And the hits just keep on coming.
Over the past few years I’ve been in several relationships with women. Some more serious than others, but none too serious. It seems as though the seasons of love are changing again, and Fall is approaching.
Rain moved out around Thanksgiving, and hasn’t been back to visit once. She comes to my work, and I see her at her place, or downtown, but she doesn’t come to the house. We aren’t fighting or ‘separated’, but we aren’t as cozy as we used to be. Drifting apart.
Meg grew intolerable over time. I don’t know if it was a change in medication, ongoing meth use or plain ol’ insanity, but she turned on me and lit bridges on fire. She was a best-of friend and occasional discreet lover. She had delusions, and even tried filing a police report. (The police never came.) I miss her, and think of her every day, but I don’t contact her. I had to step away.
I’ve made friends with a couple women, but have been wary of pursuing anything further than bong-hit-buddies. I just ain’t ready to jump feet-first into the water; I need to lay by the side of the pool for a minute.
But there’s always Angel!
For the past decade Angel and I have had a flirtatious ongoing friendship. I always assumed we’d hook up some day, if we were both single at the same time. (It almost happened, but only for about a month, and simply didn’t take off.) We’ve maintained contact via text message. The other day when I was by her landlord’s office, I used it as an excuse to text her. The tone of her returning text seemed different. Cooler.
Then she texted, “Is it cheating to talk just talk with someone when you’re in a relationship?”
My heart sank, then something came over me. An enlightenment. I was even more free. I have never been able to let go of a woman until I know she’s going to be okay. It sounded like Angel was most okay. Good for her.
I texted back, “If it feels like cheating it probably is, they say. I understand, and if that’s what’s going on I wish you the best. I’m right over here, and always will be. Maybe I’ll let you instigate the texting from now on.” I tacked on a smily-face emoticon to remove any perceived snark, and sent.
I followed up almost immediately with, “But don’t mistake my quiet for lack of interest. I will always have a crush on you.” I hit send.
“Aw, you rock. Thanks.” There they were, Angel’s last words.
I brought up all messages for deletion: 200 exactly. Wow. It seemed like there would be more.
After a seven-day stretch, I needed time away from work. The public was getting to me. I texted Dr T. “Would you mind some company? I have a pressing urge to smoke a joint on your balcony.”
He texted back, “Sure. Hell, we can go onto the roof!”
I’d been to the balcony, but not into Dr T’s apartment. Access to a rooftop in the Pearl?
I rolled two joints.
I told him I was traveling on ‘Rain-time,’ meaning I’d get there when I get there. But the punctual white-boy in me won’t keep people waiting, and I managed to be only an hour later than planned. Dr T assured me the only thing I was missing were South Park reruns. I enjoyed the summer sunset, and arrived as the sky started to darken.
I could tell by the look on her face that things weren’t right. My usually happy-go-lucky sister had been blue. If I could get her talking, I could figure out what was wrong.
There have been lots of major life obstacles and changes the past couple years. My sister, who is stoic in the worst of times, was beginning to wear down. If it’s showing, it must be bad. She and my Bro-in-law took a mini-vacation to the beach, but at the last minute the kids decided they didn’t want to go. When Bro-in-law drives, it comes with a stream-of-consciousness dialogue that sounds like stating things aloud to see if they make sense. I avoid car rides with my Bro-in-law for just such reasons. A four-hour car ride? That’s a lot of vitriol. Without the kids to soften the dialogue, I imagine it was a lot of intense psychotherapy for my sister to have to absorb.
And absorb she does. She is the one who takes all the hits for the family. She’s the last one to eat. She’s the one who gets up out of a sound sleep to fetch my niece a glass of water, because that’s just who she is. So when I asked “What’s up?” in a certain way as we stood in the hallway of our home for the past fifteen years, she started to crack.
“Remember when I almost drowned? I was about nine or so, and got taken out to sea? I was out a couple hundred yards, and thought I was a goner, then a bright light came from above. It was like God cast his eye upon me, looked down and said, ‘Hey Jackass, stop that. Your mother needs you.’ I didn’t know if it was god or Mom, but I took it as a sign, and at that moment the tide pushed me back in.”
