Portland Again

I met Jessica in Santa Cruz. We bonded over music. But she had a boyfriend. I flirted in an awkward way. We talked about the buffalo in Golden Gate Park. Yes, they are really buffalo in the park.

We stayed in touch by email. We also talked about Portland. While in New York we made plans to move to Portland. In Boulder I had gotten back in touch with M. I will write more about Boulder later. But I talked to M on a daily basis. So moving back to Portland was attractive.

Jessica picked me up at my mothers. With all my stuff in her car. We drove north along the 101. Along the way we got a speeding ticket. She was driving. It was in the Safety Corridor between Eureka and Arcata.

I still remember two things about Jessica. I told her, “I didn’t know you smoked.” She told me, “I didn’t know you didn’t eat meat.” Two things, and a ton of other things. And a little bit of M in the background. But things never worked for me and Jessica.

We moved to a hotel. And got jobs together working at a physic hotline. The deal was we would get paid for talk time. We could sit in the office for any amount of time. But only got paid for talk time. So we would try and keep people on the line.

I talked to a guy who worked at Walmart. Yeah, I know. He told me everything the first day. On the second he called back and I told him everything back. He didn’t seem to know I was the same person. A woman called, wanted to know if she should stop sleeping with her uncle. I suggested it was a good idea.

Most people were lonely. Many people felt someone was cheating on them. I read the cards as best I could. But for me reading cards is about reading people. And I doubt I helped anyone. Then again talking was my goal, not helping people. Usually I suggested the person was cheating. Because if you question someone enough to call a physic. You are probably right.

The commercial promised a free reading. The small print said three free minutes. You just had to call a toll-free number. The operator at the toll-free line referred you to the paid line. And this time came from your three minutes. Then you called the paid line. But the first minutes were wasted. We had to ask for your information. No one got a free reading. And yes they were sued. The company I worked for was a contractor to another company.

But it worked for a while. We worked together. Drove together. And later Jessica even did it from home for a while. But I got a real job. A job at a parking ticket company. Our company would monitor private parking lots. People were supposed to pay. If they didn’t we gave them a ticket. Which quickly escalated if you didn’t pay. My job was data entry and phones. We couldn’t tell people where our office was located.

My manager once told someone we were “in a bunker in the middle of Nevada.” Then he hung up. I hated talking on the phone. But the data entry wasn’t too bad. I even got a friend a job. The ticket guys mostly rode bikes around. But the other guy would sometimes take a car and check a few lots. A woman once got so made at him, she said, “Fuck you, and everyone who looks like you.” I think it is funny.

I would sometimes walk and check lots near the office. I don’t recall giving many tickets. But I know one day I was in a bad mood. There was a car with a bunch of tickets on the dash. So, I had it towed. Later the person called, and I talked to them on the phone. They didn’t know I was the one. They weren’t upset. I thought was surprised.

Of course being Portland lots of the tickets were for rental cars. I’m not sure how the companies dealt with those tickets. Once the Police Chief called in about a ticket. I just deleted it for him.

Me and Jessica moved into an apartment in the Pearl. Yeah, it was a low-income place. But it was a good place. A couple friends of mine lived in the building. Jessica started dating the son of one of the office workers. He moved in, the way lovers will. And his brother moved in too. I know at one point I just wanted to be alone. I complained to a friend. “I’ll come over and tell them me and you are going to have sex, and they need to leave.” It was funny. It didn’t happen. It wouldn’t have worked. Later one of their friends also moved in with us.

Jessica got a job working for Chucky Cheese. Which I mocked her for in an encouraging way. I knew she could do better. Then she just quit. And I teased her about quitting too. In the end me and Jessica were good roommates. But never got close. And didn’t have a real connection for something more. She smoked a lot of weed. A major turn-off for me.

When not working at my job I volunteered. It was a communist group. They would agree. I’m not sure how I hooked up with the group. I did it most of all to do something. I hated the phone, and tried to avoid it. But they asked me to make calls. Or sometimes update data cards. They feared electronic data storage. Wisely. So it was all put on index cards. They had a system down. In fact what I learned from the group was the importance of a system. Step one, step two, step three. Always the same, in the same order. So if you didn’t finish someone else would know how to complete the task.

