I’m Not Dead Yet

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted an update, BUT I STARTED THIS MOTHERFUCKER TWO YEARS AGO TODAY SO LET’S UPDATE!

I’m not going to wax poetic about what I’ve been up to, because it’s pretty straightforward. I met someone last fall that was unlike anyone I’d met in a long time. Things were good… great, even, for a while and I let myself get carried away. When it inevitably went south, I had no one to blame but myself. It’s a process, dealing with expectations (warranted or not) that you’ve set for yourself when they don’t pan out. Work has been… interesting for me as well, lately, for a number of reasons I won’t list here because it could potentially put me in an untenable situation.

Dealing with heartbreak and loneliness and occupational discont in addition to anxiety and a bipolar disorder and fluctuating depression, in addition to the contemplation of mortality and legacy that always creeps around the corner of every birthday and in the waning minutes of another hour I remind myself I could have been doing something productive, well, it takes a toll. Mentally, emotionally, physically. It’s easy to fall into a routine of spending money on any number of things in an effort to distract myself. If I’m paying for a top notch meal, the succulence and implied luxury trigger an endorphic response that, hey, life ain’t that bad. If I’m drinking in a crowded area, the music, the crowd, it serves to make me feel included even if I have no interest in taking part.

I’ve been in a slump of sorts. I’m trying to reign those base impulses in and begin focusing again on the steps I need to take to get where I want to be. A place where I can be a face among many, where I can start new relationships without all the weight of history and rumor and preconceived notions and tainted impressions. I’ve been trying to be more proactive in saving and in creating.

I’m writing a love story now. The book I was working on, one I did exclusive character spotlights for and whose Prologue I shared here, is on hold. In the wake of a woman, a revenant lingered with a story to tell and no body to do it with. I became the body. I became The Story.

It’s called Read in Denver. It was only intended to be a quick fluff piece, a short story, on the low end of 40,000 words and it has since blossomed into what will probably be double that at least. I’m only around halfway through but as I began writing the novel, I realized I couldn’t just shit out the bones of a work and pretend it was worth anybody’s time. This was a story that bothered me so much I had to halt other projects to work on it. It was a story about art and intense emotion and relationships, and I think all three things require the space to bloom or wilt into what they’re meant to be.

The book is fictional. The characters are fictional. Their story is a work of fiction. And yet, more than anything else, I’ve included a lot of things that are rooted in reality. There are scenarios that actually happened, memories that are repurposed for the plot, characters named after one person and modeled on another, lines of dialogue that were actually spoken.

Including devastating ones.

I wanted to pour as much of myself and my experiences into the book to grant an irrationality, a vulnerability, a rawness, a realness that could only otherwise be portrayed in  real time with real people. Is the book good?

Well, it’s not done. I hope it will be good. I hope I can capture things like anxiety and indecision and passion correctly. But of all my works so far, I can see this about Read in Denver: it will be my most personal, honest work.

Also, I’ve designated this year the Story Year. I’ve been occupying a good chunk of my spare time to A) watching a movie I’ve never seen each day and B) reading a lot more. I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in consuming a multitude of stories across a plethora of times and genres.

And you know, thats pretty much all I’ve been dealing with, I guess. Existential crises, the fear of dying alone, guilt at not writing more or more quickly, wondering why I’m still at the job I’m at in the city I’m in, and ways to ignore all of that and push it to the back of the line. I hope to get back on a more regular schedule with my blog posts, but we’ll see. I’m the sad sack who writes novels to deal with putting myself in a position to get hurt. At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to the fact that after work and writing and whatever personal and emotional struggles I slog through, I’m not left with a lot of energy to do much else.

So far, though, I’ve got Read in Denver to occupy most of my free mind. Will the end result be good?  I can hope. I like it so far, I think. It’s at least different than the other works I’ve done and that’s enough to excite me. I wish I could share more with you! The cover, the synopsis I haven’t written yet, the book itself. For now, I’ll leave you with this:

A candlestick was doing its damndest to seduce a feather duster.
“We should all be so lucky,” Mariah said.
“You’d be surprised.”
“What, is romance dead?”
“No. Romance is a clusterfuck.”

