Friday, August 26, 2016

1986 - Jay

No pain, suffering, death or dying, no maudlin scenes. We lived our lives, and I was fortunate to be a part of it. I forced myself through those moments when it was all so daunting, and then I’d go into their rooms in the middle of the night and watch them breathing and Delaney was a light sleeper and she'd say "Daddy?" and put up her hands.And Gaia. Lips of pure honey. So warm beside me, like a bottle of gin. I put my cold hands under your shirt.  You don't mind.  Your breathing stutters, then again finds its rhythm.  In your dream, I am fine; we are all fine.

I wanted to tell her to go on; to be who she set out to be; to meet someone; someone handsome and funny (not too handsome and funny); someone who would be good to the children; someone who would help to teach them well, but we didn’t talk about such things.  We just let them slide.

I'd forget things and get angry. I'd always been so damned clever, so fastidious in my ability to remember every minute detail, and now I'd forget. Paul. It was Paul and I'd have to remind myself, and my father's name was William. It wasn't like I'd forget; it was just as if the knowledge was suddenly blurry on the page, a hiccup. I couldn’t always remember my phone number, but I’d walk from the room and back again and it would come to me; things were just increasingly out of reach. 

John, Paul, George and Ringo. Richard Starkey. Peter, Mike, Davey, Mickey. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow/ Creeps in this petty pace from day to day. 239 Carroll Canal, Venice, Calif. 90291. Tom Foolery, Otto the Clown, Freda Mende. Bill Mead.

It was nothing. It was an inconvenience.

The hardest part was telling people. "Oh yeah, by the way…" I told Max.  He took it poorly.  He thought I was kidding. Paige insisted it would all work out. She wasn't buying into it.  "Look at you," she said. "Beat this." What funny advice.

I called Leo Spivey. We met at the Frolic Room in Hollywood. We sat at the bar by the mural of the stars and got hammered. Just about everyone on that mural was dead: Louis Armstrong, Bette Davis, Harpo Marx. "Is Frank Sinatra dead, Leo?"

"Frank Sinatra is not dead."

"I'm saying, most of these people are dead."

"Who's 'at guy, God?"

“I an no.  I think it's George Bernard Shaw.  Hey 'at's funny; 'ats Picasso."

"How'd you know?"

"Both his eyes are on the same side of his nose."

"Bartender, my friend here is gonna die, so we're getting plastered."  

The bartender was drying a wet glass on a white towel. He brought up another round. "On me." He looked at me. He said, "Right behind ya."

Leo said, "My wife died, ya know. 1978. My daughter was twelve years old."

"You're angry with her. You're still angry with her."

"I'm not angry with her. It's just it's not fair."

"You know what I don't like? I don’t like being whispered about. People are always whispering. In that one respect, I wish it was over." I shouldn’t have driven home, all the way from Hollywood to Venice. I did anyway. I don't remember half of it, but I remember the songs on the radio. They played "Bennie and the Jets." They played "Wouldn't It Be Nice."  They played "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals. I got lost. I don't get lost, but then I crossed Venice Blvd. Venice Blvd. was only a couple blocks from my house. But which way?  I stopped in a Shell station. "Which way is the ocean?" Two black men pointed.  I said, "I thought so."  

They played "My Back Pages."  It was a sad song: "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

I stopped at a light. A car full of girls pulled up alongside. There was a redhead about 18 in the passenger's seat. She had long straight red hair, and she kept glancing over. She had so many freckles they were almost connected. She was beautiful. She smiled at me and I smiled back and the light changed.

We took the kids for a ride along the beach. We stopped at the Jack-in-the-Box and ate by the pier in Malibu. I took Delaney and Andrew into the surf. We stayed the whole day and watched the sun set.
 
I took time off from work. Goldfram said, you work whenever you like, kid. I put the kids in the car. We just drove. I showed them everything. I showed them the billboards. "See those billboards? Your grandpa used to paint those."  There was a man on the one by the Chateau Marmont, the one that had been Captain Fantastic.

"There's a man, daddy. Is that grandpa?" 

