Friday, June 24, 2011
Usually when I head to Dr. Stone’s office after work I walk down Washington to 4th and go right into the building. Today I decided to walk down Morrison and walk past Pioneer Square because there’s always something interesting happening there. Religious freaks, free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, bad swing bands, it can be found in Pioneer Square. It’s one of my favorite spots to take my lunch break or to decompress after a stressful day of work. I admit it, it’s not the free food or music I live for, it’s the people watching. Nothing makes you feel more normal than watching crazy folks do crazy things in a small space. It makes you feel perfectly normal especially before a long and grueling session with Dr. Stone. Though it was a Tuesday in mid-April, there seemed to be a zombie crawl happening in the square that day. No less than 100 people dressed all in black with gray skin were wandering around groaning. You would think that a zombie crawl would occur closer to Halloween but, this being Portland and all, we have to keep our city weird. The “Keep Portland Weird” campaign is one of those things that just drives me absolutely batty. I mean, how organically quirky can one be if they are constantly reminded to remain quirky? Besides, the whole “Keep (blank) Weird” actually started in Austin Texas and has expanded to cities other than Portland such as Ann Arbor Michigan, Missoula Montana, and Arlington Virginia. When I think weird cities I often think of Arlington, Virginia with its Pentagon and its National Cemetery. Nothing screams weird like unnamed soldiers! Besides, the people I’ve seen who are driving cars with “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers or the people I’ve seen wearing “Keep Portland Weird” T-shirts are the antithesis of people I would call “weird”. They are usually soccer moms or aging wanna-be hipsters who aren’t ready to let go of their youth. As I stood off to the side of the mob I noticed more and more zombies joining the mass and wondered if something was going to happen. There didn’t seem to be a leader and the zombies didn’t appear drunk yet so I couldn’t figure out the point of this flash mob. Besides, there seemed to be zombie children at this event. Not much more creeps me out than the thought of a child trying to get me and turn me into one of them.
I didn’t have to be at Dr. Stone’s office for another 20 minutes so I had plenty of time to linger and try to figure out what was happening. In the next few minutes, the square completely filled up with zombies. It was turning into a bad 60s horror film with undead creatures limping about, avoiding eye contact, and groaning the occasional “braaaaaains”. Five minutes later a whistle was blown and the zombies disbursed. Within a minute or two, there was not a shred of evidence that a zombie flash mob had ever existed. The square was eerily quiet with us un-undead folks shaking our heads and laughing to ourselves. Did I really just see that or did I just imagine it all? was the look on everyone’s face and I can assume mine as well.
I don’t think that I could be a very good zombie. For one thing, I’m a vegetarian and I don’t think that Morning Star has invented the brains line just yet. Ethan once wrote a paper in college that 60s horror movies ruined the zombie name. He argued that zombies would never waste a whole human being just to eat his/her brains just to discard the rest. He was pretty sure that the zombies would take part in the vital organs as well as the other fleshy delicacies that the human body has to offer. Ethan! Ethan would have loved this, I can’t believe I didn’t think to take a picture of this for him. I pulled my cell phone out of my courier bag to call him to tell him all about it but then remembered that Maggie asked that he not talk to me anymore. And vice versa. Ethan met Maggie a year and a half ago when we were still dating. In fact, she’s basically the reason Ethan and I are not longer together. It’s hard to maintain a monogamous relationship when you find out that your boyfriend is screwing the temp receptionist at his insurance company. We had been together three years and about nine months when he admitted his affair. They had been sleeping together for six months at that point and she was three months pregnant. Ethan was never sure if he wanted a family and my apprehension towards bringing life into this world was always a point of contention between us. His sleeping with another woman was a slap in the face, knocking her up was like getting hit by a truck, his marrying her two months after that nearly caused me to kill myself. That’s not why I’m in therapy either.
Friday, January 7, 2011
My mom suggested eating at the Chinese buffet in the next town over because she didn’t feel like cooking and there was “bound to be something without meat that you can eat,” she said to me. She, my dad and I piled into his gray Toyota Camry (the same one that would later in life drive me to Oregon) and headed east to the aptly named “China Buffet”.
“Dad, do you want me to drive?” I asked before we left the house.
“What? No. I’m fine,” he said not sounding fine at all. I tried making eye contact with my mom for her opinion but she avoided me. She was keeping herself busy putting on her scarf and buttoning up her coat.
We drove the ten minutes to the restaurant in complete silence. Not only did no one say a word but the radio in the car stayed off as well. It was an uncomfortable ten minutes and I felt grateful that my parents lived in Rhode Island and that nothing was very far away. I laughed to myself when I realized that we were eating in a strip mall. The same strip mall that has an urgent care clinic in it. The same urgent care clinic I was diagnosed with mono in. I opened my mouth to point that out but I quickly closed it again.
