Coffee With Dean

“Some people credit Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves but I blame him.”

Dean looked at me with his most sincere face.

Yeah…, you probably shouldn’t tweet that.”

It’s a long standing tradition; an ongoing contest to see who can say the most offensive shit in the most non-nonchalant manner.

Dean sipped at his coffee and took a thoughtful look out the window.
“There’s a fine line between credit and blame”, he said looking back at me to see if I was following.
I waited for him to meet my gaze and added, “Hashtag, emancipation.”

Dean snorted on his coffee a little bit.

“I had it all planned out for us this morning” he said. “Had the house to myself for, like, four hours. I had visions.”
“Why’d you let your kid stay home from school then?”
We were sitting in a Starbucks because fate was laughing at our plans.
“She says ‘I’m gonna stay home to spend your last day in town with you’, what am I supposed to say to that? No??”
“Yes, you’re supposed to tell her to go get smart, at school, where she belongs.”

“So why haven’t I been hearing from you lately? You don’t call, you don’t write.”

“You’re the one who ran off to Memphis”, I said.

“Yeah, that seems to be the general consensus, that I ran off.  Still doesn’t explain why I haven’t heard from you. Maybe you don’t need me anymore since you spend all your time bangin’ Vince.”

“I told you already that was one time, months ago.”

“In your car”. He always likes to throw that part in.

“I don’t see what the locale has to do with it.”

“So tell me,” Dean leaned forward, eyes sparkling the way they do when he thinks he’s onto something, “at what point did you decide to throw in the towel and become a cougar?”

“I am NOT a cougar! I had a cougar moment, there’s a difference.”

“A cougar moment in your car”, he added again.

“You’re hardly one to talk”, I said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“How old is Kelly?”

“26. So?”

“So Kelly is three years older than Vince but you’re four years older than me which makes you a man cougar plus one.”

I can only imagine that the good people sitting around us were sufficiently horrified and confused all at the same time.

“What?!?! Noooo, men can’t be cougars.”

“They can, and you are.

“So that doesn’t explain why I haven’t heard from you. Who are you bangin’?”

“Technically, no one. So, what did you say to Coleen?”

“Nothing?”  But he knew what I meant.

“Yeah, you did. You were all excited to tell me the big news that you and Coleen were no longer together and I didn’t see how that was news since you’ve been divorced for over a decade, remember?”

“Oh that. I told her that Kelly is my girlfriend now and that I’m with her.”

“Unless you’re in another time zone. It’s not cheating if it’s in another time zone.”

“No, I’m not like that anymore.”

“No? What did you have planned for this morning?”

“Well, that really has no bearing on the situation… Just so we’re clear.”

“Right. Just so we’re clear.”

We were clear.

“So you told Coleen ‘game over’ and she just said ‘ok, tee-hee’?”

“She says she’s ok with it on the phone but then she hangs up and sends me all kinds of mean texts.”

“I can’t imagine why… What did she have to say about Carrie? I mean, you were engaged to her.”

“She didn’t know.”

What?!?! Are you shitting me? She didn’t know? Where did she think you were sleeping?”

“I told her I was crashing at Mark’s place. Because we would be getting out of the Blue Moon so late, we’d just go to his place after because it was close by.”

“Seriously? And she believed that? You know, I told you when you would say ‘she knows where she stands with me’ that, no, I don’t think she does. Oh my god, I was sooo right!”

I just went out and bought a whole new wardrobe that I kept at her house. I…”

“Oh. My. God!!! You cannot even say anything about me being worse than you! Ever! “

“What?”  He was all smiles and innocent puppy eyes.

“What?!?!   You had a 2nd wardrobe? Oh my god! I’ve never done anything like that.”

The good people around us were getting up and leaving.

“Oh come on now, you would’ve if you had the chance.”

“No”

“You totally would.”
“You can’t convict me of something I would’ve done if I had the chance. This isn’t the Minority Report!”

“Come on…. You know it’s true. You would totally do that if the situation presented itself. I get all my evilness from you. So where are we gonna go? Can we go to your office?”

“I guess, but I only have chairs”

“Or we could use your car. We’ll just park in the driveway and hope Coleen doesn’t come home in the middle of the day.”

“I dunno about that.”

“Why not? You didn’t have a problem with Vince in there.”

“Stop it”

“So what happened? I thought he was all over that shit?”

“Yeah, he was, once, and then he grew a conscious.”

“He had a moment of clarity?”

“Yeah, after the fact. And then he was all ‘Wahhhh, I don’t feel right about this because you’re married‘, and I was like ‘well isn’t that fucking convenient for you?!?!‘”

Dean is laughing so hard he has to set his cup down.

“You are such a man!”

“What?” My turn now to look innocently puzzled.

“Do you hear yourself? You are such. a. man!!!”

“He sleeps around you know, I’m a little worried to be with you now.”

“Stop”

“He is a guitar player and all.”

“Stop it.”

“You know, when you were working at Aztec Lodge, spending all night by the pool tripping on XTC, I never said any shit like that to you. I was never all like “eeee, I don’t know where you’ve been. You might have some fucking cooties!”

“Did you just say ‘fucking cooties’?”

“Yeah, I’m busting out all my words on you.”

“You’re using all your sen-tences.”

We were both laughing too hard to keep talking.

“So where are we gonna go?”

Later, on a chair at my office, I held his face in my hands, “it’s been 20 years, you know.”

“Can we have another 20?”, he asked.

My Current Ex

There is a stream that flows past my house. It is old like the beginning of time and it flows into outer space.

Four years ago Travis dumped me for his wife. They were already married.

I visited their home once and his wife, The Leo, was not there. While I did not fondle anything that belonged to her, I left with a telepathic uplink directly to her scheming little head. She was a high stakes gamer. I guess it takes one to know one.

I am a formidable adversary but it wasn’t my fight.

