memoir Newspaperpeople day 12 nanowrimo 2021

Fog, Magic hour light – by Adrienne Wilson

Newspaperpeople

  1. Towheads

The landscape opens. He didn’t want to leave you, and he wasn’t mean. This is what you will learn. Last night in the harbor remembering the boat leaving shore, the soft laps of the water. Four girls of 22, arriving wanting to pet your dog.

You tell them, the harbor is safe, the men down here are the best men you will ever meet. One of them is tipsy. You feel you know them, know what comes ahead. Not that you can, just that you want it to be better for them.

I had to learn they were all different.

They will be.

He’s standing holding Alladin in his arms like a baby, and he purrs. The bamboo rustles in the rain outside your tiny world.

He knows you are cold, and he brings a union suit, and a candle.

He builds shelves in your pantry, handy with a hammer.

The girls tell you that they don’t want Botox or butt lifts.

You smile and say don’t follow that road that they might have planned for you.

“We’re not going to,” they say.

They could be grandchildren.

How strange to suddenly be thinking like that, sending warnings across vast expanses like 40 years of time.

They are all just starting in College. You remember.

The freedom comes later.

The freedom is something that you have to carve, because there will be times it’s going to seem impossible to stay with him.

Little pieces of something that was the thing you might have wanted, once.

It might be the thing that you wanted for yourself.

How can you prevent someone from making the same mistakes that you did?

Is it even possible?

My best friend was pregnant at my wedding, something like eight months along. She wasn’t married to him yet, that would come later, as would her second child. Towheads. It’s going to be almost impossible to keep the friendship, they are buying a house in a different town, your lives diverge from being the two best friends on a beach, waves lapping at your skirts, collecting shells and dreams together.

He chose the rings.

“I want these to match,” he said.

Maybe in your mind, like Cinderella, you were expecting the down on one knee, with a flashy diamond.

That’s not how it happened though.

There isn’t going to be a Bridal Registry for you.

Maybe it is the era.

She doesn’t have a wedding either.

She’s just pregnant standing there, and your lives divide in the courthouse tower, that day. You can’t be the mothers that you planned, pushing strollers at the seashore.

She asks how much you make, and you don’t know what to say, because, the path you chose was job, and not hers, and you are afraid of her path. She has to depend on him, and you had tried that the first and second times you were in love.

It’s what she tells you later.

He controls everything.

He tells her, dropping a five dollar bill in the center of the table, that she is supposed to feed the kids on that.

She has a pack of hot dogs, and some milk for them.

You drive her to the store.

You pay for the groceries, thinking of your mother and how she did that for all her friends in the same kind of jam, when you were little. The mother who made you her best friend. The mother who mothered your best friend. Instead of you.

You are quiet driving back home, the roads curving down from Ojai.

You go back into work and realize you have to be strong.

You learn to wriggle away from the arms encircling you at the light table. You learn to stand on your own two feet, with the males at work.

She’s your best friend and the two of you are 30.

“Tell me how much you make,” she says.

“How can you?”

It seems too terrible, to name the figure. It’s not that much, actually. You cannot stand what he is doing to her. Your best friend. The two of you were only fourteen, once, full of dreams about what the future was going to hold.

They like to try and intimidate you at work.

That’s when you become fierce.

Your last act of kindness was another defloration. He’s 36, one of those tech types and he’s a virgin. At twenty nine, you cannot believe this is true, but it is.

He’s madly in love with a co-worker out at the tech place he works. You’re friends, having Thai. He starts asking you how to approach her, he is almost obsessed he is so in love. You try walking him through what to do, what might work, like sending her flowers, just because.

The reason he is in this spot?

He’s not one of the really handsome ones. It will be more difficult for guys like him.

Still, it seems so unfair, and so you offer to show him how.

Perhaps you have spent your life trying to help others.

What is experience for?

You congratulate yourself later. He manages a ten year relationship after that.

