45. Drugs or Jesus

You think you know what pain is.

I thought I knew what pain was.  Abandoned my the man who pushed his grandmother’s ring onto my finger.  Left homeless, jobless, car-less, dreamless, broken.

I thought I knew what pain was.

I drag myself into the doctor’s office today.  My right hip, clenched into a knot they cannot undo for a year and counting, bent in agony.  I cry hot tears they ignore – because they are used to me, because they are sick of me – over the thin paper covering the exam table, onto the plastic pillows, onto the ground.

If they can’t cure you, it’s all in your head.

If they can’t cure you, eventually you should just shut up about it.

I thought I knew what pain was.

Robbed of everything I had made vulnerable for love, swimming in a dark sea of splintered words and shattered promises, I grieved for almost two years before I started to wake up.  Stirring in the darkness, putting a timid toe into a wading pool, I eventually dared to hope again.

I dared to hope, I dared to love, and all that man did was break my body and leave me to rot.

I am on the phone with my mother.  Poor mom, she tries to calm me down.  But today there is no comfort, and today there is no calming.  “If that man” and I’m screaming, “if THAT man can bring down some sort of fucking death sentence on me-” and I choke on my own tears.  There is nothing my anger can do to hurt him.  There is nothing my sorrow can do to save me.

I am lost in agony.  I cannot escape my own body.  There is nothing I can do.

It is at this point that people either choose drugs or Jesus.

And I gave up on Jesus ten years ago.

44. Expect

That giant purple eyesore.

Standing there. Staring at me. Making me feel like I’d been slapped upside the head by a grape.

I’ve hated it for two and a half years.  Just not enough to do anything about it.

I walk in at 10:30 at night.  I walk out.  I am shocked.

I’ve been wanting to paint over that purple wall since the second I moved in here, but I was broke, lost, and… well, mostly broke.  I didn’t have anything to spare, monetarily or emotionally, and just getting this cheap rent was incredible enough on it’s own.  I should be grateful, and I should shut up.  That much seemed a given.  I left the grape first because I was extraordinarily busy with simply remaining alive.  Then I was broke.  Then, apparently, despite hating it, I was used to it.  I hated it, but in a way that rarely crossed my mind.  Or in the way that only crosses your mind when you’re in the middle of doing something else, despite it being the first thing I saw each day upon walking into my bedroom.

I had always planned to wipe that wall of the face of the planet.  I finally made good on my word.  The unintended side effect of wiping off a thing that I hate is that the room no longer feels like mine.  It no longer feels like home. My biology has kicked in and all my senses are up, waiting for danger.  This is unfamiliar.  This is a bed that is not my own.  Hold tight, stay cautious.  You can’t sleep here.

Are you shitting me?  This is so obvious.  So obvious and so infuriatingly evident of my own lack of evolution I want to punch myself.  Two years. TWO YEARS on this fucking room.  No, not even this room, this wall.  One, single, hateful wall that all in all, the trip and the furniture pulling and the taping and the painting and the reputting of things…. maybe clocked in at three hours?  And I was avoiding that for three years because I couldn’t handle the psychological fallout of changing it???

I couldn’t embrace something not only good, but that I was certain I wanted, because I couldn’t invest $50, a few hours, and the metal shift it required.

Jesus.

I hate myself a little right now.  I wonder how many other things have waited two years or six years or ten because I wasn’t able to sleep under a different color paint job.  How many microscopic, unseen, unimportant, baseless biological things have kept me from what I wanted.  And me, stupid and rationalizing excuses when in reality, Darwin won.

God, I hate myself right now.

What is even more stupidly, pathetically evident, is that I’ve been wearing your old tank top for the past two days, and the teddy bear you got me is sitting on my bed.  I haven’t thought of you even half lovingly or wantingly in the two and a half years since I had to move here thanks to your disgusting habit of blowing everything up, and I embraced that fucking grape-ass wall like my life depended on it.

I am missing your mouth.  Your dirty talk in that British accent.

Because I feel out of place.  Because we were both out of place and stupidly thought (like young people do) that it made sense to find a place in each other.  Because you were where I went every last time I fell of the wagon.

The taste of you was toxic to me.  Poison.  We both thought we could somehow wring it around and turn it into something good.  But we couldn’t.  We never could.  The other day, for the first time in a long time, I mentioned the ring.  I still couldn’t bear to ask my mother what she had done with it, and she was smart enough not to tell me.