“Mom would be proud you confused her for God, but would probably have slapped you for blasphemy.”
That got a laugh. She took a deep breath. “I haven’t drank for about six months now. I don’t want to, hate the thought, but STILL it calls to me. The last night I worked, someone left an almost-full half-gallon jug of vodka in a room. If we’d gone back to the beach that night, I’d have drank that bottle and gone for a long swim in the ocean. I just got to where I…don’t… give…a…fuck.”
By now tears were streaming down her face. “I love my life, I love my kids, I love you, I love it all, but lately I’ve been so goddamned depressed! And as I am thinking about jumping in the ocean for that final swim, the sky out the window to the backyard lit up, like the eye in the sky. God or Mom was looking down, then a hummingbird popped up in my face. It was just so random and beautiful, and just when I needed it most. It was like getting a hug from Mom.”
Mom gave spectacular hugs, and I knew better than to compare, but if anyone needed a hug at that moment, it was us. We held each other like the two scared kids we once were. The world is coming to an end, but not the way we’d been told. This wasn’t Armageddon. This was nature’s way. People and things are born, and then they die. We can only hope our time here is pleasant. I flashed back to times in hospital waiting rooms when we waited for word on mom or dad. Of course, we didn’t hug or show emotion. I was a tough Irish kid, and Sister followed my example. It’s not pussyish to cry, unless you’re in public. We sat there stone-faced and waited. We still do, in a way.
After a moment of reassurances, and about a five-minute mopdown period, we were back to normal. I think just getting it out of her system helped a lot. The look of frustration she’d been carrying is gone, and the smiles are genuine again. Bro-in-law has been in a better mood. He’s about done with vacation, and while we love him, he needs to be out of the house more. We do best when we are ships that pass in the night, but we are still there for each other, because that’s who WE are. WE are family.
And we still have Mom watching over us. Thanks for the hug, Mom. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Update: After I wrote this piece, and was walking to work, the sky parted for a minute and the sun shone down on me. It may have been a meteorological coincidence, but it felt like a hug to me. Thanks, Mom.
The Fourth of July isn’t my favorite holiday, but I try to make the best of it.
I don’t care for fireworks. I like pretty lights, but the smoke, noise and PTSD from neighborhood beefs isn’t worth the payoff.
I made plans to visit Dr T and Jem for the fireworks display. They live on the edge of the Pearl, up the street from Rain. Their view from the terrace is a sight to behold. It looks over the back side of the main post office toward the whole of downtown. The fireworks would backlight the city from that angle. It sounded lovely.
We’d talked of getting together as couples, maybe a dinner out? I liked the sound of it, but questioned the likelihood. I know what it’s like to get Rain to show up for something just involving me. Before planning something grand, perhaps a small test. Would she be able to be ready and down the street by nightfall?
Short answer, no.
Plans changed, from meeting downtown at 7 PM, to come to my house, to be right there, to me on the sofa waiting. I’d timed my drugs for nightfall, so I was having fun, but getting bluer by the minute. My visit with Rain was nice enough, everything was friendly. Salty came and went, I gave him a good luck joint, which I’m sure he’s promptly lost. As 9 PM approached, I began to feel claustrophobic. The room collapsed inward when Rain said, “Well, let’s hurry this up so I can go kick it with my friend.”
I deflated. She said “friend” in a way that made my heart sink and my balls ascend. I have tried not to be jealous when she flirts or talks with other guys. I don’t get jealous of the past, at least not anymore. This particular friend is an old buddy of her ex-boyfriend’s, and has had his prostate and a lung removed, so he’s not a threat. I’m proud of Rain in a way.
But there’s my cost.
I don’t want to have to wait until I’m damn near dead to feel her love and admiration. Good old Joe was a saint and a lovely guy and she misses him and they were soul mates and shit, but she left him for me and he didn’t start getting her attention until he had six feet of real estate to call his own forever. I don’t want to spend a lot of time regretting not doing more because I was waiting for someone to come with me. And… I want someone who wants to be there with me, not just to accommodate me once in a while and claim the memories.
