So there we were, two losers in love, shacked up like a Bukowski rough draft, stuck in the city of lost angels without a dime.
She had come close, my fading blonde beauty. Almost a movie star. Almost a household name. Almost an overdose on life, actually, there towards the end. Ursula was almost the woman of my dreams, if not for her own bad choices and the fact she’d met me before somebody who really deserved her.
I have never been within a mile of anything like success. I failed at school, at writing, at movies. I failed at marriage twice, failed at real estate, and failed to blow my brains out that October night up on the Rincon, when the Santa Ana wind was hot, the barrel was cool, and the full buck moon was saying “take a chance.”
I’d sold the car for two grand—which bought us a roof, a view of the junkies puking in the alley way, and the smell of stale cabbage and old sex in the hall. This was ironic, in a way, cause Ursula made the best stuffed cabbage in the world and fucked like her life depended on it.
We’d met at rehab, skinny as two lines of coke, unable to see past our noses till the first couple of steps kicked in. Committed to recovery, we waited the obligatory year and finally tore each other’s clothes off in the back seat of my old Impala, just before they closed the last drive-in in the San Gabriel Valley. She called my name over and over, coming like popcorn while the credits to The Little Mermaid rolled. This was at a time when nobody but the judge had called my name, amigo, and the real fact of the matter is, the real history of she and me will be: I’m powerless over the girl. My life has become unmanageable.
I love her. She is my drug, my fix, my life. I’d do anything for her.
Which is how I found myself, buck-naked, holding a hard-bound copy of Naked Lunch, bent over the examination table at Dr. Hugh Fitzpeter’s Studs Online Sperm Bank and Fresh Jizz Emporium. The doc said he’d pay me five bills a shot because, dude, I am RECOVERED and there’s always a market for healthy gametes here in Hollywood, USA.
It’s a paycheck, Jack.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me these days, José, and I admit we had to do some serious Photoshop on my mug shot for the web page, but I’ve got academic credentials up the yin-yang, so technically I guess you could say I failed after school: B.A. in Heuristics from Boston College. Masters in Post Apocalyptic Synthetic Thought from Harvey Mudd, and a PhD in the Pre-Socratics that I practically stole from Harvard after four years in their seriously flawed Philosophy Department. I am the very model of a modern major fuck-up, Holmes.
But don’t ask me why, cause that’s a long story, and not the one I want to tell.
Business has been remarkably brisk for Doctor Fitz, particularly in this screwy market, with the yen, the euro, and the dollar dancing some sort of St. Vitus foxtrot to Dubyah’s death-to-the-Republican Party melody. If you ask me, HE’s the fuck-up, with his Weapons of Mass Deconstruction and his gonzo tax-cuts-to-the-wealthy shadow economy, but—hey—I’m not President. I’m not even registered to vote, cause voting’s for people who believe in the future, James. And I can’t even believe I’m alive in the right here and now, except for the fact that—over the next six months—there’s a dozen little embryos with my genes all over them, growing like the national debt, due to be ejected into the cruel cold world like Airborne Rangers in the secret war on stupidity. I’m a one-man Special Weapons and Tactics team, Sam. Blackest of Black Ops. They turkey-baster my shtuff into (maybe) YOUR woman, Dave, and presto-spermo, in eighteen years you’re paying Ivy League tuition, worrying about car insurance, and wondering why your kid doesn’t understand you.
This is something I wish I’d thought of decades ago, instead of wasting all that capital on the Penthouse Pet of the Year, actually, but…neither here nor there. Really.
So, anyway, I’m feelin’ pretty good about myself, actually, a little coin in my pocket for a change, a little bounce in the stride, but Ursula’s a little under the weather, so I pop out to score a little peppermint tea, down to the corner momandpop (who incidentally are having one fuck of a time making ends meet too).
Mom and Pop, they rock. I owe em the equivalent of two months’ unemployment, but I lay out four crisp Benjamins and Mom’s eyes light up and she asks:
“So how’s our Ursula, Meriwether? We haven’t seen her out for days.”
