Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't give me no hand-me-down love...

It was Valentine's day. It was a Friday, and although we hadn't really made any plans, it was just a given that we would see each other that night...unless she found something she'd rather do. We hadn't talked about it being the holiday, just as I dared not talk about her being my girlfriend, but I knew I was going to try to do something special, nevertheless. I hadn't gotten a job since I'd come back to town, so that afternoon, I pawned some comic books for some quick cash & set out to buy her a present.

I should probably say before I go any further that I am, without a doubt, the worst possible shopper on the planet. I am terrible at picking out things for girls, totally clueless when it comes to fashion, still have no concept of women's sizes, and and I f*cking hate being in a store for more than 90 seconds with all the ads & mannequins & thick perfume & the goddamn shoes. Shopping to me should go something like this: A man stands outside a store & thinks to himself "I'm cold.". He goes into the store, and 2 minutes later he's outside with a new coat. He thinks to himself "I'm not cold anymore." Shopping's over.

So, I brace myself for it & choose the least possibly painful place; the local hippie store; you know, with the jewelry & the little carved incense holders & the skull bongs & the flowered dresses...I figure there's gotta be something unique there. Now, if I didn't already face enough of a hurdle, Kara had to be the hardest girl to shop for on the planet; she wasn't a girly-girl at all; she didn't wear makeup (she didn't need it), she didn't give a damn about clothes, she didn't wear jewelry to speak of, she didn't wear know, now that I think about it, I should have just bought her a damn album - there was a Tower Records right under the hippie store - but I wanted to be romantic, so sue me.

As I'm there perusing the tie-dyes & lava lamps, I feel the panic start to set in; the walls start to close in on me, Hendrix's eyes keep following me from the blacklight corner...I knew I had to get a grip & get out soon. As I moved down the aisle, I saw a little jewelry rack with a piece hanging off it that caught me eye; it was a necklace, a little black arrowhead set inside a silver casing with a plain, black cord. She wasn't the necklace type really, like I said, but something about this just looked like her; she didn't have the blood, but she had semi-Native-American looking features, and she liked that whole aesthetic, so I thought it might just be perfect. It was cheap, too, so extra bonus.

So, I bought the necklace & headed home to see if my mom had some little frilly box to wrap it in. I was proud as hell of myself, if I do say so; I actually thought I had gotten the perfect present. It was pretty, but it was very simple; it was a piece of jewelry, which was a boyfriend-type present, but it was cool & understated enough to not raise any flags; and, above all, I really thought she would like it. I stopped at a little stand that sells roses a few blocks away & bought three red ones, just to hedge my bets. I was going to stop and get something simple I could make for dinner, as well, but I remembered at that point that roses are fucking expensive & I didn't have enough cash left over, so home I went.

She called at about sundown & asked what I was doing; I told her nothing much, and that she should come over, 'cus i had gotten her something. She asked why I had gotten her a present, and I told her because it was Valentine's Day, to which she immediately reminded me that she wasn't my girlfriend, and I didn't have to buy her anything for Valentines. I was fully expecting this, so I just said that it wasn't a big deal; I had just felt like getting her something, and not to worry - it wasn't an engagement ring or anything like that. She laughed and said she'd be over soon, so I hung up the phone & started to get ready.

My mom didn't have a box for the necklace, so I figured I'd just do the old trick where you tell 'em to turn around & then you drape it over them & clasp it behind them, and they look down & say "Awww, I love you" & kiss you & then you both live happily ever after. Then I remembered who I was dealing with & figured I'd have to skip that last part for now. So, I sat there on my couch for a while, watching TV, waiting for her to arrive. I had the necklace in my hand, and after a few minutes, I absent-mindedly began twirling it around on my finger. I didn't even really notice I was doing it; I was just watching the TV, when all of a sudden, the necklace flew off my finger & shot across the room. It hit the wall behind my bed, and I heard a faint 'snap' as it did. I got up to go pick it up & as I reached down, I saw that when it had hit the wall, the little teeny tip of the arrowhead had broken off, leaving a jagged tip.

Oh fine, I thought, this is all I need. I studied it to see if I could maybe glue the tip back on, but it was a pretty small break & god knows where the tip flew off to. I thought that maybe she might not notice; maybe it was a special, blunt arrowhead or something. But I didn't really have time to form a plan, 'cus right then I heard Kara's car screetch into the driveway at her customary 40MPH. I had only seconds...and there was nothing I could do. I put the necklace in my pocket & went to answer the door.

I opened the back door & she strolled right on in past me & headed back to my room. I followed her back & reached out to give her a kiss. She intercepted me on the way to her lips as she sometimes did & gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, before looking up at me with those big brown eyes, smiling & asking "So what'd ya' get me?"

I took a breath, stepped back & pulled the necklace out of my pocket & held it behind my back. I told her to close her eyes & turn around. She said "Oh, come on, just give it to me!", but I told her to turn around again & she finally did with a little pout. I reached over her & put the necklace around her neck, but before I could fasten it or say anything, she bolted forward out of my arms, giggling & grabbing the necklace, saying "I want to see it!".

She held the necklace up to look at it, and I immediately launched into my explanation: Look, baby, here's the deal; I went and picked this out for you, and I thought it would look really pretty on you, and so I was sitting here waiting for you & I was, like, twirling it around on my finger, you know, and then all of a sudden, it just flew out of my hands & it hit the wall! It only happened a second ago, and I didn't have time to even see if I could fix it before you got here, 'cus you walked right in, and if you want, I'll get you another one or something, but I wanted to go ahead and give it to you, because it's Valentine's Day, and I love you, and...

The necklace hit me square in the face. It caught me right under the eye, and I guess at that point I should have been glad the point was broken. Then she threw her keys at me, too, and as I ducked, she started yelling at me; What the hell was I thinking? I buy her a present for Valentine's Day, when nobody asked me to do that, because I'm NOT her boyfriend, and then when she gets over here, I hand her something that's already broken, with some lame sob story to back it up as soon as she walks in the door. And do I think that some stupid little necklace is going to somehow trick her into thinking that she's my girlfriend, no matter that we spend every waking hour we can together? And didn't she remember me buying Gloria some kinda fancy earrings for Valentine's Day, and all she gets is this stupid necklace? And why the hell would I buy her an arrowhead anyway; she's not Native American & she's tired as hell of people saying she looks like it? What the hell was I thinking?

Well, I figured at that point, the safest thing to do was just to keep quiet, 'cus anything I could say at this point could potentially be explosive. I had never had anyone get mad at me for tying to buy them a present before, but I guess I should have know that, if anyone was going to, it would be her. So, she shoved me aside, picked up her keys, left the necklace, turned to me & said "I'm going to Laurie's!", and walked out. I remember I just slumped right back down onto my couch without even looking, and just went into shock for moment.

