“It’s your old roommate,” I said after the beep, “calling you because I just saw La La Land. It technicolored my world. And now I’m walking around Milwaukee in winter without a coat because I just saw La La Land. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, you’ve already lived it, so call me back already.” I ended the call. A text message appeared. My support group was cancelled. I was relieved, but not a good relief; it was the kind of relief you feel when approaching an intersection where someone is standing with a sign asking for money and the light turns green just in time so you don’t have to sit with them and your conscience.
In the back of my mind, The B Team – who might simply resent never getting a TV show but that is no excuse – had begun plotting something bad. Details undecided yet, but definitely sexy and bad. So I counterplotted by accepting a weeks-old party invitation from friends. We sang traditional carols and then selections from Fiona Apple’s first album along with a keyboard played by an organist and accompanied by incredible amounts of alcohol. “You made me a shadowboxer, baby / I wanna be ready for what you do / I’ve been swinging around me / ‘Cause I don’t know when you’re gonna make your move.”
The next day, my head feeling kind of heated and full, like a crock pot on warm, I sat with my sponsor in a coffee shop, surrounded by people alone together. “It’s all about geography,” he said. “It’s true you did stumble, but the place you stumbled from, and the place you stumbled to, are different now.”
“Yeah, but that was weeks ago and I still haven’t deleted his number. I’m going to, I am, but I just can’t yet. You know, it’s not like I met him on craigslist. I met him at a conference in Chicago once a few years ago. And it’s not like we’ve done anything besides text – ”
“But it sounds like you will,”He smiled.
“Listen you fucker,” I smiled back.
“I’m concerned for you.”
“You should be.” I stared across the street at store windows crowded with lights and merchandise. “There’s a montage in La La Land…have you seen it?”
The montage is towards the end, a whirlpool of references and originality, color and shadow, pulling all of the movie’s past, and possible futures, right into the present. Watching it, I felt like a car being dragged out of a body of water. And there was a lot of water, as the patrons who sat next to me can attest. Even describing it to my sponsor, I could feel tears being forecasted, an angry red blotch moving behind my eyes.
“Anyway,” I transitioned, “after the movie I collected myself and walked around without a coat and called my old roommate who lives in L.A. and left a message,” I nodded once, as if it were a period. “I don’t know why I came back here, nine years ago. Why did I come back? Why did I join this church? Why did I move into the neighborhood? Why am I trying to recover? Everything is falling apart. The things I was always eventually certain of, the good, right and pure things, are falling apart. At least if I had stayed there, maybe I would have a movie.” I stared across the street again as a woman walked into a salon called Samson & Delilah. “The truth does not negate or alleviate our feelings,” he said. “But the truth is, you’re a pioneer,” he said. “And maybe you’ll still get your movie.”
A day later, my head colder but no clearer, I asked the Internet – that medium ever ready to call up enticing visions – for help in finding friends from my previous life nine years ago. Regrettably one of the friends has the same last name of a certain love interest in Twilight, and suddenly pink fruit was ripening all over Google: pictures of sexy wolfmen, teenagers played by twentysomethings in Young Adult films, half-naked, advancing towards me.
This fight has never been fair.
Closing the browser window, I texted an addict friend, fingers ramming the buttons: “I’m considering posting in casual encounters that I’m looking for a jock to climb.” He texted back: “lol noooo climbing leads to cramps and indigestion.” He forwarded a letter he sent to his local paper: “I had a hard time accepting who I was, and for years…these icons [Prince, David Bowie, George Michael] let me be myself for the duration of an album. Those moments got me through. Carrie Fischer was comedic gold who showed no shame in being crazy…she was just like me…I sometimes fought with many substances because…I had demons I didn’t want to face. I took my hidden life to the very edge, and I almost died…[but I] got help and sobered up…I became me.”
The fight we fight with our darker form is always the hardest. It fights dirty. It knows all the old wounds that in one punch can take us down. I was huddled and down for the count this weekend, even. It’s fucking not fair.
When we stand back up, spit our blood-saliva-teeth on the pavement…when we look It, crick our necks as one, begin the spar again…we give ourselves time to find the opening. Take It down. And breathe.