HLS: Pam

Pam drove and a song came on the radio, some pop song sung by a man begging a woman to let him love her.  She laughed, cynical and rude, and turned the song up loud on crackling speakers of a car that was nearly as old as she was, singing along because she knew the lyrics.  Pop songs, no matter how much Pam did not care for them, were endlessly memorable, tapping into her subconscious with their easy lyrics and grade school rhymes.  This had something to do with music theory or how all people were similarly simple to manipulate.

A warm wind whipped through the open windows of her car but she did not feel free.  She hated that about Los Angeles – its in ability to cooperate or compliment her most miserable moods.  Some days you just needed a rainy fucking day, sitting in your window and bemoaning your fate like the ugliest, most unwanted puppy in the pet shop.  But no, LA, with its trees that were green year-round and its skies that were blue 90% of the time, made you feel like the depressed freak at the Happy Circus, the introverted, gothic sister of the homecoming queen.

The song continued, the singer humming and hawing in a smooth R & B way.  He was trying to pry this woman away from her bad boyfriend, promising her love and protection and material things that girls supposedly care about.  These were things Pam had heard before, nearly verbatim, and she laughed again, amazed at man’s collective ability to feel conviction in love.  She had learned not to trust these convictions, instead seeing them as intense, fleeting things that meant nothing down the line.  There was no use reciprocating in the lies in order to create a grounded reality in emotions, a false sense of permanence.  Change was inevitable in life.  Love was as unstable as anything else.

Pam hated that pop culture immortalized these passing phases, making it appear as though love was as permanent as this very unchangeable song, burned onto CDs and MP3s, fated to exist in this song-state forever.  It would always be 4:07 minutes long and the lyrics would never change.  A finished product.  Pam thought about the man who wrote this song and who he wrote it about and she could bet a million dollars that they were already over, that he was already bored with this girl.  Still, the song lived on as this constant thing, conning listeners that this love was equally definite.  And so love’s lie is propagated like a sourceless rumor.

You should let me love you

Give you everything you want and need

“I need a whole lot more than love,” Pam thought.  Firstly, she had student loans – massive, nasty, Ivy League loans in a degree that got her a job that paid nothing and would likely continue to pay her nothing.  Paying those off would have a tangible, lasting impact on her life in terms of real interest.  A boy, however, with his love and promises, was temporary, despite any professions of the contrary.  Pam felt bad for the poor sucker she dated next and the one after that and the one after that and that and that, each one getting less and less of the real her because the previous ones had taken away her ability to give, the desire to expose herself.  Despite what people said, behind walls could be a quite comfortable place to live.

She felt herself hardening, turning more doubtful of men as she got older.  Pam had stopped believing the things that boys told her, no matter how enthusiastic they were about her or how genuine they seemed.  They were all salesmen, feeding you the right lines to sell you the last lemon on the lot.  They were bankers, taking your money with promises of great returns and buying yachts in the Caribbean for themselves.  They were professional, hammer-wielding destroyers of things.

When the song ended another one came on – this one sad and depressingly and not as easily mocked.  She flipped through immediately before it could drag her down.  Fuck sad songs.  When she Pam was sad, she wanted to listen to Britney Spears.  Pop.  Garbage.  Tasteless and easily swallowed.  She wanted to listen to songs that appealed to the part of her brain that longed to remain in third grade, when the most trying part of her day was realizing that her mother accidentally gave her her brother’s lunch.  Turkey sandwich on white bread and not ham sandwich on wheat.  Back when boys had cooties and she still loved her parents without question because she hadn’t found out they were just people yet.

She stopped at a classic rock station, holding it on a song she recognized.  She held it there until she was sad all over again.  Bob Dylan, you mother fucker.  The man had an uncanny ability to con you into thinking his songs were upbeat and lifting with his squirrely harmonica and a quick guitar, but his lyrics hit your sad button with an creeping force.  Pam didn’t change the song.  She didn’t slam on the shuffle button or sing along.  The song sat next to her in the car and she would travel with it for a time until it was over.  The sun beat down through Pam’s window, bouncing off of her pale thighs and her smudged Ray Ban’s, exposing the dent on the hood of her car along with other damaged things.