I look at the wall.  So elegant.  So sophisticated.  Everything I had hoped it would be.  Did it really take this, this to make me paint it.  Then I think on it.  Yes, yes of course it did. Because nothing short of the breaking of my body, forcing me to stay in one place would have ever made me paint that wall.  Because as much as I hated it, painting that wall was a bit of acceptance.  To change it meant I was settling in here, in the place I crash landed after the explosion.  The dust cleared, and I ended up here because the ad for the job said “Fortune 500”.  I never did intend to stay.  Yet here I am.  Nesting.  Am I mad because I’m giving in to it?  Or am I mad because it took me so long?

Swimming pools.  Movie stars.

Los Angeles, you mother fucker.  I only chose you under duress.

Dear god, get me out of here.  That’s what I’m thinking.  And that’s why I’m painting.  It’s a form of acceptance, and yet a way to exercise the only bit of control and refusal I still have left.

I walk into that room and I try to sleep, but my psyche won’t let me.  The energy’s too different.

 
What the hell did I expect?

41. Horizontal

I hated the way you said I had no “values” because I see people with compassion.  Because I believe love has solved more problems than condemning ever has.  Because I believe your version of justice would leave the world with blank eye sockets and toothless gums, choking down their own teeth.

I hated the way you thought that being an upstanding citizen meant looking down on everyone who had it less together than you.  That if you learned a lesson two years ago you were better than the person learning it today.  That I must be basking in secret sin to be capable of forgiving anyone I saw committing it. That I was tempting fate by not treating those who have failed with scorn.

I hated the fact that you actually used the words “that guy” all the time.  As in “I’m not that guy‘” whenever discussing behavior you felt was beneath you, because as we all know, there are nice guys and there are mean guys, and you are a nice guy.  If a girl deigns to stir emotions within you (or show an inch more skin than you have secretly deemed appropriate) she is a harlot and a bitch.  It’s better to say “I’m not that guy”  any time I offer solid solutions to proactively work around my illness or urge you to take time off with just the boys, than take me up on it and *gasp* relax for a second.  Better to resist and insist to the point of being insulted when I suggest you take a break, then throw it back in my face six months later.  That’ll teach me.  

Since I’m a liar, and faking all these hospital visits and needles in my spine, I’m probably just a few more hits short of spontaneous healing, so why keep pulling punches, sweetie?  Just let ’em fly.  

I sometimes want to beat myself up for not seeing through you, but I am not a mind reader, a soothsayer, or a ghostbuster; and you are quite the genius masquerader, self convincer, and pious martyr.  Glorious be thy name.

A tip of the hat, sir.  You are quite the specimen.

I woke up with a sore shoulder yesterday, because I sleep horizontally on the bed now.  That’s how f***ing gone you are.

39. Birthday to you

I hate planning birthdays.

I just hate it.  I don’t like the stress of having to plan a whole party and make sure it goes well when all I want to do is relax and have fun.  I worry about if everyone has enough ice.  I don’t like the fact that half the people who RSVP flake and I spend my lunch breaks revising and reversing the sushi reservation eighteen times.  I don’t like getting older anymore.  I’ve hit that limit.

But I have Ash.  And Ash simply says things like:  I’m free on Saturday, it’s your birthday.  See you then.

As generous and sweet as she is ravenous and ridiculous, Ash shows up with cupcakes you didn’t order and a tiara you don’t want to wear because it’s your birthday goddamit and you will enjoy it despite yourself.  Thank god for Ash, where would we be without friends like her.

Ash insists that your life is an occasion.  She is glitter and the Playboy Mansion and the Oscar afterparty with Charlize Theron.  She is six feet tall, blond and blue eyed, and and she is intent that I celebrate the anniversary of my own existence.

Ash is a good friend.

I have a hard time planning celebrations thanks to a long history of being let down.  Sometimes it just takes a kind hand to guide you and remind you that you’re not a kid anymore, you’re more resilient than you used to be, and regardless of what anyone else does, someone will show up with a damn tiara.  It’s your birthday.

