The Roommate

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I met Racquel in the summer of 2000. She was hired as a server at the Olive Garden in Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle Washington when she was 17, then in August she turned 18. Three weeks earlier, I had been hired as a server at the same Olive Garden after I turned down a job at Claim Jumper in Redmond. I knew Claim Jumper was a better restaurant, but the OG was closer to the place I was living, and I kind of felt like I needed to be there at that time in my life because A. I didn’t have a car, and B. I knew nothing about a la carte restaurants.  Was it fate that I was meant to meet her? Yeah, I think it was. I remember the first time I saw her like it was yesterday.

There was a group of new servers in training that week, and Racquel was one of them. She had shoulder length black hair, striking green eyes, and she walked with a gait that commanded your immediate interest and  attention. I opened the two-way door to the kitchen and I watched her pick up a tray of food and carry it out past me into the dining room. I don’t know if anyone else took notice of her as quickly as I did, but hey, 15 years have gone by since the night I watched her wait tables in high heels and couldn’t wrap my head around that fact.  It seemed so odd to torture yourself while you’re constantly walking at work, but maybe she didn’t care. Maybe they made her more comfortable. It was her style and I liked that about her immediately.  She had grace and easily glided through the dining room while wearing  stilettos and serving soup, salad and breadsticks. Thought it was kind of cool.

I didn’t immediately talk to Racquel, but over the next few months we became  friends and I would see her from time to time during my shifts. It was right around  Christmas of 2000 when our paths would finally cross in a way that I think was a bit serendipitous. I was sleeping on a couch in the living room of a friend’s house in Edmonds, but obviously, I was looking for a way out. One night at work, Racquel must have overheard me complaining about my living situation and came up to me with an idea.

“You need a place to live?” She asked.

“Yeah, actually I do. You know of one?” I replied.

“I have a two bedroom and my roommate just moved out. She was crazy.” Racquel said with a laugh.

Now, I knew what the next thing she was going to say was, so I gave it a full four seconds of thought  before I decided that I’d love to move in with her. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think in that moment that a part of me wants to fall in love with her too.  I kept that latter part a secret for a little bit.   Eventually, both of those things DID happen, but let’s take it easy for now and just move in with her.

“You can come live with me if you want.” She said.

“Yeah?” I asked.

Yeah.” She said. “We’d be roommates.”

And that’s how the relationship, or “un” relationship began. First off, nothing about my friendship with Racquel was traditional in any way, shape or form. I had no idea what to expect as I had never roomed with a very attractive 18 year old girl before. I mean aside from the obvious, the two of us living together would make for a funny sitcom idea.  I knew that this was the right move because the way it worked out was effortless. When things are meant to be in my life, they happen very easily for me.  I slipped into this new fangled living situation with Racquel like putting on one of my favorite well fitting soft cotton t-shirts I’ve had for five years. It was there when I needed it, and I felt comfortable around her from the start. A few days after New Years I moved into N301 at Tamaron Ranch Apartments, Lynnwood Washington, 98087

Things were relatively normal when I moved in.  We got along fine and yeah, at times I walked in on her in the shower, and she would exercise in the living room and I swore there were some situations that might have created a little sexual tension, but Racquel was dating  someone else we worked with, and I was pining after a blonde haired server named Jill that week. Yet at the same time, I really couldn’t ignore that I was kind of catching feelings for her. She was really sweet, and we got along great plus, she was funny and understood me and did I mention that she is fucking gorgeous?

I remember the night I knew I had fallen in love with her. Our co-worker’s were having a party.  Not a real party, just one of those “let’s go back to our place to drink and smoke pot after work like they do in the movie “Waiting” type of parties.  Racquel noticed this bracelet I had been wearing on my wrist for the past year. She looked at it, asked what it meant to me, and I told her. I told her about my ex from Jersey, and I told her I felt like it needed to be on my wrist to remind me of the past and what I had gone through the last year which included my heart being broken by my ex-girlfriend AND my ex-guy friend, and uprooting myself to move to a city which I had never been to before in my entire life.  Speaking of that Jersey girl, I had to change people’s names to put them in the blog, but the truth is, in reality, I did find it kind of strange that the one girl I meet and fall in love with in Seattle would have had almost the exact same name as my ex girlfriend if you changed the first letter. Plus, she was also born a Leo like my ex, and like less than a week apart.  To answer you question, apparently I have a type,  but NO, I never called Racquel by ANY OTHER name than Racquel.

Regardless, before I even finished my story, and without giving it a second thought, Racquel reached down, and in the most carefee way, took off my bracelet for the first time in over a year.

“I’m breaking you of your past, or what’s left of it.”  She said in a very omnipotent tone.

Wow, I hadn’t taken that bracelet off in a long time. I don’t remember if my ex gave it to me, or if I bought it when I was with her, but  I kind I felt like a divorced man who didn’t want to admit his marriage is over and still wears his wedding ring, only instead of a ring I had a leather thing around my wrist.  Come to think of it, it might not even had been leather. Whatever it was made of, I chose Racquel to be the reason why what happened in the past didn’t really matter anymore. She just sat on my lap, said some encouraging words, and unclasped the bracelet like it was no big deal. In a way it wasn’t, but in another way, it was symbolic. I had a new life now and I needed to start living in the present and not think about who or what had happened in the past.

Racquel and I had a lot of fun the first few weeks we lived together. We bonded over coffee and Denny’s, I made fun of her for still having her baby blanket in the house, and she poked fun at my Jersey accent by butchering what most people think a New Jersey accent sounds like.  To Racquel, she thought it sounded like Barbara Walters saying the phrase “purple turkeys”  but pronouncing it like “poyple toik-ees, or a real thick Jewish/New York accent. Of course I had to inform her  that no one from Jersey talks like that. She made me sushi for the first time ever and she introduced me to Thai food. I tried to sell her on my new founded positive attitude and how someone getting me a journal for my 24th birthday last year really helped me to get in touch with my feelings and I haven’t stopped writing since.  We smoked pot together which was cool because my ex hated that I did it. We went to Target on multiple occasions to buy things for the apartment that we both knew we didn’t need, she read my journal even though I had never let anyone read it before her, and we talked about our past, our present, and how bright we wanted our future to be. We were like best friends. It was a perfect union of a male and a female coming together to live and work in a non-realtionship friendship where we shared some common interests and the  right amount of sexual tension.  It all made perfect sense,  until the night we drank a bottle of wine together.

