October 23, 2007

Enter Sandman

He invited me to his birthday party. I hadn't seen him in over a year, although we corresponded on a semi-regular basis. I didn't know if his situation had changed since our first head-butt against our attraction for one another, I didn't know if he was still unavailable, but there was the undeniable fact of the invite. It made my heart pound. The sense of possibility, of an opening, of something ... unexpected ... happening. The party was at Bellevue Bar on 9th Avenue. I went solo. Which meant I was freaking out. My sister was going to come with me but then something came up at the last minute. I seriously considered not going, once she canceled. I'm not "good" solo. Especially not recently. I'm weird, prickly, shy, introverted ... I've lost my touch. But I was determined to go to the party, sister or no sister, wingwoman or no wingwoman. I was in a suspended state of anxiety, animation, arousal, anticipation ... every other "a" you can think of. The primping lasted forEVER. I curled my hair. I powdered, pressed, curled ... and then, through the cool night air, grabbed a bus into the city. I felt conspicuous. With my leather jacket, my fishnets, my chunky platforms, my cleavage. I am not comfortable with being conspicuous - although I also love it when I dress up and feel like I look good - but I had chosen an attention-getting outfit, so I sucked it up, and stalked through the gauntlet, uncaring. There's always a gauntlet.

I would be walking into that party by myself.

I would be unmoored ... on my own ... I needed to adopt another personality in order to be able to handle it. Or at least that's what I assumed. I ended up just being myself, in all my awkward cringe-y glory, and that's what did the trick.

Hyped up, dolled up, I called my sister from a payphone outside Bellevue. I know. It's a literary conceit. My cell phone was on the fritz. My sister wasn't even home - but I blathered at her anyway about my fears, my hopes, my dreams, my outfit, then I hung up and strolled in. Head held high. Unconcerned, unworried, armor on.

I saw him immediately. He sat at the end of the bar, surrounded by a huge rowdy group. My worst nightmare. Could I just stroll over there nonchalantly? Face all the heads turning towards me? I know it's ridiculous, because I had been invited - but the scene before me made my toes literally curl up in my shoes in revolt. No. No. I cannot go over there. I considered turning around and walking right back out. But something in me, something iron, said NO. Why I didn't saunter right up to him and assert myself I leave for you to puzzle out. I was not stalking. I had been invited. Personally. I was supposed to be there. That made no difference. I felt insane, desperate, pathetic, afraid. Mainly because I was halfway in love with him already. Over the moon, let's be honest. Those feelings made me nervous, made me rein it in, hold myself together. Instead of charging over to him, I casually strolled up to the bar, engaged in conversation with the bartender, seemingly unconcerned ... as though I was there to have a quick cocktail by myself. You know, no big deal, whatever, this is just a pitstop for me ... I have other places to go ...

All of this was just a shield for how crazy I was about him. How much I wanted to just run over to him and attack him.

As my beer was slid across the bar to me, I caught his eye. He caught mine.

Lightning bolts. His intention was in his movements. Up he got, the second he saw me ... and he was at my side in a flash, engulfing me in a hug. It was thrilling. The freedom with which he expressed his joy that I had come. How I yearn for that. No games, no hemming, hawing ... just open expression of intent and desire. Go for it. I suppose I am so attracted to this rare brand of energy because I lack it myself. I am the epitome of awkward hesitation. I am all self-protection. I have my reasons for behaving this way, by the way, and many of them are good reasons. But there are times when it does not serve me, and just gives off the wrong kind of vibe altogether. I was even wearing a leather biker's jacket that night - with the girlie-glam outfit underneath. I looked fabulous, but the choice of the jacket was deliberate. You have to earn your way in. That's just the way it is. Not that I'm any great prize - I don't think that at all (just the opposite as a matter of fact) But when you've got a soft underbelly, you can't just walk around exposing it all the time. I'd never survive.

"I'm so so glad you came!" he murmured into my ear as he hugged me tempestuously, roughly. It couldn't have been a better welcome. That's what I mean by someone having to earn his way in. I strolled in there, protected and tough-looking, and he barely seemed to notice. He jumped on me regardless.

