IT IS ONE O'CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON. I am stretched out on my couch smoking a joint rolled with Humboldt's finest. Johnny Cash serenades me as I puff. I believe the gods are confused. The air today feels more like New York in August than Los Angeles in June. My window fan does little to air out my living room, so I take off my clothes.
A framed portrait of Frida Kahlo hangs from the wall. I think of Frida as Johnny sings, close my eyes, and melt in the afternoon; the satin sheet draped over my sofa soothes my skin.
Nakedness is divine. The gods can see me stretched out naked and they wish they had flesh and bone.
The phone rings. I am catapulted back by the simultaneous ring-vibration just inches from my hand. Why does the goddamn phone always have to ring just when I feel I'm about to reach Nirvana? I want very much to ignore the phone's interruption, but if I do, I might be missing out on something very important, so with eyes still shut, I answer it.
"Hello," I say.
"Hi, Monica. It's Adelina," says my ex-girlfriend. The funny thing about Adelina is that she calls me and acts like we're totally cool. She owes me several hundred dollars, and is holding on to several prized possessions of mine.
"Hey, Ade. I was just thinking of you as I approached the horizons of my enlightenment. How are you?" The funny thing about me is that even though I am very bothered by Adelina, I act civil enough for her to believe that we're almost totally cool.
"I'm fine," she says, a shabby attempt to cover up. I can tell she's been crying. That much is obvious, and for some strange reason (like she left me), that brings me great delight. She hesitates before saying, "What are you doing?"
"Meditating," I say, and I guess it's kind of true.
"Are you naked?" she asks me, and she laughs when she asks it, which means she knows the difference between sexy and comical, but got lost somewhere in the awkward in between.
"No, I'm wearing clothes," I lie. I don't want her to think I'm amused by these antics, even though I am.
"Maybe we can make a deal to work off that debt I owe you. What do you think?" I think you want me to come over and fuck your sorry ass, is what I think but don't say.
"Hmmm. What do you have in mind?" I ask, for the sake of torturing us both.
"I could come over...I could clean your house...I could wear a very short skirt with no panties...I could bend over to..." she there begins a very detailed litany of lesbian sex acts that might exonerate her of her debt to me. By the time she finishes her proposition, I confess to be tempted. But I, being a woman of principle (and stoned rather than drunk), refuse to budge.
"You know, Ade, I'm not much interested in a prostitute at this time. But thanks for the offer," is what I tell her.
"Fuck you," she says, then hangs up the phone. Three days later I get a check for $200 and a box containing my rings, my letters, several cds, two pairs of jeans, and some socks. No letter. No message, other than silence, which itself echoes the last thing she said to me.
My new bike weighs no more than eight pounds. It can carry me for miles and miles along the beach path and I cruise past everyone and don't feel any stress in my legs. The people that walk the path are diverse, yet easily categorized: pregnant blondes that wear yoga pants and pastel colored track jackets, elderly couples clad in white striped shirts and white walking shoes, young Mexican couples with at least four kids that look like they were born consecutively, etc. Same folks every day, except not really.
My new bike carries me like the wind. Sometimes I race with my friend Kristin all the way to Huntington Beach and stay the afternoon. Watch the surfers. Read a book. Smoke a joint. Ride back. We go fast, but I think I'm faster. I'm like a bullet. I'm becoming a superhero. Tomorrow I'll tie a cape to my shoulders, and I'll probably take flight.
Turns out I'm invincible. Over the weekend Kristin and I went white-water rafting on the American River. What an animal! Class V rapids the entire seventeen mile stretch. On the thirteenth mile our raft flipped. Kristin and I could have easily drowned. Fortunately, I discovered I have gills and fins for such occasions. I discovered it just in time to save Kristin and myself from tragic early deaths.
I also discovered I can fly. I can't do it on my bike though. Not yet, at least. Only at night when I'm completely alone, and I've lost all consciousness of Adelina. Guess you could call it an incentive to get over her.
Adelina calls me on a profoundly hot Tuesday in August at four o'clock in the morning. I see that it is she, but I refuse to answer. What type of rational person calls at this hour? She leaves a message and I check it immediately. She goes on and on about needing to talk. Tonight I will be unable to fly. I will be unable to fly for the next two weeks.
