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higher peaks, deeper valleys

1. My latest series of peaks and valleys began after work Thursday when I met receptionist D. and her friend R. at an oyster bar in the Ferry Building. It was this loud, crowded kind of place I tend to avoid. D. and R. had this massive plate of oysters before them. Oysters give me the creeps, so I ordered wine and a salad. D. and R. discussed their man problems, so I busied myself with reading D.'s theology paper until my salad mountain arrived. R. seemed to
warm up to me as we talked. She was born in Vietnam and is planning to move back there this spring to teach Enlish for a year and visit family. She recently broke off an engagement to a guy she had been with for two years. I mentioned I, too, had been engaged. D. had heard my story before and questioned the legitamacy of that engagement, even though Sarah and I had shook hands on it. D. and R. invited me to join them in D.'s apartment for a dinner of donuts and wine. While we were in the subway, D. stepped away to take a phonecall from her latest man problem. R. and I continued talking about the books and films we like and discovered that we have some similar tastes. Later in D.'s apartment, after a lot more wine, I let D. use white-out to paint a tree on the back of my hand. R. kept brushing up against me, and soon I was rubbing her back. "That feels really good," she said. "Thank you." I was undeterred by the fact that she was meeting, later that night, a guy she's been dating for the last few weeks. We said goodnight to D. and shared a cab ride back to our neighborhood. She lives about a ten-minute walk from secret motel. We said goodnight and hugged before she headed for her apartment. I took the cab the rest of the way to secret motel.

2. That night I had a dream in which I walked with D. and R. through a terraced neighborhood of big houses. There were no other people around. It was a beautiful winter day, cold and sunny. I was somehow separated from D. and R. and could not find them. I had no phone to call them. I continued walking up and around the hill. I saw D. and R. in the near distance on one of the streets below me. I shouted and waved at them. They shouted and waved back. They pointed at some location over my shoulder, and I took that to mean that I was to meet them there. There was a big house isolated at the top of the hill. I thought I would meet them there. I rounded another bend and was surprised to have a view of the ocean rolling in and banging at the foot of the hill; I didn't realize the neighborhood was so close to the water. I arrived at the top of the hill. The windows of the house were boarded up. I waited at the foot of the driveway and wondered if D. and R. would ever arrive.

3. I was in a very good mood as I readied myself for work Friday morning. In the shower, I was careful to preserve the tree D. had painted on my hand. We had lunch that afternoon. We talked about R.. R. had told her that I was the kind of guy she would want to date if she weren't moving to Vietnam next month. "We HAVE to talk her out of moving to Vietnam," I said.

"I tried," D. said. "I already tried."

D. invited me to join them for drinks later that night.

4. All day, people kept asking me, "What IS that on your HAND?"

And I told them, "It's fuckin' ART, man."

5. I was stocking the fridge in one of the kitchens when T. entered. T. often chats with me about music and films when she stops by the mailroom to pick out magazines. Out of the blue, she starts asking me about Sonic Youth and their album, "Daydream Nation." I offered to make a copy of "Daydream Nation" and an SY compilation for her. "I like that word," she said. "Compilation." Any woman expressing interest in Sonic Youth is pretty much taking an expressway to my heart.

6. I felt a little tense as I rode the N into D.'s neighborhood. I met D. and R. at a bar that was loud and crowded in that unpleasant way bars get on Friday nights. R. was a little flustered because she had a nasty encounter with her ex-fiance who showed up unannounced at her apartment earlier that day and proceeded to reclaim furniture that belonged to him as well as numerous articles they had bought together. Still, she seemed to be in good spirits that night. But my spirits seemed to wither and die as I was overcome by some sort of mental influenza. Receptionist G. joined us, and the three of them went on and on with their "girl talk" about the men entering and exiting their lives. I sat there feeling very awkward and uncomfortable and wondering why the alcohol wasn't easing my social unease. And no one brought any theology papers for me to read. I just stared at all the faces blurred together in the bar and nodded my head out of time with the music. One of the ladies would occasionally turn and ask me, "Are you OKAY, Harold?"

"I feel like slitting my wrists," I muttered.

"What was that?" R. asked, leaning in closer to hear.

"I said I'm FINE," I said. "I'm doing alright."

Some guy D. is interested in arrived and sat down by her. G. and R. had never met him, so they were all very interested in looking at him and listening to him. He and I shook hands and proceeded to ignore each other. I went to the bar and got myself another beer.

Another girl arrived and visited briefly. She wore some sort of medical garb. Before she left, I asked her: "Do you work up at the hospital?"

"No," she said. "I work in a rest home for seniors."

"Can you get me some painkillers?"

"I don't have those." There was something about the way her eyes narrowed and her upper lip curled that told me I might have offended her.

Soon G. left. R. was waiting for her friend (the guy she's been dating, I think) to arrive and pick her up. We talked for awhile, but she wasn't as flirty and affectionate as she had been the previous night. And I didn't touch her. She talked a bit about the long poems she writes and offered to email some of her cantos to me. Her friend had arrived by this time. We had shook hands but he gave me a strange look when he saw me writing something (my email address) on a slip of paper and handing it to R. And his brow creased a little when he saw R. and I hug each other goodnight. I wished I was the threat he perhaps perceived me to be.

D. was still talking with her man friend. "I think I'll head out," I said, finishing my beer and rising. It's too bad that I'm such a moody prick, because D.'s friend seemed like a really nice guy. He shook my hand again and said, "Nice meeting you, Harold. Stay safe out there."

"No way," I said. "I live a life of danger and intrigue."

"Thanks for coming out, Harold," D. said. "I'll see you Monday."

I just mumbled something and waved goodbye.

I didn't feel like waiting for the N or hailing a cab, so I spent the next 45 minutes walking very slowly back to secret motel, wondering how I can be so high and in love with life one night and find myself in a deep pit of despair the following night. I had some close calls with traffic as I crossed those high-speed thoroughfares rounding Golden Gate Park. I just walked out into the street and glared through the headlights and windshields, daring those motherfuckers to hit me.

7. Later, safe in secret motel, I tried with little success to wash and scrape off the tree D. had painted on my hand. I turned down the lights and finished off a bottle of isolation fluid while listening to that Brian Jonestown Massacre retrospective ("Tepid Peppermint Wonderland"). I kind of broke down into the carpet and decided it best to call it a night and go to bed.

8. The next day, Saturday, I finished removing D.'s tree from my hand. I walked through wind and rain to get another bottle of isolation fluid. I spent the afternoon copying "Daydream Nation" and assembling a Sonic Youth mix cd for T.. I started feeling better as the day wore on and thought I should call D. and apologize for my behavior--or lack of behavior--Friday night. But D. might of chalked it up to Harold just being Harold and probably didn't give it a second thought.

9. It's Sunday, and I'm still debating about whether to call D. now or apologize to her, face-to-face, in the morning. I feel so stupid when I let my anxiety, insecurities, and mis-perceptions get the better of me and risk undermining the few human relationships I have. But the difference between me and other assholes is that I feel guilt and remorse for my actions and try to make amends.

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