I felt the change in atmosphere as soon as I arrived. Something was different. I wore a bright, cadmium-yellow sundress with little embroidered flowers that I’d thrifted just a few days prior. It was probably intended for a child—the hemline barely cleared the bottom of my ass and my shoulders strained against the seams, but after hearing the odd tone of his voice over the phone that morning, I felt like I needed all the help I could get.
He opened the door, aglow with his familiar warm smile, and as per usual, I felt all aflutter at the sight of him. With long, sandy brown hair and bright blue eyes, he had a real American face—born and bred in Texas, with faintly weathered lines bearing the only indication that he’d been through the wringer a few times. In service to his clandestine dream of becoming a musician, he decided to leave the Lone Star State behind and head for Los Angeles—trading Southern hospitality and heroin for the land of new-age zealotry and a life of sun, sea, and sobriety. I always listened intently to the stories of his checkered past back home, finding it difficult to imagine him caught up in a life of drugs and domestic warfare. To me, it seemed that the darkness had provided him with a very well-rounded life perspective. He was spiritual, yet nonjudgmental, and had an infectious sincerity about him.
We had met for the first time up in Topanga Canyon at a little creekside music show a few months prior. It was one of those nights that felt suspended in time—the warm air was alive with frog song, I drank red wine from a paper cup and schmoozed happily with old friends. I felt his eyes on me from across the room—he stood out from the crowd, mingling among the hippies and freaks, and sporting an old Stetson I later learned had belonged to his father. I met his gaze and flashed a bashful, yet inviting smile in return, and after some time, he finally approached.
“Unfortunately I’m on my way out, but I’d love to get your number and call you sometime—if that’s alright.” He said, playing up his gentlemanly, Texan twang.
I was taken with him from the start—impressed with how he carried himself, like someone deeply at home in their own skin.
He took me out to a nice dinner a few days later—we connected over poetry, George Carlin, and our favorite old films. There were a few telltale signs of our age gap as the night wore on—it seemed that the mention of pagers, Myspace, and cell phones left us on different ends of a cultural experience.
He unflinchingly and deliberately picked up the check, even going so far as to thank me for dining with him, and we headed outside to the parking lot.
“Okay, I gotta ask,” He turned to me, wincing slightly as if he was afraid of my response to whatever he was about to say.
“How old are you?”