Chapter 25: Malibu (1989)
Our move to LA is a disaster. Cruelty, tears and a goodbye.
The LA move is a disaster from the start. I arrived a few weeks before she did to find an apartment and get us set-up. She stayed behind to organize the shipping of our things. I thought she’d like the apartment because it was cheap, split fifty-fifty it was $300 a piece, and I thought that would take some pressure off of us while we were getting going. It had an avocado tree in a small patio out back that I thought she’d like, but she didn’t.
She hated the apartment the moment she walked in. She asked me the first night why I rented it. She couldn’t care less about the avocados and later on learned to make guacamole so she could buy avocados from the store. She said the place was like living in a bird cage, and then I could see that it was. The neighborhood was awful, she said, and then I could see that it was. The carpet was gross, she said, and then I could see that it was. I’d missed that. It was like putting on negativity glasses, and suddenly I had no idea why I rented the place or asked her to come live with me.
The weeks rolled on, and none of our stuff arrived from Pack & Ship, the first outfit she found in the phone book back in Manhattan. They’d showed up with a truck, and she let them take all our stuff the same day without even getting a second quote, and she paid them in cash. So, we ended living on the floor with a borrowed mattress for weeks, and still our things didn’t arrive. The company got so tired of our threats and screaming they stopped taking our calls.
Eventually we got some of it, maybe half. They left our things in a plywood crate outside the front of the apartment building. The Scandinavian bed we bought 50/50 was gone. It was scandalous. I don’t remember all seventy-six itemized reasons I gave her that she shouldn’t have hired them, but we fought about each of them repeatedly.
There were fits of happiness.
For my birthday that first year in LA she bought me a songbook of Elton John’s Greatest Hits, and I tried hard to learn this one song, her favorite one, the one she said was about her. I got the “sheets of linen, count the headlights on the highway” part but, not surprisingly, couldn’t get the “blue jean baby, LA lady” part with the hands that had to roll together cooperatively a certain way. I worked on it endlessly, and I know it meant a lot to her because she knew why I was learning it.
And there was more late-night Chuck Woolery television after her shifts, and we still had a few good laughs. But all the weed smoking and the alcohol was getting on my nerves. Her pot smoking, but now also my own. I am a world-class blamer, and I explained I only smoke it because you’re always bringing it in here.
I made it all her fault. For me it is literally out of sight out of mind, I explained like I was saying something clever. What the fuck? she said racing into the living room from the kitchen. No, you smoke it because you smoke it.
But we would get over it, and everybody would cry and apologize and all the rest of it, and the next afternoon before work, we’d have a small truce and get avocado burgers at All American Burger, sort of across from Guitar Center. It was a fun hamburger joint for the first few weeks, but then the place became depressing with weary, trudging prostitutes trafficking right out in front while you ate, and the whole filth of Hollywood, and not even getting any auditions to make the move to LA worth it.
It was a total mistake coming out here and we should never have come together. My agents don’t even like me.
She’d say I was right. At this point we could fight simply by agreeing with each other.
We were cruel.
There were more angry, tearful I’ll NEVER marry you fights, oh that’s a joke like I’d marry YOU, and you must be fucking kidding me, and having to retrieve my keys from the alley and the shame of the neighbors looking away from me when I walked out to my car, which I hated, hated, hated, and she knew that, of course, and that was why she did it.
And then right towards the end we had a climactic fight, our “you, you, you” fight, a bitter-end battle which still rings in my ears.
She was in our cracked, dirty white tile bathroom in her underwear and one of her tank tops with some kind of German emblem, and she was brushing her hair angrily probably getting ready for work, and God only knows what started this one, but she’d said something and, I raced up in a fury from the mattress on the floor, responding to some provocation. I said, “It’s just you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you.”
I said you like a hundred times, and I stabbed the air and spit out every last one with the cathartic release of primal scream therapy, and for about a minute I didn’t care if the whole building heard. I got lost in the perfect poetry of the repeated word. And I’d found the word I was looking for, alright. I’d found the word that described the whole three-and-a-half years, the whole relationship. I was cracking the entire universe in half with it, male and female.
I imagined the whole building on my side, nodding along with me, because of the shit I put up with, must have put up with, that poor guy with the crazy bitch down there.
Then she exploded out of the bathroom and said, “No, Adam-the-Actor-Who-Can’t-Get-a-Part,’ it’s just you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you.” And I’m sure she thought the whole building was on her side, racing across the upper deck in the opposite direction as we made our deaf arguments, rolling the ship back and forth.
It was over. The magnets were broken.
Neither of us had ever been through anything like it before. And then, at the end, when we had torn all the feathers out of each other’s wings, we stood there staring at each other. Expressionless. Blinking.
Depending on what you have or haven’t been through, you may have difficulty believing how deeply we loved each other, but it was true. Maybe that was the scariest thing.
During her last week in LA, as we counted down the days to her flight home, we made peace. We drove up to a beach north of Malibu, way the hell away from Hollywood, and bought some sandwiches and crap from 7-11 on the way up and hung out in the sea breeze.
She loved the beach, any beach. Maybe the beach was the one place she loved more than New York City. She was different by the ocean. Peaceful in a different way than she was anywhere else, and whenever we drove home from a long day at the beach, she would be quiet afterwards, like somebody who’d been to church and, for once, finally felt something.
We must have boxed her stuff up and sent it back to New York. I must have taken her to the airport. We must have said good-bye. I must have driven home from the airport alone. I must have returned to the empty apartment after she was gone and felt something terrible and strong, but I don’t know, and I can’t remember.
Twenty-some years passed, and I received a Facebook invite.
From the pictures, it did not look like she was married or had children. If there was a boyfriend, he was hidden. She had dogs named Leon and Paris. There was a picture of her in Las Vegas, another one up in Woodstock out on a lake, a picture at a restaurant where she must have tended bar or hung out. I couldn’t quite make out the knickknacks on her desk table. Among a small handful of “Favorite Movies” in her Facebook profile was Parting Glances.
I knew as I clicked Add Friend that it meant the cruelty and the “it’s all her fault” story that had been cryogenically frozen in time was back in play.
After an initial hello, from time to time, I’d get a quick comment from her or a Facebook thumbs up. One time she sent me a note after I’d posted some Christmas pictures of my children around the tree. In the background of the living room she saw the family grand piano. She wrote she was happy I was still playing, and I must be getting pretty good by now. I wrote that the Elton John Greatest Hits songbook she’d given me is in the pile of music books by the piano.
A week before we moved to France, I received a note from her. We hadn’t exchanged messages in months. She signed the note Always, then her name, and finally,
The Always wasn’t like her, and then the close with her Elton John song was too intimate or too nostalgic or too something. I left it alone.
It was odd, though. Something off.
June 14th, 2010.
Feel something. For free. Twice a week.