HLS: Terry and Michael

Terry stood near the bar, behind other dark bodies waiting for their fix.  If ever there were a time to drink, this was it.  When Terry was younger she drank on a near-nightly basis, just because that’s what you did, especially living in the middle of fucking nowhere.  Eighteen, falling over onto the dirty floors of a frat bar, laughing hysterically in the arms of an equally slammed girlfriend.  Nineteen, trying every vodka on the bottom row of the liquor store shelves (plastic bottle required).  Twenty, nursing her very own bottle of Boon’s Farm Strawberry Wine, the liquor equivalent of soda pop, possessing the ability to get you drunk only by sheer volume of consumption and not actual alcohol content.  Her tastes had been refined by the time she reached the legal drinking age, preferring a sensible Capital Morgan’s on the rocks to anything else, shots if she were feeling particularly miserable.  As Terry got older and the ravages of a hangover began to effect her life in rather unappealing ways, she ratcheted down her drinking quite a bit.  Now, Terry found that she enjoyed a few cocktails at birthday parties, weddings, and work functions.  And, most importantly, after getting totally and utterly destroyed by a boy.

She tapped the two gentlemen in front of her on the shoulder, impatient to obliterate any memory of what had happened to her over the course of the last twenty-four hours.  It had only been a year since her heart had been broken badly and it was happening again.  It was her fault; she let it happen.  Michael’s stupid voice persisted in the back of her head –  “I’m sorry” and “I don’t want” playing over again on loop until she could think of nothing else but his phrases of choice, each of them just different words telling her, “I don’t love you.”

“Shot of Patron,” she commanded to the bartender, compulsively picking at the splintered wooden bar with a fingernail while she waited.  She watched him pour from a cold, fat bottle, liquid running over the rim of the shot glass – a dangerously generous pour.  He placed it in front of her on a polite paper napkin accompanied by the saddest looking lime wedge she had ever seen.  Even in the darkened, cavernous lightening of this shitty bar, Terry noticed its sallow green skin, either picked prematurely or left to nearly rot in their refrigerator.  She didn’t care; she didn’t care about anything at the moment with the exception of getting terrifically fucking hammered.

Terry picked up the small glass with her long fingers, the liquor obliged to slosh over the rim and onto her skin.  She knocked it back before any more could escape, biting into her sad little lime wedge and tasting nothing but the bitter sting of alcohol on her tongue.

Her friends were waiting on the dance floor.  These were people who would never intentionally hurt her and around them she felt safe.  Anyone she had ever dated had ended up hurting her and as she threw her fists in the air and felt her legs light and moving underneath her, Terry wondered why she wanted to date anyone in the first place.  She felt the music pulse and wondered what the appeal was and how she was continually able to put the past aside and try again.  The fairy tale didn’t exist, she knew it, but she kept trying.  This perhaps made her stupid by definition.

She had been doing considerably well all evening, stuffing her overwhelming sadness down deep in the vain hope she might be able to bury it there forever.  The tequila cursed through her in a casual way and she felt her limbs loosen and forgive normal structural obligations.  Terry felt the motion of her hips and the passing of her long, thick hair in front of her face.  She felt the buzz and the music and the bodies bumping into her unapologetically.  But there, in the middle of a song with no lyrics and a bass line that stuttered and shook, she felt her heart being ripped from her chest, strings snapping hard and silent, until she felt separated from it entirely, left with a big, gaping hole somewhere under her Chambray shirt.  She knew this feeling well enough and dreaded its ramifications – the doubt and insecurities, the emptiness, the daunting thought of eventually rebuilding.  She pulled her hair in front of her face, hoping that behind its curtain she could perhaps transport herself to a few months before she had ever met Michael.

When the waves of hurt came with greater frequency and intensity, Terry knew she wouldn’t be able to hold it together long enough to get home.  The pain sneaked up on her, crashing down heavy on her shoulders and seizing her chest with its inescapable grip – an emotional stroke, paralyzing and impossible.