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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

The City of Angels Part Four: Love and Tribulation

I’m just going to jump into this fucker: with DJ gone, RJ and I were more stressed than ever on how to make ends meet. I was working the front desk at minimum wage. RJ was doing desk and shuttle driving and going to school to become an EMT. With my funds rapidly diminishing, I even considered becoming an escort. Not caught up?

Part One: Departure
Part Two: A Perilous Journey
Part Three: The First Month

Yeah, so I wasn’t hearing anything back on auditions. I did get an audition for As the World Turns, but despite being obviously located in Los Angeles, the audition was in New Orleans. Too bad. I would have done a soap opera. I’m good at acting bad.

So with few jobs in the pipeline, one caught my eye, and I swear to God this is true and I’m not necessarily proud: male escort. I submitted pictures and some information about me and had the arrangement explained to me like this: your profile goes up on a website. Someone can select you to be their date to an event, a gala, a red carpet thing, a dinner, whatever. $400 for a three hour commitment, $150 for each hour after that. Company only, sex optional. And honestly, I’d even fake being gay in public for three hours for $400. You want to know how close I was to doing this? The only thing that stopped me was that there was a $100 surcharge for them to build my page, and I was so broke, I didn’t want to throw $100 at a maybe.

Luckily for me, not long after that, I had an interview for a job with Best Buy. I got a haircut, and it wasn’t exactly professional (it was a Mr. T level Mohawk honestly. It looked dumb as hell on me), but I interviewed well. There was a second interview and I think I benefitted from the hiring manager being a fellow Dallas Cowboy fan. I got hired full-time, provisionally for the holidays, at $10.50 an hour. I still maintained my job at the hostel, and worked that schedule around my existing schedule with Best Buy.

The hostel situation got interesting, though: turns out for 2/3 of the year, the owner would rent out fully half of the available rooms to oil and gas workers that would come in – usually from the mid-south to south-east- to work on the refineries. Which meant that we had a lot of hard-drinking burly hicks to deal with on a regular basis. As employees of the hostel, it also meant we had to deal with them whenever they started acting unruly.

RJ and I did the smartest thing we could: we made friends with the biggest of them and the boss as fast as we could. Johnny Ray was a fucking massive man, soft-spoken but quick to defend his friends. If one of his crewmates began to act aggressive and get in my face, Johnny would simply put a hand on my shoulder, stand up behind me and say, “He’s with me. Listen to him.” That ended shit really quick.

Mike Jones, mind you, was the complete opposite of Johnny. He was a lightning-quick-witted man, generous, who had suffered a stroke that had rendered the left side of his body largely useless. And as goofy as he acted, as quickly as he got drunk, everyone respected Mike. When he spoke, they listened. That’s huge weight for a guy who, when he got too fucked up, we would sit him down on a luggage trolly and wheel his ass to his room. I tucked Mike into his own bed many times.

Johnny, meanwhile, skipped out to his own private bungalow early on. He threw a handful of parties out there and if we weren’t working, he would have us work the door for entry fees. We’d receive a cut at the end of the night.

At some point during all of this, I recall asking Zhana’s ridiculous struggling actor boyfriend for audition tips. He said a lot without saying anything and then I overheard him telling her he was always talking to “nobody’s” like me. I was blackout drunk the next time Robbie went in. Johnny told me I threatened to “smack the shit” out of him if he insisted “on talking all that shit”, until Robbie apologized profusely and bought me a drink. I took the drink, but man, fuck that guy.

There were plenty of other amazing people passing through, though. The Russian New Yorker whose name I couldn’t recall, so we all called him Niko Bellic, after the Eastern European protagonist of Grand Theft Auto 4. His last night in town, he asked Selma how much she would charge for a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea. I think she charged him $13. Fucking ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is how she would only charge me $6 when I asked her to do it again on other nights when I wanted to sit and drink and right.

