13% [chapter 20]


On November 27th, 2009, you were still stuck on that merry-go-round of cyclical depressive low tides, all Eeyore-like. No Tigger, no Piglet, no Winnie-the-Pooh moods in sight.

But you could not quite bring yourself to subscribe to the ever-growing myriad of socially sanctified psychotropic solutions that every doctor tried to religiously prescribe. You couldn't trust these new anti-depressants that kept clogging up the lives of everyone you once liked. Chopin might not have composed anything if he were all hopped up on Zoloft or Xanax back in 1839.

Something seemed very untoward about hallucinating while coming OFF a daily chemical regime. Or the steady loss of all humor while increasing the tendencies this monkey-wrenching medicine was purporting to reduce. Just to feel more confident in group settings where you'd be all cotton-mouthed and farting? Or mindlessly gambling away your hard earned savings on glittery slot machines while internally bleeding? Or succumbing to early-onset Alzheimer's at 50, barely able to remember anything?

At least with regular cheap street drugs, you knew exactly how and why you'd end up in a gutter, forlorn lost and crying.Because of the droning loneliness, the specious doubt, the prickling dread. Crying because of global warming. Because of your unfathomable debts. Because of gentrification's big boot of disdain for the poor, trampling around San Francisco, crunching ever closer to the sitting duck of your dilapidated Mission district victorian flophouse. All of your trenchant attempts to Get Somewhere in life seemed to be Going Nowhere effortlessly. Like a sad dead girl's polyester dress on sale for way too much money at Thrift Town.

Usually, these cycles of depression could be managed by eating more fruits and vegetables and vigorously sweating out the animosity and heartache. But you couldn't seem to shake off this extended sticky bout.

Listening again to the Nick Drake album 'Five Leaves Left', you seriously wanted to leave the black-eyed dogs behind and join him in some imaginary afterlife. What was the point of trying so hard to stay clean when everyone you sought approval from looked at you like they knew an inside joke that you were not clued in to? Like yer some kinda shady junkie. But you weren't robbing anybody at gunpoint. You were working 2 jobs, organizing annual festivals with your own rent money and booking small free live shows in your house for their experimental noise bands monthly. Still, it seemed you'd never be rid of this scarlet letter, clinging to your unapproachable chest, all bitter sore and lumpy.

If this downward spiraling mindset was still happening under the influence of a substance-free existence, then FUCK IT. Might as well be getting high. At least then you could enjoy something. So you got some. And without questioning it, did a big fat fucking line. Take THAT, Feelings! Thus you kept yourself boxed in on meticulous coding designs inside the refreshing blue-green glow of a computer screen. Honed in on the faint comfort of an unconcerned light.

Recreationally, meth modestly recreated many a night after you got laid off from Amoeba the following spring. Once the severance check arrived, you were cloaked in a heavy indifference. Drugs didn't become just a friend or a demanding lover, they were now the holy widowmaker. Yet they kept you sucking at the teat of invigorating devastation. Like Kali-Ma. Bestowing a blistering glorious defeat, steeling you for the celebration of End Times. And you went down burning, almost happily resigned to this predictably hot demise. Victim identified.

For weeks, you sensed it approaching. On your morning bike rides to work, the trees in Panhandle Park kept screaming, "Death is Coming!" So you had already begun grieving the loss of that long held job and all the people there that you really liked. Because trees have no reason to lie. And you'd almost learned well enough to trust these psychic impressions by then, even if they spelled an inconsolable dissolution that would mould you dispirited and dry.

After the boss broke the news to you in the office, she leaned back in her chair, expecting to reach for the tissue box and feign compassion while watching another peon cry. But you just said, "Yeah. Ok. Bye." She was disappointed that you weren't more moved by this deliberate shock. "I knew this was coming," you stated flatly and calmly left the office while her face went all awry. That creeped her out sufficiently.

Back in the good ol' days, when people left this tightly knit job, a going away party of sorts would occur. But not this time. Not for you or any of the other dozen or so laid-off yobs. So, you picked up the intercom, said goodbye to everyone storewide and demanded to know, "Hey! Where's My Fucking Cake?!" Giggles cascaded from behind the counters as you glided by, your middle fingers guiding you out the front door for the last time.

And that was the end of a good long while in your life When Things Were Actually OK.