I wasn’t a big drinker at all, meaning I had the lowest tolerance for alcohol that a 25 year old could have. So one night after work, Racquel brought home a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco. You remember that stuff, right? It was like carbonated grape juice, but with a high alcohol content. Of course, in my case ANY alcohol content was a high alcohol content. Regardless, that night we drank, we made out, and then we ended up in my bed where something happened that complicated everything else.

I remember waking up in the morning and putting my arms around her, falling back asleep, then waking up an hour later, alone in my bed. I didn’t know where she went. Did she leave town? Did she freak out? I mean she just had sex with her 25 year old roommate who she also works with almost every day so there was probably a lot of thoughts running around in her head right? I remembered wanting her to be there when I woke up because it had been so long since I slept in the same bed as a girl.

Now I definitely was falling for her, and I kept thinking to myself, how am I going to play this cool? How am I going to live, work and be with someone I think I’m in love with without scaring her away or sacrificing the obvious fact that I am her roommate How do I come on not too strong at this point?  I mean, we might have been a little tipsy that night, but do people really sleep with their roommates if they aren’t the least bit interested in them? Like, how the fuck do I “take it slow” from this point?

I knew what I wanted after that night. I wanted her. I wanted to be in a relationship with Racquel.  It just made sense to me. I didn’t know how it was going to happen and I didn’t know if it was meant to happen, but I wanted it to happen. Thing is though, her actions  the next few days were making me believe it was NOT something she wanted, at least, not right now.

Over the next few days I tried to get back to doing what I did best at that time in my life, which was working 5 to 10:30pm, then dropping ecstasy and going to raves at NAF Studios with my friends in downtown Seattle to dance and drink water until 4 in the morning. I would see Racquel almost every day, at least every day that she was at the apartment, but she was kind of a part time roommate at this point. I know on some level, that kind of upset me. Thing is, I didn’t have any reason to be upset. It’s not like we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and it wasn’t like we were even dating. We were roommates who slept together one time, and even though I know she cared about me, she was 18 years old, emancipated herself from her parents a few years back, had gotten out of a three year relationship where she was engaged less than a year ago, and I think it might have freaked her out that she was now living with a guy who she had sex with after less than one month of living together. I don’t think she wanted to be in a committed relationship.

Thing is, I had gotten out of a one that ended quite traumatically less than a year ago, as did she, and I guess  the whole time I just followed my heart (which was probably located on my sleeve) and I thought it would  be nice to be with somebody again and not feel shitty  and lonely.  But if you know me, you know I can count the relationships I’ve had since 2000 on one finger, maybe two.  We talked about all of this one night and she told me, we can’t live together, work together and be together. She made a good point, and I agreed with her.  So I quit the Olive Garden, the next week. Thing is though, before my two weeks were up, I got fired for using a $5.00 coupon, and pocketing the cash.

Now here I was 25 years old without a job and living in an apartment with a girl who I was in love with, but who I wasn’t in a relationship with, who may have loved me back, but not in the way that I wanted her to. It was a tough situation to be in.  I went back and forth in my own mind thinking that I was a failure because this is so close to the same thing that happened less than two years ago when I dated “Melissa.” I wanted things to be different this time. I wanted to make a comeback and not let life drag me down like it did before. I had to do something bigger than wait tables at an American Italian restaurant.

I remembered couple I waited on at the OG a few days before I got fired. They had been sitting at a table for about five minutes and no one had come up to them to take their order. So in a totally uncharacteristic move, I offered to pick them up.  It’s not like I didn’t like them or anything, it’s just when a guest waits 10 minutes without even a  drink order being taken, they are obviously not happy to begin with, and may turn into a problem table, but I said fuck it, I’m charm them and make them forget about what happened, and probably buy them a dessert for being patient.

Turns out, they owned a bar Mountlake Terrace about a mile down the road called Sharkey’s  Pub. I had just put my two weeks in, so I asked if they were looking for a bartender, and their response was, we might be. As it also turns out, I wanted to be a bartender more than a server but aside from a two week class in Jersey back in 1999 and two nights working at the Olde City Tavern in Philly before I got let go, I had no experience. Of course, when I went to Sharkey’s Pub a couple weeks after I waited on Wayne and Dawn, I didn’t tell them that. I bullshitted them…told them I have been tending bar for three years in Philly. They hired me on the spot and I went from living in financial purgatory  to living in a small, yet upscale room in the  lap of luxury.

That job was a God send. It was everything I ever wanted from a bar job, if that could be a thing to live for. I started working a couple nights a week, and I was balancing it out with a part time job at the Red Lobster, which ironically was located directly across the street from the Olive Garden where I was now an ex-employee..  It only took about a month before I was working only at Sharkey’s and no days at the Red Lobster. I didn’t need to. I was making a shit ton of money, and I was able  pay for things like I had never done before, and buy a car which I hadn’t had since I moved there. I would make my rent in two nights. The bar had these things called pull-tab games and I would get tipped every time the regulars won cash prizes.  There was something about me that was lucky because the bar never gave away so much money before I started there. One night I made over $400, which at the time was the single most amount of money I had ever made in one day.

Racquel used to come in and sit at the end of the bar and watch me work as she sipped a Sex on the Beach I made for her. Yeah, I know she wasn’t 21, but who the fuck was going to say anything about it? I ran that place and they loved me there.  All the regulars knew me by name and one of them nicknamed me “Hollywood” because one night I came in wearing a hundred dollar pair of shiny grey pants and a button down shirt that looked like I just got out of the club. . Life was looking really good for awhile, and then something tragic happened, followed by something euphoric.

Back at home, things between Racquel and I were just ok. She was the first person I had slept with since my ex that I truly cared for.  Don’t get wrong, I had plenty of opportunities in Seattle, and I was vocal about the idea that I wanted things to work between us, but she kept her emotional distance.  I couldn’t blame her. She had a lot of things going on in her life at that time and I didn’t want to make it more dramatic or difficult for her. Even now, 14 years later as I re-read some of my journal entries from April of 2001, they’re very cryptic, but I could tell that something just wasn’t vibing between us. Maybe it was the drama of her life, maybe it was the drama at home? I didn’t know what was holding this up because I thought that if she could just let go of the pain that was dragging her down maybe something better was in store for her. I thought maybe I was put in her life to help her remember the good times, the times when nothing else mattered but the moment we were living in.  I did for her, what I thought was the best thing to move us past this awkward phase and help her forget about her problems for a little bit, and maybe even put a smile on her face. On a damp night in early April of 2001, I introduced Racquel to a little pill called ecstasy.

