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Coachella Day 3, Pt. 2: Saturday 90,000 People on Drugs

Saturday, April 13th, 2013 

Part 2

Trent and I were without much narcotics. There was some coke left over, in addition to a bag we found the night before, but finding privacy and still air for lines in the desert just puts me on edge. It wasn’t my scene for coke. Violent Femmes were on at 6pm that was the one band I wanted to see.

Today would be the day we wouldn’t let the rich kids get to us.

“I hate you white people because you are rapists, child molesters and sociopaths. Look at all the serial killers. They are all white! … and now you are taking over Coachella,” Trent said just before squeezing my knees affectionately. “No offense.”

“None taken,” I said casually. “I don’t consider myself white. I am a black, jazz singer trapped in a tone deaf white woman’s body.”

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Walking around asking strangers for drugs was hopeless the day before, with the exception of a middle-aged hippie from San Francisco.

“Do you know Molly?” Trent asked, as we pressed shoulders against each other on a hay stack.

He stopped. “I sure do. I know Lucy, too.”

“Lucy?” I asked. “Who is Lucy?”

He stepped closer to us and spoke quietly, but shrugged. “Lucy is acid.”

“Lucy in the sky, I get it,” I said, happily.

“How much do you need?” he asked.

“Just a few hits each.”

“Oh … I only deal in grams. A sheet of LSD would be around 40,” he said.

We didn’t have enough money to buy a sheet of acid when we wanted a psychedelic and MDMA or Molly or Ecstasy. We just needed a handful of party favors for the weekend. However, if my phone hadn’t died weeks later, that would have been a helpful business contact for Los Angeles. Acid is non-existent down here. We explained our position.

“I get it. I just can’t walk around with $5 bills filling up my wallet,” he said. We weren’t the big spenders. The college kids who hoarded their drugs and kept privately within their SUV campsites had a bigger spread, bought more drugs and could splurge. This guy financed parties.

The next kid we met, a spacey-Eskimo teenager stopped when we asked, “Do you have shrooms?”

“Shrooms …. Oh… I would really love to help you … but I ate them all.”

We did however find a cool young kid who sold us some good mushrooms at a decent price. I can’t recall much about the kid other than he seemed like the one person who was lucid and smart enough to sell drugs at Coachella.

Security Check Line at Coachella

Now, there was the security check into Coachella concert grounds. Naturally, because I was the girl, it would be easier for me to pass through carrying. Security guards don’t like to feel up girls. My secret was the purse. There was a zipper pocket inside. I put the drugs at the bottom and a big packet of handi-wipes on top of them. No one would think to take all my items out of the inner zipper. It would just hold up the line too long. The other place is behind a driver’s license or bill fold in my wallet.

On the final day at Coachella, one female security guard, the bull dyke type, felt up my bra. “Wait a minute! What’s this?” she said.

“My tits,” I said. “I know. I have big tits for my body type.”

“Hold on,” she said, calling over an equally bloated, blotchy faced, female guard with hair cut close to the skull and small earrings as if it was a last ditch effort to distinguish gender. She felt my breasts, too.

“She’s clear,” said the second guard.

“Ok,” the first guard said, motioning me through. I gave her a look of outrage and invasion. My eyes narrowed, my lips pursed and I glared. I picked up my purse with in total disgust; the same purse carefully carrying weed, a pipe, two packets of shrooms and leftover cocaine.

Trent Walks Ahead

Inside, we stopped by a few forgettable artists when we decided to duck into a tent and offer to get someone high in exchange for a light. That was harder than it sounded. This was no Woodstock. As social of an event as camping in the desert seems like it must be, it seemed the venues and concert-goers had fine-tuned the art of isolation, despite Coachella’s conception and design. Most people were drunk and bumped into you or cut you off in line without as much as a head nod. Others just avoided you. Once in a while there was someone who was passed out or fell sick. One girl was throwing up. Trent was holding her hair back and feeding her water. We found out the four kids standing nearby were her friends. They were too absorbed in the concert to help her.

“That’s your friend, she needs your help,” Trent said. They kind of nodded, bleary-eyed, smoking a joint and turned back to the concert. “Hey!” Trent said again, grabbing their arm. “She needs help. You have to stop what you’re doing and get her out of here.”  This time they were a little more awake and made the minimal effort to lift her up. Trent and I kind of chuckled about it, like the wind was knocked out of us. It didn’t matter how poor we were, what color our skin was, these people were so disassociated they didn’t even have each other.

Inside a tent, we found a volunteer who was chilling out off-duty. We asked him for a light in exchange for a bowl. He was friendly, mid-twenties, dressed comfortably with a little extra weight on him. He wasn’t over-weight, he just looked normal. He also smiled through his beard, made eye-contact and warmly regarded us. It was a bright ally in an unfriendly country.

As we sat down to pack the bowl, we spoke about our expectations and the people around us. “You know I expected something different. But whatever, they are doing here what they seem to want to. There are lots of perfect bodies. That takes a lot of discipline. They are goal-oriented and I respect that. But there is more to life than just reaching goals. Like, where is the love? I would like to see more love, more physical love, more self-love. I don’t know why it’s missing but maybe they don’t need it. Maybe it isn’t as important to them. I just come here, listen to the music and try to be kind,” the stranger said. We smoked not long before Trent yanked on my sleeve and said he had to leave.

The stranger sensed the sudden pain, like he too felt the heat of a flame and waved us goodbye without question.

Outside the tent, Trent walked quickly away, crumbling in tears. “He reminds me of Kent.” His last love. We are all haunted by loves, but until we fall in love again, the hauntings are a hassle, a chronic ache, a struggle. When a new love makes his way in, the spirit remains but is somehow friendlier. At least that is how I feel about my lost loves. The anger and resentment drains out of you, the disappointment fades, but the love remains.

starbucks all you need is love

***

Violent Femmes took the stage. We were late getting there. It was the one band I wanted to see. Initially, before the line-up for Coachella was announced, there were serious rumors that The Rolling Stones would headline. You can imagine what that did to a girl like me; I was practically foaming at the mouth. I wish I could say when the rumors were denounced, I let it go.

I never let it go. I held on to the fantasy until Saturday night. The truth was once I walked through the campground, waited in line through security to the festival grounds, I could see that it wasn’t the Stones crowd. Their music would be wasted here.

