13% [chapter 6]


A couple weeks after arriving in Los Angeles, you went down to San Diego to visit Richard. He was your first love when you were both high school sophomores in Hightstown, New Jersey. The two of you would often hang out together after school, but he asked you not to act like you knew him in the lunchroom. He was worried how it might look to his upper crust preppie clique, if he were seen hanging out with a weirdo druggie band geek chick. This first love, unrequited, kept you chasing it. Just like that legendary virgin dragon crack hit. Ride the snake. It's a long cold class war bitch.

You wrote scores of letters to Richard over the years. He never replied. Still you kept sending them, just to write it out, that shit that life is all about to people like him and you -- grown up kids who grew up under the willows and toadstools of abuse. It didn't matter that he never wrote back. Though, at the time, you hopelessly hoped that he would. He did tell you much later that he finally caved in to feeling something for you while reading all those hand written pages that he had actually kept in a box under his bed. And that meant the world to you.

He now seemed somewhat amused that you'd even bother to come visit him again from so many miles away. Stepping off the Greyhound bus, his first comment to you was, "You looked better when you were fat." How fucking great is that?

Back in Massachusetts, a couple years before this particular visit, you'd be so wound up after your shift at the mental institution that you were crawling up the walls of your small rented room. Silently, you'd slip out of the house around midnight, pop the clutch in your little silver Toyota Tercel until you were safely down the hill before starting the engine. Then you'd be off to see Richard. He was living in Winsted,
Connecticut. A mere 3 hour drive away. You'd hang out for a little while, maybe have a quick fuck around 4am, then drive back to Burlington before your parents woke up at 8.

The impetus to stay up all night driving was, of course, to be with someone whom you loved. But it later became clear that these repeated roadtrips were really all about the drives themselves. About being alone on and off the major highways. About roaming through the dark craggy forests and foggy moonlit fields. About feeling the immense freedom to cry and sing along to Smiths and Cure songs as much and as loud as you liked. It was therapy. And it was on these solitary night drives that you first began to notice you did not need to be on drugs in order to feel good and alive. All you needed was solitude, music and that long road to motor into the truest version of you that could be derived.

The last quick visit to Richard in Winsted gave you your first pregnancy scare. He said he didn't care. So to save yourself the $300 it was going to cost to get an abortion, you decided it would be cheaper to do all the cocaine acid whiskey weed and pills you could get your hands onto and gluttonously shove that shit into yer face instead of eating any healthy food for the next few weeks. 24 hours before your appointment at the clinic, you successfully miscarried. Your nose bled out almost as much as your confused womb. But your rent got paid that month. And no one was there to bitch at you.

This time, in San Diego, visiting Richard only spawned several huge marguaritas, thankfully. But you were totally unsure of yourself, of why you were here, of what you had hoped to gain by revisiting him and this old wound. Nothing had been discussed about the past. And so nothing but unresolved insecurity, commonly the emotional terrain of youth, filled your pudding of proof. Proof of your inherent unloveability. There was a polite but oddly robotic screw that you gave him on his back porch the following morning. Then, perplexed, you left his place with this weird emptiness of having achieved some great reward. The reward of knowing that There Is No Reward. You spent your last day there wandering along the boardwalk alone, cuddling several cheap beers to liquify this pointless game you had just senselessly played and lost again.

A couple sitting on a beach blanket called out for you to join them. Julie was a white hippie chick from Berekeley. Her long haired Mexican boyfriend was named Jose. He never removed his shades. He scared you, but she seemed harmless enough and lulled you into feeling safe with her flowery blousey she-won't-let-anything-bad-happen-to-me gaze. They poured more booze down your gullible gullet and smoked you out. You all sang a Jimi Hendrix song rather flailingly and laughed cuz Jose pronounced "Joe" without the j sound, so he sang it "Hey Yo" instead. They said more music booze and drugs would be on the way if you went with them back to their place. You agreed, assuming it would be a short walk around the corner. But it was a long hour's drive down several unknown freeways.

Their place was a small dank room in a run down long stay motel. It didn't take long for them to propose a threeway but in your lost stoned drunken and paranoid state, you found this idea grossly depraved. Everything below your neck had grown numb to sensation anyway. And you did not find either one of them sexually attractive at all. Oh well. There goes another fantasy that in reality only turned you off with its utter inability to titillate. Perhaps part of porn's success lies in it's absence of odors, those moist reeks that you
cannot psychologically erase. And, right on cue, as always when combining weed with booze, you puked and just wanted to be left alone with your self-deprecating dismay.

Julie kept saying, "Just check out Jose's beautiful cock." But you were stubbornly unamazed. Frustrated after several failed attempts to fuck you, they agreed to give you a ride back to the boardwalk so you'd quit complaining. Jose's last attempt to grope your tits and grind against your ass was met with more struggling, so your body was tossed out of the van's passenger side door as they drove down the freeway on-ramp.

It had grown dark. Wearing only a pair of ratty cut off shorts, combat boots, and a bathing suit under a thin 'Confusion is Sex' Sonic Youth tshirt, you were totally exposed to the sudden desert chill. You checked yourself. No money except for some small change. No ID, just a slip of paper with Richard's phone number on it. No major injuries. Only some minor cuts and roadrash on your hands and knees from making out with asphalt and gravel. You were glad to be free from Jose and Julie, and made your way toward the highway to hitchhike back to Richard's place. Though, in what direction or how far it was, you could not say.

Coming to a 7 foot tall chain link fence, it took forever to scale the thing. Immediately afterward, you promised yourself to set a personal goal of gaining more upper body strength so as to avoid this kind of fat-assed humiliation during any future attempts to escape. Finally on the freeway, you looked down and found 2 dollars crumpled up in the dirt. Things were looking up. Thumbing it down the breakdown lane, you prayed to not fall prey to a rapist or serial killer out on the hunt for young female strays. Such a contradiction to
the deathwish that had purposefully put you here in harm's way.

About 2 hours passed. A Latino man driving a white pick up truck pulled over. He couldn't speak a word of English but he drove you to the nearest gas station so that you could call Richard on the payphone. Richard translated to the man over the phone where you needed to go. The man then silently drove you for over an hour back to where you had originated. You tried to give him the 2 dollars in your pocket that you found in the dirt. But he just smiled, shaking his head no and drove away.

As you turned toward the familiar basketball court near Richard's back porch, you fell to your dried bloody knees in the soft green grass and thanked the heavens above for crossing paths with the kindness of that unknown man. You made sure to mark this moment should you ever feel tempted to judge any one entire race for the despicable dickheaded actions of one person when another person will perform the most selfless and generous of deeds.

That goes for judging Julie too, which is why, when you saw her several years later walking on Cole Street in SF's Upper Haight, you restrained yourself from charging over there and punching her in her super friendly face. Instead, you thought about all this upper body strength you had since gained.

As for Richard, you still keep in touch with him. And you still feel love for him. In the best and only way you know how to love another person -- from a distance that is safe.

*u can call me ph!*