Brandon Hernández 1 p.m., March 28
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The Year They All Abandoned Me
- It was a bad year for real estate. One of the not so precipitous dips we San Diegan's experience all too frequently. The kind that sends the CFOs into retirement and sends the employees scurrying to the local unemployment office. Three companies I worked for shut down one by one, each time laying us off with a faint hope of rehire at the sniff of a recovery, only to shut their doors never to open again. But this story is not about real estate so please don't leave.
The previous four years were a good time in my life. After living alone for a couple of years, I met my friend "Leanne" at the bank (a lofty institution in La Jolla) we both worked for. She introduced me to "Annie", who was her roommate at the time, and we all decided to get a place together. Well, come to find out Annie was basically a big whore who Leanne at the time did not tell me had had the word 'WHORE" spray-painted on the door of their apartment and had had her car vandalized, most likely by some irate girlfriend whose boyfriend she purloined for the night. At any rate, we found a place in Pacific Beach, after deciding that there was no where else we could possibly live in San Diego. This was before downtown PB was a douchebag magnet for out of town young people, although we had our share. We picked our rooms and settled in. Our new apartment was on Hornblend and its saving grace was its proximity to The Silver Fox, which was a favorite watering hole.
Annie was a sucky roommate, one of those kinds that labels their food and bitches about the dishes. She was also the recipient of nasty messages being left on our answering machine by guys she met and subsequently spurned. Leanne finally spilled the beans about her slutty past behavior when I expressed concerns for our safety. Fortunately for us, she met a marine, and after convincing him that her sex life prior to him was that akin to a nun, she moved out, got married and relocated to the east coast to become an officer's wife. She apparently never told him about the time Leanne came home to find her entertaining some barfly, stark naked with the exception of a chain belt. Anyway, we wished her the best of luck and immediately called our friend, "Diana", who was looking for a place and was the complete opposite of Annie.
Diana was a graduate of Chico State, and was a little sister while there. She was a total tomboy, kind of a slob, and drove what was possibly the dirtiest car I have ever seen in my life. The three of us could not go anywhere in her car, because there was so much crap in it that it only fit two. It was a Geo Metro hatchback, and she called it "the Rollerskate". She was also funnier than sh*t, and could drink anyone under the table. With our roommate crisis solved, we went about our daily business of working and going out for drinks without having to worry about some nutcase insane with jealousy over Annie's latest conquest busting our door down. At this time, I also acquired a boyfriend "Jerod", a fun, happy go lucky kind of guy, who also had a master's degree and actually made money. I was proud of him, my last boyfriend being a disaster. We were crazy about each other, and my roommates, friends and family adored him.
Our place on Hornblend was okay, but it was kind of dreary and dark. After living there for about a year and a half, we decided we needed a better place closer to the beach. Due to my excellent credit, I had the ability to get myself and two roommates into a terrific condo based on my down payment for first and last month's rent plus deposit, and their promise to pay me back. It took a loan from AMCO and two years for them to make good on the repayment, but this place was totally worth it. It was a two-story three bedroom, and each bedroom had its own bath. This was crucial. No one wanted to share a bathroom with Diana. It was within walking distance of Garnet and Mission Blvd., these streets hosting the primary drains on our incomes, namely the bars. We loved The Old Ox - best freakin' happy-hour prices and the bar food was outstanding. One time we made the mistake of actually sitting down to dinner there. We looked at the menu, and when the waiter came back, we asked "would it be okay if we ate in the bar?" The waiter smiled, took our menus, and said "happens all the time. You must be regulars." Another favorite watering hole was The Open Bar, or as we affectionately called it "The Open Sore". This was the best place to go when we were slumming it, unshowered, hair in ponytails, ball caps, sunglasses, no makeup. Just sitting out on the patio drinking pitchers.
Life was good. I was gaining more experience in my work, and was subsequently earning more money. I was offered a job at another company with more responsibility and higher pay. I was making lots of friends and we always, always, wound up at our condo after happy hour. Being young, we could function on four hours sleep. We were popular and loving it. Lots of parties, barbeques and days at the beach. We went roller-blading, rode bikes all over, played beach volleyball and just had a really good time. With three people paying the rent, we had some disposable income to blow on ski trips and other getaways, but mostly we worked and partied.
During this time, my relationship with Jerod was becoming more serious. We took a trip to Eugene, Oregon to see the Grateful Dead and the Indigo Girls (his idea, not mine) at the UofO, his alma mater. During this trip, at night on the coast outside our hotel room, he proposed to me, complete with a beautiful solitaire diamond ring. I was blown away. I had wanted so badly to marry him, to build a life with him, buy a house together, and be a family. I cried - big fat tears of happiness at how well everything in my life was going, after years of hardship and struggle. I was ready to be a grown-up and this was a step in the right direction. To be honest, I was getting a little tired of the roommate, party-hardy lifestyle anyway, and I really was ready to settle down. I was pushing thirty, and had honestly thought at the time that I was already over the hill.
