Just Break Up With Her, Already!

One of the apartments in this complex is occupied by students. They are louder than most of the other residents, but most nights it’s no big deal – especially now that school is in session. I was occasionally on the loud side back in the day as well. One of the kids has a girlfriend, however, that is gradually driving me insane. It’s just that, well, she’s bitchy.

The guy’s parking place is right below the window I’m sitting next to right now. Every time she comes or goes there is conversation. Almost always she’s in a bad mood and she’s taking it out on the guy. Or whoever’s on the other end of her mobile phone. Or the other voices in her head. Good lord that woman has a lot of complaining to do, and directly below this window seems to be her favorite place to do it. The hour of the day or night makes no difference; in fact, the later it is at night, the more she’s accumulated to bitch about. 3 a.m.? A fine time to rail on and on with her unseen friends.

Why, oh, why can’t the guy just give her the heave-ho? Is her company at other times so charming that he can ignore the constant stream of complaints I get to hear? Is there some field around this window that puts her in a bad mood? I just want to put my hand on the guy’s shoulder and say, “Dude, if you can put up with that shit, you’re going to make some other girl a fine boyfriend.”

Some quiet, polite girl.

Quite a night at the Little Café

Start with the beginning, people say, but tonight’s story starts with the end.

“You are a workaholic,” she says, stumbling on the word in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.

“I am,” I admit. “But I’m happy.” With those words I formally removed myself from the list of potential replacements for the boyfriend she thinks is about to dump her. I had just explained to her that I would be a terrible boyfriend, and she believed me. I was convincing.

I was talking to Martin when she came in. She is striking, and where in the US tall girls often feel awkward, she was a tall woman wearing tall shoes. Tall is not a sin here. (I think I’ll move to Japan.) I’ve seen her several times before, but tonight she struck me harder than usual. Enough that I made a comment to Martin.

Ah, Martin. It warms my cold, desolate heart to see him with Leigh. Things have been pissy between them for the last few days; there’s a lot going on for them all at once, including a career-making (or busting) panel appearance for Leigh. Then there’s the part where they’re buying their first place together. They showed up tonight and I happily put down my book. They told me in a good-natured way about the squabbles they’d been having, and as I wondered why it was me that heard this, I also felt that these guys had what it takes to last. They’re in love, and it’s possible to be in love and be angry at the same time. At some level they know that.

Anyway, Leigh decided to take off before she had even ordered. She wasn’t feeling well, and just wanted to be home. I can understand that. Martin said he would be home at 11:05 — five minutes after the bar closed, less than an hour hence. He promised. She left.

We chatted, Martin and I, about this and that, all fascinating topics I’m sure, only one of which I remember. “I would stay away from one so young,” Martin said, in reference to the girl who had just walked in. “But that’s just me…” She never struck me as that young, myself.

The big hand was moving uphill, the little hand inching toward eleven, when I ordered my last beer for the night. I chatted with Martin some more. No beer arrived, and closing time was fast approaching. “Technical difficulties,” I was told. No fear, I would be served my beer. That snafu looked to push my night past 11:05, and Martin decided I should not drink my last beer alone. He called the Missus.

While it might seem quite reasonable to you and me to delay ones return home because ones buddy’s beer was slow in coming, I was nonetheless grateful for Leigh’s perspective and her extension of Martin’s curfew. He made another promise: 11:23. My beer finally arrived, he had another, and we talked some more. Time passed.

The universe would be a lot cooler if time would just chill out once in a while.

The time: 11:15. Martin still has most of a beer in front of him. In eight minutes he must be home. “You’re running out of time, dude,” I said (or something like that). “You better start drinking.” He looked at the clock on the wall, then in shock turned to his watch for confirmation. He was out of time. He reached for… his phone.

“No!” said I. “Better to leave half a beer on the table than to make that call! Just go home!”

He made the call. I only heard one side of the phone conversation, but the best part for me was when he said, “Yeah, Jerry said you would kill me…” We had a laugh about that before Martin left at 11:20. He’s three minutes from home if he walks quickly.

He was barely out the door, I had picked up my book but had yet to scan the point I left off, when the astonishingly beautiful woman slid next to me. “What are you reading?” she asked.

“Philosophy, but it’s pissing me off again.”