This led you to looking upon every sweet hell you are going through with some degree of precious delight. A little less obsessively drenched in beleaguered complaints of all things petty and/or trite.

Spending too much time at a local dive bar called Benders, the smoker's back patio started to feel like the Day Room in a mental ward. It takes a special mix of people to show up every weekday afternoon to liquify their unemployment checks, to taunt laugh and brood together. As if this silly drunk social outlet might be a good thing to stick your emotionally detached finger into. Marbles up the arm. Something to do. This was where you ran into Del after not seeing him for 15 years. He looked pretty much the same. Gone were the black leathers and motorcycles, replaced by a sauntering hobble, a cheesy fedora hat and an old man's pipe.

He seemed happy to see you again, but he was so drunk that you turned down his offer to come home with you that night. 8 days later, he was snoring in your bed and had practically moved in. Taking total possession of your space, he referred to it as "his place" when talking to the other drunks in the Day Room. Arrogantly, he graced you with his presence by eating all of your foodstamp rations, drinking all of your booze and fucking you loudly for hours as if he had nothing else better to do. After several years of being single, this seemed like an appropriate distraction; one you had fantasized about since 1997, so you were blissfully happy being Del's semi-girlfriend for a week or two.

Finally, you gushed, love had found you! And from the one and only person you ever felt any sort of nursey feelings for all those long years ago. Was this karmic justice for having been there for him in that hospital room? Or retribution for having gone through so many dysfunctional relationships? Was this not another Boy, but an actual Man that was sticking it to you? With a chipmunky grin, you wished for the frilliest best since you had some pretty massive yearnings for a 40 year old unemployed dope that wanted to feel close to someone else once again.

But nope.

Loneliness and hope had snared you down another dead end. One that broke you off better than all of the rest. With an aplomb and a flair that became almost iconic. And a bit disturbingly entertaining to witness. Ask any one of your former friends.

Del had recently received a court settlement check in the sum of $27,000. More money than you had ever seen in one place at any one time. You asked if he could help you pay the $323 rent since he was now living in your room. He said, "Let's go out and celebrate instead."

So there you were, at a strip club in North Beach. All dolled up with your fabulous new boyfriend. He threw handfuls of dollar bills into the air, raining down more than enough to pay the rent into the stripper's lair. She seemed amused that you were there too, sitting so close to the stage, eyeballing all that cash, feeling dejected and fucked over again. So she took your glasses off, rubbed them along her crotch and put them back on your face. Half a dozen dirty martinis in, it was hard to see anything clearly through the glazed smudge of pussy juice and this sad state of unfair affairs exhibiting themselves so brilliantly.

At one point, Del handed you $20 to go get the next round of drinks from the bar. Another stripper grabbed your arm in the dark. She asked if you wanted to join her in a private
room. But you were too pissed by then. You gave her the twenty bucks and said, "No, i just wanna get away from that asshole i came in here with." So she showed you to the exit. Wobbling around outside, you were so drunk that you knew you could walk all the way home and not remember most of the miles you'd have to hike. But you didn't care. You were finally alone with one of your truest loves, The Cold Night Air.

Coming from behind, Del tackled you, hailed a cab and shoved your ass inside, yelling that you had ruined his whole night. You pleaded with him, since he had all this crazy money, couldn't he at least help you pay the bills?! He responded by punching you in the chest. You caught the cabbie looking at you pathetically in the rear view mirror and turned your head. The rest of the ride home was spent in silence, staring out at the rushing river of blurry streetlights.

Looking down, you felt extraordinarily uncomfortable in how you were dressed. Heels. A revealing dress. Lipstick that made your face go two-dimensional. Ugh. All this to please Del because he hated that you were "too much like a dude" in the way that you looked, acted, spoke out loud, built a fire, trudged around. "DO something about those brows! Yer fingernails are a MESS!" Later he suggested you get fatter, assuming that all the added weight would go straight to your measly A cup breasts.

It didn't take long before you began to feel truly sorry the woman that was his wife. You wondered how the fuck she managed to put up with his greedy selfish bullshit for so many years. One thing you did notice from the photos he showed you was that she'd gained about 100 pounds of extra flesh. Probably to physically please him and to psychologically protect herself.

Del was very proud of having quit speed for a couple years, so he warned you that if you ever did drugs in front of him, he'd leave. Tough Love? Maybe this will help straighten you out. Think again. You WANTED him to leave after the first few weeks but he wouldn't budge. He just started taking your drugs instead. Flicking the tiny bag, he complained observantly, "This ain't even enough for ME!"