Being mid-January in New England, the parking lot was covered with ice and though it was only 5:30 in the evening, it was as dark as it was going to get that night. My mom gripped my dad’s arm for support but he stepped ahead of her not paying attention. I walked up to her and put my hand on her elbow and she looked at me for the first time in hours and offered a thin weak smile.
My dad got to the front door first and in proper fashion held the door open for his ladies before walking in behind us. I was happy to see that he had woken up from the fog that he was in even for just a moment to show some semblance of normalcy.
The restaurant was nearly empty and I took it as a bad sign until I realized that it was only 5:30 on a Saturday evening. People don’t eat at 5:30 in real life, do they? A tiny woman with a stark white shirt came up to us asking how many in our party. I answered with a smile on my face. “Three, please,” I said happy to finally be talking to someone who would smile and look me in the eye. Not that I was doing any better than either of my parents, I just had it in my head that I was going to be the protector tonight and I was fulfilling my self-prescribed duties.
The host led us to our table and told us that we could go to the buffet whenever we were ready. Without even sitting down, we wandered over to the food stations. My dad put his arm around my mom and the two of them walked together to the buffet. I stayed behind a few feet letting them have some alone time. I had taken the bus down from Boston earlier that morning and had spent every second with them since I got in. I knew that they needed a minute or two alone even in the middle of the China Buffet.
Instead, I decided to obsess over the meatless choices that were offered to me. There was white rice, bright colored vegetables in some sort of thick sauce and colorless vegetables in no sauce. Yum! This was clearly not a place for vegetarians. I put both shades of vegetables on my plate alongside some rice and walked back to our table stopping to grab a set of chopsticks the way.
I sat down across from both parents and pulled the chopstick out of their paper wrapping. My mom, trying to start a conversation, pointed to my chopsticks and said, “I’ve never gotten the hang out of those things.”
“Really? But they’re so simple,” I said. “And you can’t use the left handed excuse on this one,” I added. My mom always uses being left-handed as an excuse to anything she can’t accomplish. Can’t play guitar? Must be because she’s left handed. Can’t drive stick shift? Must be because she’s left handed. I turned to face my dad for backup on this one. He was quiet. “Dad, do you know how to use chopsticks?” I asked.
He looked up from his plate and looked at me. He had tears streaming down his face. He dropped his fork into his plate and buried his face in his hands. He was sobbing quietly and I could see his shoulders shaking. My mom immediately leaned over and put her hands on his arm whispering something to him that I couldn’t hear. I looked away. I was used to seeing my mom cry; she’s more emotional than I am most of the time. But seeing my dad cry wasn’t something that I was very used to. I had seen it two or three times prior to that but that was it. I felt my own tears coming on and I knew that we were going to be the spectacle family crying at the China Buffet but this was one of the few times in my life that I didn’t care what anybody thought when they saw me.
That morning I was lounging on the couch in my Allston apartment with my roommate, Andrew. The phone rang and when I heard my mom on the other line, I knew from her voice that there was something seriously wrong. “Sue, I need you to get on the next bus home today.”
“Why? What’s going on?” I asked afraid to know the answer.
“You need to come say goodbye to Uncle Donald,” was all that she said. My uncle Donald was my dad’s older brother. He was the only member of his immediate family who my dad still communicated with. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer right before Christmas and had been admitted into the hospital the first day of the new year. Earlier that week he had been moved to hospice care and here was my mom on the phone saying that I needed to come home today. I told her that I would call her from the bus station when I got in RI and immediately jumped in the shower to start the journey home.
Luckily, the journey from Boston to Providence only lasted an hour and I was with my family before I could even make sense of what was happening. My mom picked me up from the bus station and drove us to where my uncle had been staying. She briefed me of the whole situation on our five minute drive. Basically, my uncle had moved to this hospice care earlier in the week and my dad had spent every minute with him since he moved. He hadn’t gone to work all week and had stayed with him day and night going home only to shower and change his clothes. Their sister (aptly nicknamed the witch) showed up the day before and was trying to take things over. Their mother (who my dad was estranged from) had died the week of Thanksgiving and everyone was just finishing up with her arrangements and getting their dad into a nursing home and this happened.
“Sue, it’s not going to be good there and I need you to be as brave as you can be,” she said holding my hand after we parked the car.