I told Travis, “Your wife is having an affair.”
“No, she’s not.” he replied.
Yes, she is”, I insisted.
“No, she’s not, but even if she were I wouldn’t care.”
“Ok but, yes, she is.”
“No, she’s not. I know her and she would never do that.”
“Yes, she would, and not only that but she is.”
“You don’t need to say anything more about this”, he told me.
“Ok, but I don’t want you to get all pee-pee hearted when you find out.”

I don’t know exactly HOW, but I knew with absolute certainty that I was right.

Two weeks later, on Friday of Memorial Day weekend, The Leo went out of town and accidentally on purpose forgot to log out of her email account on their shared computer.

There is a stream that flows past my house. From time to time it turns rancid and kills all the fish.

The next day, while I sat in my car in the parking lot of a church, Travis explained to me all the ways in which he was to blame for his wife’s affair and how he would walk through fire to get her back. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!?!” I demanded. I hung up the phone and went inside to photograph a wedding.

That same day, Dean told me that he was dying. I had been angry with him but the sheer desperation of my mood as I watched the wedding ceremony and prepared to shoot myself in the head, I mean shoot the family groups, had driven me to reach out to the one friend who could calm my heart in a crisis. I thought he was being snarky, and he was, but I did not realize until almost a year later that he had just suffered a 2nd heart attack following the death of his fiancé. We needed each other but I could not reach further than one simple text.

The Leo, upon realizing she was caught, divulged only as much info as she knew was on the loose, which wasn’t actually very much. Then, in one brilliant stroke of table-turning genius, she convinced Travis that it was his fault. I pointed this out but he was not able to follow my reasoning. Well played, Leo bitch, well played…

The Leo promised she would end her affair.

“No, she won’t”, I said.
“Yes, she will”, Travis insisted.
“Whatever”, I said.

Two weeks later, The Leo accidentally on purpose came home with condoms in her brief case. Five years prior to that day, Travis had a vasectomy.

“I will try even harder to win her back”, Travis said.
“Why?” I asked.

There is a stream that flows past my house. It comes from nowhere and it goes nowhere.

The Leo continued to flaunt her affair while simultaneously blaming Travis and claiming to be unable to decide whether or not she could still love him.

“I feel so close to her now”, Travis explained, “because she’s being real.”
“She’s clearly fucking with you now“, I said, “because she can.”
“No…, no, she would never do that.”

Here we go again…

Travis remained tragically unable to grasp what was happening and I grew increasingly unwilling to explain.
“Seriously”, I threw up my hands, “are you retarded?”

This went on for months until finally I gave up and went away. As a parting shot to the heart, I told Travis, “When she finally gets around to settling for you, you’ll think you’ve won, briefly, until you discover that you don’t want her anymore and then you’ll see what a sad waste of time this has been.” Naturally, he didn’t believe me.

There is a stream that runs past my house. If you swim in it long enough, you end up where you were.

Three and a half years later Travis and The Leo are now divorced. Dean has left me to go to Memphis and Travis has returned. I don’t know why I am still drawn to him. It makes me nervous and I’m afraid of what might come of it. It clearly didn’t go very well last time and yet, I don’t send him packing.

The revolving door turns but I think the point is about something other than opportunity. Maybe I have something to teach him or maybe he has something to teach me or maybe I just want someone to play the part.

There is a stream that flows past my house but actually it’s only a mirror.

Owsley

When people ask me who Owsley is, I tell them he is my estranged web designer. I don’t tell him this though, because it’s not true.

I imagine that Owsley and I weigh about the same and, while 110lbs is a fine weight for a little girl of 5’2”, it makes it easy to count the vertebrae of a 5’11” man. I try not to notice his various bones sticking out all over the place and this is easy enough to do just by concentrating on his half of the conversation and trying to figure out what the hell he’s talking about at any given time.

Owsley knows a little about a lot of things and, like a human edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, he begins his monologue at A and continues until the sun goes down or the drugs wear off, whichever comes first. When Owsley really was my web designer, I let him do pretty much anything he wanted to my website because I was too polite to admit that his explanations sounded like gibberish to me. He doesn’t have a speech impediment, it’s just that, not unlike reading an Encyclopedia, I hear his words and fail to assign meaning to them. All I hear is words words words words words and his oft repeated phrase “if this, then that”, which in his mind explains everything.

Despite our failure to communicate, I actually do like him. We seem to get along better in writing as this gives my slow mind time to formulate a response before he’s ten topics down the road. What Owsley sees in me, I have no idea. Dry humor and the slow speech of a westerner, what’s not to love? I don’t pay him for stuff anymore so I can only assume he enjoys watching me bake in his pool and drink his vodka. Hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

Speaking of baking in the pool, I was sitting in a windowsill in Owsley’s living room. There are three tall windows side by side that look out onto the peach trees “that the drug dealers planted” he told me. “You mean the other drug dealers?”, I asked him. The property had been seized by the feds for housing a meth lab which later allowed him to purchase it for next to nothing. The tile floor of his home sprawls across 1000’s of square feet into multiple bed and bath rooms and what could almost be considered a commercial kitchen, all of which proved to be nearly impossible to navigate. I was sitting in the windowsill watching the drippers water the trees and Owsley said “we’re gonna get really fucking high.” Here again, I heard the words “really fucking high” but failed to assign meaning to them and, just like with my website, I went along with whatever he said.

I was still sitting on the windowsill when Owsley brought out a collection of baked goods and glass pipes. “Good god man, you’ve got a regular fucking bake sale going on here” I said. He told me I should eat a biscotti which would kick in in an hour and use the bubbler to fill in the blanks. ” This will be good”, I thought, “a twisted experience with the thin man…” Owsley was talking about drugs and pain and rubbing alcohol and since I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it, I did as he suggested. It was 12:30 in the afternoon.

Owsley does this kind of thing every day, it is his method of managing a chronic pain condition. I don’t. I wasn’t ready. I’m an amateur. Some people like to talk about finding god or opening the doors of perception but let me tell you: there is neither such thing.

Once, when I worked at Kline’s Photography, a shelf holding about 30 big Tupperware containers housing album orders for clients, tipped over and fell on the floor. Every one of those fucking Tupperwares came open; order forms and negatives fluttering together like confetti in a parade. The resulting mess took days to sort out.