I'm at a Labor Day barbeque somewhere in East Los Angeles. There's this girl, Mari or Maria or Marisol or something. She tells me she's studying to be a teacher and she wants to work with only the worst case scenarios. I think I qualify - I'm pretty bad off (at least when in human form). Maybe I could even teach her a thing or two.
She's very attractive, I think. But I'm also drunk as hell from about seven Cuba Libres and I haven't been laid in months. So I get this girl, Mari or Maria or Marisol, to go out with me by telling her that I have just seven months to live and wouldn't it be sad if the most beautiful girl in East LA didn't throw a dying dog a bone?
A Most Memorable Date with Mari or Maria or Marisol:
* 2:09 - I call this girl hoping that she won't pick up and I'll finally catch her name on her voice mail. She doesn't pick up. What I hear is "you must not know about me, you must not know about me, I could have another you in a minute...leave a message." I say, "Hey, it's me, Monica. Just wanted to confirm for tonight. Give me a call."
* 2:31 - Strike One (you must not know about me) sinks in and I make myself a Cuba Libre with Havana Club Gold and half a lime.
* 3:06 - I get a text from the girl that says "u wanna meat l8er?" I reply with "I'm a vegetarian." She doesn't respond to that. Strikes Two and Three: 2) childish abbreviations and misspellings of common words; 3) no sense of humor, or worse - she doesn't get it. I'm on my second Cuba.
* 3:22 - My friend Kristin convinces me to split a hit of acid with her, assuring me that its effects will last no longer than three hours.
* 5:16 - Kristin and I are at a Cuban themed café . We're eating Cuban tapas and drinking mojitos. Kristin screams "Viva La Revolucion, Viva Fidel" aloud, amongst other inaudible rants. An Asian guy in a Hawaiian shirt escorts us out of the café .
* 6:39 - Kristin and I believe ourselves to be the incarnations of Gertrude Stein (Kristin) and Diane DiPrima (me).
* 7:41 - My date calls me. She says, "I know we said dinner, but it's already late so maybe just drinks?" I say, "Sure." She says, "I'm leaving right now. I'll call you when I'm in your neighborhood." I say, "Sounds good." Strike Four - she's flaky.
* 8:00 - I realize that Diane DiPrima is still alive. I must be somebody else.
* 9:03 - My date calls me and says, "Sorry, I'm running behind. I'm exiting the freeway right now. How do I get to your house?" I give her directions. Strike Five - she's late.
* 9:38 - She lied last time she called. That much is certain. I'm finishing a Cuba, and marking Strike Six (lying) and Strike Seven (one for good measure in case I've missed something in my stupor).
* 9:57 - She calls and says she's outside. I head out and down the stairs.
She hugs me. She's wearing a halter top, which reveals erect nipples. They are growing out of her top, and I can't break the stare. Should I tell her, I think? They are beginning to look like missiles and they might well take off right out of her shirt before my own eyes, and any others that might happen upon them and really, who could peal their eyes away from this spectacle? Fuck it. She won't believe me. I tell her she looks hot. She laughs. She's not nearly as hot when she does. Strike Eight. She giggles out some flirtation about my invasive stare. I could tell her the truth - that she's about to become a circus show - but then she might hide them. So instead I just giggle back and tell her to park in my driveway and why don't we have a drink at the corner bar? She parks and we walk.
I can tell she's unaware of my condition, even as I trip through the entrance of the bar. It's kind of divey - definitely not her type of place. Posters of punk bands decorate the walls, and the clientele are heavily tattooed and pierced. The juke blares out the Sex Pistols as we enter, and I guide her to the only nice booth at the bar. There's even a candle, and I say, "this is a good spot, don't you think?" To which she laughs for no reason, but doesn't answer with words.