Now look, before you go ahead and judge me, remember that this was 14 years ago, and that’s what kids did back then to chill out. A lot of people where taking X, but it was still relatively new on the scene.  I mean ephedra was totally legal at the time and I could get it as a shot in my coffee at Java Jitters. Me and my friends took pills, talked about our lives, smoked pot and mellowed out. That’s just what we did. I will never feel bad for taking ecstasy. It’s not like blowing a line of coke up your nose, and it’s not like jamming a needle full of heroin into your veins. It’s like taking a breath, and realizing how great it is to breathe. It’s like taking a sip of water and being amazed at how you’ve taken liquids for granted your whole life.   It’s like listening to a song you’ve heard 99 times before, but hearing something new in it the 100th time you listen to it.

For me and Racquel, doing X wasn’t necessarily about getting high and escaping life, it was about a different perspective and it was about looking at the world in a new way, and it was about seeing things for what they are, by seeing them for what they are not. It was about being happy and me putting on sunglasses and my favorite pants, and her putting on a feather boa and a red dinner dress and the two of us dancing around the apartment to EDM back when it was still called “Techno.” It was about healing ourselves from the past by breaking down the barriers in the present that kept us from knowing who we really could be in the future. We had a great time. We would babble on and on to each other about our beliefs and about life, and we would take tons of pictures with a film camera and then wait two weeks to see how totally awful they were when the film actually got developed. Some of them turned out really well, but for the most part, we just let go of our inhibitions and we opened ourselves up to the possibilities that maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

I’ll never feel guilty or ashamed for taking ecstasy in my life. EVER. It’s not for everyone. It actually helped me a year and half before when my ex and my best friend got together, so I thought maybe it would help Racquel to work through some of her issues. I thought maybe it would help us become closer as friends and possibly as a couple, even though deep down inside I knew that wanting something like that out of this situation was selfish, irrational and maybe setting myself up for disappointment, but I didn’t care. I had only really taken X with my friends when we went out to clubs. Rolling at home felt comfortable with her.  I actually started to enjoy it more than going out.

However , it wasn’t all happy pills and dress-up sessions during that time. Sure, we were having some chemically induced fun, but in between the nights we’d chill out, there would be days that would go by when I wouldn’t see her, and there would be nights when I came home and she would have a boy over. I didn’t know how to feel about that. I mean yeah, some times I was out gallivanting myself with other birds, but I never found anyone who I cared about more than her, and I never took any of them seriously. I just thought I was killing time until something better came along. To be honest, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought all I needed to do was convince her she would be happy with me, show her the way and she would walk next to me, hand in hand forever. But as I would find out that summer, the more doors I tried to open up for her, the less likely it became that she was going to walk through them.

I tried to help Racquel with her issues as much as she tried to help me with mine. Nobody talked to me and made me understand and feel better about things after the fact then the way she did.  I liked that about her, and I hoped I did the same for her. I guess I wasn’t prepared for a lost soul to enter the picture that summer, and rely on Racquel in a way that I just didn’t have to.  She had met this guy who was a little bit older than her but didn’t have it all figure out. I think she took him under her wing, so to speak.  I guess she tried to help him figure out his life problems, while I was trying to help her figure out hers.  I’ll admit, I was a little bit jealous of him.  I was jealous because he took her away from me. I was jealous because I knew the potential her and I had as a couple and when we stopped hanging out as much that summer, I felt like maybe she didn’t need me in her life anymore.

It was an up and down battle the next two months. One day I would wake up to her climbing into bed with me, then the next night I would come home to read an angry letter she wrote in my journal after we fought and I slammed the door to my bedroom in her face. The great thing about us, was that even if we got into an argument, we would talk about it the next day and we would apologize to each other and then we would agree that nothing else mattered except for the fact that we were “homies” who had slept together twice, and knew we were friends, but there was always some level of that push-pull thing going on between us.

It had been like that for awhile now. She’d pull me in, then push me away. I’d do something nice, then judge her for something ridiculous. It wasn’t a very healthy situation, and it started to take it’s toll on the both of us. My cushy job at the bar was the first casualty.

I don’t remember how it happened, but one night six days after Racquel turned 19, I was accused of letting another customer play in a reserved pull-tab bowl of another regular. I know this doesn’t make much sense if you’ve never heard of pull-tabs, but some of the games had prizes in the thousands of dollars, and when people put more than $100 worth of cash into a bowl, they are allowed to reserve it for only themselves. I might have let one of my best regulars play in a bowl that was reserved by a guy who was NOT my best regular, and my guy hit for $500. He tipped me $100 that night, and it would turn out to be the last time I pulled a winner at Sharkey’s Pub.  The regular complained, and my boss didn’t like that. I denied it, but he had it on video, and I was fired. I was fired from my $1000 a week bartending gig that I had talked my way into without any prior experience, and Racquel had quit her shitty job serving in Mukilteo a few days prior to that. Before we knew it, we were both broke, unemployed, and pretty soon thereafter everything else in my life started to fall apart.

The news made Racquel upset, and she wondered how I was going to pay my rent and the bills that were do. I freaked out at her because how could she quit HER job and then get mad at me for being fired. I wasn’t very good at saving the money I made back then, but I sure knew how to spend it. I mean, in addition to the fact that the past month had been a trying time for the two of us, what was going on or NOT going on with her and that guy coupled with me getting fired AGAIN was the icing on the proverbial shit cake that became my life at the time. I remember her not coming home for about four days in row, then one night, I was in Capitol Hill getting my tarot cards read. I got the Devil and the Tower card. Basically that meant something bad, and something tumultuous on the horizon. I was advised that something was about to happen and that it was going to get worse before it got better. Naturally, I came home to an empty apartment that afternoon, but I noticed it was slightly more empty than before. The towels in the bathroom were gone. Fuck me… that was it. Racquel was on her way out of that apartment, and out of my life.