I was sitting on Owsley’s windowsill trying to figure out what the fuck he was talking about when a shelf fell over in my mind, flinging boxes of grey matter against the wall and mixing their contents like a bad cocktail. The only thing on the other side of the doors is a whirlwind of doomed voices and blendervison, things you don’t want to see.

The dust was still settling when Owsley offered me more but, fearing for my sanity, I politely declined. “See there what you just did,” he told me, “people with no impulse control can’t do that, drug addicts can’t do that.” “Do what?” “They can’t say no to any offer, doesn’t matter what it is: weed, coke, crack, whores, vodka, they say yes until they end up face down in the pool.” I think this was a compliment. “You’ve no idea who you’re dealing with”, I said, but then realized he was still talking and I hadn’t said a word.

Many years ago, when I lived in Sun Valley, I had to drive some douche bags to L.A. for the filming of a porn flick. The scene: most extreme anal scene for which the girl was paid with tequila, was later nominated for an AVN award. She did shoot bananas and ice cubes from her ass before being gang raped by several guys dressed as circus animals but all I could see when I looked at her was her stubby little fingers. Those beeny weenies will never play piano, I thought, poor stupid bitch. Before I was to drive home by myself, I was laying on the infamous Mick Surewood’s bed in Van Nuys, listening to the sounds of his aquarium and worrying that I would fall asleep on the road. I played the resulting crash out in my mind over and over again. I knew the sounds and just how it would feel when the car landed upside down and crushed my head.

Owsley’s kids were coming to visit at 5:00 and it was already 12:30. With the contents of my mental shoeboxes now strewn across every surface between my ears, the first waves of panic began to set in. The imaginary car accident was back. I didn’t want to die but I sure as hell couldn’t keep the car on the road. 5:00 seemed impossibly early.

People have reported waking in the middle of surgery. They can hear and feel everything but cannot respond to the stimulus. “After I sew her up, let’s take turns eating her pussy”, says the doctor while licking his lips and making shadow puppets on the wall. Paralyzed in a cocoon of hallucination, that shit will never stand up in court.

“Four more hours of going UP!” Owsley gleefully reminded me. I put my sunglasses on so I could stare at his eyes without him noticing. “Let’s swim” he said.

I had already told him that I can’t swim but I had also promised to join him in the water. Were we supposed to fuck? I should really know the answer to this but had completely forgotten the pretense under which I had come over. I stared at his eyes awhile longer, looking for an answer. No, no, pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Besides, I might break him or something. Before heading out to the pool I had to change into my bikini and this involved not only remembering where I left it but exhibiting an enormous amount of dexterity. For this I credit my extensive athletic training. Surely only a gifted athlete could shuffle down the hall to change clothes in the bathroom without cracking a skull on the side of the toilet.

Owsley got distracted on the way to the pool. “My yard’s not square, see”, he said holding his arms at right angles, “so I made a zen garden over there.” I had no idea what he was talking about, it looked square to me, but I followed him across the grass anyway to a hole in the fence. “I just put all this together the other day”, he said, “bought it all at Lowe’s”. I don’t remember anything about it except that it seemed like a lot of money and effort to square a yard that was already square.

“Pain doesn’t respond to moderate use.” We were somewhere in the expanse between the zen garden and the pool. I worried that I would step on a bee. “That’s funny, you know, because I can’t respond at all.” I meant to say that but nothing came out. “Bee stings are used to treat MS”, Owsley said. Are we conversing? “Shut the fuck up, I can walk just fine.” I was not walking just fine but it didn’t matter because he was going on about the suspected link between naturally occurring high levels of Vitamin D in people who live near the equator and low diagnoses of MS, and all the while I hadn’t said a word.

“It’s so nice to bake in the pool”, he told me, “I’m going down the slide!” Well flutter by butterfly, I thought, not to Owsley but to the yellow butterfly making it’s way across the yard. Owsley hit the water with a huge splash and suddenly the butterfly was in the pool. Like me, they can’t swim. I wanted to help but ten thousand years passed while I just stood there watching it struggle. Finally Owsley scooped it up with a stick. The tiny creature crawled out of the water with a fierce determination but the butterfly’s wings were saturated and clung to it’s body like wet bed sheets. Owsley set the stick down in a shady part of the lawn.

The water was shockingly blue and up to my armpits. Chorline was leaching into my skin, I was very sure of this because I was once a test subject in just such an experiment. I looked calm but kept swallowing air, and continued to look calm because my other expressions were not working. “Here, take a noodle”, he said tossing me a pool floaty thingy. Dr. Owsley eventually prescribed two noodles and a kick board. It’s not true what they say, I was an island.

From the stereo on the porch I could hear PJ Harvey’s Down By The Water. I think it’s on the album called Songs Of The Drowned. Or not. Little fish big fish swimming in the water, come back here and give me my daughter. Fish, spirit animal of the disturbed and the subject of many a horrifying dream. Beta fish have magnificent technicolor fins. They fly in the water like silk ribbons and when I used to keep them as pets each of my fish lived in a color coordinated bowl and was named accordingly. I was cleaning Red Fish’s bowl one night. You can’t clean fish bowls with the fish in them so I had put Red Fish in a cereal bowl for safe keeping. I scrubbed the glass and changed the water but when I was ready to return Red Fish to his home the cereal bowl was empty. Beta fish jump sometimes, I was wearing cowboy boots and my heart stopped. My eyes swept the counter top and the stove: nothing. I looked down. A terrible painting. Long red fins coated the toe of my boot like wet tissue paper. Red scales and red blood coated the floor in a smattering of footprints. Red head and bulging eyes still gasping for oxygen.

“Why can’t you swim?”, Owsley wanted to know, “was it a sport’s injury?” “No, I just never learned.” My voice sounded dreadful but at least something came out, maybe. “So you were traumatized as child?” What? I never said that. “No, I have very dense bones.” Is there tree bark in my throat? Christ I sound awful. “Well maybe you could see a therapist?” he suggested. This stopped me for a moment. “I have a therapist”, I was going to say but didn’t. It’s too bad I don’t have any business cards for him, I thought. Dean Reynolds: Terrible Therapist. Owsley was jabbering on about who knows what and I decided it best not to refer him to my therapist after all.