She orders a Coors Light. Strike Nine. I order a Cuba Libre. Extra slice of lime, please. Mari or Maria or Marisol starts on this long dramatic telling of her life story. I'm very insulted, as the pretense for this date was my dying. You'd think she'd at least want to know about it, right? Evidently not. Strike Ten. But at least it takes the pressure off me to talk, which, given my state, is much needed relief. All I do is nod and say "really?" or "no way," or "you're serious?" I suspect I could be on life support and she wouldn't notice.
She talks and talks and doesn't stop, and I just stare at her face to keep from staring at anything else that might be dancing around in my periphery. Control it, I think. You can pull through it - just pay attention, I think. To keep myself entertained, I insert oddly chosen phrases into the conversation just to see if she notices. So I say of the man she's bitching about, "what a flaming dog," and later when she tells me her sister's in-laws won $25,000 in Vegas last month, I say, "Mary on a milk carton!" Like I give a good goddamn about any of this shit! Out of sheer boredom, I keep on with the weird remarks. How far can I push it, I wonder? And I keep on drinking Cubas. At this point, there's absolutely no telling how many I've had, and it wouldn't matter anyway. I can't feel them. All I can feel is the dwindling effects of Kristin's three hour hit that I took considerably more than three hours ago. She tells me her sister's husband's cousin's best friend was neighbors with Cheech Marin. "Christ on crack cocaine," I say. I don't shout it with any great excitement as one might imagine. Rather, I just sort of mumble it as one might mumble, "you're kidding." She laughs. I don't even think she heard me actually. I think she's still laughing at this glorious coincidence, whose connection to her own life's drama I couldn't even begin to guess.
After what seems like an eternity, she tells me she's tired and she has a long drive back to Boyle Heights. I walk her to her car. Earlier in the day I had planned to show this woman a smokin' hot time, but Ten Strikes later, I'm ready to be alone with my thoughts and superhuman abilities, so I tell her goodnight and I kiss her. It's not a long kiss, but rather a short one done of obligation. It grosses me out, to be honest. I go up the stairs to my apartment where I smoke a roach that had been sitting there for a day or two just waiting for a moment like this - a moment in need of a nightcap. I turn on the classic Dylan Desire album and float into oblivion.
Tonight I leap from the Vincent Thomas Bridge just to experience free fall. Right before I hit the water I freeze in midair, facedown and stare into the eyes of a wise old catfish as he makes his way to the surface to greet me. He says, "Love is a serious mental disease" and then laughs before swimming out of my life forever. He is the second (or third or fourth or fifth) coming of Plato. This is when I know that human beings can be reincarnated as fish. I hope that doesn't happen to me, I think. How terribly dull.
Her name means sugar in Persian. One might take that to mean she is sweet. She is not.
I meet her at a hamburger place turned nightclub. Her long black locks swing from side to side (and so does her voluptuous body) as she dances to obnoxiously loud (and seemingly misplaced) hip-hop beats. She sees me, smiles coyly, and moves towards the sidelines where I hang out super cool indulging myself in the sights and sounds of hot feminine bodies emerging from faux club smoke.
She presses her body against me. Her breasts are balloons that float lazily into me again and again and again. She forces me onto the dance floor, and though I don't dance, I realize quickly that I don't have to; she pulls me into her and puts my hand flush up against her round ass. "Do you like this?" she asks. I really can't say no, so instead I sink my teeth into her neck and listen to her moan against beats I do not pretend to understand.
Two nights later she tells me she has a girlfriend and no offense to me, but she'd like to try fidelity.
My friend Kristin visits me one random night in late September. She comes bearing gifts that can be smoked, snorted, eaten, or injected. Take your pick, she tells me. We snort this purplish substance that Egyptian kings used to seduce young servant boys, she tells me. Fifteen minutes later and we're Egyptian kings chasing through the city streets of urban america.
"I've invented a new name for myself," Kristin shouts. Her yelling fills the supermarket. I'm in Aisle Eight perusing the many varieties of cereal; she's skating towards me using the cart as a scooter. I don't know what in Ralph's inspired this. "You can call me alexa the great." She smiles grandly as though world peace has just been achieved through karmic osmosis.
It has been several months since I last heard from Adelina. And since then I have been busying myself curing AIDS, healing relations in the Middle East, satisfying global hunger, and restoring the nation's recently blemished name as a result. Guess with all that's keeping me occupied, I've hardly noticed her absence.