"Happy birthday!" I managed to get out, even though my face was squashed up into his shoulder, because he wouldn't let me go.

Then he was basically sniffing me like a gorilla. "God. You smell so good."

Okay, so the details of this night are perhaps a bit iffy, in terms of should and should not and how one SHOULD behave. I get that. I'm not writing this to judge him, or to point a finger, or to play my tiny little violin of self-pity. I'm writing this because it seems like it's a good story, and it's a night that has stayed with me, every detail, and I'm not sure why that is. By writing it out, maybe I will discover the nugget at the bottom of the sieve, the reason. Not WHY this happened, but why I have retained it. What in this story has a hold on me? Why do I want to tell it? I feel self-conscious because some of the things he said to me over the course of the night were wildly overstated anthems of praise to me and who I am. Repeating that stuff can make you feel kind of ikky - like you're bragging. I go into this story knowing that, and I just have to take the risk that I will be misunderstood, that someone will roll their eyes and think: "Wow, Sheila thinks she's all THAT." Wouldn't be the first time. I think, though, one of the reasons that the night had such an impact on me - and stayed so fresh in my brain (and it wasn't even that long ago, but still: the vividness of the recall startles me) - is that the things he said, and how he said them, have lasted in my subconscious. Despite the fact that everything went to shit directly afterwards. It has taken an act of WILL for me to hold onto his words, his feverish sincere words ... and to still believe in them. It has taken an act of WILL for me to look upon that night as a gift. But I do. It's self-serving, indeed, and I think it's about time I was a little self-serving. I have lost much in life through being a good sport, through "letting go" gracefully, through not making much of a fuss. This situation was, if I really look back, the first and only time in my life that I was NOT a good sport, that I was not philosophical in the face of loss. But it was also one of the first times I decided (after months) to look upon the night as a gift, and nobody could take it away from me. And believe me, the voices were there, trying to rationalize it away, getting angry on my behalf, saying things like, "He had no right to say that to you ..." etc. And let me not be misunderstood: I love being protected so fiercely by my friends. They wouldn't be my friends if they didn't get all uppity when someone jerks me around. But something in me, in this particular situation, resisted. It might have been my natural stubbornness at work, true. Like: you will NOT talk me out of my mood, YOU WILL NOT. But I think there's more to it. It would have been easy to throw my cap in with those voices, every fiber in my being yearned to get bitter, to give up, to sneer at the gifts of the world. I mean, you can only take so much. The world wouldn't begrudge me just a little bit of bitterness, would it? But something in my nature rebelled. I was at a turning point. One of the greatest turning points of my life. It was a small night, really - just a birthday party gone awry - a confrontation with a man I was crazy about - who was not mine to have - and yet who let me know, in no uncertain terms - that I was REALLY the one for him. You know, your basic garden variety social debacle involving alcohol, fishnet stockings, and infidelity.

What I am trying to say is that I still, in darker moments, remember the things he said to me. And as opposed to feeling the loss of him (him whom I never had in the first place) ... I feel grateful. That I would have met a man who felt so fiercely about me - and not just about me smelling good and my looks - but about ME. What i want out of life, my goals, my dreams. He believed in me so ferociously that I have never forgotten him for it. Having someone feel that way about you - even if you cannot have them - even if they "belong" to someone else - cannot help but impact your life. It's a bittersweet gift, because of course I want the man himself. Not so much him specifically anymore ... but you get my drift. I want HIM, the actual MAN, not the echoes of his words. But hell, I'll take the echoes now. And I will say "thank you" for them. Granted, what he said about me is what I want most to believe about myself. He spoke out loud the searing course of hope in my veins, the hope battling with loss and disappointment ... He saw the hope, and he hoped for it for me too. That's why the night has lasted in my mind. The body language, how he sat, how I moved, our positions, what he said, glances shared ... it's a newsreel, preserved in my memory banks. Not just because of the lust, but because of what he SAID.

And in a funny way (and I don't expect to be understood here): I got exactly what I wanted that night. Exactly what I needed.

It's a difficult thought and a part of me even now bucks against it. The pull to bitterness, the pull to letting my mouth get hard and ungiving, the pull to hardness is strong indeed.