Ok, I thought to myself, so she's a little high-strung, neurotic, and fiercely independent sometimes, and maybe a wee bit crazy, but still....what just happened? I knew there had to be something else wrong; she wouldn't be that mad just over the necklace; there's something she's not telling me. One possibility was that she had known full well it was Valentine's Day, and had found herself actually looking forward to it, and that had freaked her out, and so she blew up. Things like that had happened before; Kara wasn't exactly the most comfortable person expressing her feelings...or even having them sometimes. She would get scared & freak out often when she would find herself getting too close to me for her comfort, and I thought...or hoped, that was what had happened. Either that, or she's done something she feels guilty about, and is freaking out about me doing something nice for her when she feels so guilty; that had happened before, too.

Whatever the case, she was gone, and I knew I wouldn't hear from her for a few hours at least; I could go out & head over to Laurie's or some of our regular stomping grounds & probably find her, but she wouldn't want to talk to me still. I'd have to wait 'til later that night, when she'd inevitably calm down, feel bad & call me....and sure enough, a few hours later at about 11, she did.

I answered the phone knowing it was her - nobody else called that late - and was greeted with the customary 5 seconds of silence, followed by the usual "....hi!" I could tell she wasn't mad anymore, and I breathed a sigh of relief; my mental state was pretty much dependent on hers back then, and I had been pacing the last few hours. I said 'hi' back, and she said "Ok, I'm sorry....but you shouldn't have bought me a present." I asked her why, and she said "Because I didn't get you anything..."

So, I told her it was ok that she hadn't gotten me anything; I didn't want anything but her in the first place, and I just wanted to give her something I thought she'd like. She said, "Well, it was nice, but didn't have to".

I said "Why, because you're not my girlfriend?"

"X (remember, she always called me by my initial), please don't start this again..."

"Why not, Kara? Just how many weeks & months on end do we have to be together constantly before someone's your boyfriend? How many nights do you sleep with them ,or tell 'em you love 'em? Sometimes I think you just don't wanna say I'm your boyfriend just so you'll have an excuse if you feel like sleeping with somebody else I know!"

"You know it's not like that; I just don't like that word..."

"Well, what word would you call me, then?"

"You're X."

"And that's all?"

"And you're special. And I care about you. And thank you."

"So, you liked the necklace?"

"Well, it was sweet, but I don't really wear jewelry, you know that....and besides, it IS broken"

"Well, I said I'd get you another one..."

"No, that's ok, don't do was sweet tho. Thank you."

At that point, I figured I'd take what I could get & quit while I was ahead, so I told her it was ok, we made up, and we were laughing about something else a few minutes later. I was almost becoming used to little episodes like this...and truthfully, I'm sure the fact that she was so explosive & unpredictable was one of the reasons I loved her in the first place, but I still felt like I was fighting an uphill battle. Even so, we went on to talk for our customary 2+ hours, and then we said goodbye so she could go to bed.

After I hung up the phone, I picked up the necklace off the floor & decided I might as well put it on...I kinda liked it myself, after all. And it looked pretty sweet on me, I thought; the broken tip gave it character. I wore that thing night & day, never taking it off, for another 2 years.

The necklace...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You don't have to call me darlin', darlin'...

I think I knew all along I was fighting a losing battle. From the minute I decided to move back home, I knew it was a mistake. I had grand dreams in my head of the two of us riding off into some sunset together, and I'm pretty sure even then I knew that's all they were. I knew she cared about me, but I also knew how she was, and I knew that, more than anything else, Kara was the queen of the free spirits; she was young, she was full of life & full of curiosity...she was like a little force of nature...and how do you grab hold of something like that?

We were actually a lot alike, she & I. I always said I saw a lot of myself in her; neither of us cared much what other people thought, or about keeping up with the latest fashions, or about how we could make the most money...but we were both looking for something in life; something more than the people around us. We would always talk about how everyone we knew seemed so content to just settle...nobody seemed to want to reach for anything in life. I always knew what i wanted to do; since I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to make movies, and I knew I would someday. She didn't quite know what she wanted to be, but she knew she wanted to be something...she didn't want to marry some blue-collar guy like her mom did & settle down & have babies right away, she had dreams, I never had any doubt that she would do something about them...I just hoped I could be along for the ride.

In some ways, back then I was almost following her dreams more than I was mine; somehow, through arrogance or just blind stupidity, I've always just taken it for granted that I would get to do what I wanted someday, so I've never been as driven or as motivated as I should be. I've been lucky, but had I actually tried & worked toward it more, I would undoubtedly be a lot farther along than I am today...but I digress...

Anyway, a couple of days after I moved back, she came over one night while my mom was gone, and after we finally stopped having sex, we just laid there & talked for hours. She told me about everything she had been doing since I had been gone. She & Heidi weren't talking because they had gotten into a fight over something I can't remember, her friend Laurie had gone through surgery & had finally met a guy she was thinking about losing her eternal-virginity to, Jeff & Alison were still dating & going strong...and oh yeah, she had slept with my friend Mark while I was gone...

I remember the way she said it, like she had only at the last minute realized she had said something wrong. I bolted out of bed, and screamed "You did what?". Okay, so Mark & I hadn't talked much in a while, and technically, Kara & I had no obligation to each other...but still, it hit me like a knife in the chest, and I couldn't think straight. She started explaining the situation right away - she wasn't being defensive, because she didn't think she had done anything wrong - but she told me what happened; they had been at a party, and had been drinking (if I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone start a sentence like that...this is why I rarely drink), and Alice had left without her, and one thing had led to another, and it didn't mean anything, and yadda yadda...none of which calmed me down in the slightest.

So, I shot right back at her; how could you do this, you know how I feel, you know he's a friend of mine, who do I have to blow in this town to make the women I love stop fucking my friends, yadda yadda...the whole feeling was starting to become sickeningly familiar by this point. So, she gave it right back to me, telling me I had no right to talk, because I was sleeping with her when I was still with Gloria, and furthermore, there were probably other things I had done that I hadn't told her about...things she'd heard rumors about.

I didn't know what she meant by this, so I asked her "Like what things?"

She answered "What about Heidi? Huh?"

Me: "What about Heidi? What are you talking about?"

She looked at me with those brown eyes of hers all squinted up like she was looking right through me, and she said "Did you sleep with Heidi?"

Now, let me say right now that when I heard her ask me that question, I knew right then and there that she must already know the answer, and if she didn't, it was a miracle & the subterfuge would surely not last much longer. I knew in that split-second that the right thing to do was just to tell the truth, and just deal with it. After all, I hadn't done anything wrong by sleeping with Heidi...Kara was probably doing it with Joe in the next room while it was happening. But regardless, for some reason that I still don't understand today, when she asked me that question, I looked her dead in the eye & without hesitation, I said "No....I didn't."

That moment right then & there might have been the crucible of our relationship.

