Before I knew him, Greg was cute. He was a cute gay boy and talented crazy genius who put on Shakespeare plays in L.A. with low-level celebrities like Charlene Tilton. He ate whole chocolate mousse cheesecakes charged on his rich Jewish boyfriend’s credit card. He didn’t know how to pump gas. Shelley Winters loved him. She took his mother out to lunch. He was a pretty good charmer even after his looks and pseudo-celebrity Hollywood life vanished. Living with Greg was like going to graduate school in codependency. I used to write in my diary about how awful it was, how awful he was. I was young and stupid. I did not understand that his lies and rages and conniving survival antics were not to be taken personally. All I knew was that you weren’t supposed to get mad at a dying person even if he spent all the grocery money on car- shaped erasers, Milk Duds, and crack. I smoked a lot of pot and talked shit about him to the neighbors. It was the best I could do under the circumstances. I didn’t want to move out because I loved him. He was the first person who ever told me that I was beautiful and smart. I loved and hated him. I haven’t ever met anyone as ruled by extremes as he was. He was gifted with it. If he was angry, dishes flew. One time, I came home and the entire bathroom was covered in streaks and blobs of toothpaste like he had been channeling Jackson Pollock. If he was happy, huge pots of soup were concocted with sale cans of diced tomatoes and pinto beans. He invited the entire regional chapter of Buddhists over to chant gongyo and get high all afternoon. If he was horny, he went out late on a creaky ten-speed (used only on these occasions) to a scary cruise park (frequently mentioned in frat boy put-down jokes) to ride around and pick up strangers and stay out all night doing speed and fucking. The magic of Greg was that he got whatever he needed or wanted without any regard for the person he got it from yet he simultaneously loved and cherished that person deeply. Everyone he used up felt adored and violated at the same time. He had his own Make-A-Wish Foundation. He’d just get on the phone and call strangers, anyone, and explain that he was dying and absolutely must see Phantom of the Opera before he crossed over. He got trips to L.A. and San Francisco and Seattle. He got massages and mushrooms. He learned to work dying. Our other roommate was quiet and stoned and physically healthy. He always sounded wise. He was beautiful, tall, and seemed like a mystic or a wizard to me. The wizard was actually a scared man riddled with low self-esteem and lethargy. Anger occasionally animated him and he adopted the persona of a black woman to express it. He was as loyal as Greg was greedy. He stayed until the bitter end, serving his ex-lover turned husband turned terrible dying child. The wizard’s goal was to be numb and sleep for a long time. Funny that the one who desired and gobbled up people and life with unyielding gross joy was the one who died young. Finally it got too spooky and adult in the house. They put a hospital bed in the living room and then there were diapers. I moved into an apartment with a girl my age and collected thrift shop dresses and went to regular parties with beer and guys who were in bands named Carve and Trench. Greg died in an ambulance in June. He was thirty-five. He died a month after my father did. That summer, I started making a myth of myself as a Valkyrie. On long hot nights, I sat on the couch and read Barbara Walker’s Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, assigning myself the qualities of wise death goddesses. I developed complex fantasies in which I was a soaring dark fairy gathering souls left lying on deserted battlefields. I did fat bong loads and avoided the phone. Sometimes a boy came over to fuck me, but I wasn’t there. I was far away. I was a mermaid in a lovely clam-shell bra, swimming in a blue-green ocean. I was a cliff-dwelling harpy gnawing the livers of weaklings and salesmen. I was an amnesiac queen suffering a fugue state, wandering and waiting to remember my powers.
SATANIC BUBBLE BATH RECIPE ( for informational purposes only )
Don’t do spells for love or money during the waning moon, when there is a dry north wind, or when your teeth feel chalky and stale and you have a lot of blackheads on your chin and the apartment smells like cat piss ammonia incense. These are the times for black magic (you don’t have to put a “k” on the end just because Aleister Crowley and the girls in eighth grade did). When uncomfortably rich with negativity, when the sky is low, low, right against your forehead, it is time for the worst work, the thirteen knots and broken glass (I know it sounds like I have experience with this stuff but everything I know I heard from bag ladies or read in books). When it is Sunday evening and you cannot find socks or a dollar to leave the house, it is best to bind up screwdrivers and candles and coins in a flap of chicken fat with thick yarn stitches (A stab for every stick, get it? Rough cuts, big ones that tear). Take a long bath and curse the fathers of the church, the dean of the university, the bastard who cut you off. Say the words from the back of your throat. Say the words, let them rise and stain the ceiling. Leave a mess of toenails and Lady Bic razors. Mean it, or I promise you, it won’t work.
