He had money on his card, he had a girl at full attention next to him, and he took the moment for all it could be worth.

“You have seen my car, you know it was in an accident. It was pretty bad. So the first one I was driving along and looking at my phone for sushi menus, and rear ended this guy. He seemed fine. My airbag went off but it wasn’t a big deal. We exchanged information, everything was fine. My horn was stuck and just going off through the whole thing. After we exchanged information and I gave all my information to the police, I spent 30-minutes pulling out all the wires in my car to make the horn stop blaring. Everything seems fine … no one’s hurt. Then I find out the guy is suing for soft tissue damage.

Second car accident, so you notice how my transmission keeps slipping? No big deal, I just pop it in neutral and back in drive to get the car back on gear. I come up on this whole line of cars and I brake. It is really weak and my transmission is just failing, so I swerve to the right to avoid rear ending a bunch of people. My blinker is on and I am exiting to the right, and this guy speeds up to cut me off and hits me. It completely demolishes the passenger side of my car. I mean … you’ve seen it. No mirror, the doors don’t work, completely fucked. We wait for the cops, they don’t show so we just exchange information and drive off. Now, he is claiming that I hit him on the driver’s side and pushed him into the shoulder, making me responsible for damage to both sides of his car … which is total bullshit. In addition to that, I have like five unpaid parking tickets. And I work all day, I just don’t want to hand over my paycheck to the city and say, ‘Here ya go! Here is all the money I have been working for! Enjoy!’ You know? I can’t stand the idea of it. I worked for that money. I go in, I do my job and I think I do it well. And no matter how good of a person I am to other people, how nice I am, what I do to help, how good I am at my job, I always seem to get fucked.

And I really don’t get it. I mean, I should have some karma coming back to me. I should have a shit load of karma coming back to me! Instead, I have two people suing my car insurance company, five unpaid parking tickets and work is always calling me on my days off, always asking me to come in and cover and I really feel like I deserve more respect, you know? Just because I am a good person.”

Our drinks came and Michael put down a few bills on the counter. “And see, even though she was a bitch to me, I am still going to tip her well. Better than anyone else in here. Will she be nice to me, now? No.”

“Well, if I can respond … I don’t want to interrupt if you are just venting,” I said.

“No, please. I trust your opinion,” he said.

“I don’t put much stock in karma. I think the easier and happier you can make things for yourself, the easier and happier life. If you dwell in the negative, it just fosters more negativity. That’s nothing new though, that is just my theory on karma. I know things seem really horrible now with the car accidents and the parking tickets, and I am not saying these things won’t happen in your future, but they will be easier to deal with in your future. In your twenties, everything seems worse than it actually is. I mean, it sounds bad, but this is just your first time around. You have no experience in how to deal with it, so things feel extreme. When you have had a few rounds of shitty luck, it doesn’t seem so bad. When I turned 30, everything seemed more manageable. As for work, [the HR woman] is calling you in and asking you to do a bunch of stuff you don’t have time for …” I trailed off, hoping for an answer.

Karma's a bitch!

“nnYeah,” he said. When he wants to agree with me on something, he clips the beginning of the Y with a nasally “en” sound. “You know, it’s my job so I don’t want to say no, but I am the only person they ask to do all the extra stuff, all the extra shifts that need to be filled, whenever anyone calls in sick … I am just tired of it.”

“Well, that just means you have become their go-to person and you need to lay down some boundaries. You need to learn to say ‘no’,” I said, sipping my Blue Moon.

“I don’t want to have to say no. I want them to leave me alone on my days off and not ask me to do so much all the time,”  he said.

“Unfortunately, that is just a part of growing up,” I said, instantly watching him deflate like a birthday balloon forgotten on a fence post. I tried to save a little air for him. “I had the same problems when I was your age. It took me a long time to figure out how to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ but it is all a part of our journey. People will take advantage of you until you learn to reinforce boundaries.”

“I would rather just surround myself with nice people who I can trust not to push or manipulate me all the time. That is what I want-” he said, growing more passionate.

“You are in Los Angeles, Michael. Come on, don’t fool yourself. I had the same theory when I was around your age. People want to be pushy, bossy or mean to me? Fuck em! The truth is most people are going to get what they can from you. You can’t live in a place like this and avoid that,” I said.

He shook his head, “No, I am sorry. I won’t give up on that. That is something I am not giving up on! I refuse to work around that type of person. I just want to be around good people and not worry.”

I shrugged and sipped my beer. “So, are you going back to Milwaukee then?”

“No, I think I am going to hang here and give it a try. I have my dog-sitting base here. Most of my clients are here. It just seems stupid to give all that up and go back to the Midwest,” he said.

