If only I could have predicted the road ahead. In my generation, we fell in and out of so many arms. In 1982, that became dangerous. There was a disease. Suddenly it appeared on the scene. Out of nowhere it came, and I was worried for Stevie B.
To wipe him out of me, there would need to be others.
Dennis Dunn told me to say one sentence. It was, “I can never see you again.”
I said that over the phone. It was going to be the last time I ever said a sentence to him.
By that time the grey box of photographs weighed a ton. I would sit on my Murphy bed and look at them sometimes. It was hard not to. My friend Bob at work started to scavenge a darkroom for me. He was finding all the parts for it, all over town, because we had Brooks Institute here in town. He found me a Leica, too. M2.
I said the sentence into the phone.
He didn’t listen.
Hardly anyone listens to girls.
He didn’t listen. Instead, one day when I came home from school he had scaled the balcony of my apartment on Fig, and broken in.
I got home from school and he was sitting in my apartment.
A girl who he was causing to think about driving into a cement pier on the side of the freeway every single day, and he did not give one fuck.
“I hate to think of you sitting up there all alone waiting for me, “ he said.
“Dennis told me I could not see you ever again.”
He didn’t care. He just pushed me down on that Murphy bed.
Then he zipped up and drove home.
Imagine a girl, crumpled into a ball weeping, after what he had done.
You might have to survive all kinds of things in your twenties, just to stay alive, and I want you to be as strong as me. If you need a therapist you can find one. You are going to stay alive no matter what. Dennis Dunn kept me alive. Once a week I went to see him. Maybe for six months. Little did I know, that the next time I saw Dennis, I would be telling him I was going to get married.
“That’s a good idea, “ he said.
I never met a bigger angel than Dennis Dunn.
Hacker was the first I invited to my apartment to spend the night. I broke the spell with him, and I don’t know if I ever told him that. We were only brief together, arms around each other, two artists. He would come over now and again, and we would sleep together. That foam pad made me feel sorry for him. You might feel sorry for some of them, in your life too. So when that 19 year old asked me for help? I was 22. Sure, I said. One night stands had pretty much been the rule in those years according to men. I was already quite experienced in the years past 19, so now that I think of it, I had in in love twice. I decided to be just like men, with their kind of freedoms. Why not?
In that era we all did.
The fact that her wrote me a love poem after that one night?
That’s what mattered.
Because he was sleeping with a poet, that night.
He brought that poem to me at work, at my desk, to say thank you.
Then he was off to medical school. I never saw him again.
Hacker and I palled around a little, like friends. My friends came over, for my vats of things. I was a girl who had her own apartment, just like an adult.
Suddenly one of the works of Hacker’s was up on my wall, next to those framed photographs of the two of us, the photographer had given me.
Hacker made it easier not to think of driving into a cement wall, because I had been so much in love with a total liar.
Imagine a guy running out of a restaurant to ask a girl for a date, and he was the dishwasher at The Paradise.
I was just walking down the street, across the street from the paper.
“You have to be my date,” he said.
He had to be two inches from me, face to face on Anacapa.
People here didn’t really go out clubbing like I had done with all my friends.
There was only one dance place, really.
Because I had my job at the newspaper, I could feed all my friends. The boys I knew then were always hungry. Most of them still lived at home.
Jim and Stevie B. were the two most fun people I knew, because Jim would drive Stevie up. He was Bisexual, and he was one of the handsomest men I would ever meet in life. Ever. So, we were just friends then. Did we ever go out on the town when Stevie was up. We went everywhere together, the three of us. Girls like me did not go out alone. We went on dates, and the guys were either lovers or chaperones. A girl alone in a bar? This was not done.
Stevie was from Pasadena, and so was I.
He was a charmer.
They were gentlemen.
The place where Hacker lived was by the best Theatre in town, for stage plays. Lots of artists lived in the little wooden places there. It was a hotbed for them. Men can get by with less than women need, in many ways. But for them, there was always going to be another woman around, if they needed a bed for the night, for instance.