We drove into the Valley. We got snacks at the Glen Mart. We rode by the house in Tarzana.  We stopped in Topanga. There was no car in the driveway. 

I got out and looked around. I got back into the car and we left. I looked in the mirror and in the dust I saw her. I put on the brakes and turned off the car. I jumped out. "You’re here.  Why are you here?" She shrugged. She came to me and put her head on my shoulder. She knew. "You know?"

"Yes."

"I'm sorry."

"That's you, isn't it? I'm so sad."

"I'm sorry."

"Love you, Jay."

"Love you, sweetheart." We took the kids inside. Andrew fell asleep on the couch and Daisy slept the whole while in the kid carrier. It was funny to have Delaney sitting there on the floor in front of the TV. All the ghosts were there. I glanced over and saw a teen-aged Laura sitting on the steps with a little boy. I was glad I went in. I was glad she was there. I was glad that she already knew. Still, there was an awkwardness, and we left before we should have. I held her in my arms. "Bye, Jay."

"Bye, girlfriend." These were whispers.

"Bye, little girl.  It was so nice to meet you."  They shook hands like it was a Norman Rockwell painting.

We stopped at Leo Carillo to see mommy. She was there on the beach. An inflatable skiff was up on the shore and she was sitting on its side eating a ham sandwich. Delaney ran to her.  She kissed me. We talked. Her crew pushed the skiff back into the water and we watched them cruise off around Point Dume. 

Six months passed and then seven, and there was hope, and then there wasn't. Gaia found me slumped over the wheel in the driveway, and that was that.

There was never a time with Gaia that I had to do anything but say, "This is my wish." If I was out of deodorant, it would appear magically; if I called to say that I felt like Chinese, she'd say, "Yeah, that was my plan." And so, the instructions were simple; Gaia would work it out.

They got up early in the morning and drove to Disneyland in the Mercedes. Gaia loved her handbags. She had a big old Hermes bag that you could have slept in. People think that ashes are like cigarettes, but they're not, they're chunky and big, like the remains of a barbecue. She put them in a quart sized Baggie, like I was an ounce of pot. I'm surprised she didn’t get stopped at the gate. 

She took the kids to see Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. They had lunch at the Blue Bayou. Delaney had a Monte Cristo sandwich; how she loved it there in the bog. It was daytime outside, but it was nighttime inside and cool, and there were fireflies in the air.  They rode the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise and the Mark Twain steamboat. They watched the Golden Horseshoe Review. They rode the People Mover and took a flight to Mars. Somehow she carted the three of them through the park. She rented a stroller and Andrew was to hold on to one side, Delaney to the other. In the queue she held Andrew's hand and Andrew held Delaney's as Gaia hoisted the baby on her hip.
 
They parked the stroller by America the Beautiful and it was time.  They got in the queue for the Skyway to Fantasyland.  The line was short.  There was little wait.  Delaney made a fuss that it was so high, and Gaia said, "It's for daddy."  They made a deal.  It had to be the mint green gondola.  It was there waiting for them. Number 11. They got in. Gaia with the baby on one side. The kids on the other.

"I want to sit next to you."

"No, you sit next to Andrew. This is what we're doing for daddy." There wasn't ever a time when Delaney didn't listen, especially if it was for daddy. She sat with her hands clasped on her lap.  She looked so cute in a blue gingham sundress. Andrew had little shorts, a white polo and blue sneaks. He looked just like me.

Gaia reached into her handbag, she took out the Baggie and opened it; all while juggling Daisy.  She reached in, took a handful and said it again, "This is for daddy." She threw the ashes from the Skyway, matter of factly, unceremoniously.  She held out the Baggie to Andrew and to Delaney.  "Just take a little.  Don’t want to get dirty.  Throw it over the side." And they did this for me. Gaia dumped the rest from the bag and watched through the bars as it floated in the air, swirled in an eddy, flew out over the Submarine and the Matterhorn and Storybook Land. When they got to Fantasyland, they had grape juice from the Welch's pavilion. They went on Dumbo and on Alice in Wonderland and on Peter Pan.  It was the happiest place on earth.