It’s been many years since I have written about Mike, a man I loved from age 19 who died tragically 9 years ago. I will never forget the moment I met him. I was just starting my job as a Hostess at the swanky Mexican restaurant I would work at all through college (Hostess, then Waitress, then Manager). I was seated on a bench outside in my bright blue, spandex halter mini-dress, red lipstick and curled hair (my style icon at the moment was Laura Dern in “Wild at Heart”). I may or may not have been smoking a Camel cigarette. Ok, don’t tell my kids but I was smoking. And he asked me if he could have one.
He was a Bartender at the restaurant and he was stopping in to get a newspaper.
That he could read.
While he sat in his AA meeting.
Friends….the ONLY people who read in AA meetings are at an AA meeting because the court sent them.
And that didn’t stop me from falling in love. As I mentioned in On Unicorns, I seem to have a faulty love mechanism that only has an on/off switch. Once switched on, it is damn near impossible to switch off. So, I loved him despite how the next years would unfold. Despite all good evidence not to.
We all used to go to a dive bar after work. This bar had a juke box and on that juke box was the album by Van Morrison called T.B. Sheets. I would watch Mike across the room as he would smoke, drink, flirt with girls, play pool and at the end of the night he would put money into the juke box and play the title song from the album. It is 9 minutes and 34 seconds and I wished it would go on forever.
Some nights, he chose me to go home with. He was 9 years older than me but no longer had a car after his second DUI. He would ride me on the handlebars of his bike to my cottage. We would play Al Green and slow dance, smoke more cigarettes and kiss. He would tell me stories about his childhood in Texas. He would tell me that he loved me. He would pass out.
He had to get up early to work construction and I remember the smell of cigarettes and alcohol from the night before, mixed in with the sweet smell of the jasmine flowers that covered the door and gate to my cottage. When we would see each other the next evening at the restaurant he would often ignore me, as if nothing happened. And I would be tortured. And then we would do it again.
Those years were intense for me. I had broken up with my first love by badly breaking his heart. I found out my Dad was dying. I discovered Feminism. I was 19 and I felt 100.
I forced myself to get a nice boyfriend who treated me well, who had his drivers license. Who wasn’t an alcoholic. Who I cared for but wasn’t in love with. We moved to the City after I graduated and I started the next chapter of my life.
Many years later I would write songs about Mike. “Fool Like You” went like this:
“Ride me on your handlebars
Your two-wheel limousine
Bottle in your pocket
Your broken enemy
My heart’s already breaking and I’m falling to my knees
Lost hopes, skinned palms and dirty company
And you said, What am I doing with a fool like you?”
He used to tell me I was too good for him. When we would slow dance, he would kiss me on the forehead and call me a fool. I knew he was right. I also knew that the whole world could disappear at that moment and I didn’t care. I was happy.
I called him when my band, Drugstore Soul, recorded our first CD and told him the song, “Into You” was about him and that I would send him a copy. It was the last time I would hear his voice.
I found out that he died tragically doing construction on Valentine’s Day, at age 42. He never had kids that I know of. And he is one reason I know for sure that you can love someone, they can love you and life just has another plan for you.
“The cool room, Lord is a fool’s room”-Van Morrison, T.B. Sheets