I nodded and put on my bravest face as I walked inside and into his room. There was my uncle who had always been the most robust man I had known, both in size and personality, laying on a bed with tubes through his nose, hooked up to monitors, weighing one hundred pounds less than when I had last seen him just before Christmas. I wasn’t expecting him to look so frail nor to be unconscious. I tried to move past it and made my way to his bed and kissed his forehead. “Hey Uncle Donald,” I said, “it’s Sue. I came down to hang out today but I didn’t expect you to have so much company. I thought that it would just be the two of us.” I stood up and hugged my dad hello. He whispered in my ear how happy he was that I was there. I said hello politely to the witch and her husband and hugged my cousin, Lisa, who I hadn’t seen in over five years.
We were all cramped in that tiny room for over an hour before my dad and his sister began arguing. They decided to move to the kitchen area of the rest home so not to disturb my uncle and my mom and I decided to stay behind and sit with my uncle. The three of us were alone for no more than ten minutes when a nurse came in the room and asked how we were. She busied herself around the room, straightening his blankets, jotting down his vitals and asking my mom and me questions about him. We stopped talking and the nurse said “did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” my mom asked.
“His final breath. Did you hear it?”
“What?” I gasped. “You mean, he’s….” I couldn’t say it.
The nurse smiled kindly and said softly, “he’s gone. He’s no longer in any pain.”
My mom and I looked at each other not hiding our tears. “Sue, you need to go get your father,” she whispered.
I dried the tears from my eyes and walked down the hall to the kitchen where everyone was still arguing loudly. “Dad,” I said softly but he didn’t hear me. “Dad,” I tried a little bit louder. He didn’t look at me but told me to hold on. “No, but Dad,” I tried a third time not holding back. I was crying for real this time. He moved his attention off of his sister’s and looked at me.
“NO!” he shouted knowing exactly what I was going to say and rushed down to his brother’s room for the last time.
I stayed behind in the kitchen and looked at the snow on the lawn outside. My uncle was gone. My dad’s family was torn apart before but now it was completely destroyed. I wasn’t ready to go back to see his body laying there knowing that he wasn’t in that shell anymore. Instead, I sat alone in that kitchen until I was ready to face the family again.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The first time my parents came to Portland was the summer of 2005 and I had been living here for three years. I had been asking them to come visit for some time but their other vacations always got in the way of coming to see their last born in her new city. I wasn't shocked or surprised by this. They only lived an hour and a half away from me in Boston and trying to get them to drive up there was like asking them to solve world hunger. They knew that it was important but they had no idea to go about going about it. "you just drive north and then east," I would argue my mom over the phone. She was the one who never wanted to make the trek. My dad was much easier to convince. In fact, we had a standing date on a Tuesday every six months which included breakfast, CAT scans, and talking over cafeteria coffee. My mother never came to CAT scan Tuesdays, that was just a Bill and Sue activity for the four years between his surgery and the day I began my travels across country.
I was more than a little surprised when my mom called me one day announcing that they were coming to Portland to see where I lived and meet my friends and make sure that I was really happy with Brian. They had met him earlier in the year when we all went to Reno for a long weekend. I pointed out that if they could travel to Reno for fun, they could continue the flight to the next coast.
They arrived without incident and I could not wait for all of my friends to meet them. As much as I complain about them, we really do have a fantastic relationship and they are pretty fun to hang out with in a group setting. Once my dad thanked me for treating him like a buddy when we're in a group setting. "Your sister and her husband and her friends just ignore the old folks in the corner but you and your friends actually care about us and what we have to say."
I decided that we all meet at my then go-to joint: Hobo's on NW 3rd to be followed up with karaoke at the Boiler Room. My main mission was to get one of them to inebriated and sing something embarrassing, sadly the inebriation happened but not the singing. About ten of my friends plus Brian and I met them at Hobo's for dinner and cocktails. They all wanted to hear stories about my youth, what I was like, how much trouble I got in, the dirt on me. They laughed and assured them that my childhood was boring and normal and other than getting arrested in college, there wasn't much going on. "Your sister, however..." my dad started. My sister? The perfect one? The one who's never had a cavity or detention and blessed them with a grandchild? She's the difficult one?
"Yeah, I don't know if you've ever heard this story," my mom began.
I was all ears. It's so rare that I get dirt on Kathy. "She had just left college (code for dropped out) and wanted to move in with some friends of hers."
"Male friends," my dad interjected. The thing with my folks is that as liberal as they are they still hold on to some old fashioned beliefs. One of the big ones is that males and females don’t coexist until they’ve exchanged rings. Or well on their way of getting there. Brian and I exchanged a quick but guilty look. We had moved in together the summer before and, though Ma and Pa haven’t said anything outwardly, I think that they were still apprehensive of this stranger sharing a bed with their youngest every evening.
“Your father said absolutely not. Even though she was 20, we were still helping her with rent and offered to pay her tuition if she stayed in the dorm but she wanted to leave school and get her own place. Your father agreed that she could move in with these friends under one condition.”
We were all on the edges of our seats. “And that was…?” I prodded.
“Sunday dinner with me. Alone..” my dad finally answered. They had this story down. This was a comic routine that they could have taken on the road to sold-out audiences of concerned parents.
“So, your dad had these two friends over to dinner and everything was fine. They were really nice, they had nothing but respect for us. But as we were sitting down to eat your dad made a toast”
We all turned our attention to the loud Italian in the middle of the table. “I raised my wine glass, I thanked them for coming to our home, and I told them that I had no problem with my daughter moving in with them but if I found out that either of them lays a hand on her, I wouldn’t be going to the cops, I’d be fucking killing them myself,” he took a sip of his Southern Comfort on the rocks for emphasis.
All of my friends gulped at the same time and then looked at me. Brian, whose arm was around my shoulder, let it fall into his own lap. We were all catatonic for a moment. This was the first time I’d heard my dad say the F word knowing that I was listening. It hit me in the chest and it was a shock to say the least.
My dad finished the story with “it took her two years after to find a boyfriend, everyone at URI was scared of her. And her psycho dad,” he smiled.
He then lifted his glass to Brian’s and said “salute”
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I have been hot in my days. I have been to New Orleans in the dead of summer when the air doesn’t move and you walk outside and immediately go back in to take yet another shower. I recently mucked out 12 pastures in Kanab Utah where the mercury on the side of the barn hit 108 degrees. I’ve been in the hospital with obnoxiously fevers and lived to tell the tale. But, I have never been so hot that I would ever take my clothes off in a club. But apparently that was all the rage when Nelly’s Hot in Herre climbed the charts in the summer of 2002.
Around January of that year, my friend Jesse told me that he was sick of living in Boston and needed a change and if I would move out to Portland Oregon with him. No way was my initial thought, I love it here. But after I thought about it a little bit longer, I wondered. Did I really love it here? I was madly in love with a man who married his abusive girlfriend instead of me. I was working for a company where I felt perpetually stagnant. I was sharing an apartment with two guys, one of whom was probably going to get married soon and the other who was more fucked up about his romantic life than I could ever dream. It seemed like most of my friends were pairing off and here I was 25, single, with a Bachelors of Science, and enough money in my savings account to make a change.
Let’s do it! I nearly screamed into the phone to him about a week after he initially proposed the idea. Jesse and I spent the next six months making plans of our epic trip to Portland. My dad had offered to give us his Toyota Camry for the trip, I had left my job, and found a couple to sublet my apartment. The plan was in motion and every passing day I was more excited to get out to Oregon.
That is…I was excited until Jesse called me in mid-July to drop the bomb on me. He called to tell me that while he hated to tell me this but he had applied for a job that he was sure that he wasn’t going to get but was surprised when they called and made him an amazing offer and he couldn’t pass it up. I bit my tongue and didn’t lash out at him when I all I wanted to do was scream! What the hell was I going to do? I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have an apartment and I all of a sudden had a car.
I did the only thing I could do in that situation. I called Fred and said “you’re flying out here and driving back across country with me”. Fred was my best friend/partner in crime in college. He was currently living in the bay area with his folks and needed some excitement in his life as well. I knew that convincing him to move to Oregon was next to impossible but I could rally him to take a long road trip with me as long. He was in and we immediately booked a flight for one month later.
We left my parents’ house in Rhode Island without a lot of fanfare. My parents weren’t even there when we actually hit the road, they had plans with friends of theirs that couldn’t be broken. I was in the driver’s seat, Fred was in the passenger and 25 years of importance of crammed into the backseat. We had no schedule and no maps, we were just going to travel across country, see as many friends as we could and sleep on as many couches as we could find. We decided that the first stop on our trip was going to be Buffalo to see some friends of Fred’s I had never met. He convinced me that Buffalo wasn’t as bad as I thought that it was going to be.
We spent four days living on his friend’s couch drinking entirely too much beer and riding bikes to smoke filled dive bars to drink even more beer. I heard that stupid Nelly song for the first time in one of those bars. “Did that man just say ‘cause I feel like busting loose and I feel like touching you, and cant nobody stop the juice so baby tell me what’s the use”? We agreed that hip-hop had peaked with A Tribe Called Quest and we would never be happy again.
