God damn it. I took a pair of sleeping pills and laid down two hours ago, with some music playing in my ears. The Modest Mouse song, Positive/Negative, came on and it triggered memories. So now there’s a story to be told, and not much sleep to be had.
I had just turned 23 when I left the High Desert. I had been there since the day before my 22nd birthday. It was a completely uneventful year, except for the fact that it completely changed everything. The reason I was going to leave, whether I admitted it or not, was Shareem. I would move back to the east coast so I could take the thing with her seriously. But the weeks leading up to my leaving… months really… they were weird.
I’d been working at a sandwich shop in the food court of a mall in the middle of a desert that was developing into a little suburban shithole. The memory that got me up out of bed to write about it was Crystal. She worked with me. I wasn’t even attracted to her at first. But she grew on me over the months. Crystal was 20 years old, married unhappily, and she was a short little thing. Mexican parents but she definitely grew up in Southern California. But she was a weirdo. I didn’t know what to make of her. We’d work together and we just started making fun of each other. She was very sarcastic and spunky. Not a girly girl at all.
Asked her for a ride home one time because it was actually raining outside. On the way home I said, “You wanna go get drunk in the desert?” She said, “Not tonight, but maybe another time.” And so that other time came around. Except the first time we hung out was on a Sunday afternoon, and we didn’t get drunk at all. We took her truck out into the sandy bushy hills and drove like fearless daredevils. For like… 20 minutes. But by then, we had bonded enough for us to feel comfortable with getting drunk out in the wilderness. The place I’m talking about looked like this…
The first night we went out, we brought a bottle of Jim Beam. She drove her truck out into nothing while I fucked with the CD player. It was probably midnight. Her Ford pick-up got stuck in a fucking trench and there was no cellular service. We had to walk half a mile to a house and beg them to let us use the phone. The guy we met was obviously a pig farmer or some bullshit, and he definitely liked Nascar… that type of dude. Police came and pulled us out of the ditch and we said thanks. Then we drove deeper into the tumbleweeds and deeper into the hills. We went up some incline. We went up until the truck spun out and started moving backwards. We stopped, turned the ignition off.
We just drank and drank and drank. She hung in there with me like a champ. We talked and talked and flirted and talked and flirted and talked and laughed and flirted and talked some more. She was sweet. And then that conversation happened. The one we all knew in middle school or high school that’s about how we like each other and we’re nervous and blah blah blah. This conversation had a strange husbandy element to it, but whatever. We ended up making out and she made me suck on her titties. That is what she called them: “my titties.”
After that, we had a couple of similar nights of drinking and talking and making out and sucking titties. Her husband eventually found out and at one point he and I had a staring contest over it. Crystal didn’t pull out her titties for a while after that. But she started talking more and more about she hated her husband.
Then I announced to Crystal and everyone else at work that I was going to move back to New York. In a matter of weeks. Suddenly, Crystal wanted to hang out as often as possible.
The last day. She and I just said fuck it and went on an actual date. Went and played mini golf, “putt-putt” as they call it out there, and we played arcade games and we got in a photobooth and we went out to dinner and then we went out to get body parts pierced (my lip and her upper-ear-thing) and we went to my place and she helped me pack. She cried at one point. I was stoic. We went out to the desert for one last time. Started drinking, but not too much. She cried some more. I was stoic, but I was aware that I should’ve been feeling sad. What I was actually feeling was more like I’m going back east for the love of my life and to make music with my best friends and this emotional shit is totally un-called-for. She said she wanted to give me a blowjob. I said okay. We were right there in the truck, me and her and a bottle of cheap vodka. My cock was not really having it. I was starting to feel some emotions at this point, guilty ones. So we decided it would be better if we took it outside. So I stood up outside, next to her truck. She got down and all of that. It felt pretty good, but nothing was gonna happen. I was feeling a ton of guilt now, and so I told her “I think I’m too drunk.” That was a blatant lie and the whole state of California knew it.
We went back home and she stayed with me, slept cuddled up for a couple of hours until she had to go work and I had to finish packing. In the morning she said, “You should’ve fucked me last night.” This is a statement I’m hearing more and more as I get older. I am liking it less and less. I said, “I know. I should have. Next time.” There wasn’t going to be a next time and the entire state of California knew it. She cried some more while I daydreamed about fucking Shareem in the future somewhere.
The airport came, I took some pills. Xanax or Valium or something. I drank 4 overpriced vodka/cranberries at the airport lounge. Smoked cigarettes. Dreamed about my last few months, dreamed of the next few months.
Turns out. When I got back to New York. Shareem and I had a couple of good weeks but we were too fucked up in our own lives, and so after a couple of good weeks… we had a few not-so-good months. And. Yes. All my friends had forgotten to tell me, before I came back, that they were all junkies now. And instead of spending all day writing and playing music, we’d spend all day trying to scam money so they could go score in Brooklyn. I only shot heroin a few times that winter. But I shot a lot of morphine. I liked it better. And then I almost died a few times.
Funniest memory from this era… If you really want to know. It was going to Robert Moses beaches, going to the east to the nude beach. Selling italian ices on the nude beach. My friend Matt in t-shirt and boxers, with his cock hanging out of the front fly in his boxer shorts. I was dying laughing and kept saying, “Matt, I think you’re missing the point!” I felt like he should’ve either just gotten naked or like… put his cock away, you know?
But, man… whatever. The desert. Amazing times in the desert. And I still think about Crystal. I’ve tried looking her up but I can’t remember her last name. I wonder where she is now. I hope she got divorced. And I hope she decided to go out and live. She was awesome, and she deserved a lot better than what she gave herself credit for.
And now. Looking back. When she said, “You should’ve fucked me last night,” I now understand that I should have. It would have made more sense. It would have been a better close to that story. And maybe I wouldn’t now be thinking about her at 1am on a night where I should have gone to sleep hours ago.