Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
I went to two meetings on Sunday. I chose both of them for the same reason: I thought I might run into Johnny. (I should have known I wouldn’t, because Johnny’s on a court card. He has to do five meetings a week, and by Sunday he’d already done them.)
Johnny’s 26 (and three-quarters). He’s half-Mexican and half-Native American. Six feet. 185. (I know because he told me.) Dark hair, light eyes. He’s got swagger. It’s hood swagger, criminal swagger, v. Shark (as in Shark v. Jet). He speaks Spanish and English. He’s all sorts of confident. He’s ferociously hot.
He says shit that doesn’t make sense (“I only trust two people – I trust myself and not the fuck you”) and he’s got opinions on AA: The Steps are redundant and passing the basket is wrong in an organization that has no dues or fees. Johnny says “hella” like it was invented for him. He tells me I dress like a G, and calls me Jules. I have a tragically inappropriate crush.
I met Johnny at St. Luke’s last Wednesday; we walked together from there to a meeting in the Mission. I ran into him again on Thursday, at the godawful Wharf Rats meeting — so named and so awful because it’s full of Deadheads — and we ended up kicking it on Valencia, talking withdrawal and war stories. His are way better than mine. They involve helicopters and near-death experiences. When I talk to Johnny, I feel coddled and fortunate. I kicked in a beachside rehab. He kicked in jail. Ten times.
I know I shouldn’t be thinking about him, and I definitely shouldn’t be choosing meetings based on the likelihood of his presence. I’m profoundly aware that my issues are acting up. (Johnny isn’t the first man I’ve lusted after in the two weeks I’ve been in San Francisco. There was another felon and an English guy who bummed a smoke on Cortland.)
The second meeting I went to on Sunday was a meditation. As in “we sought through prayer and meditation.” (There are all kinds of whacked meetings here. There’s a day long hiking meeting. A yoga meeting called “Stretch and Surrender.” Along with the usual symbols for Open, Closed, Discussion and Speaker meetings, there’s a T meeting. T is for Transgendered.)
I honestly tried to meditate, but I couldn’t focus. I chanted (nam-miyoho-renge-kyo) and repeated the Serenity Prayer. I said God-I-Offer-Myself-to-Thee etc for at least 10 minutes straight. But I kept boomeranging back to Johnny. And, although I had no intention of leaving the meeting, it suddenly seemed like a good idea. I said a couple of truly sincere Thy Will Not Mines and hot-tailed it outta there. (I haven’t left a meeting since Sobriety Circa 1989.) Rigorous honesty? I might have asked God to hook me up.
There are twenty different ways to walk home, but I chose Fair Oaks to Guerrero to Cesar Chavez. Took a left, walked three blocks, and blam: there he was. If it had been a minute later, Johnny would have been gone. If I’d taken 24th instead of Cesar Chavez, I wouldn’t have seen him.
We ended up walking downtown with Johnny’s friend Vince. It’s a piece of street I would never have attempted alone. It’s populated by hookers, crackheads, and homeless guys; there are check cashing establishments, pawn shops, and caged-window dive bars. We stopped to talk to a woman with two black eyes. Mostly I listened to Johnny and Vince jaw it up about things that they shouldn’t have been talking about within my personal earshot. Strippers. Turning lesbians straight. Pussy. The politics of leering. After a particularly hideous comment, I stuck my fingers in my ears and Johnny and Vince – who were until then completely oblivious to my horror — calmed down. They reverted to charming and protective. (I was alone for a minute, and was instantly accosted by a guy named SnaggleT, which I assume was short for Snaggle Teeth. When Johnny came back he said “Jules. Now.” Gave the guy a look and scared the shit out of him. Hot. Hot. Hot.)
Hot schmott, though, you know? I got what I needed to get. I saw Johnny for who he was and my behavior for what it was. An escape. A way to feel better. It’s what I’ve always done behind men. (Note: I now speak Prison. “Behind” means “due to” or “because of.” Just in case you’re unaware. )
PS – More rigorous honesty: I googled “tips on dating a convict” this afternoon.
Maybe it’s not God. Maybe Johnny just lives in the neighborhood.
