The shag carpet is lime-green and white. It is hideous. It covers the floor in the living room, the bedroom, the closet, the bathroom. A temporary boyfriend pulled it up one weekend when he visited, just the part in the bathroom. He came just for two days and could not abide shag carpeting in the bathroom and ripped it out. "Come on, Marta," he said. "You can't have this stuff in here."
What about the squares of mirror pasted to the wall in the bedroom?
I posed there for Gary, another temporary boyfriend. It was his idea. But then he said, "Too cheesecake," and I never saw the photos. It was nice to be asked to pose nude, but nor surprising that I wasn't good at it. Sometimes people called me beautiful, but it seemed to be a particular kind that didn't stand up to every test.
These were the two temporary boyfriends who visited the shag carpet place. They had a couple of weekends each. They were futile attempts to fill the ache that clawed inside of me.
There were two saltwater fish tanks in the living room, each set up on a wooden base and placed away from the walls, at angles in the middle of the room.
There was a brown Salvation Army couch, an oval shaped coffee table with a plastic laminate top ? the fake-wood kind. Of course, there was a color TV on a stand with a shelf underneath that held the Beta Max. There were windows, narrow ones with glass slats. To look out you opened the slats. There was nothing to see out the windows. The greenery surrounding us was too dense to look at. It was southern California. It was Los Angeles. It was Fountain Avenue. West Hollywood. It was 1978. I am twenty-one and none of this is mine. I am in someone else's life because I can't find mine.
The mustard-yellow linoleum floor n the dark kitchen is sticky with oil from the plug-in fryer. I wash our dishes after dinner, but that's all. There are fleas in the green and white shag carpet. I don't notice them. My sister tells me about them when she visits.
On the coffee table is a long ceramic pipe in shades of blue, fashioned to look like a wizard with a long beard. Jeffrey bought it with delight in San Francisco. I didn't share his delight, but I use the pipe every day. It is standard procedure. Jeffrey gets high when he wakes up, around noon. I wait til evening. I have never liked getting high in the day time. It's too hot here. There's too much sun. It's awful being high in traffic in Los Angeles because it deosn't last and then there I am, high and dry, with a headache and the sun hasn't started to come down yet.
We never make the bed. Jeffrey has never made one and I have stopped. I never made the bed I shared with Jeffrey. I crawl into old sheets under an electric blanket. That's his too. An electric blanket. It's all his. The Selectric typewriter on the desk. The desk. The cat. The fish. I get up in the morning early because I go to work. I dress in the narrow space beside the bed. I have to be there by 9. The offices change, but the changes don't matter much. I still have to be there by 9 and not move til 5. I sit at my desk, desperate to leave, and then, when the time comes, the only place to go is the living room where the TV is
on. Situation comedies with laugh tracks. Pot smoke. Jeffrey cooking in front of the TV, sitting on the couch, mixing a bowl full of raw eggs and chocolate for mousse, smoking from the blue wizard pipe, getting up to put chicken in the oven. This is his territory: dinner and I better not trespass.
I get high. Maybe I go for a walk. I like walks. I like being outside even if it is Los Angeles.
I can make it to about 9 o'clock. Then I pick up a book, go into the bedroom away from the television, sit on the bed, lean against the mirrored wall, but I can't even read. I am drawn into sleep like by a huge iron magnet and Jeffrey passes through on his way to the bathroom and says scornfully, "You're not reading, you're sleeping. Again." Oh my god, another day for the garbage can. I am nothing. I am no one. How can he love me? One day he will stop.
Depressed. It's a word I learned early on from Jeffrey who majored in Psychology. He tosses out that word like it's worth something, like it's a little jewel only he has access to, and h offers it to me, an explanation. His sister backs him up. She's getting her PhD. in Psychology so she's not only his ally but an expert.
Marta's depression. It's a topic of conversation. What's to be done about it? Because it's a real drag. Not fair to Jeffrey for one thing. My car is orange and white. It's a Ford Pinto, the kind that explode. My key ring has a large plastic fried egg on it. It came with the car and smells faintly of perfume. Before getting to the office in the early morning I stop at the supermarket for potato chips because Jeffrey has suggested that I stop eating sugar. Sugar is supposed to make you
depressed an potato chips don't have any sugar. I eat them fast fast fast while I drive, wishing I could stop.