I moved about 50 yards away into a one bedroom apartment in the same complex. I was reminded of her every day I lived there, mainly because I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I was taking care of her cat, Wonkie who lived with me, PLUS I literally could see the apartment where Racquel and I used to live from my new bachelor pad balcony. I would notice boxes being taken out of that apartment as I sat and smoked my cigarette one afternoon. It sucked, but we made sure our friendship didn’t have to suffer. For me, it was lonely those next few weeks, but Racquel and I knew it was for the best… at least that’s what we kept telling ourselves.

The truth of the matter is that I had no job, I had never lived alone before, and I didn’t even have enough stuff to furnish the place. The living room remained empty for months. All I had was a bed, a table, and a TV with no cable hook-up. Racquel was living in Everett with that guy, and I would hear from her from time to time and we would talk on the phone about how maybe we both acted a little irrationally and how we missed each other and maybe we should have tried to work things out, but then again, wasn’t that what we had been trying to do the whole summer?

It was a dark time in my life. I wasn’t taking x because it started to react differently in my body and make me sick, plus I couldn’t fucking afford it. I had my first “heart attack” which actually just turned  out to be a panic attack because when I got to the Emergency Room and the nurse told me I would have to pay $500 just to be seen by a doctor, suddenly I wasn’t feeling like I was dying anymore.  Anxiety was getting the best of me and as I pounded the proverbial pavement for a job, I kept noticing how distraught and confused I felt when I would come home with no leads, no plan to make things better, and another empty apartment, with no one to talk to.

With the exception of a year and a half ago when Melissa broke up with me, this was perhaps the saddest time in my life, and in some strange way I felt like I had put myself in that position to make myself stronger. I wrote a lot during these four months and at times, I could tell I was slightly out of my element, started questioning everything, was totally unprepared for the day to day, and yeah, maybe I was bit delusional.  I took a job at a Blockbuster Video store, (remember those?), then I quit two weeks later for a job at a bar called the Getaway Tavern. It wasn’t anything like Sharkey’s, but it was something. I wrote, I worked, and I smoked a lot of pot as I tried to understand why the hell life kept repeating itself. Two years earlier I had been fired, lost the girl, and then started doing drugs to kill the pain. It’s like life was on replay, but this time I was 3000 miles away from home, and even if I wanted to go crawling back to Jersey to center myself, I couldn’t even afford to do that last part.

There were times when I doubted myself and couldn’t comprehend how I fucked it all up by not being able to appreciate how much I had accomplished the last year. There were times when i wouldn’t get out of bed until 11am because I had no where to be.  And of course, there  were times when my undiagnosed depression used to get the best of me as I broke down into tears one day thinking of my ex girlfriend from New Jersey and my ex roommate from Seattle while listening to track 6 off the new Jimmy Eat World album, Bleed American.

The winter was coming, and between the two of us, our situations weren’t getting much better. I was working, but I hated it. Racquel was living, but not the way she wanted to. Then one night, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Racquel, me, and a group of our friends attended “Freak Night” which is a Halloween themed rave in downtown Seattle. God I had a great fucking time that night. We were kind of broke, but somehow still able to make it memorable. Even though it was a last minute decision on her part, and I was already at the event, but then decided to drive all the way back to Everett to get her and bring her there, it was the right decision to make. I pinned leaves on my pants and wife beater and went as the season of “Fall.” Racquel dressed as a butterfly and somehow, even though we didn’t coordinate our color scheme or our outfits, we matched. That night was legendary. We danced, we had some extra curricular activities going on, we ran into some people we hadn’t seen in months, and our friend Vanessa was able to capture the night in one click of the shutter on her camera. I still look at this one picture every now and then, and all I can do is smile.

After that night, things started to feel a little bit more like we were headed in the right direction. Racquel would come over to my empty place and listen to new music that reminded us of each other and we would talk about how maybe we should give this living situation another shot. I know what you’re thinking…we had our issues in the past, but doesn’t time heal all wounds? The last three months were some of the most depressing and unfamiliar days of my life, so when I left Seattle for a week to go back to Jersey for the holidays I put an offer on the table. Her and I again, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath.

Jersey was quite an interesting experience. I looked like absolute shit since the last time my friends and family had seen me, but I’m sure it had everything to do with the depression, the anxiety, and the drugs I did leading up to the day I left. I recouped for a few days and found myself in a Tower Records store when my ex- girlfriend Melissa called me to come have dinner with her and her Mom. Now, I hadn’t seen or spoken to Melissa since I left New Jersey 7 months ago. I didn’t know what to expect, but I went to dinner anyway and then we kind of caught up with each other over the next few days and maybe SHE put something on the table I hadn’t heard in awhile. An apology.

She was sorry. She was sorry for what had happened, she was sorry for making me move all the way across the country, and she was sorry for breaking my heart. I appreciated all of that, and I still cared about her,  but in the back of my mind and on the Motorola Star-Tac phone in my ear, I was hearing from Racquel that she was ready to accept my offer.

“Two bedroom one bath, right?” She said.

“Yeah. Two bedroom, just like before.” I replied.

“Ok, but I want to be on the ground floor this time. I’m sick of the stairs.” She said.

“You got it.” I said.

With a new take on an old idea, I headed back to Seattle in January of 2002, and Racquel and I moved into an apartment right across the street from the first place I lived with her one year before. I had quit working at the Getaway Tavern before I left because I didn’t like it there, and I was working part-time at the Eddie Bauer call center, but that job suddenly disappeared when I got back to Seattle. Fuck, I was jobless again, but at least this time I had my girl back with me. At least, so I thought….

I guess in my mind I figured this move was something she wanted and it would be like old times again, except this time she would actually be there in the apartment instead of somewhere else. Within a week us moving in together, I started seeing things for how they really were, which was me coming home to a vacant apartment, yet again. I didn’t understand what the fuck was going on. I didn’t know why on earth things seemed to be going so well for us when we were apart, then the week we move back in with each other, everything was chaotic and dysfunctional. At least, that’s how I saw it in my mind. Life was stagnant and I felt destitute and it was not how I wanted to live.