She started at me and said "Are you sure?", and I knew right then that I had just dug myself a hole that I was never getting out of. I denied it again, and finally I managed to steer the conversation back to my feelings being hurt - 'cus that was what was really important, you see - and the Heidi issue was buried..for a time. Eventually, she said she was sorry for what happened with Mark....but that she still hadn't done anything wrong. I knew she was right, but I wanted her to feel like she had done something wrong; I just wanted her to care about me like I did her....or to at least have the common decency to lie to me when she screws one of my friends, like I did. I didn't really think that, but at that moment, if it really was a one-time thing, I sure wish I hadn't known.

Anyway, a few hours later, we were naked & sweaty again....I think she knew that there was basically nothing she could do that I wouldn't forgive her for, and I felt like an even bigger chump than I already did...but at that moment, she was there with me & not Mark or anyone else...and that's all I really cared about.

Over the next few weeks, we developed a kind of routine; we would hang out pretty much every day, but my mom would go stay at her fiance's house every Tuesday & Thursday night, so those became our nights for her to sleep over...and the first few nights like that were just magic; she would come over & I would make dinner (badly; or I'd buy it & pretend I'd made it), then we'd lie around & laugh at stuff on TV or take a drive around the park or somewhere, then we'd go home & make love for hours & then lie there talking about anything & everything until the sun came up. For a few hours at a time, I was able to make myself believe we were a real couple.

Christmas was about a month after I had gotten back, and try as I might, I can't remember what I got her or what she got me (if anything). I don't think I went overboard with something expensive, or I would have remembered it, and I do remember thinking that I should get her something small but nice, so it didn't freak her out, 'cus as soon as I would start to want more from our relationship, she would start to pull away. Whatever it was (why can't I remember?), I went to her house on Christmas evening to see her & give her her gift and although we never left her room all night, it was one of the best Christmases I ever spent.

She had on this long pink hippie dress, which was rare for her, and remember the way it hung off her shoulders & how her skin shined in the light from the candles in her room as we lay on her floor and talked, and I remember how when I left out the front door to do the sneak-back-in-in-5- minutes-routine, she helped me in through the window, and we stood there next to her bed and kissed as she dropped her dress to the floor, and afterwards, I told her that I was glad that I was there with her on Christmas, and that I loved her. She kissed me, and said that she was sorry for everything that had happened between us, and that she knew that she was a hard person to be with, but she had never been as close to anyone before like she felt she was with me, and that she loved me, too. I honestly can't ever remember being happier in my life than I was that night...maybe one other time, but that came later....

The next week, on New Years Eve, we decided to spend the evening with just the two of us, instead of going to any of our friends' parties. At that time, since I had left & come back, I had been speaking to all of my friends less & less; I don't know if it was because I only cared about spending time with her, or if I wanted to keep her out of reach of any of my other friends, or some combination of both, but the point is, during this period, I was all but shutting myself off from the world, with the exception of Kara. She, at the same time, was going through a difficult period; she was fighting with her 2 close friends and she had just gotten out of school and wasn't looking forward to going out into the real world, so to speak, so at the time, we were both kind of pushing the rest of the world away. So, that new years, I scored a bottle of champagne or two, and we got smashed and ran around my house naked all night, finally passing out on top of each other sometime before morning. By all accounts, I missed the New Years Party of a lifetime that night...stories about it are still told to this day, but I didn't long as I was with her, we could've been in a prison camp & I would've been satisfied.

So, the first few couple of months went like that; we'd spend almost every day together, sometimes we'd fight, sometimes we'd laugh, sometimes she'd be totally in love with me, sometimes she'd want her independence, it was like a roller coaster, but I was hanging onto the ride for dear life. The more time we spent together, the more we both began to realize that we really did have something special together; some things just came to easy for us. We could talk to the other one about anything, at any time, and most of the time, we knew each other so well that we could tell what the other was feeling; she was especially good at knowing exactly what was going on in my head. We talked many times about whether we were meant to be together or not, and although we both agreed that we loved each other, we both reacted to it in different ways; I was thrilled by it; it scared the living hell out of her.

Then Valentine's Day came around....and that's a whole chapter in itself.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Clutching at straws...

(listening to: Bruce Springsteen - Mary, Queen of Arkansas)

The next part of the story is the hardest part I've had to write so far, and truthfully, I don't really have any idea how to go about it. I mean, nobody died and the earth didn't blow up, but it was like a decade's worth of feelings all compressed into about six months time, and it was the most emotional part of my life up to that point, and because of that, my memory of the period is like some expressionist's canvas splattered with paint; parts of it are vivid and vibrant, while most of it is in little pieces, all scattered and fragmented. Probably a lot like this post will be...

In thinking back on it over the last few days, I realize that I don't remember a single thing from back then that doesn't have to do with's like either that was the only thing happening in my life, or it just ended up having such an impact on me that it pushed all other memories out. Sad. Even so, I can't get a clear picture or timeline of it all, it was all just so...heavy. That's the only word I can think of.

In fact, I've been sitting here for over an hour now, staring at the keyboard, and I don't know what the hell to type or where to start. I'm not sure I'm up to it today...I know I have to push through this stuff if I ever want to learn anything, but I just keep thinking about how much I let the relatively little amount of time I spent with Kara affect so much of my life afterwards, and I just don't even know how to put it into words. I know it's not often that I'm at a loss, but here I am, and it's been about an hour & a half now....I guess I knew I had to get to the hard stuff at some point.

I dunno...this is just not happening right now. I'll try again later...or maybe I'll just get really drunk & audio blog it. Maybe I'll grow a set of balls & some self-respect & actually come to terms with my past one day, too...that'd be nice...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Misplaced Childhood...

(first off, new rule: 100 points to the first person to name the song that the title of my post comes from every day, 'cus it's always from something. No, the points aren't good for anything, just be glad you have them, some kids don't get any...)

I've gotten several e-mails recently, asking me essentially the same questions about my life, so instead of replying to them all, I figure I'll just talk about it here; this is from part of an exchange on the comments section the other day (originally by Liz) that sums up nicely a lot of the questions I've been asked lately, so I thought I'd just elaborate on it; I hope this clears some things up....

I am curious, do you think your mother's remarriages and your absentee biological father has had any impact with how you handle your relationships?

Huge least where my mom & her history are concerned. I didn't realize how much 'til years later, but yes, and in very specific ways.

My mom married her high-school sweetheart, and about a year later, while in Las Vegas for a hairdressers convention, she met my dad, who was kind of a flashy character & swept her off her feet. So, she divorced her first husband, married my dad, and they had me. They moved back to the city I grew up in, and my dad bought a couple of nightclubs in a historic yet seedy section of downtown. Somehow or another, her got mixed up with the wrong people and one night the place got firebombed. Long story short, he ended up owing a lot of protection money to some serious people that he couldn't afford to pay, so he skipped town, leaving me & my mom to live with my grandparents, which is where I grew up.

