We had met before, of course, but we didn’t really know each other until she fell off a three-story building. This was in London, the first time I was away from my parents, my obligations. That she survived at all is a testament to her stubbornness. She was wasted; we all were. It was the last day of classes. I was inside, trying to seduce my very first straight girl, Clara, from Catalonia. I was straight too, until I met her. Outside, Kara was dancing with a Turkish boy on a “balcony” for 12 that was holding at least 30 people. After a particularly zealous dip, they both went careening off the balcony, landing on the roof of a house below us. Someone tried to help them back up by jumping down there, but the combined weight of the three of them caused the roof to collapse, sending them all another few floors down, where they landed in someone’s garage on a mattress. On either side of the mattress were garden tools: hoes, pitchforks, saw blades. The roof they fell through was laden with asbestos too. Kara was the only one hurt badly enough to require hospital attention. She was walking around though, and I’ll never forget the sleepy smile she gave me before being carted off in the ambulance. It was a smile of perverse pride.
She didn’t smile again for several days.
I brought her clothes the next morning, since they cut off the ones she was wearing from her body, a fact she really resented. “These pants are fucking wrap-around!” she said, and held up the fragments of what once were her Thai fisherman pants. “They couldn’t just fucking unwind me?” It was probably then that I first fell in love with her, her audacity, her ballsiness, and most of all, how helpless she seemed in that hospital gown, waving her tattered pants around and yelling. She needed me then, even though she never would ask for my help. Or anybody’s, for that matter.
We spent the next several days together, sitting on park benches and getting hit on by fourteen-year-olds, ordering proper English breakfasts then leaving most of it uneaten because we found them disgusting. She laughed at me when I told her I was just learning how to drink. She came back with two Strongbows and said something like, “You’ll be an in-Cider in no time.” We drank too much coffee, walked all over, argued in art museums about Duchamp and performativity, and talked about our Great Loves. We were nineteen. In hindsight, I think she was my first Great Love. The first to make me believe in the impossible.
We left London and went to our different cities and I wrote her songs about her pet rat, Penelope, that had died recently and that she was really upset about. After we finally kissed, in a Motel 6 outside of Prescott Valley, unleashing months of tension and longing and angst, she didn’t speak to me for a month. I called and called and emailed and wrote songs about that eventually too and sang them to her answering machine. I wish I were exaggerating about that. This is one of the songs. I tried to make my desperation funny so it wouldn’t seem so crippling. I doubt I succeeded.
Please oh please pick up the phone
for time is fading fast.
I’d like leave my house someday,
one call is all I ask.
I don’t know why I’m waiting here.
I’ve better things to do,
but I think I’ll have another beer
and reminisce of you.
The truth is plain to see I fear
the pieces all unglued,
I’m running out of things to drink
and time to waste on you.
Cradling my cell phone
I’ve lost it, can’t you see?
I doubt that you’re doing the same
wherever you may be.
It’s funny now, of course. That’s one of time’s distinct advantages. I didn’t know anything about love then, or self-preservation. I just knew what I was feeling was monumental and, apparently, rhymey. She finally did call me back, to invite me hiking with her and her new boyfriend in Phoenix. I accepted. I was so happy to hear from her. We hiked and then they both came to a party with me in Tucson, where her boyfriend hit on me relentlessly and I was too stupid to think much of that. My first triangulation was with her. It wouldn’t be the last either. I just wanted her near me; the circumstances didn’t matter. Until it did matter, to her, and we became strictly friends. Then I fell in love with someone who actually loved me back and moved much farther away from her than I already was. It was then, of course, that she decided she wanted me.
And like a diabetic lusting after a Snickers bar, I went to her. Not because I loved her; it was the opposite, actually. I wanted to prove to myself that I no longer did. Fucking her, then leaving her, would be vindicating, I thought. And it was for a little while. But in the end, despite that first night many years ago in London, it was always me who ended up falling.