A part of the narrative that could be used in my non-fiction novel
|I discovered Ann was impressed with me because she described me as "larger than life," on our first meeting.
She was in her thirties and I was barely 20. I was coming from Illinois in desperation. My father's union went on strike just as Reagan's revolution was beginning to cut the hearts out of manufacturing unions. I was going to junior college and living with my father but without his income I needed to be somewhere with more opportunity. My sister had been begging me to let her help me in California. My mother went back out there a few months before, despite the fact my sister wanted no part of her return. Viola demanded very specific ways Mom could associate with her.
Ann and I spent too much time together in her little kitchen nook. She sitting across the table in her crocheted pancho showing all her long, somewhat decayed teeth. We played rummy and scrabble and talked, about me. She was interested in all my stories. I was enjoying a new audience. I didn't think it meant much.
Her son, who was terrorizing everyone in the house before I came, began attacking me in the same way. Suddenly he would jump on us, clawing and kicking and did so often. Ann did not believe in "physical discipline." And so made the problem unsolvable.
My sister got me a dish-washing job at the Good Earth Restaurant of Berkeley where she worked. She used a different name there that I had to remember because she collected disability under her birth name. At home she was Viola or Laura. At work and on the street she had to be Laura.
My job dish-washing was terrible at first. The work was hard and uncomfortable. It was impossible to operate the hose over the sink without my legs and feet being soaked. Sometimes the plastic aprons ran out and I had to do the job wearing a cloth apron, or nothing. There was always a good chance the next dishwasher would decide he did not need this job and I would be stuck working until they found someone else.
I did not have many friends in the area. I met some kids who hung out on Telegraph on a previous visit and picked up with them again. That mostly now meant hanging out with one guy who actually didn't care much about the friendship. But I still thought we were friends, and we got together for a movie, or talked infrequently, for several years. I told him that I made a date to with my old girlfriend from the 4th grade over the phone and he kept joking that when I saw her she'd be fat. Another time he alienated the girl from that first summer I had liked after our first date. He told her something crude that I said and I know it stopped the relationship from progressing. We almost went out again a few years later but by then I was no longer in a good state of mind and missed the appointment. I did not see it as "only" a date anymore. There were other extraneous reasons why I should, or shouldn't, meet her at the church that night.
That neighborhood where I first was is very pleasant. It remained a place that I kept going back to long after everything with Ann was over, for the atmosphere. I'd have coffee and read in the rock garden of our breakfast cafe.
Ann was very complimentary of me in those first months. I was so interesting and talented. I was unique and a great rummy player.
One thing that she and my sister disagreed about was the use of drugs and alcohol. Viola had been a puritanical person on the subject, especially with regards to me, she did them herself, on occasions. I smoked tobacco and she screwed with my cigarettes; sticking them in her ears and nose. The pedophile who she married at 15 was constantly brought up when she'd remind me of his clever quote "kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray."
Viola was dating a Navy lieutenant now and calling herself yuppie and a Reagan Republican. She also wanted me to go to sufi dances at the Rhajneesh ashram and take her Werner Erhard training courses. Even though Ann advocated the "intriguing possibility" of supernatural phenomena, she did not approve of Viola's authoritarian and profiteering cults. I was an existentialist and thought they were both stupid.
Even though I worked practically every day I did not have the money to take care of my basic needs. My sister had lied to me about our rent, and I was giving her twice as much as it would have been, under the "half of her rent" condition she had made, when I first moved in.
Besides being a constant companion, Ann also provided me with meals, and even bought my Old Golds. That was so I'd stop bumming her Marlboro lights, which I hated.
We went to movies at our local discounted art house. The first one was "My Favorite Year" and she said I was like Peter O'toole for my ability to be excessive. A thing I had been perpetuating since I began drinking and doing drugs. I thought it was funny to be the guy who could drink the most and it wasn't hard.
After this period where she ingratiated herself to me, doing these little things, easing my distress from hunger, and boredom, brought on by my sister's economic exploitation, she came to me, after a night of drinking, and made a nervous and tearful plea, for me to have sex with her, just once. She promised she would never ask again.
I laid in my sleeping bag for half an hour, and she came back, with more of the same. When she left, I decided to kill her bottle of brandy, and do that for her.
Sex was worse than I imagined, and I decided, after she failed to keep her promise, that I needed to move out of her house. She was pestering me constantly and I hated being made to feel like I was injuring her by refusing. I was so broke I thought there was no way I could leave on my own. When I told Viola I wanted us to move, she demanded to know, why. I could not tell her because she would tell everyone at work, and I did not need the humiliation. I did not know she was living rent free.