The other artist I wanted to see was Lou Reed, but he backed out the week before the festival. Last week he died. My heroes are ghosts.  It would be easy to say this left me with a disenchanted life, but I have been lucky thanks to Los Angeles and a little bit of resourcefulness and ingenuity. I have seen the greats, what’s left of them.

Violent Femmes is a weird little band. My best friend in high school introduced me to them. He was two years ahead, drove a pick-up truck and had a big crush on me. He liked a lot of things I didn’t really care for like Lord of the Rings (the books), martial arts, boy stuff. We still enjoyed Kubrick films together, shared pots of ramen we didn’t bother to scoop into separate bowls and went to Germany as exchange students in the same group. He was a good friend.

Violent+Femmes Original

His sister bought tickets to see the Violent Femmes at the county fair. She told Rob, my friend, that he could bring anyone he wanted … but me. She didn’t like me. That was my one chance to see them.

Now, twenty years later, here it was my second chance.

You could say they are “folk punk”. They are just a cool sound. Funny enough, they started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1980 through 1987 on their first run. I was trapped in that hole of a city from 1982-1991. My sister had an album by them and I never forgot the song “Confessions”. It wasn’t until I hit puberty that I invested in my own album, a best of. I sunk into the off-beat, whiny vocals, the grating bag pipes, the angry lyrics, the dark stories. Now they were old, and fucking thrilled to be playing again for a crowd.

VFemmes Lead

VFemmes Bag Pipes

I was into it. I knew the words. I wanted to dance but it was an odd scene. Only a few girls were moving and Trent was off to the side, checking his watch. He wasn’t into it. It was a good show. The sun set.

Violent Femmes

Next on our to-do list was a band called Sigur Ros. I never heard of them, but I live in my little room, with my classic rock, my books and dogs. People don’t sit around and share music anymore. We settled into a group hanging out on the grass not too far from the stage. We ate our shrooms.

A couple sat behind us to the left. A white couple, fairly average in looks, the girl with medium length brown hair and a black coat, her boyfriend a little larger, also in black, held her close. She looked so unhappy. So despondent.

After a few minutes, I looked over to check on her and watched a tear fall down her cheek. Her companion tried to console her, but she elbowed him away.

“Uh oh,” I said, tapping Trent. “The drugs are kicking in for someone.”

“Where?” he turned to look and suddenly her face was covered in tears. She shrunk and buried her head into his lap.

“Yikes. That was fast,” I said.

“Music is emotional business,” Trent said. “There are 90,000 people here and we are all on drugs.”

Snail Photo by Sarah Parvini

Coachella had a theme, though it wasn’t totally evident. There was a huge snail that moved an inch every so often across the grounds. I didn’t even know it was moving at all until Trent told me. Then he pointed out the large, decorative ladybugs and a praying mantis. “We are the ants,” he said.

praying mantis

When Sigur Ros came on, I had no idea what to expect. The mushrooms make you sick and sleepy at first, and then your eyes are reopened. I couldn’t see them through all the heads, but white light fell over us like we were children running underneath a parachute on a summer day. The music was gentle- a piano, a bowed guitar, percussion and the sound erupted into something new. Music I never heard before.

sigur ros guitar

sigur-ros star storm

sigur ros stage

A voice sang in Icelandic through the music. A feminine, angelic voice. Even listening to them now, as I write this, I feel chills run up from my ankles to my thigh. My heart pounds harder and my eyes tighten. What beauty. Who knew Iceland reinvented music?

The show peaked with a choir. Whether there really was a choir there or not, I cannot say for certain. I am not a journalist. I am a music lover and a drug user. I raised my hands high and felt warm tears spill down my face. The scream of the vocals weak but sharp, growing through the strings and lights. It was like a pharaoh’s voice screaming to us. It was a perfectly unique moment. And finally, I had my moment where I felt one with the selfish frat boys, the girl crying in her boyfriend’s arms, the drunk guy who bumped into me and the Eskimo who ate all his mushrooms. The music was the gel oozed between each individual and clenched us together.

Sigur ros

When the music stopped, the lights turned off and we all blinked out of our daze, still sticky from the thumping harmony. We slowly climbed away from each other, wet, touched, awake.

I turned to the people around me. “Ok. Where are the Stones?”

“The Stones?” an older guy said, with a beard and a biker scarf over his head. “You mean, The Rolling Stones?”

“Yeah, man. The Rolling Stones.”

“They couldn’t get them, but the Stone Roses took their place,” he said.

“Eh, that’s bull shit.” I turned to Trent, “What do we do now?”

“They were great, right?”

“Phenomenal.”

“Phoenix is on the other stage,” he said, leading me through the crowd to more music. It didn’t have the heart, and I hung back with Sigur Ros’ toy piano plucking my brain. The light from their stage still burning bright inside me.

“You want to go back?” Trent asked.

“Sure,” I said.

We stumbled across a pile of ice someone dumped on the grass. I stopped to address it, “Hey, you make great music.”

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Rock N Roll Suicide

It was the night of the residency party. Six months ago, it was the night Huck and I finally consummated our flirtation. I was looking forward to going, mostly because I had more friends in the program this time around. Also because it was happening at the Culver Hotel, a very old and classic hotel in the center of a modernized shopping district. As far as I am concerned, it is the only classy thing about Culver City.

Exterior-Culver_Hotel-

I was still shaking off brunch with Huck. When we first saw each other, the morning after a public, drunk blow-out in the parking lot, I said, “Well, obviously you are in love with me. But we don’t need to speak of it.” He smiled, shaking his head. Though Huck may not be in love with me, I do believe his feelings are stronger for me than he admits. He thinks he is maintaining power. I think he is just a scared.

As we were walking back from lunch, he pulled something out of his pocket. “I have your hair in my pocket. I don’t know how it got there but it is definitely your hair.” In the moment, I was touched he was carrying it around in his pocket. Chemistry and friendship is a powerful cocktail. If I was going to honor my boyfriend, I knew I couldn’t be alone and drink with Huck anymore. I didn’t intend to sleep with him. I didn’t intend to kiss him. I just felt myself laughing, smiling, caring about my puffy eyes more than usual. I was always wondering if he would show up around the corner, humming that song … “See the way he walks down the street … watch the way he shuffles his feet …”

I would like to think of myself as a good girlfriend. I would like to think I had the best of intentions. We were playing with fire.