“Oh she’s great, Mom. She says hi.”
She smiled and hid the hundreds under the tray in that old manual cash register they kept.
Pop was puttering around back in the dirty magazine section. He poits his head up over this month’s Beaver and says:
“Remind her about the Satsang tonight, will you Meri? I know she’ll want to come.”
“Yeah,” I answered. “I know she had something about the meaning of life on her mind.”
“Means nothing without love, Meriwether.”
I grabbed the tea off the shelf.
“Oh, just take it, hon,” said Mom. "Live to serve."
When I got back, Ursula was coming out of the bathroom we share with the gay couple down the hall. She smiled that Mona Lisa smile of hers and we stood there, frozen in time like a couple of manikins in a big city diorama.
They weren’t a real couple, I guess, the neighbors, the way people who vote against these things consider real. I mean he was an old chorus boy from the Golden days of MGM and she was one of the original woman aviators, aviatrixes, whatever you call them—ferried bombers to Newfoundland or someplace during the war (that’d be WW II, Perkins, the Big One, the Real Deal). She had to leave the planes there on the godforsaken ice, Itchy, cause they wouldn’t let a woman in a combat zone—not like now—and she always considered it a rip-off, she told me, that she couldn’t land in England.
But anyway the two of them lived together, in their old age, among their infirmities, like a real couple, yes, I guess you could say, but each probably fell asleep at night remembering his/her youth in a very particular kind of way. The Jazz of that Very Special Hotel you’re always hearing about.
Ronald. And Mary Sue. Great kids, the both of them. Making it work for them, God bless 'em.
Be that as it may, Ursula pulled tight that sky-blue robe with the Chinese embroidery I bought for her at the Salvation Army joint out in Pasadena that time, the one right off the freeway on Del Mar, where you can pick up the finest threads for less than a song. She had always had magnificent breasts, my lady, and lately it was like they’d been reborn. Three steadies a day and some fucking happiness for a change sure can modulate the way you feel about yourself, not to mention the way you bother to treat others.
The light from that 40 watt bulb in the hallway caught her eyes the way it will when she’s sleepy and happy, and she smiled. I followed her back into the pad and turned on the water for tea.
“Pop says don’t forget the deal tonight, Urz. It’s the cute Italian one from Orange county isn’t it?”
“No sweetie. That was last month, remember? You had a delivery?"
“He talked about time.”
“Time’s an illusion.”
“So they say.”
“A jet plane."
"It moves too fast," she completed Dylan's metaphorical couplet.
"'Wish we had more of it.”
Ursula smiled again—so beautifully—and brushed her hair absently, looking into a mirror that didn’t exist, like a woman from a painting God's made famous:
“We have plenty.”
“Hunh! Easy for you! I remember when Eisenhower was running for President, for Chrissake! I've seen him shoot a quintuple bogey!”
“Yes, well I’m no—as they say—Spring Chicken.”
I didn't want to give her the smallest part of a second to think about that. Moving quickly 'cross the room, I nuzzled that soft smooth part of her neck, wrapped my arms around her waist, marveled at the scent of her.
Pheromones. Whatever they are, whatever they do, one thing Urz and I know for sure—ours were made for each other. And to think: there was a time when we couldn't smell anything but despair.
She snuggled in the way she does, smoothing her flank against me in the nicest way. How long had it been since I'd felt like this? How many bottles had I cracked? How many bindles and baggies and pipefuls and lines and hits and doobies and ones and twos for the road? What miracle had brought us, now, to this place, this real place?
Ursula's hair smelled to me, finally, I realized, like hope, like possibility, like love, in truth.
"Well, one thing I know," she said lazily, as she steered us to the old couch Pop and I had rescued from sad indignity on the corner of Sixth and Main, the one Mom and Urz and Ronald and Mary Sue had lovingly made new again, "I know that whatever we decide to name him—"
She guided my hand gently over her magic belly:
"He'll have more brothers and sisters in this world than any kid who ever lived."
Don'tcha just love it when your wife supports you in your life's work?
I used to think other guys had all the luck.
And now I know that luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.