It certainly did not go to paying rent, which was only $175 a month to live on the bay in San Diego. A pittance even back in that day, but my roommate's rich parents had scored her the place and they didn't want her living there alone. I was 17 and fairly unsullied, whereas she was a bitch and a whore, but I still haven't decided if that's a good or a bad thing.
Her name was Julie, and the first thing she did was fuck my boyfriend. Julie was a big, bowling-pin shaped girl, and to her credit she was wholly realistic about her attributes. If she lured someone into the sack it was because he was drunk, usually, and she knew his inevitable sobriety the next morning wouldn't help her visage much, so she never asked for, or even acted as though she expected, seconds. These guys were so grateful that Julie became their instant pal, and it really helped that she had a constant parade of beautiful friends visiting her from her hometown, and she'd dole them out like chew toys to all these new dude friends. Afterward the girls would gather in the kitchen, sometimes while the guy was still sleeping in the room at the end of the hall, and give each other riotous comparisons.
One of these guys, of course, was my now ex-boyfriend, so on any given morning I'd be sitting on the balcony of this opulent bayfront apartment listening to two bitches compare notes on balling him, and I still haven't decided it that's a good or a bad thing.
Months prior I'd lied about my age and gotten a job as a waitress at a good restaurant, right around the time when Julie had moved her drug dealing friend and his mysterious baby son into our living room. His name was John, and he kept a constant offering of cocaine on the coffee table as if it were a dish of your grandmother's candy. He even -- and I just wanna lay down on the floor and wail when I recollect this -- said he'd regularly rubbed it on his baby's gums when he was teething. Given my total terror of drugs, I must credit John for how astutely he got me hooked on his. Before long I was inhaling the stuff like a whale with plankton.
Enter my father, who came to visit me that Christmas, the first since his divorce from my mother, while my roommates were off communing with the nest of agitated water moccasins that no doubt made up their own families. Immediately after assessing my deceptively high-class apartment, he asked for money. He said it was hard for him to ask, though to me the question didn't seem to come that hard. If it had, I might not have turned him down so easily.
I had second thoughts after he'd gone, though, when my roommates were back and I was zimming on the blow I'd bought with the money I could have given my dad. I lay in bed remembering that the gift he'd brought had been small and unwrapped, a gold ring with a tiny topaz stone sandwiched between two tinier diamonds. I didn't recall where I'd put it, so I set about finding it before one of the flotsam that constituted my friends purloined it for future highs. Remarkably, it was sitting right there on the coffee table, surrounded by a small crowd passing a mirror among themselves. I swept it up and returned to my room and dialed my father's phone number.
I was gonna tell him everything. I was gonna tell him I loved him and missed him and I was sorry to disappoint him and wouldn't it be great if we could all be together again, on a trip maybe, and he could be barbecuing outside his motor home instead of alone in a bar needing to borrow money from me and I could be his girl again instead of mired in the mess of bad decisions I'd made since I started this game in which I pretended I was an adult with a nice place to live.
I was gonna tell him this wasn't such a nice place to live. I was gonna tell him I didn't even want to walk outside my bedroom right then, I didn't want to face the vacuous wreck that had already become my little life. I was gonna tell him I wanted to move in with him in his one-room efficiency across the street from the Los Angeles Airport and he could make me fried chicken and I could sleep on the bottom rung of his trundle bed, and could he please hop in one of the used cars he sold in the lot adjacent to the airport and come get me right then?
My father didn't have a nice place to live or any money or even an answering machine. Surprisingly he did not have even three months left to live. He died without ever having heard a word of this from me, and I still haven't decided if that's a good or a bad thing.
Hollis Gillespie is the author of Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood (Harper Collins). She was recently named one of "Seven Breakout Authors of 2004" by Writer's Digest. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."
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