The City of Angels Part Five: Awry

The hostel was in my rear view and I was keeping my head down. To my bosses’ credit, when I told them a couple of angry Tongans might come around looking for me and to tell them I transferred to Alaska, they agreed without asking any questions. My friends were gone, I was homeless, I was broke, I was sort of on the run, and I was still excited to live and work and love in Los Angeles.

Part One: Departure
Part Two: A Perilous Journey
Part Three: The First Month
Part Four: Love and Tribulation

Everything I owned was in two suitcases and a box or two. I moved those, with the help of my girlfriend, to my friend Jaime’s place, to crash on his couch. Jaime was good people, nine or ten years older than me, and we had frequent beer pong parties at his place. That was a tense couple weeks because he lived in Inglewood and to get to work, I had to pass the hostel I abandoned on an almost daily basis.

Side-note: across the street from that place was a Louisiana’s Fried Chicken which not only sold, uh, fried chicken, but also Chinese food and it was fucking excellent. They were all over Los Angeles, but that’s the only one I ever popped into, and it’s one of the things I genuinely miss the most.

Anyway, my assistant manager Jenny told me that her family had an empty room they were wanting to rent. I jumped on the opportunity. The house was nice, very homey, and full of people and animals. There was a beautiful, friendly old dog, and something like four or five cats. Jenny’s parents lived there, as did her aunt, grandmother, and brother. We shared the washer and dryer. There was a mini-fridge and television in my room, as well as a desk from which I wrote. Her brother, a couple years older than I and a really cool guy, kept mostly to his room adjacent to mine; we shared the bathroom.

My room had two twin beds in it that I pushed together. The frames pressed against each other, leaving a small gap between the beds that I filled with blankets. Now it was a queen. Fuck yeah.

There were two doors in my room. One opened into the house. I almost never used it save to use the restroom, the washer/dryer, or to talk to Hector. He and I hit it off pretty quickly and would talk about sports or grabbing a drink orĀ  (later) girls. The other door opened up to outside. The house had a gated concrete patio of sorts. I would use that entrance to come in late and to leave for work in the morning without disturbing anyone.

My entire time in Los Angeles the first time around, lasted a total of eight months. The first five were in the Adventurer. Close to three were spent in this house. I loved that family very much, but I liked to keep to myself, you know? I partied a lot and I was so stressed out all the time. I was broke and my girlfriend and I would argue sometimes and love each other other times and I just had so much going on, I didn’t want to bother the family much. But there would be days that I’d hear a knock on the door and Jenny’s mom or her aunt would be there with a plate of homemade Columbian food for me and it was so good.

See, when I say I was broke, I meant it. I may have been even more broke than when I was at the hostel. Pat the Pirate would hook me up with some food sometimes. I had that free buffet full of terrible food. I could charge shit to the room. Living at Jenny’s family’s house, I stretched every dollar out as far as I could. One day I was coming home from work and it was pouring rain. I tried to book it back to the house, but it was pouring rain and I ducked into a business about half way there just to warm up some. That business was a Dollar Store. Alaska doesn’t have those. Did you know Dollar Stores sell food? Hell yes, they do.

I’d use 20-30 bucks to buy two weeks worth of food. My routine was a cup of noodles at work for lunch and a can of ravioli or something at work for dinner. You can get cans of pork and beans two for a dollar. It’s fucking terrible but that’s two meals for a dollar. That’s the situation I was in. And I’m trying to take my girl on dates and trying to do things with my coworkers. I spent more on bus rides to work than I fucking did on food a month.

Nothing too terribly interesting happened during those three months. I worked, I partied with my work friends, I tried to make ends meet. My girlfriend introduced me to a fucking phenomenal comic book shop because she knew how big a nerd I was/am.

At work, a competition was implemented. I mentioned in one of the previous entries that I was really good at selling Black Tie Protection at work. To motivate everyone else, whenever someone sold a BTP, they would print out the receipt and put it in a box for a weekly drawing. At the end of the week, whoever had the most receipts would win a $25 gift card. Whoever’s receipt was drawn would win a $50 gift card or an iPod Touch. The first weekend I won both gift cards. Every weekend I won the $25 for having the most.

And still, I began to grow increasingly stressed and as I stressed, my emotions began to spiral out of control. I became sullen and insecure. I still had my girlfriend’s minor indiscretion in the back of my head and I began to feel I wasn’t good enough for her and because of that, because of the fights, it was only a matter of time before I lost her.

