Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section 2: Other Families
Part Two: Three Years Later
Love, he never quite got the balance right, he never figured out the line between adoration and self-delusion. And he paid and paid and paid.
Looking back now, in bed, with every thought a painful stroke like electrodes of sickness and sorrow, he saw his Mommy dying of cancer when he was 13 years old. It was a terrible thing, from dancing around the house to “It’s Only Rock N Roll”, to a lifeless object in a bed as they waited for her to leave them. His Mom’s slow disappearance was the scariest thing he’d ever experienced at the time, a slow dissolve from random coughing to stays in hospital, chemo, and hopes at home, and then the inevitable return to the hospital. Then there was nothing left to be done and they sent her to hospice. Hospice was hell on earth, everywhere you looked all there was was encroaching death upon the encroaching living. An antiseptic dissolving finale thanks to a living will without which the mind can’t even begin to settle on how long before she died. He would sit staring vacantly at her bed, and when the doctor offered sympathy or even anything, he just couldn’t hear it. But even this ending couldn’t bring a closeness to his relationship with his father, finally his father put the insurance money in a bank account, told him to look after himself and left him forever. The money ran out before he was sixteen years old and the only child was thrust into adulthood, going to High School, sleeping on the street, or in cars, or on friends sofas till he’d be sent packing. He could remember himself, this scrawny blonde haired tousled hair loser on the streets of LA with a gang of borderline feral teens, either hustling their ass, or , mugging the unwilling, and usually a mix of both , like they’d escaped from 19th century London and were scarpering and waiting to be saved., their only currency their bodies and brains and brawn in equal measure.
His best friends at the time were an Italian gay hustler named Dion, kicked out of his parents house at fourteen when he was caught blowing his Dad’s business partner, and Cassie Ladlow, a beautiful damaged girl who ran away from home at eleven, deciding if her daddy wasn’t going to pay her for his rapes, somebody sure would.
A home among a home and a lone from home, they lasted three years with only Phil trying to get off the streets, going to High School and college and finally the Police Academy. By the time he joined the LAPD both Cassie and Dion had been dead a couple of years. A john murdered Cassie and Dion OD’d. But those years? They saved his life, a counter family to protect him from those things that not the streets can do to you but also that he could do to you, the man he became, the life he’d lived. Where was his Dad now? He had no idea.
Phillip would only meet his father one more time. When he was nineteen, Phillip looked Verlierer up in the Yellow Pages, there was only one of them. A largeish house in the solid middle class Carthay neighborhood. Coming into the area, Phillip had felt immediately out of place, this was not what he was used to, even before his Mom died, they hadn’t had much money, but apparently Daddy had done alright for himself. The area was clean, policed, calm. Cassie waited in the car with Dion and Phil looked at the house, a spectacular 1920s Spanish construction, it seemed to sparkle in the sun. Where had the money come from? Well, it wasn’t gated so he guessed they weren’t that rich and he walked right up to the front door and rang the bell and a maid was there, she looked him over, and growled. “We don’t want any.”
“I am here to see Mr. Verlierer,” Phil said. There was something just about intimidating about Phil when he was 19 years old, five years later he would be not a little scary but at 19 he was just big enough to menace. To make you a little wary.
“Nancy” he could hear a voice from inside, “who is it?”
“He won’t say, Mrs. V”, she replied.
“Well, he must say.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t say, you attacked me,” he replied, eager to make a good first impression.
“So who are you?” The other woman had come to the door as well. She was maybe 55 years of age, somewhat on the well preserved side, but with a kind face.
“I am Phillip Verlierer, I want to see my father.”
If his step-mother was surprised, she didn’t show it. She just smiled and opened the door wider and Phillip went in. He looked about him, no they weren’t rich but they were well off enough and Mrs. V appraised him appraising it. “It does us nicely”, she said.
“Where’s my Dad”, Phil growled, uncertainly.
“He will be here very soon. Would you like some coffee?
At this point twin girls, maybe two years old, waddled in. They looked adorable and Phil smiled to himself, “My half-sisters”, he thought.
Mrs. V was aware of Philips existence, had always expected to see him at the door one day, and knowing the story of his mother and her husband, knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but she liked the young man and when the twins climbed all over Phil, she didn’t rush them off: let him enjoy these minutes before reality kicked in, let him imagine he has a family even though he sure doesn’t. And imagine Phil did, he imagined himself off the streets, away from the dangers, maybe he could take his friends with him, maybe he could have a different life again. It was a misunderstanding, maybe his dad couldn’t find him, how could he?
The door clicked open and Mrs. V excused herself and he could hear voices and his father’s voice was loud and angry.
A large, imposing figure, his dad stormed into the living room and pointed one fat big stubby finger at Phil and said: “You, out now.”