We talked for quite a while. Out of some chivalrous impulse I defended her boyfriend until I had to admit that he was a spoiled little baby who wanted to go out and play but always wanted someone to come home to. We both agreed she’d be better off without him. That’s when I explained what a horrible boyfriend I would be.

“You are a workaholic”, she said, stumbling on the word in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.

It’s an episode… about nothing.

Sorry for the lack of episodes lately. It’s just that life has carried on in its terribly ordinary way, the wheels of time and space turning on well-oiled axes with nary a squeak.

Of note, perhaps, is that my pants are falling down. Either they have stretched or I have shrunk. While I don’t feel any healthier, and can see no diffference in the mirror, is seems unlikely that all my pants got larger at the same time.

One reason I’ve not had much to say is that I spent more time than I should have in the last week playing a computer game. This is the sort of brain-eating activity that leaves one without an original thought to call one’s own. I finished the game today, and I have no plan to order any of the sequels. Not because it wasn’t fun, mind you, quite the opposite.

Now I am in the Little Cafe, and there is a birthday party goinf on. Birthday girl is very pretty, adn is dancing on the bar as I type this.(pardon the typos, but for authenticity, i will leave this as I firty tuyped iu while watching her dance.) She is particularly happy because her ex-boyfriend showed up for the party, and they are not ex anymore. I am happy because she is very, very, good at shaking her moneymaker. Perhaps they were reconciled before tonight, but I don’t think so. The breathlessly hopeful look on her face when he arrived, the careful way they acted until they fell into their old familiar habits, the disappointment of the other males present, all spoke of this being a birthday she will long remember. For me, in my corner, part of the universe has gone back to being the way it belongs.

And so the world moves on, quietly, calmly (with the exception of the dancing on the bar), and there is little for this correspondent to report.

Love Pentagram

All these names are made up, but the people are painfully real, and make me glad I’m a crusty old codger.

Veronika is nutty crazy for Vaclav. Sadly, Vaclav is completely blind to any woman other than Martina, who is committed to Tomas. Finally there is Miki, who seems to alternate between pining for Veronika and Martina. Happy Tomas and Martina! They actually like each other, mutually, and they are one of those ‘cute couples’. This just adds to the anguish of the other three points of the pentagram; the joy of the loving couple is what we all seek. When that lightning smile flashes between the two everyone in the room wants to catch the electricity; I know how good it would feel to be bathed in the warmth of her bright-eyed smile. Anyone would want to feel that.

The other points live in a balance of hope and despair, mistaking the person for the emotion. And I? I watch, quietly, not courting hope, not risking despair.

An interesting crossing

I sit now in a large plaza in the town of Maó, the largest town on the island of Menorca. Pigeons strut about in idle hunger or relax on the warm ground; they take no notice of the older one in their midst. The elder bird scruffy and worn, but the others do not see their own futures in the other bird; they are not reminded of their own mortality. They are just pigeons, after all.

I am partially in the shade, with my legs protected but my black sweatshirt soaking up the sun. I sit, uncommonly comfortable, and I ask myself, “what happened last night?” I’m not sure, really, but something happened on the boat between there and here (whoever here is). Alcohol happened, that I know. A pretty girl cried on my shoulder. I stood in the wind watching the sea slide past. All those things happened without a doubt, but I think maybe something else as well. I just can’t put my finger on it.

Alcohol happened, and plenty of it. Alcohol on a boat, on a moonless night. On deck, near the bow, I the professor (“Is that Mars?” “Actually, that’s Antares, who’s name means ‘Not-Ares’, the greek name for Mars.”), enjoying the night with Cassius and Brutus, and of course dear sweet Emily. (Some characters in this little drama may have appeared previously in this blog under different names, but that’s not important.) We gathered, a tight little bunch. Emily is a proper and well-spoken English girl, and the rest of us, well, we are who we are, only last night all the more so.

We met Emily as we marched out to board the bus that would take us to the boat. Brutus was immediately very solicitous and helpful (as the married member of our little trio he obviously knew more about how to treat women than Cassius or I), and we learned that she was coming to Menorca to be with her family, and that she had just broken up with her boyfriend two days prior. As Professor, I prescribed her medication: alcohol. She was already ahead of me, and specified gin and tonics.

Alcohol happened. We sat in the bar for a while, then adjourned to the walkway outside, standing in the warm Mediterranean breeze and mist, chatting and laughing. The bar closed, we covered our rather astonishing tab, and still we stayed out there. After a while Cassius disappeared and returned a short time later with more beer. I received this bounty with joy, and didn’t ask too many questions. Cassius, crafty and fearless, had found a way to overcome the classic “Closed Bar” problem, a conundrum which no member of Star Fleet had ever managed to win before. And so, alcohol continued to happen.

As did Emily. Emily happened; dark-haired, blue-eyed, witty and intelligent, she happened. Brutus connected with her easily, attentive and helpful, friendly without being forward. Cassius, well, there’s a price to be paid for being crafty and daring — it leaves one cynical and acerbic as well. Not the way to win over the ladies, which just feeds the cycle. Finally there was Professor, me, exercising my limited knowledge of astronomy and other subjects, a roller coaster of lugubrious prattle and long silences. In the course of things, while alcohol continued to happen, Cassius left to liberate more of the beer unfairly trapped behind the closed bar’s bars, and Brutus went to bid farewell to some of the beer that had already served its purpose. I was alone with Emily. I asked a question — I don’t remember what — and she began to cry, happening in great sobs. She missed her ex. She was not happy about the breakup, not at all, and had been soldiering on with strength and courage before my question broke through her crumbling defenses.

Awkward, uncertain, I stood close but very far away, wanting to offer comfort, baffled, afraid. This is where you make a gesture, this is where you give someone what they need without thought of yourself. But, but… She’s a stranger, she’s a pretty girl, she’s a wounded bird, vulnerable, and anything I do is open to misinterpretation. (And, come on, let’s be honest here, it’s not like the thought of sharing a bonding moment with her didn’t spin enticing possibilities deep in my head. I’m not dead.)

I did what any silver-tongued smooth operator would do. I asked her permission to give her a hug. Holy crap, of all the things I could have done, short of pitching her over the side of the boat, that had to be about the lamest thing possible. Pathetic.

She didn’t answer, so I bit the bullet, swallowed hard, and hugged her. She really let loose then, and there’s nothing to say but she loves him and they’re broken up and she feels lost and alone and she wants him back and he was supposed to be traveling with her and and and…

Things I didn’t say: “It’ll be all right.” “I’m sure you will get back together with him.” “You’ll feel better in the morning.” I couldn’t say those or a hundred other things. Empty words, signifying no more than do the grunts and squeaks of a monkey at the zoo. Or, at best, lies. So I held her, searching for something to say that would make her feel better, but there was nothing, nothing but pain and contact, tears and silence. It was an honest silence, though, and it was the best I could do.

Brutus returned and immediately offered up the phrases I couldn’t. Perhaps she needed to hear them, perhaps they would even turn out to be true through some blind chance. Who was I to say? At that moment, however, his words felt hollow. Cassius returned, beer-laden, and after a couple of attempts Emily recovered her game face and banter slowly got back to safer topics. When she pulled away from me I felt the place she had been, empty now. Again.

What happened last night? Perhaps the question seems strange, since I just told you what happened, but there, alone in the darkness, it seemed like something else had moved, something I still can’t put my finger on. Alcohol happened, and a pretty girl cried on my shoulder. In the end she was grateful to all of us (especially Brutus — cheerful, giving Brutus). After everyone else went to sleep I returned alone to the walkway. I, Professor, stared ahead into the moonless black, and failed once again to determine if the sea foam was luminescing or just reflecting the last of the lights on the ship. The answer was inconclusive, as was the answer to the more pressing question: what just happened?

She had asked for my email address and this morning I gave it to her, but I don’t think I will hear from her again — unless, perhaps, she knows the answer to my question.

Tired

Today I worked on a story that has been rejected once. The changes weren’t big, but the thing does read a bit better now. It’s a little less cluttered; I think I was trying to fit a novella into a fairly long short story. A bit after lunchtime I repaired to bíl

Half-stories

I once heard an Inspirational Speech, given by a man who stood to profit from my labor. He had a good point, though. Everyone has ideas. Most people start things. Less than half make it halfway, and a tiny percent finish what they started. There is no place that is more true than in writing. It is easy to start a story, and damn hard to finish.

The other day I woke with the feeling I had a few stories languishing—thoughts with very strong beginnings, some even with middles, just waiting for an end. I did some housecleaning and found five stories more or less finished that I know could be better, five others I put in the newly-created ‘active’ pile, and some fifteen in the back burner folder. Most of those are good starts: excellent settings, fine prose, no destination.

And there, perhaps, is the difference between a beginning and an ending. Not that all prose must have a capital-p purpose, but it should have a direction. In the beginning was the word, and at the end was the period. Beyond the end is The Moment, the pause that as a writer you can only hope for, when the reader hesitates, still in the story, not yet ready to give up that world. All those images, characters, and whatnot are in the quest of delivering that one most rapturous pause, the finest hour, when the story is over but the narrative continues in the reader’s own language. We don’t write to last, we write to linger.

So, I have a collection of beginnings now. Many of them are pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. I read them and smile at my own prose, my own creativity (how did I ever come up with that?). Only problem is, a beginning isn’t worth the paper it’s wiped on.

When I chose this life, I had the Inspirational Speech in mind. I came to the game confident that I would be a finisher. I’m not done yet.

The episode is over. There’s nothing to see here. Move along.

Thoughts on the theme:

The first girl I was ever in love with—not just a crush but really live-or-die in love with, consumed. the girl who burned her way through my thoughts, the girl who tormented me even as I tormented her, the girl with the power to destroy me—I guarantee she’s more beautiful now that she was then (and she was mighty damn beautiful back then)—she was not a finisher. I knew that, but that’s not why we didn’t work out. We broke up because I was a dork. But in the end, I like to tell myself, we were doomed anyway, because she was a dabbler, a dilettante, not a finisher.

I wonder where she is, now. Probably much closer to finishing something than I am.

I think you never get completely over that first love. You will never match that hopeless mad passion again. You will never have the innocence of not having failed. You only have one shot at purity. Ever after, you are fallen, and the love you feel will have a peer. The next affair will, perhaps, surpass, but never again will there be pure, unmeasured, love. When you feel that giddy euphoria, you will remember that you have felt it before.

Meanwhile, Robert Jordan is a giant in the fantasy fiction world. Damn near a dozen books in, he has yet to write an ending, even though anyone with an IQ greater than six who has been willing to hang with The Series That Will Not Die already knows exactly what will happen. Robert Jordan sucks. Stop buying his books until he comes up with an ending for once in his life, and cuts his page count in half.

William Gibson finally got off his ass and wrote a good book. If only they had forgotten to print the last chapter. In the business world they call it ‘selling past the close’; here I will call it ‘writing past the end’. He should learn from the Japanese so prevalent in his stories. He should recall Neuromancer. Still, it’s his best book in a long time. Cayce Pollard is my kind of hero. Gibson, however, seems to be suffering from the same malady I have (elevation by association?) – good setups, a search for a conclusion. I, however (elevation against a straw man?) don’t try to publish my stories with weak endings. To be fair, it’s easy for me to talk, down here, about one of my favorite writers. The dude’s pretty good. Effinger’s better, but he’s dead.

I watched an anime series recently – I won’t name it because I don’t want to spoil it for you – but at the end I just sat for quite a while. “Dang,” I said, more than once. “Wow.” I took a few deep breaths. This series was made for Japanese television and there is no way it would ever have been made in the US. It ended with two people dying, one literally, the other figuratively, sacrifices to something evil they had unwittingly supported, helpless, linked by a pair of tears and infinite regret, both meeting the most horrible fate they can imagine. Only one has the luxury of death; the other has a job to do. It was an ending, the death of all we had known before, but it was also a beginning. That’s fair, as long as there is that moment of reflection. For me, that moment stretched for hours.

Speaking of James Bond, the bad guy lying in a pool of blood is not an ending, even if his laboratory of evil (LOE) explodes.

In a crossover meditation, Mission Impossible, the television series, despite the constraint that each episode was a complete and interchangeable story, managed to come up with some of the best endings ever on television. No blood, just the bad guy having a moment when he knows he is well and truly screwed.

So where are we? So many stories undertold, overtold, retold, better left untold. Unfinished. My job is to chase down a couple of those endings, wrassle them to the dirt, and make them work for a living.

