By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The next afternoon I have to baby-sit for Noah’s friend. This tiny little baby, who I usually adore, will not stop crying. It is raining outside a little, and I can’t fathom how I am going to get through the next two hours. As I rock this small doughy body back and forth, I cry with him. I am exhausted.
San Francisco, 1992
I lived in San Francisco for a year after high school. Lyle walked out and Kate walked in; that’s how I look at it. Lyle was the end of true love, and I left L.A. and moved to San Francisco, away from both parents. I met Kate at the punk rock shoe store, where I convinced girls to buy flowered Dr. Martens boots and baby-doll dresses. It turned out she had gone to high school with Lyle. I had heard her name many times and when her boyfriend Mark introduced us, I knew she was the same Kate. Mark made a latte for me every morning at the cafe next door. Oh, you’re the girl he just broke up with, the young one, I heard about you. She bought a swirly red-and-black dress that I thought was ugly. Her face looked pained. Kate was beautiful in a way that was new to me. She had a way of looking at me, with her nose scrunched up and her eyes squinted, as if she smelled something awful or couldn’t quite see clearly. Freckled nose, golden eyes and the downy fuzz on her cheeks. Kate’s face took getting used to.
A week later she invited me to see the remake of Cape Fear at the Kabuki Theater on Geary Street. At one point I was so scared that I reached for her hand and she laughed; it endeared me to her in some way. Later she would say You cry at every movie, remarking on how I was inconsolable while watching the end of The Dead Zone one afternoon on television. Brooke Adams says, “I love you,” to Christopher Walken, and then he dies without saying it back. This killed me.
Kate didn’t cry like that. Her strength made her seem hard, an admirable toughness. If we were younger, I would be the prissy kid and she the tomboy. I was in a blue period, still heartbroken over Lyle, and Kate on the verge of getting dumped. We really got close when it was finally over with her and Mark. She was devastated. She collected everything he ever gave her and put it in a giant-sized Glad bag underneath the television. Each day she would add more to the bag, I would ask for the teakettle and she would say, It’s in the bag, which meant it was off limits. Books, records, clothes, underwear, pots, shampoo and cat toys were all thrown in. She told me that she was going to take the bag over to his house when he was at work and dump the contents on his bed. She would write on the wall above All I have from you is this bag and one dead baby, in reference to the abortion she had two years before. The desire I could relate to, but I would never go through with something like this. I admired her for it.
The second time we hung out she invited me over to her house to watch 90210. She lived in a two-bedroom apartment south of Market and we bought dinner at the Shell gas station, the only store around. We ate frozen Pizza Bites and she told me the story of coming home after work to find her roommate on mescaline kneeling on the floor before a shrine of J.D. Salinger books, shaving bald patches into his black hair. Each of the books was still there in their own Ziploc bag and nailed to the wall. There were snow dome collections of things that were never in snow, like flamingos or underwater creatures. She loved robots because it was a dated idea of futurism, something old people might talk about.
Kate became my other half that year, I remember naming her my best friend long before she would call me that. I earned the title later. We would go to North Beach and treat ourselves to dinner at Viva, double orders of garlic bread and sweet syrupy Cokes. We would walk around in the night, buy post cards, and look at magazines. She would stand on corners and yell Fuck Fuck Fuck into the icy wind while we waited for the light to change. I don’t remember noticing other people around us.
For her birthday, I made her a book of drawings I had done of ugly dogs, some with big crying eyes. I included some descriptive paragraphs I had copied out of reference books. I drew pictures of all the bad boys we knew, like Lyle, and anyone who had ever broken her heart or not returned a crush. I wrote a paragraph about each boy and placed their pictures between the canines. One hundred ugly dogs in all.
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