- Cockroaches (cont.)
He only wanted one thing. To come up here and fuck me. So, that is what Jim wanted too, and thing is, that is how it was in the late 70’s and 80’s. An entire group of people in my generation got shortchanged on love. I think we all started as the most Romantic generation that ever lived. We were. You have to watch out for your heart, because believe me, you will fall in love.
Not having a father to guide me, or my best friend, or my friend Jim – this happened to millions of us, in the years our parents split up. For girls like that? You have no idea what is going to come next.
That was probably what made me into a man. I had to be as strong as one of them. I decided to act just like they did, which is the total opposite of being a Cinderella. For one thing? I was going to earn my own way, and I had a job. Although, on my job, I would find out later that some women used sex to get ahead. With their clothing. The thing is, I read Vogue, just like my mother did, by the time I was 22.
My clothes became my armor.
Our mothers were on The Pill, starting in the 1960’s.
We had options for birth control, because doctors prescribed them. You could have an IUD, The Pill, or you could choose a Diaphragm. That is what I chose. Student Health taught me that. Because before Student Health, I depended on men to know everything about sex. I also knew they could wear rubbers. I had only been with two men at 21.
“Take that thing out,” he said. “I don’t like the way it feels.”
“I don’t want to wear this thing,” he said. “I can’t feel you.”
If you knew how much I hate him as I write these words, you would not imagine me capable of that much hate. Nobody that knows me, anyway.
I’m not going to hate myself, or the millions of other women who knew a guy like this, because there are millions of guys like that. But not all guys are like that. We are capable of falling in love so hard when we do? That we listen to everything he says, and we do what he says, and so I do not want you to be a really dumb 22 year old. Because there are going to be lots of chances for you to fall in love with the kind of guy that really will love you. He’s out there.
“Stand on your own two feet,” he said.
Looking around at the cockroach filled apartment and my cat Alladin, trying to get to his can, with them streaming from the walls as they did? As I drove downtown yesterday to vote, I was on the street where that place is. Right downtown. Still there.
Thus began the period, when he drove up.
He had no intention of giving me up. None.
His camera was like a gun, a barrage of bullets every time he turned it on me.
“I just want to be with you,” he said.
He had a can of cockroach spray in his hands, when he arrived. I don’t care where we sleep, he said. I just want to be with you, be with you be with you be with you just throw down a pile of coats and we can do it. He was 36 to my 22. He was married, and he was the biggest liar I have ever had to live through. Ever, Ever. Ever. Ever.
He threw a bunch of coats down on the floor.
He started up with that kiss he had, and suddenly, I was back in his arms all over again.
But it was Henry who would save me. My boss at work. He was slight, and Hispanic, and he moved through the office with a dancer’s grace and power. Of course, at work, we weren’t exactly discussing our relationships at that time. Just a pool of office girls, working, sorting through piles and piles of paperwork, Pink pages like pink ruffles, pink pages like pink tears. We were in a man’s world and we knew it. Navigating those shoals? This will take you a lifetime of experience.
Henry was so kind to me. Because he was something like head of all the advertising billing, and the people who owned that slum had a store on State Street, and I told him I had spent my last dime on the first and last and a deposit, that they weren’t going to refund, he simply made one phone call. “You’ll never advertise with us again,” he must have said. Something like that. He was like the dancers at Fiesta, the Flamenco dancers, when he moved. We saw them every year in the Plaza.
“What am I going to do Henry?”
“We’ll get your money back, “ he said. “You need to call Roommate Referrals up across from Danica House. They are in that big Craftsman and we run their ads.”
That money came back so fast my head spun. In fact it was delivered in the form of a cashier’s check to my desk at work.
Men can be really good guys. Henry was. That was the power of the place. Men with power had begun it, and men with power worked there, and in the beginning they were good men. They were some of the greatest men I have ever met in my whole life.
He had pushed me down onto the filthy floor of a place filled with cockroaches and called that “making love.”
I’m letting you know, because, I don’t want that to ever happen to you ever. Not ever.
Two hundred billion roses will not make up for what he did to me.
That is how I came to live on Red Rose Way in a beachy apartment with a girl who was older than me. Maybe she was 31. Together we could rent it. She was blonde and petite and she had just broken up with a guy in the harbor. She moved in with one suitcase, full of clothes that were like costumes. She was a legal secretary. Neither of us had beds.
In fact, neither of us had anything to furnish that place with. I had books, my books, and a blender, and a wooden spoon, and my record player so we had music. I got that at Creative Stereo. Morning Glory Music is where we all went to buy records. I bought a first measuring cup at Thrifty’s, and some towels for the bathroom. I had lots of clothes, though. I loved clothes. With my paycheck from the paper, I was able to pay the rent and fill the place with food. I could feed Alladin. When my first student aid came, in the form of a small grant and a largeish student loan, but not that large because, really at the end of UCSB, I was only about $10,000 in debt. Because of my job I could afford to eat in the UCEN which had really great food, and I was going to be walking under TM Storke’s massive bell tower, very soon.
My roommate was like this chameleon. All she did was go on dates with guys and she had a costume change for every single one of them. I was full of hope in those years, about what was going to lie ahead for me. UCSB is huge now, like a gigantic city. Back then it was huge as well, so giant that to get around people had to have bikes. Or run to get to class.
Once he said, “I want to go to class with you,” and he drove up and sat in the lecture hall, as if he were a student again. Like me.
It was going to be impossible to make the postcards stop. They came every single day to Red Rose Way, and for years I would not drive down that street here in town, because of what happened. What happened is one of the most painful secrets of my life. As you get older you realize that everyone has painful things happen to them. And this is what you will learn. Other people are your angels, because good always wins. It always does. Henry was one of those angels, for me.
In my earliest years at the paper I was surrounded by nothing but gentlemen, and all of them never trespassed any boundaries. They were kind, like Gabe, who would eventually be my boss. But first I had to face Mr. Plat and Mr. Sykes and tell them I was going to have to quit because it was Winter Quarter and I had to go to school. On the day I did that, they said, “We can’t lose you.” It was that simple. “I think we have the perfect position for you they said. “Night Switchboard Operator.”
“You’re going to be able to go to school, that way,” they said.
And that is how I went from being an adding machine style girl, to a telephone answering style girl, almost overnight, it seemed.
I was a girl who lived on Red Rose Way, and I sat in an iron cage, in a deserted lobby four hours a day.
I was a girl who was going to go to UCSB.
I couldn’t ask my mother or my father for help.
I couldn’t ask my grandparents.
I had to learn to stand on my own two feet.
I think the first thing I bought for the place was a can of paint at Standard Brands. It was sandy beige, and it was going to make that kitchen look like a beach. I bought some grass mats that looked beachy and covered over the flocked 60’s kitchen wallpaper by taking that up. Then I painted all those empty cabinets golden beige, just like the sand I loved down at Thousand Steps. I think I got a couple of pans at Thrifty too, or I went junking for some, at the Alpha. In the living room I had a pine mirror, my mother gave me, and a marble topped sewing machine base. I didn’t have much time to sew things anymore, not with school starting. My roommate never bought a thing for that apartment, isn’t that funny? Most of the time I was eating out just like my mother had brought me up in restaurants here in town, so lots of the food, was tossed.
I’ll never forget my roommate digging through the trash, for things, telling me, “This is still good.”
No it wasn’t.
We were white wine girls at 22.
I was Mouton Cadet.
copyright Adrienne Wilson, November 3, 2021 – all rights reserved