THREE IMPORTANT STONERS
1. He was the first person who smoked me out, the first person who ever had a bag of pot that I saw. He explained its size, name, and price. He got my stepsister stoned once and she sat at the end of our big kitchen table giggling, eating Oreos and being nice for once. He was a neighbor boy, a dirt clod warrior, one of the kids who acted out scenes from Excalibur in the middle of the street on weeknights at sunset. By the time we were all in eighth grade he had become a known pot connoisseur and show-off, he was always bringing out lush boughs of it, giant branches sticky with pale green buds that looked like knobby coral, or else he’d produce these dark hairy wads of it, shiny and purple, gross, like something that came out of a drain in Bangkok. How did a thirteen-year-old suburban Jewish boy get his hands on drugs like that? I suspect he stole them from his older brother.
2. He medicated himself, he needed pot. In combination with champagne, Klonopin, and a two-hour skin care regimen using mail-order products called Tova (which included the super-secret cactus ingredient, Cactine, that Tova Borgnine, wife of Ernest Borgnine, discovered and distilled into a line of face soaps and moisturizers advertised on late-night TV), pot provided him with real relief from the anxiety disorder that ruled his entire family, especially Mike, his older brother, who lived at home even though he was really old, forty maybe, and only left his bedroom at night after the parents had gone to bed in order to eat handfuls of cold macaroni over the sink and steal cigarettes and change out of his mother’s purse. He said of his old agoraphobic brother, Mike has seen Star Trek like you’ve seen the sky. Unlike Mike, he was social and generous. He worked full time at the phone company. He could be convinced to get a small group of people very high, order and pay for pizza, and then sit next to me on the couch and give me tickle-tickle for an hour, sometimes longer, while we listened to the Cocteau Twins. Tickle-tickle was a soothing and exhilarating light massage on my arms, hands, face and neck with a fork or my favorite tickle-tickle utensil, a plastic multi-pronged pasta grabber. He would drag the tickle-tickle tool over my skin and make little cat noises, trills, and sighs. He was gay or at least never had any interest in girls and washed his face a lot and wore makeup and loved Prince deeply so that I felt perfectly safe and nurtured during our tickle-tickle sessions. It was wonderful to be high and soothed so innocently and so well. Sometimes now if I can’t sleep, I can relax myself by remembering tickle-tickle. If that doesn’t work, I think about kittens or the time I got morphine at the emergency room and felt that lovely disappearing feeling of weightless numb luxury spread across my whole body until I was gone. Poof.
3. She was my best friend. She always had pot. She always had pot, cigarettes, Diet Coke, and iced coffee. She liked to keep her hands full. When we first met, she drank wine coolers and ate reduced fat pretzels and wouldn’t touch the joints my boyfriend and his annoying friends passed around the table during their stupid arguments about jazz and politics. It’s funny how people change after a short time of pressuring them into getting high with you. It was like she finally found her one true love. She loved pot. She loved big bong loads at home and quick pipe hits in the car and sometimes even a little smoke in the back of the walk-in refrigerator at her job. She smoked all the time. We both did. She used to call me up and say, Let’s get fucked up! I want to blow my head off! We liked to get so high, delirious, and go to Chili’s for fried appetizers and frozen strawberry margaritas and bottomless Diet Cokes. When the big earthquake hit Northridge hard and her apartment building near the college crumpled and swayed and pitched her out into the street in her pajamas with all her crying neighbors, she braved the dark and broken glass and flooding pool water to find her little orange Tupperware container of pot and her favorite pipe under what was left of the kitchen table. She was my hero.