I belonged to myself.
Nobody had to know my story. I was at once completely invisible and totally visible. I didn't blog about this, of course. Not really... But, now, all these years later, I wish I had. I wish more people wrote about what it feels like to be married and love your husband but also want other things from other people. To want other things for yourself.
Ten years in, these are conversations I regularly have with friends. And strangers. And Hal. Ten plus years in I recognize that EVERYONE at some point feels the same way. But we're not supposed to talk about it. We're supposed to write about "Ten ways to Better Flirt with Your Spouse" and "Eight Ways to Spice up Your Marital Sex Life" but I don't want to read that shit. I want to read "8 Reasons Why it's Totally Normal to Desire Fucking Other People Sometimes." I want to read "Ten Impossible Standards We Should all Push off a Cliff" and "Why it's Okay to Want to Sneak out the Window and into Your old life, Where the Wild Things Are style."
Because it is.
It is okay.
Years ago, when Archer was two-years-old, I wrote a piece that I never published here, on GGC. I submitted it to Modern Love instead and got rejected. And then I guest-posted it on another friend's blog, and that was the end of that--until I found it the other day and decided to give it a home. On my home.... blog. Because all these years later, it still rings true. Because it's important (for me, anyway) to dip a toe or two into the pool of my past from time to time... for a thousand reasons, one of them being this one:
Where the Wild Things Were //
Photos + Essay circa Fall, 2007
Photos + Essay circa Fall, 2007
Angela was in town to host the 3rd annual Guitar Battle competition at The Roxy on Sunset Blvd. It had been almost two years since I’d seen her. She was busy living her jet-set life in New York, as I wrestled with accepting my new life, grounded at the gate, my feet planted reluctantly on the tarmac.
“I’ll put your name on the list if you want to go,” she said.
“Of course I want to go!”
“I guess I just figured, because of Archer, maybe…”
Angela was referring to my two-year old son, born from an unplanned pregnancy with a near stranger I ended up marrying in Vegas six-months pregnant and nine months into our relationship. In a matter of months, I had morphed from young single person crashing all night parties to young married mother enduring all night feedings. Angela was one of the few friends I had pre-pregnancy who kept in touch. Everyone else just kind of vanished.
Angela and I met when I was eighteen. I was a college dropout living in a house full of skateboarders and Angela was on assignment in L.A., shooting photos for Thrasher magazine. She was older and cooler and liked the same kind of boys-- wasted dudes in Pabst stained jeans and backwards baseball hats, skateboards in one hand, guitars in the other, limping on broken bones with busted lips, or the occasional neck brace from a missed ollie off a three story-building. Over the next five years, I flew to New York to visit Angela as often as I could and in turn, she flew west to hang with me.
Those were the good old days, I often said, but only because I barely remembered them. And yet. The fact that they were over didn’t mean I couldn’t still go out. I was perfectly capable of leaving my family behind for a night of loud music and overpriced beer.
“Of course I’ll be there! Are you kidding?”
“Okay, cool. Just tell the guy at the door that you’re on my list. And you have a 'plus one' if you want to bring a friend.”
But I was happy to show up alone. I figured I’d know everybody there anyway. They were, after all, my old crew.
The night of the Guitar Battle Competition, I took my sweet time readying myself, straightening my hair, cat-eyeing my eyeliner. I switched my wedding ring to my right hand in order to hide from myself what had changed, dusting off my old skin and doing my best to squeeze back into it. I was ready to make mischief of some kind.
“I don’t know what time I’ll be home. I might go out with everyone afterwards,” I said, picking apart my wallet for my ID and credit-card to pack into my favorite vintage clutch, a seldom used souvenir of the summer I spent in London scavenging Portobello Road for treasure.
“Have a good night. Be safe,” my husband said, bending in for a kiss.
I turned away. “Don't. You’ll smear my lipstick.”
I parked my station wagon in the $10 lot behind The Whiskey and made my way up Sunset, heels clicking the sidewalk until I spotted Angela, slumped against the alley-wall under the pink glow of the Roxy sign, smoking a cigarette in her fishnets and ankle boots. We threw our arms around each other, jumping up and down like teenagers back from summer vacation.
“You look amazing!”
“No, you do! You do!”
She was standing with a half dozen familiar faces-- an ex-roommate, an ex-boyfriend, and an ex-lover who shook my hand.