After Buffalo, Fred and I decided to drive down to Nashville to see his friend Seth who was going to med school down there. On the way there we stayed a night in Canton Mississippi (city of lights) and couldn’t believe when we walked into the lobby and heard the overnight desk clerk playing “Why you at the bar if you aint poppin the bottles. What good is all the fame if you aint fuckin the models”. Really? Was this song really going to follow us down south as we travelled? Our one rule for the soundtrack for our trip was that we couldn’t listen to the same song twice and here we were with the same awful song for at least the 5th time in as many days.
Our trip continued from Nashville to Memphis where we surrounded ourselves with Elvis songs and spoke with raised lipped snarls. We decided to head towards New Orleans and that’s when the real trouble began. New Orleans has been the home to many people’s woes since it became a drunken destination in 1979. Some people get arrested, some people overdose, some people get alcohol poisoning and some lose their virginity in a cheap hostel to a guy whose name she didn’t know after a heated discussion about Guns n Roses place in the history of American Rock and Roll.
Our troubles were much different than that. That’s where the car died for the first time. The first of many times. Standing on the side of the highway with a smoking car and no cell service (it was 2002 remember), I was just beginning to cry when I saw the bottom half of Fred that I could see sticking out of the hood start shaking. His little butt wiggling left to right. I walked up behind him to see what he was doing and heard him mindless singing in a high pitched voice “I am getting so hot, I’m gonna take my clothes off”. I knew right then that we’d be ok.
Monday, August 23, 2010
This is one of my favorite things that I have written for writing group. The prompt was "the very last time I..." and I went in a different direction. Imagine that...
You’ve had the following saved message for 100 days, the maximum time allowed, the robot voice said to me. I pressed 11 to play back whatever I forgot to erase way back when.
Hey Sue, it’s Jeff
My heart actually stopped. Has it really been one hundred says since this whole fiasco went down? I pressed 11 again.
Hey Sue, it’s Jeff. I have to stay late tonight and finish up payroll but can I take you to lunch tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice out…
This was the last message that Jeff had ever left me. He left it probably about 3 days before he ended things with me. Without thinking I hit 11 again
Hey Sue, it’s Jeff. I have to stay late tonight and finish up payroll but can I take you to lunch tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice out… we can walk through Laurelhurst Park afterwards
I met Jeff the old fashioned way: through a Craigslist personal ad. I was home bored perusing the M4F section of the personals and I stumbled across his ad. 36, small business owner, funny, good grammar, it all checked out. I emailed him that night and continued emailing him for six straight weeks getting to know each other. Finally we agreed to meet. It was a Monday evening and he emailed that he was taking me out for a beer at the bar around the corner from my apartment, no ifs ands or buts. We hadn’t exchanged pictures and I had no idea what to expect. He told me that he would be wearing a brown shirt and had a beard. I remember emailing Liz that I was finally going to meet this dude and that he had a beard so he already had one point in the pros column. I got to the bar early and sat in the corner with a book and eyed everyone who walked in and perked up when a handsome bearded man walked right up to my table and sat down like we had known each other for years. I think it’s safe to say that we hit it off from the start. That first date lasted 5 hours and we never ran out of things to talk about. We hit three different bars and drank bad beer and made each other laugh so hard that Miller High Life came out of my nose. He owned the hipster coffee shop downtown, he ran a croquet league, and we argued who was a better rock band, Rush or Kiss. Had I finally met my match?
At the end of the night, we stood outside of Holmans awkwardly moving in for a hug, bumping each others’ heads as we both leaned in. He ended up holding the top of my head and kissing me gently on the lips before saying that he definitely wanted to see me again. I ran the 6 blocks home feeling like Rudolph in that scene when Clarice tells him that he’s cute for the first time. I woke up to an email telling me how great it was to meet me, how he wanted to see me again and how sorry he was for his awkward, less than suave head grabbing move at the end of the night.
I hit 11 again:
Hey Sue, it’s Jeff. I have to stay late tonight and finish up payroll but can I take you to lunch tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice out; we can walk through Laurelhurst Park afterwards…I heard Rush today on the drive home and I’m gonna fight you on this one, they really are the best band in rock and roll history. Wikipedia agrees with me and you know it.
Jeff and I ended up dating for only three weeks which my practical mind knows isn’t very long but my emotional heart thinks is an eternity. Never before had I met someone that I clicked so instantly with. Everything was so easy. I could tell him anything and not be scared that I was going to come across as nerdy or stupid. He laughed at all of my jokes, he listened to me freak out about my dad, and he understood that I wasn’t into PDA but that he could ravage me when we were alone in his apartment. Days were spent eating hot dogs, watching documentaries on Evel Keneval, and betting on horses. Everything was perfect.
I pressed 11 again:
Hey Sue, it’s Jeff. I have to stay late tonight and finish up payroll but can I take you to lunch tomorrow? It’s supposed to be nice out; we can walk through Laurelhurst Park afterwards…I heard Rush today on the drive home and I’m gonna fight you on this one, they really are the best band in rock and roll history. Wikipedia agrees with me and you know it. Anyway…see you tomorrow, baby. I’ll call you when I wake up. Goodnight.
Two days after he left this voicemail, I woke up to an email telling me that this relationship was moving too fast and he wasn’t ready for it. He didn’t mean to meet me and that his heart was still with his ex-girlfriend. He told me that he was sorry for being an asshole and that he understood if I hated him but that he just couldn’t do it anymore. I called him every day for a week and never heard back from him.
Here I was 100 days later about to listen to this voicemail for the 6th time and I knew that I just couldn’t torture myself any longer. I was worried that I’d never meet anyone like him again but I knew that I couldn’t hold on to someone who was willing to dismiss me so easily. I couldn’t save this message again and torture myself knowing that it was out there waiting to be listened to. I took one deep breath, exhaled slowly and hit the number 7 to erase him from my life.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
When I was in 4th grade I joined the “just say no” club. I don’t know why. No one I knew was a drug addict and no one had offered me anything harder than Fresca. But I joined and I wore my green t-shirt with the word drugs printed in white surrounded by a circle with a slash through it proudly. I marched in a parade in Washington DC with famous anti-drug celebrities as Punky Brewester and that youngest girl from Rags to Riches. But the holy grail moment of my anti-substance abuse youth came when one Nancy Regan took to the stage and thanked us all for the pledge that we made to treat our bodies like temples and not to give into the evils of temptation and peer pressure.
Well, here I am, 23 years later and I’m still the poster child for clean living. Unless you count the copious amounts of booze I can consume. Or those five times I’ve smoked the weed. Or the thirteen years I smoked American Spirits. But I don’t. In my mind I am still living Nancy’s words loud and proud. I am drug free and my body is a temple and I don’t give into the evils of temptation and peer pressure. And not only that: I’m fucking polite about it. I’m like June Cleaver and Nancy Regan rolled into one clean veined heroine. Case in point:
Julie and I were invited to a haunted house party on Division the weekend before Halloween. The party started at 10 but we didn’t arrive until close to midnight (because we‘re cool and cool kids always know that invitations mean two hours later than stated). We got to the main gate of the house and there were cops checking IDs outside, rummaging through purses and taking our entry fee. What kind of haunted house was this I asked Julie. She shrugged with the same confused look I was sure I had. We passed the first security checkpoint and made our way up the long driveway to the house. It wasn’t a haunted house like I remember them. This one had a stage with a DJ outside and a mass of people dancing with him. We paused only for a moment and finished the walk up to the house.
We walked inside and immediately came across security checkpoint number two. This was a tall menacing looking man telling us that we needed to be patted down. I have to give him credit, I fell for it! Only after his hands cupped my breasts did I think that maybe he wasn’t really a cop and that maybe this was a ploy to feel up all the girls and that maybe we were in over our heads. Because walking into the house I asked Julie whose party this was and how we got invited. She told me that it was a yearly event put on by the girls of Sassy’s. The strip club on 7th and Belmont. I laughed at the security guard and told him that he at least had to buy me a drink for what we just did. He laughed and walked away. I thought “hey, I can handle this. I can roll with the strippers and sex workers of Portland.“ That is until I rounded the corner and let my eyes adjust to the dim lights. I was worried that I was going to stick out because I had no costume, just jeans, a T-shirt, a gray hoodie, and Chuck Taylors. But these girls weren’t just in costume, they were in SLUTTY COSTUMES! There was a slutty nurse, a slutty Alice (from Wonderland), a slutty bumble bee, and a slutty cave woman. She was with us, though. We finally found Julie’s cousin and his girlfriend and she was just barely clothed with fake fur and Uggs. I shook my head and tried to find the bar. Slutty zombies were dancing on poles against the far walls as slutty angels and slutty devils were handing out free vibrators to passer-bys.
I finally got to the bar and ordered a vodka tonic. The bartender had just the same amount of clothes on as I did and I immediately loved her. I asked her what time she had to work until and she said 6. “AM?” I asked. She laughed and said “yes AM.” She then told me to come back to her bar and she’d have a heavier pour for me than any other bartender there. I over tipped her (of course) and moved my way past all the flesh and back to my friends. I told them about the party being scheduled until 6 and we all laughed wondering who in their right minds would stay until 6 AM. This party was decent but it wasn’t epic.