There was Irish Tommy. He had these ridiculous glasses with fake Elvis chops on them. I remember I made the mistake once of promising RJ I would DD for him and some of the others at the hostel and take them down to Hermosa Beach after I got off work. I was so tired and so grumpy by the time I got back to the hostel that I tried to renege, but he wasn’t having it. So I’m driving. There’s someone sitting in the middle of the front (not a seat), someone in the passenger side, and four people crammed into the 3-person back seat, including RJ, Tommy, and this absolute knockout named Dale.

We’re about halfway to the beach when I pull up alongside a police officer. She glances over, sees how many people are in the car, and I immediately know I’m fucked. The light turns green, the cop pulls back behind me, flips the blue and reds, and I pull over. Now, the driver’s side window on the HMS DB didn’t roll down, and I opened the door to try and explain that. The cop immediately put her hand on her gun and shouted for me to stay in the car; I realized this was the kind of dumb shit that got people killed on accident, so I closed the door and kept my hands on the wheel and begged everyone to shut up. They didn’t listen.

Everything got resolved pretty quickly after. We weren’t far from the beach, so she let us off with a warning and insisted a couple people cab it on the way back. That didn’t happen, of course, but we promised anyway.

There was Becky, the British surfer, and Kirsty, a Scottish beauty who sent me a calendar of her beautiful country once she returned home. There was Guy, a British actor/writer with some bold ideas and no idea how to string them together into something coherent. There was Nick McDonald, nephew of Christopher McDonald (you may know him better as Shooter McGavin), and colossal asshole. Chris, the Australian, who told us a delightful story about playing with his puppy and saying, “Come here, ya little cunt”, and asking RJ if he needed his girlfriend to help him when he was working on the car.

But the best by far was probably Pat the Pirate. A Canadian man in his late 40s or early 50s, he was one of the most genuinely nice guys I’ve ever met. He always bought rounds for people, always had a smile on his face, always video chatted with his daughter. When he talked about her, he just beamed. Hell, there were days I was so broke I couldn’t afford to eat. He’d give me a few bucks to head down to Jack in the Box and get something, and he never made me feel ashamed about it.

The most interesting thing about Pat, though, is that he worked as a lighting tech for concerts and events. He set up stages for a massive variety of people. “I remember shaking hands with George Carlin and smoking dope with Snoop Dogg,” he told me once. “And the craziest party I’ve ever been to was one where Motley Crue did $40,000 worth of damage to a hotel floor.”

When he finally left, it was to go work on a tour with Kiss. We kept in touch for a while because I genuinely wanted to write his biography. He never got me the notes, though, and we drifted apart over the years. I hope he’s doing well. He helped me out a lot.

The point is that there was a revolving circus of diverse people, not all of them savory, but all worth a story. It kept things busy at home while we were trying to get our feet under us with work. RJ was finishing up EMT school with a new friend, Phil, and beginning ridealongs.

And I started at Best Buy. We lived in Inglewood and I worked in El Segundo, but there were a couple of buses that took me directly there. That’s one thing that surprised me about Los Angeles: the transit system is surprisingly clear and easy to navigate.

I went in a day or two before I was officially supposed to start and met a good amount of the people I’d be directly working with. My assistant manager, Jenny, was a tremendous sweetheart who became a lifesaver for me later. The other assistant manager, Brittni, was a very close friend. My direct manager, Stephanie, is one of the best bosses I’ve ever ad, and the fact that we’re still friends after the way things turned out is incredible to me. The hiring manager, Kevin, became one of my best friends in the store and turned me on to some video games and movies I’d have no idea about otherwise. Jason and I used to go dsy drinking down to the beach. Jaime saved my ass. And Angie became my rock when everything started to fall apart.

I worked in the front lanes, where most of the registers are at. Now, there are several different departments throughout the store (Gaming, Digital Imaging, Home Theater, etc.) and those departments have reps trained specifically to sell those things as sort of certified experts. And once they close a sale in their department, they’re expected also to try and sell Black Tie Protection (insurance) on applicable devices. That means, of course, that a proper sales rep would know exactly what it covers and what it doesn’t and how to personalize and leverage the benefits for the customer.