I am struggling now with the form in which I have chosen to write the story. So much preamble sets it up as some world-shaking event. It obviously wasn't. At the time, the fallout was so intense and so long-lasting that my SHAME just exacerbated the issue. How could I be so derailed by something so small? The shame caused me to shut down almost completely for about 4 months - a time I even now shudder to remember - and, I know it's insane - but I "got out of it" through starting up my blog (in its first incarnation anyway). There were other factors at work, professional help received, sleeping pills procured, etc. (which, seriously, was no small thing) - but it was the BLOG that deepened the trench of HEALTH in my life.

The birthday party was a catalyst. Obviously I was a crackup waiting to happen. He just happened to start it. I explained this to him later a couple of months when I could see more clearly, and he understood.

I will now dig myself out of this backwards story-telling mode.

We stood with each other for a while, enraptured, basically just shouting at each other excitedly. He was like a little kid, grabbing onto me, kissing the top of my head, saying, periodically, "SO glad you came." He then dragged me over to his crowd of friends, many of whom I already knew. I had known them briefly - a brief manic season - when our circles crossed. I will always have a fondness in my heart for that crowd. Robert, the amazing painter. Jimmy, the ex-Mormon, who told me (to this date) one of the funniest stories I have ever heard in my life about a tragic night waiting in line to get into Star Wars with his staunch strict Mormon father, being trapped in line, and him having to poop so badly that drastic measures were called for. Horrifying. Jimmy was soon to be on his way to Iraq, so he was whooping it up one last time. Before going off to war (and consequently writing a kick-ass book about his experiences). And all the other people, fun smart interesting crazy people, artists, stock traders, writers, photographers, lawyers, teachers, soldiers - it was a great group. As eclectic and fun as you can get. They all remembered me and hailed my presence enthusiastically. All my fears walking into the joint were for naught.

And then - with visible weirdness on his part, open awkwardness - catapulting me unwillingly into his drama - he introduced me to his girlfriend. I hadn't come there that night to stir up shit. I didn't even know his situation when I went. I'm not a shit-disturber (even when I should be) ... so the glory of the hug he had given me, how openly happy he was to see me, all that ... had then to be put into a different context. Which I did with lightning-speed. I'm an old pro at immediately lowering my expectations. All righty then, Sheila. Calm down. That's THAT.

I possibly will not be believed, but again, I can't worry too much about how I will come off when I write such pieces as this one. I shook hands with his girlfriend, I felt her competitive eagle eye on me (and I do not blame her at all. She had seen him leap up like a madman when I walked in the door ... and then watched him pick at my hair like a gorilla from across the crowded bar ... so I get it. I get the eagle eye.) I saw the situation clearly in an instant. I saw what I must have looked like to her, I saw how she must be interpreting me. It was incorrect ... I was not a femme fatale come to steal her boyfriend (although, not to be a bitch, if I had wanted to - I COULD have. She's lucky I have restraint and am actually NOT what she imagined me to be). I do not want to take what is not mine. I do not want to be involved in another couple's drama. I came that night because he had emailed me and invited me. It had been months since I had seen him - I had no idea what his life was like, or who he was, really. We had met - had a love-at-first-sight thing happen - had a conversation about it over email - where he told me (ambiguously, it must be said) that he was seeing someone. So okay. No harm, no foul. We kept in touch. Our correspondence from that point on was strictly TOPIC driven. Authors, quotes, books, responding to his newsletter he put out, etc. But the night of the birthday party, I walked into the middle of a blowup, and (as such things go) I ended up being the one burned.