So I gave Rain one of the joints, and told her I had to go. “Okay… Well, Imma just gonna go over to my friend’s house then. See ya Charlie Brown!”
I closed the door behind me, feeling a lot different about Rain. I still loved her, but there was a shift in the tectonic plate. It was time to start walking away. I pulled out the other joint meant for the rooftop, and smoked it as I walked down the streets of the Pearl. I caught a trolley eventually, which dropped me on Burnside. A five-block dash got me on an eastbound Green Line MAX. I texted apologies to Dr and Mrs T. I will make other plans soon, maybe without Rain next time.
The joint relaxed me to the point of nods, I drifted in and out until suddenly it was my stop. I felt so sorry for the Belmont Goats. It was like a psychedelic war zone in Felony Flats. I had been carrying a $2 pack of day-old cookies from the Upscale Mall in my vest all day. I untied them and ate all four as I meandered home, flinching under the explosions. It sounded like cannon fire outside my house, backed by Mariachi music. Hispanic men in cowboy hats chugged Coronas, and a fat kid almost shot himself in the face with a bottle rocket. (“How does this work?”) I went inside, chugged some milk and went to bed. Fuck the world.
This morning, I wake up one step closer to freedom, just like our forefathers. I have to set free the past, and move into the future.
And I have to go now.
“Are you guys cleaning again?” It was the neighbor across the street. We rarely speak, just keep our heads down and pretend the other doesn’t exist. It’s the great Southeast Portland way. Everyone behaves like it’s prison.
“Yeah, we do it every ten years, whether it needs it or not.” I smiled and tossed another load of yard debris into the construction dumpster. Bro-in-law had just come to help. It was last day of spring cleaning before they take the dumpster away.
We’ve been buying the same house in Lents for fifteen years now. It’s better now than it was when we bought it, mostly. We’ve replaced bathroom floors, hell, we replaced the bathroom. We’ve been through a couple bug infestations, and I’ve had a couple of girlfriend infestations as well. Her stuff has been harder to get rid of than the bugs.
In order to buy the house, all the adults have to work part-time as much as allowed to make bills. My sister has been throwing newspapers and working in a stable for years until recently. A cancer scare and some time to breathe showed her (with my encouragement) that there are easier ways to get through life than working yourself to death for nothing. She loves working with horses, but their attached humans can be the worst, so I helped her get a job cleaning human stables. (She’s a hotel room attendant now, in one of the mid-range downtown hotels.) It’s showing her the prettier side of Portland, and she can pop in to the Waterfront Store on her way home and drop off the daily newspaper. The Oregonian no longer gives her a free delivery paper, but the hotel put her in charge of recycling the dailies comped to the rooms. I get better Oregonian service from the Hotel!
So Sis is tired, and bro-in-law works until Tuesday, so it’s up to me to get this springtime yard clean-up rolling…
Sitting amid the scaffolding adjacent to the building was a homeless kid that looked like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. He got up as soon as I went inside, snagged the bottle and sniffed it. “Hmm!” He shrugged and took a swallow. Then another. He went back into hiding.
I went back outside, and walked over to him. “It’s just Coke and Sprite, in case you’re wondering what you’re drinking,” I said.
“Thanks for telling me. I’m actually glad it’s not beer. I’m hung over as fuck already.” His big, raggedy smile was contagious.
Then a familiar face walked past. My little sister! Through a series of coinkydinks, her first attempt at applying for a job since 1988 was a grand-slam home run. She is now working in the housekeeping section of a swanky downtown hotel, keeping hours similar to mine. I’ve been known to meet her buses at random times, and sneak her into the bowels of the Waterfront Building late at night, albeit just to use the bathroom.
Any mischief in the basement is reserved for Rain and brave co-workers.
