Saturday morning. Jody grabbed her notebook, and I drove her to acting class. She looked so pretty; she always looked so pretty.
I drove back to the apartment and then I walked up to Hollywood Boulevard. The used bookstore had a first edition of Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan. I paid 50 bucks for it, making it the most valuable thing I owned that wasn’t a guitar or a typewriter. I probably ate lunch.
A couple of hours later I picked up Jody from acting class. We fought in the car about me pissing away the day. We argued all the way into the Su Casa apartment’s basement garage and all the way up the concrete stairs, stepping over the condoms and the needles and the beer cans. We fought for the next several hours, only slowing down when the neighbors pounded on the walls.
Late afternoon, and we were still at it. “I have to go to work,” she said. “Why don’t you go do something? Do anything, just don’t sit here alone waiting for me to get home. Don’t you want more than this? What happened to you? ”
“I’ll drive you,” I said.
“Just leave me alone right now, okay?” she said, and she slammed the door behind her.
How had it come to this? When we met, I was the smart and funny misfit kid in the record store. When we fell in love, I was the misfit kid in art school. The only place I ever fit was with Jody. Nobody had ever believed in my potential the way that she did. She never questioned that I was capable of something, anything, and because I trusted her I did, too, even though on my own I didn’t believe that. It was as if on the day we met my ego left my body and entered hers. I was devoid of any self esteem without her.
But now she saw me as stiff, boring, emotionless. I was just another automaton grinding it out at the day job then sitting around his apartment all night, waiting for the next day to start. I no longer wrote or painted — I didn’t even doodle. For Christ’s sake, while she was working her ass off in acting class I was kicking around bookstores like an old man. No wonder she was pissed off. Tonight she’d be in the middle of everything, waiting tables at the Whisky a Go Go, and I’d be sitting on my ass, disappointing her. I was 24 years-old, and I was living the life of a middle-aged man who had given up on life.
Well, fuck that noise. I am an artist, and the Pacific Ocean Blue is just a few miles away and the sun is setting. Jody’s right — time to be me again.
I grabbed my camera and headed down to the parking garage. I’d change. I’d show her that she was right about me. A 35mm sunset was a small gesture, but at least I’d be making something again, doing something more than collecting paychecks for pissing away my youth as a cutting room flunky. I’d make Jody proud again. I’d earn back her faith in me.
Her notebook rested on the passenger seat. The Whisky was on my way to the beach. What a great excuse to stop in and apologize — drop by and give her the journal, make a little small talk and smooth things over. “What’s with the camera?” she’d say.
“Oh, just going down Santa Monica to shoot the sunset.”
“I’m so proud of you….”
“Ten bucks,” the doorman said.
“I don’t want to get in, I just need to give Jody her notebook back,” I said.
“Jody. Waitress. Short. Blond. Pretty.”
“Don’t know her,” he said.
“Can I just go in for a minute and look for her?”
“Hold on. Hey, Dave, is a waitress named Jody working tonight?” the doorman barked into his walkie-talkie. “Sorry, dude, nobody named Jody working tonight.”
I sat in the parking lot for a minute, confused, and then I opened the notebook. The woman staring back at me from its white pages was a complete stranger. She bore no resemblance to the girl I’d lived with for the last 4 1/2 years.
I still remember exact passages. I remember names, impressions, scenarios. Reading Jody’s journal remains the most invasive thing I’ve ever done, and the most regrettable. I believed every word she ever told me, so I had no choice but to believe these, too. Paper Jody said I wasn’t a man: I was a fool, an idiot, a clown. She needed a real man. I was pathetic. I was a paycheck. It was unbelievable how stupid I was. I’d believe anything, it was almost too easy to hustle me. She couldn’t stand me.
I stopped at Terner’s Liquor on the way home and bought a bottle of tequila and a six-pack. Back at the apartment, I sat down at the kitchen table and loaded a sheet of paper into my typewriter. I vowed to write until I blacked out.
I woke up when I heard the front door open. I was beneath the kitchen table surrounded by beer cans and typing paper. Jody closed the door behind her. “What are you doing down there?” she asked.
For the first time since we met she didn’t look so pretty, but nothing else did, either.