The eagle eye was on me. I was perfectly friendly, and I didn't blame her for not being friendly back. The good thing was that I knew other people at the party. I was not dependent on him for company. I didn't have to sit at the bar like a dope, pretending to watch the porn on TV. (Yes, Bellevue showed porn, which was one of its bizarre charms. Like: Straight porn. Not gay porn. It was Boogie Nights-era porn. On FILM. Dudes with Tom Selleck mustaches, girls with flippy Farrah Fawcett hair, naked and bouncing around on the TVs over the bar. Hilarious. Hilarious, too, how everyone at Bellevue was always so OVER it. Nobody even looked at it.) I caught up with Robert, with Jimmy, with their girlfriends - who both were lovely women - I was completely engrossed in the moment. Yet - naturally - with the supersonic awareness of what was going on with HIM throughout. And - because I'm smart - I knew it was a two-way current. I felt in my DNA his uber-awareness of me, my every move, everything I did, even the fact that I was obviously handling myself and laughing hysterically with Jimmy about some Mormon thing, or some bodily function story ... I was fine. I was having a BLAST, even with the swirling relationship weirdness going on over THERE ... that I was not involved in, not really, but suddenly: I was. I was a witch with big hair, dark lipstick, fishnets and leather, showing up at her boyfriend's party. That's what she saw. She didn't know my issues, my anxieties, my fears, my oblivion to the fact that her boyfriend was nutso over me ... she thought I KNEW, she thought I was there to tag him with a stun-gun and drag him off into the bushes. I have enough philosophy in me, though, to know that that was craziness on her part (albeit understandable) and I couldn't do anything about it. I could only try to make sure I had a good time at the party, and not be a total weirdo because THEY were acting weird.

And boy, were they acting weird. After the first effusive greeting, he basically didn't talk to me at all, although there was much nonverbal stuff happening. Mainly just laughing at jokes, glancing at each other, guffawing - as Jimmy regaled us with yet another insane story about his life. But I felt like I had gotten myself under control - after the girlfriend revelation. I was just dealing wtih him straight up, as a friend, a dude who had invited me to the party. But I would get weirdness back. By weirdness, I mean (and this is kind of an exaggeration, but not really): I'd burst into laughter about something, glance at him, and he'd be staring at me with the most intense freakin' face I've ever seen. And he's not a deep and brooding personality, or a mind-games type guy. He's an open-faced big bear of a dude, with a great sense of humor, about himself and his fellow humans ... but he'd be just LOST in staring at me. And I would realize, startled: Okay. Holy shit, is he actually LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT??

Not that it was unwelcome, God no, are you kidding me? I was out of my MIND. Having him look at me like that! But ... but ... his glowering girlfriend is hunched over by the jukebox, in a rage ... and he's looking at me like that ... and so ... I cannot DO anything about this. And believe me. If the time is right, and the moon is in the seventh house, I am NOT shy. If he had been single? He would have been TOAST. There would be nothing left of him right now, actually. I would have devoured him whole. But the situation as it stood was distinctly uncomfortable ... and yet also strangely delicious, because I knew, at heart, I was innocent. They were in a fight, and I showed up - fanning the fires of anger - and none of that had anything to do with me. Yes, I had a crush on the guy - but no harm having a crush on someone if you don't even know they're taken. I did not feel bad at all that I had strolled in there with high hopes.

I mean, looking back on it, I feel a chill, because I know what is coming. The months of grey fog.

That girl in fishnets, perched on the bar stool, enjoying the drama - because, even though she was involved in it, it didn't touch her ... not really. Because she knew her motives were pure, and she knew that obviously that relationship OVER THERE was in deep doo-doo, and perhaps she was the catalyst ... but again, not by design. So she was free to sit back, watch the fur fly, and enjoy her sense of power. Wow. Look at what I am doing ... just by sitting here! I didn't plan this ... or even want it ... I wish he was FREE, dammit, that's what I wish ... but since he's not ... this is amazing, what is happening right now.

I would never ever be so careless now.

I learned my lesson that night, but good.

At one point, he walked by me, on his way somewhere else - and I leaned over to say something to him. Something casual, maybe about the porn, or the music, who knows ... it had nothing to do with his drama, or the two-way nuclear-bomb-level current we had had going on for the entirety of the night ... I was saying something like, "Check out the juggs on Farrah up there!" ... you know. Some NORMAL comment. And I didn't even get the sentence out. I maybe got 2 words out - he was walking by me (again: with the newsreel in my head) - and I had leaned towards him to shout my comment (you had to shout over the music) - and he physically recoiled from me, openly - as though I had come at him with a battle-axe. Held out his hands at me, and actually said, "Stay back ... stay back ..." This was the first open indication that something was rotten in the state of Bellevue. I mean, I had figured it out from the first second I shook hands with his girlfriend and had to pry the embedded glass from her evil eyeballs of doom out of my epidermis. But to acknowledge it, like he did ... and to treat me as though I were a wild animal charging him, and even just a simple movement like me leaning towards him was seen as threatening to his autonomy ... I was totally taken aback. I mean, I get it, I was feeling the same thing - but I was way more willing to, oh, lie and pretend, rather than shout STAY BACK when he came near me. I decided to play dumb. Which I did. I wanted him to say what was on his mind and I could only do that by playing dumb.