I don't think my dad being absent had a huge effect on me, simply because by virtue of not having a father around, I didn't know what to miss, so it never really bothered me. I always had my grandpa & my uncles around as influences, and although I could have used a good ass-kicking sometimes, I'm not sure my dad being gone made a big difference. Then again, who knows.

My mom dated a lot when I was younger, and I was always jealous of whoever she was seeing at the time, because I felt they were taking time away from me & my mom. My mom did go out often, but she also worked 9-5 my whole life to keep me in decent schools, so when I was younger, it seemed like she was never around. I didn't understand that she was doing the job of 2 parents & that meant she couldn't be around all the time; I was just young & wanted my momma. She probably didn't even go out that much, but I remember I never wanted her to leave once she came home, and some of my most vivid memories of childhood are of me sitting up on my knees, looking out the window at the front yard of my grandmas house, waiting for my mom's car to drive down the street. I would sit there waiting & tell myself that, if the next car wasn't hers, then I'd go and play or go to bed, and then when the next car came, I'd tell myself that if it wasn't one of the next five cars, then I'd go and play or go to bed...

My mom married my younger brother's dad when I was about 8, and I was the classic bratty stepchild; I did everything I could to sabotage every relationship my mom had,and I probably drove some nice guys away, but I was a jealous little monster. Their marraige didn't last long ('cus he was an asshole, not me), and my mom didn't marry again until I was 13. By then, I was ok with it, but before then, the whole time I was growing up, I felt like I was competing for my moms attention with some guy, and I'm sure that's had more than a little to do with my state of mind...

My mom is divorced again today; she married once more when I was 21, but it didn't last either. She actively discourages me against getting married, and really she always has; the poor thing has lost all faith in the concept.

In fact, everyone in my family, all the way back to my great-grandparents, has been divorced at least once. the only couple in my family that has been together since day one is my uncle and his...."life-partner", that he's lived with since college, so make of that what you will.

My dad married again a couple of times & had other kids in the meantime, but I didn't grow up with them. I only spoke to my dad once that I was old enough to remember, and that was on my 18th birthday. He died when I was 21 of a heroin overdose; apparently he had been an addict for years. I only found out about it by stumbling upon the obituary in the paper. Only bad thing I can really say about the guy is that the bastard died with a full, beautiful head of hair, and that just ain't fair...

All that having been said, I don't blame my family or my mom for the way I am or begrudge them one bit for anything they did. My mom might not have won any parenting awards, but she did the best she knew how, and she always loved & supported me as much as I could ever hope for. Some of the issues I have with women might come directly from my relationship with her, but they're my problems to deal with. By the same token, according to many who knew him, I am my fathers' son in a lot of ways, but that's not his fault, either...

The whole history with my mom really came into play years later when I dated Veronica, who, it turned out, was very much like my mother, and was in a very similar situation. I ended up on the other side of the fence that I'd been on growing up....suddenly I was the man who I used to be jealous of as a kid, and boy did that one screw me up royally....boy howdy.

So, the short answer is: yes, I'm sure that my family is part of the reason I'm here talking with you lovely people today....

Also, do you know where Kara and your other "important" exes are now? Like if they are married or what not? I suppose if you do you will divulge this later, but I had to ask:)

Yes, I know where 90% of them are now...even if I wish I didn't. I don't mean that; I love 'em all. Sorta.

And, since she doesn't really figure into the main story again for many years, if at all, I suppose this is as good a time as any to say that Gloria died last year, and I hope she's at peace, wherever she is. She developed stomach cancer & was dead within a month of her diagnosis. I had not seen or spoken to her in 12 years; since the last time I described, but when I heard, I asked our mutual friend Pete to ask if I could see her, just to clear the air & say goodbye...but she refused...adamantly. That girl went to her deathbed hating me for something I had done over a decade ago....that's some serious guilt for your ass....and another reason I'm here with you lovely people today....

Anyway, I hope that all that maybe puts some things in perspective. Feel free with the questions...I'll try not to post 'spoilers' on the blog, but if anyone has a question & they don't mind being spoiled, e-mail me & I'll probably answer's not like this is a damn mystery novel or something...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mama, I'm Comin' Home...

(Music of the period - Ozzy: No More Tears)

My roommates & I threw one last party as a going-away event for me. Everyone was sad to see me go, and I was sad to be leaving them, as well. Not sad enough to snap back to reality, but they were all good people, and I was lucky to have met them. One of the guys hooked me up with handful of joints for the ride home, and Misty gave me a peck on the cheek and told me to come back & see her sometime. My friend & other roommate Keith & I had bonded pretty well in the short time I had been there, and we traded jackets with each other, assuring ourselves that it was just a loan until we saw each other next time. I never saw any of my friends from Colorado again. Tyson, Keith, Dave, James, Kelsie, Emily, Misty, Candace, Shawn, Jo, Amy, Mike, Josh; it was great knowing you guys, wherever you are.

I left for home two days before Thanksgiving, in the face of one of the biggest snowstorms in years. The drive over the mountains alone took me over 12 hours, as the snow-chain law was in effect and traffic was slowed to a crawl, with stalled & stuck cars lined up on the side of the road as far as the eye could see. I figured once I got over the mountains, it would all be smooth sailing and I could make up some lost time. I got as far as Kansas before I was hit with a solid sheet of white.

Being born & raised in the south, where schools close & the city goes on high alert whenever so much as a flurry is forecast, I was unaware of the fact that, out west in the flatlands, they actually have to close off the freeways sometimes when the snow gets too heavy, I mean with big gates & everything. So, I took the last exit right at the gates & found myself at the Price-Right Motel, in a town called Oakley, Kansas. I'll never forget the place 'til my dying day, because that's where I spent my Thanksgiving; sitting on a bed in the middle of a tiny motel room, blanket wrapped around me because the in-wall heater was older than my grandmother, eating a Swanson's frozen dinner, kindly donated to me by the hotel owner; apparently I was the only occupant, and thank god he gave me a break on the room rate, because I was stuck there for three nights. Three long nights to sit and ponder just what in the hell I was doing, but of course being alone in that cold, isolated little wood-paneled hotel room only made me miss Kara even more. I thought about how I was going to surprise her when I got back; I must have played out a hundred different scenarios in my head...none of which even came close to resembling what actually ended up happening.

My favorite scenario was that I would stop by Joe's house on the way back, and borrow his dad's car phone (this was 1992, and car phones - which is what we called them then - were a very rare sight), drive to her house, and call her. I would ask her if she remembered when I asked her what she would do if I were to just show up at her doorstep, and then I would knock on the door, and she would open it, and then the music would start playing & the camera would pan up & out, and yadda yadda yadda...but then I remembered the whole thing about Joe sleeping with Kara, and that plan got filed away pretty quick.

