Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Night Los Angeles Ran Out of Whisky

Their record company flew me to New York to make Procol Harum feel that their record company cared about them. In my absence, I offered the use of my spacious Hollywood apartment, on the third floor of a haunted house, to a dear (gay) friend’s ravishing new work colleague, whom I wouldn’t have had the nerve to approach without my friend having cleared the path for me, if you will. She was positively jaw-dropping. When I’d glimpsed her some months before at a concert in a posh venue, she’d literally seemed to glow.

When I returned from the East Coast, she picked me up (in my Porsche,  no less!) at LAX. When we got back to Hollywood, I saw she’d packed her bag, but I asked her to stay, and she did. I felt as though I’d won the lottery, as though I’d moved to a new country, in which no one recognised me as the excruciatingly shy wallflower misfit I’d been nearly throughout my teens, and which I remained (and remain!), to a very large extent, inside. 

We lasted three and a half years. Looking back, remembering the petulant, duplicitous, condescending, compulsively difficult little shit I was then (and shall ever remain, to some extent),  I can’t imagine how she managed it. I see now that she loved me, but I’ve always had a hard time with being loved (can people not see what and who I am?), and had an even harder one then. I cheated on her repeatedly, with women not fit to push her shopping cart. I sulked (as I still do). I raged (as I do much less frequently, and more quietly, now). I was pretty close to the perfect asshole.

As which I was of course shocked when she came home from her job at Capitol Records on a Friday night 42 years ago today and told me that she loved me, but was no longer in love with me. Only twice in my life — when my daughter revealed at 16 that she’d ceased to think of us as close, and when my mom phoned to inform me my dad had died — have words sliced through me like those did, each syllable a sharper machete.

I was beside myself for months.  I could think of nothing but her for longer than two minutes. I couldn’t wait for it to reach four o’clock every afternoon so I could drink a great deal of Scotch. I drove my friends crazy. I was on the phone to my mother, who was tirelessly supportive and encouraging, three or four times a day.  Fully a year later, when I began running every morning on the Fairfax High School track, I achieved ever-faster times in the mile by telling myself that if I bettered the previous day’s, I’d get her back.

After about six months, she’d seemed to relent, and asked if she could come see me in the apartment I’d rented overlooking the Sunset Strip. I was the best — charmingest, wittiest, least petulant— version of myself, sort of the person I should have been all along. It became unmistakable, though, that the best version of myself wasn’t good enough. I managed to tamp down my petulance and walk her to the elevator. As its doors closed on her, she looked a thousand times more beautiful than ever before. I pretty nearly fainted from the pain of it. There was hardly a drop of Scotch left in Los Angeles that night.

Decades later, it occurred to me how awful I’d been to her. A mutual acquaintance was able somehow to secure her email address in spite of her having left the music business years before. I emailed her to apologise, profusely. She was ice. I persisted. She didn’t thaw. Eventually I gave up. Forty-two years after the fact, I’m still not sure I’m over the pain “she put me through,” as I used to see it. I had every bit of it coming.

No comments:

Post a Comment