Almost ten years later in the summer of 2007, I am making this same journey into central Texas once again. Driving in Austin with a U-Haul dragging a truck is a precarious stunt on its own but adding Austin’s typical traffic behavior compounded the tension. Through his traveling, Tim he had amassed a large number of La Quinta points enabling us to stay as long as we needed until we found an appropriate place to live. He picked the La Quinta at 35 and Oltorf which, as anyone who knows the area can testify, is mostly a crack-whore comedy of errors in the Theater of the Disturbed. Who doesn’t find the gentle rumble of hookers and pimps fighting comforting to sleep to while a large obvious truck holding all your life possessions sits outside unguarded? It was my idea to park the U-Haul and vehicles on the highway side so people can speed past our belonging being stolen at 65 miles an hour.
Austin is possibly the worst city to rent in even with locator services stationed on every corner. The problem is they all show you the same apartment properties – the expensive clusters that pay the locators 100% of the first month’s rent for every lease they get signed. Knowing this, I decided that the first few days would be spent driving around the areas of town I liked and search for rental homes with a yard for the dog. We found a few we liked, but nothing that really grabbed us, or namely me. I’m not sure if I was being picky or if being unsure of Tim’s presence as that was still haunting me.
On day three, with a few prospects and potentials in view, Tim started to go sporadic with wild directions and ideas, again. He did this on occasion and each time it scared the shit out of me because there was no “off” switch… he just kept going. He wasn’t like that when I met him in Atlanta. He was still a ‘salesman’ always trying to sale something (usually himself), saying anything including lies or declarations he had no intention of keeping. But one lie turned into five. Five turned into ten. Ten turned into a lifestyle. A lifestyle that has tuned into this, whatever this was. I sat in the tub by myself with the shower on going “No, no, no, please no… not now… not when I need him to be balanced,” as it was impossible for me to mentally handle being his mother, babysitter, wrangler, therapist, (apparent) spiritual sounding board, listen to his grand plans and prospects of riches while still looking for a place to live – all this before we even address the subject of Jeb,
Tim had been mentally stable(ish) through the sale of the house and throughout the trip. On the side I caught him lying to his parents on the phone about when the house sold, but in the prior year his talking to angels and reading hidden messages inside of spam email was somewhat of a growing concern. I was successfully preoccupied with my weight-loss and self-growth that it didn’t bother me too much but I still kept an eye on him because I honestly thought he was going to somehow accidentally kill himself and the dog by chasing some imagined red balloon off a cliff. He evened out for the latter part of our time in Florida, but on occasion his detachment from reality that sometimes sat dormant popped up randomly and in full force. That was one of those times.
Day five came and Tim announced he was leaving to move into his parents’ house. It was the best thing for him with his mental condition. But this is also where I actually felt stupid. Along the trip he had been lying to his parents about where he was in driving after the sale of the house. The day before I had overheard him say he was just leaving Ft. Lauderdale while he was physically in the hotel in Austin. Had I been paying attention, I would have seen this coming. But like so many other things, I was too focused on the light at the end of the tunnel to register the sound of the freight train. At that moment I realized he had decomposed into nothing but trickery and deceit, concepts of money and schemes without any direction or point. One thing I could not get over: He allowed me to drive around Austin looking for a house for four days, and now I have to look for a place for just me. Just me.
I hadn’t seen Jeb as of yet, I wasn’t even sure he knew I was in town. I had $2,000.00 to my name, and less than $1,500.00 in credit. My ‘partner’ (of sorts) is abandoning me before I had a place to land… and then just changed the direction of where I was expected to land. Not only did he just waste four days of my driving around Austin, he also threw out my hope that he had any sanity or decency left in him. This is the utmost of mental frustration and it whirled in my head like a tornado of barbed wire trying to escape the scull but not finding a path out. I wanted Tim to leave because he was more burden than help, but I couldn’t process everything properly after over a month of believing, depending on his presence to make a successful move together. I had to deal with the absence and the mistrust, the disregard of me and how I work and function in order to succeed.