Another one was; she would be sitting out on the swing in their front yard, just out reading in the middle of the day, when I would park a block away and sneak up behind her. I'd look down at what she was reading, think of something clever to say & she would turn around, yell with delight, toss the book away & leap into my arms, knocking me down as we rolled around in the grass and kissed. Ya, I know...shoot me. I had a lot of time to daydream in that hotel room...

Finally I escaped from Kansas & headed back on my way East. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but one thing I do remember is, as I got a couple hundred miles from home, being overwhelmed by how green everything was. I mean, I had grown up in the south & had looked at those hills & fields my whole life, but until I had been out west, I had never realized just how lush & beautiful the part of the country that I live in really is. I mean, the West has it's own kind of beauty, but it's very brown; very earth-toned. If you live up north or out west somewhere & you've never been to Georgia, or Kentucky, or Tennessee, or the Carolinas, its something that you just can't imagine until you see it with your own eyes; the whole land here is just alive & rich & vibrant like no other place I've ever seen. I remember cresting a ridge and seeing this huge, magnificent wave of green coming toward me on the horizon, and I knew I was coming home.

I arrived two days after I had intended, at about 5 in the morning. I went to my grandmother's house first, and after she doted on me for a few minutes & made me some oatmeal, I lied down on the sofa and fell right to sleep. I woke up at about 3 that afternoon, and after calling my mom & saying hello, I grabbed my cigarettes & took the phone outside on the patio to call Kara. I didn't know exactly what I was going to say, but I couldn't wait any longer.

The following conversation happened verbatim; I remember it like it was yesterday. Some 'um's & 'ah's might be missing, but the gist of it is completely accurate, so yes, you're reading it right.

KARA: Hello?

ME: Hello....


ME: How are you doing?

KARA: Oh, you know.

ME: Um, I guess so. Man, I can hear you great, this is a good connection.

KARA: You sound like you always do.

ME: Oh, well you sound closer.

KARA: (silence, but I can tell you exactly what she was doing: playing with her hair & picking at the split ends, completely oblivious to everything else in the world. I'd have bet my life on it)

ME: So, guess where I am?

KARA: I don't know, where are you?

ME: Just guess.

KARA: I don't, John Denver's house? (in a story I didn't relate, while I was in Colorado, through a complicated set of circumstances, I once found myself smoking pot at the house of Mel Schacter, former bass player with Grand Funk Railroad; it's a long story, but I had told Kara about it earlier, which explains her John Denver remark, as he would be the only other musician she would know from Colorado...even though I think Denver was from Idaho or something. Anyway...)

ME: Nope. I'm at my grandmother's house.

KARA: (after a brief pause) You're where?

ME: I'm here; I'm home.

KARA: You mean you're here?

ME: Yeah. I came to see you. Can I come over?

KARA: (Pause) Well, I'm about to go to a movie.

Yes, you read that right; hence the disclaimer above.

ME: You''re what?

KARA: Laurie's here, and we're about to go meet Ashley at the movie.....

ME:, I just drove almost three thousand miles, and I was stuck in a snowstorm for...

KARA: (interrupting) X, (she always called me by my initial) what do you want me to do? They're here waiting for me, I didn't know you were gonna come home! You can come over in a couple of hours, ok?

ME: (silence. I was just stunned at this point. Suffice it to say that this is not how I'd expected things to go. I was just barely holding back tears.)


ME: Ok, I mean...what else can I do.

KARA: Ok, I'll call you, ok? Are you gonna be there?

ME: No, call me at my mom's house.

KARA: Ok, I will.

ME: Ok.

KARA: (in her trying-to-appease-me-yet-still-agitated voice) I'm glad you're home safe, ok?

ME: Thank you. Ok, call, alright?

KARA: Ok, bye.

ME: Bye.


I hung up the phone & the floodgates let loose. I stood outside for a minute 'til the worst of it subsided, then I went in to grab my things. I kissed my grandma on the cheek, told her I was heading to my mom's house, and drove off.

I could not believe what had just happened. I mean, I knew I was a chump to even be pursuing this girl in the first place, and I was certainly used to her being the most unpredictable creature I had ever seen, and I also knew that, while she might love me, she was not as crazy in love with me as I was with her - all these things I was used to & prepared for. but, even with all her....kookyness, I knew there had to be some reason for what had just happened; she should have been happy for me to be home even in spite of I said before, she was just that way. I knew in my gut that something was up, and I knew there were only a few possibilities; the most likely of which being that she had a guy over when I called.

I knew it was possible; hell she wasn't exactly exclusive to me while I was here, and now I'd been gone for months...plenty of time for somebody else to drift through her short attention span. I wondered if it might be Joe, but I knew from other friends that Joe had a new girlfriend now, and although he & Kara were on speaking terms again, they were definitely over in that respect. So, basically, after driving for five days, and being stranded for three of them, and spending Thanksgiving alone in a god-forsaken hotel in the buckle of the corn belt just so I could see her, I still had to sit there like a chump and wait on her.

I got to my moms & we did the whole hugging bit, and I got to see my little brother & was amazed at how much he had grown, all of which made me feel better for a few minutes, but as it turns out, I didn't have to wait as long as I thought; after about an hour, the phone rang, and it was Kara.

She was sorry she had hurried off the phone like that; her friends were there, and she did have to leave but she was also freaked out that I had just come home to see her, so she panicked. But, after they left for the movie, she told them that I was home, so they ended up not seeing the movie, and instead just went to get something to eat while talking about me the whole time, I assume. This at least relieved the pressure on my heart before my mom had to call an ambulance, but it still wasn't at all the way I wanted to start things off. Nevertheless, as I'm sure you realize by now, where she was concerned I would take whatever I could get. So, after all this time, I finally hopped in my car to go see her.

When I got there, I was greeted by her family & spent a minute telling them about my trip. Her little sister was glad to see me, as always, and I remember wishing I had brought her & her little brother back a little gift or something. When I got back to Kara's room, she was lying on her bed, wearing her xtra-large blue t-shirt that she liked to lounge in with pair of cut-off jean shorts, and I remember the contrast of the light blue against the dark tan of her legs & thinking that she was the single hottest thing I had ever seen in my life. She got up, put her arms around my neck & hugged me, then we looked at each other and she said "Hi.", and I ran my hands up into her hair, puller her to me and kissed her.

I kissed her for as long as she'd let me, and when she moved away, she looked at me and said "Why did you come back?"

I knew that I had better choose what I said carefully. I could tell she was freaked out by me showing up all of a sudden, and I guess anyone would probably be, to a point. I could tell she was happy to see me (Kara wore her emotions like a neon sign), but I could also tell that she knew what I was thinking, and it made her nervous. I, in turn, knew what she was thinking, so I reassured her by saying "I just felt like it was time to come home; I missed my family, and I missed you, and I missed my friends, so don't worry; I didn't come back to ask you to marry me or anything." It was mostly true.