Then today she calls me.
"Hey Monica...I know I'm probably the last person in the world you want to hear from right now," she begins.
"No, that would be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's got a thing against gays, and I'm no exception," I say. I mean, really - does she actually think she's that important?
"Well, whatever," she says. She asks me how I'm doing, and before I can answer she launches into a lengthy recounting of her recent trip to Japan.
On a random Friday night I find myself at the most odious of all places: a lesbian nightclub. Because I'm musically sensitive the sounds alone nearly cause my untimely death on the side of the dance floor; I take what little life energy I have left, and inebriate myself to save myself. At some point between my fourth and fifth Cuba, this woman I know from the neighborhood - let's just call her Linear Y - attacks me with her sharply sculpted body. At first I try to resist. But alexa shows up in her dancing gear and tells me I'm a superstar and this is what superstars do when they're training for their big event and aren't I training for my big event? An arguable point, for sure, I think as Linear Y crosses my X with dirty talk and a few extra shots of rum for good measure.
Good measure, indeed, I think the next day as I awake naked, rapped up like a burrito in her blankets, not quite sure what the hell happened, but taking some educated guesses based on physical clues left around her room and sensual ones left on my body. It's an awkward morning. Linear Y offers to drive me home, but instead I glide the three block stretch, my feet hovering just above the ground so the weight of my body against the concrete doesn't crack me in half.
It's a seemingly nondescript Monday when Adelina calls me sounding shaken, to say the least. Her voice is all over the place, and her words, if there are any, are completely incoherent. This is not normal. She has to take another call, she says. She puts me on hold and after a minute, I hang up. If I know Adelina, she'll call back. And she'll call at four in the morning when I'm dead asleep and she's got a party up her nose and a dire need to talk.
The phone rings within a few minutes, much to my surprise. Now able to speak, Adelina tells me that her mother is very sick. She has advanced cervical cancer. She never smoked or drank or did half the things we do, she tells me. Her voice cracks when she says this. Her mother stayed faithful to an abusive man for thirty years. Adelina tells me this between sobs. Her mother, she tells me, contracted HPV from him. She needs to get out, she tells me. She needs to be away from her father.
I listen and listen. There are no words I can say so I listen some more. Finally she hangs up with me. I wonder if I could ever be honest. I close my eyes and she appears. She tells me she misses me. I tell her I haven't seen her in almost a year. She tells me she's changing - she doesn't want to ditch college anymore. No, she's moving out of her parents' place and she's going to finish up school (she's a seventh year sophomore). I tell her she can go ahead with her grand plans and win a Nobel Prize and it won't make a damn difference to me. She cries that she's an evolving woman and please can't I just believe in her? I tell her change is not retroactively applied to personal relationships, and it's unfortunate that it has taken her to age 26 to know this. I open my eyes and she is gone. Her mother is a beautiful woman. I will never be honest.
Later that night she comes over and brings a few things. She just needs a few days, she tells me. All things considered, she's in good spirits. We have a few drinks. I tell her some jokes. She laughs and I'm happy to distract her. Later, in the silence, I'm out of jokes. I'm out of words completely.
I hold Adelina in my arms.
She tells me I look thin. She tells me my bones are jutting out of my face, and really, I should eat more. Adelina takes me in her arms. This is what love is, I think. Was it like this before?
I don't know how long we'll last in each other's arms. It's a new type of affection. It has neither beginning, nor end. It just is.
Tonight I will fly.
I roll a joint. I light it. I hit it hard and pass it to Adelina. She hits it hard too. We put on some Johnny Cash and hold each other under the framed portrait of Frida Kahlo.
She neglects to tell me about the beast of a woman who replaced my affections after we broke up. I neglect to tell her that I can fly and am often called upon to solve world crises. There are so many things we'll never tell each other, personal narratives that will remain a secret for as long as we know each other. When she asks me what I'm writing, I tell her nothing, and finish the sentence, finish the story, before putting her to sleep on my satin-draped sofa, and taking flight into morning on my eight pound bike.
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