But not every sale is closed out in that department. Most are actually grab and gos, so in the front lanes, we’d see just about every product except maybe home appliances. We had to get to know what BTP covered for every department. There was no compensation for selling the stuff, but there was still an expected percentage of attachment, so whenever I had a spare ten minutes, I’d go to each department and learn, and I got very, very good at selling it.

Besides becoming sales oriented, I also met a woman I would come to love very much. I had met her when I’d gone in a day early, but it was a couple days more before I saw her again. Caramel skin. Thick, dark, curly hair. A dazzling smile that came easily, a laugh usually ready behind it. She always made my heart skip a beat, mi boricua princesa.

We got along great early on. We made each other laugh. We spent a lot of time together. She made me feel welcome and being so far away from home and with so much stress going on and only one of my two friends still around, I clung to that. I was lonely, and she was kind and beautiful and funny.

She invited me early on to Jaime’s place for beer pong, and RJ and I went. Turns out he didn’t live too far from where we were staying, so it was convenient for everyone involved. Her and my friendship grew stronger, and Jaime and I became closer buddies as well. He gave me a lot of shit, but I gave as good as I got and I think he respected that.

Thanksgiving came soon after. Knowing I had no one to spend it with, she invited me to spend it with her and her family. RJ had to work and I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could, so I eagerly accepted. To this day, it ranks as maybe my favorite Thanksgiving. I got along great with her family, played around with her dog and stole every soft smile and caring glance I could from her. And man, her mom would not let me stop eating. When you have spent months borrowing money to eat off the dollar menu, a home-cooked Puerto Rican Thanksgiving dinner is like seeing God. And when I literally couldn’t eat anymore for fear of getting sick, of course they made up a plate for me to take home.

On the drive home, we held hands. I don’t think we kissed that night. She made me nervous. I know I couldn’t stop grinning.

It was that weekend or the weekend after that we went to a party, probably at Jaime’s, probably to play beer pong, and she and I both wound up drunk. I don’t think she wanted to go home like that and risk upsetting her parents, so she asked to come home with me. That was the first night we slept together. I don’t know if she had gone in expecting just a hook-up, but I fell for her even more and afterwards, holding her in my arms, I asked her if she would go out with me. “You want me to be your girlfriend?” she asked,  and I responded, “I really, really do.”

She didn’t respond until morning. When she did, she said yes.

December was more or less perfect. We didn’t really go out of our way to tell anyone we were together, but we didn’t exactly keep it a secret, either. Any time we were away from work, we were all over each other. It was fast, it was passionate, it was horribly naive and going 100 miles per hour because it was a love born of youth.

And love it was. I don’t remember what the place was called. It was a sports bar with high ceilings, booths and pool tables. She was sitting on the side of one the tables and I was standing between her legs, about to leave to pick up RJ and bring him out. I told her I’d be back in a few, and she responded with, “Okay. I love you.” And there was a pause as we both realized what she had said.
“Do you?” I asked.
She thought for a minute, nodded and said yes. So I kissed her and said, “I love you, too. I’ll be right back.”

And December was nice and December was good, and I helped celebrate Hanukkah with her and RJ’s mom sent us a care package for Christmas.

Then New Year’s rolled around and the first real hint of how bad things were going to turn out rolled through.

RJ had to work that night, so she and I went together to a party at this guy Jesus’ house. I’m still pretty new around these people. It’s only been a couple months at this point. It wasn’t a huge party, but there was ton of liquor. We started playing beer pong and I was getting tipsy. She was decently drunk and dancing and being flirty. I got jealous. She liked to dance and I didn’t. I still don’t. But she was the kind of oblivious who thought guys were just being sweet instead of blatantly hitting on her in front of me. So I got jealous, and I handled it by doing the absolute last thing I should have: grab a bottle of Jack Daniels and just start swigging from the bottle. A group of friends pulled me into a room and asked if I wanted to do some cocaine. I had done blow a couple times before, I was drunk and in a bad mood, so I figured, fuck it. Let’s go all in.