Let’s talk about roses for a moment

I’m a watcher. I see things. Perhaps I learn from the things I see, but that’s asking quite a bit. Here’s something I know, however. When a guy gives a girl a flower, it means something. There is symbolism that goes deeper than bone marrow. What you say when you offer a flower is indelible, permanent, and inarguable. If you are lying with your flower, she will suffer, you will suffer, and in the end all of humanity will suffer. It is a foundation of civilization, a sacred trust.

In the pantheon of flowers, at the top there is the rose. Perhaps one can offer daisies lightly, or carnations. If you ever receive a lily from me, watch out. That is not a family of flower I give lightly. But the rose, it stands at the top. There is never a rose given that does not carry weight.

The weight, oddly, is inversely proportional to the quantity. You can give your love a dozen red roses, and she will be happy. But just one rose, alone, is a much more potent symbol. It is not ostentatious; it is something that exists within itself, a completely contained symbol, and the color of the rose means everything. What that color says is something no words will ever amplify, and can never undo.

Red: love. A single red rose, on a crooked stem, still with thorns, is the grandest expression of love possible. Sure, there’ve been some pretty decent sonnets and crap, but this is the one gesture that can never be mistaken. The thorns are critical. The flower is your beloved, and the thorns are part of her. I’ll be going into that in a story, shortly.

White: friendship. This doesn’t mean you don’t love her, it just means that you will do everything in your power to make her happy. Devotion might be a better word than friendship. A single white rose is a profession of love, knowing the love will never be returned.

A dozen pink roses: Hello. Congratulations. Happy Birthday. A single pink rose: Coward. When you give a single rose, know what the hell you’re saying, and say it! Unless your intent is to say “I’m a confused and spineless schmoe,” stay away from the single pink rose.

What brought this up was a couple near me here in the bar. They were all lovey-dovey at first, but then he did something to piss her off. From over here, it looked like she enjoyed being pissed off. I watched the friction for a couple of minutes, and then she picked up the rose. She smelled it, smiled at him, and set it back down. The smile was empty, and the discussion was over. The petals were white, with red tips.

It was a beautiful flower, but the dude had proven himself to be symbolically spineless, and she felt it. I’ll say it one more time. When you hand someone a single rose, you better know what you’re saying with it, because she sure as hell will.

Post-Amy Stress Disorder

I slipped out of San Diego without saying goodbye – just a short phone conversation during her lunch break. I don’t like goodbyes all that much – better just to slip out the side door and move on. I didn’t even wait for Rory to drive me to the airport. I was done with Ocean Beach, my home for the past week, and ready to move on. I was tired.

Physically tired, certainly, and mentally weary as well. It’s been a grinding couple of months, and my stamina has been sapped. Crashing on the sofa of a whirlwind who is trying to figure out if she has a boyfriend or not, who loves wine a little too much, and finds sleep optional is not how you regain your energy. Luckily this time around Amy was starting a new job – a square job with square hours. That meant we only stayed up way too late three-qarters of the time, and I had mornings to recover while she had to go to work. “Have fun,” I’d croak as she passed the sofa on the way out the door. Then I’d roll over and try to sleep some more. That only worked once.

Ocean Beach is a small neighborhood, and is geographically isolated from the rest of the city. That means it has managed to hang on to some of its small-town charm, and it means that if you don’t have a car lying around your options are limited. It wasn’t long until I well knew all the places of interest. There was the brand-new amazingly cheap café with free Internet, run by a really weird guy. There were other, swankier places with Internet, but not for free. Once I had locked Amy’s door behind me I spent my days in those places, trying to string words together, but, in my frazzled state, editing was the activity of the day.

Then it was off to the O. B. Grille, which became my office in the late afternoons when I had no place left to go. This is where Amy knew to find me when she got off work, finished her evening activities and negotiations with Cute Boy, and was ready to play. There was no question of sneaking in any writing later, The only thing that ended the evening was sleep.

Now, in the calm after the storm, I miss that wildness, the unpredictability that is Amy. She is a tiny little Las Vegas, a loud and constant invitation to excess, all bundled up and ready to travel. You know when she is there. As the night begins, there is anticipation. Amy is grinning ear to ear, only a little bit crazy yet, and the night extends before us, a journey into the unknown. Somewhere along the way someone says “one more,” and you know it’s not just one more, and someone has to be the designated walker or you’re not getting home.

