Venus de Milo and how we got here

venusdemiloI woke up this morning in J’s arms, all tangled in sheets and legs and arms, his hair sticking in weird directions. He was talking in his sleep again… I usually try to answer him. It was something about a department store. This time instead of falling back asleep, he woke up and told me his dream, mumbling half awake… I liked the dream:

We were at a department store and I took a big statue of Venus de Milo and put it on a couch, and it made a woman faint, because she was so shocked I would do that. And then J had asked where the sharpie section was, and they didn’t have sharpies. And then the management tried to kick us out because they were angry at me about the statue incident.

That was his dream. I don’t know why but I liked it. Then, a tiny bit more awake, he asked: “Did you take a naked picture by the sign at the 45th parallel near Portland, too?” I had shown him that naked picture of me under the Tropic of Cancer sign in Mexico yesterday. The one Brian took of me in 2006.

Brian and I had been driving back from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego in his old Jeep with the torn zip-on roof that he insisted driving with the roof off for most of the drive. The drive down took us a week — it’s like 1,000 miles or something — but on the way back up, we had bought some meth and did the whole drive in 3 days. The Tropic of Cancer marker is pretty close to Cabo, so when we got there I was still riding high, not yet in the horrible coming down part. Anyway, I don’t know what got into me — I like signs, geography, geographical markers — and of course Tropic of Cancer reminds me of the Henry Miller book, one of my favorites. And for some reason I decided to take off all my clothes and get Brian to take a picture of me under the sign. It’s a big sign, with two posts holding it up on either side. I’m holding each post and kind of draping myself, one hip up, staring languidly at the camera. We tried to take the photo dozens of times but the sun had just gone down and it was too dark for a good photo. Finally a big semi truck passed and we used the light from the headlights to illuminate me. It looks like a flash photo but it isn’t.

Anyway, I showed J that photo yesterday and that’s what he asked me about when he woke up… I wonder if that had something to do with the Venus de Milo dream.

I want to write more about J but I don’t want to say something crazy like how much I’m in love with him and then have it not work out and then I would feel silly… We knew each other from last year, he was my dealer’s boyfriend when I had that relapse in October… then he went into a coma from shooting dope that was on the floor and I guess had some bacteria in it… all his organs shut down and he had a 30 percent chance of dying. My dealer, Caroline, was one of those pretty girls who wears a lot of makeup, she had long red hair, gorgeous… but she did a lot of meth and she kept getting weird sores and stuff on her skin… anyway, she was frantic… she was always frantic, but when J went into a coma she completely lost it. He woke up two weeks later but he had to be on dialysis for months, he couldn’t walk util four months later… sometime in this chaotic situation, with Caroline still dealing drugs, selling me bags of dope right out of his hospital room sometimes… right before Christmas he decided to go back to New Jersey with his mom, to recuperate away from the chaos of Caroline and drug dealing. Two months later Caroline got a new boyfriend. He came back in March.

When I started thinking about leaving M. again, I went back on OK Cupid… in April, I think. J found me there… we had a 90% match or something. He messaged me something like, “Hi! The last time you saw me I was in a hospital bed with tubes and wires coming out of me… how the hell are you? Do you want to hang out?” I didn’t see the message for two months, but when I did, my heart skipped a little — you know when you have a crush on someone but you don’t want to totally admit it, because you and the other person are both in a relationship? I’m too loyal to cheat, even when a relationship is deteriorating like M’s and mine was. M and I were mostly just friends for a long long time, especially in the last year. But I still felt awful having a crush.

I do know that when I met Caroline and J for the first time, last year, I was instantly attracted to him. He’s my type — tall, 6 feet, skinny, I think he’s at 160 pounds right now, dark hair, intense look — and more importantly, he has that *thing* — that darkness. The first thing I noticed about him was that he has a Frank Lloyd Wright tattoo on his forearm.