She seemed to relax a little bit, but then she immediately launched into the standard Kara disclaimer - you guys might know it by now: Ok, I'm glad you're home, and yes, I missed you, and yes, I missed kissing you and all the rest of it, but I didn't ASK you to come back, so don't think that just because you're here and we might kiss & do this & that one in a while that automatically you're my boyfriend or anything yet, and yadda, yadda, yadda....

(also, I should take this opportunity to say that I've gotten a lot of comments about Kara, and I understand how Kara might seem like a cold person when some of the things I write are taken at face value and not having 'been there', but truth is she really was a good person; she had been in only one 'real' relationship before & had gotten her heart broken every bit as bad as Andi broke mine, if not worse, so she was simply a little more careful with her feelings & who she gave her heart to than most girls her age. She was also blunt, outspoken, and honest to a fault, so she pulled no punches. At the other extreme, when she trusted you & cared about you, she was as sweet as she was beautiful...which was considerable. Most of the things she did that I used to consider mean were really just the actions of a frustrated young girl with extraordinary freewill who just didn't know what she wanted, and just happened to end up breaking my heart in the process. I know she never meant to hurt me, and to this day, as far as I know, Kara never lied to me one single time.)

I was prepared for that; I'd heard it a million times. I was also foolish enough at that point to think I could change all that, so I just nodded, like I always did, and waited for my chance to kiss her again, which, after a few minutes, I got.

We spent the rest of that night together, with me doing my old routine of leaving through her front door at bedtime & sneaking back in through the bathroom window after the coast was clear (there's a song about that...). After we got over the shock of the first few minutes, it was like I had never left; she & I always got along so effortlessly & naturally that we were laughing & talking in no time like a day hadn't passed. Then, after a while, we made love as quietly as we could in her squeaky little single bed, and it was unbelievable; I remember the way she smelled & the way her skin felt, and how I realized I had missed things about her that I had taken for granted before...things like the way she moved, and the sounds she would make under her breath, and the way she held on to me. Everything I had gone through in the past week to get there was worth every moment of it.

I got up to leave before the sun came up. I stood in the doorway of her bathroom, ready to hop up onto her toilet to boost myself out the window, and I bent down to kiss her before I left. I told her that I had missed her, and she said she had missed me, too. Then I said "I love you", and she just kissed me on the cheek & said "X, you know I love you, too...but I'm not gonna say I love you like that, not yet".

I said "yet?", and she said "I'm not gonna say that 'til I feel like 'm ready to say it. If I'm ready to say it, you'll know, I promise."

It wasn't much, but it was good enough. Hell, anything would have been good enough for me back then. I climbed out the window, jumped into my still-packed car and headed back to crash on my mom's sofa. I was right back where I started...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

...are you sure you got the right number?

Ever since I started this blog, I've been consistently amazed at the number of people who seem to actually give a hoot about my mixed-up life & the things I write about, but this one really threw me for a loop: I got an email asking me if I'd be willing to do an interview for an internet radio show on (it's a pretty cool station, you should definitely check it out...they even have Shadoe Stevens!) called 'Mikey Likes It'. Apparently, Mikey himself is a fan of the site & he wrote me & asked if I'd be up for it, so I said I'd mull it over & let him know.

Like I said, I'm shocked that anybody actually wants to read any of this, much less interview me, but it does sound like fun; I'm just worried about this whole thing spiralling out of control and me ending up with a price on my head & a string of paternity suits...or even worse, a rumor linking me to Paris Hilton...yuck. I dunno, what do you guys think? Should I go for it? Or should I take the Wachowski brothers route & wallow in my anonymity? My friend Elaine said something poignant: it's not like I have that good a name to ruin in the first place...(and it's not like I'd use my real one, anyway).


It should be pointed out that Leftovers are different from Holdovers....

A Holdover is a personal item belonging to one party in the breakup that is intentionally left at the former partner's house after the breakup specifically to create an opportunity for one party to have a reason to speak to the other again.
I.E., "Oh, do you mind if I drop buy & pick up that broken lava lamp I left in the spare room? Maybe it'd give us a chance"

A Leftover is is a personal item belonging to one party in the breakup that was simply left behind & forgotten, or even in some cases, a gift or random item that the recieving party has kept over the years, for one reason or another. I've just realized that I seem to have misplaced a lot of my Leftovers, but if I dig 'em up that'll give me an excuse to use my sweet new camera again...


Angela's wine glass...

Veronica's seashell...

Kara's Cult album...


The 10,000 Maniacs tape that Roxanne made for me for Xmas, 1990...

Maria's Rolling Stones tour shirt...

J.C.'s desk monkeys...

Veronica's coffee mug...

Elaine's cigarette...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Don't Go Back to Rockville...

Don't give me more credit than I'm due; Misty might have just had bad timing, but after I had been there about two months, I found myself thinking about things just a little less, day by day. It didn't hurt that we couldn't afford a phone in our house, and since I couldn't call long-distance at work, I had to make all my calls from the pay phone down the mountain in the parking lot of the local laundromat, where it was usually way too cold to have any kind of lengthy conversation.

Even so, I had called Kara a few times since I'd been there. I'm sure in the beginning I would have probably called her every night, but I didn't have the money or the access to a phone yet, so the first few times we talked was brief. I could tell she missed me, though - but it was hard to read too much into that; Kara, for all her lack of 'normal' affection, was a very loyal & caring person, in her own way, and I knew she would miss anybody that she had gotten used to, had they been gone.

About a week or 2 after we'd moved into the house, I hiked the 100 yards down to check the mail one day, a couple of mornings after the first big snow since I'd been there, and standing there knee-deep in powder, I opened the mailbox and pulled out a letter from her....the only thing I still have that she ever wrote to me (probably because it was the only thing she ever wrote to me).

She told me the reader's digest version of what was happening with all the gang back home; she said she still hadn't talked to Joe, and that it had finally hit her that I wasn't just down the street anymore whenever she wanted to come see me...she said she couldn't imagine being in a place so far from home. She mentioned how she was feeling blue lately because fall had come & the leaves were all dying & it made her feel like she did when she was a little kid right before school started, and she hated that feeling. She didn't say that she wished I was there, or that she was sorry I had left, but she said she missed me being around, and not to forget about her, 'cus she hadn't forgotten about me. She signed it "love, Kara", tho, so I looked at that as the glass being half-full.

Even now, all these years later, I can still sit here & hear her voice speaking it as I read it. It's all here...the little non-sequiters she would break into, the questions about life & the analogies she would make, the switch from blue to black ink 'cus her pen ran out & she didn't want to start over. The next to last line sums her up perfectly...