She found out somehow. Maybe she saw me do it, or I told her. She was pissed, and figured if I was going to do I it, she might as well, too. That pissed me off. She had never done it before, and as far as I know, she’s never done it since. She didn’t know how she would handle it. I was worried about her, and part of me felt she was doing it to get back at me, which – while there are no good reasons to do drugs – may be one of the worst reasons to do drugs.

We got into it. I blacked out and stormed out of the house. Apparently I slammed the door on the way out, something I had to apologize profusely to Jesus for. Not that Jesus. The other one. I stumbled through the road and called RJ to come pick me up. She came out right after and wanted to come home with me. Neither of us were in any condition to give appropriate directions, so it took him some time to find us. It had to have been 3 or 4 in the morning. I blacked out. RJ told me he blared Depeche Mode while she and I argued nonstop.

Nonstop. I came out of the blackout to see her sitting at the foot of my bed. I was standing in front of her, yelling, and I realized I no longer had any idea what we were arguing about. I shook my head to clear it and mumbled an apology. I realized it was now morning, neither of us had slept a wink, and I had to go work a full shift. I staggered out of the room and left her to watch the Rose Bowl parade with RJ.

At some point, I managed to convince the desk manager to let me catch just two hours of sleep. I was exhausted, crashed hard off the drugs and I was still pretty drunk. I went up to the room. She followed me into my bed and we wrapped our arms around each other and she fell asleep with me. When we were good, we clicked so fucking perfectly. When we didn’t, it was usually because I was an asshole and she would bite back twice as hard.

I woke up, and we learned a few things: 1. Shawn the shuttle driver had a meth addiction.
2. Shawn the shuttle driver decided to let that addiction make him think it was okay to do meth and drive the shuttle.
3. Shawn the meth head drove that fucking shuttle over some people and parked it halfway up one of the columns at LAX, and RJ would have to cover the rest of his shift with the larger shuttle that RJ was in no way qualified to drive.

New Year’s wasn’t good for anyone.

And then things continued to be rocky. Towards the end of January, she and I were at a party. I wanted to leave because I had to wake up early for work. She wanted to stay. I walked home. I figured she would crash at Jaime’s. I got up to use the restroom around 4AM. When I came out, RJ had let her into the room and she was laying in my bed. It scared the shit out of me, to be honest, seeing a person where moments before there was nobody, but then I got curious. How did she get there? Who drove her? Which friend? And through some drunken questioning, I found out a guy friend of hers had driven her and at some point they made out. I don’t know if it was someone from work; she insisted it wasn’t, but just a guy she had known for a long time. I don’t know if she initiated it. I know she was drunk and a lot of her guy friends didn’t seem to give a fuck about her relationship status. I do know she felt tremendously, horrifically guilty.

I reacted extremely poorly. I only found out this year that I’m bipolar and anxious and depressed. At the time, I had no idea why I felt things so intensely all the time. I just knew I had a really hard time regulating my reactions. I threw the blanket against the wall. I threw my phone against the wall. I yelled and I cried because I was so hurt. That’s what I woke up to is this feeling of betrayal. Was it because I wasn’t good enough? Did she want to be single?

I scared her. She thought I was going to hurt her, I think, and that appalled me. I would never hurt her or any other woman. The realization made me sick. I sank down on the bed and she came up next to me and she apologized and we both cried and we told each other we loved each other and we made love and we fell asleep on damp pillows.

It would always eat me up, though. I never really got over it. I talked with Angie about it, and Brittni, and my girlfriend’s friend and they all told me the same thing: that she was so guilty over it and all she talked about was how much she wanted to make up for it. And I struggled to keep my jealousy and anxiety and anger and propensity for over thinking under control to middling success. We went out for dinner and a movie once, and I was still so bothered about it that I broke up with her over dinner before realizing it was Valentine’s Day. I immediately recanted and we talked about it and we had a tense movie date after.