I gestured at him, his recoiled body language, and said, "What the hell is going on with you?" As though it were all a complete mystery.

He shook his head, and said, "You're dangerous."

"Oh, gimme a break. I am not."

"Yes, you are. Just stay away from me."

He said all of this with friendliness, almost like he was pleading. For his own sake. I found it unbelievably thrilling - I felt how powerful I was in the situation, I felt like a bloodthirsty goddess perched on top of a Mayan temple or something, demanding that my followers slit the throat of a virgin to placate and satisfy me. And I had done nothing but walk in the room. I had been INVITED. He had ASKED me to come. And now here he was, holding up an imaginary chair at me, saying, "Stay back ... stay back ..." I LOVED my power, let me not be coy. I tasted the blood on my tongue, and i wanted more. Yum. To NOT use it took almost superhuman strength.

I said, "Dude, you invited me to this party. Are you not going to talk to me at all?"

He said, "I'm in big trouble right now with my girlfriend."

Ah. There it was. Landing. His drama spoken out.

You'll never catch me being a listening ear to some guy's problems in this regard, especially if I am in love with him. You are on your own, pal. So although, let's be honest, I felt a painful surge within me to hear that I was the cause of him being in trouble, and that ... maybe that meant there was an opening for me in this ... I also immediately took an indiffernt shrugg-y attitude to his problems with his significant other. I "took an attitude" because of course all I wanted to do was grab him and say, "What's going on? What is the problem? What is the issue? Why are you in trouble?" ... but I didn't do that.

I leaned back from him - and shrugged at him - friendly, not mean - but definitely letting him know: That's YOURS, dude, not mine. Oh well! Good luck with that whole girlfriend trouble you're having! Hope it works out! Happy birthday! Now Jimmy ... what was it you were saying about your guns??

Leaving him to sit in it.

If I tasted blood earlier - then this behavior of mine - my shrugging, and turning my back on him and his drama - brought the taste of blood to HIS lips. I wouldn't know that until later, though.

I threw myself into drinking and socializing. I met a fantastic girl who loved animals, and we had an amazing conversation about pets we had had. I met the editor of a poetry journal (now defunct, sadly) whom I have always admired deeply. We did shots together, and he told me about meeting Allen Ginsberg. I reconnected with the crazy chunk-ball of a guy who worked on the floor of the stock exchange and basically never - and I mean NEVER - saw the light of day. He was a legitimate vampire. Who had 3 enormous dogs. Who ate McDonalds 3 times a day. Who made shitloads of money and he was only 25. Who was awesomely funny in a manic terrible kind of way. I shot the shit with Robert, about his painting (he's marvelous). And I guffawed until my stomach hurt talking with Jimmy. Only he could make working security at the airport after 9/11 funny.

Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I can see the argument percolating between him and his girlfriend. I could see her gestures of anger. I could see him placating her, protesting, defending himself. It was a nightmare. For them. I hovered above it, untouched by it (not for long - but still - while I was at the bar, the drama bounced off of me.) I suppose somebody else would have realized: Okay, I am causing problems, I should leave.

But that would be somebody else and not me. In that moment, at that party, my stubbornness came up. No. I will not leave. I was invited. I did not come to cause problems. What is going on over there has NOTHING to do with me, even though they are arguing ABOUT me. I was quite firm in my resolve. I might not have been so firm if I hadn't settled in with the rest of the group and had such a good time with all of them. If I had been sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, not talking to anyone, trying not to notice the drunken BROU-HAHA going on over by the jukebox, I probably would have left hours earlier.