***

We texted that night. Was he coming to the party? Why did I have to care if he was coming? I was with Cat, another poet, much older and very sophisticated (someone who made me feel beautiful and funny) and a handful of others who collected in the lobby. The older poet, who we called The Silver Fox, bought my first drink. Vodka martini. It was brought to me in a shaker, and not having any experience with such a high-end presentation, I spilled it all over myself and the floor. The waitress accommodated me with another drink. I have been humiliated in public so many times, it doesn’t even phase me anymore. The burn on my lips was the first delicious welcome into the evening, and I forgot about the vodka wet on my pants and shirt.

dirty_vodka_martini

The party was upstairs. I hadn’t been up there before, well yes, once for a photo shoot with Lana but the pictures were lost before I could ever save them. Now there were students collecting in clumps around the corners. I have socialized with all kinds of awkward people before: prisoners, prostitutes, actors, comedians. Nothing is more awkward than trying to socialize with writers. We all prefer hiding behind our computers and books because it gives us proper preparation with what to say. The hard covers give us a special shield to protect us from insult and rejection, and if it penetrates, we can just cower down and cry with no one able to see.

Huck was up there with a few other classmen who were graduating. Some were cold to me, others were decent if I was sitting next to him, and some suddenly tried to be kind. I just needed to plug in my charger and heard Huck call out a joke about my exposed ass crack . I stood up and pulled up my pants. “Well … why are you looking?” I said in a voice, other than my own.

Another vodka martini found its way to me, compliments of The Silver Fox. He had won me over one late evening at the Roosterfish when all the Queers cleared after drinking their beers. “We would have had a great love affair if we met twenty years ago and were around the same age,” he said.

I smiled. Poets always know what to say to me. “Your hair is beautiful. It frames your face perfectly. But your eyebrows are your best feature, and you play with them when you are nervous,” he said. I don’t see the face men see when I look in the mirror. I see an awkward girl with a round face that doesn’t understand make-up. Shapeless with wrinkles now forming around the mouth and eyes. Odd eyes, like quarter moon windows. Eyebrows that don’t know how to be manicured. A smile that diminishes the upper half of my face when I smile.  I grew up believing I was ugly. For two years as a teenager, my acne was so grotesque I broke a hallway mirror and kicked a hole in the wall from disgust. Once, someone asked my boyfriend how he could stand to look at me. Now, I am qualified as a flirt, sometimes a slut or a deviant. Someone troubled or unfaithful. I am really just a little girl who wants to believe she is pretty too. I like myself best through other people’s eyes, that is why probably I never like being alone.

Me on Set for BH Cop Pilot

I was always aware of Huck in the room, but I made my respective circles. My comfort zone was to stick by the gays, but knowing I was already unpopular with some, especially the faculty, I tried putting myself out there, sipping on the olive juice and vodka for courage. Huck couldn’t help it, and ducked around the room, suddenly pulling up a chair across from me. I smiled under the rim of my glass.

This semester, there were a handful of women who were pregnant. We were all talking about how odd it was. I can’t think of a worse time to have a child than in the middle of a rigorous and time consuming creative writing program. New mothers were everywhere, the one in my class skipped this residency because motherhood was too demanding.

“I wonder about names,” a young woman said. Female writers brightened with all the names we store away for our favorite characters, those kept safe in books on the shelf and those who have yet to be printed.

Huck was sitting across from me. “How about Huck?” I said. Now, audience, you must know by now that Huck is an alias for the real poet. He, of course, knew his alias already having read my blogs for the last 6 months and kicked his head back with a smile. The girls were none the wiser.

“Huck . .. I like that. And it is never used,” they said.

I made my way to George, sitting by the window. He was talking about Miguel, the Hispanic teacher who I had my first interest in last residency, and how he was flirting with a new student.  It irked me. Though Miguel didn’t outright reject me, he never looked me in the eyes when we spoke and wouldn’t hang out with me when I came back to LA. It is juvenile and nonsense, but that is the psychosis of a a rejection phobic. If you don’t laugh at my joke, you have rejected me.The conversation stalled and Huck found his way in the sliver of a seat between George and myself. We got on the topic of the night before, and how I got drunk in his hotel room. Everyone thought we fucked. There was more innocence at play than everyone really could understand.

I laughed at Huck. Loud. Big mouth. Hair down. He called me Julia Roberts. I thanked him. George said he didn’t think it was a compliment.

“So she is laying there, with my cock in her hand and she said, ‘I would never sleep with you … you disgust me …,” Huck said. I laughed again.

George shot up from his seat. “You two need to fuck,” and then he walked away.

“But you didn’t hear the rest of the story …,” Huck said.

I put my arm around Huck and kissed him hard on the cheek. I think that is what happened. I don’t remember the taste of his skin or any drizzle of romance. I only remember he leaned back laughing. He looked happy. His drink tipped back and all of a sudden we felt easy, like we did the first time in June. Easier than last June. There was just the case of the man I loved, walking my dogs, waiting, hoping I wouldn’t be unfaithful. I took another drink.

On the other side of the bar, champagne glasses were being filled. A good foot of the bar was covered in glass and bubbles. “Who is this for?” I asked the bartender. He was an actor, I could tell.

“They are for all of you,” he said.

Self-filling-Champagne-Glasses

I grabbed a glass in each hand, and walked away sipping the first one before starting on the second. Huck watched me over his shoulder, laughing. His smile is gorgeous. I wondered if tough guys always had pretty smiles. When I look for pictures of Jim Morrison (on lonely nights), once in awhile I stumble on a photo of his smile and it makes my fingertips cold and my ears warm. A man’s smile can paralyze me. I wonder why they keep it such a secret?

Jim Smiles

After both glasses were drained, I returned for two more, and slowed down a bit. My intention was to give Huck space at the party. To really give all conversations a chance, but he kept hanging around me. It wasn’t unwelcomed. I thought he liked me. I felt like I had a hook in him, no matter how temporary, and I enjoyed dragging him around with me for the night. Outside we had a cigarette and spoke about something mild and general.  I can’t recall it now. I just liked that we were outside, sitting on a bench together alone. Buzzed but not drunk. Happy but not touching. I didn’t have to touch him, I knew we were in the same moment.