“I agree. That makes sense.”

“And, um … I am hoping I could give things between me and you a shot,” he said, sipping his Bud while turning his body away from the bar. He kept his eyes on me. He gently grabbed my hand, “I like you. I like you a lot and I want to give it everything I have.”

“I like you, too,” I said. My chest was heavy. There was some trepidation for this young man, holding my hand in a suffocatingly unfriendly bar, to propose a relationship after just confessing his disappointment in basic human nature and the revelation that life just isn’t fair. I didn’t want to be his lesson on older women and broken hearts. Now, on top of the basic problems I saw with the pairing, he wasn’t going back to Milwaukee. I thought it was the right decision anyway, but I knew if things didn’t go the way he expected with us, that would naturally become a source of resentment.

My phone buzzed. Michael would take note with his eyes. I would check the message, it was either from Frank or from the Crow (who I made love to a few days beforehand). “Anyone important?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Just someone I met getting a little enthusiastic.”

He nodded, “The Crow?” God damn Facebook. He must have seen my post on Halloween.

“… yeah,” I said.

He nodded. Ordered another drink and played it cool. “I really appreciate all the things you are saying. Usually I don’t listen to advice, but I want you to know that I really respect your opinion and I take it very seriously.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Advice is tricky. We are all on our journey, you know.”

“Oh, I know. But I really appreciate what you had to say, so thank you!” He was so damn genuine. His voice and face were something you might see out of a 50s newspaper advertisement. He was earnest and boyish, but above all, at that moment, he reminded me of myself when I first moved to California. I was more stubborn and thick headed. I still got myself in trouble, but I relied far too much on human kindness and generosity to get by. As each new friend or opportunity or dream hovering over my twenty-something head soured or passed me by, it fed  into a hole I dug for myself. It is filled with shovelfuls of disappointment and bitterness. Every year I try to cover it up with fresh soil, but I can still see where the grass won’t grow.

The real lesson and love I have for Los Angeles comes from getting kicked out, yelled at, fired, pushed around and taken advantage of so much in such a small period of time, that I was forced to grow up immediately. I came out learning how independent I could be, how strong and resilient, how adaptable and wily. Los Angeles bullied me into becoming a weird kind of superhero- thrown out the company skyscraper like Selina Kyle and revived by a pack of stray cats like Catwoman. (This is not accurate within the backstory of the original Batman comics in 1950 or Frank Miller’s revived Batman comic books series 1987, but rather the Catwoman comic book series of 1992)

cattoon

Down and out. Up and down. Los Angeles gave me everything and then took it all away. What I learned was to enjoy the ride- I learned to be happily surprised when things went my way and prepared when it didn’t. I let go of money and boxes of things I carried with me from Washington state. I let go of lofty dreams and standards for who I wanted to be or who I wanted to fall in love with. I allowed myself to become a shape-shifter, a thief, a hard worker, a fantasy girl, a drug user, a student, an inventor, a dreamer, street performer, anything I needed to to get through another pay period with my soul intact. Compromises are made along the way, but I know how far I can be pushed and what I am unwilling to sacrifice. When you walk out of the cloud of dust knowing exactly who you are, you can really do anything. And for that, Los Angeles, I will always be grateful.

“No respect, huh? Do you know Rodney Dangerfield?” I asked.

“Yeah, of course I do,” Michael said.

I pretended to loosen my tie, “Yeah, I wish I was breastfed, but my mother always had a headache.” Michael erupted in laughter.

“I told this girl to call me when no one was home. She called, I went over, and no one was home,” I said, in a poor imitation.

“That is the best Rodney Dangerfield impression I have ever seen,” he said.

I looked down, smiling. “He is my favorite.”

Sometimes it is just easier to laugh than explain.

rodney_dangerfield_2006_03_10

**

That weekend, Sascha invited us out to her place for a party at her neighbor’s place. We grabbed Trent, my gay boyfriend and Gary, my roommate, then headed up to her studio apartment in North Hollywood.

“We are coming (over). I have men,” I texted.

“Ha u have who? An Indian roommate, a bisexual boyfriend and a gay husband?” she wrote back.

“Yes, all of the above.”

Sascha, Trent, Michael and I all come from the same Doggie Daycare. We all quit at certain points of time, mostly when we were all fed up or making a major life change. “As fucked up as that place was, and despite all our complaints about it, it really did bring us together … which is worth a lot,” Trent said. It was an odd job, and I loved it for a good year. We were paid to play with dogs in a large playground and everyone was strange, broken and sarcastic. When friends started leaving and the odd regulars who practically lived there were promoted, things went downhill and we all ended up leaving.

Michael and I were flirting in Sascha’s apartment. “I really love this thing going on right here,” Sascha said, making a big circle with her index finger over me and Michael. Trent turned away. Earlier, he had confessed he was jealous but didn’t know why. I find it incredibly flattering but doubly confused because I never thought Trent found me attractive. That is unless I am fooling myself, and it is Michael that he is really jealous over. I didn’t ask.

We reviewed the practical jokes and biting humor passed around at Doggie Daycare. “Everyone was nice to me after a while, but Trent and [StarFire]. I would dread working with you two,” Michael said. “I just came in and wanted to do my job, then I have two people in back who wanted to make my life a living hell.” Trent and I cackled on the loveseat together. We bounce back and forth, opposite each other, laughing until our faces are red and we have to cough for air.

“The person who really got the brunt of you two was [Mississippi]. The nicest and hardest working person there and he was pushed every day,” Michael said. Mississippi was a young man in his early twenties who came out to Los Angeles from Mississippi (of course) to become a rock star. He was very good looking, had a southern accent and just wasn’t clever enough to keep up with me or Trent. So we preyed on him, joke after joke after joke … we laid it on thick.

“Hard worker? Come on!!!” I said.

“Oh please! Mississippi was no more of a hard worker than anyone else. He just complained the most,” Trent said.

Mississippi would come in to work after dropping dogs off at their various homes in the company van, usually half hour to an hour late, overwhelmed with car problems, traffic problems, who knew. “What happened, did you break a nail?” Trent would ask.

“Your mascara is running. Do you want to tip back a few cosmos and talk about it?” I said. “God, your face is getting really red. Are you reverse menstruating?”

Trent and I were unbeatable. And we really pushed it until one day Mississippi just walked out, blushing, silent and fed up. Our rationale is that he is sexy, he is good-looking, tall, hell, as it turns out he is actually talented. If anyone deserves to be torn down through banter and especially grotesque “Your Mother” jokes, it should be that kid. “We are helping him get used to LA,” I said. “Making him stronger. Someday he will only have us to thank!”

mississippi
Mississippi eventually ignored us to the point where joking became a bit boring … but once in awhile he will resurface in my life, show up here or there with his girlfriend, and I always see the beginning of a little smile. He kind of liked it.

The bass was coming through Sascha’s apartment from next door with the rising chatter of people lining up outside. The party was a house full of large, Hispanic men with bald heads and neck tattoos. I am no racial profiler, but we obviously wouldn’t ever run into this crowd at the same coffee houses or doggie care circles (and yes there is overlap in that department)! They were a little intimidating. Sascha insisted they were nice, so we all went over to the house party already toasted from a 12 pack of Bud Light. When we came in, we all quietly walked in a line to the backyard, where a DJ was set-up and playing hip hop. I just wanted to dance, so my 5’4 boyfriend and I took over the dance floor.  Alicia Keys came on and we drunkenly sang to each other:

♫ ♪ You and me together
Through the days and nights
I don’t worry ’cause
Everything’s gonna be alright

People keep talking ♫ ♪
They can say what they like
But all I know is
Everything’s gonna be alright

♫ ♪ No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I’m feeling  ♫ ♪
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I feel for you, you, you
Can get in the way of what I feel for you

“Yeah .. um you two have been seen. People are watching you,” Sascha said.

“Good,” I said. “We are this party!” I grabbed Michael by the coat and lifted him up to my mouth. We all grabbed beer out of the cooler next to the DJ. When I reached in and nothing was left, I turned to the tattooed bald guy next to me.

“There is nothing left but cold ice, now my hand is cold…” I said.

“I know, I took the last one. Sorry,” he said.

“Mother fucker,” I said, crunching up my empty beer can and throwing it at the cooler. It bounced off the corner and flew into a dark corner of the courtyard. He quietly excused himself. “Just kidding ..” I said. I let myself into the kitchen through the backyard, and opened the fridge. There was an open bottle of moscato wine. The women at the party stood along the wall, next to the table covered in chips and cake, beef and chicken. You could assemble your own taco or enjoy fried chicken and birthday cake. They watched through their drawn in eyebrows and extra thick lip liner, like they were cartoon characters who needed to outline themselves with crayons. I pulled out the bottle of wine, used my teeth to uncork it, spit it against the wall and drank out of the bottle. No one bothered us, but I figured it was better to put on a little bit of a show than cower in the plants outside. Though, that was exactly what Gary, the physically largest of all five of us, was doing.

moscato_wine

Trent and Sascha were ripping up the dance floor, and eventually someone pushed Trent aside. “Get out of here, faggot,” they said. Trent stepped away a little but didn’t leave Sascha alone, after all, she was busting out that ass like a real professional. I had never seen her move like that, the men were hungry and circling.

“Someone called you faggot! WHO!? I am going to kill that motherfucker!” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “I am used to it. It’s not worth it.”

“It’s worth it to me,” I said.

“Just stop. Please,” Trent said. I sucked the venom back in, but I never could relax after that. Michael was already on me about the relationship. He was drunk and kept grabbing my arm, “Let’s have feelings talk!” That is his thing, I guess we all sound like a broken record after a few too many drinks. Michael becomes a therapist on crack, “Come on, let’s talk about it. How do you feel?”

“I don’t know yet, I am thinking about it,” I said, in a sea of people dancing and drinking, all the while watching where I stepped as the only lights came from the DJ booth or the helicopters overhead.

“So what? Why don’t you want to have a relationship? Is it the sex? Fine. We can have an open relationship if that’s what you want,” Michael said.

“It’s not the sex but … really?” I said.

“Yeah, why not? Whatever you want,” he said. I could see his mind was sinking, the shadows under his hair and eyebrows were growing darker. His face slowly dripping into a frown. He had too much to drink and was crossing over.

While waiting with him in the small line outside the bathroom, he accidentally knocked over a family picture hanging on the wall. When he stumbled backward to recover it and prop it back where it belonged, he asked the slightly overweight girl next to him, “Nice picture, huh?”

I stormed away and then said, “You like girls with threaded eyebrows, is THAT it? Fine. Ask her all the questions you want. In the meantime, tell her nice 5” pumps.”

threadingchin

“You’re jealous … how cute,” he said. We were a mess. At one point, I remember turning around and hearing him shout, “You fucked FRANK (my roommate)! Didn’t you? Oh my God, of course you did!” I shook my head and walked away, he would corner me and manically recover, “Come on, I really care about you. I want to make this work. What do you want? What can I give you? Anything …Let’s get married.”

He lost his cool, but it was a little refreshing. There was a flawed, emotional human being deep down in there and he seemed to really want a relationship with me. “Just take it easy, we don’t have to be in a relationship. We can just do whatever we want. Remember? You are going to grow and change, let me give you the opportunity to do that without consequences. When I was married, I was your age. And a wedding seems like something you really, really want. Once I got it, I realized it didn’t really matter. And then I changed my mind. Let me give you the freedom to change your mind. Let me give you that gift,” I said.

“I don’t want that. What is with the fear of a relationship, let’s talk about it!” he said.

“Why don’t you ask threaded eyebrows!?” I barked back. He laughed and pulled me in close. It was our little on-going dance.

Sascha and Trent would break it up. “It’s a party, just have a good time. No relationship talk now.” We would separate, then collide and argue, then dance until there was no booze left. As quickly as we stormed into the party, we left just as abruptly. Broken, sweaty and belligerent, we fell into Sascha’s studio apartment, watched her lay down and then heard her state that she was “really tired” and needed us to leave. So, Gary, Trent, Michael and I stumbled out onto the road and argued with Michael that he was too drunk to drive, especially a car with so many problems.

We called a cab, it picked us up and drove us back to Glendale. Michael was upset because he felt like everyone was treating him like a kid and no one trusted him to make an adult decision like driving home his own car.

“This has nothing to do with your age, Michael. This is what friends do for each other, they let the other one know when they have had too much. If you got in a car accident, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” I said.

“I should be able to drive my own car home when I want to. I can’t be pushed around like some kid. I am a grown man!” he said.

“Calm down now,” I said, sitting him down on my couch at home. “This is the wrong battle to fight. Come on, now, sit down. Look, you want to talk about a relationship. This world is a shitty place. People are going to steal from you, they are going to hurt you, they are going to make you feel shit until you give them what they want. That is inevitable. That is what is going to happen to you over the next five years, and I don’t want to be around to see it. I don’t want to get in a relationship with someone who has to learn the hard lessons. I already learned those lessons myself, I don’t want to go through it all over again with you. That is why I don’t want a relationship. You are … the best person I have ever met. I don’t want to see that, ok?”

A tear fell out of his right eye even though he wouldn’t look at me. “NO MORE FEELINGS TALK!” Trent shouted. “Stop! Please!!”

feelings talk

“OK,” I said. “I am going to bed.” Though Michael followed me into my bedroom that night, I am not sure if we made love. We were all trashed and it was a mess. We fell asleep in our clothes, tangled in the bed sheet already coming off the mattress. We set the alarm and at 5am, Michael was up and off to work. I gave him the keys to my car.