One of the reasons I wanted to move back in with her was so that we’d have something stable during a time when everything else was an unknown. It seemed like nothing had changed since the last time we were together except for our address, and the fact that all of our stuff was in one place. Well, my stuff anyway. At this point, I knew that even though I cared about her and loved her, there was never going to be relationship in the traditional sense for us. Something happened in her life to make her bear the cross of the emotional weight of so many people, and I think it was too much for her to handle.

She was still dealing with that boy from Everett, and I guess that situation was more involved than I knew, or cared to hear about. I tried to help her as much as I could, but I felt like with every word I spoke I was walking on eggshells because I didn’t want to say anything that would push her away. In the past, I had been guilty of appearing  very prophetic and maybe even holier than thou, and I acted as if I knew everything and I think that bothered her. This time, I tried to let her know that I was there for her, but I wasn’t going to force my beliefs onto her anymore or make her feel judged for being who she was. I accepted her as my friend and mentor because the one thing I realized when we weren’t living together was that I truly missed her, and I had learned from her as much as she had learned from me.

I decided to go my own way. I went out and tried to make new friends and find things to do that didn’t involve smoking pot and getting into trouble. I looked to find any bartending or serving job, but nothing seemed to come my way. January is the worst month for finding jobs in the food service industry, so I guess I was climbing the proverbial uphill battle. I was still relatively unemployed with the exception of a call-center job I got setting up appointments for people who owned homes and wanted to have new windows installed. Yeah, tons of fun. When I worked there, they used to call me “Jersey.” Perhaps that was a bit of foreshadowing.

I would occasionally see Racquel in the apartment, and we would chat every now and then, but there was something off between us. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and it made me kind of sad. I didn’t know what I was doing there anymore. I knew what I wanted, but I also knew she wasn’t going to be able to give it to me. I stayed in contact with Melissa who was living in Philly, and she would write me letters and we would talk on the phone and sometime around the month of March when I had exhausted every single avenue in Seattle, and I had admitted to myself that I wasn’t happy anymore, and when I had woken up to realize that perhaps Racquel wasn’t the girl I made her out to be in my mind, I had no choice but to face the uncomfortable truth that maybe it was time to leave the Pacific Northwest.

On a Sunday in early March of 2002, I packed up my white Mitsubishi Eclipse and I drove East, heading back to the place I had left not two years ago. I made the trip back in about four days and the whole time I kept saying to my friends and family and kept thinking to myself “This is the right move.” Everyone was convinced of that idea, except for me. I moved in with Melissa and her roommate and I think it took about ten days before I regretted what I had done, wrote a fuck you entry to myself for uprooting what I had in Washington, but by then it was too late to go back.

I thought to myself…. I wish I had tried just a little harder, or I wish I had put up with it just a little bit longer.  Maybe I would have found the key to the castle in the sky. I don’t say this about any other time in my life, but in that instance, I couldn’t help but wonder… what if?  Were things as bad as I made them out to be, or was I just being heavily manipulated by my own desire for something more and a broken heart? It’s probably the latter, I know myself pretty well.

I saw Racquel one more time after I left Seattle. I drove up from Vegas which was where I was living and we spent the next few days together. It was great to see her, but it’s been almost 13 years since then. I do text and talk to her from time to time.  She tends bar in Seattle near Everett, just had a huge birthday party for her 33rd with a deejay last week, is looking to buy a house, and she had a son back in 2005 or 2006.  I think it’s great. All I ever wanted was for her to be happy and I’m really proud of her and who she has become. I could probably take a few lessons from her now. Maybe I’d have my shit figured out too.

Lately, I’ve seriously been debating on whether or not I should stay living here in L.A. I haven’t been happy here in awhile. Things haven’t worked out quite the way I have been working for them to work out.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about “peacing out” of this shallow place and heading north for deeper waters and a little more rain. I mean honestly, all I do is write, tend bar, and I occasionally get a phone call from a  friend who wants to put me in one of their web series.  I mean, that last part is fun, but it don’t pay the bills.  I can write and I can tend bar anywhere in the country. Why do I still do it here?

This was one of the hardest blogs for me to write because my time in Seattle is so near to my heart that I wanted these words to be perfect. I loved it there, and I loved my time with Racquel, and I feel like this is a story that needed to be told the right way.

In my opinion, Racquel and I were soulmates. Not like the single soulmate philosophy idea, the multiple one. I believe I have a handful of people I was meant to meet in my life, or will meet for some reason or other, and for my time in the Emerald City, Racquel was one of them. I knew it from the beginning, but I didn’t know what that meant, or where it was going to take us, or how to understand or react to what I was feeling in all the moments that led me to and away from her. I know I might have been irrational during that time. I know I could have acted more like a friend, and less like a scorned lover, but I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m sometimes dramatic, plus, I was 25 and she was 7 years younger than me.

We were two kids with broken hearts who found a way to mend them back together through an unpredictable rendezvous with each other. She helped me understand the simple act of being a good listener to someone because maybe that’s all they want you to do. I’d like to think I helped her to have a little more fun and maybe think of things in a different and spiritual way and perhaps that gave her some level of enlightenment.  And I know now exactly why she came into my life at that moment.  We were there to give to each other the power to be able to love again.

Was it perfect? Sure.  It’s all perfect in some way.    I know we didn’t end up together, but maybe that’s not what was meant for us.  Or maybe that WAS our time together. It doesn’t matter because what I learned from my time in Seattle was that “perfect” doesn’t always mean it works out the way you want it to. Sometimes perfect means we made such an impact on someone else’s life in a short amount of time, that even 14 years later, I eat Sushi or Thai food every week, or I smile when I hear songs that remind me of her, whether it’s the song I posted below, or if it’s that Tim McGraw hit “Just To See You Smile” which was the first  country song I grew to appreciate.  Sometimes perfect means there is still a possibility of the fact that I might actually see her again soon, and wouldn’t it be great to catch up on everything we missed over the past decade and a half?

But sometimes, perfect is looking at a picture from one night in the summer of 2001, when the only things that mattered in that moment, was the music, the sunglasses, the feather boa, and the one thing you both believed in….each other.

ecstasyseattle

The Artist

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I met the Artist in the Spring of 1997 when I was 21, and she was 16. Her name was Melissa, and her and boyfriend at the time used to come into my work at TLA Video in Marlton and rent indie films and discuss music and pop culture. I took an immediate liking to her and I think her boyfriend took an immediate liking to me, and invited me with them to go see the Violent Femmes concert somewhere at a small club in north Jersey.