One of the upper classmates came out to talk to us. It was the first time he acknowledged me all semester, I assumed the friends in his circle had opinions about me and Huck and me. I wanted to be rude, but I never can be when someone is nice to me. It was a pleasant, casual conversation. I liked that he saw I was with Huck and that we were civil with each other. It gave the whole sordid affair a dignity.

***

As the party broke up, and I always feel like parties break up too soon, Cat and I jumped in the Silver Fox’s car to go sing karaoke at the Tattle Tale Room, the bar where Huck and I first met last June. Half of my favorite people were there. A female poet who read a translated poem earlier in the day that took my breath away. The non-fiction writer who lives in Paris, wears her hair short and speaks her mind with such confidence, it demands respect. Her manuscript was flawless. A few people in my class. The Silver Fox. Huck slid into the back booth where we met.

“She turned to her left, and there he was,” he said. He was referencing a line from my blog, describing the first time I met him.

“I turned to my left and there he was,” I said, jerking my head to the left, laughing. I did it two or three times. No one was in on the joke. “It is our anniversary. Six months ago, at the school party …” I said.

“That’s right,” he said. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t know. It was innocent. I wasn’t trying to stir things, they were already stirred. I just appreciated the synchronicity of it all. The same bar where we met. The same booth. The same night.

We took turns on karaoke, turning off the locals, as usual. I selected my Rolling Stones song for the residency: “Start Me Up”. Now, there are theories on why I obsess over which Stones songs at what moments of life. The truth is there are original videos out there I discover, and they click in my obsession, and I watch Mick … I watch Mick … and I step inside the song. At home, I dance like him to feel it and I feel alive.

Start Me Up

So when I had the microphone in hand, and the guitar kicked in, I felt the white pants, the purple v-neck, the improvised shoulders and arms of a British rock star who belonged to another generation.

“If you start me up”

“If you start me up,

I’ll never stop.”

I tried to climb onto a nearby table, but it rocked and the couple sitting there laughed, leveled and invited me back on their table top with their spilled drinks. I shook my hand and continued singing. In karaoke, people rarely notice how bad my singing is because I perform. I never feel better. Music gives me superpowers. It is my most loved drug.

The Parisian writer came up and wiggled next to me with her mouth open. Truckers stopped talking and stared at me. Mimicking Mick, and I assume most people don’t recognize the original dance moves from the original 1981 video, made me sexy. My father never liked Mick Jagger. “He thinks he is doing Elvis,” he said. “It looks ridiculous.”

“No, no!” I said. “It’s a broken doll kind of thing. No one else can do it. It’s new.” Well, it is new to me. I just discovered the Stones roughly 10 years ago, after my sister dragged me to see a tribute band perform. The music sunk in, deep. And swinging my hips, throwing up my awkward, long arms and tilting my head back with my off-key voice made me right for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Mick made different sexy. Now I could be sexy, too.

Me and the Stones

We all performed songs. The Silver Fox and I did “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Someone in my class did “American Pie”. Huck did “Rock n Roll Suicide” by Bowie. Writers might be awkward, but they have great taste in music. I video-ed Huck on my phone.

“Oh no love! You’re not alone,

You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair,

You got your head all tangled up but if I could only,

Make you care.

Oh no love! you’re not alone.

No matter what or who you’ve been,

No matter when or where you’ve seen,

All the knives seem to lacerate your brain,

I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain,

You’re not alone.”

Huck didn’t sing last semester. I think he is too shy, or was too shy. The more we cheered him on, the more he got into the song, kicking his head back and smiling.

“Lets turn on and be not alone (wonderful),

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful),

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful),

Oh gimme your hands.”

“My hand?” I asked, reaching out my hand from behind my phone. He put his fingers through mine and sang for a line or two before letting go. We laughed. It was a good time.

Afterward, he sat down and spoke to Cat. He sat down and spoke to the Parisian writer who told him he wasn’t invited to poetry readings because she doesn’t care for misogynists. I saw them talking and laughing, hands thrown in the air and lightly dropping on the shoulder. He was making friends. Even though he was a class ahead of me, I was helping him get to know everyone. That made me happy.

My next song was “I’ve Been Down So Long” by The Doors. It was a personal joke for me, and me alone. The karaoke guy handed me the microphone, “This time, don’t scream into the microphone. It breaks the levels.”

“Of course not, that was my Mick Jagger. Now I am doing Jim Morrison. He doesn’t scream,” I said, dismissive. He handed me the microphone. “Pffft … obviously,” I said, like a drunk bitch.

“Well, I’ve been down so very damn long,

That it looks like up to me.

Yeah, why don’t one you people,

C’mon and set me free.”

Off the LA Woman album, the song has a bluesy feel to it, and with that raspy, angry poet.  I got down on my knees and rocked back and forth on my knee caps. I could feel everyone going about their business, but a few people walked up to me, looked down on me and I kept singing my blues.

“Baby, baby, baby,

Won’t you get down on your knees ….

C’mon little darlin’,

C’mon and give your love to me, oh yeah.”

That bar is a dump, but it sure has a fucking fantastic karaoke selection.

As midnight spun round, and beers were drained, it was time to leave. It always takes someone else to tell me when. Singing classic rock, dancing to classic rock, that is when I am most alive. That is when my spirit has a real voice. This blog … well it is clunky, rough. It doesn’t slide through me like the music. Other people’s words put to harmony can work through me like water. This blog, it is smoke, crawling through my throat on shoes made of sandpaper. Writing lights a match in my lungs I can’t release until I exhale. Music is more pleasant.

Top-Classic-Rock-Songs

The night had to end. Everyone left and I waited to pay the bill at the bar. Female bartenders always seem more exhausted than men. I tip the same. I turned around and saw Huck had walked back into the bar. He grabbed the back of my head and kissed me hard on the lips. It almost felt like he bit my lower lip. It stung.

“Happy anniversary,” I slurred. He pecked me again on the lips, this time I leaned in a little but it was still hard and brief. Then he left.