When we got back from our trip, after making the tipsy phone calls to friends and family to share our wonderful news, we pulled out a calendar and set a date. September 26, 1994. Then…….nothing. Literally, no plans were even discussed. After the proposal, everything changed. Actually, I changed. Jerod did not. I was ready to throw myself into planning the wedding and get on with becoming domesticated, where as he was being his usual self, hanging out with his friends, golfing, carrying on his love affair with his bong that, up until the engagement, I had no problem with. Suddenly, without warning, I became an insecure wreck. What the hell?!! I was the one he pursued with a vengeance and suddenly, I could feel it. The slow pulling away. It was terrifying. The more he pulled the more I pursued. It seemed like once he bagged the prize, he realized that he had to carry through with his promise, and he was not ready for it. It meant giving up his roommates and his Peter Pan lifestyle, one that I myself was thoroughly enjoying until he came into the picture. We started fighting. Horrible fights, with me pathetically wanting to know what was wrong, what did I do, did he not want to get married anymore? Then I broke up with him.
It was miserable. Like I said, my friends all adored him, and given the severity of our fights, assumed I was the instigator. In all honesty, I was. Every glance at another woman, any time a conversation with someone prettier than me took place, I would become engulfed in a wave of jealousy that I had not ever experienced, and still to this day have never again. It felt like the rug was being pulled out not just from under my feet, but my world.
Our break-up lasted a month. He called me, pleading with me to get back together. He did not need to plead. I was a complete doormat. We had a joyous reunion, as has anyone who has ever experienced a break-up and subsequent get-back-together when there was still unresolved business. We did not even discuss our problems. We made-out like teenagers and were inseparable, with sh*t-eating grins we could not wipe off our faces. This lasted two weeks. I had returned my engagement ring to him, and when no mention of the return of the ring and our impending nuptials was made, I became quite distraught. I was too proud to ask him outright, so the bottled up anger would manifest in different ways. Childish non-returning of phone calls. Broken plans for dinner or overnight stays, with allusions to having "other" plans. Anyway I could return the insecurity, I did it. I was losing my power.
Then one day I finally could take it no longer. I asked him "do you ever plan to give me my ring back?" He responded "you want it back?" I could not believe it. All I had to do was ask? He gave me the ring back, but as I put it on, it didn't feel right. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It should never have come off in the first place. He should have been begging me to take it back and promising me to start making plans for our wedding. It felt forced, like I made him give it back to me. The romantic part of our relationship had begun to wither, but neither of us was willing to give it a merciful death. Neither of us had had enough experience in love to recognize the signs and we were both more afraid to be alone than to pull the trigger.
He asked me to move in with him. I heard the warning bells and foolishly ignored them. I said yes. I wanted to play house. I naively thought maybe Jerod wanted to move forward and our living together would somehow solidify our status as a "couple". He shared a house with his brother, which they co-owned. The house was divided into two separate flats, one upstairs and one down. Jerod had previously lived in the downstairs flat, and was losing both his roommates. His brother wanted the downstairs flat, and so they switched. At the time, it did not occur to me that maybe Jerod was not interested in finding new roommates, as he could easily afford the place on his own, but rather he disliked living alone.
As I packed up my things, I kept thinking I was making a mistake. This was my home, the first place I had really put down some roots and my roommates were my best friends. Did I really want to do this? Well, it was too late, because a new roommate had been procured (our friend, "Dan") and promises made, and I had no choice. Come moving day, I put on my game face and everyone helped and we all cried a little (mostly me). Fortunately Jerod's house was only maybe a mile away from my old one, so we made plans to have a barbeque that next weekend, a kind of housewarming. As Dan moved his stuff into my old room, I felt a tinge of resentment, as if he was stepping into my place in the world I created, and I was making what was not even looking to be a lateral move.
Without getting into too much detail, his brother "Bill" hated me after this. Before this decision to cohabitate, we were friendly, surfing together and hanging out. He was always over at my place for our parties and he was funny, in a snarky kind of way. But he had always been jealous of Jerod, and when we became an item, I took Jerod away from him. After I moved in, he was mean to me. He would say horrible things to me and to Jerod. When I would speak up, he would tell me to shut up, it was none of my business. Much of this had to do with the house and the new living arrangements, even though the two units were separated by different entrances and paths did not need to be crossed if one so desired. Bill did not want me moving in. I was upsetting the balance of the boys club, even though there had been in the past female roommates. The deck was already stacked against me, I was just too eager to be married to see it.
The upstairs unit needed, to say the least, a woman's touch, so I embarked on a mission to make it homier and suited to my tastes. I scraped old paint and scoured and scrubbed, and put curtains in the windows and made it look nice. Bill would come up occasionally and smirk and drink our beer, but I stayed out of his way as much as possible. I got all unpacked, bought flowers and little towels, and tried to move forward with my plans.
But the world had different plans for me. I started to come home from work to find Jerod, Bill and Bill's roomies (who were great guys, just really immature, which I did not begrudge them one bit, having been there myself) smoking doobies, drinking beer and playing Sega. I would come in with a bag of groceries, and tentatively ask if I should make plans for dinner. I could feel Jerod's embarrassment at having to ask his buddies to leave. I felt like a stupid jerk. I was a downer, a negative presence in the fun zone. I wanted my old self back. I wanted to be on the couch with my friends, drinking, laughing, having fun. I was not a wife, and I was not a girlfriend. I used to be the popular one. Now I was poison. A kill-joy. A buzz-kill.