Maybe - if I had left - I would have saved myself the agony of the upcoming months until I started my blog? Who knows. It's useless to speculate. Because that's not what happened. What happened is: even though he, the birthday boy, had shouted at me, "STAY BACK ..." I stayed at the party, and had a great time with all of his friends, leaving him to stew in the relationship drama. If he was a catalyst for me, then I was obviously a catalyst for him.

Hours passed.

So you can imagine the level of inebriation. I'm not a big drinker ... I like a good buzz, but getting "wasted" is not my thing. However, I was there for hours. Shots were done. That's basically all I need to say. And I can only imagine that he probably was wasted. But I refuse to chalk up what happened next ONLY to drunkenness. No. Because, looking back on it (and here's where things get kind of nuts ... so consider yourself warned, mkay?) ... what happened next was (in a skewed way) a gift. The years since that night have been (in many ways) rather dark. Like: something was LOST that night at his birthday party. Something I have never been able to find since. A certain joie de vivre. Maybe a calm sense of my own power. A sense of humor, definitely. I don't know. I'm thinking about the birthday party night a lot mainly because he just got married (yes, to the girl with the eagle eyes! She won!) - and also because I recently had an almost identical situation occur ... and I felt crippled, totally without any tools to deal, and instead of planting my ass in the center of the action and waiting to see where the chips fell .... like a good warrior ... I fled. And so I look back on the birthday party night with a bit of awe and dread. Who knew that it would be so formative. My God. What would I have done differently? Anything? Not go at all?

By now it was 2 a.m. Bellevue was raging. The music throbbed, people were throwing peanuts around, the porn never stopped, the conversation never stopped - the decibel level of the music was deafening, so everyone was SCREAMING at each other. A random sushi chef arrived at 1 a.m. and began making sushi for the crowd. Shots of whiskey and sushi. Yum. It was the kind of atmosphere where - when you leave it - your ears roar with the sudden silence.

I hadn't had any one-on-one with the birthday boy since he greeted me. I was drunk enough to think, blurrily, to myself, "Did that 'stay back' moment really happen? Was that real? Who does that happen to but me? Do other girls have guys shout 'STAY BACK' at them like they are a raging cheetah? What the hell?" I couldn't really believe in it. I was involved enough in the party to not dwell, it was just a passing thought, in between copious amounts of alcohol, more than I am used to.

And at some point - the opening strains of "Enter Sandman" were heard, and the entire bar - I swear - it was like the entire BUILDING - lifted off the ground with excitement. You remember that the opening to that song is about 10 minutes long before anyone even sings. It builds and builds and builds ... the beat is relentless, and I love that song but I have to say it sounded different that night at the birthday party. It sounded less like a song than a command. There was no, "Oh, let's move to the nice groove" energy, it was like everyone suddenly transformed - the entire place - and it was PACKED, not just with birthday party people - ERUPTED. It was mindless, numbing, pumping, insistent - everyone just became one, a pulsing raging faceless mass. We roared and pounded and pulsed - some chick got on the bar when the drums really kicked in - and everyone went inSANE (except for the sushi chef, who kept making little tuna rolls with the impertubability of the ages). I had been holding so much back the whole night, every natural impulse within me, actually ... the impulse to kiss him, to walk smack-dab into their argument and get all bitch-slappy on her, to deMAND that he choose - because I knew, now, that there was a choice to be made. For him. I hadn't realized it when I walked in, I hadn't realized I had any power whatsoever, but now I knew. Her or me, man, her or me. CHOOSE. But I followed through on none of those impulses - and while I wasn't aware of the cost in the moment - when "Enter Sandman" came on and the entire bar exploded - I felt: Oh God Oh God let me just get some of this shit OUT.

Mind gone, consciousness gone, nothing but the music and everyone going inSANE.

20 minutes into the song (haha - because we all know it's an odyssey) I had to pee - so I staggered off to the ladies room, pushing through the gyrating faceless wild insanity ... I was in a rush because I wasn't done dancing.