As time went by, however, my isolated setting was really starting to work wonders on my frame of mind. Pretty soon, I found myself getting up in the morning and wondering what I was going to do that day, not how I was going to keep from thinking about Kara all day. I was enjoying my job, and was starting to really like the group of friends I had made. And, of course, after a while, I started to notice that there were actually other girls around.

In fact, Tyson had a friend that he worked with whom I started to get along with rather well; her name was Jo, oddly enuff ('nother real name alert...sorry, Jo, wherever you are...). She had a little loft apartment right above the town square, and we all went there a few times to hang out & enjoy the fantastic view she had of the whole valley. That Halloween, there was a party at the local club where Tyson's band played, and we all got dressed up for the night. I can't remember what anyone else went as, but I made myself a homemade superhero costume and I looked totally sweet, if I do say so myself, but I digress...

I do remember what Jo was wearing, however; she was Raggedy Ann, and she had the freckles to go with it. We hung out & danced all night, and after a few shots of cheap vodka & some of that mother-raping mountain weed, I could honestly say I was hard-pressed to even remember Kara's name. Jo & I ended up back at her place, making out on her bed in front of the huge picture window that overlooked the town, with snow falling all around. We didn't go all the way, but it was just what I needed at the time, and it was pretty damn sweet.

Jo & I never really got a chance to hook up again, as she was leaving the next week for training at a new job, but just being with her that one night had made me feel almost like a new man. The next couple of weeks were a blast; we finally got a TV for our house, and it could actually pick up 2 whole channels! Big time, hoss. We also went to a memorable party up on the top of one of the neighboring mountains, with a huge bonfire that reached so high, I remember expecting police choppers to show up. That night, I went on a beer run in the passenger seat of this guy named Josh's truck. Josh was, by far, the most reckless driver I had ever seen, and by the time we got halfway down the mountain I was ready to bail right out of the car. We were sliding on the ice, making hairpin turns down a liitle windy mountain road with no guardrails, and I have no idea how we made it there & back alive. A few months later, after I was gone, I found out that Josh and Arlo, the pot guy, were driving the same route when Josh lost control of the car & crashed into a tree. Arlo died on the spot.

Regardless, life was settling into a regular routine for me out there. I had only been gone for about 3 months, but I had already found a job, made some great friends, found a fantastic place to live, and had done it all on my own...I was proud of myself. My family had finally seen that I was going to be alright & they were happy for me; life was looking pretty damn good for a change. I was sitting at work one night, getting ready to close up; I had just written a letter to Roxanne, and I was writing one to my friend Ted back home when the phone rang. Three guesses as to who was on the other end....

I don't know what I was more amazed with; the fact that she had actually called me (and not collect!), or with what she said. She sounded...almost emotional, and if you knew Kara, you'd know how out of the ordinary that was. Don't get me wrong; she wasn't calling to say that she missed me & loved me & couldn't live without me & wanted me to come home.....that didn't mean that wasn't what I was going to hear, but it's not what she said.

I mean, she did say that she missed me, but I think she was just in one of the moods she used to get in; all put-me-in-a-box-and-paint-me-black, but I hadn't been around in a while, and I ate it right up. She was sad because her friend Laurie was moving away, and because she & Heidi hadn't been speaking (something I secretly cheered for, since I had something to hide there), and her dad was driving her nuts, and she didn't like her job, and she missed just being able to come over to my house and forget about it all...

It didn't all happen at once; in fact, I went home that night and sat awake thinking about it for hours. I couldn't believe that, less than 12 hours previous, I had barely thought about her in days. Well, Ill be honest, maybe in a day or so. Regardless, it was like all the time I had spent not missing her just rushed to catch up all at once; I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that right before I left, things had started to actually seem possible between us (if only for the fact that she had temporarily stopped sleeping with one of my friends), and now here I was, thousands of miles away, unable to do a damn thing about it. I mean, if I felt strongly enough about her to feel like I had to flee the goddamn state to get over it in the first place, then I should feel strongly enough to try and see if anything might actually happen, right? See, I know, it sounds crazy when you write it all out. Its amazing how quickly I managed to forget the fact that I was supposed to be starting a new life out here, and trying to bury the damn past....suddenly I was able to justify everything from my narrow point of view & shut out logic entirely. I'm pretty sure that I knew it as soon as I hung up that phone, but certainly by the time I woke up the next morning, my mind was all but made up. Almost...

First, I had to see if it was all a fluke, or just some really vivid dream I had. After I had eaten & had a shower, I put on my boots & trudged down the hill to the hardware store with a handful of quarters. I dialed her house and she answered the phone.

She sounded honestly surprised and happy to hear from me again, and her mood seemed better overall. If it was just a by-product of her depression, then I figured I'd find out now. But, we sat there and talked for as long as my cold fingers could pop in quarters. I didn't tell her what I was thinking of doing, but I asker her if she wished that I was still there, and she said she did. I asked her if she opened her door tomorrow and saw me standing there, what she would do...and she said that she didn't know, but she'd probably be shocked and happy & would probably give me a huge hug and a kiss. Well, in my totally deluded state, that was all I needed to hear. Check, please...

I hung up the phone and before I walked back to the house, I called my boss and put in my 2-weeks notice. I told him that I had gotten a call from home, and had been offered a job at a local TV station & I had to take the was too good to pass up. No way was I gonna tell anybody there that I was really just a huge pussy, who was about to crawl back across the country on his hands and knees just in the hopes that the same girl who put him here in the first place would maybe throw him a lousy bone, if she felt like it.

I fed my friends there the same story, and they were all disappointed. Somehow, though, I was so damn focused on Kara again that I didn't really give a damn anymore. Just a few days ago I was thanking the powers that be that I had been so blessed to meet such good people since I'd been here, and now I was ready to walk away from them & never look back; I didn't notice it at the time, but it was almost like I had been brainwashed in a day, my mood shifted so fast. I know I did it all to myself, but I still don't really know how I let myself do it, and it still scares me a lot that it all happened like I was on auto-pilot...a feeling I would have many years later, in a different story. Regardless, I got ready to say my goodbyes to the town that had adopted me so kindly just a few months before....

Before I left, though, there was something else that happened...there was a girl that we hired at the video store about a week before I was to leave. Her name, or her fake name, oddly enough, was Andi. She wasn't the most gorgeous girl in the world...or even the town, but she had these beautiful big, blue eyes that just stared right through you. She had had a rough life; she was estraged from her parents, who were both alcoholics, and she was living in a trailer in a little town a few miles away with her brother and one of his friends and absolutely no money or barely a pot to piss in. She was smart, though, and she had a great sense of humor. One day we got to talking about westerns in the store, and so I asked her over that night to watch Good, the Bad & the Ugly, not thinking of it as a date at all, but still undeniably intrigued by her. We watched the movie & laughed and talked afterwards, but she had a long drive and an early morning, so she left pretty early.