Now, I loved the Violent Femmes, but I also had a an attraction to Melissa that I knew from the start was taboo. First of all, she had a boyfriend, second of all, she was really young, extremely beautiful and had these big stunning blue eyes, big lips, and maybe it was some spell she put over me but I was immediately attracted to her for some cosmic reason. She kind of resembled Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” minus the stitching and the fact that Sally was a puppet. In fact, her nickname in high school was “Nightmare” for this reason specifically. I knew that there was an odd attraction to her, and that maybe her boyfriend didn’t see it, so I decided to go to the show with her, her boyfriend, and a few other high school kids. I mean, I was either the cool older guy, or the lame weird guy for hanging out with high school kids who couldn’t vote or legally order an alcoholic beverage yet.

I remember the club had a cage around the bar that you could only access if you were over 21. So there I was, inside the cage not drinking anything alcoholic because I didn’t start drinking for another 5 years, looking out at the Violent Femmes singing one of my favorite tunes, “Add it Up.” I looked over at Melissa and smiled, and she looked back at me and laughed because I must have looked like fool being on the other side of the fence, literally. Melissa’s boyfriend had a station wagon, and at the end of the show we all piled into it and started driving back to South Jersey. Somehow, I ended up sitting in the way back of the car in the extra seat that faced the opposite direction of the driver with Melissa sitting next to me.

As it got dark, it took all of my will power not to touch this gorgeous girl sitting practically on top of me in the way way back seat of a station wagon as her boyfriend drove us back to Marlton. Thing is though, I did kind of touch her, and she did kind of touch me. No kissing, just grabbing of things and intense eye contact, but believe me, it was enough for me to realize I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing and that even though I may not have know it then, this event would eventually come back to haunt me 3 and a half years later when I would find out exactly what was meant by the phrase “you get what you deserve.”

For the next few weeks, I hung out a little more with Melissa and the gang, but eventually that all stopped when I guess the guilt got to her and she told her boyfriend about what had happened in the back of his car that night. He was pretty mad, and rightfully so. I mean I hooked up with his girlfriend 8 feet away from where he was. He hated me, and I deserved to be hated, and that was pretty much the last time I saw her for awhile.

It was mid August of 1998, and I was working at T.G.I. Friday’s as a server. One night the hostess came up to me and told me there were two girls at the front who wanted to see me. Here I am thinking what girls would come to see me at Friday’s? I wasn’t dating anyone, and my mom and sister definitely wouldn’t just pop in out of nowhere. As I made my way down the stairs to the first floor of the restaurant, I saw Melissa and her friend staring straight at me. What the hell was she doing here? I started to wonder if this was a set-up and was her boyfriend was going to pop out of the phone booth and hit me across the head with a lead pipe because of what happened last year? Also, I was not prepared for such a rendezvous as I was wearing my goofy Friday’s uniform which at the time was a red and white striped shirt, suspenders, and a stupid hat that COULD NOT be a baseball hat as those hats were a violation of the uniform code.

“Hi. What are you doing here?” I asked Melissa.

“I wanted to see you.” She replied.

“I broke up with Brandon…well, I’m going to break up with him.”

What the fuck? Is she for real? Is she setting up her next boyfriend before breaking up with her current one? I guess she planned this out pretty well. I mean, I appreciate that she is coming here to tell me this, but what does that mean for me?

Truth is, I still thought about her a lot. I know it had been almost two years since that night at the Violent Femmes show, but I had run into her a couple times at shows, & the AMC movie theater. Sadly, we never talked. God forbid Brandon saw us talking, he’d probably freak the fuck out.

“Ok.” I said. “Well, let me know when you do break up with him. In the meantime here’s my pager number.” (PAGERS!!!)

I gave Melissa my beeper number, and with that I went back to work, confused and slightly interested. I think a day went by and I was at a house party when she beeped me and I knew it was her because we all had codes back then that we would leave on each other’s beepers. Mine was 11, and Melissa’s was 108 which had something to do with a song, or a band, or the album title for a band whose name escapes me now. Anyway, I called her back, she told me she broke up with Brandon, she was single now, apparently had an agenda, and this is how I started to date Melissa for the next year or so.

Melissa and I lived in the same neighborhood in Marlton called Kings Grant. It was really convenient when I drove home at 3 in the morning from her place and only had to travel a half mile. We spent every single day with each other for the first few months, and like any couple who got together when we were young, my social status and hanging out with my guy friends took a backseat to hanging out with Melissa. She was Italian, gorgeous, and she had a really close relationship with her Mom who liked me from the start and who would allow me to stay over at her place until the wee hours of the morning.

Melissa was an artist and she had this amazing quality to be able to immerse herself in the process of creating something out of nothing. I respected that, and it kind of made me want to do something artistic myself. At the time, my friends and I were running an underground fanzine called Jr. Skeptic which reported the ongoings of the punk rock scene in South Jersey. We would interview bands that came to Philly or Jersey to play shows, write articles about life, review some really good and some really terrible music, and we were slightly known in the town as being the older kids who knew what was cool, even though the whole idea behind punk rock was to avoid the mainstream vision of what was actually popular and cool. Basically, we ended up being cool though no fault of our own.

Melissa and I never fought with each other. Almost every night after working at Fridays, I would make my way over to her house and her and her mom and I would smoke cigarettes, eat food, and talk shit on people. Those two loved to gossip, and to be honest, so did I. Her mom used to take us out to dinner at the Medport diner after her shift and she would always pay for me to eat. She even helped me get a job working with her at her textile plant in Berlin organizing documents and filing away invoices. It was totally boring work, but I appreciated it, even though I eventually quit working there and started at another restaurant.

I was definitely in love with Melissa. She was the first girl I truly fell for that didn’t hinge upon the fact that I realized I loved her after I had lost her, or when it was too late. She introduced me to a way of thinking and a credo that I still believe in today even though at the time I might have scoffed at the notion she presented that “Everything happens for a reason.” She checked her horoscope daily and did my astrological chart for me and I was astonished at how accurate it was. I spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with her and her family in Philly, I was friends with her Dad whom none of her ex boyfriends could make a claim to because he didn’t like them and he was a menacing six foot three Italian ex bodyguard for Mike Tyson with a distrustful attitude and an impending look on his face that made you never want to hurt his daughter for fear of getting your legs broken.