The bathroom at Bellevue was tiny, with a bright red light, making everything look debacled and sinister. There was grafitti on the walls, and when I sat on the toilet my knees touched the opposite wall. I was drunk, drunk enough to flop around in there for a second, staring at my reflection in a baffled way - my red-lit face, the wild hair, the smudged mascara ... who the hell IS that? I could hear the roar outside, the roar of Enter Sandman ....

and suddenly, with no room to spare, the door opened and he barged his way in, coming to get me. Literally. Like a monster in a movie. He grabbed my hair - tight - fierce - and shoved my head against the paper-towel dispenser. If I wasn't drunk, maybe it would have hurt. We were all action now. All movement and impulse. I grabbed his throat and pushed him back. He pulled my hair. I smushed his face with my hand, pushing his head back against the wall, grinding him into the concrete. All of this was our version of a romantic pas de deux. The music and roar of the club was slightly muffled, but we still didn't speak. We were too busy beating each other up. He smashed me into one wall, I pushed back and smashed him into the other. The damn bathroom was barely a foot wide so we had no room to truly do any damage, more's the pity. Then he had my face in his hands, hard, tight, and he was hissing at me, like he wanted to kill me, "You're it, Sheila. You're it for me. You're the woman, You're the one for me, fuck you." I started to cry. It was spontaneous, like a sneeze - not connected to emotion - but a bursting forth from inside of me. It was awful. I retaliated. Said, "Fuck YOU." He was holding me still - rough - mean - and he said, "Here's what needs to happen. You need to get whatever you want out of life. I don't care what it is. You need to be famous if that's what you want. You need to have your name on everyone's lips. You are fucking aMAZING, and don't let anybody EVER tell you different." Because he was speaking out that searing course of hope in my veins, it was devastating to me - and I started to shake my head - protesting. And he slapped me. Not a hard open-handed whaling slap - I mean, he didn't punch me in the face, it was more of a 1940s movie slap - totally impulsive on his part, a quick WHAP to snap me out of not believing in myself. The slap was so beyond anything I had expected or ... could even interpret - or deal with - he literally stunned me. I just stared up at him, trying to focus in, trying to hear him, trying to deal ... The slap was not even dealt with, in a regular way. He slapped me to snap me out of self-deprecaiton and refusal. And I took it that way. I mean, let some other dude slap me out of anger or hostility? I'd eat his heart and laugh at the mourning ululations of his loved ones. But that slap? From him? It was a singular moment in my life. I hesitate to even share it. We barely even paused to acknowledge the slap - my cheek stung, we were both a bloody sickly red color from the lights - I was still in tears, because I was experiencing him, in that moment, as a bombardment of love - and suddenly ... awfully ... I knew how much this was going to hurt. Walking away. It rose up out of the red light, a gaping maw of loss ... I want someone to talk to me like that and be MINE. I don't want to walk away right now! Meanwhile, though, fast and furious there in the bathroom - after the slap, he grabbed my arms and shook me, I had bruises on my arms the next day from his fingers - and he was basically spitting in my face, the words "I will NEVER be done looking for you. Even if we never speak again. If you become famous - you just need to fucking know that I will KNOW - I will be WATCHING - and I will nod to myself, 'Yup. Yup. That's Sheila. She deserves that. I saw it all along.'" I knew better than to protest now. I didn't want to be slapped again.

I could feel the tidal wave rising, I hadn't been aware of it the entire night ... oh, what a dangerous night .. so crammed there in that bathroom with him, being slapped around and loved by him, I knew I had to get out of there as quickly as possible. Because now it was going to be my drama, now it was going to be my nightmare, and I needed to be nowhere near him when that wave hit.

I put my head down on his chest, just resting it there, for a second - and I felt the gentleness of his hands on the side of my face, the sudden gentleness after the roughness ... it was done ... no more ... must leave now ... Unless you choose me, I am gone. His arms were around me, mine around him - I said his name into his chest. Felt him hold me tighter in response ...

My cheek still stinging from him hitting me - I pushed my way out of that bathroom - shoving him aside roughly - get the HELL out of my way ... I felt utterly paranoid about what I must look like, who saw him go in there with me, did eagle eye? What are people saying? What are they thinking? "Enter Sandman" was still raging, however, since the song is about a decade long ... and I re-entered the bar into utter madness, raving pumping savage madness. I had been a part of it before ... now I wasn't.