Towards the end of February, things were getting tense amongst the employees of the hostel. I found my money was still running tight. They hired on RJ’s friend Phil as a shuttle driver to replace Shawn. The HMS DB had finally shit the bed and RJ was making preparations to move to Seattle to live with a couple of our friends from Alaska. I began to make plans of my own.

In the meantime, my girlfriend and I continued to patch things up. Her friend managed an AMC theater, so we saw a lot of movies together, often for free. One night we had a really great time together and afterward she dropped me off in front of the hostel. She couldn’t stay over that night, so I kissed her and got out. She took off and the manager of the hostel caught me in the parking lot. He wanted to take a walk and discuss how my schedule working the desk would coincide with my Best Buy schedule.

As we walked and talked, I heard a loud shot from behind me. Something moved so close to my cheek, just under my eye, that it tugged at my skin. It cracked into the wall in front of me. I turned and saw a white car with tinted windows suddenly tear through a red light away from me. A half inch of difference is all it would have taken. I hardly left my room for three days.

And even after all of that, the Adventurer still had one good story left for us. RJ was working the desk night shift. Phil was working the shuttle. I was behind the desk with a drink. RJ pulls out a pair of letters a customer had dropped off. Both were similar in content but contained such ramblings as, “I am a man vacationing from San Francisco and am interested in your rooms. I would like to purchase [specific] room at [specific rate] from [this date] to [that date] which comes out to [total].” (He included a handrawn calendar). He also said “I am familiar with both the insides and outside of the closet” and some inanity about his occupation. One was signed “John Rockefeller”, while the other, “John Rockefella”. On one envelope, he had written “Enclosed is a $10 tip.”

“Was there a $10 tip in there?” I asked.
“There sure as shit was,” RJ said.

They’re trying to explain to me what this guy looks like and Phil gets the bright idea to call this guy’s room and pretend to want to meet him for a good time in the shuttle bay, causing him to walk directly by the office. Well, Phil calls and comes on to the guy in a low voice, but he hangs up and cackles when the guy seems receptive. RJ called bullshit, so Phil called again with me listening in. I heard him sound receptive and Phil broke and hung up again. RJ insists we call one more time and I tell him it’s probably a bad idea, that I doubted anyone else knew the guy’s room number and so he probably thought it was RJ. RJ laughed that off and Phil calls again. Before he can say a fucking word, ol’ John asks, “Are you coming or should I go to the office?”

Phil slams the phone into the receiver and he and I double over in laughter. RJ is aghast, repeating “No. No.” over and over, stopping only when a heavyset lady came to check in to a room. While RJ checks her in, a short man in his late thirties or forties steps into the office. Parted brown hair, thick glasses, wispy mustache. Holy shit, of course this was him. He set an envelope and a bottle of orange juice down on the counter. Phil is sitting on the couch across the room, bright red from holding his laughter in. I’m sitting on awe, aware I’m about to witness something beautiful. The lady leaves with her room key.

“I brought you orange juice.”
“I do not want your orange juice.”
“Know what’s in here?” *taps envelope*
“I do not.”
“Male pornography.”
“THAT’S weird. AND uncomfortable.”
John’s eyes turn into dinner plates and he stammers, “OH! OH! SORRY!” before darting from the room. I have rarely laughed harder.

Anyway, as RJ’s departure neared, I arranged to sleep on Jaime’s couch for a month or two until I could get situated. My girlfriend helped me smuggle my things out of the room and over to his place. The morning RJ was set to fly out, we had one last breakfast that we charged to the room. We shook hands, he took the shuttle to the airport. I took the bus to work at Best Buy and never went back. I left behind a bill of $2,000-$3,000; Phil told them I snuck off to Seattle as well, and they tried to hire someone to track me down. Whoops.

A week or so later, Phil called us to let us know John Rockafeller/Rockafella had moved to a dorm room. The cops were called when everyone else woke up to find him in the center of the room, buck naked and masturbating furiously. That’s some vacation.

Part Five: Awry
Part Six: Ruin

Back and Ahead

I was strapped for ideas on what to write. The last week has been, erm, interesting. I had a particularly eye-opening but emotionally intense therapy session and I’ve been dealing with some financial stuff due to some poor decisions I made. All in all, it’s left me more or less where I’m used to being: right back at the beginning.

