We woke up at Brandon’s house. I had slept on the floor of his room in a pile of blankets, Brandon in his bed, Steve either in The Reno Room or in someone else's bed or on the floor next to. I had mostly slept through my hangover, so I felt pretty okay, standing up and venturing out into the "Pussy Pad" at large.
For the record, it should be stated that Brandon started saying that things he liked were "pussy" around this time. “That is so pussy”, he would say. I think it started on a group trip to Jenner around Easter weekend. John patented the phrase and B ushered it gracefully into the vernacular. It was one of those things that maybe should have stayed in Jenner but us girls (Morgan, Persephone and I) wouldn't let it die and Brandon probably liked it a little too much to let it go anyway, and now he’s unhappy that I’m telling you about it, right? Sorry, B. I am so sure. Surely, this is not the origin of the "Pussy Pad’s” name, but I like to think I was maybe remotely involved.
I walked into the kitchen and found Steve holding a pot of coffee, or maybe just a cup of coffee, but when I asked him how long he'd been up and what he'd been doing, he said, "I drank a pot of coffee!" in this way he has of sounding completely surprised by himself, like he's revealing the information to you and he both for the first time and yes, it is baffling, isn't it?
This quality is incredibly endearing and no one can resist it, no matter how hard you're trying not to like him (because he's your friend's ex boyfriend), let alone fall in love with him.
He poured me a cup of coffee, or I think he would have if he hadn't drunk the whole pot already and somehow we got to the subject of boxed wine. It was about 11am, maybe noon. We had stayed up ‘til at least an hour after sunrise the night before, belting out Kelly Clarkson songs and crowd surfing one another to punkrock music, the Ramones and The Descendents, in a crowd of 5, stomping down the matted, brown shag carpet and slamming our floppy bodies against the Reno Room's wood paneling while it was still dark. Then talking all kinds of stupid shit and chain-smoking on the back steps as it began to get light, before stumbling off to beds and floors.
It was uncomfortable how easily Steve and I joked together, one line after another. We were...riffing. Isn’t that what comedians say? Ugh (maybe). I was enjoying myself a little too much. I knew I should not be enjoying the company of this person but I was, to a surprising and overwhelming extent and that was confusing. I wanted to look around and ask, "Are ya gettin this? Are ya? Cuz this is solid GOLD!"
He was still wearing the white wife-beater with the phrase, "something something.....ROCK" scrawled across it in sharpie. I can't remember what the shirt said exactly, probably something inspired by Bruce Springsteen. In one of the photos documenting the night there's Steve glaring at someone off camera, with scrawny arms crossed in fake displeasure, super pale and then rosy pink at the elbows, hiding all of the message but the word "ROCK". Someone, a girl, had drawn it on Steve's chest the night before. I remember feeling a pang of jealousy and quickly battling it back into the nether regions where exasperated, feral cats dwell and pace and chew repressed things into chimeric, figgity other things that then become gobs of expectorated poetic business.
I'm in the foreground wearing this 60's mini dress, all white & brown & pink like neopolitan ice cream, more girlie than what I’m used to, mascara smeared, eyes half-lidded, gesturing, probably making some slurred pronouncement. Terrible posture all around.
I got in so much trouble for that photo. It went up on flickr and burnt its way through the internet's bowels all the way to New Mexico where my friend was living temporarily in a stucco house in the desert, having left San Francisco behind "for good". She was upset, what was I doing in the same frame with Steve, the one who...? It's not fair to say that I got in trouble. My friend was legitimately upset. On the other hand, I was legitimately sure that I was very happy about everything that was upsetting her--this association with her past--which confused me. Something that had brought me joy was causing someone that I cared about pain.
Brandon and Alli were broken up, Morgan and David had just broken up, various combinations of people were maybe still messing around, all the poets were messing around with all of the poets, Persephone was back from L.A. attempting to scrabble her way up the side of alchoholism, I hadn't had sex in 9 months, unless my timing is off here, and thought I might tear someone apart, while generally trying to recover sanity after immersing myself headlong into a narrative of what? the scorned lover? Eh, something more many-headed than that, I think, though in the end reducible to simple, common, traceable feelings related to repressed material from my childhood, as I would learn via my newly acquired and soon to beloved therapy. Honestly, describing the narrative of my actual winter and the narrative I was attempting to construct, takes getting back into a thought process, which thankfully is difficult to sink into now, partly because of it’s way of doubling back on itself, moving too quickly to notice holes, jumping from pained moment, to swooning remembrance with only a dots of ellipses to connect the two. I know that rage filled in the gaps in its subterranean way. The gaps were silent, spaced out chunks filled only with the kind of vertigo inducing anxiety that reminds you that you are not allowed to have that thought, and so you don’t. I didn’t. Let’s not dissociate just now, Lindsey.
Everything was a mess, really a mess, but there was this weird sublime quality to it, I think because I had friends and we were all being a mess together.
This was the lesson of the year: People cause other people pain, what's worse, some action or decision that gives, nourishes and excites one person can depleat, discourage and ravage their loved one. The summer previous to the present of this particular story, two summers ago now, BB and I had been drunk in his and Alli's kitchen, after one of the after-after parties, sitting at the wooden table and smoking out of the window. I was telling him about my hesitations about dating his friend (our friend), Matthew. The conversation went something like this:
Lindsey: I just don't want to hurt anyone and I don't want anyone to hurt me, yunno?
Brandon: Yeah, word. (Sigh)
(pause for meaningful look)
Brandon: But that's what people do.
Lindsey: Hurt each other.
And that is what happened on all sides with it seemed like everyone I knew at once and we came to know this well and to understand things about it and etc.
The time stamp on the comment that John left about the photo of Steve and I on flickr, "Steve's arms", reads "Posted 12 months ago". That's so much later than I thought. I was so in love with my friends.