Let me be absolutely clear: outside of that one night and one other instance, she was an incredible woman who supported me and loved me as much as I let her, and I didn’t as much as I should have. She took me to Temple with her and her family, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Everyone there was welcoming and kind. There were food buffets afterwards, sometimes. Bagels with lox and spreads, salads. And liquor. And then we’d go to Pinkberry.

She would stay over at my place regularly. We broke the bed frame once doing boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, something I had always sort of secretly wanted to do until it became a little uncomfortable to sleep in a certain spot.

And what’s funny is one of my favorite memories and one of my worst happened probably within a week of each other. The worst came when we were….drinking or arguing or both. I just remember her saying once that she didn’t believe I would ever be somebody if I didn’t go to college. That fucked me up. Badly. I wrote about it in The Six Year Shadow. Considering where my head was at and how much I was in love with her and how desperate I was for validation and a clean break and a bright spot in my life, that may have been the most devastating, defining thing anyone’s ever said to me.

And despite that, I also remember laying in bed one late afternoon/early evening, her tucked under my arm, her head on my shoulder, her hand on my chest. “I can see us being together for a long, long time.” And yeah… when I wasn’t being manic, I saw that, too.

I was head over heels for her and I was not a great boyfriend at all. She and I recently rediscovered our friendship, and I’m so grateful. I don’t have any delusions about our future. I may never even see her again, but I really wish I hadn’t put her through so much shit. She deserved a better guy than me. I wrote a thing for us recently: “And when they argued, they were brutal and scathing and cut to the core. They wept for each other, for the mislaid lines and frayed edges. They were perfect and terrible.”

I reached a point in late April where I had completely reached my limit. I decided the best decision was to transfer back up to Alaska for the summer, live back at home, and get myself in a better financial state before moving back to Los Angeles. By then I was in a full-blown bipolar episode. I hated myself and I was so anxious and i overthought everything. I broke up with my girlfriend over text. I told her something like I was going through a bunch of shit, I was teaching severely, I was being emotional, it wasn’t fair to her, she deserved better. I drove her away because I felt so poorly about myself. She was pissed. She was so mad that I would break up with her over something as dumb as my being broke. We argued a bunch but she was such a great girlfriend. Jesus, she loved me while I lived in a hostel. I didn’t have a car. I could barely afford to eat. And I broke up with her over my own insecurities. She had every right to be pissed. I expected us to get back together when I got my shit together. Haha, well.

My birthday was right around the corner. I was going to celebrate in Anchorage, but before I left, I wanted to make the most of things. She was tired of my wishy-washy bullshit, and I can’t blame her. Not only was this probably the third time I tried to break up and the first time over reasons that had literally nothing to do with her and 100% about my inability to cope with my living situation, but I was also planning on leaving for four months to a state across the continent.

We saw Iron Man 2 together. We went to a party together. She was super distant with me, even though I was leaving the next morning. I was hurt. She was hurt, too, and she was done with my shit, and she shut me down effectively. And that’s fair! God, it hurt so bad.

And I came home to Alaska for four months to kick off fucking my entire life up. I guess if I do shit, I don’t do it in half-measures.

Part Six: Ruin

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The Bedroom Is a Powerful Place

A powerful place is the bedroom.

There is a space where your most valued possessions lie; the things you can’t forget in the morning and want to remember before shutting your eyes for the final time that day. It’s a place of comfort. A place where you can shed your clothes and any masks you may have used to brave the world through morning and afternoon.

The bedroom is where the rest of the world ends and you convalesce. Where you can get the silence you’ve wanted all day. Where you can scream at the walls and blast music that shakes the window looking out to the patch of yard you share with the neighbor you never talk to. Or it’s a place soft notes coax the tears that have been fighting their way out for hours, letting them free, finally, to find a home in the pillowcase softly caressing your cheek.

The bedroom was a place one could feel vulnerable or powerful or free. There was a release in a bedroom. There was an intimacy there.

He was all too familiar with intimacy, release, and soft caresses. He was all too familiar with bedrooms.

And vulnerability.

He traced the rim of the shot glass with his index finger and stared into the amber liquid within. It didn’t reflect as well as he, and he saw nothing in it but the worn wood of the bar beneath it. He was a man so familiar with cold that he had fallen in love with the fire for the way it danced in his chest and made him feel… something. Finally. When it wasnt women, it was whiskey. There hadn’t been a woman in a while.

