It’s been a serious Henry Miller and Jam kind of day for me. It’s sort of always a Henry Miller day, but more on that later. The Jam. England’s darlings of the mod-revival. Mr.Weller, the voice of soul and sorrow for all the young punks. I Need You was a go-to for me for most break-ups and self-deprecating sessions in my late teens and early twenties. Listening to that track on The Jam’s masterpiece, “This Is The Modern World”, this morning, I got to reminiscing about just exactly what it was that I thought I needed then versus what I think I need now.
At 16, ruled by my adolescent solipsism, I thought that what I needed was to leave home in order to seek out those who better understood me. I did that; the moving out part. I moved in with a man five years older than me who beat the shit out of me. You could say that my intentions were good but I clearly failed in the execution. I thought maybe that was what love looked like in the grown-up world. I thought that I needed to feel pain in order to feel love. I didn’t speak to my mother so much, and my sister was a cheerleader who was en route to marry her high school sweetheart, the quarterback, so we clearly had no common ground to speak of. I guess you could say that I had no real points of reference from which to draw any reasonable reactions to the situation I had landed myself in.
Whenever he and I reached an inconsolable point in one of our arguments, I would phone in song dedications to the College Radio station that I knew he listened to at work. I phoned in “I need you” more than once, along with “Be My Baby” by The Ronnettes and “Love Song” by The Damned.
He decided that he was going to be a punk rock singer, but he’d never had any real-life struggles and he was far from a skilled wordsmith. I helped him write anti-establishment songs about how he thought computers were ruining humanity and how “The Man” had to be brought down. He feigned disgust at the class system while his parents paid his rent and bills. He was a phony all along and I knew it. He moved from Philadelphia to San Diego and made bank as a computer programmer- all the while reinventing himself as some gutter-core icon. He moved to another coast where he knew that no one would know that his east coast nick-name was “Crasshole”, unaffectionately given to him based on flyers he’d made for a Crass show that he never even booked. He started two terrible bands once he hit SoCal, The Virus, and Cheap Sex. I never went to any of the shows. I never outed him for what he did, apart from a mid-twenties, alcoholic rant on MySpace. I wasn’t his only victim. He got away with a lot.
There was one time, shortly after I’d moved to Hollywood, that I got called for jury duty. It was a domestic violence case. I immediately got pulled from the case due to my real-life experience with such violence. I reached out to Crasshole and told him exactly what I thought of him. His response? “C’mon, it’s been nine and a half years.” He was dismissive of me like he always had been and he actually put a statute of limitations on the pain he’d caused me. I’d never really encountered a piece of garbage quite like him, and I’ll still never understand how someone could physically harm a teenage girl who just wanted to be loved. There’s really very little that you can say, that will be impactful, to an unrepentant asshole who doesn’t understand the concept of taking responsibility for his actions. My only comfort comes in knowing that people like him can never truly lead a peaceful life. When there is evil within, it does an irreparable damage to your core that only you can mend. It’s my belief, that if left unattended, its a slow death by your own hand.
It took years for me to attach myself to these reconciliations. It took self-abuse and it took therapy. When I was still a teenager, my defense mechanism was to act out. There was a show one night at a squat house in West Philly shortly after I’d finally escaped our relationship. We encountered one another on the threshold leading into the show. He muttered something incoherent and I punched him in the face. He fell backward and into a crowd of punks and skins on the sidewalk. It was raining. That picture stands out in my mind. I kicked him while he was down. I implored him to hit me back in front of everyone else. I wanted to know the reason he saw it fit to do so in private but not publicly. I left him crying on the ground. I felt powerful in that moment and it felt wrong. I didn’t want that kind of power, not at someone else’s expense. It was like getting rich off of blood money.
The event that I felt finally leveled the playing field was when I stole something irreplaceable from him. When we lived together, he found all of my poetry and journals and he made me throw them all away. When he found the pages that I attempted to salvage, he beat me until I destroyed them. These were my childhood memories, my dreams, my beginnings of finding my voice as a writer, and now they were gone. I was being punished for my art, and that was the only thing that I had. I would, subsequently, leave my art behind for many years because of this. I mourned them as I would have a friend because those journals were my confidants; my closest relationships. The entire time that we lived together, we didn’t have sex. He was 23 by the time we broke up and still a virgin. I went to his apartment one night, under the guise of reconciling, and I took his virginity. He stole my innocence and my youth, so I took the only thing that I knew could even come close to that. I never talked to him again after that, even to this day, knowing that we live within a couple of hours from one another. I read in the paper the other day that Cheap Sex is doing a fifteen-year reunion show in San Diego. I won’t go. I won’t invest time or money into making things uncomfortable for him ~~~ but if you go, and you throw a beer at his face for me while he’s singing ~~~ I won’t be upset if you forward me the video.
I also found joy in shooting this photo (below) of him after he took a boot to the face at a One Way System show. I saw blood pouring out of his head and was reminded of the blood I’d spilled because of him. He’d kicked me with steel-toes on and taken broom handles to my head and neck. He’d pin me to the ground with it, nearly asphyxiating me, then force me into satisfying him. He was truly sadistic. I told him to “Smile for the fucking camera” for this one as I walked backward down South Street to get this revenge shot. Photography is art and art is a weapon because it speaks the truth. This is why only dishonest people so fervently fear art. It’s more powerful than fists because of its infinite permanence. It’s all I had then and it’s all I still have. True Art can never be caught in a lie.
The above recount is what was going through my head this morning while listening to The Jam, sipping my coffee, and flipping through the forward of The Colossus of Maroussi. The unrelenting marvel of disbelief is that there is a time when I thought I truly needed that; that I needed him. That I deserved that in some way. Now, I spend my time looking at real estate in Palm Springs, dreaming of a future that only I can build for myself, writing a novel, creating art with people and making photography. I know that what I Need is to share my struggles with other women, open my door to them, be a voice and be an ear. I know that healing doesn’t happen by staying in one place. I know that reaching out is fucking terrifying and that depression is crippling beyond belief.
Moving on from what has hurt me in the past means reliving it. Reliving it means Pain. There is no way around that. Medication, whether legally prescribed or a street-score, can only offer a detour. You’ll always end up back at ground zero. Drugs never scared me, whereas asking for help has paralyzed me. Thankfully, I’m past that hurdle, but I know that someone who’s reading this isn’t. I encourage you to take the next step and, if you know someone who is in a dangerous situation, offer yourself to them. They need you more than they’ll ever let on. You could save someone’s life.