You quipped, "Then go buy your own drugs, bitch!"

Comments like that warranted a jarring shove and a chokehold that was in no way romantic or exciting. It just sucked. You soon became a prisoner in the same space that was once your creative sanctuary. Now it was a torture chamber that held in the reek of sweaty tooled sex, stale alcohol, dirty clothes and chain-smoked cigarettes. Those wiped up squirting pools of Unicorn Juice turned into Donkey Town after the good times rolled to a halt. An ionized unprotected miasma of debasing stress descended. And you were the slug writhing under salt.

If sex happened when you weren't in the mood, the quakes of blinding pain it caused would induce dizziness, fainting spells and vomiting. Many whited out moments were spent running water over your hands and head. Curling up wet on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. Closing down with each shallow breath. Apparently, your cervix didn't want company so it never moved out of the way to accomodate Del's invasive kidney-infection-causing big thick filthy dick.

Sage burning started stepping in more frequently to clear the air of his constant oppressive unmitigated BLECH. And it successfully swept him away each time, giving you just enough space to not completely lose your mind. With respect, this taught you to burn it every single day hence.

Slowly, over the next few months Del tried isolating you from your old coworkers slash friends who were falling away at a steady pace on their own anyway. No one wanted to know. And you couldn't blame them for that. The only person you held responsible for opening the door and letting the devil in was you. Subconsciously, you WISHED he'd off you. So sick of all the disillusions you'd discovered by then.

No longer playing your beloved piano daily because Del always occupied that seat in the room, the Beethoven, Satie and Rachmaninoff pieces you'd learned by heart began slipping away. Each day that you did not practice in solace, you lost 1000 hours of muscle memory to his increasing mammoth sized demands and unruly psychotic needs. He wanted to learn how to play, so you tried to teach him Scott Joplin's "Long Slow Drag"; thinking maybe this would help him channel his rage from his own traumatic experiences of child abuse. Maybe it would help him heal that broken part of his soul that was forced to sit in a corner of an old basement. Chained to a pole. With a sign hung around his neck that read in scrawled letters "ASSHOLE".

God only knows what else was done to him as a kid. Or if this story was even true. You could quite easily see how this tale may have been told for the benefit of manipulating you. In the same way he whipped up pity from those around him at every bar or party, enabling him with more free booze. The same way he tried to stop you from giving gas money to your friend who was driving you home from a show you played in Oakland. Holding back the $5 clutched in your fist, he whispered, "No...pretend we're broke so we can get a free ride." But you were well aware of the huge roll of $50's in his pocket at that very moment. A wave of disgust washed over you and left a rancid residue of distrust as you handed the driver your 5 bux.

Whenever Del crossed some crazy line in his head, his eyes would flash brightly and the violent attacks would begin. Even though he acted like a soft cuddly big brown bunny every second of the day up until then. It came out of nowhere, as if he were suddenly possessed. Toward the end, all yellow-eyed and grimacing, he hovered over your piano with a hammer and a can of lighter fluid, threatening to destroy the one thing you love more than him or any other person on the planet. The caterwaul that came soaring outta you scared him half to death. He immediately stopped what he was doing. As if coming to, he begged for forgiveness, pleading that you hit him, give him his deserved punishment.You resolutely refused. And he, at last, left the room. Only to return too soon. From June until February, this ludicrous bullshit continued.

Every day, it was the same routine:

He'd sit up, take a gulp off a bottle and watch straight porn on his fancy new laptop. Jerking off, you'd wake up to the jiggling motion of your bed. Then he'd yell at you to get up and go take a shower so that he could covertly jerk off some more to gay porn. When you came back in dripping wet, he'd shove his cock down your throat. Gagging, tears that were neither happy nor sad sank down your breathless face, reddening.

Some submissive part of you got aroused by his dominating sexual thirst. This was so often missing in other men who always whined for you to be The Top and do all the work. But sex was the one area in which you wanted to NOT be in control. It's really too bad that no man ever seemed to understand that there is a huge difference in how you enjoyed the performance of sex and how you wanted to be treated in all other aspects of life. As if, to him, there was no difference between Sex and Everything Else. This might be why lots of complicated uninhibited women end up with total unsubtle meatheads who treat them like shit in public. He just doesn't Get It. And she has braced herself to Put Up With It. All for the sake of dick. As if it's the holy grail of social prerequisites. Yup, you too, fell for it.