Last night I ran into him on 26th. I’d resigned myself to a night without the pleasure of his SuperWrong company and was feeling good about it. I was being of service to my friend Tommy, putting unclean thoughts out of my head, reveling in my selflessness and good nature. (Today’s the anniversary of Tommy’s brother’s death. He was having a hard time.)
We went to a Thai restaurant. It should here be noted that it was my choice; Johnny’s taste runs towards Whoppers and Franks n’ Beans, hold the Sharps.
More has been revealed.
He’s a triplet!
He’s fearless because he was stabbed once and shot six (separate) times. He survived a car accident that landed him underwater and killed his homegirl; he remembers taking two deep breaths of water and waking up the next day in the hospital. Only it wasn’t the next day. It was three weeks later.
His mother smokes meth, but strictly on special occasions. If I want to know how many times he’s been arrested, I need to ask her – she’s kept track. I just have to be careful not to ask her on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Years, the holidays that end with ‘day’ (Martin Luther, Presidents, Valentines, Good Fri, Independence et al) or at any time during Lent.
When we parted ways at 10:55, he said “I wish I didn’t have a curfew. We could be fucking….” It may have been an incomplete sentence – Johnny might have gone on to say “we could be fucking shooting Crips” or “we could be fucking breaking and entering,” but there’s a chance he may actually have meant we could be getting biblical. I gotta shut that down. It’s not going to happen. Here’s why:
a) Johnny’s got a curfew because he lives on more-or-less lockdown with 125 other men at the ARC. It’s a diversion program. Meaning it’s where felon-slash-addicts are sent if they behave well in prison, which means
b) If we do it, we’re doing it an alley, and not in a hot way;
c) I gained 20 pounds in rehab; there’s no way I’m getting naked with a man 10 (sic) years my junior
d) I’m behaving like a sober, responsible adult, and
e) Mostly c.
Another set of meetings, more Mexican food with Johnny, and a previously uncontemplated downside to his youth: he has yet to learn that it’s impolite to acknowledge unladylike eating-related incidents. We were having tacos at Chavita’s when he pointed to a shred of chicken that had landed on his tortilla chips. “Jules,” he said. “That just came out of your mouth.”
I was mortified, but Johnny was unfazed: clearly, he’s seen worse. (“Cooter,” he said, pointing to the blood that had landed on his knife. “That just came out of your throat.”)
I’ve spent way too much time with Johnny this week. None of it involved making out.
On the plus side, my vocabulary’s been enhanced. My favorite new word is “sav.” It’s short for savage. (“My mother’s a sav,” said Vince. “So’s mine,” Johnny responded, sensitive to the possibility of being outgangstered by Vince. “My mother’s hella sav.”)
I’m not looking for God to restore me to sanity. I’m looking for God to restore me to 23.
According to the world wide interwebs, Johnny was arrested nine times on drug related charges between 2008 and 2010, including once for the spirited crime of Possession While in Jail/Prison.
Johnny was born on January 6, which makes him a Capricorn, and, as everyone knows, Capricorns are boring. (My problem with Johnny isn’t that he was born in 1985. It’s that he was born in January.)
I have to get serious. I didn’t come to San Francisco to hang out with Known Criminals. I’ve lost the plot.
Post script: Six months later
I asked God to remove my obsession with Johnny. God did.
That’s what I want to believe.
But that’s not what actually happened. What happened was that I came to my senses.
It started after a conversation about Prince. Johnny doesn’t like him. “He’s no Michael Jackson,” he said.
“He’s also not George Clinton, James Brown, or Sly Stone,” I thought, absurdly seething, but still knowing better than to say it aloud. Johnny would find my perception of the differences between Michael Jackson and Prince as ridiculous as I found his perception of their similarities.
That magnanimously said, I might have gotten over it if Johnny hadn’t then insisted we watch “Teach Me How To Dougie” on my iPhone. I may have let it go if Johnny, in a Cali Swag District frenzy, hadn’t then joyously dougied his way down Mission, looking like a gangsta version of the Keep On Truckin’ guy. I can accept a decade of doing crimes and a less-than-casual needle habit. But bad taste in music? That’s a deal breaker.