Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dreaming of the Ace of Diamonds Part 2

(Continued from yesterday's blog...)

I barely remember the conversation that A and I had that proved we were cool again. It was senior year and we talked about my new tattoo. That’s all I recall. I didn’t need him yet. But two years later, the summer after I dropped out of college and returned to my hometown restless, bored and self-destructive, there he was, the perfect person to keep me company.

Somehow he managed to land a job at the same place I worked doing telemarketing--I mean, fundraising--for some firefighters organization. What an odd coincidence. I was rather shocked he could get a job with his record. Senior year, he’d been arrested for stealing from the grocery store where he worked. Later that year, he and some friends found some lady’s checkbook and forged numerous checks to buy things like video game systems. And I think he’d been to jail for drugs, too.

A’s basically been in and out of jail for drugs since high school. Every time I see him, there's some story. “I ended up in County because I was with a guy who was selling crack.” Or “I was in County and watched another inmate have a heart attack and die.” Or “I didn’t want to go back to County so I slashed my wrist and ended up in the mental institution instead.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A lasted all of two weeks at the Firefighter fundraising job. Maybe not even that. We hung out for about a month, drinking a lot of box wine at his place or mine. We talked writing and books. I lent him my copy of Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite (yes, I was in my goth phase) and never got it back. We also spoke about our relationship for the first time. It turned out that A, the nihilist actually had one regret: screwing things up with me. I was the only girl he ever really wanted. It was probably because he’s the type to want what he can’t have, but since I’m the type to feel very insecure about being wanted, I ate it up. I was moving to Madison for a guy who I wanted but wasn’t sure if he wanted me. A wanted me to run away to New Orleans with him instead. I seriously considered it. Really seriously, to the point that I wonder how awfully my life would have turned out. The thing that soured the deal was the heroin. He was using. Snorted it off the mirror of my Caboodle in my bedroom. The door was open a crack and my little brother walked by. I don’t know if he saw, but it upset me that he could have. We didn’t hang out again after that.

I didn’t see A again for a few years. I even heard he was dead. No one could confirm it though. Maybe he'd just disappeared or was in jail. If he was dead, he was in some nameless grave in a potter's field. I moved to Madison and moved back. The guy who wasn’t sure if he wanted me at first was officially my boyfriend, but we had a lot of ups and downs.

During one of our downs, I angrily went for a drive. Ended up at the park A and I used to hang out at in high school, found myself wishing I’d run into him. And apparently his creepy sixth sense was tuned into me (or mine to him) because there he was. We just drove around and talked, about writing mostly and what we’d been up, too. Then he had to meet people. Probably bad criminal types. I dropped him off and we parted ways again for awhile.

Dreamed of A a year or so after that and strangely he called from Colorado. Didn’t leave a name, but I knew it was him. My mom figured it was, too. She was reluctant to give me the message. She never liked him. There’s a somewhat funny story that goes with that, but I’ll save it for another time. She also didn’t like the whole in and out of jail thing. I decided to call the Colorado number back. A girl answered, I asked for him anyway. “Who is this?” She demanded. When I said my name, she repeated it and he grabbed the phone from her. He ended up hanging up on me twice, fighting with her about talking to me. She was young, my brother’s year in school and my brother was three years behind me, while A was one year ahead of me. She was jealous because she knew I was his ex, he said, using that term for the first time, and that he cared a lot about me. Soon after that they came back to Chicago and she worked at a restaurant near my house. When I was there she came over to me and asked if I was Stephanie, A’s old girlfriend. I said yes and wondered how she knew who I was since I'd never seen her before in my life. I never figured it out.

The last time I hung out with A, we got really trashed, him, me, and my boyfriend at the time, the same guy from Madison. My boyfriend was so trashed that he was oblivious to the conversation at the end of the night where A told me for the first time that he loved me, always had, and he still wanted me, and I didn’t really want to be with this guy did I? I wanted to be with him. It was scary how convincing he was. Maybe I was just drunk, but it almost felt like he'd put some sort of spell over me.

I took A home at four in the morning. He wanted me and my boyfriend to come to a party with him the next night. Basically a rave, but I guess they don't call them raves anymore, just parties. I don't know, that was never really my scene. I went to a couple in high school, but... My boyfriend was psyched, especially because A promised he could get E for cheap. I didn't do that stuff anymore and I especially didn't want to do it around A, being around him with my inhibitions so low would just be Bad. Really Bad. Between A and the boyfriend, I was afraid I'd be talked into it though. I hoped that A just wouldn't call. He was that type, to make plans and flake. And, you know, he was a mind reader, so maybe he read my mind and got the "stay away" vibe. Or maybe he ended up in jail again. Who knows. But he didn't call and I was relieved. The night before had been too intense and I was getting too old for these games.

A couple years passed again. I bought a house and moved. I broke up with the boyfriend. I finished my book and got an agent. I met the love of my life. I'd been dating him for almost a year when I dreamt of A. I wasn't surprised, it was late fall, around the time we met and I often thought of him at that time of year. Apparently he thought of me, too. My mom had moved, but her phone number didn't change and A told me that he never had and never would forget that number. She got a strange phone call asking for me. She told the person I didn't live there anymore and didn't take a message because they interrupted her during Grey's Anatomy. She suspected it was A though and asked me if I wanted the number. I said sure and wrote it down. It matched the last number I had for him.

I spent a week thinking about calling. Then I went to Canada for ten days at a writer's retreat. When I came back I thought about calling again. I did want to know how he was, but really, what were the chances that he was done being a fuck-up. And I was in love with a good guy. The first really, truly good guy I'd ever been with. No bad habits, no head games. Why would I mess with that? So I never called.

I haven't heard from or really thought about A since and it's been almost a year and a half. Then I had that dream. I wonder what it means. Part of me wants to see him or hear from him. Just to know he's still out there. I do hope he's okay. I did love him, though I refused to admit it at fifteen and still rarely will. He was a genius writer and one of the most unique people I've ever known, but he fucked it up pretty bad with the drugs. He came from a messed up family, so he had some hard things to fight against from the beginning, but it was sad to see him end up as another statistic, another young African American male in and out of jail for drugs.

I want to tell him about the book because I know he'll be proud. I want him to read it because I know what he has to say about it will be poignant. And if he comes out of the woodwork, it will probably be this summer when he hears about it. If he's still around, in this town, not behind bars, not dead. I'd like to think that I'd know somehow if A was really gone, but who knows. And sometimes he didn't really seem to be of this earth in the first place.


ALEXA YOUNG said... some of this sounds vaguely like some of the stuff that happens in a WIP you mentioned--maybe even BALLADS? Or maybe not? I guess all our life experiences probably play a tiny bit into our stories, one way or another. And's a bunch more stuff we have in common: I was a total shop-lifter too! And I dated an ex-con (not sure if he ever went back or not...but I'm hoping not). And finally: I don't believe for a second that A isn't already aware of where you are and what you're up to and all the success that's looming on the horizon for you. He's probably reading this blog right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if he showed up at a signing or something. :-O Don't you think? XO

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

There is a teensy bit of A in Adrian, one of my characters in BALLADS. The self-destruction and he ends up in jail, too. Yeah, I guess I couldn't help but let it bleed in a little bit. (so much for saying that book was entirely fiction.... Well, no, it is still is, nothing in it actually happened, but some of Adrian's personality is inspired by A)

I wouldn't be surprised if he does know somehow. He never cared much for the internet so I don't think he'd be reading this blog. If he is, I'm sure it makes him smirk that I still think of him.

Ah, Alexa, we are going to have so much to bond over in LA!