So you'd submit and get aggressively fucked from behind for a good long hair-pulling while. Then shower again, making yourself climax finally. Safe and alone, under the pelting waves of hot water streaming down your neck, in between those once sensible breasts. Afterward, you'd gently suggest that he go somewhere else for the day so that you could work on art or music. And he'd say, "Ok, I will soon..." from about 10AM til 4PM while binge watching something, logged into your account on Netflix.

Just before dusk, he'd suggest you both go to Benders, order greasy food and get drunk again. Cursing yourself for giving him, so quickly, that extra set of your keys, you discovered too easily that if you didn't go with him to the bar, he'd just fuck someone else conspicuously and come crawling back into your bed, repulsive and stinking. So you'd surrender to an eye-rolling listless defeat and murmur, "Yeah, ok." Half expecting that there'd be another unsurprising bourbon fueled fight over nothing substantial that night, especially if you won a game of pool against him. Back home under the spinning ceiling, your throat would turn sore from all the screaming and cocksucking. And you'd lay down, carressing a new invisible wound forming beneath your irascibly thin skin.

You'd stay still until he passed out and started snoring. Almost motionlessly, you'd slip out from under the covers where you were stuck between the wall and the stench of his 6 foot bodily menace. Down and out through the bottom of the bed. Secretly snorting some saviour-shaped lines, you painted little pictures in the small splinters of peace that you could find there on your hardwood floor at 3 AM. Wrapped in a thin blue blanket. Floating in a despicable gloaming sea of decrepit weakness. Bloated with disobedience. Those quiet moments held you close, stroking your disheveled head, shhushing your returning whimpers of wishing you were dead. At dawn, you'd sliver back up through the foot of your bed with your jaw aching from the speed driven grinding of teeth. Looking over at those new cherished paintings, a little less abhorred, you'd eventually fall asleep.

Wake up to the jiggling bed a couple hours later and repeat.

It was going to be difficult, getting Del outta your life. He made sure to remind you then that he owned a gun and was a trained locksmith. "So if you ever try to throw me out, I will break in here and SHOOT YOU IN THE FUCKIN FACE!" Later, he proudly announced with a sickening grin, that 9 of his ex-girlfriends were no longer living. But no amount of intimidation was gonna convince you to lie down and become number 10. So you went to the police station and got a restaining order, but when you returned home that afternoon, he stood at the stairway landing, laughing at you. "The cops can't serve me a restraining order because I have no home address, you stupid bitch. HA HA!"

And as any assaulted woman knows, you don't angrily eject a gun-toting psycho from your house because that will injure his ego enough to ensure that he will return and terrorize you worse. Your survival depends on him making
the decision to leave, assuming that he hasn't already strangled your ass. Apparently, this is the same approach the authorities take on domestic violence. "Since he's your boyfriend, and he lives in your house, we can't forcibly remove him unless he actually kills you."

To serve and protect. Yeah. It's no wonder women have to be such sneaky self-defending bitches if they wanna live.

Writing all of this felt like getting repunched in the gut. The jittery nausea from retreading this difficult grueling period, hurled up a fierceness you weirdly missed. Because of your heightened awareness while struggling through that vile crevice. Because of your addiction to crisis. It blows to admit that, but you felt at your best when problem solving your way through chaos. And if there was nothing to grapple with, you'd make a mountain out of a molehill just to feel a little triumphant bliss from overcoming some new form of abusive shit. But there it is. In all of its cataclysmic and overly dramatic rhapsody. It isn't what it is.

Despite this rationality, even though you are now 5 years and 3000 miles away from Del's stomping ground, you still flinch a bit and reach for that straight-razor that hides in your boot whenever you see the shadow of a man wearing a fedora hat. That supposedly solid wall of self-confidence and psychological healing that took so long to construct after all those kiddy hitting and fiddling bricks had been mortared into place, came crumbling down so fast in the wake of this last attempt to intimately converge. In terrific disbelief, here you were again. Back in that fearless gap where you were born. Uncured.

Hating yourself for being so desperate for affection that you'd allow your life to be put on the line, you stuck to doing drugs until that Dumb Girl inside you shut up with her sniveling. Until her simpering needs stopped sabotaging everything you did, there'd be no sleeping, no dreaming, no spending time with anyone. You could barely leave your room at all. Except to go to work.