I needed something to write about. Something to keep my mind off of things. I reached out to someone that means a lot to me and she suggest I write a letter to myself five years ago, and myself five years in the future. So. Sorry. This blog is going to be a bit self-indulgent.

Five years ago.

Jered. You sad, silly bastard. This is a pretty dark time for you, I know. You’re not in a good place emotionally, nor professionally, but that’s okay. Baby, you’re going to bounce back, I promise you. You’re going to fall in love again; she wasn’t kind to your feelings and you didn’t know how to handle your own feelings again. You will find other women who leave an amazing impact on your life, and it’s going to…

Well, it’s going to end bad, too. Every time. You’re kind of shitty in relationships, to be honest, and you keep picking women who aren’t fair to your emotions, either. It’s a bad mix. You’re bad at it. Be patient, kid, and have more faith in yourself and know when someone’s using you. You won’t,  of course, but you should.

Still, this woman will stick with you for years, deep in your heart. She has affected you. But she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last, and you should write about that love and that hurt, because someone somewhere will resonate with it, and if nothing else, there will be a record of what you lived, loved and experienced.

You’re going to recover from this. Not only that, but when you’re at your lowest, feeling your worst, when you’re loneliest and feeling the most shitty, you’re going to write your first book. Yeah! It’s going to be long as hell, and it’s not going to sell for shit, but you’re going to write the shit out of it. Men and women from 18-60 will read and enjoy it. You’re going to write two more and finish the trilogy. You’ll have written a trilogy of epic novels that are enjoyed and talked about. You did that. You made that.

Life is fucking hard, kid. But I’m writing this from the future, yeah? Which means we have survived. We’ve lived through it. The hurt, the heartbreak, losing our adopted parents, losing our loved ones…we never lost our friends. We never lost ourself, though the best parts may have been tucked back away for a while. You have endured so much and you’ll endure a shitload more. You’ve got this. You have this. Write about it.

Five years from now.

I thought I’d be married by my age. I thought I’d have maybe a kid by now, have my shit together and a job that actually feels rewarding. I don’t. I don’t know who I am exactly now, but I hope you have a better grip on that.

I don’t want you to be lonely, man. I hope you’ve found a way to manage your mental instabilities so that your emotions don’t dictate the way you act so much. If you’ve found someone who can love and work with you despite that, then great, but I hope sometime between now and when you are, you put yourself first for once and get help and help yourself be better.

Don’t be discouraged by writing. However small the audience might be, you’re providing an escape for people. You’re leaving the world a better place behind. I worked my ass off for this, future me. You better not take it for granted.

I want to be you, older Jered. I want to breathe this air and fall in love and be heartbroken and have momentous sex and write more books. I want to be a guy who feels everything, but is better able to manage those feelings. Can you be proud of your reflection, future me? You better be. Because present me is struggling and angry and hurt and if future me doesn’t get somewhere better, present me is going to kick his fucking ass.

Sincerely,
Yours Truly,
Much Love,

-K. Jered Mayer

P.S. Just tell her you fucking like her and see where her head’s at, you asshole. This goes for both of you.

Muses

I fell in love with the voice of a photographer. While her talent behind a lens is without dispute, her voice is something altogether different. At times haunting and ethereal, at other times upbeat, crackling with the kind of energy that gets the foot tapping and the smile spreading, it’s the kind of voice that sucks the air out of the room and decides on its own the rate it will give it back.

It’s a voice that draws up every eye, a voice that quiets the chatter of a tipsy crowd. When she sings, the drab and poorly-lit world of mundanity peels back and away, and I’m left with explosions of color, fantastic concepts, and veins filled with ink ready to be spilled onto paper in thousands of words.

I fell in love with the soul of a painter. I don’t know where in the world she lives or even her real name, but that’s the funny thing about souls: they are elusive things, hard to grasp but filled with the purest content of a person.