I should have left Dean out of it because I suddenly grew very worried that his heart may have stopped and that I would read about it on Twitter. The meanest thing anyone ever said to me was “I hope you die alone because you fucking deserve it.” The asshole that said this and I were both childless only-children so this was a well thought out insult, a legit concern for people like ourselves. He said this in another decade but it still haunts me. As the elders in my family have died off, each of them had their turn in the barrel. Frail bones in beds that smelled of the end, searching the sad faces of their younger relatives and conversing with aberrations. I wondered how old I would be when the last of the people I care about passes away and how slow the days will click by without them. I need some younger friends otherwise, when my time comes, all my visitors will be invisible. So far I only have one younger friend and he’s a porn star. I mean, like, a bona fide, according to Hoyle, porn star. Will he sit with me when I’m old? Don’t count on it. Will he fly across the country, rent a car, and meet me in a ghost town while I’m still young? Probably. My Mom has already told me to meet her at the river. All of this is temporary, temporary, temporary…

“Hey you know, no one ever died from smoking too much weed”, Owsley said before going down the slide again. He was having a terrific time. “And”, he continued, “we still have at least another hour of ascending”. I really wanted to punch him for pointing that out, I thought we were almost done. “I’m the welter weight champion of not talking”, I did actually get the words out but it wasn’t pretty. “That’s ok,” he said, “you’re safe here.”

XIX – The Moon

Whatever happened here has long since blown off in the wind, like the smell of smoke that fades over time. The moon called on the ocean to wash it all away.

An awful realization that I have been fooling myself all my life thinking there was a next thing to do to keep the show going and actually I’m just a sick clown and so is everyone else. -Jack Kerouac, king of the beats.

Another night at the Blue Moon jazz club, standing around with the band, smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk. They were on break from the stage but I’m always on break when I’m there.

I’m not much for the discussion of morals. If you want something, just go get it. The problem is not how to get what you want, it’s how to get away with what you want. I’m not hung up on morals but I understand the concept of a balanced scale.

We all stood around just outside the door. Smoking trolls under the bridge, keeping an eye out for radio listening skid row sages and making slanderous remarks about the baby girls dressed as whores out on a winter night. Some of the guys took Carl to the parking garage to get high with them in a truck. Only Dean stayed behind with me in the street light shadow of a rootless tree. This land has different rules. Eye contact and a quiet conversation, a meeting of the minds. We flicked our cigarettes against the tree and went inside.

Lights fell like a meteor shower over the dining room and quiet instruments rested on the stage. My friends sat in our booth, having no idea what kind of place they had come to. They sipped at their beers and wondered why I walked right past them and down the hall to the men’s room. Actually, they didn’t see me but they surely started to wonder where I was. Dean followed me in and locked the door to the stall behind us.

The band was on break, like I said. The drummer was busy with his hands up my shirt and the music trickling out from the house speakers was not quite loud enough to conceal the sounds of my tree huggy shoes, clippity cloppity, must stand still. High on adrenaline, both hands in Dean’s hair and the rest of me dissolving in his mouth, I was already starting to cum. Dean unbuckled his belt and pushed me to my knees. Someone stood at the sink washing their hands and in between splashes I could make out the voice of Damien Rice mumbling in the ambiance. Though Irish, he follows me around: on TV, in my car, at the bar. What I want from us is empty our minds. We fake the thoughts, and fracture the times. Fucking poetry. We go blind when we’ve needed to see…

I stopped listening to the sink and the music and looked up at Dean while running my tongue along his cock. I reached up to grab his hands while taking in as much of him as I could. I can feel his heartbeat in his fingers and against my tongue. Like a doctor checking his pulse, “yes sir, you seem to be in tip top condition.” We have to hurry, this isn’t Motel 6 after all and someone is probably waiting to take a shit. His swelling has increased, almost too much. He grabs me up and bends me over. Clip clop, shhhh. I’m so wet and stifling a loud orgasm while he pushes all the way in with one stroke. He’s pushing me hard and I’m pushing back against the hand rail by the toilet to keep my head from bouncing off the tiled wall. His hands are on my hips, holding me still for this bathroom fucking, hard and intense, scandalous. Yes? Yesss. I’ve felt his penetration since the beginning of time. Only we know our history.

Dean grabs a handful of my hair, forcing my head back and exploding inside me at the same time. So hard to be quiet. I’m a screamer, you know. We stay the way we are for a moment, breathing hard, gotta switch dimensions and return to the world of the living. I’m looking back between all four of our feet and can see Carl’s shoes, slightly flawed and sold at a discount, standing in front of the sink. That song is still on and no one likes it but me. Killers re-invent and believe, and this leans on me, like a rootless…

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and all we’ve been through.

Carl’s shoes exit the men’s room followed shortly by Dean’s shoes. I, however, am stuck.

Leave it, leave it, leave it, there’s nothing in you.

Men keep coming and going and Carl is hovering around the door. The pull of the moon has driven him mad and he’s looking for a place to hide.

And if you hate me, hate me, hate me, then hate me so good…

Texts from Carl and Dean are lighting up my phone.

Where are you???”

Stay in there, he’s by the door.”

More shoes and sink water, rattles from the paper towel dispenser. I need an exit strategy.
… let me out, let me out, let me out…

*song lyrics in italics by Damien Rice

Dead Ringer

My Mom called me this morning to ask about the dead body I found last night.

“Yes, that is what I found, right in the middle of the road.”

“How do you know he wasn’t just sleeping?”

“Really?”

“Well…”, she pressed on, “you’re not saying much, how do you know he was dead and not just passed out?”

“Because his legs were on backwards” I told her.

“Yeah, but how….”

“ He was dead”

“But…”

“Dead”

(silence)

“Why don’t you have anything more to say about it?”

here we go

“Because there’s nothing more to tell.”