Phil had at first expected a quiet and sad meet and then had expected a joyful meet after speaking to Mrs. V, what he hadn’t expected was an angry meet. But that’s what he got. His father was large, and his face was round and wide and a deep red and he walked towards Phil and Phil got up fast because he’d been in dangerous situations before, and this was a dangerous situation and he needed a weapon. He stood up and moved straight to the vase and as his father shouted, he reached for its stem.
“How dare you come here, you’re not my son, you were never my son. I took care of you because of your whore mother, but you weren’t mine. I don’t care what happens to you, you have nothing to do with me, you are not my responsibility.”
His father moved closer and Phillip knew his time was running out. He could assimilate whatever the guy was speaking about and it made sense to a degree, his dad had never had the slightest interest in him, perhaps there was something Phil didn’t know but should,yet still this was no time for it. The man was big but Phil was street smart, he stepped back as far as he could and slapped him right across the face. Blood everywhere, then Phil kicked him hard in the balls, punched him in the nose and once in the ribs and down he went. Phil’s knuckles stung and his hand felt broken and he knew one day he’d have to figure it out but right now he had to run.
“Start the car, start the car” he shouted and they drove off. The three were quiet at first, and then they spoke at once, and then they were quiet again. “Forget it”, Phil said. “He was never my dad, it doesn’t matter.”
“And the cops?”
“I don’t think he will go to the police, how is he going to explain abandoning me? He doesn’t have the stomach for it.”
Since the three personified no fixed abode they might not have known if anybody was looking for them, although, equally, it didn’t take a great P.I. to scribble down a license number. Whatever, he never heard a word about it and that was that. While Phil wasn’t sure he understood what it was all about, one thing seemed clear: he had yet to actually meet his pop. And with the horror of being alone came another feeling: relief the man who had always hated him was not his parent.
They drove around for awhile, aimlessly in the early afternoon traffic, then stopped somewhere in the hills above Hollywood, smoked some weed and lay down in the grass watching the day drift by. “Wanna talk?” Callie asked.
“There’s nothing to say”, Phil replied. “I’m not his son, he disowned me?”
“Sure,” Dion shook his head. “He coulda disowned his child molesting partner, but why bother when he can blame you.I mean, me… you know…”
“Yes, I think it might be…” Phil let his voice trail off into the thick air of the afternoon.
“Maybe it is like my daddy, you know. “ Callie wondered, her hair covered in grass leaves as she rolled between her two friends. “He wants something but he doesn’t want to be seen to want it, like some creepy and leaching at the same down and.. I guess like a sort of memory which isn’t one.. Maybe it is like that. With my father, it was like I could see a change in his face, like between need and desire and a whining horrible notness. I hated that look, I could see it and I knew. How didn’t anybody ever know, right? How could they fail to realize what he was doing. Why wouldn’t they understand it?… I should have said something.”
“Instead you ran, right? But no that isn’t my dad, or whoever he is,” Phillip explained. “I think he hates me for exactly who I am and nothing to do with what he wants of me. All he wants of me is to be gone, to be rid…”
Dion didn’t say anything, he just brooded about being gay and about violence, about his father’s constant violent beatings: his body whelps and bruises and contusions. “But look at your knuckles, you hit him.”
“I sure did, I really beat him. If he is really injured I’m going to prison for a long time,”
“How did it feel?”
“It was like on the streets, I just got that danger feeling in my gut and I hit out hard and down he went.”
“I’m glad you hit him, I really am. You didn’t just do it for you, you did it for us. For all of us kids, so fucked up and wasted here” Callie said. “I can’t do it much longer.”
“We won’t have to, we will all get out and we will all be happy and together like our own family and nobody will hurt us again, you know.”
Suddenly, Callie was the ten year old ragamuffin, who had taught him the ropes five years ago. So vulnerable she seemed to be a daisy blowing in the wind, a dandelion in the face of a brutalization that seemed to have no bounds, no ends, no hope. How did the police not see them? When Phil joined the LAPD the exact same question haunted him, as he ran down children at risk but whenever one was saved two were lost. He never met anyone, not a pimp. Not a john. No one. Once he lost Callie and Dion, he moved out and soon, two years later, he managed to join the force.