Julie and I stayed together the whole night while her cousin and slutty cave woman girlfriend wandered around trying to make new friends. Julie was a chain smoker back then and we spent a lot of time on the second floor porch watching the dance floor on the front lawn from where we stood. We had hit the bar where my girl really did have a heavy pour a few times and I was getting my drunk confidence where I can talk to anyone about anything and not worry about coming across like a dork. I befriended a guy dressed as Slash and the three of us hung out on the porch for an hour or so watching the crowds and wondering how these girls weren‘t cold as we were all fully dressed and shivering. He told me that he was 22 and I laughed at him, calling him a baby and pointing out that he was 2 when Appetite for Destruction came out. He asked me how old I was and his reaction to me answering 32 was “you’re pretty cool for being so old, wanna make out”. I couldn’t help myself, I lost it. I laughed in this 22 year old wanna-be rock star’s face. “No,” I finally managed after I stopped laughing, “no thank you.”
Julie and I headed back inside and while she was hitting the bar for us again I was braving the bathroom on my own for the first time. There was a hot boy walking down the same hallway but in the opposite direction. He wasn’t in costume either and I could see all of his dark skin and full lips without obstruction. My confidence was up after Slash told me that I was old but cool and I decided to I to give him my best flirty smile and was surprised when he started coming toward me. It worked! It worked! I was in a sea of long uncovered legs, exposed tits and bare bellies but he didn’t care! He loved the overly dressed awkward girl instead. He walked right up to me, lowered his head and whispered in my ear “do you need some coke?’ Of course all he wanted was a sale. Look at me! I was no match for these stripper girls. What does Slash know? He‘s wasted. And was TWO when Appetite for Destruction came out. “No thank you” I said and finished walking to the bathroom.
When I came back to Julie, she had scored a huge oversized armchair between the bar and the inside dance floor. She was sitting on the cushion and I grabbed a seat on the arm. I was laughing and telling her about the hot coke dealer right as he walked by. I pointed my finger at him and he looked at me quizzically, shook his head and joined friends (clients?) outside. The slutty costumed girls were slowly becoming the slutty half naked girls as they were getting drunker and danced with their new found loves in front of us. Drugs were becoming more apparent as bowls were being smoked and vials of white substances were being passed around. As I was watching the crowd with utter fascination, Julie tugged my arm and said “your coke dealer is watching you again”. I looked up and he was headed towards me. “What? Are you narc?” he asked when he finally got close. “No!” I exclaimed, “I was just telling my friend about the hot guy who asked if I wanted to buy coke. I swear, that was it.” I felt defensive and had no idea why I had just said that. But it must have worked because he said “you think I’m hot?”. I nodded, suddenly shy, and he said “let’s go get a drink.” I was nervous about being alone with this coke dealer but Julie practically shoved me off the chair and I went with him to get another vodka tonic from my girl.
We got our drinks and he asked if I wanted to go outside where it was quieter. We wound up on the front lawn stage where the DJ and dance party were earlier. His name was Chris and he was DJ who played a lot of gigs downtown. He wanted to go back to school for music engineering but didn’t have the money. “I have to be honest,” he leaned in, “I saw you hours ago talking to the rocker guy. I wanted to approach you but I thought you were with him.” “Slash?” I laughed. “Nope. He just told me I was cool and old.” Chris waited until I was done laughing before his lips were on mine. This was so not me. Making out with someone I had just met drunk on a stage on the front lawn of a stripper haunted house Halloween party! But I was and I liked it. Until after a solid amount of time of making out he pulled away and said in his low voice “let me do a bump off your tit”. I didn’t think that he was serious or that I hadn’t heard him correctly. He repeated himself, “let me do a bump off your tit”. I shook my head and said “No. Thank you but no”. I stood up, hugged my hoodie tightly around me and went back to Julie who was still sitting on the chair watching more and more couples grind together on the floor.
My temple was tired and I wanted nothing more to sleep off the drunk. A non-stripper, non-sex worker, non-coke fiend like me should have been in bed hours ago. We decided to cab it back home. We high-fived the fact that we made it out to 6 AM and pinkie swore that we wouldn’t do it again. Until next Halloween.
I was sitting at the kitchen table wolfing down a bowl of cheap sugary cereal that was on sale at the grocery store about a month ago. I was staring at each flake sure that I could see the microscopic chemical compounds that formed each one. “Why do I buy this shit?” I asked myself. What I really wanted were two eggs over easy, toast, and a Bloody Mary. And a cigarette. Unfortunately, I had quit smoking over a year ago and it was taking everything in my power to not run out to the corner store and buy a pack. Instead, I opted for breakfast. But the only easily accessible things in the fridge were a half empty carton of soy milk and a moldy block of cheese. “When did I turn into a frat boy? A frat boy who drinks soy milk.”
