“Oh Elwood! Before you go, do you know whose these are? I just found them in your room while I was gathering laundry”.
Thus did Amethyst’s missing bikini bottom end Elwood’s inclusion in our circle. For a time no one questioned the decision, which I took as mine so Amethyst wouldn’t have to catch the heat that would come when time healed the wounds of those who did not suffer them. Heat that very predictably came some weeks later, first from Riff Raff, later from a couple of others, all of which was met by the full force of my sometimes intense personality. The matter was dropped, and that was that. No more Elwood.
If you’re guessing that there’s more to the story because there would be no point to a Part Three that adds only a paragraph, you’d be correct. We can fast forward through the severe ugliness that began the 24 years of Amethyst and I being apart. Insert sound of audio tape fast forwarding with playback head in contact…
It was a fine evening there in the land of dreams, fine for everyone but our intrepid hero who was living a nightmare, when a knock came at the door. What to my wondering eyes did appear on the porch? The one and only panty stealing dork, Elwood. Of course you saw that coming; of course I had to say it. Fucking Elwood, standing there on the porch, leaving me to wonder why he would come around to risk another bash in the sniffy snorty. I no longer felt badly about my unwarranted binder strike some years prior, rationalizing that it was merely a case of his not having deserved it yet.
I invited him in. Though it made no sense for me to do so, it also didn’t make sense to turn him away. Nothing made sense to me at all at that point. The stuff that we fast forwarded through a moment ago had left me no fucks to give. I would have been just as happy to die, or just as unhappy to live, so whether there were one Elwood or none in my presence was of absolutely no consequence. If he stabbed me in the neck with a sharpened bicycle spoke he’d be doing me a favor, unless he then called attention to it and some do-gooder saved my life.
Not that Elwood had a bicycle from which to remove a spoke. He was still a wannabe biker with no bike. The closest he’d ever got to a Harley was having the logo on the wallet with the chain connected to his belt.
He couldn’t come up with an answer when asked why he was there, and just babbled his usual idiocy for a while as I sat and quietly gave no fucks or fractions thereof. Then, surprisingly, he penetrated my seemingly bottomless supply of apathy with the incessant drumming on my coffee table accompanied by syncopated sniffle and huh chords that became more than I could stand. It was time to show Elwood the door. The chair in which he sat was never supposed to contain Elwood ass. It was supposed to be one of the pieces with which Amethyst and I would make a home together, but now was just a painful reminder of what would never be and a burdensome expense. Amethyst was supposed to sit in that chair, not Elwood. Time to go, Elwood. I don’t know why you’re here but I know why you’re leaving.
Once outside, Elwood hovered on the porch the way a relative who’s worn out his welcome will spend 20 minutes not getting his car into gear while you stand on the curb making “drive safely” your every other sentence.
“What’s up, Elwood? You look like you have something to say.”
“Oh, nuthin’. I guess it’s time to go.”
“What, man? Just spit it out.”
“Oh… nuthin’. Guess I’ll just go.”
“Cool. Wherever you’re going, have fun. See ya.”
“I’m just going to the park.”
“It’s kinda late at night for going to the park, man. All the kids have gone home” (so there are none to molest, you panty stealing piece of shit).
“I know. I’m sleeping there.”
“I guess when you come to your senses you’ll go back home where it’s safer and more comfortable.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Whatever it is, man, just go make it right. Sleeping at the park is not a viable long term solution.”
This was in the pre-Reagan years so America wasn’t yet burdened with his policy of homelessness for the downtrodden. My older readers will remember that time, while I expect my younger readers to find it unbelievable and to wonder why I would say such a thing about dear old Uncle Ronnie.
“I can’t go back home. Dad’s in Vegas and I don’t know where my mom is.”
“Yeah, so? You’ve got a key.”
“No, I don’t. The trailer’s someone else’s now.”
“So your fucking parents just put you out on the street? Dude, that’s fucked up. Let’s see if we can get you a bus ticket to Vegas.”
“I’d rather be outdoors here than there. I don’t know where he is in Vegas, and I’m not welcome anyway.”