At 3:00 this morning, while speeding along at 75mph, I swerved to avoid hitting what I thought was a laundry bag of clothes, but what turned out to be a clothed bag of meat, sprawled in the middle lane of I-16.

A man wearing all black, who was apparently walking down the middle of the highway, was struck and killed by a passing vehicle.  Not my vehicle.  The cops checked my car for guts and hair. They didn’t find any.

Some folks really know how to ring in the new year.

Auld Lang Syne.

Farewell stranger.

Girl Business

I’m pretty sure a mule kicked me in the back while I was sleeping. I had designs on today and they did not include hoof prints or unleashing the viscous mega-bitch within. My plan was to meet Dean at a seedy and undisclosed location for a little quality time, e.g, uncensored conversation and a roll in the hay, while pretending to be “at work.” My work is complicated and, you know, I have needs.

In the past, I rarely gave much thought to this kind of unplanned interruption. I was on the pill for 20 years, having devised an impressively ingenious plan for convincing my mom to let me start taking them at the age of 14. My gears turned like clockwork and life was good until one day, two years ago, when my hair started falling out. By the handful, by the brush-full, by the drain-full and by the trash-can-full; it wasn’t funny. In a blind panic, I rounded up all the prescription drugs cluttering my bathroom sink and banished them to the trash. While continuing to shed like a cancer patient, leaving a sad trail of hair everywhere I went, I decided that a copper IUD would be the best solution to maintain my lifestyle without the risk of coming home with condoms in my briefcase. Ten years of no-brainer birth control; for a $1000 it seemed like a steal. Babies, after all, cost way more than that.

The doctor warned me that some things would change. “Most women complain of heavier periods and more severe cramping” she told me. “Good, fine, whatever”, I said, “When can you get me in?”

I honestly had no idea that she was being serious or that I could undergo such a freakish transformation without ending up in the hospital. What used to be a minor, two day annoyance has now become a week long blood bath that descends on my lady parts like a chapter from the Old Testament. It comes and goes with the ferocity of a biblical plague, showing no regard whatsoever for silly little things like my plans. I never used to worry about rescheduling my shenanigans but now I would surely leave any motel room looking like a crime scene and I certainly wouldn’t want to go swimming in shark infested waters.

Gone are the days of being carefree, here now are the days of living in constant fear of a mortifying “incident”, a tampon failure, an unexpected disaster; the kind of thing I used to fret about in middle school. I drove to Boulder a couple months ago and 7 hours into the trip, while inching along through Denver during rush hour traffic, I began to suspect that trouble might be brewing. Two hours later, when I finally made it to the Days Inn, I practically fell out of my car and, to my horror, realized I was sitting in a saucer sized red puddle. I had driven nearly 500 miles, my back was killing me, I was dizzy and hungry and now I had to try to speak coherent English to a hotel desk clerk with what was sure to be a matching stain on the back of my pants. I was tying a jacket around my waist and Carl was like “ummmm”, I cut him off in mid-mumble, “You say a word about this to anyone and you’ll be hitchhiking home!” The desk clerk was rambling on about the pool and continental breakfast while little birds tweeted around my head. As the world started to black out, I snatched the key from his hand, staggered to the elevator and collapsed on the floor of my room. This is my life now; wearing bloody clothes in public and complaining to my friends who look at me like I’m embarrassing them. On the upside, my hair grew back and has now returned to it’s former unkempt glory.

When I first told Dean about the IUD, I said “Don’t worry, the brochure says you shouldn’t even notice it.” “I bet I can dislodge that fucking thing”, was his reply. Turns out he was almost right. While nothing has officially been “dislodged”, he routinely complains of being jabbed. I suppose I should feel a degree of empathy for his ordeal but, being a bit of a sadist, it really turns me on so I order him to fuck me harder. He’s a big boy, he can take it.

The Way Down

   There is a painting of us somewhere. We just don’t know where. And it’s not really of us. Well, it sort of is. You’ll see.

     During the spring of another era, I bled to death in a cabin east of the Mississippi. My unborn daughter drowned in my womb and an owl flew down from it’s tree in the middle of the day. I never knew the person my child might have been. Apparently, she wasn’t anyone at all. A midwife was there but rags with ointment and hot water were no match for a breech birth. Dean looked on but there was nothing he could do. Finally the nurse turned to him and said “it’s no use.” She packed her things and left him with the mess. It wasn’t fair. Across the way, a young girl lived alone. She was crazy and blind, both her parents were taken with the fever. Her name was Unfortunate and she would sit in the dirt singing songs to herself. As the midwife walked away sad words floated in the air “that’s the way it goes, that’s the way…” Some endeavors just aren’t meant to be. It’s not true what they say about catching a cold. It’s children that’ll be the death of you.

     Dean, I don’t know what his name was then, turned to booze and whores to calm his despair. Five years later a woman with no last name woke up next to a man who had died in the night. She took his wallet on her way out the door. There was nothing in it.

     My car is little and efficient. It has front wheel drive and I like to take it places where it shouldn’t go. I snapped out of my visions and realized I was driving too fast down a steep mountain, on a winding dirt road, in the rain. Willow trees slapped the windshield. The voice from the stereo was mine but coming from someone else entirely. Her name is Gillian and, like me, she is the spawn of a midnight pact between a young woman and a drummer. “Some girls are bright as the morning” she sang “and some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind.” The wipers swiped at the rain and then snagged a wisp of willow, smearing green across the glass.

     In Oregon the ocean washes jellyfish up on the beach. They are nature’s gooey land mines. Even the dead ones will sting you and the stringy fuckers are see-through. The crabs aren’t afraid of them though. Tiny hermit crabs, swimming in puddles around starfish, are not even the slightest bit concerned for the watery Christmas-light tentacles of the jelly. You can walk on the beach, down the line where the water meets the sand and see any given metaphor. I was walking and came upon a shell. The idea that one can hear the ocean in a shell is rhetorical. With the tide splashing salt water in your hair, what else would you hear? I picked it up anyway and, to my surprise, didn’t hear the ocean at all. I heard rain and wheels on dirt. A tired voice told me “Step into the light, poor Lazarus. Don’t lie alone behind the window shade” It may have just been my own thoughts but, in any case, the ocean had nothing to say about it.