Like Las Vegas, that sort of lifestyle can only be sustained for a few days before the brain goes into rebellion, shuts down, and leaves you for another head. When you part with Amy, the rest of the world seems muffled; your ears are still ringing after a sternum-thumpingly loud concert. Cowering behind their defenses, your synapses are still tender, still skittish. When a stimulus punches through the scar tissue it rasps across your raw psyche like a cheese grater. You jump, the look of a trapped animal in your eyes, and blurt out “One more!” You are suffering from PASD, Post-Amy Stress Disorder. It’s in the medical books. Look it up.

As I was driving through the desert my thoughts began to slide into their old grooves; a story was born, teased, and buried (one little bit stashed away for future use). There were too many cars for a Saturday. I sighed, relieved, disappointed, adrift, vaguely missing something, already looking forward to the next time I enter Amy’s world.

Funny how that works

I’m in a bar, trying to close out the last paragraph of a story that might even be good. There is a woman to my right, blonde and shrill. She is a graduate student studying law. She is pretty. She is an obnoxious self-promoting blowhard. I would never be tempted to date her, no matter what she looked like.

Funny thing is, as I sit at my laptop, scruffy and absorbed, the prospect of us dating likely never even occurred to her. She may not even know I’m here. So while I’m actively repelled by her, I haven’t achieved that stature with her.

Which is worse?

Sometimes talking just won’t do it.

At the table next to mine, there is a guy explaining something to his companion. She’s not buyin’. She has rocked back in her chair, her arms folded beneath her breasts, her long hair flowing and framing her pretty face. Her skeptical face. She’s nodding in apparent agreement, but the only one who believes that is the sap digging his way deeper and deeper. The dude’s a steam shovel.

I don’t know what they’re talking about and it doesn’t matter. She’s pissed off. He knows it and is trying to fix things. Not a syllable comes out of his mouth that doesn’t make things worse. She’s beyond pissed off, but she sits there, nodding. “Yes, yes, I see,” she is saying. “Just how big a jerkwad are you?” It’s a rhetorical question; at this point she is interested in him only for the stories he’s providing. She’ll have some good times sharing his excuses with her girlfriends.

So she sits, listening intently only for the ammunition, while he does a spectacular job making a jackass of himself. I know what I’m talking about. Jackass is my middle name.

They just left, she steaming ahead while he trailed uncertainly behind. “I can do better,” her posture said, and she was right.

Up until that moment I was in her camp. The dude was a schmoe. A spineless kiss-up buttercup. [Remind me to copyright that phrase.] But she knew she could find another boyfriend. I prefer people who aren’t so certain certain about things. My kind of folks are the ones crashing over the waterfall with no boat and certainly no life vest, the ones who wake up each morning with an intoxicating combination of anticipation and dread. Parents, I think, must feel this way. Artists do as well, I imagine. There are forces beyond your ken, beyond your control, that will, when you least expect it, sweep you over Niagra.

She cared not for the life flowing around her. The world is hers to control, and she will control it. When I saw that I didn’t like her any more, no matter how worthless her current companion is.

Maybe it’s not fair to expect someone to show their doubt and dread in a mall bar. Maybe she wakes up every morning and wants to roll over and sleep but there’s just so much. Maybe she has a fire that burns so hot it frightens her. I don’t think so, though. She walked out cold.

New Friends (and Their Sweeties)

I met two of Fuego’s friends today. I liked both of them, but I wanted to steal their girlfriends.

First I met Edmund and his sweetheart. Edmund is American, and a poet, and likes deconstructing shit. His appearance is striking; his shaved head and long, long (no, longer that what you’re thinking) grey beard get him roles in film and television productions. His girlfriend was dazzling and charmingly shy. He was taking her for granted.

Now, I have made a long career of taking people for granted. It’s a lesson I have not learned and probably never will learn, though I’m working on it. All I can say in my defense in the matter is that I can see the error that others make, even if I’m blind to my own callousness. So tonight I watched a beautiful woman swallow her own hopes for the day in deference to her man. She did it gracefully.

