Monday, October 30, 2006

Dangerous Liaisons?

Lately I have been obsessed with silent films and their actors. I should say re-obsessed. Ever since I was a teenager, I've had phases of wanting to know all I can about them. My dad used to rent them from the library and run them in our den. Sometimes I think I am a reincarnated actor from that era, or to be more oblique, I sometimes think I was a silent film in a former life. I used to think, if you have to express it in words, it must not be worth expressing. I am in a musical right now (hence my short, lackluster posts of late) and in many scenes where I'm on stage, but not speaking, and find myself using silent actor tools I never knew I had.

Did I tell you how amazing Jody looked at my Salon's opening party, in 1985? During one of our many thrift store trips, I found her pristine 5" patent leather cha-cha heels, a long clutch to match, a sleeveless gold metallic 50's era top, and a pencil skirt. I styled her naturally curly red hair into a perfect modern interpretation of Betty Grable's piled on curls. She was usually a more down to earth, albeit alternative, dresser but ceded to me that night and let me dress her up. I had a great time watching her teeter gracefully around the room on the blonde hardwood floor, and watching the drama she stirred up in the party goer's faces.

In the summer of '86, Jody and I got our own apartment. The place we shared with Scot was super cheap, but it's run-down state was starting to get to us. Our apartment was so hopelessly crappy, we rarely could bring ourselves to even clean the cat box we had in the pantry. Scot refused to do it, because they were my and Jody's cats, and I'm super lazy. If someone came over, I would brave it. We had mice and roaches, so a messy cat box room was small potatoes. Scot decided it was time for him to live alone for a while.
We took the third apartment the rental guy showed us. The first one was cool, in an old Victorian building on Sheffield north of Armitage, but the bedrooms were too tiny. The second one was on Racine north of Diversey, and was huge, with gigantic windows, but had hideous old green shag carpeting all over the place. The third was perfect. It was a 1920's courtyard building on Pinegrove, just south of Waveland, and had been nicely renovated. Most buildings in Chicago seem to be built before the Depression, or after WWII. It had two bedrooms, dark hardwood floors, a 1970's steel fireplace, and a modern kitchen and bath. She bought a black sofa and love seat from Carson Pirie Scott that she was constantly vacuuming for cat hair. She also bought me a stereo from the latest 80's sensation: TV shopping. My room was pretty bare: I had a futon I bought from that place on Clark and Belmont that's still there, and the dresser I told you about earlier. Most of the little things for our new place we bought from The House Store, which used to be on a side street off Broadway south of Diversey, because Brad was working there, and kitchen stuff from the old, simpler Crate and Barrel on Michigan Avenue.
On the day we moved, Scot and Jody did most of the work, because I was at the salon, and had to be dead or dying to get a day off from that place without hearing a two hour long lecture on 'responsibility'. When I got to the old apartment to help them out, I could tell something was wrong.
"What?! What's going on?!" I said as I walked up to them.
"It's Gidget. We can't find her." Scot said quietly.
"What! What are you talking about!" I yelled at him.
"We had to keep the door open while we were moving stuff out, and I thought she was locked in the bedroom! We've been looking for her for an hour now!" Scot said, becoming visibly upset.
Everything had been moved, and they had come back to search for my cat some more. She did get out of the apartment once before, but we soon found her at the downstairs neighbor's, covered in sugar, courtesy of their many small children, and needless to say, a little freaked out. They hadn't seen her, and we spent the remaining day light hours looking for her. Scot promised to come back for a few days before and after work, which he did, but we never found her.

For me, all the charm the 80's possessed evaporated on January 1st, 1986. All it's creativity, anarchy, and individuality turned into a mess of big perms, shoulder pads, tacky make-up and stirrup pants. Everything cool was now on prime-time TV or in Dress Barn, and therefore watered down and to be avoided. Thank God Gaultier, Moschino, pirate Chanels and Hermes' came along when they did. I don't know what I would've done if they hadn't.
Also during this time, all that resolve I told you I had, all that determination I had about being happy and getting a life was quickly slipping away. And Jody and I were drifting apart. She might tell you it was because of my new friends, Erin and Ronny, but I'm going to tell you the real reason: She had gotten a 'real' job, working indirectly for the government. Her immense intellect and education didn't fully register with me until she got that job. Looking back, I think it also had to do with Brad...
Brad and I have known each other since we were 11, and when we were kids I often imagined us as parents, with families of our own, living on the same block, as we were at the time, still in each other's lives, and our kids growing up together. He was a doctor, because with his brain it was the obvious choice, and I had a ranch where I raised horses, or I was an illustrator for children's books. As a kid, I was obsessed with both.
But as we got older, Brad ran away, and dropped out of highschool. His pursuit of immediate happiness preceded his pursuit of a future. I knew that wasn't my fault, but I felt partly to blame. His stepmother banned me from their home when we were 14, and I knew she was blaming me for Brad's problems, and not seeing her role with them, but I couldn't help but feel she was a little right. Had I the nerve, I would've done the things Brad did. I didn't, and lived vicariously through him. He lashed out against the world's unjust indifference, and I caved in. Had I not known him, I can tell you for a fact I wouldn't be here today.
That "caving in" feeling was happening again when I was living with Jody, and I honestly did not want to bring her down with me. She was going out less, and me more, so we had less to say to each other. I knew how deeply she felt for me, and yet she seemed to have no idea how easily she could've 'gotten' me. It wouldn't have taken much. If she made the moves, I would have followed. Maybe she did know. Maybe she wanted me to decide.
Whenever I thought about having an intimate relationship with her, I thought about Gina. Gina was Brad's girlfriend when we were 16, and I was Brad's boyfriend. They had dated for a year or so, and were in love, but I had many secret talks with her about how Brad was hurting her by distancing himself from her, and not telling her why, and throwing his life away. I heard the pain in her voice, and understood it, because I wanted Brad to give himself fully to me, as I was ready to do for him. I couldn't tell Gina this, and only told her of my 'brotherly' love and concern for him. I wasn't jealous of her, or mean to her, but I knew Brad wanted to end it with her, but didn't know how. Gina was one of the few honest and positive influences in his life, and lovingly tried to help him get his life on track. Gina and Jody were just too much alike in looks and intellect for me to date her. I didn't want to repeat what I saw happen with Brad and Gina.

Walking into the kitchen, I heard an odd noise by the sofa. At first I jumped, because I thought it was a mouse, but then I saw the phone laying off the hook.
"Hey! Hello! Hellooo! Goddammit!" Someone was screaming into the phone.
"Hello?" I said, picking up the receiver.
"Brian? It's Erin! Why does Jody do that? Whenever I call she puts the phone down and walks away! It's driving me nuts!" She said.
"Um, maybe she doesn't like you..." I said.

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