Things were sailing along quite smoothly for the two of us. I had dated her for over four months straight which at the time was the longest relationship I had ever been in. I normally wasn’t the relationship type, but Melissa changed all of that and turned me into a long haired, beard wearing softy who cuddled with his girlfriend on the couch and held her hand everywhere we went. She loved me, hated the fact that I smoked pot, and I guess at some level I knew this but chose to ignore it from time to time and perhaps that ignorance would eventually piss her off, but it wasn’t THAT big of a deal, was it?

Yep, we were happy and in a great relationship, but when it came to our sex life, the truth is it was pretty much non-existent. That’s not true, it existed, but on some what of an adolescent level. Why? Because only one of us had had actual sex at this point in our lives, and it wasn’t her. Melissa was a virgin and I knew this from the start. I had dated virgins before, but I was 23 going on 24 at the time and I had had sex with a handful or two of girls before I dated her and I really enjoyed sex.

Don’t get me wrong, Melissa was a great kisser and she gave killer hand jobs…. probably because of all the practice she got over the last 5 years or so while she was jerking guys off instead of having sex with them. What about getting some head you might ask? Well, thing is, she wasn’t really big on blow jobs either. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times she blew me over the course of our relationship. Come to think of it, I can count on one finger how many times she blew me, and even then it was only an attempt to blow me and not a full on BJ where the end result was an orgasmic experience on my end. Did this bother me? Not really, but it was definitely a hot topic so to speak in our relationship for a good solid 9 months.

Look, I’ll be totally honest here. I did at one point tell Melissa that my intention was to eventually consummate our relationship and if that was never going to happen, I needed to know so I could figure out if I wanted to continue being with her without the ability to have sex. A guy can only receive so many hand jobs in a years time without eventually wanting to know what it’s like to actually be inside of his girlfriend, instead of just being gripped like the handlebars on a bicycle on a regular basis. It’s not like I gave her an ultimatum and said, “fuck me or else I’ll break up with you,” but I guarantee you that’s probably how she remembers it.

There were a few other things about us that made me realize that perhaps we were a mis-matched couple and starting to grow apart. At a New Year’s Eve party in 1998, I got stoned fifteen minutes before midnight and came back to the party high as a kite because I didn’t really drink alcohol at the time. Melissa took one look at me and my bloodshot eyes and utterly gave me the cold shoulder all the way into 1999. I never could understand her hatred for smoking pot. I mean, I had just turned 23, I had a good job, I loved her, and at the end of the night I didn’t puke up all the Captain Morgan I drank and made her drive me home with a splitting headache like most kids my age.  In fact, I could still drive us home while I was stoned because at the very least I’d be cruising under the 35 mile an hour speed limit on Main street.

In the spring of 1999, things started to come undone. I had moved into a two bedroom apartment in Maple Shade with a guy I worked with at Friday’s, and literally two weeks after I signed the lease, I got fired from my cushy $450 a week serving job, which in today’s world is the equivalent to being paid $715 a week. I know it wasn’t a lot of money, but my rent was cheap, and having “no income” a week doesn’t pay the bills. It was at this time that I started working with Melissa’s mom in that shitty textile plant which only lasted a month or so. I did some odd jobs here and there and eventually found myself working as a server at Carrabba’s Italian Grill a few miles down the road from my place. Crisis was kind of adverted, but a new challenging situation would then arise.

One night in June of 1999, the time finally came when Melissa had decided she would say goodbye to her V-Card. Now, I had talked with her about this for awhile, and even though she told me it’s what she wanted to do, I still felt that on some level she was doing it more to keep me around than because she actually wanted to do it. Regardless, her Mom was out of town, I came over to her apartment where Melissa had candles and incense burning and we started to do the deed. This is where things got weird…..

Not a minute into it her eyes grew large and she stared at me with a shocked and upsetting look on her face like a deer in headlights. Now, I know the first time is painful, but the next thing that happened totally threw me for a loop. She suddenly started crying in the middle of it. Like hysterically crying. Did I do something wrong? Was she in a lot of pain? I know it’s very possible that it hurts, but my dick isn’t THAT big, is it? I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless and I felt strange and I didn’t know how to react to this situation and it started to make me angry.

I wasn’t angry at her or anything like that, I just was angry at the situation because I wanted it to be perfect and now I felt helpless and confused. I felt like all of a sudden all of her past issues were coming to a head and being spewed out all over the bed on a night that was supposed to be a sexy and romantic moment in our relationship. I hated my life at that moment. I hated the fact that this was happening, I hated myself for pressuring her, and I hated the fact that this was not going the way I had planned and I didn’t know why. I don’t even think she knew why, or if she did, she never was going to tell me the truth. This was a bad idea, and after about fifteen minutes, she calmed down we put our clothes back on and we just sat there with almost nothing to say to each other.

Melissa and I didn’t attempt to have sex again for awhile, but she did attempt to smoke pot with me one night at my apartment, probably in a effort to see what it was all about and unfortunately that led to fifteen minutes of hysterical laughter interspersed with fifteen minutes of hysterical crying. This went on for what seemed like two hours.

“Are you ok?” I asked her as she blankly stared at my wall without saying a word.

She never answered, and she didn’t speak for a hundred and twenty minutes while I tried to get her to sober up by feeding her cheese and crackers with a side of diet coke. The reaction she had was so weird. I felt like I had a sick puppy on my hands and I was afraid to leave her for a minute and I just didn’t understand what the hell was going on. Needless to say, a few days later we broke up. I don’t know if it had to do with the last few weeks of experimental sex and drug use, or if it had to do with the fact that perhaps our thing had run it’s course. Just to be clear, I didn’t want to break up with her, but it’s something she felt she needed to do and she cut off communication with me for the next few weeks. That’s the one thing I did not appreciate about the way it ended. I had no idea how to fix this.