I purchased a storage unit and unloaded all my stuff that was conveniently placed last in the U-Haul. Now, looking back this was the second most liberating celebration of my adult life after being outed, but at the time I was feeling angry and confused – being abandoned to make mature decisions physically when I was beaten into adolescence emotionally. It was a self-retardation that I accepted because it was comfortable, numbing. I didn’t have to think. For that detachment, in all the years we were together, Tim never actually got to know me. He didn’t know who I was as a person, and concepts of mental health and emotional stability were things he considered “to complicated to understand.” Naturally, he was confused about my whirlwind emotional reaction to his decision. As a planner, I was upset that my well thought-out mental blueprints had been discarded so swiftly without warning and once again (after the move to Ft. Lauderdale, purchase of the house, the dog) that the decision of Tim’s wasn’t ours… it was his and I was left without choice but to work out the details of the disruption on my own. At this junction he was developing a disrespectful and unforgivable pattern, and I had allowed him to continue working in this manner. I continually gave up my right of free will so he could get whatever he wanted. But no more.
Within two days of his decision all my stuff was out. The U-Haul was repacked to make it look like Tim had moved alone, and he was gone. I sat in the Oltorf La Quinta, not able to move. I was stunned at his audacity, absurdity, lack of respect. I felt ashamed for putting up with it for so long, but now I’m free as his departure felt more like him slithering away than driving off. Outside seemed quiet, as if to give me time to breathe.
Inside there was no dog, there was no movement or constant commotion. The air wasn’t in motion from the sound of voice. It was still, and in that stillness every bottled emotion I had been ignoring for the past year flew out of me like water off a helicopter propeller. There was such an exhausted relief and frigid helplessness clashing against one another at same time, cymbals of two different metals colliding in destructive noise. The first time I came to Austin ten years prior was just as spontaneous and based off decisions that were not mine – I had no choice in the matter. But I knew I could go through this a second time. I had more money, more resources, and more connections. I was released from the controlling atmosphere where I had been tethered to fluctuating rules and uncomfortable one-sided compromises. I was free to walk on my own two feet. It was just as fucking terrifying as it was the first time.
I cried. I cried a lot, mainly because I felt like an idiot for trusting the untrustable… wanting to trust something that just wasn’t there. It was selfish. I cried because of me, this… all this was not on my terms. About two days and five pizza boxes later, Jeb sends a text: “Where are you?” He shows up to the hotel door and finds me in the process of pulling myself from the canyon of disbelief and contempt. It was late at night and there was a storm approaching Austin from the northwest. We order some food. While we waited he talked to his mother. We watch the encroaching darkness and flash from the balcony’s rather decent view of the city, clouds pumped with electricity creeping closer on the synthetically lit downtown.
He was emaciated, gaunt in the cheeks. The green of his eyes slightly faded off to a darker gray but the menacing sparkle was still there and his long forgotten smile that first captivated me so many years before made the tornado in my head stop, allowing the barbed wire to unravel organically without effort. Outside we sat and watched the lightening get closer, the thunder get louder, and felt the air drop in temperature as the winds picked up. He knew I was in pain because I said little. I knew he was thankful because he said less.
He slept right next to me that night, and the next night, and didn’t leave my side until I calibrated to my normal, bitchy, sarcastic and offensively absurd self. With the quiet and the fresh air I could think. Less than a week went by and I found a place off Riverside Drive. It was cheap, near downtown, and it was a two bedroom in my price range. They didn’t mind my lack of credit and the complex itself, though nestled on the border of the ghetto was actually a small, quiet, and clean community. I turned the second bedroom into my office where I can work and do some art. My desk and printing table were the only furniture I had, so the barren living room and dining area was only used as a pathway to the kitchen. I had enough money to live off of for a few months while establishing myself with some steady structural engineer clientele so I could work freelance drafting, my only marketable skill (my only legal marketable skill).
I went over to Oil Can Harry’s where Jeb worked as a resident DJ. OCH is a bar I hadn’t visited in many years. So much had changed and yet it still maintained the welcoming ‘neighborhood bar’ feel with a dance floor and patio. There was no one who knew me from ‘back in the day’ so I was essentially a new face. People talked to me. I talked to people. Nobody, even with extensive conversation, could figure out who I was or why I was there. I was just a man in black who showed up one day and sat beside their beloved DJ.
James P. Perez © 2014