An homage (part 1).
If I’m to get back to Mulholland, I have to revisit the specific night three or so weeks ago, during which I began the initial entry after a glittery canyon ride. It was 2 am. I no longer remember where I had been. But en route home, I had detoured to Mulholland Drive, my slinky, dangerous co-conspirator, the soother of my before bedtime screams.
When I finally walked into my apartment, my ex-boyfriend was asleep in my bed.
It sounds worse than it was.
Certainly in light of the Perfect Man.
But my ex-boyfriend is my best friend. And since then, the Perfect Man and my best friend have met and approved of one another.
My best friend lives in San Francisco, and when he has business in Los Angeles, he stays with me. We were last a couple nine years ago. People don’t understand our relationship. Why don’t you just get back together, they say. We don’t need to; it’s that simple. We cherish what we have: All the good and none of the bad — there’s love, mutual guidance and laughter, but no expectation, disappointment, or encroachment. Since neither of us is brain-damaged, we’re not giving that up. The only difference between a best friend and a boyfriend is, you don’t have sex with your best friend.
Remember my first Martian dating post, where I said I wanted to date a born rock and roller — not as in musician, but in spirit — a guy my own age with the vibrancy of a cat on catnip? Well, I already know that guy. I lived with him for five years. We shared a house in the hills. It’s him, the guy in my bed, my best friend. You might have met him as T. in A Love Letter, but from now on, we will call him Freezer. And to boot, Freezer has honor, integrity and uncompromising honesty.
While we were a couple, Freezer worked from home and was deeply engrossed by it. But in the five years that we lived together, not once did he fail to get up from his office chair each time I left and came, to walk to the door and look me in the eye for a proper goodbye or hello. It’s strange, the actions that affect us. For me, this bit of consistency in etiquette spoke volumes about his character, because it was unplanned and instinctive.
Freezer and I road-tripped all over Costa Rica, the Highway 1 from California to the tip of Oregon, and the Amalfi coast in Italy. It’s always oceans with us, the vast beauty of possibility and lands beyond.
Freezer is the only man to date who can get me to stop feeling sorry for myself.
“Don’t be such a sissy,” he says with a dimple and twinkle, and I can’t help but laugh at the gall. And then he’ll flop his arm around me and pull me to him like I’m tiny and in need of toughening. He’ll tell me he believes in me and remind me how well I do — in life — any time I actually apply myself.
Why break up then? It’s murky. He’ll say it’s because he wanted children and I didn’t. I’ll say it’s because he took me for granted (except at the door!). And he’ll say he took me for granted because he’d given up on us since I didn’t want children.
It was nine years ago when Freezer and I broke up. Not too long after, we said we’d be each other’s back up plan if we were both single when he reached halfway between two momentous ages. And then we quickly agreed, no, scratch that. Instead make it when I’m at that particular age. That would give us three extra years since I’m that much younger. I am incidentally, two months away from that semi-momentous birthday. Halves, twos, threes. I throw in all that math to detract from the alarming sum of my age.
You know who finds Mulholland as spellbinding as I do? Freezer.
He came and picked me up in his sporty new TT a few years ago when he still lived in Los Angeles. He wanted to show me how well it handled. His tall form barely fit in that sleek little machine that wanted nothing but to grind road. Mulholland Drive was our natural destination.
It was around 7 pm, neither day nor night, that bleak blue-grey hour that’s warmed only by company and headlights. There were remnants of rush hour cars escaping freeway traffic and cluttering Mulholland instead. Freezer was impatient. We wanted our road to ourselves. So Freezer, whose instinct is always to protect me, on this one occasion, partook in his only display of recklessness in my company.
Mulholland is a winding, two-lane road, one for each direction. Between the road’s narrowness and its blind curves, there is no room for legal passing. Your only hope is for the slow driver in front of you to pull over so you could drive on.
The TT, Freezer and I were behind two cars stopped at an intersection. It was a less curvy section than the rest of the road. As soon as the cars ahead began to move, Freezer took it upon himself to pass them both. He swerved to the left and crossed the forbidding double yellow lines while headlights sped towards us from the opposite direction. With the delicious sound of gears shifting under his command, the TT did not disappoint as it slipped through a snug opening between oncoming cars and those we passed.
We were back on our side of the road with no cars ahead — just in time for a police car to turn on its siren for us. We hadn’t noticed it in the line of cars behind us before Freezer had begun the pass.
Freezer’s brain fast calculated that we could outrun the cops. He sped up. Meanwhile, my brain replayed all the highway police car chases he made me watch. The ones that ALWAYS end in disaster for the pursued. Destruction, incarceration, humiliation. The only thing I learned in fact, from those numbing, plot-less, testosterone-aimed spectacles is, you never attempt to outrun the cops.
But Freezer had concluded that the cop car, starting off three cars behind us, had to wait for all the oncoming traffic we had squeezed through to clear before it could give chase. My jaw went slack. We are so fucked, I wanted to say. But I didn’t want to distract him and have us accidentally drive over the cliff. If I was going die in the crash landing of a flying car, I wanted to be behind the wheel, not in the inglorious passenger seat!
We outran the cops.
My long-haired, bead-wearing, surf-speaking vegan ex-boyfriend — yeah, I held off on that description for effect — who had worked his ass off in the insurance business enough to buy three houses, had taken the first left that came up. It was a steep downhill into a residential area. The coppers weren’t far behind; the sound of the siren kept us clued in to their whereabouts. Clearly they had taken the left too.
Freezer made several turns into a blessed maze of hill houses until we found ourselves in a cul-de-sac. Although the sound of the siren wasn’t coming from the last streets we’d taken, it was in the vicinity. We couldn’t risk turning and leaving the cul-de-sac. So Freezer parked in front of what appeared to be an evening open house. There was nothing to do except grab a price sheet and walk inside the three-million dollar home for sale.
He hadn’t read the price sheet and said:
“I’m gonna say, three point two.” Before we had settled on our own house in the Hollywood Hills way back when, our Sunday pastime had been open houses. His guesses were never far off. Holding the price sheet in my hand, I stared at him.
“What? Am I way off?” He was deadpan. He knew I wasn’t thinking about the open house. We burst into laughter. Freezer had outrun the cops!
I wasn’t so much looking at him with new eyes as I was thinking, are we this lucky that we still get to have each other? Is this cake? And I get to both have and eat it?!
I have the thought every time he comes to town and stays with me.
On the night I came home from my lone Mulholland excursion, while typing away on my computer, I glanced over my shoulder to Freezer sleeping in my bed.
When he gets into a relationship, we won’t have this anymore, I thought with sadness.
But I was determined not to be the one to break the spell of our unconventional friendship, even though I had started dating the Perfect Man.
And then it occurred to me: I might be a better friend than girlfriend. (to be continued)
- The crazy tree has many unexpected branches.
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