Monday, April 12, 2004

A completely wretched woman who I've loved with all my heart...

Welcome to the new week, one that brings with it two entries from me rather than the typical Monday entry that is so long you have to take a break before you can finish reading it... if you actually do.

Today, you get two of those. (I'm a giver.)

As with most things, there's the good and the bad. I'll start with the good.

I got paid on Friday. (Good enough for you? Well, just wait.) It had been a while since I'd spent any money on myself, so I decided to take myself out Saturday and do some shopping. (It's either that or save my money and... come on... I'm an American!)

So, Saturday morning I awoke early for my haircut. I was going to Juana's place. Juana, as you may know, is Rosa's sister. She's cut my hair, on and off, for over a decade. Since I was getting the cut for the show, I felt like she was the only one with whom I could trust my hair. Rosa and I used to always go early in the morning, before she had any clients, and so I went early. I got there just before 9am and, though I thought that was early - it was early TO ME! - it wasn't early enough.

"Can you come back at noon?" she asked.

Three hours later? (What, Ken? Do you have a life?) Okay, I told her and went out. I drove to Woody's in Huntington Beach. Rosa and I used to go there, occasionally, for breakfast. Now, as much as I hate going places that practically drip with memories of her, I somehow got it into my head that it might be a good thing for me. So, I had a light breakfast (veggie omelet w/rye toast) and drank several cups of coffee while reading Katherine Hepburn's biography. I don't think the waitress cared... actually, I think the waitress liked me but that's a whole other story.

I finished breakfast but it was only a bit past 10am. My next stop: DVD Planet. Okay, it's my favorite DVD Superstore in the whole world but, like my neighborhood crack dealer and pimp, I hate them because they suck up all my money. I spent nearly $200 before I got out. (Hey, the Chaplin Collection alone was $75!) Now, I know what you're saying. "Why are you buying DVDs when your DVD player is broke?!" (If you didn't know, read back a few days.) Well, that was taken care of later when I returned the old one to Costco.

By the time I escaped from there, it was after 11:30am and I headed down to Juana's place.

As usual, she started by washing my hair and then brought me over to her station (she has this place with several other girls). We made a bit of small talk, the "how are your kids/family/cats/kidneys, etc." variety. She asked me about my show. I told her.

The 300 pound gorilla, though, hadn't been mentioned.

"So, how is Rosa?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said, which meant that she did know but I wasn't going to like it. Then, she started to recount item after terrible item. It started with the sad news about Rosa's baby, who will be having surgery in a couple of months. Then, it went to news of Rosa trying to refinance her home. (You know, the one that used to be ours... but I'm not sensitive about it.) Word has got out that she owes someone $10,000 (three guesses) and part of the refi is to pay them back. The thing is, she'll never get the home refi'd, I found out, because of all the collection agencies that are after her.

This is nearly unforgivable. The Rosa I knew was a prideful person who would never borrow or be beholden to another - and would certainly never have her bills go to collections. Oh, sure, she's spend every cent she had as fast as she made it BUT she'd never allow herself to look like white trash. (While there was nothing she wanted more than to be white, she didn't want it that badly.)

I didn't ask Juana the obvious question, which was, "Isn't Mike helping her at all???" I didn't need to. Juana launched into this angry commentary on Michael before I could even mention him. The hatred was so obvious, I wanted to suggest she put down the scissors until the next topic.

Actually, I was pretty shocked. I mean, when I met Michael, I thought he was someone I could be friends with; I thought he was okay.

When Tim (San Diego) had met him, he'd told me, "He's even more manipulative than you."

Now, I don't see myself as manipulative so I thought Tim was, well, off the bend on that one.

And I still don't see myself as manipulative.

Michael, however...

Juana went on and on about how he doesn't help her and, worse, how he keeps her in check, not allowing her to live her life, forcing her to live for him and the baby.

And that, dear friends, is unforgivable.

The Rosa Piedra that I knew would never have stood for that. The Rosa Piedra that I knew had no problem telling me, "No way, Ken. I'm doing what I want." And I respected her for that.

I told Juana this.

And it was before the words came out that I realized something. And I very nearly gasped.

That Rosa Piedra is gone.

She's gone.

She's utterly gone.

And I will truly never have her back.

But was she ever there? Was Rosa Piedra strong when I was with her because I was with her? Did I give her the strength to be a better version or Rosa just like she gave me the strength to be a better version of Ken?

Yes. The conclusion seemed inescapable.

She'd chosen someone who made her weak and encouraged that. And she'd thrown me away, someone who encouraged her to be strong.

And as funny as it might sound, this is all good news. Oh, it's not good news for Rosa. Rosa's living through her own little hell just like I lived (and continue to live) through mine. Maybe, someday, she'll realize what she's done and do what she needs to fix it. I hope she does. She deserves far better. But it's good news for me. It made me realize that, even if I convinced her to take me back, I might not want her back. Folks, I don't want to go back just to rescue her. I need rescuing, too. It needs to go both ways and I would have been happy to accept her frailties, her quirks, her decision to have a baby with Michael and the baby as well. But to think that Rosa threw me away for that? She threw away love and encouragement for sorrow and subjugation? Fine - take it and off with ya!

(In case you're thinking I'm exaggerating, Juana told me one story about a time when Rosa came to get her hair cut and her cell phone rang. It was Michael. Juana heard Rosa pleading on the phone and, when she got off, she said, "I have to go." Juana said, "Tell him you're going to stay and have your hair done." "No," Rosa said, "I have to go home."

"What's she afraid of?" I asked. "He's gay! What's he going to do to her?!"

Juana didn't know but she said he had some power over her. To the Rosa Piedra I had known, this would never have happened.)

Even as I walked out after, I began to think about all the lessons in humility I've had over the past few years. Maybe this is a lesson for Rosa. And, of course, we never learn from them until it's too late.

Then, I thought back. I thought back to when I'd left her and said, "I hope you find someone who is rotten to you so you can realize just what you're throwing away." Now, she has... but has she realized? Juana said Rosa might have shut me out because of pride. "Maybe she couldn't face you," she said. "After all the mistakes I made?" I asked.

I thought back, then, to all the hurt Rosa had caused. The years that had led up to the divorce. The abortion.

Yes, I thought, Rosa was a completely wretched woman and I loved her with all might heart. This might sound strange but think about it for a minute. Now, I wonder, would I take her back?

Sure, things are going to continue to be tough now and then but I drove home Saturday and did not think for a minute of sitting on the curb across from her house and thinking about how wonderful things used to be.

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