Not with her, but you helped him break the ice. He won’t have kids either.

At work in Ad Alley, you learn to perform the simple functions of the job. Taking studio classes will be where you turn. Because you have a job, you can pay for these.

In Benet’s class she has you learn assemblage. Art will be the only way you can express feelings. You learn that, quickly enough, through her.

There is a cardboard box you wrap with fluffy cotton batting, pure white over the red lights you strung inside. They glow pink under the layers. He watches while you wrap it, not understanding what it is like to get crits in Art classes. He drives you in the MGA to class, smiling. You are holding it on your lap, like the day with the Pavlova.

It’s a womb in all purity, emitting a sound you can’t remember. From the Walkman inside. You fill it with cotton balls and q-tips, those for eggs and sperm.

The grey box is set to the side.

You never open it again.

Gold ring on your finger.

You’ve said certain vows.

You’ve gotten another A.

Your best friend leaves him.

She marries another, who will raise the kids.

She begins school. She begins school after the kids are old enough, and she starts up at the lost path. She was raped too, she tells you.

“He raped me,” she says.

Years later you will write it, for the other little 22 year olds.

You don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

It hurts so much to lay it out on the pages, remembering what they had done to the two of you.

It becomes easier to work with sound, those years. You wear the Walkman to work, it gives you silence, while you paste up. You can tune all of it out.

Cardboard flats hold each ad.

There are mountains of them.

Mountains and mountains that have to run the next day or the day after, the work is never ending. So is the loyalty. To him and to this place.

You think work is like a family.

Later you will learn it isn’t.

Don’t avoid it whispers the Muse in your head. Don’t avoid talking about the hardest things, or all the things left unsaid, for the 22 year olds coming up behind you.

You don’t want them to miss having kids.

You don’t want them to miss what everyone calls perfection in this lifetime.

He left her a five dollar bill to feed her kids, on a shabby table, in her well scrubbed kitchen.

“At least you aren’t saddled with kids,” your mother says.

Suddenly you can see how you took to heart all the things she had ever said.

Your mother.

“Washers and Dryers,” he laughs, as the two of you watch them spin. You bought them for Pedregosa, yourself, at Sears. Just minis. You just want things to be clean and perfect. At all times, proving yourself to be a girl, proving yourself to your friends.

The clock going off in your head, banging like a gong.

“Fuck it,” he says.

The thermometer goes cold on the bed.

He doesn’t want the responsibility.

He should have told you, you think.

It takes years to understand.

Years later, learning to become the therapist you will become, one named Don pushes your buttons so hard, the anger wells up as tears.

“Why didn’t you have kids in your twenties?”

He has no concept of what other men are like, in his perfect little ordered world.

Does he?

He tries with EMDR to get at it. They want you cleaned out, empty of emotion, so that you can cure others.

A scented candle burns.

Birds sing outside.

The sea sings in all her colors, blue into silver, the purple out over the islands. You have managed to write past it. The hardest part. You could not have done what she had done. You could never be that vulnerable. She didn’t have a mom and dad either. You wonder where they all went?

You wonder why they couldn’t be parents.

Generation Warhol had Generation Woodstock.

Generation Warhol had no idea how hard it was going to be for their kids.

It’s easier to put pen to paper.

It’s easier to put paint to canvas.

It’s easier to try and blend it all together into purple.

How can you begin to trust men when you didn’t have a father?

You can’t.

He was supposed to be there, be there, be there, and he wasn’t.

It’s 1988.

The clock ticks.

The clock ticks until it goes off screaming in your head.

You’ll never be the girl some guy throws down $5 on a table for. Not ever.

You weep for what he put her through that year.

She and those two little towheads, that were so adorable.

Newspaperpeople Memoir by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 12, 2021 all rights reserved

MEMOIR #NewspaperPEOPLE DAY 8 #NaNoWriMo 2021

Newspaperpeople

  1. Roads

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.

Imagine that.

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.

I wasn’t.

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