The hangover hadn’t quite begun to take effect just yet; maybe I was still a little drunk. I knew that things would be bad when I started craving greasy Chinese food and a cherry Coke. I debated going back to bed but I wasn’t ready to face the reality of what happened last night yet. I threw Greg (was that his name?) out at about 7 this morning. While stirring awake I had slowly opened my eyes afraid that my head would blast off if I let in too much light at once. I was confused when I felt something heavy lying across my stomach. I was half expecting to see a cat but was appalled when I saw an arm instead. I quietly shifted my weight to roll over to see who belonged to that one arm. I tried to piece the night together without making too much noise. Though I wasn’t exactly sure who was there, I was positive that I didn’t want him to be there. Waking up was proving to be a lot of work so I stared at his profile with only one eye. I saw spiky hair and the side of a face that hadn’t been shaved in a few days. Good God, what had I done?!
About two months ago I professed my love to my closest guy friend Keegan one afternoon holding his cat close to my heart in his apartment. We had been friends for about six months at that point and we were practically inseparable. I, apparently, have a hard time separating plutonic feelings for romantic feelings and after I had finished my overly rehearsed (yet heartfelt) speech, the only thing he could say was “ok”. “OK? OK! What kind of reaction was that? I had just told him how amazing he was and how he deserved perfection. That he shouldn’t date girls just to fuck them but to let someone in and allow himself to fall in love. I told him that he has the world to offer and should accept nothing less in return. And then I told him that I couldn’t be friends with him until these feelings inside subsided. He said “ok”. I hugged his cat even tighter afraid of losing the one contact I had with him at that moment. I asked “is there anything else you want to say?” and he shook his head no. He held his arms out and I put the cat down and fell into them. Keegan’s about six inches taller than I am and it felt good to feel small against someone else’s body. He laid his chin on top of my head and quietly said “you’re going to meet someone amazing. Someone better than me. Someone who deserves you.”
Not hanging out with Keegan proved to be more difficult than I expected. Not only did we have mutual friends, we also shared a wall. Keegan had been my next door neighbor in my apartment complex for close to a year but we didn’t start to become friends until the first snow day when we had a snowball fight in our parking lot. We ended the day with Hot Toddies and pinball at the bar around the corner. I was surprised by how well we got along and how long it took us to realize that. That snow day began a six month marathon of a friendship. We would sit on the steps outside of his apartment after I got home from work and drink beers bitching about our days. We would play Nintendo and listen to records in his apartment and watch black and white movies in mine. He would knock on my window when he was coming home from work or a bar at night and we’d catch up until neither of us could keep our eyes open. There wasn’t a day that would go by without an email, a text message, or a visit from the neighbor boy. When we hung out in groups, I would always catch him staring at me knowing what every look on his face meant. As we got closer, the awkward pauses between us became more obvious. There was ambiguous touching that I would analyze late at night trying to fall asleep. I was sure that our relationship was leaving the friend zone but clearly I was wrong. OK.
Last night was Keegan’s 30th birthday and we had a party in the driveway with all of our neighbors and friends. This turned out to be a pretty big party and lots of people I had never met before showed up. It was the first time Keegan and I had spent more than a few minutes together since “the incident”. It had been two months and we still hadn’t gotten over the awkward phase of the aftermath. I was trying to show him how much I didn’t need him around to have fun. “Who was your charming neighbor?” I wanted his friends to ask the next day. I wanted him to realize how witty, charming, and flirty I could be and I wanted him to hear it out of the mouths of his guy friends. Unfortunately, I drank a little too much cheap keg beer and went from witty and charming to slurry and surly. And apparently, a little bit slutty. I remember having the thought of “I’ll show him that I’m over him” by flirting hopelessly with one of his work buddies. Nothing was supposed to happen, we dubbed him the white rapper for fuck’s sake. He tried to argue me that Bob Marley was a better musician than Lou Reed. No one disses The Velvet Underground on my turf! He was loud and obnoxious and an attention whore. He was everything that I’m not attracted to but there he was when I woke up this morning.
Two tons of sugary breakfast shit wasn’t going to make me feel better. Nor was a carton of cigarettes. I knew that I messed this up and if Keegan ever had his doubts that he was wrong and should have wound up together, I clearly set his mind back at ease. I shook myself out of these thoughts, patted myself on the back for at least scoring at the party and fell asleep on the couch.