     No matter how much rain falls, you can’t drive your car off the mountain until you get to the bottom. In the meantime, cars full of lonely guitars and dissonant thoughts only go down the mountain.

     Deserts are places where oceans used to be. They no longer have a line where the water meets the sand because the water left, leaving the sand to it’s own devices. When the moon shines on the desert, scorpions grow restless and break into a sweaty panic, often stinging themselves to death for no good reason. A scorpion is equipped with an arsenal sufficient to win any war, even if it’s grossly outnumbered. It’s a shame then how many scorpions fall victim to their own poison. My car rested on a sand dune, parked in the desert for so long the paint had turned to rust and the seats were wire skeletons. Once I had slept in the back but now a wild dog licked her wounds in my stead. A coral snake slid down from inside the bumper and caught itself a scorpion. Headless and squirming, the scorpion’s tail flew up and stung the snake in it’s eye. Two of god’s creatures died there under the rusty car on a moonlit night. From the dashboard came a tiny glow, static crackled and the voice of someone who wasn’t theremused “of all the little ways I’ve found to hurt myself, well you might be my favorite one of all.”

     I thought I should really pay more attention to the road. Being perilously close to the soggy shoulder, one false move could send me cartwheeling over the edge. I would still be going down the mountain, technically, just not the way I had planned. It was all so hypnotizing: the rain and the wipers with the songs and willow trees. Perhaps it was the altitude or maybe the Indian cigarettes. Someone else probably should have been driving, but who? I hummed along with the music “sunshine and sorrow, yesterday, tomorrow…” The car drove itself home.

     A southern woman I’ve never met keeps a painting in her attic. She keeps it because it was there when she moved in. The painting depicts a man and a woman sitting on a bench by a window. The new resident of the home believes this scene takes place in what is now her breakfast nook and that the people in the painting used to live in the original part of the house. Once, when the woman’s father came to visit he asked her “whatcha hanging on to that ol’ picture of them niggers for?” “Hush now”, she told him, “it’s not right to call them that and besides they look like half breeds to me.” The old man clacked his dentures with his tongue “sure are a lot of clouds in here. I think it’s gonna rain”. “Dad!” she knew he would never change but still… “can’t you see the woman has green eyes?”

** song lyrics in italics by Gillian Welch

July 5th

Today is not a holiday but I’ve decided to spend the morning lying in bed, reading a novel as if the 4th of July would go on forever. The venetian blinds on my bay window are mostly closed but I can still perceive the shifting color spectrum as the sun makes it’s way across the sky. If only I could read in a light tight box, immune to the feeling of time slipping away, I could stay here much longer. Anxiety and galloping thoughts get the best of me. As always, the world is going on out there and in my head; endless variations of individual worlds.

Sometime between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m., I dreamt that I woke up in someone else’s bed. The bed belonged to my friend, Krivo, and it was in his new apartment. I have not been in his bed or his apartment since 1995 but I knew where I was because he walked in the room and started talking to me. I got up to look around and admire his art collection. The piece that caught my eye was a painting on silk of a man in a blue and purple suit wearing a fedora and playing a saxophone. The piece was titled The Jazz Musician. I remembered that this had been a gift from me and was touched that he still had it. Upon waking, I know I did not give him that painting but I sent him a text to see if he had something like it.

At 7:30 Carl left to take his mother to the cancer doctor. She has multiple myeloma and her body is wasting away. She weighs less than me now. That can’t be good. I feel for him because I know the devastation I would feel if my mother were sick but it is an empathy more than a personal sadness because I have intentionally never bonded with her. She is not my mother and I am not her daughter. I feel like an impostor, welcomed into her home like a stranger. Trivial small talk and jello salad. Paper plates partitioned so the mashed potatoes don’t touch the meat. Margarine scooped from a tub and presented in a glass bowl. She doesn’t know what to say to me nor I to her. She is a kind soul but she is not my mother.

Ernesto and Carmen sit at the airport waiting to board the plane that will take them home and back to their routines. I try to imagine Carmen’s life, seemingly free from the burden of ambition. She cleans the house and makes dinner; watching talk shows and servicing her husband in accordance with routine. She goes bowling. At forty-something years old she has many things that he has bought for her yet her own efforts have yielded only a shelf full of bowling trophies and romance novels with creased spines; souvenirs from a life-time free of ambition. Not trying equals never having to fail. It is safe. It is air conditioned. It is the lead role in a cage. I guess it’s a cushy gig. I have to wonder though, bringing nothing to the table, what is she to him except a housekeeper that puts out? I don’t understand and I’m not going to try. She fits his definition of “wife” and it is my lack of understanding that relegates me to being what Monique would refer to as “hardly anyone’s type.” It’s ok though, I would rather be what I am.

Dean is at his office, impeccably attired in clothes that clearly did not come from the department store at the mall. He is not a snob but he is a snappy dresser. Those are his words. He is not prideful but his dignity is strong. Those are my words. He sits at his desk; stirring the world, initiating chemical reactions, making something out of nothing. He is beautiful.

Missing: The King Of Porn

I have an obsession and it’s growing like a tumor. It all started with one little thought: I wonder whatever became of the self proclaimed King Of Porn, Samuel Crimson? Upon consulting the Googles I learned that he directed 40 films in 7 years and then vanished right off the Earth 4 years ago. When I say vanished, that’s what I mean, not dead; there would be news stories about his death but vanished and no one seems to care. Well now, if there’s a finger guaranteed to fondle my obsession trigger it’s not being able to find out something I want to know. What started as an innocent question is rapidly becoming a compulsive preoccupation. Like digging for lost keys in that duffel bag of a purse I carry around, I will turn this country upside down and shake it until I unearth what I’m looking for.