***

I got into the car full of writing students. “Where is Huck?” someone asked.

“He wanted to walk back,” someone else said. It was about a mile back to his hotel.

“Why?” someone asked but the car was overtaken by more chatter. Another writing student had gotten in an argument with a local who had a knife on him. The police were called. We drove out.

Back at the Venice house, I danced in and threw myself on the first bed I saw. A beautiful, mixed race, writing student had her papers spread out. Her final presentation was in the morning.

“Do you know how beautiful your freckles are?” I said, with her papers screaming underneath me. “Each… little … one.”

She was patient with me. “I am working right now. Can you give me this time to prepare?” she asked behind tired eyes, a little smile and heavy glasses.

“You are my little flower. My precious, little flower,” I said. She smiled.

I crawled into Cat’s room, straddled her and spanked her. She screamed and laughed. “Buy me dinner first,” she said … or something like that. I steam rolled her.

The Silver Fox called me to the couch and laid me down. “Follow my breathing. Do you hear it? Just follow my breath. In and out,” he whispered. I slipped away into darkness and let go of the music.

original-let_go_cover

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Four Fried Chickens and a Coke

It is hard to say when one falls in love. Is there a moment that defines the meaning of love? Can you find that moment within 24 hours of making love to someone? I have read about Oxytocin, and the chemical cocktail that weld a woman to the man who can make her orgasm while he is inside of her. Still, I hear Beatles:

Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine


Is it love to wake up next to someone and ache at the idea of leaving them there on the bed, warm, groaning from the crack of day after vodka, sex and poetry?

It was 8am, and I had to run to class. He offered a pair of shorts and t-shirt to lend me so I could attend class in a different outfit than the day before.  We made sure it was something no one would recognize as his. Oddly, the t-shirt and summer shorts looked like something I would probably wear on my own.

“You can leave your stuff here while you go to class,” he said, buried under wet sheets.

I thanked him, not knowing what to expect. In France, I had 5 nights that were each a little love story with a different person. There was the chemistry, the romance, the passion- and when the morning came, I started all over again with someone new. Each man had the makings of a possible soulmate, each in different ways.

So when I left Huck, tangled in our dirty sheets, I prepared myself for ending it. If it was like France, I could let go almost immediately, and start all over again, but I ached for his arms around me, to feel the weight of his body on the mattress, and the heat of his breathe through my hair.

For the first time, I showed up to class with my hair down. I wasn’t tired and in great spirits. There was that fuzziness to the world that warmly clouds over you the morning after falling in love. You feel like the sidewalk is made of sky.  When you relax, you still smile.


What separated Huck from all the other suitors in France was the levity to his company. I can’t recall a time I laughed so much in one night. Sure, the conversation, the exchange of our bodies and writing, all of that had us bound. There was no doubt something special happened. I didn’t believe enough on the “special” to make a bet on it, not yet.

After class, I was reluctant to go back and tinker with him, or tinker with us. He had offered to let me leave my clothes there, so the invite to return was open but I wanted to be sure we wouldn’t ruin it by going any further. There is a delicate exchange of power when you court a man, who initiates, who agrees. Who initiates.  Who agrees. I hate it.

Huck gave me fair warning, as did his peers, that he had the propensity of being an asshole- though I saw nothing like that myself.

And then there is me; if you were to independently interview some of the men I have been involved with, I am sure they would say I am an asshole, though most of them still communicate with me. I can get flirtatious and sometimes surly when I have had too much to drink. I think about the moment I had with an American Professor my first night in France, the kiss we shared, only for the next night, when the Professor wept over his beer in front of our peers, sharing a story about his ex-wife saving him from a house fire, I openly flirted and obtained a number from a French stranger in the middle of the story.

Sometimes I think about who I am, and it scares me.

After a lecture, and a quick conversation with my mother, I texted Huck asking if he wanted me to bring him something to eat. I waited . . .

Huck: “Sure. Anything is fine.”

I stopped for sandwiches, got fries and soda, and returned to his hotel room. I knew bringing him food after multiple orgasms was making a step, did I want him more? I did. I wanted a whole lot of him. He was making me happy. And I was in the poor habit of continuing to do anything that makes me happy without the care of foresight.

Walking down the hallways of Huck’s hotel and riding the elevator up with another hotel patron, a man, I waited as we both reached the 7th floor. The man, in his 50s and looking distinguished enough, walked down the hallway to where I remember coming from earlier that morning. He heard my footsteps behind him and looked back to smile at me.

“I am not following you, I swear. I am just headed down this way,” I explained without question.

“That’s fine. We are neighbors, huh?” he said, smiling.

I kept my face and smile down, calling Huck on my cell. In my mind, I repeated, “Don’t flirt. Don’t flirt.” It is something I have to stay on top of, and usually a cause of friction with my suitors. Usually, I am not really flirting, just engaging, laughing, smiling- to men it gives the wrong impression, so I force myself to be disinterested and brief. My friend George calls it the “Julia Roberts Effect”. If I were homely, overweight or much older, my signals wouldn’t be misinterpreted. I could laugh a little too loud, touch a shoulder, stare intently in someone’s eyes, and no one would bother to rethink it. Being who I am, I can be slinky, tomboyishly sexy, maybe my smile, on first impression, is often thought to be personalized just for them. It is just who I am, to everyone. In 15 years, that will all change and I will miss leading men on with a flash of my hazel eyes and Lolita-esque smile. (May face not look like 14, but my fucking teeth look like a 14-year-old’s)


That said, there is no denying I have a large libido for a woman, so maybe not all of it is misinterpreted. Abe always gave me the silent treatment on the rides home after a party. I didn’t want to fuck up with Huck. Did that mean I was falling in love? For the first time since Abe, I wanted to deliberately not fuck up, sometimes for me that is like trying to walk a straight line when you know you have had too much to drink, just to see if you can do it.

Waiting next to the man, I held my cell phone up to my face, keeping my eyes down. Huck picked up the call with a cold, “Hello.”

“I am at the end of the hall, which room are we in again?” I asked.

He repeated the number of the door I was outside of and I said, “Knock, knock.”

The stranger was still standing next to me, as if waiting to open his door, “Have a lovely afternoon.”

“You too,” I said, blushing.

Huck opened the door and I waltzed in with my bookbag and food.