It’s only been two weeks since the last time I spoke to E.  Fourteen days is not a long time to grieve before having to go celebrate.  I have this weird thing with redeeming objects.  If I’m stuck with something that reminds me of you, I can’t get over it until I purge it.  If I can’t bring myself to purge it, I have to somehow make it right.  Right now I’m just thinking I have nothing to wear for this damn party. I have felt out of place in all of my clothes since I lost the ability to wear heels.  My strength was in my extra 5 inches.  I’ve never been quite sure who I am closer to the ground.   Then, pushing apart hangers I am struck by the red dress I had picked out back in December.  The one I knew he might not like but was the first thing I had found since I’d gotten sick that made me feel like I might still be beautiful.  I was going to wear it just for him, but now that it’s my body, my life, I’m pulling it out.

The girls come up in a laughing, giggling swarm.  We tumble and swirl around the apartment, the old familiar energy I love.  The frenetic clash of curling irons and blush brushes, the leaning and bending into mirrors, the last eyelash curl before the taxis show up.  The lightness and the love.

Someone tells me I look beautiful.  And even in my flat shoes with my hip donut, I somehow, crazily, feel a little beautiful.

We go to sushi.  I remember this place.  The back alley and E pushing me up in against the car.  But my new memories, stronger and searing and expanding by the second, are starting to eat the old.  We reach across each other for more edamame, we curse chopsticks and shoot more sake, we swap and taste and tell stories over miso soup.  I am happy.

The lights dim and suddenly everyone is singing to me.  Ash has a point.  No matter how many years you may do it, there is something special about people going out of their way to show you love.  I put the damn tiara on while they bring out a giant boat made of fruit.

When dinner’s over we trip back to mine for sweatpants, cupcakes, and card games.  I decide to make a move.  I plunge into my closet and grab E’s birthday present, a sushi and sake set.  He had mentioned in passing several times over the summer how he had wanted one, and after raiding everywhere from Sawtelle to little Tokyo, I determined nothing in Los Angeles was quite special enough for this man, and (way over my budget) had a set of four cups and plates handmade to my exact specifications for his apartment.

“Pour them out” I say, setting the cups on the table. Chloe, always prepared, has brought a bottle of sake.  Leave it to that girl to expect me to be brave.

“I knew you had it in you.”

“Just hush and let me sip one, I didn’t take my meds today”

We laugh.  We share.  It was a work of art.  Far too beautiful to smash into the ground (Chloe’s original idea) it has a presence all it’s own.  I thought it was so precise, so exact, that it could only ever be meant for him, and what good was it otherwise?  It seemed wrong to regift something so carefully measured out and planned for someone else.  As it turns out, a room full of girls laughing and holding every piece seemed to soak the pain right out.  Redemption, right?  It all feels good.

It’s at this point, that I remember the one thing I still have to get rid of.  He’s off my phone, out of my photographs, and away from my bed, but I still have these damn wine glasses.  The ones he bought from the each time we tasted wine.  His thing.  His thing that blew it all up.

“Who wants to smash some glasses tonight?!?”

And I know it’s sounds ridiculous, but we’re doing the only thing in the world that makes sense.  Trust me, it’s my birthday.  We march out of the apartment, down the stairs and to the car park, armed with glasses inscribed with the names of every place I want to forget.  I feel enlightened and I feel powerful and I feel – CRASH!  And the first glass shatters into the dumpster.  I jump, then I laugh, and as we keep going, I get lost in the giggle, the flurry, the buzz of love around me.

There is nothing else in this bedroom neighborhood but Saturday silence.

But here, in my home, there is the sound of girls with curled hair and false eyelashes, stumbling in high heels and short dresses, gasping, screaming –  smashing memories into oblivion as we laugh into the night.

21. He Says His Name is Nigel

He says his name is Nigel. It’s like I have a homing device for British men. I’m squirming, but he’s too drunk to notice. He has a martini in one hand, a stain on the shirt under his suit jacket, and I’m looking at chandeliers, padded lounges, and girls resembling porn stars. Anything so I don’t have to look at him.

His fingers curl around my arm, and he draws me in.

“Tell me a secret,” He slurs, “anything”

I’m three long islands in and his whiskey breath is fogging up my hipster glasses.  Chewing on my lower lip, I give up, and leaning inward until my lips are just about to brush the collar of his jacket, I tilt my head back  and whisper

“You have terrible breath”

 

Ah, the single life.