In a world where millions of strangers can connect via a brightly lit screen and a few taps or swipes of letters on a digital keyboard, I found a kindred soul in a creative artist. She both creates and appreciates beautiful things, be they color on a canvas, the breath just after a kiss goodbye or the dance of prose in poetry. She finds beauty in love and in lust, the sculptures two bodies make when entwined with each other, the intimacy born in passionate submission to one’s id.

Sexuality and beauty, art and form, concept and creation. Through her understanding and elucidating the heart of these subjects, I found myself glimpsing a bit of her soul, and I found it was a soul that ignited a fiery love. A love for the love of lovely things.

I fell in love with the challenge of a thespian. Not that she was unwilling or abrasive. She was not a thing to “get”, not a goal to accomplish. She challenged me and my preconceived notions of myself. Through alcohol-infused bluster and arrogance, through oblivious ignorance, I spouted off about myself and my experiences with the fairer sex because…who the fuck knows? There are plenty stories in that chapter of my life filled with humor and circumstance, drama and ridiculousness, but the fact that those stories exist does not inherently mean they should be shared.

Instead of balking or scoffing or admonishing me, all of which would have been in her right, she called my bluff. I was unused to someone who would correct me grammatically or question my sensibility, someone who would match my barbs as one would parry and riposte. I was unused to find someone who paid attention to what I was saying, who saw through my walls and my distance, not because she wanted to use me or belittle me, not because she was blindly infatuated, but because she is alert and interested in the human condition and I had blundered my way onto her radar.

She was and is a strong woman, incredibly intelligent, immensely talented on, off, and in every direction of the stage. She is a woman who has a firm position on her interests and goals and accomplishes them from a humble position. She doesn’t bother with the bullshit. She likes to have her fingers on the pulse of the heart of the matter, and through the course of our friendship, she has forced me to do the same every time we’ve met.

She intimidates me, not because she is conceited or condescending, not because she is overtly threatening, but because she is honest, insightful, and supportive, and no matter how absurd or intimate our own connection has been, I have found myself in awe of her all the same. She intimidates me because she challenges me, effortlessly, subtly, and I am left constantly wishing I could impress her. I wish I were better at writing, better at life.

I fell in love with that challenge, because it is a constant pressure to keep my feet moving forward.

I fell in love with the lie of a love. I don’t know how big the lie was, or when it started, or if it was one or one of many, but I loved it. I loved that lie because I was vulnerable and scared and hopeful.

I had lost my mother figure and was stressed at my job. I had been lied to and cheated on, abandoned and abused, and nestled in the ribs of the Halloween skeleton that was my life, I found an old love, a connection that had casually faded into the years only to come back in the darkest time of my life. I picked up that old love and dusted it off and nurtured it, because I saw a flicker of light there.

She met me halfway and with enthusiasm. I fell in love with that, because she called me “my writer” and told me she loved me, because I could hold her in my arms at night, and when I felt broken down and weary, she would hold me. I fell for it because we would wake up in the middle of the night just to make love, and for once, I didn’t feel alone but truly cared for.

And it was a lie. And I loved that lie, even though it almost broke me all over again.

I wrote once about the times I fell in love. There is the faintest amount of overlap here, but where that previous article was about connections born from actual relationships, this is something much more abstract and subjective.

I have written of people who have affected me. I have written of the lives of others. I have written of love. These are things I have to write about. This post, though, this is about those who inspire me to write. I have created poetry and stories because of these people. I have been driven to work on my novels, to produce content simply because these people have spoken to me or shared their art with me or shared their lives with me. It’s something more, something that rails against definition by way of words.

Visual arts inspire me. Snippets of conversation, stories, scenery. But it is rare that I find inspiration – not content, mind you, but the desire to create and the metaphysical wind-filled sails to do so – because of a human being. These people are muses in truth, each for their own reasons, each with our own histories.

There is a beautiful thing in art, and there is art in love. In expression, there is vibrancy, and there is vibrancy is love. There are many types of freedom, and there is freedom in love. There are many ways to love, and many reasons for it, and I find more every day.