I was a girl who had her own apartment.
I was a girl who had a job.
Judy worked for one of the meanest men in the Composing Room. He was the nightside boss in Ad Alley and his name was Bill. To say that being the proofreader was one of the hardest jobs in the whole building? It was, because you would not even believe what we had to read, nightly. Not only that, but everything had to be correct. Ever single letter. Every single punctuation mark, every single line of type.
I was that girl.
The only harder job, was going to be the Floor.
Judy had the hardest job in Ad Alley, under the meanest boss I ever saw. To say that men gave us a hard time in the early 80’s at work? Is only the beginning.
They had been hardened, working there, because in those days every single town had a newspaper. They had seen it all, the murders, the deaths, the obits, the all in all of a town. Advertising was how the paper was able to print itself.
So there were two parts to the paper.
Editorial & Advertising.
Bill didn’t like me. His eyes were cold and mean.
Sharon didn’t like me. Her eyes were hardened slits.
Maybe it because of the way I dressed, then.
Maybe I worked in the meanest part of the building.
Maybe everyone seemed mean because nothing could go wrong.
Not one letter could be off.
Nothing could be wrong.
And all of us cared.
You think the Reporters had it easy? No.
People like Gil the Gardener, had it easy. The columns he wrote were fun and full of metaphor.
Judy did Mark-Up, and mark up was the hardest job in the world. It was kind of like math, in the Cold Type days.
I made a mistake.
It was the worst mistake anyone could ever make at the paper, and it was humiliating.
It was for a Jewelry store in town, maybe at Christmas, that year. They were having a sale, and somehow, somehow, somehow, the typists had typed the whole thing twice, and I had proofread the whole thing twice and it had been pasted up twice as two columns, and it was the SAME two columns, twice and when it came back to my desk, I read the material twice. The only problem was? It was only supposed to be one column. I had read the identical material twice, when. I was the one who was supposed to catch that kind of thing. I read for both Editorial and Advertising at night, in those four hours.
The ad ran in the paper.
I’ll never forget the day Gabe called me into the office, and Bill was sitting in there.
Bill was glaring at me.
Gabe handed me the paper.
Bill said, “Look at this mistake.”
It was my fault.
Not only was a man terrifying me at my apartment, but now a man was terrifying me at work. I was going to be spending the next 20 years of my life, with bosses who terrified me.
I hope you never get a job like that.
I hope you never get a job where some men can make you feel really small, like I felt that day. Not from Gabe, who was my boss, but from Bill.
After that, he rode me.
Every single night.
I was so scared to proofread after that, as I returned to my desk, that I knew I was never going to let Gabe down again.
I felt like it was all my fault, but it wasn’t. The typists hadn’t noticed they had typed the ad twice, the paste-up person in Ad Alley hadn’t noticed he had pasted up the whole thing, twice, and by the time it got to me? Well, it was in something like 3 point, Times Roman, maybe.
Seeing the printed piece?
That I had not caught it?
I would never make a mistake like that ever again.
This was going to be even more important when I got to the Floor.
Can you even imagine how the Publisher felt?
Getting that call from the Advertiser?
Can you imagine how Gabe felt?
I had let Gabe down. I thought I was going to be fired.
It was part of the great learning curve that is life.
All of life is a series of roads you will take. But nobody knows where those might lead at 22.
Judy’s job was one of the hardest in the Composing Room, and she was in a man’s world, just like I was. Most of the women? They were just typists. It didn’t matter. We all had jobs. We had all gone to work.
Now that I think of it?
So was mine.
That was a full page ad.
I will never know how Gabe must have been raked over the coals after it ran.
Then it went down the chain of command, one by one, until it got to the girl who had made the mistake.
I never made a mistake like that again.
It was the road to be a Journeyman Printer.
At that time, I didn’t know I would be taking that road.
It was the road of honor, and of duty.
From the littlest paperboy right on up to the top of the Tower, where the Publisher sat.
Memoir Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 8th, 2021, all rights reserved #NaNoWriMo2021