The next day, we both worked together again, and afterwards she asked if I wanted to go out to where she lived to see this little building that her brother wanted to rent & turn into a club. I figured what the hell, it might be fun, so we drove out there in my car & met up with her brother & friend, who were very cool guys. The town they lived in was just a tiny speck on the map, and the building he was looking at was literally the only standing structure for a block in all directions. Still, he had big dreams, and I wonder now if he ever got to actually open the place.

Later that night, we went back to her trailer, and the other guys left us alone in the living room to watch the one half-static station on their little black + white TV. I have no idea where my gallantry and guilt went to, as I was honestly not overly smitten with Andi 2.0, (truthfully, she'da been 3.0, but that's not worth mentioning) but somehow no thoughts of Kara or anything else crept into my mind, and we ended up kissing on her lumpy brown sofa for what seemed like hours.

We didn't go too far, because she knew I was going to be gone in a few days, and she said something to the effect of 'why do you have to be moving away right when I meet you?', and I remember thinking to myself "Ya' know, this just might be one o' them signs you're always goin' on n' on about....I mean even if it ain't, it sure as hell proves that you don't have to drive back across all of god's creation to find a nice girl..." Nevertheless, it was very, very sweet, and I'll always remember it, and she was probably an extremely interesting girl to get to know, but it didn't change anything, or make me so much as think straight for a minute. I was able to stave off the guilt to spend one really cool night with her, but Andi wasn't enuff to keep me from going back home. I kissed her goodbye about an hour before the sun was to rise, and I got back home & in my bed just as it was peeking over the mountains. In just a few days, I'd be homeward bound....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A million miles away...

I was about eight hours outside of Kansas City when I realized just how far I was letting all this take me. I had no idea that the flatlands of the midwest were that flat and empty...for hours I had seen nothing but a few silos and the occasional barn. The night before, I had slept over at my buddy's place in St. Louis. I arrived there after midnight, and was already dead tired from being on the road 8 hours, so I crashed almost immidiately. My friend & his wife owned a pet store, and their house was full of animals - most of which were out of sight when I arrived. He told me that they would already be gone when I woke up in the morning, but just to make myself at home & lock up when I left.

I was awakened by the sensation of something hovering over me; I thought I vaguely felt breath on my neck, so I turned over abruptly and found myself staring into the face of the most massive Pit Bull I had ever seen. His head was the size of mine and then some, and he didn't like how fast I had gotten up, because he tensed his legs and started to growl deep in his throat.

I'm not even gonna make it to Colorado, I thought. They're gonna find me torn to shreds by this mutant dog & the funeral will be closed-casket and Kara will wind up going home with Joe afterwards to drown their mutual grief....

I sloooowly eased back down and told the dog he was a good puppy in the softest voice i could imagine. He relaxed a bit and his tail started to wag, and after sniffing me for another second, he ambled away into the other room...where I heard even more dogs shuffling around.

Fuck the shower. I can't remember moving that fast since gym class; I hopped up, grabbed my bag & my shoes, jumped over the doggie gate and bolted out the door to my car. I took off while still barefoot, and didn't even get my shoes on 'til I was sitting in a McDonalds parking lot sipping a coffee 20 miles down the road.

Finally, after another night on the road, I made it over the Rockies into Colorado, and finally to my new home: Tyson's parent's garage. I called my momma to tell her I was ok & I unpacked my bags in an empty corner of the garage. There were two other guys living there as well, but one of the guys offered to give up his spot on one of the couches for me - everybody was very welcoming and made me feel right at home - and we all became fast friends.

Tyson had been up there for a few months & had made friends with all the local degenerates already, so I had a ready-made circle of friends, all of whom were extremely cool and made me feel like I was one of the gang right away. After a week, I was surprised at how much I already felt at home. I felt liberated - like I had been dipped in some kind of magic pool that washed away all the bullshit of the past year and let me see the whole world with fresh eyes again. The air even seemed cleaner and fresher there, and the scenery was even more amazing than I had imagined. We lived in a canyon right in the middle of the mountains in a little town in between Vail & Aspen, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

After a couple of weeks, I had already landed a job, as assistant manager of the town's only video store. I had a little bit of cash in my pocket from my savings, and after only a few days hunting, I found myself & my 3 roomates an incredible 4-bedroom house right on the side of the mountain that was way to nice & expensive for us, but somehow we suckered the landlord into letting us move in, and although we didn't have a single piece of furniture between us, that was the single coolest house I've ever lived in.

It was all built on different levels, with steps and spiral stairs leading to different floors & landings, an amazing all-glass lookout room on the side looking down the mountain, and 2 working fireplaces with enough logs in the woodshed to last all winter. We knew we couldn't afford it for long, but we bygod, we were gonna milk it for all it was worth.

We christened the place with a massive party the first weekend we were there; people came from 3 towns away, and the cars were lined up encircling the mountain pass. Tyson & his band played on the deck (one of the 2 decks, actually), and his dad stocked us with all the liquor we could handle. A guy named Arlo showed up with the best weed I had ever had in my life, and I remember standing on top of the stairs looking down into the living room and seeing just a sea of heads....most of them girls...and thinking that I could sure get used to this.

At some point, I went up to my room to look for a record, when I felt someone come up behind me and put their hand on my shoulders. I turned around, and it was a bleached-blonde, amazingly hot Filipino girl named Misty (real name alert; sorry, Misty...wherever you are) that worked with one of our roommates. I had met her the night after I'd arrived, and asked Tyson about her availability, but he said she had a boyfriend. Well, I didn't see one anywhere nearby, so I leaned over & kissed her.

A few minutes later, we were rolling around on my sleeping bag when she got up, went over to the door, and locked it. She turned back to me & took off her top, tossing it at me and laughing as she ran back over & jumped on top of me. For about 45 seconds, I was inwardly thanking all the gods that might be listening, and then...all of a sudden....something happened. I couldn't do it.

I don't mean I had some kind of erectile dysfunction or never even got that far. I mean as soon as I kissed her again and felt her bare skin against me, my mind was flooded with images of Kara. One after a slideshow in my brain with no pause button....I couldn't think about anything else. I remember lying there, actually trying to push these thoughts out of my head, and telling myself will you cut it out and look at what the hell is literally in your hands!, but it was no good....I was just not into it. I didn't feel guilty, like with Heidi, I just....didn't want to be with her. I wanted to be with someone else, and even 2500 miles away & half a bottle to the wind, I could not get that girl out of my mind. It was kind of scary, actually...I always thought that kind of thing only happened in the movies...or to girls....but there I was. I told her that I had had too much to drink & needed to just lie down for a while, so she put on her shirt & went back to the party as I lay there in the dark wondering just how goddamn far away I had to go to get away from this feeling....