Friday, August 28, 2009

Life Without Buildings


The scene opens with a long shot of our hero with his head lying on his folded arms, asleep on his desk, in front of his active computer monitor. Zoom in. You can tell by looking at his rumpled clothes and scruffy face, he's done this many times before. In fact, he spends most nights here sleeping, if you can call it that. As his brain crawls it's way through as much REM time it can get, the computer monitor flashes an endless parade of images and stories related to the object of his search, his raison d'etre. He's read them all, they barely scratch the surface. His months of searching only reveals what he already knows: not much. He hopes his vigilance will yield better results. He hopes if he stays at his computer twenty hours a day, he might find what he's looking for. He hopes if he closes his eyes just for a second, he might find some peace. And the object of this search? If you saw The Matrix, you might guess Morpheus. If you knew our hero, you'd say a pink rhinestone bracelet he bought at Kohl's in 1984, that he just knows is lurking somewhere in a sixty piece 'buy it now' jewelery lot on ebay...

Chris and I floated around our large, sparsely furnished apartment for a couple months or so after Scot left, like two drunk ghosts, before Cathy moved in. Our place was so empty, it reminded me of the many 80's videos set in a smokey, fake street at night, newspapers caught in the wind. Or sometimes, it would look robbed. We'd come home to find our few possessions left askew, everything seemingly rifled through. When you did as much drugs and drank as much as we did, you got used to your life looking like that. We kept our couch and TV in the dining room which was next to the kitchen, and left the living room empty. We hadn't the money to furnish it.
Rex's curtain was still up in the dining room, from when he stayed there, when Scot was still living with us. Chris' friend Tony stayed there for a while, too, after Danny did. I forgot how many glamorous and wonderful people lived behind that curtain.

Looking at the curtain, I often thought of the night, we all were there. Rex, Danny, Scot, Chris, Tony, and I had a little pre-party before hitting the clubs, and went to "Danny's place". (Rex had moved out and was just visiting.) We lay on his futon, dreaming about our futures, sharing some sad stories from our childhood, (Tony in particular; his parents kicked him out at a young age for being gay.) smoking, drinking, and laughing, but there was someone else there with us, unseen. We all felt it; we knew this was a special moment in our lives, all of us coming together like this. It was a cold night in December, yet we were together and warm and safe- I think we knew that we were in the presence of people who would be there for each other when we needed them. We also knew on some level this would be our last night together as a group: in two years, two of us would be dead.
But that was yet to be, and Chris and I tried to go on with our lives as best we could. For me, Scot's moving was the latest in a long line of friends who had left Chicago, and I felt lost and overwhelmed. The life I began creating for myself in 1985 when I moved to Chicago had crumbled around me. And if my friends hadn't moved away, we moved in different directions with our lives, and that can be just as distant. I knew we still cared for each other, but we weren't building our lives together any more.
I became, as much as I could, the stable person in Chris' life, and helped him save his money, made dinner and breakfast when I could, and scolded him when he 'kept the party going' in his room with bar friends til daybreak. I say as much as I could, because I knew this was the role Chris wanted me to perform for him, and I was up to the challenge of the part of a responsible adult, but my coping mechanism at the time was drugs and alcohol, and I easily dashed any amount of respectability I managed to build for myself, and joined Chris in his all night binges.
My irresponsibility came to a head one night after a particularly close K call, and one too many out of body experiences bearing witness to my shocking and embarrassing behavior.
"Oh Christ, what am I doing- put down the straw and put some clothes on??!! "
Chris' actions started to disturb me, for his life seemed to turn into one long continuous binge, and I didn't know how long he could keep it up. We would get into these long talks about his behavior, like I did with Brad, and one day I learned he was an accomplished trumpet player. I begged him to go back to music; to make his life about that, something other than partying. I told him having my hair career and hobbies gave me something other to focus on than going out, and I told him about the friends I knew that hadn't anything else, got into trouble or ODed.
He just looked at me, as you would a child who asked you why the sky was blue.
"It just is, honey."
He would then describe his plight to me, that he was a 'victim of himself'. The damage was done. He was resigned to that idea, no matter how much I pleaded to the contrary.
We needed another person to live with us, and I had someone in mind, and I hoped Cathy's motherly instincts would kick in, and help me help Chris...

Chris & Roxy, above
twentysomething, and hating it, 1991

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