“Meeting the neighbors?” he asked.

“Yeah, I had to follow him all the way down the hall, it was a bit awkward.”

He was writing, in his underwear and a blue and black flannel that wasn’t buttoned up, revealing the skin I spilled, kissed and sweated on the night before. His blonde hair was all brushed forward, over his face, and his glasses drooped slightly over the end of his nose.

We ate together, and I set up my mini-laptop to join him at the desk. Something terribly romantic happened here, there we sat, side-by-side, and we wrote together. We only spoke on occasion to share a large, blue-ish, Naked smoothie, or fries, while playing 50s music.

“Don’t spill anything on my shorts!” Huck said.

Smiling, “Well, I wouldn’t be concerned with that. I am not wearing any underwear,” I said.

Never in my life, have I been able to write with a lover. Usually, I am pestered; they constantly bother me, ask me to write when they are gone or get restless. Abe especially hated it and called it “wasting time”. Huck just sat next to me, typing away. It was an intimate space with no interruption.

Occasionally, I got up to stretch using some old hamstring stretches I used to do before soccer practice.

“What did we do last night? Why do my hamstrings ache?”

“That was some rigorous lovin’,” he answered, smiling, sipping.

I put my hands on the chair, as I pushed one leg forward at a time, “Jesus Christ.”

We shared music. He played something called “Paranoid in B Flat Major”. I played “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline.


We briefly invaded each other’s Facebooks; mine littered with rescue posts for homeless dogs and cats, his less frequent- pictures, posts, sometimes a girl cuddling up to him. I asked if he had animals, and he said he had a cat, then said, “But I think I carry a different view of dogs and cats than you do. I don’t think they should be domesticated.”

“But they are already domesticated. They are drawn to people. Its in their nature to pair with humans.”

“I don’t know, I mean, I have a cat. I just don’t think we should be keeping them as pets and trying to save all of them all the time. I know you think about it differently.”

I thought a lot about this one thing he said, because in a way it made sense. I think we overproduce everything- including people and animals. It’s stressful to realize how much is born and how much must suffer. When looking through my Facebook feed and seeing graphic pictures of dogs that were injured or put down, dead cats dumped outside a county shelter or animals skinned in China, my mind is blinded in anguish. Not just the animals, the stories of children being raped, women being beaten and killed, men dying in a war everyone has forgotten about, it creates this white, screeching blank screen in my mind and I can’t function. All the information out there, and our heads have to be held under it all day long, drowning, gasping for a moment of silence, for a moment of personal reflection.

If we didn’t, as a society, create more than we consume, we wouldn’t need to wade in so much misery, shop through so much crap and carelessly throw so much away. And we have come to treat life like a product, so in a way, I did agree with Huck. I long to simplify all the time, pair down, love only what is in front of me and do away with desire, want and longing. It all can snuff out a person’s spirit.

Huck’s mother called, and I put on my iPod to give him privacy, occasionally lowering my volume to eavesdrop. He crossed his legs while resting his feet on the edge of the seat. His legs looked like a woman and the thought occurred that he would probably walk better in high heel shoes than I do. Then I took a cigarette break outside on a tiny patio outside the only window; we had to climb over the wall and through the window sill using a footrest from the corner chair. I like to smoke and write, it gives me a chance to catch up on what comes out of my fingers.

In mid-cigarette, on the glass window, Huck jumped against the pane and sang whatever tune was playing on his computer. I watched his face bend down and coo, realizing he was indeed effeminate. I believe the bravado and low voice he uses on introduction throws you off of the real Huck. Sometimes, when he gets too comfortable, you might question if he was gay. My first thought was, “My mother won’t like that about him.” Who gives a fuck about what she thinks?

He came out to join me and saw my bare feet. The pedicure I paid for just before France was wearing off, the nail polish was chipped, the nails just a bit too long, and my pinkie toe was bashed up nicely from all the walking I did in Paris. It was the day after our anticipated night together, and he noticed my first flaw.

“What is going on with that pinkie toe?” he asked.

“I know, she is in bad shape.”

“You need to cut that thing.”

“Usually I get pedicures, but I didn’t have time between France and school so . . . there it is.”

The nail was a little too long, and a piece of skin that was once a blister was hanging off the side. I turned my foot over to reveal an even larger blister that faded into dead skin.

He jerked out, “Eugh.”

“I ran out of money for the metro so I had to walk everywhere in shitty shoes.”

He was mesmerized by how battered my feet were and I tried to overturn them so he wouldn’t stare at them anymore.

Every woman remembers the first time she is dethroned from a man’s imagination. We are often expected to whirl into a man’s room, smelling of perfume and feeling of satin. It’s hard to disguise how human you are once he’s orgasmed, and the daylight shines on your face. We try though, as exhausting as it is. So when the moment comes that the fantasy has faded from satin to polyester, I try to keep my head high.

I have a friend who was hotly pursued by someone on the heels of her last relationship. She resisted him initially, because she was still heartbroken and self-conscious. This played nicely into the game of chase- and he won her. The moment they were intimate, and he was holding her in bed, whispering how badly he wanted to enter her, she admitted to him she had genital herpes.


Despite how much character she exhibited with such an uncomfortable truth, she said that was the moment she fell from grace. He leaned back and decided he didn’t want to enter her so badly anymore. Eventually, they did have sex and the affair dried out shortly after, but she marks that moment as the first time she clumsily tripped out of his fantasy. I told her, “We all fall from being the fantasy girl. Its just a matter of time.”

My pinkie toe didn’t seem all that bad. However, the veil was lifting and it was soon to be decided if he really liked me or if we were only the affair we invented for each other on Facebook.

Back inside, “I told my Mom about you,” he said.

My eyes brightened, “You did!?”

“Psych.”

I smiled and threw a pillow at him.

The only place to sit together was the bed, and we spoke about his mother. Huck was worried about her because of how other people in the family were treating her.  And somewhere in the moment, as I rested my chin and pressed all my weight on his chest, I asked about his father. “He abused my mother the first couple years until he left. And then he remarried and he never . . . uh . . um, hurt her. Just my mother.” I wondered what it was like to know your father only beat the woman who created you, not the new one- the one who has nothing to do with you.

“Did he ever hit you?” I asked.