A lot of hiring and firing has been happening at my work. I haven’t had to train yet, but I encounter new faces in odd places. One guy was my freight help on Wednesday. On Thursday I was called because he had “been arrested for jaywalking and being held in $15,000 bail.” As Master P said, “He needs to be more forthcoming on why a jaywalking ticket costs fifteen grand.”
There are two attractive female new-hires. I am behaving myself.
I am behaving myself.
It seems like I’m on holiday. Maybe it’s just scheduling quirks, or the fact that Rain has been gone and I’m finally starting to decompress. I pick up every shift offered, making the check fluffier. I was stressing, until I looked at a calendar and realized I’m two weeks ahead on my bills. (Barring death or dismemberment, and we don’t want any of that.) Gots to pace myself. Behave myself. Stay healthy.
Rain took me to the store last night, and spent $81 on stuff I need in the day-to-day. She plans like a prepper, watches the deals, and hooks me up with stuff I always need. Flonase! That shit is expensive! I have a full four-month supply ready for when my current one runs out.
Denture materials? She bought the 120-day supply of effervescent tablets, which is about nine months worth for me. Polident, not the generic stuff. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference. She looked at the Fixodent. When I told Rain, “I have enough glue” she got the giggles.
“I don’t know why I find that funny.” She dabbed at the corner of her eyes.
Three economy-sized bottles of 91% isopropyl alcohol. For bug control, bong-cleaning, and emergency flushing when the fucking cats peel out on top of my foot. Cat scratch fever, duh duh, duh.
Viva paper towels. Because some things are worth it. I don’t bitch when she demands Cottonelle toilet paper, as long as I have Viva for my jizz-rags. We live large when it comes to paper products.
Buy one, get one half-off. Hello, ibuprofen! I greet every day with 1,200 mgs of generic Advil, since 1990. I would be an old cripple without it. Thanks to my baby, I haven’t paid for pills (the legal kind) in a couple years. And I won’t have to, until at least September.
Angel got a new job. It sounds like my nephew might be working at the neighborhood Freddy’s. The weather is turning around, I feel the need for yardwork. (That feeling is enhanced by the notice from the city to clean a few things up. Oh-kay…)
But first, I have a couple of lunch shifts to cover. I’ll be missing the Cubs home-opener, but there are 150+ games to go. Maybe a matinee tomorrow? Who am I kidding? Days of the Cubs as daytime TV drama are long gone. MLB network has lots of games at random times, so I will adjust accordingly. I still dream of a Cubs-Mariners World Series.
Time to make the doughnuts…
Ready for some grits in your gravy? The Pearl Invasion has begun.Within the past month, both Rain and Dr T have moved from Southeast Portland to the swanky Pearl District. Rain moved into a refurbished apartment in Slabtown, and Dr T was relocated after his old neighborhood evicted everyone blue-collar and replaced single houses with apartments, condos and mixed-use buildings. Attempting to create a bunch of mini-Pearls, if you will.
We are right on schedule. My face is smooth as a baby’s butt until 5 PM, after which sandpaper-grading is required. And Rain has left the building. She’s been gone three nights, and I am happy about it.
I am also sad about it.
But mostly happy….
I was riding the MAX with Rain a whie back, and an older black gentleman caught my eye after I caught him checking her out. ‘Twas no big thing, I nodded at him in that “Yes, she IS hot, isn’t she?” way. He motioned me close. “I have Viagras for sale. Give that woman what she needs…” He held out two tiny blue pills.
“Nah, I’m good, but thank you sir.” I was as old as he was, but I looked better. And he was trying to sell me Altoids. See, the tiny wintergreen ones look just like boner pills.
So the other day when we were on the bus, and Rain asked me for an Altoid, I smiled mischievously.
“Nothing,” I said. Still grinning.
“Oh, come on!”
I reached into my pocket, pulled out my traveling medicine chest, and gave her two Altoids. And then I told her why I was laughing…
It was my day off, and I was ready to be up and out of the house. The library trip is a nice ride. I insist on using the downtown Central Library, even though there are closer ones. There are none closer to my heart, or my work, and it gave me an excuse to check in at The Mothership.