Jerod, who worked in the mortgage industry, had also at this time begun to experience a financial success that can only be attributed to the market of the early nineties. As a broker, his refinance business was booming, and suddenly, my sweet boyfriend with the great education and the laid-back aesthetic started to really change. This was when interest rates took a dive and everyone, and I mean everyone, rushed to refi. It was insane. His commissions were thousands and thousands of dollars. One would think this would have been a boon for me. Think again. Suddenly, that education was paying off. Last thing he needed was a girlfriend, let alone a wife.
His co-worker friends were single and flush with new found money. These guys were at turn smart, funny, scary, and total pricks. And they were ALL guys. One of them, at a party at my old place, sent me on a beer run in his brand new Corvette convertible. I leapt at the chance, grabbing Leanne, and off we went. How anyone can drive a 500 horse car is beyond me. I took a turn to get to the 7-11 on Garnet and gave it a little gas. The ass of that car swung out like a pendulum. We were hysterical with laughter. But those were the good old days. Jerod's buddies were fun back then, when they were invited to my place and I was just a girlfriend with cool roommates who liked to party. As they got richer, they got nastier, their tastes changing to coke and strippers.
At the flat, I was miserable. I was putting on weight, drinking to drown my sorrows, and becoming the antithesis of my former beach babe self. It was the grunge era, so the clothing did not help. We went on a ski trip that I organized, this being the heyday of Morris Air travel deals, and procured rooms, lift tickets and air fair for twenty. Included in this twenty were five of Jerod's friends, the rest being my sister, my buddies and their significants, if they had one. It was horrible. I tried to ski with Jerod, but realized that he did not want me skiing with him. Although I am a fairly good skier, they were into jumps and things I had not yet progressed to. Their impatience with waiting for me was palpable. My own friends were having a great time on the intermediate slopes. I was finally abandoned by Jacob, this being a confirmed abandonment when I heard one of his jackass buddies say "dude, let's just lose her". Which they did. This was pre-cell phone time, and as I stood on that mountain, alone, knowing that my sister, my friends, their friends, were having a great time at something I should have been a part of, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was trying so hard to be part of his entourage that I was completely ignoring my own. My face stung with embarrassment. I found them later in the day but by then it was too late. They felt ignored by me, and I could not explain what happened. They disliked Jerod's friends, who talked down to them. I knew they were right but I was torn between my friends and Jerod. This was all solidified on the way home, when one of his jerk friends starting belittling someone on the shuttle to the airport. He was drunk, and he starting calling a person with physical disabilities a "retard". I FREAKED. I finally said "you know what, you stupid jerk, I am going to say what everyone here has wanted to say to you since this trip started. You are out of control, no one likes you, and when we get home, I never want to see you again." He responded "Jerod, tell your fat girlfriend to shut the f*ck up." Jerod sat there like the big pussy he was, and one of my friends spoke up and called this guy an ass hole. It almost came to blows. We got home and I knew I needed to get out of this relationship if I wanted to keep my dignity. Unfortunately for me, all my friends, regardless of his choice in friends, still loved Jerod.
When we got home, I made one last ditch effort to salvage our relationship. I threw a party, and all of our friends came. A friend of Leanne's, "Sandy", came as well. She and I were friends, too, her letting me stay at her place a couple of times when I would leave Jerod in a fit of hysterics. Well, as the party progressed, I noticed that Sandy and Jerod were missing. I was suspicious, and I realized that some of my friends were trying to distract me. Later that night, lying in bed, I reached over for Jerod, needing some sort of reassurance that he still loved me. I knew. I just knew. He recoiled.
The next day, I started packing. Leanne had made the decision to move to Arizona, and her room was up for grabs. I called and asked if I could move back in. "Yeah, of course", Dan told me. For a couple of weeks, while Leanne was in the process of packing for her move, I slept on the couch and stored my stuff in the garage. I noticed though that Leanne and Sandy were hanging out all the time, and going somewhere I was not invited. I was jealous and upset, but I did not want to sound like a paranoid maniac, so I just suffered in silence. The silence was finally broken by one of my oldest and dearest friends, "Derrick". One day Derrick, after seeing me so miserable, took me aside and said he needed to tell me something. He told me that at the party I had thrown back at Jerod's place, Sandy and Jerod were making out in one of the back rooms. Everyone knew and they kept his secret. Also, he told me that he had been invited to Jerod's place a couple of times, and all my friends were hanging out there. Without me. My friends. The ones I introduced him to. Sandy, too.
I was fecund with grief. Betrayal and subsequent abandonment, for anyone who has ever had the misfortune of experiencing them, is one of life's cruelest dealt blows. It was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that my friends thought my ex was more fun to hang around than I was, and chose him over me. In a year's time, I had gone from happy, engaged and carefree to dumped, friendless and miserable.
I stayed at the party condo a couple more months, and then got my own place. It was lonely, but I needed to grow up. I lived there, alone, for six months. