Tag Archives: roommates

Cowboy Confidence

Cocaine. Our very first introduction, when I was an adolescent, was through various scenes in the film “Goodfellas”. I believed it was a white powder that made women insane, tearing apart their bedroom closets shortly before they broke down in tears.

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Later in life, I heard it was good for porn actors. Around Hollywood I have been told about casting calls for background actors who show up to a house in North Hollywood, stroll into a garage full of people in bathrobes and are asked if they want a line before greeted with a “hello”. Stevie Nicks was forced to rebuild her nasal passageway from so much drug use. It burned a dime-sized hole through her cartilage.

Once,on an internet date, I toured the music studio where “Rumors” was recorded. “There used to be punch bowls of coke laid out right here,” my date explained. I tried to imagine that … punch bowls of cocaine.

Stevie-Nicks-Feet-201203

In an interview with Oprah, Stevie says, “It turned people into nutcases … Mick and I never would have had an affair had we not had a party and all been completely drunk, messed up and coked out. [We] ended up being the last two people at the party. So guess what? It’s not hard to figure out what happened — and what happened wasn’t a good thing. It was doomed. It was a doomed thing, caused a lot of pain for everybody, led to nothing. I’m like, ‘Gee, could you have just laid off the brandy and the coke and the pot for two days?’”

It all sounds pretty negative. The word may conjure up images of Lindsay Lohan, Scarface and clips from Charlie Sheen’s meltdown. There is a flip side to what you see on television. Cocaine is an emotional drug. You feel like opening up about your past, you feel oddly connected to the other people in the room, there is a strange kind of spiritual shake to snorting blow. It is when you cross over to the compulsion of it, that is when you start to lose. It usually happens around 3 or 4am, when you know you are running out because you have tripled the amount of coke with each snort. You start licking tabletops and debit cards. Around 5am, you wonder if buying more is a good idea.

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My roommate likes to blend crushed xanax into his lines, which can dull the edge. Let me rephrase, it may dull the edge. The last time I shared coke with him, he was blending xannies, slurring and still staring at the lines on the table until it was his turn. I made sure to do half the amount than everyone else with each turn, and was the only one bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the morning, already in shorts and a pigtail, ready for a dogwalk before everyone crawled out of their corners. I am not always that disciplined.

*

After Thanksgiving, Frank, my roommate, had a birthday. I baked a cake. We were all so broke, Frank ended up financing most of his own party. He is the only one of us not scraping pennies to fill a quarter tank of gas. He was a good sport about it though. The coke was stationed in two spots, privately in my room and privately in Frank’s walk-in closet. Only a few party-attendees were invited. The girls mostly. It was also Michael, my boyfriend’s, first time.

He clicked into it a little bit too easily. He kept asking to go back to the room, constantly reminded of the lines waiting patiently for us on my dresser. I realized he could easily cross-over. His eyes turned black and he kept looking back to my bedroom door. Next month it would be his bedroom door, too. We were moving in together, though we didn’t know each other all that well. One month before, we started dating hot and heavy, and Michael felt swept up like I have before with others … but now I was more cautious, more skeptical. It seems the less I expect the more I gain in return. He was good to me, the sex was great and I liked him. Did I love him? It was hard to really reflect on our relationship, the bond, when I was in survival mode- desperate to make rent, desperate to get a working car, desperate to prepare for school starting the following week.  Library books were stacked on the small kitchen table. My laptop was in the kitchen. My socks and glasses of tea and water sprung up out off the furniture; the bathroom counter, the shower, the empty DVD rack (which is still empty).

Prepping for residency

I already felt that I had ruined Michael’s life. Since our first date in October, he lost his job, his car and iPhone … his pet-sitting clients, a few possessions, most of his savings. As one of my cohorts at writing school once said, “Oh, you are that kind of girlfriend.”

Michael was never bitter. He insisted he was happy, and mentioned his mother was supportive of our relationship because she sensed he was happier than he had ever been. Only a 23-year-old would make such fantastic claim. I just turned to him, “Happier ever or just since another time you last remember?”

“Are you kidding me?” he said, “Happier than I ever could have imagined was possible.”

I believe Michael was living under a lot of heavy expectations up to this point. His mother, who believes he holds the most promise of her three boys. His bosses, who used guilt and pressure to motivate employees. He was trying to please everyone else because he hadn’t looked at things from a different angle yet; not as someone’s son, but as a man.  Somehow, my attitude and lifestyle gave him permission to do whatever he wanted to do. Experiment with drugs. Yell at bad drivers. I call it “Cowboy Confidence”. He can get carried away and tell everyone off. After his former employer delayed his final paycheck by almost a month, he called and told them he was showing up and wouldn’t leave without a check in hand.  When he came home after the incident, he was bouncing on the soles of his feet, “I am on a warpath.” He told everyone exactly what he thought of them and I could see the fire lit in his eyes. Not to mention his paycheck in hand. Michael got the taste of freedom.

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Now, he got the taste of cocaine. We all circulated around our little house as characters from Frank’s life dropped in for birthday wishes. Happy Birthday was sung. Candles were blown. I danced with my little dog Brad in the kitchen, cradling him in my arms, swinging him back and forth to the music. He lay back, completely trusting that I would never drop him. The crowd started chanting, “Go Brad! Go Brad! Go Brad!”

Brad at Franks party

Outside in the smoker’s circle, Alia, her boyfriend Ryan, Michael and I all gathered together, mumbling nonsense and declaring secrets. “You know what is great about unprotected sex,” I said, wishing Frank’s friend Jim would go back inside, “Feeling the semen drip out of you when you are alone, somewhere else later in the day.” Alia nodded with a kind of nobility. Jim, a New York stand-up comic, pulled out a notepad, occasionally making notes for his next show. Frank hovered somewhere in the background.

“You need to have protected sex,” Alia said, “And (she pointed at Michael) as the man, it is your responsibility to make sure it is safe sex.” I suddenly felt regret for mentioning it at all. A few weeks ago, after my period, Michael and I continued to have unprotected sex.

“Did you cum?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he moaned.

I slapped him in the face. “What the fuck, man?” I asked.

“What? You told me to.”

“I was talking dirty … you weren’t actually supposed to do it,” I said, getting dressed.

“Well, I thought you knew what you were doing.”

“I am not on birth control.”

“I know, but I thought, hey it’s [StarFire]. She knows what she is doing.”

*

I took the morning after pill, then started taking the pill a week later. This threw my menstrual cycle on a loop and left me in a bloodless limbo for several weeks. After a couple weeks of maybe, maybe nots … I was lucky to make it out motherless. However, the surge of hormones made me crazy for a good month.

CokenWoman in Goodfellas

As it turns out, bragging about unprotected sex in social circles doesn’t make your opinion very popular. Perhaps, I was suffering from my own version of Cowboy Confidence. I will say that one-on-one, every person will agree unprotected sex, with all its risk and vulnerability, eclipses the condom any day.

A troupe of lesbians came in and occupied the living room, cooing over my dogs. It must have been around midnight when Michael and I sat with them and endured an interview about our relationship. In that moment of reliving our brief affair, I turned and saw him sitting on the couch. His eyes were a deep brown, glazed with puppy dog love and buried sadness from somewhere else. His beard was growing in. He looked back at me and my heart swelled. I was really falling in love with him. I could feel it now, after the champagne and cocaine suspended my body and her flinching affection, all doubts and broken hearts, all logic and sensibility, I felt that seed in my mind burst into a sprout. I reached out to caress his face in front of our audience.

“You guys are making me sick,” a girl said. I removed my hand, but never let go of the feeling. Not when I sobered up. Not when we suffered through our first fight. And still not now, as I write this.

cocainedrops

Frank’s one single, straight female friend was there. I knew she suffered from alcoholism and a serious cocaine addiction, after all, she had money. As the evening went on, I saw her stumble around on heels, grabbing onto counters and tables to steady herself. She was in her forties and an actress, skinnier than she should be, wearing heavy make-up. “What is that song Alice in Chains does?” she slurred.

“Type in the lyrics and I can find it on YouTube,” I said over a passed joint.

“Type it where? I have never used this before.” I patiently showed her the search window in Google and watched her slowly type “Black Hole Sun”.

“Oh, that is Soundgarden!” I said.

“Right, Soundgarden. God, I am so stupid. Why am I so stupid? I hate it when I do things like this.”

“You aren’t stupid. You just mixed it up, that’s all. We all do that.” She stopped talking and I could feel the blades and shadows cutting her up on the inside. I felt sorry for her. Frank told me about their relationship. They watch football and hold each other. Sometimes he spends the night. “I know I am seeing her tonight because she has a date,” he once said. “If it goes bad she calls me, but what is worse is when it goes really well. Then she sabotages it somehow … and calls me.”

Last week, I asked to use his scanner and he pulled out a photograph from the last scan. “What is this? Oh yeah … this is [her] after she passed out on me. She never believes me so I took a picture.” And there she was, collapsed in brown hair, face down, as if she died.

I believe she is in love with Frank. To Frank, perhaps, he loves her for the sentiment. We all have fail safes in are back pocket. And we all want to be loved.

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The evening passed through the house slowly. Around 3 or 4am, I started playing Rolling Stones and James Brown on my laptop and got a few people dancing. Jim watched. Because Jim just watched, Frank watched.  “This is a really good night. This kitchen is great right now,” Frank said.

Jim laughed, cool as always. “This is a great kitchen.” The two fondly echoed each other’s sentences. The drug made them one.

Outside, alone with Michael, he chattered through the drug. “You know what my favorite dinosaur is? The stegosaurus, because it reminds me a lot of me. You know, everyone criticizes it for being slow and stupid but it is just doing its thing. I don’t think I like cocaine, cocaine isn’t really my thing. Do you remember Shelley Duvall? Remember when she used to read those kids books on TV and then they put her in ‘The Shining’? Do they know how much that fucked up kids?”

shelleyduvall

I listened to him, occasionally laughing, trying to fight down my own thoughts and memories, kicking at the curtain in the back of my mind.

Inside the house, everyone was gone. “Puff the Magic Dragon” sung by Peter, Paul and Mary played on Pandora. Back on the couch, I sat on Michael’s lap. He kept chattering.  “This song is so sad. I love this song. It used to make me cry. Little Jackie Paper loved his imaginary friend and then he had to go away. Why did he have to go away? He loved him.” There was a moment of quiet between us, in the dark, as the harmonized voices serenaded the powder dripping down the back of our throats, turning to a thick syrup. Then Michael wept, and I held him.

Like I said, it is an emotional drug.

Jim and Frank took frequent smoking breaks. Jim with his spirits and percocets and Frank with his cigars and xanax.  Late in the night, closer to morning, I left Michael on the couch to play “My Funny Valentine”, threw a pillow on the floor in front of Michael’s feet, and sang it up to him. With big, black pupils he stared at me. Jim and Frank walked in and I could see plainly that Frank was agitated. So we went to the bedroom and made love.

Michael drew this for me

Michael drew this for me

When Michael passed out, I returned to the living room to finish my annotations for the semester. They were due that day. I stood in front of the kitchen table, typing, typing and typing. At 6am, the sun rose and Frank walked into the kitchen alone. “You are doing homework now? You can’t be serious?”

“Due today” I said, flatly, hunching down to peer into the screen. Reading. Re-reading. Making sure the drugs hadn’t scrambled my grammar or common sense. As soon as I pressed “send”, Frank and I had a smoke.

“We have to talk. Now, when I moved in here, I thought I was moving in with a couple of artists. I didn’t think I was moving in with a young couple in love. I can’t stay here. I am not saying I am leaving now or anytime in the near future, but down the line, I think …” he said.

“Before the lease is up in October?” I asked.

He nodded, with a fresh cigar hanging low but erect from his lower lip. “It isn’t that I don’t like Mike. I love Mike. He is a great kid.”

“He is so nice …” I said.

“He is so nice, he is solid. I really like him. I just can’t live here with you two.” He paused. My head hung low. “I won’t pull a Gary and leave you hanging. I will find someone to rent out the room and take care of all that.”

“What about the cable!? It’s in my name and it is a year contract. I don’t watch TV!”

“Oh, I didn’t think about that … maybe we can break the contract. I don’t know. We will figure it out later down the line, when it becomes more serious. I am fine for right now.”

I blew out a cloud of smoke. It slowly rose into the sky. “I just have to let these crises pass through me like a wall of water. The money, the car, the lease. I can’t control any of it so I just have to surrender to these moments,” I said. “That’s life, I guess.”

Tidal wave tsunami art

Frank looked as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. “Sometimes you say really profound things.”

“Great,” I said, dryly, sucking on my cigarette.

“God, feelings talk really works!” he said, cheerfully. Then he patted my shoulder. In that moment, I hated him. I despised him. No one was loyal. But as it is with everyone else I love, it soon passed. I just wanted everyone to be happy. And despite the huge reading list and all the preparation I should have done for school coming up, I spent those last few days before school troubleshooting and reviewing what the worst outcome could be with everything; with Frank, with Michael and with school.

I blew the coke and blood out of my nose, sent in my final paperwork and went back to work. That’s life, I guess.

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The Bad Habit of Rescuing Deadbeats

The used car I just buried the bulk of my money into just died on the side of the road two days after I bought it. I could relive the AAA mechanic who told me he was going to make me cry, shining a flashlight under my hood. Or the other AAA mechanic who flirted with me over Michael’s head as Cherry Bomb, the Honda Civic I bought and liked, crawled up the spine of a tow truck quiet as a corpse.

hysterics

None of that matters- well it does in my other essay but not in this one. Michael was there. He took me home and advised I get “black out drunk.” “That is all you can do in this situation,” he said. I didn’t get that far, sipping something from Frank’s (my roommate) glass bottle selection on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t long before I was slurring and doing my usual drunk, one-woman show as Michael called the people who sold me the car and threatened legal action. They agreed to take back the car. We were lucky … that time.

The next day, I got my cash back and headed back to the house.

Gary, the Native American stoner who jumped in my car the night I left Washington state, was still unemployed while living with me and Frank. When he first arrived in LA, he landed a job at the Halloween Store in the North Valley. When we moved, he quit over the phone. He tried to get jobs here or there, but easily gave up and watched Frank’s cable television from 7am to 10pm at night. He washed the dishes and walked the dogs. Then he stopped washing the dishes and stopped offering to walk the dogs.

my rescues

Frank would pull me aside and express how growingly uncomfortable he was  about the loan he gave Gary for deposit and rent. I would then talk to Gary, who blew me off until I told him Frank would be the next to talk to him, “and he won’t be nice about it.” I saw Gary kind of suck this in and then resume the search for a job. I find it irritating that men can’t talk to each other, and yet the only thing they take seriously is the words I pass between them … not the ones I speak from myself.

I had been pushing Gary to get a job for weeks. If I came in from a dogwalk, and he was planted in front of the television set … I started rubbing my temples and pacing. Rent would be due in three weeks, then two, then one.

After our last talk, he went to the social security office and was granted food stamps. (By the way, I recently applied for Food Stamps but was told I work too much .. if I worked less with my net pay, I would qualify. “I know, the system is screwed up,” the government worker said.) Then he applied on-line to various jobs I bookmarked for him on my computer.

“Am I tidy?” he asked, seated in the dining room with my computer.

“Is this an on-line job application?” I asked.

“Yes. They are asking if I am tidy. Am I?”

“If it is a job application, YES, you are tidy. And organized. And punctual.” I said.

“Oh .. ok,” he said in that kind of dumb-founded, endearing voice.

Another job interview was at INN-N-OUT Burger. After the interview, Gary asked, “Is the interview part over?”

“Yes, it is,” the manager said.

Gary took a step back and reviewed the menu. “Ok, then I will have an Animal-style burger and a medium drink with fries.”

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Needless to say … he didn’t get the job. We all loved Gary though. He was quiet. He was funny. The ice cream truck would come dashing down the street. “How is anyone supposed to keep up with that ice cream truck?” he said. I looked out the window and saw the truck singing its sad, music box theme song for a blink of an eye before it was around the corner. “You would need a bike,” he said, then mimed sweating over a bicycle, reaching out to the ice cream man, ‘Can I have an orange creamsicle, please?’” It was hard not to like him.

“I want to make love to Mick Jagger,” I said one morning over ramen noodles and tea.

“Even though he is old?” Gary said.

I sipped my coffee, ” … yeah.”

“Ok, I would like to do Joan Jett and she is super old.”

“I also want to make love to Bob Dylan.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Yes, but he is also old. And! AND … Justin Beiber.”

“That little kid … hahaha, nice. (sip of coffee) Who else would I like to bang?” Gary said, looking up to the ceiling for a cue.

“Tina Turner?”

“Ha. ‘Baby, you’d better be good to me!!’ … it’s the coffee talking. Who else would I like to bang Deborah Harry, that would be pretty cool. Oh, I know who else I would love to bang, fucking Cher! I thought she was really, really good as the biker chick in ‘Mask’.”

Cher in mask

Frank especially liked Gary. Though they shared a wall, Frank knew he didn’t mind if he ripped a fart in the middle of the night. Equally a comfort, I knew that Gary was safe. He never complained. He never hit on me. He was funny, but a wallflower. It was the perfect balance for a loud New York stand-up comic and me, a hybrid hippie who sounds like a fog horn when she orgasms.

While putting my contacts in one night, I heard a commercial for “The Hunger Games” about to premiere on Fox.  “I feel like I heard of this movie,” Gary said.

“We watched it … together at Alia’s,” I said from the bathroom.

“Oh … right.”

He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, but I trusted him. I left my purse out in the kitchen. I threw him cash whenever he walked my dogs. I bought him food when I could. I adopted him, like I adopted the three dogs snoring on my bed right now. He needed to stand up on his own, though. The well-being of the household depended on it. Frank pressured me, and I then pressured Gary, who really tried for about 3 days or so.

I knew he was hungry. He was a big guy with no money. Frank stopped inviting him out for lunch and I only had enough money for ramen noodles and canned beans. (I wish I was exaggerating). Not to mention, Gary’s shoes were in such poor condition, he had to put plastic bags over each foot when it rained to keep them dry.

Gary Plastic Socks

He left his car in Washington. His girlfriend, and mother of his two daughters, grabbed his paycheck from the very easy-going Lodge where we worked over the summer in Skamania. The Lodge is in a town of 2,000 people, so they are used to leaving everyone’s paychecks out in paper rolodex. Employees mosey on in through an open door and pluck it out in person. Gary’s long-time girlfriend knew this, grabbed his paycheck and cashed it at the bank, who also knew that the two were a couple and thought nothing was wrong or criminal about the transaction because the clerk knew the couple. Gary called the local police, who have family relations to his girlfriend, and needless to say … the money didn’t come. No one wanted to take responsibility for it, and it was hard to come down on his girlfriend about it when she was stuck supporting their two kids now, alone.

This left Gary shit out of luck. We were all pulling for him. We all wanted him to get a job and stay.

The day after Thanksgiving, Gary told me that he was going to visit an old friend in Long Beach for the weekend. When he said goodbye from the front door, I started getting up to hug him goodbye but he left before I could. Not too much later, I realized $50 cash in my wallet was missing.

“Maybe he left for good,” I said to Frank.

“You think he would do that?”

“All of his stuff is still here,” I said, “but it isn’t much. A pipe. A record. Some clothes.”

“Let’s give it four days, that is about the time people start staring at each other from the couch and visits get uncomfortable,” Frank said.

Four days passed.

Then five.

Then seven.

I contacted his girlfriend, Mary, and his family on Facebook and asked if I should file a missing person report. Though the chances were he bailed on us, what if he fell in front of a subway or was mugged and unconscious somewhere. Someone had to say something, and who else would but Frank and me. His cousin pinged me back, “Ok, thank you.”

No more than 20-minutes later I got a phone call. “[StarFire], it’s me! Gary!” he said, excited.

Greg Ride me

“Hi,” I said, flatly. “I thought you might be dead.”

“No. I am in Arizona with my cousin. I got a job!” he said.

“Great but um … rent is due next week, man.”

“I will send you money,” he said.

“Yeah right.”

“Did you say yeah right?” he asked.

“Yeah, I did.”

“Well, I walked out on Mary so why wouldn’t I walk out on you,” Gary said.

I hung up on him and sat down in the dark, without a car and speechless. Michael was there and rubbed my shoulder, he heard everything from the phone even though it was held up to my ear. “What the fuck,” I said, in almost a whisper. I started crying.

the-crying-little-girl

“I can move in,” Michael said.

I rubbed my eyes and pushed my bangs back over my head. More crisis. Dear God, why?

“Baby, he walked out on his kids, why wouldn’t he walk out on you?” Michael asked.

My image on Facebook was attacked the first few weeks I moved down to LA by Mary and her friends, all eager for a salacious story to sink their housewife teeth into. They called me names and made me feel like I hurt Mary and now, for the first time since I left Washington, I wondered if I did hurt Mary and her kids. Should I have talked him out of coming down? What the fuck was I thinking? Was I enabling a deadbeat?

“I have money, I can move in next month,” Michael said, coolly.

“… FUCK,” I shouted through my hands.

“Do you not want me to move in?” he asked. “I won’t if you don’t want me to.”

“We have only been dating for a month,” I said.

“I am ready,” he said.

“Well,” I threw my hands in the air, “Why not? You are here every night anyway.”

“Are you sure? I won’t if you are uncomfortable.”

“No …” I thought about it. I thought about waking up to Michael every morning. I thought about how someone would be home who cared as much about my dogs as I did. I thought about rough days and coming home to Michael’s cooking and bad jokes.

two lost souls

“I think it would be a good fit because I love cleaning. I find it very zen,” he said.

“You know I am bad at cleaning?” I asked.

He laughed, nodded and rubbed my back.

It was soon, but it was inevitable. We were hot and heavy. He wanted to step it up and now I needed someone to step up.

“Ok,” I said. “Let me tell Frank.”

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Let Vomiting Dogs Lie and Never . . . Ever Do Cocaine

Let’s go back to a week ago, when I was in Alan’s apartment on a misty Friday morning and I received a text message from Trent. He and Kent got into a fight, the cops were called, and Trent was hurt again. He asked if I was up, which I was because Alan had class at 7am. So Trent called and we spoke.

He was in a bad place. The two of them, locked up in a one room apartment with cocaine, adderall and alcohol finally exploded. I don’t care who you are, if you are in the same room for a long time with one person, even if you are in love, and you are putting that shit in your body endlessly- it will explode.

Trent has been living there for the last few months, and because his hand and wrist were so badly injured, he has been out of work. School was out of session and Trent got lost in Kent’s life. Its ridiculous that their names rhyme but I didn’t catch that til after I already established Kent as a character. Trent doesn’t have a car, didn’t have a job and lived inside of someone else. In the end, I think he felt like he lost control and lost himself. I can’t speak for Kent other than I know that I love him, Trent loves him. Whatever happened between them is their business and I don’t believe in judgment or sides or defriending or any of that bullshit. People are people, and we are all held hostage by emotion and circumstance. We all do our best to do the right thing, and if there was love, there is worth.

I knew the state of mind Trent was in. He had just broken up with his first real love. He had to move back in with his mother.  He thought he was lost, but I still had my hand on him in the dark. I tried to remind him of the light up ahead.

I was stuck in San Diego too far away to comfort my friend, who was crying on the phone. He was mumbling and slurring, so I couldn’t hear him very well. I kept saying, “I wish I was there.” And Alan would listen within earshot, as he packed his books and walked the dogs. It was just a sad morning.

All I could do was tell Trent things would get better once he slept. He hadn’t slept in days, I think.

That night, when Alan and I made love. There was blood. I’ve been spotting for 3 weeks, part of being on the pill. He saw it on his hand, looked up at me and said, “Yeah, I’m done.”

Well, I wasn’t. So I said, “Don’t talk to me.”

I showered and went to sleep. He claimed I horse kicked him a couple times in my sleep. I have no memory of that- but sometimes I do things in my sleep.

When we woke up, we kept a respected distance. He made a joke, he explained that he was squeamish, and I shut down. Any form of sexual rejection for a girl is kind of unacceptable. It is on such a rare occasion that when it does happen, you feel like your vagina (and soul) is covered in slime.

He took a volcano bag into the bathroom with him for a good hour while he showered and I thought as I bled. Everything was so intense. I was still processing losing Em’s friendship and now possibly Kent’s. You feel those walls build up around you and block your vision. So I took half a valium and smoked a bowl.

When Alan came out of the bathroom to study, I crawled in his lap and surrendered. No more wars over silly things, I must keep our flame cupped in fleshy sanctuary.

When I got back home, I spent two weeks working at Doggie Daycare and arranging a move. A girl at work was willing to sublet a room with a private entrance to me, I get to keep my dogs, I get to live in the mountains and it will only cost me a fraction of what my rent costs now. It will save me, even if my unemployment benefits are severed.

I waited until it was 100% before telling Brian, my roommate, who complained that he couldn’t stand the sound of my fingers tapping on the keyboard at night, who left bags of trash on the floor and squeezed between appliances along with a very distinct odor on my stovetop that reminded me very much of vomiting up cheese popcorn on the car ride back from Girl Scout Camp in the fourth grade. I had to clean it up with McDonald’s napkins while everyone stared at me.

Brian’s needling was wearing on my nerves.

The first “fight” we had involved me coming home just to check my email. I could always feel tension from coming home and taking my computer away from him even though he never threw any money towards the internet bill.

Esther threw up earlier in the evening, and Brian felt the need to repeat, “These dogs need to see a vet.”

I said, “I don’t go see a doctor when I throw up.”

Brian, “These dogs NEED to see a vet.”

I said, “Do you want to pay for it?”

Brian, “No, they aren’t my dogs.”

I said, “That’s right, they are my dogs and I am telling you they are fine.”

Esther had been licking a scab on Maggie’s head that appeared during the weekend I was gone. When I asked Brian what happened, he simply said, “Yo, I don’t know.”

He doesn’t know jack shit.

He would say, “Yo, that cat looks miserable.”

And I would say, “She just spent 10 days roaming the neighborhood rooftops with other cats and squirrels. Trust me, she is not miserable. She is sleeping.”

Now he was pressing about the dogs and I was sick of it.

I said, “I am so sick of boys with no responsibility criticizing other people with full responsibilities.”

Brian, “Are you saying I don’t have any responsibility. (raising his voice) Yo, YOU DON’T KNOW ME, I GOT RESPONSIBILITIES!!”

I said, “I would love to go live on someone’s couch and save up some money. I can’t do that, I have to take care of them.”

Brian, again, “Yo, you don’t know about my responsibilities! I got homies, I got bills, I got my own thing.”

I raised my voice, “THEN FOCUS ON YOURSELF!”

Brian, “I am just saying, maybe the dogs would be better off somewhere else.”

Me, “Like where? A shelter? Cause that’s where they would end up. And they would be put down.”

He shrugged his shoulders. Dip shit.

He said, “Let’s turn down the tension here, let’s work this out.”

I was done with this kid. I don’t need to work anything out- I just needed him to shut the fuck up and sit in the corner until I was finished with my email and dogs.

He said, “I didn’t mean to hit a nerve about the dogs, I just like them and worry about them.” He did mean to hit a nerve.

I said, “They are more important to me than anything, so yes, it hits a nerve. I bust my ass all day long trying to pay for this house and yard.”

He said, “I know they are important to you. Are they more important than acting?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “I thought so.” He said it with that weight like . . . then you aren’t a real actor. There is a mentality with actors and anyone in LA who hears you say, “I am trying to be an actor.” Everyone behaves like you have to make this one elected career field more important than any other aspect of your life.

Well guess what, LIFE is what feeds the ACTING and the WRITING. Without life, there is no art. You isolate from life, you are nothing but a want-to-be celebrity.

Ask Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep if they love their kids more than acting? Do you think it compromises their craft? Of course not, you moronic piece of trash!

But, what am I going to do? Argue with some degenerate from Baltimore whose loud voice and poor grammar were belting out my living room window in the middle of the night. He was making my small haven low class and embarrassing me in front of my neighbors.

I turned my back to him and furiously played Scrabble. But he had to keep going.

Brian, “You like dogs more than people, don’t you?”

I was in a bad mood but the half honest answer was, laugh, “Yeah.”

Brian, “Isn’t that like a mental disorder? Its not schizophrenia but . . . somethin’. Its got to be something.”

I turned around, “Are you trying to say I have a mental disease?”

Brian, “Nah. I am just saying that might be something you should look into.”

Asshole.

Me, “Um, I have loved animals since I was four years old. Its one of the first memories I have, its just who I am.”

Brian, “Yo, do your thing! That’s cool. Do your thing.”

I turned around again, “Oh thank you, can I? Thank you so much.”

He said, “We gotta break this tension.”

I said, “Look, I don’t go around telling people whats wrong with them or how to live their lives. I don’t know how people like you find the time.”

Brian said, “You are critical all the time of everyone.”

I never talk to him, he doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about.

I said, “The only people I can think of whose lives are in need of serious readjustment are people who hurt other people or themselves. That’s it. I can’t think of anyone personally I know who needs to change their life. I just assume everyone is doing what they need to do.”

Brian, “That’s cool.”

Silence.

Brian, “I got to put on some music or something.”

Me, “My Pandora is now maxed out for the rest of the month, so I’m sorry. No music.” He played my profile until my hours expired without apology or afterthought. He even added a few channels tailored for his own musical taste. He must have been very comfortable here.

Brian, “I thought that shit was endless.”

Me, “It isn’t.”

Silence.

Before heading down to San Diego for Alan’s birthday, I wanted to pick up Murray Man’s ashes (my cat who died in late January). I had been stalling for six months and don’t want to expose Alan to my misery quite yet. I want to feed him my darkness in small doses, so he knows there is something worth while in me first, before checking the price tag.

Frank offered to take me down to the Pet Crematory if I needed a friend. Though things between us were left hostile and broken, I took up the offer. There is a levity to Frank and I also don’t have to see him afterward if I lose my shit.

I didn’t lose my shit, but I broke down crying in the parking lot. I don’t remember much, just holding Murray’s ashes in a red cigar box and weeping that it was all my fault. My dogs hurt him so badly it triggered liver failure, and I forced him to live in a home where there was ever present danger.

Frank took me back to his place to kind of cheer me up. I kept texting my drug connection for valium or xanax or something- but she wasn’t answering. I guess she was at a baby shower. Even drug dealers go to baby showers.

Frank made a call, the only connection he had was for coke and he bought me a bag. I agreed to it in the four minutes I was asked because this particular dealer has a cut off at 10pm. I thought this to be a poor business decision until I tasted the coke. $50 and exquisite quality. Of course, free to me, which is equally good and bad for a poor girl.

The pain stopped almost immediately and I was gone. I played music. I climbed on furniture. I sipped wine and told Frank things I really hope he doesn’t remember . . . random dark things about myself or my past or my sex life with Alan. Whatever. I was blitzed.

We hashed out the blogs that upset him. He felt I misrepresented him. I explained that any male aggression or anger is perceived as a possible threat to my safety. He said he understood, but he is still struggling to swallow that last blog I wrote about him.

One thing I will say about Frank that will always carry my respect, he never crossed a boundary with me. I told him I was in love and committed to Alan, despite slinking around his apartment in little clothes like a groupie at a back stage party. He was a gentleman the entire night I did blow, and I really can’t say that I know many men that would be. Its nice to know I can trust him, even when totally out of my mind.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the evening, other than I lost myself in that shit all over again and it was heavenly . . . until I realized it was 9am and I couldn’t get anyone to cover my afternoon shift at Doggie Daycare.

Cocaine is the only drug where just discussing it reignites its powers. Coming down is rough. Its a bumpy road, man.

There was still some coke left but I had to get my shit together to go back into work. So I weaned myself off for the remainder of the day. Took a couple shots of tequila, smoked cigarettes and kept calm.

I made it. Even now, a week later, I crave that feeling again- feeling sexy and smart and ok about all the nasty shit spinning around me. Its just a feeling, its fiction and its borderline evil. I looked at the white bag that morning and said, “You are a demon.”

It took a whole day and a half to feel my upper lip again. I was blowing crusted coke and blood out of my nose for four days. All those bad memories and sentiments flooded through my kinked sinuses twice as hard as it would have if I never touched the stuff.

I texted a friend who went through a coke & rock phase in the 80s. He talked me through feelings I had about Em and the friendship, and I felt grounded, sober and good again. The cat I can’t fucking deal with yet.

I packed the quarter bag in with my other weekend goodies I would be bringing down to San Diego. And the night before leaving, Brian stumbled into my living room. He went through a bottle of rum every few days.

Brian, “What up?”

I mumble something indifferent.

That morning, Maggie had diarrhea all over the living room floor. As soon as I heard, I came in to clean up. He complained like somehow I threw shit in his face instead of serving him a cup of coffee, which somehow I think he always expected.

As I scrubbed feces off his free weights, I said, “Hey, that’s life.”

He grumbled, “Yeah. That’s life.”

I said, “Go write a blues song about it.”

He angrily gathered his back pack and stormed out of the apartment.

Now we were back in my living room at 10pm, me at the computer, him on my couch stuffing his face with fried chicken, beer and rum.

Brian, “Yo, why did Maggie get sick like that?”

I said, “She has a very sensitive stomach. It must have been something she ate. I moved your trash off the floor into the kitchen.”

Brian, “There was no food in there, though.”

Now Brian lies. I don’t know why because it makes no sense. He lied about breaking my drinking glasses after I discovered hidden trash bags of them around my kitchen.

Brian, “Yo, I think someone is breaking into your apartment and breaking your glasses.”

He lied about having weed while trying to bum some off of me. Esther, my deaf dog, pulled his stash out of his backpack. (Good girl)

Then he lied about having a bottle of rum behind the couch.

As I stare at it, “Oh, you have rum.”

Brian, “Nah.”

Me, “No, its ok. You have a bottle of rum.”

Brian, “Nope, only the beer that’s in the fridge.”

Me, “I am looking at it, you have a bottle of rum.”

Brian, “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

Brian lies. It doesn’t matter because I think he is a parasitic bum anyway.

Back to the living room, the computer, the confrontation.

Brian, “Yo, there was no food in that trash, though.”

Me, “Yes there was. Twice they pulled something out of there to chew on it.”

Brian, “That was the shit you gave them, not my shit. That was your shit.”

Me, “Whatever.”

I went to bed, and in the middle of the night I heard Brian shout, “Maggie THREW UP!”

Waking up, I stumbled into the living room and saw Maggie was sitting in front of the door, coughing up a puddle of kibble.

I cleaned it up and rubbed her tummy.

Brian, “I didn’t sign up for this! You should be paying ME to maintain these dogs!”

I laughed in his face.

Me, “Pay you? HA!”

Brian, “I did NOT sign up for this.”

I said, “You knew exactly what you were signing up for.”

Brian said, “Yo, can she sleep outside tonight? I can’t have her throwing up while I sleep.”

I growled, “You are not putting my sick dog outside.”

Brian, “What the fuck! I am not going to sleep next to her.”

I said, “She is sick, she is staying.”

The blankets for the crate were drying outside after being hosed down from the morning diarrhea, and all I had were a couple towels and my bathrobe laid down for my two pittie princesses.

I went back to bed and I heard him say, “If it happens one more time I am throwing Maggie out.”

Through the wall, I yelled, “What did you say!?”

Silence, then the sound of fiddling with the crate. I said, “You are NOT putting Maggie in a crate!!”

I came out and he had Maggie in the crate, sitting on the bars with only my bathrobe to sleep on. Maggie, making the most of it, was trying to kick a bed out of the 3 feet of cloth.

I said, “NO! NO!! NO!!”

We started shouting.

Brian, “I AM NOT SLEEPING IN HERE WITH A SICK DOG!”

I said, “WELL STOP LEAVING SHIT AROUND FOR THEM TO EAT!”

Brian, “Hey, I didn’t leave shit.”

I said, “I have been cleaning up after you and four animals since you moved in here.”

Brian, “Cleaning up after me!?”

Me, “HA! YEAH!”

Brian, “Yo, I am way cleaner than this place.”

Me, “Please.”

He was shouting, and I said, “LOWER YOUR VOICE, ASSHOLE! I HAVE NEIGHBORS.”

I didn’t consciously mean to call him an asshole to his face, but it slipped out so effortlessly.

He got in my face, “Who you calling an asshole!?”

Me, “If you don’t lower your voice, I am calling the cops.”

Brian, “You are gonna call the cops on a black man?”

I held up the phone.

Brian, “This is fucked up shit.”

I said, “You keep your voice down, or I am kicking your ass out tomorrow. You don’t threaten my dog.”

Brian, “I didn’t threaten her. I said if she throws up one more time, I am throwing it on your bed.”

Me, “You are ignorant.”

Brian, “You are calling me stupid, why, cause I’m black?”

Me, “No, because you are stupid.”

Brian, “What? I am not as cultured as you?”

Me, “You just have no common sense.”

More bickering and then:

Brian, “I am not goin’ nowhere. Check the law, lady.”

Me, “You have only been staying here for a month. You have no legal rights until after two months of residence.”

Silence.

Brian, “I am calling my homies now. They know what’s up. You can’t kick me out.”

I walked out of the door to smoke a cigarette. I was shaking. Its that feeling where someone yells at you and you are boiling with rage and shock and general FUCK YOUs, that you need to collect yourself.

I texted Frank and Jerry, asking for someone to come and take care of Maggie & Esther while I was out of town.

Jerry was asleep. Frank was playing poker at a casino and was wide awake at 2am.

I asked him to come over. He said, “You are doing me a favor. I am down by $50, I will be there in an hour.”

I walked back in and saw Brian on the couch, furiously texting away.

Me, “I will do you the courtesy of letting you stay the night, but you are going to clear out of here by tomorrow morning. I have a male friend coming over to spend the night.”

Silence.

Brian, “Ok.”

I went back to my bedroom and waited, staring at my phone until Frank showed up. He did. Neither of us knew how to handle it, like should he come in punching his hand or reasoning with the guy . . . Brian made it easy, he shut out the light and went to sleep.

Frank laid in bed with me and made me giggle- he said, “You on coke, wow, you um . . . put on a show.”

I said, “I warned you, I get a little out of control on that stuff.”

He said, “Well I had no idea, you crawling around on my living room floor was .  . um . . . you are a lovely girl.”

We woke up at 10am, I got up and asked Brian to clear out.

He rubbed his eyes and said, “Why do I have to leave again?”

I said, “You threatened the safety of my dogs and my property. You must leave. Its my residence.”

He said, “And what about the money I gave you?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know what to say.”

I actually did, ASSHOLE TAX!

He cleared out all of his things, held my key ransom until I gave him back the few hundred he gave me, then he sent me threatening texts for the rest of the day claiming he would report me for animal negligence (which he misspelled).

I would love to see the caseworker assigned to visit my slightly overweight dogs as they freely romped in their yard, porch and living room. My place is so dog friendly, its almost illegal.

Frank agreed to stay for the weekend and dogsit while I visited Alan for his birthday. It was weird; the coke, the cat’s ashes, the roommate crisis all had me bonding with Frank instead of my boyfriend. It bothered me a little. This was the type of stuff that binds a couple and creates a history, weaving trust in with all the other sticky wonders of falling in love.

Its just not possible with Alan studying in San Diego.

Still shaken up by the Brian fiasco- I drove down to Alan.

Frank was revising his screenplay in my treehouse. He texted, “This place is really conducive to writing.”

I wrote, “Yup. Warmed it up for you.”

I showed up, smoked a bag of ganj and slipped into bed with him. When we made love, I could see his eyes crumpling a lot in thought. There was a distance. My mind was in my apartment that I loved, that I will be giving up, and the dogs and cat I furiously try to support.

The storm was clearing, there was a new place for me to run to that no one knows about, Trent and Kent are on the mend, everyone on Facebook is either moving or getting married. The transitional phase rattled my cage, but the dust is settling now.

The next day, I relaxed. I drank coffee. I caught up on all my television shows while Alan paced with his case studies.  All the adrenaline and anxiety was finally draining out of me. And though I was scared Alan would be grouchy on adderall and stress from finals, he was gentle and sweet with me.

When his birthday morning came around, I planned on cooking red velvet pancakes (he had a picture pulled up of some gourmet red velvet pancakes on his computer the last weekend I was there.)

On the third try, the pancakes were edible and actually pretty good. He came in and cradled me, as I spread Red 40 all over his kitchen and we laughed.

I tried

We drank mimosas and watched The Soup. Then I baked him a Smores’ cake, also on the aforementioned website.

Here things got fuzzy. The champagne was kicking in.

He blew out the candles, ate a piece of cake and then we started making out hot and heavy. I told him I couldn’t stop thinking about sex with him on cocaine. Honestly, going through that bag earlier in the week and not having intercourse felt like a waste.

He said, “I think we should have one more nap first.”

We skipped the nap. He poured us shots of rum and set up the remaining lines for me and I had possibly the most amazing sex of my life. I only remember a portion of it. I remember us both declaring the other as the best lover of our lives. I remember he said he was in love with me.

There wasn’t a lot of coke left, and I grabbed two halves of a Valium in his drawer. Then he gave me a xanax.

Its almost a shame because after asking him to talk dirty to me (which I’ve NEVER done and am honestly rather embarrassed by) I have no memory.

Apparently I had sex with him and got up to answer a text message, than came back, remounted and resumed.

Then he complained that in the middle of his birthday blowjob, I passed out on his hip bone. (I guess the 4am birthday blow job didn’t count . . .?)