But he thought of them, often, every one. He thought about how each person he had taken to bed had taught him something about himself he never would have discovered otherwise. Most of those things were good. Not all of them, but most.

Despite all odds, he recalled vividly the drunken nights of stumbling down stairs, one arm wrapped around a woman, their hands running over clothes, craving intimacy and too impatient to wait for the articles to be discarded. A careless hand pushes into a pocket, the apartment key is dropped, picked up, fumbled around the lock until it finds purchase. The door falls open and the lovers fall in and the door slams closed and the lovers bob and weave to the bedroom. Shirts are tossed, pants are kicked away. A sock or two might stay on and the next morning they would both thing too much about it and roll their eyes.

The sex would be frantic and desperate, both eager to please and eager to feel something. Both primed to be vulnerable and be wanted in the midst of it. There were nights when it meant nothing but sharing a moment with someone who needed him as much as he needed them, and that was okay.

That was okay. And it was nice. And it was soft pecks in the morning and an agreement to get lunch soon and six months of sporadic texts and an occasional short, happy conversation when they ran into each other in a restaurant or a bar.

Comfort.
Companionship.
Release.
Acceptance.

Sometimes it worked better than others. There were always other things in play. The mind is distracted. The body doesn’t cooperate. Both participants had their distinct ways to communicate. Even when it meant nothing in the grander scheme, it was an intimate arrangement, an exposure of body and interest, a reveal of arousal and preferences. But it was temporary, an act of validation, an acknowledgement that one could be desired in this world, that one could cause pleasure or serve as an escape from worse things.

It doesn’t always work like that, does it?

He recalls a woman he had had his eye on for some years. A chance meeting. The first kiss. Rhythmic sex interrupted by a call into work and texts that promised repeats of a performance she “couldn’t stop thinking about”. But he had provided nothing special and there was no second encounter and she began dating someone a scant few weeks later. She was married now, years after, and happy.

He recalled a passionate affair. Neither of them could keep their hands off of each other the minute the door snapped shut. There was a desperate craving, a need to be wrapped around each other an irresistible urge to be as close as possible. They were flint and tinder and together created a wildfire.

That wasn’t how it started. It started in a quiet bedroom lit by a tiny lamp in the corner. It started with sitting next to each other and asking if each little touch was alright, assuring each other that nothing was crossing the line. Innocence was found among the guilty and it released a flood upon good judgment.

He remembered being on the phone with his brother when a t-shirt fell into his lap. He remembered looking up to see a naked back retreating to the bedroom. There wasn’t even a cheeky glance back. There didn’t need to be; that call had ended with a quickness.

He remembered an ex-lover that he had reconnected with while mourning the loss of his mother. They had a need for each other that transcended the physical, and they felt comfort in being weak with each other, and they took turns keeping their souls in, holding each other when the world threatened to break them down to ash.

That relationship hadn’t ended well, but it had ended with as much raw emotion as had breathed life into it.

There was a woman who was everything right and everything wrong for him all at once. When they clicked, the world was wide open. They loved each other and took every moment in every place to express it. The sex came easily, naturally, two parts to a whole. They knew what the other wanted and gave it and afterwards collapsed together contentedly.

And when they argued, they were brutal and scathing and cut to the core. They wept for each other, for the mislaid lines and frayed edges. They were perfect and terrible.

He remembered a woman he never expected to love. He remembered the first night together and the panic attack he had because he was so terrified to let her down, and how she patiently worked him through it. He remembered laying next to her, on their sides, looking at each other and forgetting there were lives outside of the sheets he had bought just to impress her. He remembered hours spent, naked, beside her, both reading, both touching enough to reassure reassure the other that they were still there.

He remembered desperately clinging to her because he knew she would slip away. And with a long, lingering kiss, she did. He found her hair on his pillow the next morning. He could trace his hands over the silhouette her body haunted his bed with. Of all of them, he thought he might miss her the most, for her patience, for her passion.

He traced that goddamn shot glass with his finger. He searched for answers in the liquor he knew would light his belly. He longed for connection and recalled fondly every one, every drunk, desperate, passionate, awkward, loving, awful, perfect one.

The bedroom is a powerful place.