“No, just her. He did hit me before my grandmother’s funeral. I said something disrespectful to him, something about the way he was dressed . . . something terrible. I was sitting in the backseat and he turned around and punched me in the lip. Then he got out and tried to open up the back door. I hit the lock on the door and was laughing, with blood coming down my face and he kept tugging on the door, saying, ‘Open the damn door. God damn it.’”

Huck acted out his father with this very comical, old-school Midwest voice. “Then he got back in behind the wheel, and I started crying, ‘I am bleeding, you hit me in the lip . . .’” He overacted his own part, again, to the point where it was funny. I laughed along with the story. “He just kept his head turned, (mimicking his father again, this time over-emotional and on the verge of tears) ‘I can’t  . . . I can’t look at you.”

I laughed again, feeling my breasts patter against his ribcage. And he looked into my eyes, lazily, took a finger to stroke a piece of hair out of my face and said, “Yeah, that was it.” He mentioned earlier that he noticed green in the browns of my eyes, no one ever really has before, so I knew he was looking into me when we stared at each other.

We had already started on our first beers of the day, and planned on staying in for the rest of the day. It was towards the end of the week, and both of us had hit our fair number of lectures, seminars and workshops. One faculty member said, “If your creative soul wants to go down to the beach one afternoon, that is what you should do.” My creative soul wanted to bounce on the bed with Huck, drink beer, have sex and make him laugh for the rest of the day.

I think back on that day, and I remember never wanting to leave the room. We were hungry and kept bringing up what to eat, where to eat- but neither of us really wanted to leave our sanctuary. He motioned towards the room and would say, “I mean, look at this place . . .”

The trash was overflowing with a huge, empty vodka bottle teetering on top. Anytime we threw something away, it bounced back out onto the floor. There were beer cans everywhere, the bed sheets and blanket were kicked off and the bed looked well worked in, pieces of paper lay on piles by the floor or the nightstand, notebooks left open on the chairs, his suitcase open and neat in the corner by the door, my book bag and clothes scattered all over the other corner by the window . . . it looked like true love to me.

There was something about falling for each other in a neutral space, without his roommates and my dogs constantly interrupting us. Without jobs and everyday life knocking on the door or calling on the phone. We were in a bubble; a fresh, clean, pristine bubble where nothing could touch us. It also kept us from really knowing the other person, since there was no evidence of our real lives there.

I couldn’t flip through his book collection and see what pictures he kept, which poems lingered and about who. He couldn’t see how happy I am when I wake up and see my dogs first thing in the morning, he couldn’t taste how good my coffee is or what jazz sounds like after a morning orgasm.

The sun was setting, and I waited. I waited for him to give me the cue to leave. He really wanted me to have the impression that he was a womanizer, and here we were getting used to each other’s ticks. He knew I needed the commercials muted on the television. I knew that I needed to keep 20 feet away from the bathroom if he used it. When I lay on the bed, taking notes from my reading, he would tickle the bottom of my feet as he passed by.  “Look at us, we are so domesticated.” I giggled like I should have as a little girl.  “Look, um, you can’t spend the night tomorrow,” he said.

My first thought was I was invited for another night, the next thought was, “Why not tomorrow?”

“Because I need to get sleep.” He chuckled a little, as if this was obvious.

“I am going to have to go back to my friends’ for clothes and toiletries, at some point. I have had my contacts in for over a day. I have to take them out tonight.”

“I will go with you.” He flipped over the “Do Not Disturb” card and said, “Should I have them clean the room?”

It made me a little sad to surrender our pit of lechery, but I nodded and said, “If for nothing else than the clean sheets.”


We swung by an old diner nearby for a bland and overpriced meal. I could see his eyes swinging around, looking for anyone familiar from the program. My usual leads into odd, personal stories that capture any man’s interest didn’t seem to catch his, but it didn’t bother me. I found him more interesting than myself. He was eating a lot of fried chicken, I think he ordered a side order of fried chicken to go with his fried chicken.

“Do you know this quote, ‘Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke.’ ‘You want chicken wings or chicken legs?’ ‘Four fried chickens and a Coke.’ ‘And some dry white toast please,” I recited in various high and low voices. He shook his head at first and I giggled through the answer, “Blues Brothers.” He smiled, remembering the film. We would quote it for the rest of the week.

When we left, I felt I had to ask permission to hold his hand, and he grabbed on without reluctance. We walked from Culver City down to Playa del Rey, which ended up being about a 40 minute walk through an industrial area, underneath the freeway, swinging our hands. He gave me his sock hat to keep my head warm. It reminded me of Junior High courtships, when you had no privacy and no car, all you could do was roam the streets, keep warm and talk about the future.

The light died overhead, and we sang songs to kill the time on foot. Anytime we started a song, I rang out several lyrics until I lost my place or he switched songs. One tragic note about myself, I have a terrible singing voice and a superhuman ability for remembering and loving music.  My parents think I am tone deaf, but how could I truly be a lover of music if I don’t hear the tone?

We sang George Michael, Roy Orbison, Michael Jackson and the Beatles.

During a chorus break, I said, “You carry your body in a very graceful way.”

He laughed,“Thanks, most people would call it effeminate.”

I thought about whether or not it bothered me that he was so effeminate.  A woman always likes being with a masculine man, and I don’t mean the beefy kind of guy who lifts weights, trims his eyebrows and drowns himself in cologne. I mean the type of guy who walks on the traffic side of the sidewalk to protect you from cars. The type of guy who won’t let you carry a grocery bag even if its not that heavy.

Even as I look now at synonyms for effeminate: womanish, dainty, delicate, fragile, impotent, sissy, feeble . . . none of these properly describe him. Its even as if our own language refuses to acknowledge that femininity can be about strength and quality.

Huck was still harboring qualities of a boy before manhood, despite being 27-years old. He had a rhythm with his body movement, he was more elegant than I was. He had a confident stride, while I occasionally slipped off the edge of the sidewalk into a flower bed trying to get ahead of him to explain a story or idea. That grace and confident sophistication didn’t rob him of his virility or strength. He was still my lover.

Though he isn’t what my parents would picture for me, and there would be questions towards our compatibility and his sexuality, I didn’t care. There were some women, not a lot but a few, that I found more attractive than some men. I wouldn’t let anyone else’s box keep me from loving someone who was different from everyone else I loved.