I woke up in the morning, stood up, put both hands on the door frame, my hair was eating my face and I stared at him as he studied. My head was pounding.

He smiled at me, calm and clean, “How are you feeling?”

Me, “Shitty.”

He filled a bag for me to inhale and I went to the kitchen for something . . . anything.

He came up behind me and said, “You were saying some pretty dark things during sex last night. I liked it. Normally, I don’t like talking dirty.”

I looked away, “Me either.”

He hugged me from behind and I felt and still feel like somehow Alan is discovering a version of myself I never really acknowledged before. Look, couples talk dirty, no big deal. But I was unveiling a part of myself that even I am not able to fully process. And I am playing catch up with my whole identity when he is around.

Then we had more sex. I felt better.

He said, “I figured all you needed was some pot and an orgasm. Fix you right up.”

Me, “Did I clean up after baking that cake? I can’t remember.”

Alan (laughing), “No . . . I did. My anal side came out.”

Me, “God, are you going to be able to live with me?”

Alan, “Yeah. I will just need my own room, with my own stuff away from the dogs and cat.”

Me, “Did I end your birthday too soon? I mean, was the sun out by the time I passed out?”

Alan, “I have no idea.”

We decided to stop off at a sex store, it was on the way to Taco Bell. It was kind of a comfort, the suggestion to look around at sex toys and clothes meant that he still embraced me as a sexual partner. That whole day I worried I scared him off.

We got food, went home and watched South Park. The xanax made coming off coke easy, and I slipped in and out of consciousness to whatever that smell is .  . . laundry detergent, male deodorant and Alan.  I am so so in love.

I went back to work on Monday morning, but working at a Doggie Daycare is pretty much the best job to come back to after a sex/drug/love fest of a weekend. All my favorite dogs were there, Atticus the one-eyed doberman was coming back now and I was happy to have my home back.

The girl at work asked if I was still moving in, and I said I was.

We talked about the new overnight girl- who reminds me very much of little girls I played with in elementary school who I got to do scandalous things like sneak into rated-R movies or kiss a boy, and later ratted me out to her parents without provocation. She looks like she has never partied, wears spandex and flip flops to work and sometimes a little too much make-up.

I said, “Something about her is a little off.”

Dora (the girl I will be subletting from at work), “That’s cause she did too much LSD in high school.”

I said, “What!? HER!? I don’t believe it.”

Dora, “Yeah, that’s what she told me.”

Me, “I have a hard time even believing she smokes cigarettes, I can’t believe she did mass doses of hallucinogenics.”

Dora, “Yeah, that’s why she twitches and stuff.”

Later, we were chatting with Baye, a Korean dude at work, and we were talking about whether or not Jim Morrisson knew he was snorting heroin when he died, or if his lover lied and told him it was cocaine to avoid a spat about having heroin in the house.

Baye said, “I left behind those days of doing coke, long ago.”

I said, “You’ve done coke?”

Baye, “Oh yeah, I did a lot of it. I don’t really remember my graduation. I just remember going back and forth to my dorm, snorting a line, having a drink and going back. Apparently, I grabbed the microphone away from the Dean and said some nonsense. Then I walked around for the rest of the day in a cowboy hat while chewing on a ratted out cigar. Yeah . . . my mother was . . . disappointed.”

Me, “Does everyone who works here have a drug problem?”

***

Frank has been hanging around since I’ve been back. Its nice to have a buddy, after all the emotional chutes and ladders.

We go grab coffee or hummus at a local Armenian cafe and occasionally I will say, “Coke.”

Its still in me. Nothing good can come of it, but that shit really grabs me.

Frank occasionally will feed me stories about his coke days in New York.

Frank, “I was at this party, and I didn’t really know anyone. I went into the kitchen and this smokin’ hot red head just said, ‘Slap me in the ass as hard as you can.’ And without flinching, I slapped that ass. She turned around and slapped me in the face. Just before she walked away, she said, ‘You are kind of cute though.’

That weekend, we had this insane sex, I mean, awesome sex. And at the time I was just thinking about impressing her so when she said, ‘Is that guitar expensive?’ I said, ‘No, but that one is.’

She disappeared for a couple days and then asked me to meet her in an alley. I was blitzed out of my mind, so I was just following her, and I saw this car at the end of the alley with its lights on. I said, ‘I don’t know whats going on here, but good luck.’ And I swear she gave a signal to the car, he cut his headlights and she backed towards the car saying, ‘You’re missing out.’ Later they robbed the comedy club of like $16,000.”

I laugh. Shake my head. Walk the dogs. Then when I pull into a parking spot, I will deeply inhale and say, “I smell cocaine.”

Then Frank will launch into another story, “I was friends with this kid in grade school, you know, I kind of felt sorry for him. He was this really awkward red head kid, a little slow. And we would play this game called Girl Power. We would pretend we were being chased by girls and if they touched us, we turned into girls. It was his game, you know, I just went along with it. So we are running along and he would throw up his hands and say, ‘Uh oh, a girl got me.’ Then he would get down on the ground and hump the ground, like he was trying to rub off his penis. Later, I discovered there is a whole mental condition for that.

Anyway, once in a while this guy finds me and calls me on my birthday. He will come by with some ugly woman . . . hideously ugly women, with a bottle and hang out for a day. One day he comes by alone, with a bottle, a bag of coke and small black bag. I didn’t think about what was in the bag.

We snorted lines and talked for a while. Then he slips into the bathroom and comes out wearing a small black dress. This tall, weird looking man in a small, black dress with tufts of red hair . . . it was just (shakes head) weird. I mean, picture it, I am snorting lines off the coffee table, then looking up and suddenly seeing a man in a black dress descend out of my bathroom.

And he opened up to about how he believes he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, how he is saving up for an operation, you know, all of that.”

I said, “And then what happened?”

Frank, “Well, I finished his coke and then politely asked him to leave. He was cool about it.”

Me, “Does this coffee taste like coke? Taste it.”

Frank sips it.

Ponders.

Shakes head.

Frank, “No.”

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