Later I met Jardo. We rode way the hell out to his place to hang out. He had a surprise to show Fuego, and what a surprise it was. Jardo had a new, amazingly gorgeous girlfriend. We joined up with her and after a couple of near misses we landed in a bar. “Pepsi Disco” the sign outside said. Fuego quickly made friends with the DJ (there weren’t many others besides us, but pL had the guy’s life story in minutes).

She is crazy for him. Jardo’s girlfriend, I mean. She’s crazy for Jardo. The little things he did for her made her world. Which made it really frustrating for me to watch him not do the little things. All night long she wanted to dance, and finally I agreed to accompany the couple to the floor just to get them going. When the dancing was done they sat together, her hand looped under his upper arm, and she snuggled up against him. She was tired, but the looks she sent him were adoring. Jardo couldn’t see it so well from close up, but he is the luckiest man in the whole friggin’ Universe. The devotion in her eyes said more than words or symbols could ever show.

Jardo didn’t see most of that, I don’t think. I wonder how many things I haven’t seen. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know; if I did it would only lead to deeper regret. I wish Jardo well. By then end of the evening I was adjusting my actions to maximize their togetherness. She was, as far as I got to know her, everything I could ever want in a girlfriend, but just seeing the way she looked at him made me hope that he saw it too, and he would make her happy.

Edmund, though, you better watch out, buddy. I got better glances from your sweetie than you did, and I wouldn’t make her feel like the unwashed heathen. Realistically, it will not be me you lose her to (more’s the pity), but sooner or later she will decide to go with someone who listens to her. Maybe one day I’ll learn that skill myself. But then again, probably not.

Goodbye, Rose

This will be my third time heading out of town, but the previous two times I knew I was coming back. Not this time. I’m really not much of a goodbye guy; I prefer to slip out unnoticed, but to Rose I really wanted to say goodbye. Maybe that’s why she slipped away. We’re alike that way. We’re alike in a lot of ways, the notable difference being that she rocks.

It’s not secret that I have a soft spot for bartenders. They have to pretend they like me even when they don’t, and I’m willing to believe the fiction. Given time, I can turn the pretense into reality. I’ve got to be the prototype for the ideal bar patron. Low maintenance, friendly, and appreciative. I shudder to think how many IQ points I’ve lost to alcohol (not that IQ is worth a crap anyway but you get the idea), but I still know how to mount a gyroscope to hold a motorcycle up and I still can hold a good argument, and quite frankly everyone else’s ideas for a hotel on the moon are pathetically misguided. Seriously. Those guys are idiots.

But Rose and I will not be meeting on the moon. I am leaving the bar that has been my home since it opened, fifteen years ago. I am leaving Rose. More reliable than any lover, she has always been there for me. While I’ve never been deep inside her life and she’s never been deep inside mine, we understand each other. Rose, quite simply, rocks. Tonight is one of the only times I didn’t tell her so. It feels like I left the period off the last sentence in a story. I may never see her again. She may forget she rocks. The latter is much worse than the former. But without me there to remind her…

She slipped away tonight. I’d like to think that’s because we have a certain unspoken connection. I’d like to think there’s a bond between us that she picked up on to tell her that this was the final goodbye. Too much freight to carry. I’d like to think it mattered to her. Maybe it did. Eventually, it’s not going to matter what mattered to her. It’s done now.

So goodbye, Rose. You Rock.

Requiem For A Machine

Alert but lazy-headed, stretched out on the sofa, I hear the moan, the sound of a mule’s ghost, as Amy pulls out to go to work.

Just the day before I had watched Amy force her laundry basket through the glassless pukey window, and I thought about the coming winter. I thought about rain. In the coming months there would likely be some. “Normally, when it rains,” she explained to me, “I just carry a big towel with me and only half of my back or half of my ass gets wet. It’s OK. But what does suck is when the rain gets in the driver’s window and it just falls down all by itself. You keep having to push it back up. Just try smoking a cigarette like that.”

Moments after she leaves, my phone rings. “Amy Cell Calling” the readout says.

A 1995 Ford Escort (“Gee Tee” Amy reminds me, swinging her hips with the letters), Purple, the BarneyMobile, the Purple People Eater, the Purple Beast, but lately simply “bitch”. Only the AM radio works, the seatbelts don’t work, and “the airbags don’t work or they would have deployed a long time ago.” Arrayed across the window are countless parking stickers for colleges.