***

Huck and I walked, hand-in-hand, up to Jeph’s condo, and I let us into the dark kitchen. The roommate was behind her bedroom door, with only a sliver of light through the door frame to alert us of her presence.

He was tired, and dragged his body onto the futon to settle in a spot for a moment and play with the cats. I gathered some things and sat with him in the dark. Our bus wouldn’t leave for another half hour.  He suggested we could stay there for the night, but I thought that was a bad idea, mostly because I was more comfortable in his hotel room. He already felt like more of a home than anywhere I had been the last few months, maybe even the last year.

We walked to the bus stop and saw the bus waiting there with its engine off and the driver in a seat, texting on her iPhone.  “It must be her break,” I said.

We were a little early and hung from the tree branches singing:

“Yeah, you got satin shoes
Yeah, you got plastic shoes”

“It’s plastic boots,” he gently corrected.

I started again, “Yeah, you got plastic boots . . .
Yall got cocaine eyes
Yeah, you got  . . . something.

Can’t you hear me knockin  . . . on your window”

“That’s such a good song,” he sighed, exhausted.

The bus driver opened the doors. We dropped from the branches and watched as she slowly walked away.

I asked, “Is the bus leaving . . . at some point?”

She turned her head, thrusting her obese hip away from us, “At some point.” She was a middle-aged black woman with thick, wavy hair. I could see that was the one part of her she took pride in. That and the elaborate acrylic designs on her fingernails.

We saw her disappear in the horizon. “Well, they can’t just leave the bus here,” I said.

Huck slumped and hung his head over like a rag doll, “I am so tired.”

I hugged him and lifted his body up, in baby talk, “We’ll be home soon. Don’t worry. Just a little longer.”

Ten minutes later, she came back, opened the bus door and climbed the steps to her sovereignty. Huck leaned in through the doors, still folded open, “The schedule says the bus was supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago. Is there another driver coming? Or maybe another bus?”

She silently withdrew her iPhone, and punched a few buttons. Huck continued, in a low, monotonous voice, poorly masking irritation, “Maybe you could tell us when the bus is leaving?”

“It leaves when I make it leave.”

Then she closed the door on him.  He kept his arms outstretched on either side and hung his head like Jesus dying on the cross. I thought this was hilarious, and broke out laughing.

Ten seconds later, before Huck could even move, the bus door opened, he lifted his head to the light and we ascended to our long awaited seats. Huck was rolling up into a ball, and fading before my eyes.  I kept laughing and retelling the story, “When she closed the doors on you . . . that was hilarious . . .“ Chuckling, struggling to finish the thought. He smiled, but I could tell the story wasn’t captivating him. I swallowed the laughter and smiled at him. His cheeks were cold from the night air.

“This is our story. We are making stories right now. This is one, right here, on this bus,” I said.

He smiled and looked down at his shoe, “Maybe.”

When we arrived to the clean hotel room, we slid into the fresh sheets with a couple of beers. He turned on the television and we watched “Total Recall”. We fondly chatted about the film as it played, both of us liking the old special effects and the poor performances. I felt myself falling asleep, and mumbling. Huck would ask a question, and then I felt him jerk my shoulder and shout, “WHAT?”


I hadn’t felt close to someone in a few months. I enjoyed my freedom, floating around the planet without commitment to a place or a person. I made lots of friends and lots of lovers, but no one I could just be myself, without monitoring what I said, what I did, without worrying what they thought. Even at Abe’s, I was always cold and a little uncomfortable with how clean it all was. Huck laughed at every joke I made, and that was the first anyone had picked up on my humor so quickly and with such affection.

Digging further under the covers, I kicked off the top sheet- something I do at home.

“Don’t like the top sheet, huh?”

“I just don’t see the point,” I mumbled.

“You know, there is a toe nail clipper in my bathroom.”

I ignored this at first, as well as his notice of the hair in my armpit growing just above the surface of my skin. I just wanted to sleep . . . then I remembered how much I liked him, enough to work a little harder on that fantasy.

So I forced myself back up and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes trying to saw off my pinkie toe nail, then realized the whole thing might come off if I kept going. Reaching inside his small, black travel bag, I pulled out his razor to quickly trim off any evidence of hair growth.

Quickly shuffling out of the bathroom, I crawled back under the covers and pressed against him. He smelled sweet, like faint cologne or deodorant with that musky scent you love immediately during sex or when you wake up with a man.

We made love again, despite being too exhausted to stand, his face hung over mine, and we both shared the same breath, like our spirits were firing into a ball of hot air, slowly exchanging from one mouth to the other.

Occasionally, he would put his hand around my throat and squeezed. I never fought it. I never was scared about being strangled, or losing consciousness. I knew it was part of his fetish, part of the need to be in control, and the instinct to be his father the “Dominator”, not his mother the “Victim”.

After sex, bathing in the blue hue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he asked what I was thinking about. “I was thinking about how I am forced to trust you when you put your hand on my throat, or hit me during sex. I immediately have to trust that you won’t hurt me. And I never thought that you would hurt me. But I had to trust you immediately, and I don’t think most couples do, or aren’t forced to initially . . . the way I do with you.”

Huck took a moment then chuckled a little, “God, ask a guy what he thinks about after sex, and you will get a much simpler answer.”

“Look, I identify with you, so I get it. I identify with the darkness. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been attracted to you.”

His arm around me, his low voice returned for pillow talk, rattling his ribcage,  “You are attracted to the darkness?”

“The darkness and the innocence.” I repeated it, over and over, turning my head from open palm to another, “the darkness” “the innocence”, “The darkness” “the innocence” . . .

“Awww, that’s kind of sweet.”

“I don’t know if you know this about me, but I rescue pit bulls,” I said.

“That explains everything!”

With a half empty beer warming on the nightstand, I let my mind drift to unconsciousness, sadly knowing it would be time I spent away from him. Are you falling in love if sleep means you miss them? Are you falling in love when you know their happiness is contingent on yours? Their hunger, contingent on yours? Their orgasm, contingent on yours. They become a part of you, for a day, a week or a lifetime. There they are- in you.

I was in love.

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