Don’t talk about the hug, the one with Dennis in L.A. Feel it from time to time, though. Even now. The energy became part of my soul. Was it his energy? It’s both of ours now.
Cruising the pitch-black roads from Santa Monica to West Hollywood in silence. Glare of headlights against the dark, his foot upon the gas. Anytime you’re aware of someone’s foot on the gas and it’s not your own, you should probably get out of the car.
Speeding past the mansions on Sunset Boulevard, revving was the only sound. Beneath the jean jacket, the white tee was light and airy, the kind that sweats through easily — and it was starting to. The date, for lack of a better word, couldn’t end fast enough. Dennis was so fucked up, took me by surprise. Lose my voice with people like that, you know. Too stunned to know what to say. If he’d been more normal that night, maybe I could have been too. What is normal anyway?
At the diner, when he started slouching in the booth, raised my eyebrows ever-so-slightly. The silver canister of pills was disguised as a keychain. Didn’t even notice ‘em till he dumps ‘em on the table. A few stragglers spiral onto the floor right as the waitress brings the coffee. She halts for a second, then leaves us to clean up the mess.
“Tranquilizers,” Dennis whispers.
What to say to that. Eye him a little too harshly, wondering what the hell. He’s slumping and sinking and not so tall to begin with. Any lower he’ll end up on the floor with those pills. What’s he saying? Hard to tell with the slurring. Takes a sip of coffee and smiles.
Coffee, yes. Drink more.
We were supposed to hear live music. That cool singer who did the soundtrack for Dennis’s film. Arrived at the club as the show ended, just in time to meet the guy. He dressed in black and wore a fedora, but the music was done.
The diner was Plan B. The lights in that place were too bright. Everything was on display — all the baggage we tried so hard to run from. Dennis didn’t try to disguise his shortcomings. Did he perceive them as shortcomings? Dennis is fluid in the way Snake River rapids are fluid. Wild, rapturous, untamed. Comes on like a torrent, and there’s always a risk you’ll get caught in it. From the get-go, I was ensnared. Ever since that dinner, when his dad stood up and said, “We’re gonna do some rearranging.”
Sparks flew the moment we met. Dinner lasted three hours, we talked the whole time. About Silver Lake and screenplays, Tom Waits, and David Mamet, Mystery Train and Night on Earth. Kate was there, my sister. She sat next to me, bearing witness. “You have to keep in touch with him, Beth,” she said on the way home. “You have to.” Back in LA, with Dennis at the wheel and Kate’s words in my ears, I couldn’t help but wonder. How did I get this so wrong?
It was supposed to be a hug goodbye. A few pats on the back and be done with it. Pulling up to the house, couldn’t wait to get out of the car. Our chapter might have ended with my back to him, walking up the drive. Instead, the hug sparked a stunning transformation. There came a surge of energy, a suturing of souls so magnetic, it could change a physiology. And it did.
Shocked by the spark, we pulled closer, heart to pounding heart. Center console jilted the vibe, so we tumbled into the backseat. Full body contact. The scent of leather mixed with men’s cologne, and it was hard to tell ’em apart. With electricity surging, his smooth shave upon my skin, arms buzzed until they ached. Energy like that could become an addiction. An antidote to all that ails. I’ve tried to recapture it in other embraces, with other guys, in other cities. Nothing’s ever come close. L.A. is the City of Angels, and they flew in our presence that night.
Could have hugged him forever. Why did we stop? At some point, it must have seemed ridiculous, clinging to one another in the dark. As if sourcing the last life force on earth.
Thirty minutes of hugging can heal a person. It was years before I understood how much. All I know is we had a connection. A soul connection that should never be denied. Left up to us, our acquaintance would have ended in the twilight. With a quick drop-off and a “don’t look back.” The universe had other plans.
In the early morning silence, on a West Hollywood side street, with no sound but breathing, it was easy to forget our differences. We were young enough to forget fast and believe fully that this crazy thing was destined. Being writers, we both knew. Sometimes the story writes you.
Making the reluctant walk into Sue’s brother’s house, the buzzing continued. Through brushing my teeth, and washing my face, and the 20 minutes it took to get into bed. With the last moments of the night fading away, Dennis was all I could think about. Out of his embrace, and still in it.