I had bought some dope in Portland last summer, August 7th was my relapse date last year. Unfortunately I bought enough dope to last me several days. By the time I ran out, it had been long enough to go into withdrawal. I didn’t know any dealers here in Eugene. So I desperately texted this escort I knew here, who I knew was a junkie. She texted me back Caroline’s number. Caroline texted back to meet me at the Dairy Queen — she wrote, “I’m the one who looks like someone in a Jane Fonda workout video, neon and pink shorts.” She was right about that. She was pretty and I instantly felt like an ugly slob in my hastily thrown-on clothes — I was dopesick, remember, I wasn’t about to put on a bunch of makeup or worry about how hot I looked. And J was there, skinny jeans, black t-shirt, long messy dark hair — I don’t think I let myself realize how attracted I was to him, because Caroline was so hot I felt like I never had a chance to get him.

We were talking about this the other day and I said I felt lucky that I did end up getting him — he said, “good thing I almost died.” I said, “What?” and he said that when he went into the coma it had the effect of separating him and Caroline, when he had to get better and she couldn’t get clean. I was hanging out with her a lot then — she kept almost getting evicted from her house, she had a revolving cast of tweakers in her living room doing all kinds of drugs — it really wasn’t a setting where someone who needed dialysis twice a week could recuperate in a stable setting. I was also with her when she found out he had left for Jersey. He told me he was scared to tell her himself. I think he let his sister text Caroline.

Caroline and I were driving up to Portland to buy dope when she got the text — she had already been calling and texting the sister all day, trying to get ahold of J — he didn’t have his own phone at the time. When she found out he was already on a plane to Jersey, she started sobbing, and ranted to me for the whole drive about how horrible J’s family was.

Anyway. So fast-forward to July of this year. J and I had texted each other a few times but I was too busy with school and then we kept playing phone tag — we finally hung out on July 7th. Met at a bar, talked and drank all night, came back here and talked and drank some more, ended up making out for hours, I finally dragged him into bed….

He’s been at my house ever since. He was staying at his friend’s place, not paying rent, but still, he hasn’t been “home” in about a month, and even then it was only for a few hours. He has brought more and more stuff over here… I confessed all this stuff to him yesterday about how much I like him and how scared I am that something is going to happen or he’s going to just leave or something — later he commented something about how he feels like his personal appearance is going downhill, he said, “I haven’t been doing laundry or showering as often or anything — I just haven’t wanted to go home to get my other clothes, I guess I do that clingy stuff too, latching on — I just haven’t wanted to be apart from you.”

His appearance is fine, though. I can’t keep my hands off him, wherever we are, I just want to grab him, all the time. It’s extremely distracting. It’s a good thing my last class ended in mid-August and it was an easy class. If I had anything else going on right now, I don’t know if I would be able to do it. My internship starts in two weeks, in Portland, and I’m terrified of what’s going to happen. J’s summer job just ended and he hasn’t found a new one yet, and I’ve been trying to convince him to move to Portland with me, but he actually lives in Eugene, he’s not just a student like I was. He has friends, a life, all that stuff. He’s 37 and has been here for 15 years. I’ve been in Eugene on and off since 2009 and have pretty much hated it the entire time — just when I meet someone, fall head over heels in love with someone, actually start enjoying being in Eugene — now I have to leave?

It’s only been two months that we’ve been together, but it feels like longer.

The other night we were listening to Lana Del Rey in the car, that song “Old Money,” and he started crying. He didn’t really show it but I could hear his breathing catch a little and he wiped a tear off his cheek. I wonder what he was thinking about.

Blue hydrangea, cold cash divine
Cashmere, cologne and white sunshine
Red racing cars, sunset and vine
The kids were young and pretty

Where have you been?
Where did you go?
Those summer nights seem long ago
And so is the girl you used to call
The queen of New York City

But if you send for me, you know I’ll come
And if you call for me, you know I’ll run
I’ll run to you, I’ll run to you
I’ll run, run, run
I’ll come to you, I’ll come to you
I’ll come, come, come

The power of youth is on my mind
Sunsets, small town, I’m out of time
Will you still love me when I shine
From words but not from beauty

My father’s love was always strong
My mother’s glamour lives on and on
Yet still inside, I felt alone
For reasons unknown to me

create the clues and the world follows — soon the clues will start to reappear and the new home will reveal itself.

Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats wooding up;

And I, plunging at the hunters, corner’d and desperate;
in the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless
workmen working in their shops,
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof — and no less in myself than the
whole of the Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands — 

I wanted to write about performativity but I don’t think I have time… meeting a friend in an hour.

It’s been strange since M. left. He’s in Alaska now. I haven’t lived alone for five years… or really, ever. I always lived in houses crammed with housemates and random people crashing on the couch, or tiny apartments crammed with me, Eva, tons of cats, and whoever we were dating at the time. Or cars or vans or shitty motel rooms with evil men. Places where carving out a corner that was mine was my singular goal.

I used to crave time and space alone. When Brian and I moved into a bigger apartment in Thailand, it had this tiny little random room off to the side that I immediately claimed for myself. It was probably the only assertive thing I ever did against him. I would go in there, lock the door, and write, for hours. That little room saved my life. Sometimes he would bang on the door and yell. I just turned up my music louder.

But now when I’m alone in my apartment I have this feeling like, now what? If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound, and if I do stuff alone, is it really happening? I find I have almost no sense of identity without people around. Like my sense of self only exists defined in relation and opposition to other people.

I walk around the city a lot. It’s not really a city, but I can pretend. I kind of feel like I’m floating a lot of the time.

Performativity reminds me of this conversation I had with G. on Facebook yesterday. [For those of you not intimately acquainted with my life story, G. was that crazy Spaniard I was with through high school and on and off for years… that tortured first love. But you knew that.]

I was posting a bunch of old pictures from high school… one of them was of one of the exotic fruit picnics I used to have with G.’s sister. I was a grocery store cashier and I would use my discount to buy starfruit, guava, mango, kumquat, and so on. Anyway, it’s a photo of me holding a fig in my fingertips, looking at the camera with a quizzical, faraway look. Then this conversation ensued:

G: “Possible LSD day w weird fruit? U do have that look in yr eye.”

me: “Actually there was no LSD involved on this particular day. I just always had a crazed look… I still have a crazed look.”

G.: “the way you have of holding fruit w the tips of yr fingers, like crucial ontological readings are being taken”

me: “A lot of these pictures remind me that I was kind of living in a dreamworld, where ideas and archetypes and stories were much more real than reality, until I was in my early 20s.”

G.: “Yes. And i don’t think I was like that: obv. in my own world to some extent, but was mostly a kind of lunkhead materialist, clever enough to understand that I was participating, thru you, in a world of like, Platonic ideals, but generally as a kind of phantom visitor in that world. Not experiencing it firsthand, but thru your eyes.
You were living with a surplus of meanings/portends etc, and I was kind of struggling to find meaning anywhere. The stolid Beckett to your flaming Joyce or something. If that makes sense. And lordy, I hope you know how good that was for me.”

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ve been thinking about that exchange… wondering if I ever actually grew out of the archetypes and stories and dreaming the world alive.

Create the clues and the world follows.
Soon the clues will start to reappear and the new home will reveal itself.

I remember after Elliott Smith died, I read some big analytical article about how he was writing songs about drugs and addiction before he really fell into addiction in real life. They said it like he wrote himself into the story of being a drug addict.

I was barely a year into my own addiction at the time, but I recognized that in myself. In fact, listening to Elliott Smith songs like “Needle in the Hay” and “Good to Go” on repeat for years was the premise for my own fall. I remember feeling this sense of pulling, toward what I didn’t know. Eventually I found it.

Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she’s mine for life. 

You write yourself into a story and then get stuck watching it turn into a nightmare. For years I wondered if the key to getting clean was to write myself out of the story. To give the story a twist, uncover a secret the main character didn’t know, find the turning point.

I tried getting clean the way other people did, but it never worked, because my storyteller kept writing myself back into my addiction. I needed a new story.

When I finally did it, it felt like conjuring a universe out of thin air. No wonder I feel like I’m floating.

* * *

strange world
but will be coming home again shortly

portland
in the morning
walking
cold

i am the thing that goes on