Friday afternoon, I left work early, intent on making it to San Diego before traffic hit... at least, before it hit me. Little did I realize that it would all hit each other (a plural reference to a singular pronoun? just roll with it) around San Diego. Still, I made it to Tim's before too late and, soon, my drink was in my left hand and a Camel was in my right hand. Ahhh... 'twas livin'!
Of course, I had to call Vicky when I got in... and then I thought of something funny that I wanted to tell Vicky... and then, as I finished my 5th or 6th drink, I realized I really missed Vicky and decided to call her... and a few drinks later, as I was passing out, I called Vicky...
I awoke the next morning halfway off the bed, with my brains halfway out of my head. I did my best to push them back in, rolled over... and called Vicky! She wasn't home - she wasn't at her home, at least. She was at my home - and she was CLEANING MY HOME! It was 10am and I'd barely opened my eyes. "You don't have to do that," I told her. (Clean the stove.) "I want to," she said. (Get the refrigerator!) "I feel so guilty," I complained. (The cobwebs! Clean the cobwebs!)
Look. I didn't start dating her to get a housekeeper. (The bathroom! Clean the friggin' bathroom!) I'm with her because I love her and I want to be with her. (Lots of dust bunnies under the bed!) She should never feel as though I need her to clean up after me. (And now, change the catbox!!!!)
I just know I'm going to get emails now, saying what a bum I am. Honestly, though, I asked her to stop. She didn't. My place wasn't a sty before she started. She's anal. I love her... but she's anal.
By noon, Tim was back from work and I was nearly awake. I didn't take long before Axel was ready to drive us to the Convention Center and, what with Axel's San Franciscan driving style, less time before we were there. It's a miracle we made it in, considering all the geek jokes I was making, and that we weren't killed and sacrificed to the spirit of Jack Kirby. (Yes, I'm one of them.) The next four hours, Tim and I looked at all the strangest people in the world, gathered in this place. We also spent a lot of time looking at half-dressed bodies; Tim took care of the men and I took care of the women - well, not completely. I mean, I do have a girlfriend, right? In the midst of the ogling, we also picked up some DVDs and shirts. I bought Vicky a tight, little top (okay, so I'm a pig) from Happy Tree Friends but the highlight of my day was buying a DVD from Bill Plympton. Amidst all of the crowds, he reclined at his booth and I got several minutes to talk to him! (Mind you, he's an animator and not a half-naked woman... so there might have been a reason why he had no crowd.) He was very nice and autographed by DVD - it was swell. I also went to the Adult Swim section, where they were selling framed animation cels. I'd gone to look for some magnets or decals or stickers for Tim but quickly turned away. One (rather large) woman in line for a cel yelled to a bystander, "Hey, pal! You wanna get in the back of the line like everybody else?!" When she found out he wasn't cutting into the line, she made one of those sheepish comments, like, "I was just asking..."
After four hours, I knew I couldn't go back another day. Imagine thousands of people in a barely-ventilated convention center! I'd smelled enough butt sweat for, at least, a few months... Tim and I took a cab home and grabbed grub to gobble. During dinner, I told him I'd be heading home early and, indeed, left that night.
I spent a bit of my drive feeling guilty for leaving early... after all, I was supposed to hang out with Tim for the weekend... but then... I remembered something... something I haven't thought of... in years...
October, 1985. Tim needed to move north, to Sonoma, where he was going to live with his grandmother. He was returning to his roots but worldly belongings don't move themselves. We filled my 1981 Mustang and, at 5am, hopped in and drove north. I remember that we had yet to reach LAX before I started to tell Tim how guilty I felt over Rosa. You see, I'd dumped Phia to date Rosa - and things with Rosa had not been peaches and cream. I felt guilty because I had once, only about two years earlier, dumped Teresa Alaniz for Cindy Wilcox... and what a mistake that had been.
We made it to Sonoma with me falling asleep only once... which was enough! While we were up there, I missed Rosa so much, I kept calling her. Finally, after being there less than a day, I turned around and headed home. I got on the wrong road and, rather than driving east, I drove west until I hit the 101. Fortunately, I knew to take that south until I found the 80, which I knew would take me back to the 5 and, then, home.
How ironic, I thought, that I'd felt so guilty about the beginning of my relationship with Rosa, considering that it, too, would end with a girl named Cindy. And I was glad my relationship with Vicky had not ended on the broken back of another relationship. Perhaps, I thought, I've grown up a little.
Grown up? In our second month together, I can't spend a day away from Vicky! I'll have to work on that...
Of course, Rosa and I had been together half a year by the time I took Tim to Sonoma... I seem to remember, though, that the month prior to that trip was the first one spent without her breaking up with me, over and over...
I got home, cleaned up (didn't want to smell like cigs), and got to Vicky's before midnight. I probably wouldn't have woken her if it wasn't for Suki, her dog, who was happy to see me. I guess you could say that dog likes me. And, so, Vicky's eyes opened when I approached her. "You're not asleep. You big faker," I said.
Later, we talked, oddly enough, about holidays. She told about one holiday spent in Vegas and, when she mentioned Valet Parking, I balked. I have a real problem with Valet Parking or even the alternative that she recommended: taking a cab. And so began one of our little tiffs... and it bothered me... and it continued to bother me...
Sunday afternoon, I was back at the Laundromat, smoking one of the few cigs Tim had given me "for the road" and reading. A young man - a small boy, really - walked outside. Down at the other end of the complex, in front of a bar, two men sat. One said, "Gonna be a hot one!" A young mother gathered her brood.
And I remembered back many years, more than 30 years. My mom, in the years immediately following her divorce, used to take us to the Laundromat to do her laundry. She couldn't afford a babysitter and was stuck with three kids. When people tell me how lazy those on welfare are, I think of her. Back then, my mom was on welfare. We wouldn't have had medical care without it. We wouldn't have had heat. We wouldn't have had food if not for the baskets given us by the church. Society supported us and my mom did her best to deserve it. So, when people tell me how lazy those on welfare are, I think of my mom and hate the person telling me that. I also think about how humble my backgrounds are and how much I owe. My job should be making the world a better place, not riding in cabs or letting others park my car.
That's when an old thought occurred to me: "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I should be helping those in need, not living like a prince. When was the last time I put my money where my mouth was? For how long had I been far too comfortable? I thought back on the last years of my marriage, when I worked so hard with the Green Party and local groups to make a difference. I thought on the new park down the street from Rosa, built, to a large degree, because of the speech delivered by me before the City Council of Orange. I had made a difference once...
Then, my life had fallen apart. Then, I'd picked myself back up again.
Then, I met Vicky and wanted to be happy. Now, another voice asks, "What responsibility do you have to her? Aren't you also responsible for her happiness?" It's not quite so easy as it was with Rosa, because she didn't want me around. Vicky tends to my happiness and I guess I need to tend to hers as well.
Somewhere in there, I need to make time for my friends. I also need to find a way to integrate my beliefs and who I am into this new life the two of us are making for ourselves. See, the thing is, I know that she wanted me to spend the weekend with Tim; she told me to stay. I also know that, deep down, she'd rather comfort the afflicted even at the affliction of her own comfort - maybe not all the time but, then, who would? I know she's good, which was why our little tiffs never turn into fights; they end rather quickly out of some unspoken trust we have that we won't let each other down.
And so it goes...