Car Shrine “My car just took a fucking dump on me,” Amy says over the phone, “I’m in the middle of Riviera and people are about to hit me.” She describes the symptoms. Transmission. Probably shot.

“Almost ten years,” she told me over coffee one day. “The longest relationship I’ve ever had. I drove up to New York in that car. I was with my boyfriend. At one point I was driving and I sniffed my armpit and said, ‘I need to shower.’ I found out later he had just farted.” It’s funny the stuff you think of when you’re saying goodbye. Something that was lost almost forever is suddenly right there, never gone. A laugh, a shared fart, a moment in life.

“I’ll be right there,” I say. I scrounge up fresh socks and schlump out to my wheels. The passenger seat is filled with travel debris and luggage, but I decide that time is important if the bitch (I’m referring to the car, of course) is in the middle of the road.

My own memories of the car don’t stretch back so far; tonight I have seen pictures of the car when it was new, and honestly it’s hard to connect the two. For me it will always be the pile of loosely-stacked metal with seats somewhere in the middle. Death Trap. Cop Bait. Moving Violation. It is no more. Tonight we pulled out all the miscellaneous crap that had built up over the years – lighters, CD’s, tapes (no tape player for the last five years), empty packs of smokes, kitty litter, and an endless list of odds and ends.

A shrine stands on her coffee table, heavy with the symbolism of her first true love.

Annnnnd… Goodbye

Impressions of Pacific Beach:

Walking home from Tiki (funny how easy it is to think of this place as home, although I will probably never be here again), I turned at the blue-lit record store on the corner. A kid came out, coffee mug balanced on pizza box. He locked the glass doors, mounted his long skateboard, and began his commute home.

Trendily dressed kids too stupid to know better are lined up around the block to get into one particular bar.

Going down Fanuel between Garnet and Grand I meet a pack of Wednesday partiers. The girls stink of tobacco and factory watermelon.

At Tiki tonight I said goodbye to Tiki Dave, Bad Bobby, Bevins, and Connecticut Bill. “You’re not just going to Yo-Yo again are you?” asked Tiki Dave. He had me there. It is quite possible I will have to pass back through this town one more time before I am free of my former life. That is completely my fault; in the time I’ve been here I could have done all that shit. I just wanted to write instead.

Connecticut Bill probably won’t be here two years from now. I don’t expect Bevins will be here either. Bad Bobby, I’m not so sure. But I said goodbye to each, not knowing whether two weeks or death separated our next meeting. There are only a couple more goodbyes to go. Tom and Melinda I might see again, but we have already handled goodbye gracefully with the assistance of obscene amounts of alcohol and a little bit of karaoke. Any last meeting between us will be the last finger wiggle of a complex farewell handshake.

When I wrote earlier of Vegas, I said, “The ties from my past, reasserting themselves while I am in San Diego, will be burned away.” When I read that to Amy, she said, “You’re going to forget me!” She didn’t even wait until I finished the paragraph. I think she knew better than I did what I meant by those words. I am leaving people behind. I know I will never see some of these people again. But as correct as she was about the meaning, what she said was completely wrong. There will be no forgetting Amy.

I am still grappling for the right term for our relationship. During the booze-soaked karaoke fest I started to read the paragraph about how there was some deep spiritual force that had disabled the windows of her car. I was pretty proud of that paragraph. I had hardly gotten started when my audience drowned me out with “Ooo! Jerry loves Amy!” There was enough alcohol in the air that there was no point protesting; I simply put the computer away without finishing. And just what bothered me about that accusation? Do I love Amy? Absolutely. Do I love my big toe? You bet. The greeks came up with a bunch of words for love: agape, eros, and all that shit. If there is a word that combines my paternal, fraternal, self-destructive, and tingly feelings toward Amy, it’s probably in some obscure criminal code that has never been applied outside the ozarks.

I suppose I could make up a word, but it would take me the rest of my life to define it.

So: Goodbye, Amy. I move to a simpler life. A life where the words I used and feared as a child still apply. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you with all this, though I’m sure I have. But know that I am proud to be your friend, proud to know your secrets, and proud of you. That, more than anything else, defines my love for you. Damn I hope I don’t have to say goodbye again.