Image by qthomasbower via FlickrI looked around the club in downtown San Francisco and immediately started sizing it down. It was filled with the kind of beautiful crowd I had given up on ever being a part of. I craved the avant-garde, the strange, the theatrical. And this wasn't it.
But my friend knew the doorman, so the entrance was free, as were the drinks at the bar. I had come to dance to house music with my entrepreneurial she-goddess, but of course she left me to go find whoever-it-was-she-wanted, and I was on my own, a stag in the woods.
Okay, it was here that I had stopped in my tracks the first time I heard Nirvana, dancing like an ostrich with elbows and knees akimbo, but that was six months ago, but I had gotten tired of hearing Smells Like Teen Spirit over and over again. Why did I even agree to come here?
I had wanted some acid jazz to groove to that night, maybe some intellectual conversation, not a pseudo rave. And now I was alone.
My blonde hair was in four ponytails, my eyeliner black, thick and vampy, my lips scarlet. I was wearing a vintage 1940's style mushroom print dress with high heeled black lace-up boots. Oh, I was a vision, and I danced despite myself.
So why did he swoop down on me? I saw him dancing, the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Six foot three, chiseled masculine features, tan smooth skin - he was perfection and I couldn't take my eyes off him. I admired him with intensity, as only a bored girl with nothing to lose can. He must be gay, I thought to myself. He's too beautiful to be straight.
And then he was dancing next to me, holding my gaze.
"You're beautiful. You are the most beautiful girl in the room," he said. I knew he was lying - there were Victoria Secret Models in the club, but I played along. He made me feel as if I were the only girl in the room, in the world. His eyes never left mine. We danced and danced and danced, never going to the bar for drinks, never losing contact with each other.
"What do you do?" I asked him at one point.
"I'm a model for Giorgio Armani," he said. I believed him. "What about you?"
"I'm an actress."
"Well, actress, you want to blow out of here? I'll give you a ride home . . ." his eyes left mine and followed another girl. No.
I grabbed his hand. "Yes!"
The air felt cold after the hot dampness of the club, and awkward, as if the spell had been broken, but I desperately wanted it to be cast again. We walked two blocks to his car: a silver Alfa Romeo. I sat in the passenger bucket seat and pinched myself as he let down the top and started the car.
I lived in the Haight Ashbury District, in the basement apartment under my parents' house as I was pursuing careers in acting and massage therapy, working as a receptionist at a blood bank to pay some bills. I was 24.
But that night I felt like a princess, I had been chosen.
"Can I come in?"
Of course he could come in! Who was I to say no to him?
Opening the door, he was close behind me, nuzzling his face into my hair. We almost fell into the room and he collapsed on the couch.
"I have to tell you something. Promise you won't get mad?"
How could I get mad?
"I'm coming down off an acid trip. Thank you so much for letting me crash here!"
I was letting him crash? Wait, it turned out he was high? I was confused.
"You're not mad, are you?"
There was something so innocent about him. And both of us so much wanted to be liked . . .
He was impressed with the fact that my father was a priest, and kept talking earnestly about being saved, that dating a priest's daughter was a step in the right direction.
Could I save him?
We ended up dating for almost a year, but our relationship stayed on this loop where he was always making promises he couldn't live up to, and asking me not to be mad at him. And I could never be mad at him.
He was thirty years old, he lived with his mother in Marin County, was independently wealthy, and a drug addict.
Once upon a time he had been a model for Giorgio Armani, but not when I met him.
He would forget dates with me because he was up all night at a rave and then he would feel so guilty that he would dazzle me with adventure: one day he showed up a day late for a date with me in a new car - he had impulsively traded in his Alfa Romeo for a Jeep and started growing a beard, because he wanted to play the role of a more responsible person. He had packed a picnic and took me on a hike in the Redwoods, telling me he wanted to change, I was helping him to change.
He was an addict. Repeat, repeat, repeat. One night I went out with his best friend and his ex-girlfriend (who was a Cindy Crawford look-a-like) to Trader Vic's. Why wasn't he still with his ex? I couldn't help thinking. She was a knockout and some kind of doctor to boot.
"We miss you, we never see you anymore," they said.
"I'm in-love," he retorted. I looked at him incredulously. Liar.
He was in-love with crystal meth. He was hanging out with high school tweakers who I never met.
My life died a little, because I was always holding my breath for him.
My grandmother convinced me to move back to New York to live with her and the "model" and I transitioned to a friendship, talking frequently. He felt better that he wasn't disappointing me. He was trying to stay sober and couldn't wait to see me when I came back to California for Christmas. He had changed, I would see, and maybe then he would move to New York?
But I wasn't holding my breath anymore. I had changed.
The last time he stood me up was on Christmas Eve - dinner and Midnight Mass with my family. He wouldn't pick up the phone when I called. And then he called me crying the day after Christmas, saying he had been up for over 72 hours doing crank, his nose was bleeding and he was sorry, so sorry.
I called his mother and told her to check on him, I couldn't do it anymore.
And yes, I forgave him, he couldn't help himself. But I had to save myself.
I never saw him or talked to him again.
I think about him every so often with care and fondness, hoping that he was able to get sober.
I can dare hope, can't I?