Honey, if you’re off that list, it’s because you don’t inspire her anymore. He said.
It was my brain. It usually is. Once when we were on the phone she told me, I don’t get you. One minute you’re spiritual and the next you’re all business. I was standing in my driveway, her voice condemning me through my cell phone. The sky was grey, cloudy, it looked like rain. My ear was hot. I hate talking on my cell phone without a headset. She was rattling on, criticizing my thought process. I just don’t understand you, she chided.
I can confuse people. I switch gears, sometimes faster than others might. It’s how my brain works.
I take myself off topic. I digress. I’ll start one place and end up somewhere else. I started in New York and ended up in Torrance. How’s that for digression? It wasn’t all me though, we moved to Beverly Hills and then I digressed myself right out of there to San Diego, to Hollywood. I mean the real Hollywood, when it was more grit and grime than fluorescent colors and pop.
There was England, Ireland, Wales, not in that order and Santa Barbara and Marina Del Rey and Redondo Beach and Phoenix and then back to Redondo, then Manhattan Beach, now I’m here, settled, done digressing in Torrance. Almost.
I ran around to run away. Instead of escaping I was spinning. I spun myself deeper into the guts of my life, the dark underbelly. You know how if a car, if it’s stuck in the mud or the snow, if you try and push harder on the gas and make the wheels spin faster you’ll get even deeper in the mess you’re already in? Well, that’s me, the car and the gas pedal and the person pressing hard on the gas trying to whir the wheels free. I twisted myself in pretty darn good.
I remember this one night, in Santa Barbara, sitting around a table, around a mirror, around lines of cocaine, surrounded by empty bottles and filled ashtrays, cigarette smoke clouds and voices. I was thinking to myself, what am I doing here, with this group, around this table, in this city. I went to the bathroom, bent over the stained toilet and threw up. Time to get off this list.
It was around that time when I took my foot off the gas and pressed it onto the break.
I went to see my friend Wayne. I waited outside on the steps of his apartment. My eyes were tired and red, my lids felt like sandpaper each time they blinked closed. I hurt. I sat, smoking, waiting for Wayne to wake up.
He came outside, a cigarette hanging from the left side of his mouth, the screen door slammed behind him. I’m done. I told him. He walked a few steps down, inhaled his cigarette, the cherry glowed bright and he sat next to me on the stairs, pushing smoke up form his lungs into the morning air.
The eucalyptus trees shaded us, their scent colliding with our cigarette smoke. I watched the smoke swirl up toward them, wondering about photosynthesis and how trees cleanse the air and if there was anything that could cleanse me. Wayne was playing with his cigarette. He was waiting for me. Waiting for me to maybe change my mind or explain why or what I meant. Waiting for me to say, hey don’t worry about it, gotta line?
He waited for me a lot. He’d wait for me after my shift at The Jolly Tiger where we met. He waited for me after I got fired and got a new job at Pascual’s. He’d wait for me to visit him, sit at the bar, and eat dinner at Arnoldi’s when he was working. He might even have been waiting for me to love him. All those late nights at Mel’s bar, the upsets when I’d leave with someone other than him. Solid Wayne, funny Wayne, chubby Wayne, with his blond mop of unwashed hair, stained tee shirts and impulsive grin. I waited for him this morning so I could tell someone. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I said. I’m done.
He looked at me. Okay. He said if you say so.
I do. I said.
Not too long after that Wayne stopped waiting for me and I stopped letting him.
In Santa Barbara I spent years looking for a spark, something to stimulate me internally rather than externally. Looking for inspiration, to bring myself back to my life. I needed CPR and I came to Santa Barbara to find it.
I knew, on the phone that day, in my driveway, when she was complaining about me to me, that it had nothing to do with me. She was spinning her wheels like I had for so long in Santa Barbara. I knew it wasn’t my speed that bothered her.
We all move at our own pace.
Honey, you don’t inspire her anymore he said, it’s not that big of a deal.
You’re right, I answered.