Trent and I walked my dogs later that morning and spoke about Michael. “Yeah, he is really sensitive. All that stuff last night about ‘Feelings Talk’, that comes from therapy. He obviously went through a lot of therapy which means he is fragile,” Trent said. “You have to be very careful with him.”

“He told me he tried to kill himself over breaking his mother’s snowglobe. He is sensitive,” I said.

“See? If that’s how he reacted to his mother’s snowglobe, think of what his first adult relationship will be like. Is this is first relationship outside of school?” Trent asked.

“Yeah, he only had one serious relationship before and I think it was in high school.”

“Yeah, so this is his first real relationship. It could get really ugly with him. You need to decide if you want to risk really hurting him or if there is a real future there,” Trent said.

“It’s just … I really like him. I want to know what its like dating a nice guy for a change, you know? And the chemistry is there.”

“I know. He is really nice,” Trent said. “Just … be careful.”

bull-in-a-china-shop

*

At 2pm, Michael came back with my car, tossed my keys up in the air and walked right by me. I was able to catch my keys but then looked at Trent and said, “I guess it’s over. That was quick.”

We got in my car, I dropped Trent off at home and then drove Michael up to Sascha’s where his car was left the night before.

“Can you talk to me about what’s wrong? Why you are mad at me?” I asked.

“I just need to think about it for a second,” he said. A second became several minutes, and we we made the entire drive in silence (with the exception of when Cher’s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ played on the radio and Michael sang along). I dropped him off and then peeled out of there.

Cher_-_Gypsys,_Tramps_&_Thieves

When I came home, I ranted to Frank: “I am done! I am done with men being hot and cold. I am done with this big baby behavior. I am just done. It was fun. It’s over. I am done.”

Earlier in the week, Frank sat down with a plate of food in the lawn chair he erected in the middle of our living room and said, “I will let you go through these young boys. When you are all done, I will be here waiting.” I chuckled, so I wouldn’t take it seriously, but now, in the middle of my red face, my loud voice and my chain-smoking on our porch over young men and the grief that follows, I saw him exhale and an expression shook out from his baseball cap like change trapped inside a purse. He looked relieved.

*

Michael called. I rejected the call.

He left a voice message, “I understand if you want to break up, just know I will always be there for you and the dogs …”

Then we met, and had sober feelings talk. “Just tell me how you feel. For some reason I feel some resistance to feelings talk. Let’s talk about it.”

“Ughhhh, if you must know, I haven’t been in a relationship with someone local in a very long time, and it makes me nervous. Abe was long distance. Alan was long distance. It has been years since I was dating someone locally and it didn’t go over well. Also, your sexuality bothers me. I mean, what if you decide you like men and leave me? I don’t want to go through that,” I rambled.

“Ok, well to address that …” he trailed off, “I am not gay, but I understand your concern. I am more attracted to women and very attracted to you. I have no intention of dating men or leaving you for one.”

“Well, you are just starting out. You can change your mind at any time,” I said. He crossed his legs, his bare knees peaking out of the holes in his jeans, both index fingers pressed against each other and pointed against his lips.

“I am not gay,” he said.

“Ok, well I think everyone is bisexual to some degree, so don’t feel locked into anything but understand my anxiety about it,” I said.

“I do,” he said. “Do you feel better now?”

“Yes,” I said. “That was weird, feelings talk actually worked.”

“Feelings talk works,” he said, “Now should we have post-feelings talk?”

**

The next day, Frank was outside with his cigar. Since Michael had returned from Milwaukee, he was at the house everyday.

“This seems like it is getting serious,” Frank said.

“It is,” I said, exhaling a cloud of smoke, “oddly.”

“Look, Thanksgiving is the one holiday I really give a shit about. It is a few days from my birthday. I wanted to play house with you, spend the day with you, but I am not gonna do that if you and Michael are serious. If you two are going to be together, then I will just hop on out of here and go somewhere else. So you tell me, is it serious?” he asked.

I rubbed my head. I felt like I was losing something in exchange for something else without understanding the real value of both. “Yeah,” I said, “it is getting serious. We can still play house. Like cook and stuff?”

“By play house, I meant play house,” he said. “I can’t do that if you are with him, but I tell you what, he is a really nice guy. I can’t complain. He seems like a good one. If it was anyone else I would be annoyed. I have no gripes with this guy,” he said.

“I know. He is pretty wonderful,” I said.

Frank leaned in and kissed my cheek. “I will go somewhere else for Thanksgiving.”

nice-guy

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