Illustration by Bob AulTen years ago, someone called me a snob. I set out to prove them wrong. I answered a personal ad in a local paper (this was before the Internet) and agreed to meet "Caroline." I drove to Monrovia and sat in a Starbucks. She, with a head full of silver curls la Arlo Guthrie, exited her VW bus, which was painted, by her hand, into a giant wave. She told me she lived in a basement and was an artist. She was older than she had told me she was. I reminded myself I was not a snob. We went to a cigar shop. She tap-danced in the humidor and sang to the other patrons. I asked her to stop. She replied, "If you don't like it, you can walk 'em." I reminded myself I was not a snob. We hiked to the top of a hill. She told me she was bipolar and kissed me. She came over the next day. She watched me read my novel for my literature class and talked to me about her sexual relationship with her landlord—sex for rent—and how it didn't mean anything. She jumped on top of me. She licked my face. A lot. I asked her not to. She told me I was sexually repressed. I sneezed and stifled it. She told me I had sexual issues. She called her mom and told her I wore lipstick and that she had, indeed, taken her medication that day. She cried that she was alone. I invited her to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' the next day. We got into my car. She told me she had a fear of driving fast, so we couldn't go over 45 on the freeway—all the way to Riverside. I turned on KROQ. She told me beat music made her "agitated." I put on the Wave. All the way to Riverside. She told me that if, while we were driving, she screamed and told me to pull over, I had to do it immediately and ask no questions. We arrived at my mother's house. I went to the bar. She talked to my parents' friends. She told them they were assholes. I told her I had a headache. She offered me one of her pills. I took it. While she learned to shoot a rifle in the back yard, I sat in front of TV karaoke and sang, all by myself, a Jewel song. We left the dinner. I was tanked. We drove down a back road in the hills. It was pitch-black. She shrieked, "You love your mother more than you love me!" I said that was true. She threatened to jump out of the car. I sped up. She spent the night. In the morning, I pushed her out the front door of my apartment—twice. She screamed and cried from the courtyard. She got in her wave and drove to a pay phone. She called me 25 times, cursing me and telling me her psychic said we were meant to be. I packed a bag. I sneaked down the alley of my apartment. I drove to my mother's and stayed the weekend. I was not a snob—I was sane. (Stacy Davies)
* * *
One night, driving back from a screening of Eraserhead, she said she'd never met anyone like me. Told me that we ought to live together forever. Back on campus at USC, I rushed my roommate off with $10 for beer. She undressed in ambient light filtering into the dorm room from a tennis court just outside. She pressed herself against me. Years later, I can still remember the onrushing euphoria—the breathlessness, the vague sense that I was on the verge of uniting with a formerly lost part of myself, of overcoming the very human sense of what Durkheim called anomie. Yes, I was squeezing her bare ass.
She laid down on my bed.
And then I did it. I told her that I wanted the relationship to last, so I was prepared to put off having sex. I'd like to say that I said this from a place of perfect self-discipline—as if to say that I wasn't in this for the fucking. In fact, I can now see from the lofty promontory of years that that is only part of the truth. I was gambling, you see, betting literally on the come, betting that she would be honored by my restraint; I was staking this organic moment of hot sex on the possibility that sex delayed would yield me a bumper crop of amazing hot sex later.
I bet wrong. She dressed. The night wound down. She left. The next morning, she failed to show for a planned beach outing. I called, but she didn't answer. Days passed. I wanted to jump from my dorm window—actually stood out on the ledge and considered the death mathematics that would take me arcing from the building, across a sidewalk and into the courtyard of the cinema department. I climbed to the top of the dorm late at night and told God in a moment of supreme irony that I was now officially an atheist.
Two days later, I heard from a friend that he'd seen her—the woman of my waking dreams—drunk and dancing naked at a frat house. Today I can see my error. She wanted sex as badly as any man—most women do; that my baroque, Catholic notion of sex (sex is evil, and women—chaste vessels—really don't want sex so much as something far higher, abstract and, therefore, platonically pure, something like cuddling and conversation) was a damaged compass; that telling a naked woman I wanted to wait could only be translated by the still space between us into words I did not intend—that I found her loathsome, maybe, fat, ugly, hideous, undesirable. A skank.