Lying together the day he truly lost his family the memories of childhoods mutated and hurt spread from the terrible to the less so. Callie explained her Mom in hushed words of deep regret, “Mom couldn’t help, she just couldn’t. He beat her, he beat me, he beat my brother. The man was a constant raging miserable bastard and she was cowed and we were, I was terrified of the violence and nauseated by the neediness and when he wasn’t home, sometimes, I was just a baby, Dion, I was just a kid and she would hug me and hold me, she’d cry and my brother would climb up and for awhile there would be quiet. Bu if I went to Mom and said, Dad rapes me, he makes me do things? I mean, I wasn’t even sure what it all meant, how could I explain it…”
Dion closed his eyes and floated backwards. “I loved my Mom, it wasn’t her. She always knew I was gay, she didn’t care. But my dad, it was weird, right? He didn’t care his best friend was molesting his son, he cared his son was getting molested. He hated me for it, he hated my fagginess, he wanted something else and he just lashed out and he nearly killed me, I nearly died from his hating and my Mom did nothing. I know she didn’t hurt me, but she didn’t help.”
“It was different for me,” Phil explained. “I have this memory…” He went quiet and he didn’t speak and didn’t share it because Phil didn’t know how he could have remembered it, it had to be a fake memory, but it was something that he used to put himself to sleep at night, it was a soothing sight, a half thing of a security he’d never get again. Phil was maybe three years old and he had a very bad cough and he was in the living room and he kept on coughing and coughing and finally his Dad had had enough and told the boy to go to bed but scared of the dark he insisted on having the door open and his cough echoed downwards and he heard Dad say: “Shut him up or I will.” Then the rest of the dream came in a blink, it was all one image: Phil in the cot, his hand through the railing, his Mom on the sofa and holding his hand, and the two of them sleeping the night that way. It had the startling immediacy of a photograph, or a time travel, wherever the night sent Phil, in a guy’s bed, or on a park bench, cuddling with Dion in the back of the car or in a motel room Callie was using for the night, it didn’t matter, he could conjure a calmness.
Sweating and shivering in the sweat of detox, the image wouldn’t conjure, all he could see was Callie and Dion, sweating smelling, snot coming out their nose, by his side, now rotting flesh and then skeletons and now fully formed, the 15 year old teenage blossoming against all odds the streets had thrown her, in his arms in a bed snuggling, holding him close, holding Dion by her side like the fortification and now so real only the fact it was a hallucination made it an hallucination. Maybe it was something else entirely, ice cube bodies dead with death, one and degrading now, like a memory of a body, of climbing through the motel and sneaking into Callie’s bed, and the sheets wet and her body cold, Phillip turn on the lights and she was beaten to a dull pulpy peachiness and then a sound from the bathroom, Phillip running in, a man, his t shirt covered in blood, pushing him and he got up and they ran down and out the window, past palm trees in the stormy evening, a rumbling, the other guy turned to fight Phillip and thought better of it, they ran towards a car and Phillip figured it and got in front of him, the man double checked himself and doubled back and they both sprinted down to the beach and finally Phillip jumped and tackled him and down they both went on the sand, first the man on top of him, punching Phil but he couldn’t get his arms up far enough and when he did, Phillip toppled him and hit him and hit him, pounding him with his fist splitting him, strangling him. The man began to give up the struggle but Phillip hadn’t at all. He looked around, found a rock and crushed the man’s skull again until parts of his brain were on the rock.
Whoever he was he was dead enough, for sure. The first, and absolutely the most deserving person, Phillip ever murdered. Nausea, shakes, bad dreams, good luck: nobody ever even questioned him, nobody even cared, a teen hooker and a violent maniac, no loss no foul and no future. Dion was next just three months later graduating from coke and snorting to heroin and needle, a speedball took him down. Luck, just bad luck, no moral, no nothing.
And Phillip always figured he survived the streets without getting arrested because nobody cared enough to arrest him, they just let him be and he graduated from the Academy with honors and had joined the LAPD at the age of 22 years of age and he was unstoppable as he rose through the ranks. A force of nature who considered the force his only family and his fellow cops his true friends. He lived with them, drugged with them, talked and agreed and smelled and looked and walked with them. He had nothing else in life. All his girls were Police Groupies and there were many and he liked them but when he met Hannah Fellowes at the Echo he was 25 years old and she was 20 and still in college and living on the fringes of the rock scene, careful and lovely and with a strange way of making him feel loved. His first love and his only love and Phillip knew that the past quarter century of himself was over and now he was ready to find true happiness. To have another family outside the force, children and “all that stupid shit”, How did it happen? How did he get caught? Hannah was a beautiful California girl, a leggy dream chick and another damaged girl, another one who never spoke of her father without rolling her eyes and shivering. Another girl whose commodity beauty was for sale, not a hooker, not an escort yet, but on the fringes of the rock business sex was always a primary commodity.
It had been days and days of hell and the hallucinations were fading into dreams and dreams into hallucinations and nothing was other, nothing made Phillip believe that what was happening to him was in any sense supernatural, nothing from other universes or dimensions, till very very near the end, very near the place where he broke the back of his addiction.