Look, I knew I wasn’t the best boyfriend in the world the last few months, and I’m sure the stress of me losing my job maybe put a strain on our relationship and perhaps there was some stigma that she couldn’t ignore when it came to the failed attempts at sex and weed smoking. Maybe she was pissed that when she went to college earlier that spring and had her own apartment in Philly I didn’t come by as much as I should have come by. Maybe she was pissed that instead of hanging out with her I was hanging out with my friends from work playing poker and getting stoned til 3am? Maybe she just had the foresight to see that this thing wasn’t going to get any better.  I was really upset about it for awhile and I used to hang with my best friend, telling him how depressed I was and how I was lucky to have him there for me while I whined and complained about how much I missed Melissa…..or so I thought.

One night in early October of 1999 I drove over to my best friend’s house to watch a movie. As I pulled up, I took a look at the cars that were parked outside as that was the way to find out who was all over there. I didn’t see many, but the one car I saw that didn’t normally belong there belonged to Melissa.

Wait…. what the fuck was she doing hanging out at my best friend’s house watching a movie? It was as if I didn’t even need to go inside to get that answer, but I guess I felt like seeing it for myself because I went inside anyway. I walked in the back door into the downstairs den of my best friend’s parents house where I had spent the last six or seven years hanging out eating food, horsing around, and watching the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles. I looked on the couch and saw him sitting there, a few feet away from Melissa. I said hello, and he said hello back, but neither one of them made eye contact with me, and that’s when I knew exactly what was going on.

Wow. Karma is a bitch, and apparently I had been dating karma for the last year and a half. I only stayed a few minutes because the tension in that room was unbearable for me. I left that night knowing that my ex girlfriend and my best friend were about to start dating each other and there was nothing I could do about it. Now it was all out in the open and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t devastate me, but to be honest, it didn’t surprise me at all. I guess that’s what you get when you hook up with a girl three years earlier in the backseat of a car driven by her current boyfriend. In a way, life had come full circle and I was reaping what I sowed. I didn’t like it, but in hindsight I got what I deserved.

I dyed my hair black the next day and I took a shitty job at a restaurant called Prospector’s on 38 in Mt. Laurel and I tried to busy myself with work, and get the situation off my mind but it wasn’t helping me. Then one night in November of 1999, after I had spent the last few weeks crying myself to sleep writing sad bastard entries in my journal and wondering why it all happened, I got a call from my friend who told me he had something he wanted to show me, and for me to come over after work. When I got to his cousins house he handed me a white pill with a little Tweety bird on it.

“Here, take this. You’ll thank me for it later.” He said.

That was the first hit of ecstasy I ever did, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. There was something about doing X that night that changed my life forever. I let go of the anger and resentment I had towards my best friend and Melissa, and I started to envision a world where I wouldn’t let it bother me anymore. For the next few months my friends and I got caught up in the club scene and believe me, we did MORE than our share of tweety birds, mitsubishis, rolex, and double stacked ferraris during that time. I didn’t think about Melissa anymore and all I could do was create a place in my mind where I was able to live my life without her and my best friend in it.

Looking back now, that place in time had been filled with drugs, parties and late night trips to Atlantic City at 3 in the morning, but it still left me feeling empty. When I got arrested outside of Studio 6 in A.C. on April 1st 2000, everything in my life changed. I hadn’t talked to Melissa in awhile but she came over to see me the next day and her and her Mom and I went out to Applebee’s for dinner. I was cracked the fuck out. I probably looked like one of those kids you see on the MDMA episode of Drugs Inc., deshelved from spending the night in jail with his pupils dilated and a cold sweat dripping down my face. I was in a bad place, and even though this was the first time I had seen her in awhile, I knew that Melissa wasn’t going to save me. I had to do things on my own.

A few months later I sold my car and all of my belongings and I moved 3000 miles away to Seattle Washington, a city I had NEVER been to before, and I started a new life there where no one knew me. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I was so far enough away from New Jersey that I didn’t feel the pain every time I drove past a place that reminded me of her. I didn’t have the possessions that used to trigger a memory that no longer served me for good, and I made new friends and told them to call me Christian so at least in my mind I could think of myself as a healed soul living in the Pacific Northwest.

I lived there for two years, and it was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ll probably write a blog about that later. As for Melissa, we kept in contact for a bit and when I moved back to the east coast in 2002 I lived with her and her roommate in Philly for a few months, but it never went back to the way it was. We were just two different people. She was experimenting with pot and ecstasy at the time (how ironic) and I was trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I eventually wound up here in L.A. and it was about a year later when Melissa and her roommate moved out to Hollywood as well. Why? I’ll never know.

You might be wondering if we ever got back together…but that never happened. She had a new agenda and that ended up being dating one of my friends I met out here, naturally. I can’t say I was surprised. I guess that just ended up being her thing in life….dating friends of the boyfriends she used date. She was a really good artist too, but that’s not how I remember her. I really wish it was.

I don’t talk to Melissa anymore. I think it’s been almost 7 years since the last time we spoke and to be honest, I wouldn’t even know what to say to her if I did see her. I hear she had an arts and crafts store in Haddonfield that closed down, and she is getting married to a guy I used to be in a band with back in the late 1990s. As for my best friend who she dated for years? We’re still good friends. I made up with him a couple years later and to be honest I don’t hold any ill will towards him at all. We joke about both dating her now and we even have a bet every year at the Super Bowl coin toss and the loser of the bet has to accept the fact that Melissa is their proverbial “girl” for the next year. Trust me, it’s not an honor. I was just at his wedding last year when he married the love of his life and we still text each other almost every day. I guess there is some truth to the phrase “Bros before Hos”

The time when I lost my ex girlfriend and my best friend within a month of each other really did suck, and it hurt….but instead of letting it define me in a negative way and making it the reason I hate women and don’t trust people ever again, I used it to be the catalyst to make a huge change in my life that may have had to happen to me to force me to get to where I’m at today. I’m extremely happy with what the future might bring in the next few months, even though I still haven’t figured out the relationship aspect of my life. I know it will come in time. Melissa really did affect me in a way that I will always remember and hold true to myself. I still check my horoscope every morning when I have my coffee, I still appreciate fine works of art and the sounds of indie rock when the moment strikes me, and the day after she broke up with me I started writing in a journal and I haven’t stopped writing for the last fifteen years. I just think to myself sometimes that maybe I needed to get my heart broken so that I could heal my mind. Everything happens for a reason, right? At least that’s the way I choose to look at it.

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Her: 18  Me: 23