“Actually we’ve met before. I’m Becca. We used to…”
But I could tell from the unoccupied look in his eyes that he didn’t remember.
“We used to what?” he said, pulling his cigarette to his lips.
“Nothing. Never mind.”
Maybe I just looked different, I thought. My hair is so much longer, now.
He wasn’t the only person who didn’t remember me. I tried to make awkward conversation with several old acquaintances but no one had anything to say. No one missed me or wanted to catch up.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I had been naïve to think I could time-warp back to my previous life. I suddenly felt like an imbecile for even wanting to.
I checked my cell phone for missed calls or new text messages but there were no messages, no missed calls.
I called my husband.
“What are you doing?”
“Working,” he said. “Everything cool?”
“Yeah. Just wanted to check in. Archer asleep?”
“Yup. He just went down.”
I hung up just as Angela introduced me to a guy who used to crash on my couch when he was too wasted to drive home. He didn’t recognize me either. So I introduced myself to him like a stranger. Less hassle trying to explain. He was nice enough, asking once again for my name.
“I’m really bad with names,” he said.
I nodded and wondered if it was the drink and drugs that fogged his memory-- if all the partying had gotten in the way of us ever getting to know one another.
I pulled away from the crowd, hugged Angela once more, and told her I’d see her inside, accepting a drag of her cigarette before separating from her, our heels click-clacking in opposite directions.
I opened up a tab at the bar, exchanging my driver’s license and credit card for a filled-to-the brim cup of Corona. I tried to make small talk with my old roommate, who I hadn’t seen in over a year, but he was uninterested, looking over my shoulder, calling to one of his buddies to save him a seat. I excused myself and moved through the crowd invisibly, trying my best not to spill my drink.
Again, I texted my husband.
“Hi!” I wrote.
“Hi!” he wrote back.
I made my way to a seat in the audience and sat down, legs crossed, arms folded and waited for the curtain to rise and the wild rumpus to start. It was a relief to see Angela. She waved from the judges booth on the stage and I waved back.
“Why are you sitting alone?” she lipped.
I pretended not to understand.
I had three drinks spilled on me in the two hours I sat watching the guitar battlers. I didn’t move. Not even to brush the beer out of my hair or pick an empty plastic cup off my shoe. I was afraid that if I moved, someone might notice me sitting there, or worse, not notice me at all. The room spun as I studied the scene soberly. Familiar people high-fived and bought each other drinks. Ex-boyfriends stroked their new girlfriend’s backs. Former lovers flirted with a fresh batch of pretty young things
When the lights finally went up, I squeezed the beer from my hair and hurried to the bar to close out my tab, exchanging my half empty plastic cup for my driver’s license and receipt, and waited for Angela by the front of the stage.
“Hey, you! We’re all going to go to ChaCha in a few minutes. Want to come?”
“Of course!” I said almost on autopilot before realizing that an after party was the last place I wanted to be. More drinks to be spilled on my shoes. More “Wait, who are you?” to be muttered while being squished in pleather booths. And suddenly where the wild things were going didn’t interest me anymore.
For the last three years I had felt deprived of a social life. Of this social life. Like I was missing out on something, abandoning my old life and all who knew me. But I was wrong. I never really belonged here in the dark with the open tab, my identification flattened against a liquor-splattered bar. I just thought I did.
Besides, I was already on Angela’s guest list. That was never going to change, no matter how different our worlds had become.
“Actually,” I shrugged. “I should probably go home. You know, because of Archer. But let’s do dinner tomorrow night at my place.”
“How about eight o’clock?”
“It’s a date.”
Angela drove off smiling, her backseat full of skateboard boys flailing out the window. I sat alone for several minutes in my mischief-making dress and ankle boots and wedding ring on the wrong hand, trying to make sense of the night’s events.
I called my husband one last time.
“Is there any of that frozen pizza left?”
“Cool. Because I’m coming home early.”
“Good,” he said, the faint hum of television in the background. “I miss you.”
I suddenly felt desperate to be home, to finish the frozen pizza and change out of my party dress and let my husband smear my lipstick. I raced down La Cienega as fast as I could, peeling out at red lights, feeling like if I didn’t get home soon, I would be sucked back into my old life, forced to live an eternity of obsoleteness, a tame outsider among Wild Things.
When I finally made it home--into the night of my very own living room—my husband was on the couch waiting for me.
“Check the stove,” he smiled “You have pizza waiting for you. And it’s still hot.”