You could say we had a love/hate relationship; mostly hate, but not entirely. My boyfriend, Nathaniel, coerced me into a renting a house with Sammy, who was his best friend. He neglected to mention that, while weird on surface, Sam was an insane, tortured creature that liked to drink and cry in public. I didn’t like him but was willing to take his rent money. He struck me as a garden variety intellectual drunk; sloppy, rude, insensitive, twisting complex ideas into ugly banter – you know, the usual suspects. Sam was of Russian decent and had hair like a red tumbleweed. It was about shoulder length and totally unkempt, making it a sizable tumbleweed; like the kind that race you down the road on a windy day and then get stuck in your grill. One time ‘the weed’ got so bad he had to go to a salon to have the tangles professionally removed. I remember him wearing the same sweater vest over his bare chest and cut off sweat pants every day for like 3 years. He was on my nerves most of the time, I thought of him as a well spoken troll.

As a term of endearment, Sam and Nate called each other fag. Any given day of our life together would consist of Sam knocking on our bedroom door every five minutes. Knock knock knock “fag” knock knock “hey fag” knock knock knock knock “hey you fag” and most of these interactions would inevitably result in me having to get up and drive somewhere in the middle of the day when I was supposed to be sleeping. This happened all the time and contributed greatly to the hate factor. Sam did not have a car and was usually too drunk to drive and Nathaniel had neither driver’s license or car so you see the problem. Sam could generally be counted on to relieve the kitchen of it’s contents and to use odious quantities of toilet paper, likely the result of having devoured everything in sight and washing it down with a bottle of Jagermeister.

Should we talk about the crying? Every year at Christmas Sam would pace around the living room in a wide orbit, bottle of Jagermeister in one hand, growing progressively more delirious with each rotation and wearing a threadbare path the carpet. I accidentally interrupted this ritual once, finding him red eyed and sniffling. He told me how, when he was 12, his father dragged him out to the shed behind their house and amputated two of his own fingers with a table saw all the while screaming “Look what you made me do!” Apparently, being a mad genius comes at a price. Having no sense of personal boundaries Sam would often like to confide his torments to me while I was in the shower. I would be washing my hair in the phone booth sized cubical I had then, keeping an eye out for any of those terrifyingly huge water beetles that liked to crawl out of the drain, when the glass door would be flung open and crazy Sammy would be there in some state of panic, regaling me about his metamorphosis and seemingly indifferent to the fact that I was naked and in the middle of something. Then, there were the phone calls. Should Sam be missing from the house for more than a couple hours, something ugly was usually underway. Eventually the phone would ring and he would gurgle out his plans to walk the streets of downtown Las Vegas until God called him home; not asking me to come get him but just filling me in as a courtesy. I would, of course, get in my car and go looking for him, likely finding him urinating in an alley.

By trade Sam was a writer and an adult film director. He wrote innumerable pieces for every adult magazine there is, mostly reviews and on the set type stuff. He and Nathaniel had a dream of owning their own adult film production company. This was possibly the most disastrous idea ever. They were both alcoholics, but incompatible in their inebriated ways. Nathaniel was a lazy chicken shit; always hatching good ideas but never having the balls to execute. Sam, on the other hand, was manic depressive and would work furiously for days at a time and then short circuit and try to kill himself. With no voice of reason between them, these were not two people who should’ve been in business together and Sam did not reach his legendary status until after our relationship had ended. Sam once tried to recruit me to ghost write for him, figuring we could do twice as many jobs that way and he would pay me for my part. Having already sustained considerable personal and financial losses as a result of supporting Sam and his brilliance I was naturally leery of this idea but he was insistent so I agreed to write a short piece reviewing a scene that he had chosen for me. I really didn’t care for the scene, finding it to be awkwardly ridiculous and I described the star whore as a hapless deer in the headlights. When I handed in my assignment Sam informed me that “This is not jack off material. It’s condescending and sarcastic.” Raise your hand if this surprises you. He never asked me to write anything else.

Sam’s true gift was in script writing and film direction. When it came to conceiving of, and committing to film, lurid and savagely extreme sex scenes with profanely blasphemous overtones Crimson was second to none. This is the guy who would lash a Ted Neeley look-alike to a crucifix with Christmas lights, making him wear a barbed wire crown while bleeding profusely and receiving fellatio from a nun. A scene which would no doubt culminate in the simulated rape and anal decimation of the nun by some Roman guards while “Jesus” would passively look on and proceed to bleed out muttering “forgive them father, for they know not what they do” with his dying breath. Yes, that Samuel Crimson, in case you were wondering…

Our little company did manage to produce one little gem of a flick. For the sake of protecting the guilty I shall refer to it as our debut film. We shot for three straight days in our house and, despite near constant conflicts and impending budget shortages, we managed to get the thing edited and distributed by a major label. Our debut film was the best selling video in the country the week of it’s release, received a fully erect rating from Hustler Magazine and was nominated for an AVN award. The biz was off to a great start but then, like anything managed by two alcoholics, it crashed and burned; exploding in an apocalyptic mushroom cloud. There were no survivors.

I have a gift, or a curse, depending on how you look at it. It’s a morbid curiosity coupled with an acute intuition that compels me to understand people and to want to pick at all their scabs until I can see them better. Sam drove me fucking bat shit crazy but I was a little fascinated by him too. There were some occasions, albeit few and far between, when we would have very lucid conversations and he would predict the future. Of course, I couldn’t have gauged his accuracy then but I see now that he possessed a certain clairvoyance. For instance, he once told me that Nate wasn’t who I thought he was and that I would be better off to cut my losses and move on stating that in ten years time he would have burned out, lost his good looks and would be just be one more pathetic drunk sitting at the bar. He told me “you may think I’m just a lunatic but someday, mark my words, you’ll look back and say to yourself Crazy Sammy was right “. A few months ago, approximately ten years later, I got a phone call from Nate who is now unemployed, renting a trailer in Pahrump and calling me from his neighbor’s house because he has neither phone or computer by which to communicate. It seems his unemployment benefits had run out and would not be reinstated for two weeks. He was flat broke and could not pay his rent or buy food for himself or his dog. He needed $200. This was a very depressing phone call because I had hoped that he would have gotten his shit together. The only other time I had heard from him in the last ten years was about 5 years ago when he sent me an email saying that he urgently needed to talk to me because he thought God was punishing him for the way he had treated me. I assured him that, though he was probably right, I had not petitioned God to torment him and could therefore not call off the dogs. Crazy Sammy was right.