“Your dad won’t take you in if you find him?”
Oh well fuck me gently with a chainsaw. This is the shit I get for thinking that it didn’t matter whether or not I invited Mr. Sniffle into the house. Elwood, you rotten motherfucker, coming around where you know you’re not welcome to lay this shit on my head. That’s not what I said, but I surely did think it. Three or four times.
I thought of my friend Dodger, who’d lived a few doors down from Elwood. One day he and his younger sister arrived home after school to find a note on the door: “We’ve moved to Oregon. You’re on your own. Sorry”. The locks were changed and the trailer was empty, and Dodger and his sister were left with only a note and a few cents of leftover lunch money jingling in their pockets. That’s one of the downsides of living in the land of dreams — dreamers show up there thinking that just like in the movies California will give them a barbecue grill, a bottomless Margarita, and a palm tree all their very own. Most of them end up in Las Vegas, just like Elwood’s dad. Dodger’s sister found a relative to live with, while Dodger scrambled like hell to find a job and a place of his own. Elwood could do the same, right?
Digression: Dodger, he of the second most celebrated couple in high school, went on to marry his high school sweetheart and they’ve been very happily together ever since. He’s still in the construction business, now a top of the middle management muckety, and they still live in a house that he had a hand and a hammer in building and bought new in the mid-1980’s. His wife (who before meeting Dodger was president of my fan club) teaches high school and is as adored by her students today as she was by her peers when we were all in high school. Their kids are doing well for themselves as adults now, and never came home from school to find a note on the door.
I told Elwood to just stand right fucking there, and went in to talk to the Rat Bastards. I explained that Elwood was outdoors, and that as much as I hated the idea I felt that the only right thing to do was to bring him in for a month or two until he could find a job and save enough to get out on his own. They agreed. I couldn’t stand the guy but I couldn’t just turn my back on him.
If Elwood had come to the door with that tale of woe just six months earlier I would have put him in a motel room for the night, and the next day put him into an apartment with some provisions and an admonition that it was on him to find a job quickly and get a couple of paychecks under his belt before the rent came due. I would then have washed my hands of him and that would have been that. As it was, though, I was just one wrong word from being in the same boat he was in.
That was what irked me most of all. I was truly just one wrong word from being in the same boat as Elwood. I was living as a slave, working for no pay and surviving each day on a couple of sandwiches and many cups of coffee and cigarettes because the stimulants were what kept me awake and alert enough to continue working. My savings had gone to my monthly expenses until I had no money left, and then I sold my car to pay another month’s expenses because I couldn’t afford to drive the thing anyway. I was very unhappy about it, but when I told my parents that I wanted to put an end to it and just go find a job their ultimatum was delivered as if rehearsed: When that truck leaves tomorrow you’re leaving, too. If you’re on the truck, fine. If not, then we don’t care where you go but you’re not staying here and you’re never coming back. When I foolishly tried to delicately, quietly, and fearfully beg for sympathy and just two weeks of indulgence so I could find a job, I was told “One more word and you’re out of here immediately”.
What a pickle that was. I’d be on the street without a job, and unlike Dodger had been but very much like Elwood was I was without even a car to sleep in. The friends I had who could have lent a hand not so long before were no longer able to do so — the timing was just wrong, and they were all very sympathetic. One girl was so heartsick about it that I ended up consoling her for about an hour while she cried and apologized and cursed out her rage.
Years later Dodger told me “Oh, man, you should have looked me up! I could have taken you in and put you to work the very next morning!”. His old lady said, “Oh hell yes! We would have been fantastic roommates!” and elaborated about how she could have fixed me up with any number of her friends. And years after that, Amethyst’s mother told me that if I’d just told her why I’d run away from home back when Amethyst and I were still together, she’d have gladly let me set up in their guest room even though she knew even then that I’d end up upstairs. Instead I went back to the house, a mistake with ramifications I have regretted every day since and will probably regret every day for the rest of my life.
A mistake that would soon enough make me a slave, in a situation that can only be described as stuck and fucked, welcoming sniffing, snorting, drumming, panty stealing Elwood to crash on my sofa.