Once we went door to door. I was with a blonde girl. We were on the top of a flight of stairs. An apartment on either side. We knocked on one, no answer. And then the other. But then they both opened. One was young guy, good looking, no shirt. She went over to talk to him. I spoke with the other person. Later I teased her a little about her choice. “I’m an organizer,” she got indignant. And I believed her.

It was a good group. Its main focus was helping farm workers. Once we drove to a labor camp in Northern California. Before being a labor camp is was used to hold Japanese during WWII. The group sometimes got donations. Once more chocolate than anyone could eat, but I tried.

My friend Sean who had gone to Vermont with me lived in the same building. And his girlfriend Faith. They are artists. Some of the best I have known. I learned a lot from Sean. Like how to make pesto. One night he met M. And they had a long argument about me and girls. It was funny because I knew neither would give. Faith later told me she was sorry to have missed the exchange.

At the root of it was a comment Sean had made about M and I. It was a comment he meant well, but worded poorly. The poor wording is what M picked up on.

Yes, M. We started on casual basis. Even when we started having sex. And yes in the apartment with people there. Which is why the above wouldn’t have worked. Once while my dad was waiting. We were never boyfriend-girlfriend. Maybe we were both scared. But I loved her more than I have ever loved anyone.

She talked her mother into driving her down for a visit. “It’s only an hour,” she fibbed about the drive from Olympia to Portland. In return I did the same to my father when I wanted to see M. The plan was for him to help her buy a car. She needed a good used car. And he knew cars. But he never liked M.

Once at my apartment my lighter went missing. It was a lighter with a moon design. I used it for candles and incense. M was there but said she knew nothing. A couple weeks later, we were in a car with her mother. M asked her for a lighter. Her mother hands her my lighter. “My lighter,” I proclaim. Busted.

And M married her dad’s lover for money. In the end I don’t think they went all the way. I mean with the paperwork. We went all the way after the wedding. At her mother’s house. It was funny to see her at the altar with another man. I wanted to marry her. For real.

But things started to go bad when her mother called me her boyfriend. Then New Years Eve came. We had planed to be in Olympia. People had invited me to do things. At the last moment plans changed. We were in Portland, doing nothing. She wanted beer. I gave her my bike. She rode and I ran to the store. The wrong store, damn Fred Meyer’s. Then the other store. Then home.

I just want to be friends, she told me riding in the elevator. I was so tired I said nothing. Then we snuggled together and went to sleep. She was a mystery to me. Once I had planned to call her. She was at her mother’s house. But I went to a movie and it went late. When I got home I didn’t want to call and wake her mother. But M called me.

She wanted to know where I had been. I told her at a movie with a friend. The next time we hung out she took me to a movie. It was with Bjork. After the movie we were walking home, “wasn’t it a better movie than the one your friend took you to see?” Wow!

A couple days after the New Year she called me and told me she was pregnant. Left me a message on my voicemail. It shook my world. I called my dad. And I called her. I didn’t know the right thing. But the more I thought about it. I just felt like it was her choice, her body. I could give my opinion. But considering our relationship, what more could I offer. I gave her $500, told her to make the choice.

She went to the clinic to get the abortion. But she had to get an ultra-sound. Her story is it was already dead. Later she told me she did the dance of joy. I’d have a 16-year-old child today. It wasn’t a joyful moment for me. But I feel like it was the right thing. I’ve never been adult enough to support another person.

My dad was happy for me.

We didn’t talk for weeks. I had made plans to move to be with her again. And again the plans had to be changed. I vowed at this point never to move for a girl. The new plan was to move to California. A couple nights before I left I called her on the phone.

“I just wanted to tell you I am moving, and I might not see you for a while,” I told her.

“So.”

“Just wanted to let you know.” I hung up.

A couple hours later she called me back. She wanted to know why I hung up on her. She was proud of me, she told me. She invited me to visit. I shouldn’t have gone, but I did.

The end of the relationship was as confusing as ever. But it was over I have never seen her again. Though I still think about her.

My mother came up with a friend. They helped me move my things back to Stockton. But this was a better place than her older place.

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