My involvement with the films was mostly administrative but there was one night when I crossed the line to the other side of the camera. Nate was sleeping and I was having a rare pleasant evening hanging with Sam during which I agreed to let him shoot me in a solo scene with a double headed dildo. We shot in the living room for at least an hour and, to be honest, it was not unpleasant. He was very cool and focused, directing the scene with a calm detachment and occasionally offering some pointers to ramp up the drama We had a great time. Sadly, or probably fortunately, that footage never made it into an actual movie. Some time later I discovered that he was keeping it as his personal jack off material, and since things weren’t going well at that point, I destroyed the tape.

On another occasion I had just returned to Vegas after an eight week hiatus to Magdelena. Nate was at work and Sam and I were in the kitchen having a rousing conversation. Sam, with shenanigans in his eyes, wanted to know if I had been on any dates while I was away. It goes without saying that I had been with Dean but Sam didn’t need to know that so I just said that I had spent most of my time hanging out with my friends. I could see he didn’t believe me but I stuck to my story, knowing that, at any moment, lucid Sammy could turn into crazy Sammy and would almost certainly repeat anything I told him to his “brother” Nathaniel. We talked for hours about all kinds of things including the boxes of weird shit that my dad would send about once a month. I had been away and Sam had missed the care packages. My dad will gestate an idea and then hold on to it with fierce, but irrational, determination. For instance, I must have been sick once, maybe when I was 13, and required some cough drops. That meant that every month for the next 12 years my dad would send a care package containing, among other things, two or three huge bags off Halls Cough Drops which are, in my opinion, one of the most vile things one could put in their mouth. We had one of those big utility drawers in the kitchen that was quite literally over flowing with Halls Cough Drops. Sam thought this was wildly entertaining. He asked me “why don’t you just tell your dad that you have enough cough drops?” I said “if he can’t see that for himself, me telling him is not going to make any difference. I mean why would he even think that I need this many cough drops in the first place?” We laughed hysterically as Sam reenacted the scene of my dad packing the box contemplating “hmmm, I wonder what my little miss needs this month? I know… cough drops!”

As it turns out my return marked the beginning of the end. Conflict in the house reached new heights with Nathaniel and Sam fighting constantly and, with both of them trying to put me in the middle, I wanted nothing to do with either of them. One day after a big fight I was sitting on my bed when Sam let himself into my room and told me he was going to be doing most of his work in L.A. from now on. He asked me what I wanted out of the whole mess and I said ” I want my life to stop revolving around whatever you and Nate are fighting about. I don’t care about porn and I want to pursue something that is important to me. When is someone going to give a fuck about me, Sam?!?! That’s what I want to know!” I spit these words out in the most bitter tone I could muster. He closed the door. It was our last conversation.

Saturday

I painted my nails this morning; something totally out of character and a likely sign of the apocalypse. You should probably stock up on your food rations. I have an aversion to nails; mine, yours and everyone else’s. They seem like an evolutionary mistake. My typical manicure consists of cutting my nails down to the quick and when they start to grow back cutting them again, ensuring that they will never protrude past the ends of my fingers and, god forbid, bend while I’m washing my hair. The thought of bending finger nails sends me straight to the fetal position, clenched hands covering my face. The fact that some women waste countless hours of their lives sitting in a salon while actually paying someone to make their nails longer is completely beyond my comprehension. I can’t be reasoned with; no nails, no bending, simple as that. Today I decided to add nail polish to my nubs in an attempt to make them look happier. While waiting for the sparkly purple polish to dry I’ve been carrying on a conversation via text message with Dean. He’s been away, I’ve been missing him. In between messages I’m treating myself to some tales of Christmas dementia by David Sedaris. I love that there is a review on the back of Holidays On Ice that reads “not remotely politically correct or heart warming”. See there, we are twinsies.

It is Saturday morning and it’s one of those unusual Saturday’s when I don’t have to work. On days like this I like to sit on my bed drinking coffee and enjoy being left alone in my private little world of books and text messages. Therefore I find it jarring and irritating when I accidentally look at my inbox and see an email from an associate with a subject line that reads “did you get my last email???” Yeah, I think to myself, I fucking got it, I just didn’t read it because the unsolicited advice you hammered me with during our last meeting at your day care center, when you made me sit with your children on miniature plastic chairs and eat fucking tepid cheese pizza from Costco while you and your business partner rambled on like lunatic shut ins, made me think you’ve been blasting the Freedom Rock and getting high in your basement for the last three years. It was a confidence shaker, I gotta say. I know you didn’t mean to insult me by inviting me to lunch and then ambushing me with this daycare charade but suggesting that I should change the name of my business to something “more obvious” is pushing it and assuming that little carrots and a juice box were a fine supplement to the cold pizza entree is really testing the limits of my benefit of the doubt . The crown jewel though was when you got all huffy saying that you were so sick of business owners (such as myself say for instance) complaining that we cannot do your silly little trade shows on Saturdays because we have the audacity to be conducting real business on that particular day of the week. Haughty words from a woman holding a juice box.

There is always a point during my day off when I realize that I’ve drank 5 cups of coffee, eaten nothing and it’s well past noon. The sun is shining on the world and life is happening out there while I am doing nothing in here. Anxiety creeps in, reminding me of all the things I should be doing coupled with a resentment that I can’t even enjoy one day off without this mind fuck coming along and raining on my parade. Can’t I just relax? Aren’t I entitled to not see belligerent subject lines in my inbox, can’t their problems wait till Monday? I’m gonna go re-teach myself to play guitar until I forget that I ought to be doing something more important.