I did not buy into my friends’ care at first. These were relatively new friends. I was afraid to love them all. At some point it became clear to me out of stark necessity that I had little choice but to accept it, to buy into it, to bank on it, to put all my stock in it, to invest and to have faith in its fluctuating economy. I knew that as dramatic as it sounds, I might die without. If I continued to hold the wall, only venturing what I knew for sure would be received and reciprocated, I’d be back in Olympia, a denizen of the downstairs half of my (and here I stumble on the correct phrase) folks’ house, slithering in complacent depression, having given up.
So, in the kitchen, Steve and I were jabbering again, this time in contrast to the picture of the night before, less slurred, quicker and gesturing, waving our scrawny arms and disproportionately large hands or long fingers, in my case, to describe the space of the refrigerator that would hold the boxed wine.
I had devised a meal plan built entirely around boxed wine: white for breakfast, rosé for lunch, red for dinner. I described to Steve a refrigerator filled with boxes, organized into four shelves, one for white, labeled "breakfast", one for rosé labled "lunch" and one for red labeled, "dinner", the last shelf was Steve's idea: boxes of 7up, for...mixing.
The whole thing cracked me up. I couldn't get over it. I thought I was a genius for thinking of it and that Steve was probably a genius too. I pictured someone opening the door of their refrigerator and explaining to a friend or relative their “meal-plan” in a very matter of fact way that just killed me. This happens to me a lot. I think I am so hilarious and crack myself up. There are certain jokes that can only be fully appreciated within the context of the entire scope of my life and ridiculous being, or so I think. The jokes aren’t really that funny, objectively. You probably experience this too, with your own inside jokes—the truly inside ones. You can’t get more inside than that. The addition of 7up seemed at first incongruous because it had not come from my own brain but then perfect.
I felt uncomfortable. A number of things: Steve might be funnier than me, or that we might be really funny together, and how would that work if we were supposed to be so off-limits to each other. The off-limits problem would make it difficult for us to enter dance competitions and write vaudeville acts together.
We scrounged around the kitchen and found a paper and pen, cleared a space of half empty beer cans on the counter and began to draw first the refrigerator, having to run into the closet where Brandon and the ladies kept their refrigerator (behind a beaded curtain, mind you) to get the proportions right, then Steve adding the 7up box at the bottom as Brandon emerged from his room, still wearing the Vivianne Girl's band T-shirt from the night before and rubbing the sleep from his no-glasses eyes. We began explaining our drawing, "Look! Brandon! Boxed wine!"
In the picture of the night before, Brandon and I stand next to each other. Brandon leans into the frame, his face and ears impossibly pink, from drink? or bad lighting, sorry B. He’s holding the camera and closer in the frame and therefore bigger-- with that awesome Rihanna pin on his lapel, looking into the camera, all gently, like “Hey, what’s up? I’m Brandon. I’m from Kansas City and I like poetry. I’m a real nice guy.”—all of which is true. I’m holding a coffee cup, peeking over the top in the way I learned looked best from flirting with musician types when I was a teenager, crouching into my sip, affecting a bashful huddle.
I don’t remember, but I think it’s safe to say, and friends you are welcome to correct me here, that Brandon was not especially interested in the caffeinated creative produce of his more wide-awake friends.
I don’t know where that drawing is. Shoot. I thought I would have kept it, rifled it away in a back pocket at least, but I think I left it on the counter of BB’s kitchen, feeling a little ashamed of my exuberance over such a silly joke. Brandon didn’t like my joke, “Waaa.” I vaguely remember looking for it casually when we returned to the apartment after a gluttonous breakfast at St. Francis of savory green onion and cheddar pancakes for BB and I with both syrup and a side of gravy (yes!) and eggs benedict for Steve, plus a bit of cavalier flirting with the waiter wearing cut-offs and a bewildering (for Steve, amusing for me) interaction with a woman who knew Steve, whom Steve did not remember knowing, in which she left the conversation with the impression that she should put in a good word for Steve with an old mutual friend of theirs who had recently become single.
I didn’t find the picture and I remember feeling a loss, like it would be an important artifact, which might just be hind-sight mythologizing the past and somehow comforting the present, but I do wish I had it in front of me now. It would still probably crack my shit up.
Did we at any point buy a box of wine and drink it? No we did not. Did we consider it? Probably. Did Delano’s Grocery have boxed wine? No. Would we have bought a box of wine instead of a bottle of champagne and a quart of orange juice if they had? Maybe.
From here on the story would get awkward, because its point of departure, the boxed wine, has passed, leaving me with plenty more to say but lacking a structure. I want you to know that things turned out very well for everyone. But yeah, I don't want to make things all neat and quaint because they're not.
I have learned not to turn life into stories too much. There is a lot more that I could say that would more perfectly setup my present for the reader. It is much easier to view life as a story if one does not want to face the full experience of it. Turning pain into inside jokes with myself and my intimates was the best way I knew at the time of this story, to frame otherwise bewildering, vertigo inducing experiences. Yes, of course it should have happened that way, because the narrative arc would go just so, the punch line would go just there. What am I doing now then, I wonder? What am I avoiding? My present? My present seems to always be very slippery.
Aack, though you should know that nearly everyone in this story ended up at David and Sara's that night for their house-warming party in Oakland. When asked if he would want to BART over with Brandon and I to the party, that morning over mimosas, Steve had said, "Oh HELL no. I'm not going to no poet party. Fuck THAT!"
But he showed up with John and Cat and we snuck more than our fair share of chicken finger sandwiches and Steve put one in his shirt pocket while eating another one and I thought that I never would have thought that someone could love chicken fingers as much as I do, and there was much dancing and merry-making and awkwardness and hijinks.