I'd like to say I've lived and learned. But today, I'm still far from the shore of really understanding women, still relying occasionally on the cracked instrument of my faith in matters of sex. The only difference today is that I know my faith is a liar. (Todd Mathews)
* * *
I like to think I know a thing or dos about the Latino experience because I am one. Nevertheless, two of my girlfriends dumped my pochoass because they accused me of not being a "real" Latino. My first girlfriend came from the same rancho I did, yet she constantly criticized my Mexican credentials. She ridiculed my Spanish (hers was only marginally better); insisted I dress more "Mexican" by sporting leather boots, belts and jackets; and nearly cried once after I told her we have more opportunities in this country than in Mexico. She eventually left me for a Mexican immigrant who spoke nary a word of English. At least she had some claim to legitimacy. My last girlfriend was in no such position. Of Vietnamese extraction, the Irvine resident wanted to learn Spanish more than anything else in the world and left me twice to learn the tongue—once in a Guatemalan language school and the other time in that bastion of Latino culture known as Portland, Oregon. She'd resist whenever I'd try to assist her in realizing her dream by speaking only in Spanish, insisting I was more hindrance than help. She dumped me soon after a huge argument in which she claimed my light skin and "privileged" economic status prohibited me from understanding the particularities of Mexican racism. She left me for a real-life Communist who called himself Stalin and spoke only Spanish. (Gustavo Arellano)
* * *
In 1985, I was dating an exciting, wild-maned, college-educated woman, a spirited person of passionately held ideas. That was the first month. Soon I realized I was actually dating an unkempt, intellectual poseur who couldn't keep her hide-bound community college spew-hole shut if her TGIF waitress job depended on it. The time had come for a change, but I couldn't muster the energy to get out of the relationship—you know, the long conversation, the tears, the pretending to care, the pretending to blame myself, the long follow-up conversations and pathetic attempt-to-get-back together sex. It was all so exhausting. It was easier just to keep going out with her and not listen to anything she said. Until a friend—much crueler in matters of love—wised me up good. "You have a phone machine, don't you?" he asked. This was the mid-'80s; phone machines were relatively new. So new that people still felt the need to explain how they worked in their messages, the explanations many times accompanied by disco versions of classical music or impersonated voices of the day's hot celebrities: Eddie Murphy, Steve Guttenberg and Miss Stella Stevens. My friend showed me how it was possible to "screen" my calls. You see, before phone machines, a person trying to avoid another person had to either change their number, never pick up the phone or have them killed—options that were either inconvenient, expensive or both. I experimented with a few calls and found that my friend was right—though I couldn't shake the feeling that the voice in the machine could see me hiding behind the couch, peering over at the machine. Still, the next time the woman called, I didn't pick up. She left a message. I didn't return it. She called again. No call back. She called again. And again. And again until she got the message. The calls stopped. Pause. They started again. But this time, they came at three in the morning. The phone would ring, and I would jerk my head, unsticking my cheek from the cold, exposed plastic of my waterbed mattress, assuming, like anyone receiving a call at that time of day, that my family had been wiped out. Then I heard her voice, calm and measured. She said she knew I was there, that I was too much of a coward to pick up the phone. And then she started to tell me what she thought of me, of my unheated water bed, of the rotting potatoes in my kitchen. She said she at first thought I was polite but now realized I was only a scared boy who couldn't stand up for myself. She was right. I just laid there, night after night, her voice wafting in from the living room, and listened. The calls kept coming. Soon, she wasn't talking about me at all, but about trips she'd taken, about other jerk boyfriends, about a near-death experience in Europe, about other people who had screwed her over or friends who had betrayed her. I listened wide-eyed, part confessor, part accused, always freaked that she would describe what I was wearing at that moment or where I had had lunch that afternoon. Then it stopped. I never heard from her again. (Steve Lowery)
* * *
I spent 11 years of my life with a woman so evil it seemed she was possessed by demons that flew out of Satan's ass. I'm not here to claim any kind of holier-than-thou status. I freely admit to being a terrible booze-slut. But at least I'm a fun drunk. The worst thing I do whilst obnoxicated is stumble around naked singing doo-wop songs very badly and make a general ignoramus of myself. However, an abbreviated litany of this woman's drunken behavior includes the following:
• She liked to pinch babies when their parents weren't looking. Hard.
• She screwed or attempted to screw almost half of my friends.
• When I tried to stop her from driving while blind drunk by standing in front of her car, she ran me over.
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• She tried to stab me with a huge kitchen knife for pouring her bottle of vodka down the drain.
• She horked on me in the middle of the night without even waking up from her drunken stupor on several occasions, and sometimes she pissed the bed.
• She stole booze from the restaurant she worked at so many times they fired her.
I loved her, I cared about her, I worried about her, but something had to give as her alcoholism worsened and she refused to do anything about it. So finally, after 11 long years, I dumped her. Kicked her out into the cold, cruel world. I felt like a heel, but it had to be done. Two weeks later, she moved in with a cop she'd met in a local dive bar. Two weeks after that, she showed up at my door, tears running down her pretty little face, stitches running from her pretty little forehead to the bridge of her pretty little nose. The cop had grabbed her by the hair and smashed her face against the wall. In 11 years of torment, after all the booze-trauma she'd laid on me, I managed to never kick this woman's ass. Two weeks with this cop, and he caved her face in. My first inclination was to send scary friends of mine over to break the fucker's legs. Then I thought better about it. Why had I bothered dumping her in the first place if I was still going let her bullshit ruin my life? She was his problem now. Tuff tittie, bitch. That moment of revelation was perhaps the greatest freedom I have ever felt in my life, and I haven't spoken to her in the nine years since. Now I'm happily married with a beautiful baby girl, and my wife also enjoys stumbling around naked and singing doo-wop songs very badly after a few drinks. You see, happy endings do happen. (Buddy Seigal)