By Virginia Rand
It looked like the sky was overcast. A grimy, grey smear of cloud over Venice Beach. From what I could tell. I hadn't been outside for a while. The only way out of the converted garage was through the patio where the landlords kept their shitty dogs. I don't mean 'shitty' in the colloquial sense. The yappy little things shit everywhere. Fucking. Everywhere. When I said anything to the family in the main house, they always complained back to me, insisting they picked up after them enough. It wasn't enough. Overfed and starved for attention, I felt pretty sorry for the nasty creatures. That didn't counter my disdain, though. Rico the fat chihuahua and Papi the dirty mop - they were the only living creatures I could hear aside from the shuffling crackheads in the back alley. The wall where the garage door had been was covered over on the inside with thin plaster. If you went to the alley out back the garage door itself was still there. I don't know if you could have still opened it, all you would have seen was the plaster that lay between my mattress on the floor and the crackhead's alley.
When Esther called I was happy to hear another voice. She was getting off work. She had a job. She wanted to talk about 'him'. She had a boyfriend too. At some point her voice started breaking. They had been together maybe about 6 months at that point and it looked like it may have been getting serious. Relationships, from one who has always managed to live on the fringes of them, seem to all scrape us through gravel patches. She was going through one with him. She was calling for emotional support.
"It's just that we have only been having sex about once or twice a week." Her voice was quiet, vulnerable and filled with hurt. It was legitimate, I could hear the fear through the cell carrier. I wanted to be there to support her. The good part of me did. It was the other side of me that ended up retorting.
I can't remember exactly what I said. It was an emotional zero to sixty in about seven seconds. I'd had sex exactly twice in the ten months since I'd moved out here. Same guy, and when mediocre relinquished to underwhelming and then embarrassing, I chastised myself for bothering at all. Another man had been on the radar, but he was a confusing wrench thrown into the works of my recovery and we'd had almost no physical contact. At that point that is, but that's another story.
All that frustration bubbled up in retaliation to Esther's unhappiness with her sex life. My jealousy asked her to not come to me with these complaints. Well, I didn't ask really. I fell into the whirling dervish and spun out, kicking the wall as I spat out the comparison of my dismal sex life to what she thought was a bad lack of intimacy in her own. When I kicked the wall my foot went right through it. I stopped yelling and stood there, one foot on the fake oriental rug, the other up to my ankle in plaster with one hand holding the phone up to my ear and the other hanging limp and useless at my side. I sheepishly pulled my foot out, still on the phone.
I took a single step away. There was the hole in the otherwise blank wall. The room was sparse, centered around a deep purple duvet tossed over my mattress. I kept a table lamp on the ground next to it. Several paperbacks were scattered across the floor, mingling with an incense holder, fine line ink pens, a crushed cigarette in the tin lid for a pine scented candle. Murky light seeped in through the window and my handed down jeans were two sizes too loose. My hair hung long and tangled down my back and I could feel it dangling against my skin. Why bother putting a shirt on, or picking up the books and makeshift ashtray on the floor? Nobody could see but me anyway. There was no place to put this crap, and no where else for me to go. I said to Esther,"I'm going to have to call you back."
I was sweating and shell shocked by my overreaction. She had flatly said 'okay' to me and we hung up. I lay, defeated, on the floor. Clearly, I had some shit I needed to address. I rolled over onto my stomach and looked about. Despite the crushing weight of the empty room surrounding me where I slept, at least I had somewhere. I drank some water and took a few deep breaths. This can't be forever. It can't be. I picked up the phone. I called Esther back to apologize.