Terry left without telling anyone, leaving her friends to dance in their own drunken happiness.  It was cold outside and as Terry held her hand up to hail a cab, she debated stepping in front of the next approaching car just to feel something other than how fucking sad she was.  She was so tired of the psychotic yo-yo of it all.  Loving someone and then trying desperately to hate them when they didn’t want you anymore.  Sitting across from someone and pretending to give a shit about where they were born or if their parents were divorced.  Memorizing what kind of candy they liked as a child and filling their Christmas stockings with endless bunches of it.  Terry wanted to physically to break something – an arm, a hand, anything.  She was just sick of nursing her own stupid heart.

Terry got into the cab, the air sickeningly warm.  The driver didn’t understand where her apartment was.  On the radio someone with a refined British accent talked about some horror in Libya.  She felt herself perspire under her wool pea coat, overcome with acute sensation of being suffocated.  “Ah!” the driver said, “The south side.  Okay, I go.”  Terry was thankful he had figured it out in time.  She didn’t have enough energy in her to summon the amount of aggression and irritation usually required to get cabs to drive over the Williamsburg Bridge on a Saturday night.  She stared out the window, feeling tears well up uncontrollably, then streaming down her face in steady flows while they unburied the last hour, the last week, the last month.


Pre HLS: Young Love

She walked into the house, passing photographs of pictures that didn’t look like her anymore holding dogs that had died years ago.  Her parents held onto such things.  Her parents held onto each other even though they should have been letting go.  They didn’t get along anymore and they all knew it.  It hung over the dining room table and was the ribbon that tied their birthday presents together.  “To: Lisa, Love: Mom and Dad.”  These cards were lies.  Her dad never did anything for them but pay the mortgage.  Lisa wondered if he knew what month her birthday was or that she didn’t like waffles or that she had passed the SATs with admirable scores.  No.  Her mom knew that.  Her mom knew all of these things because her mother was capable of love in a way that men were intrinsically incapable.  It was the type of relentless love that kept going no matter what, no matter the heartbreak.  “Zombie love,” Lisa called it, though the term was one she kept to herself because she didn’t know if it was any good.

Her mother was sitting on the blue chenille sofa they had purchased from the Pottery Barn four years ago.  Lisa hated that sofa.  It had begun to pill within the first year, despite the fact that it was expensive.  Her dad had paid for that, too, but he wasn’t waiting up for her.  Her mother looked up from her square sheet of paper from the Wall Street Journal.  She was a housewife hellbent on educating herself and when she told people what she did for a living, or didn’t do for that matter, Lisa knew it embarrassed her.  In her mother was a great potential that had died out long ago, transferred onto her daughter in a way that made Lisa nauseous to think about.  There was too much riding on her.  Grades and college and boys and boys and what was wrong with that boy tonight?  Didn’t he like her?  He had kept staring his clock and not at her face.  He had been staring so hard that he had missed the way she moved her hair off of her shoulder, exposing her neck and her tank top with the laces that tied at the knobby bones above each shoulder.  She wasn’t sure what these bones were called; she thought they were part of her clavicle or she didn’t know what.  Anatomy had always been her worst subject – that and flirting with boys, apparently.

There was a bottle of wine sitting in front of her mother and most of its contents had been consumed.  She was friendly and that bothered Lisa; she hated to see how the wine loosened her mother up because it made it obvious how much she was repressing in her real life.  When drunk her mom was easy and confident and silly and funny and Lisa wouldn’t have a problem with all or any of these things if her mother had been like that in real life, in the mornings when they woke up, in the car on the way to school, when she was cooking dinner for Lisa and a husband who didn’t love her anymore.  “Was it great?  He was cute!” her mother said and she said it in a voice that felt familiar in that way and Lisa hated it.  “It was fine.  It was whatever.”  And she walked up her stairs to a bedroom, leaving her mother on a sofa made in China and a mouth full of wine and bitter heartbreak.