A couple weeks after you thought it was over with Del, he DID actually break into your house. You stood frozen behind your bolted bedroom door, your heart throbbing loudly as you held your breath. Waiting. He wandered around in the hall, stole something uselessly stupid and left. After that, every time one of your 5 roommates came or went, the sound of the front door opening or closing jolted you out of any form of rest. On edge, with or without meth. And yet, you were not afraid of death. "Go ahead, Kill Me!" you croaked the last time Del put his hands around your neck. "PLEASE, PUT ME OUTTA MY FUCKIN MISERY!!" But he went limp and ran away instead.

It was some kind of dismal poetic justice to find yourself at SF General again after coming back into contact with Del. You had finally arrived at the end of this little romantic crackdown while involuntarily housed for 13 hours in the Psychiatric Ward. Sitting there, barely able to breathe without the pangs of a possibly fractured rib poking into your right lung, the bent in end of your left ring finger turning pale blue and numb. Going crazy and spun up as fuck, but not enough to say anything incriminating to any guinea pig recruiters for the Pfizer corporation, trying to bank another billion.

"Are you depressed? Or feeling suicidal?" This question only made you laugh. Too much. That's like asking if there's a black hole in the center of the galaxy. You kept insisting that instead of speaking to a therapist, you just wanted to get an x-ray done.

But you never got the results of that lead blanket's internal inspection. While waiting patiently and smoking a butt outside the hospital, a k-holed raver kid came barrelling past you. Stopping suddenly, he tried to bum a cigarette. But you only had one left. So he shrewdly snagged your pack from the stone wall behind you and ran around in circles, teasing you with his successful theft.

"Aww for fuckssake," you sighed wearily, leaning over and gingerly holding your innards, "i can't run...my fuckin boyfriend beat the shit outta me...just gimme my last smoke back, please." But the kid had no empathy. Jeering, "I hope the next time he beats you up HE FUCKING KILLS YOU, BITCH!!" He spat in your face and ran through the parking lot, laughing maniacally. Wiping his saliva off,  you expounded, "So do I!" And that was the last feather.

All the final threads of strength holding you up drained out of your legs and you collapsed right where you stood. Bawling onto the gritty gray cement. A good solid reliable friend. This whole experience reduced you down into the cracks between those concrete slabs, where little black ants were trailing a totally different chemical scent, living by an entirely different set of battle circumstances and social rules, narrowly avoiding the groaning waterfall pouring out of a towering monstrous fool. When that was done, you got up and walked home to go deal with the ache of things broken on your own. Before this sick joke got any funnier or more grotesque or hideously strange. Whereupon, you likely inhaled another round of fat rails to recalibrate your bursting brain into feeling nothing again.

Those injuries morphed into symbols and healed much quicker after they spoke their truth to the now-listening you. That particular finger was never going to have a ring on it. Get used to it. Stop grasping in desperation for something you don't believe would bring you any happiness anyway. To widen your cage and breathe freely again, stay in your own small space. And stop giving yourself away to fucked up people that, instinctively, you knew would never stick around long enough to force you into becomming a soccer mom or be someone you might have to rely upon some day. Autonomy. Give yourself a break.

Doomed relationships were just status quo distractions from the creativity that never betrayed. Every ounce of mainstream media had fed you the syrupy moral that life is only good for people who had other people to belong to. To breed with. To call their own. But this started to feel like an axiom written by a historic stream of lonely guys with womb-envy. Thusfar, the only things sex brought you were suffering and pain. And you were DONE.

So, you took out the new tattoo machine you'd purchased with your last unemployment check, turned it on and started carving oaths into your skin on that night of Del's break-in. Consumed by a destructive seething rage, the wincing agony of tattooing yourself felt great. A needed change of pace from the other self-mutilating activities you usually engaged in when you were this infuriated. It cathartically reshaped those reactive feelings, memorializing a world of wrath into a transcendental mesmerising passage: "Speak To Me Not Of Justice For None Have I Ever Seen." In Old English script, these words redecorated the teenage cutting scars buried in your forearm.

A triple-spiral around your broken ring finger announced the lifelong commitment you then made to marry and live happily ever after with yourself. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. Til death do us part.

You said, "I Do."

And I did, too.

*u can call me ph!*