Time to go. Now.

Before it's too late. Say your goodbyes quickly Sheila, quickly ... because that tidal wave is coming ... it's almost here ... the oblivion of months is upon you ... enter Sandman, indeed ... go go go ... before it's too late.

Posted by sheila | TrackBack

sheila -- there are literally no words.

Posted by: tracey at October 23, 2007 11:36 PM

I have no idea what to say here. So brave of you to write it here, and write it all with such passion and beauty. You embody passion, Sheila.

Posted by: michele at October 24, 2007 5:48 AM

I can't come close to letting you know how moved I am by this story, to imagine the moment with you, to see you in my mind's eye having this experience.

Posted by: Stevie at October 24, 2007 8:53 AM

I planned a day off, to bake apple pies and chili for my neighbors, in honor of the Sox. Now, after reading Sandman over and over again I cannot get started with the plans. I have been left thinking the whole story through a bunch of times. All I can say kid is HBO would love it! Forget Carrie Bradshaw...We want Sheila O'Malley!!! You are an amazing girl.

Posted by: Susan at October 24, 2007 10:32 AM

I have no words. I'm with Michele a couple comments back... I would never dare to write something like this, ever. Thank you for sharing it.

Posted by: Ceci at October 24, 2007 12:33 PM

Sheesh Sheila, I can practically smell the booze oozing from my pores...

I hope Im not being forward with the following, but if this moment was the impetus for you to start your first blog, then it was and still is our gift as well.

Wow. Just. Wow.

Posted by: Val Prieto at October 24, 2007 1:31 PM

That made my stomach hurt. Love is such a strange combination of exaltation and vulnerability, and you have a way of making us feel it.

Posted by: Eric the...bald at October 24, 2007 1:54 PM

I read this, and could NOT comment earlier... I had to think, handle, digest, work through the emotions this raised. I just came back to read it again, and thank you for writing it.

Posted by: melissa at October 24, 2007 3:06 PM

The effect of reading the story is very 'there,' as in "I am there." The rhythm moves relentlessly forward. The voice is great - sensitive but also aggressive - someone who's raw and also protected. The whole effect is OF you but not you-exactly - you know? A creation. Which I like because this feels not confessional but artistic. I posted with a link to it this am, but didn't have time to tell you. Huge exams tomorrow and friday.

Posted by: Ted at October 24, 2007 6:14 PM

I need to thank all of you - individually - for your responses. Each one, in its own way, has touched me deeply ... has made me feel glad I shared it, rather than scared.

So just know how much it means to me ... that you would read ... and comment ... (or read and NOT comment, whatever the case may be) ... to this story of mine.

Posted by: red at October 24, 2007 8:15 PM

Yoiks. If you don't work that into a (screen)play at some point, I'll kick your ass. Wow.

I do believe that "he introduced me to his girlfriend." bit is about the best literary definition of why man invented Scotch that has ever been written. Bravo.

Posted by: Mr. Lion at October 25, 2007 10:32 AM

hahahaha about the Scotch. True, true!

Posted by: red at October 25, 2007 10:56 AM

Oh, my heart hurts. That was beautiful.

Posted by: Jen W. at October 25, 2007 2:16 PM

Thanks, Sheila.

Posted by: Dave E. at October 25, 2007 3:40 PM

You have transcended beyond a "literary conceit" to a "work of art."

Posted by: David at October 25, 2007 4:08 PM

I stumbled over your blog a while back just by some James Joyce link, and everynow and then check in- what has she written recently? Your writing is seriously captivating beyond belief. But this ... THIS is Passionate! I couldn't leave without a comment, atleast! many Many MANY compliments on this one, though, there is a complete lack of words for it. Personally, I think you should go for a novel or something. You have a great voice - its addicting. :D

Posted by: EricA at October 25, 2007 6:23 PM

This post was involving from start to finish. I love the way you make your passions and obsessions so accessible. It was very moving.

Posted by: Ken at October 25, 2007 6:51 PM

Erica - thank you, girl!! Thanks for the vote of confidence! And anyone who finds me looking for some James Joyce quote is obviously a kindred spirit!

Posted by: red at October 26, 2007 10:21 AM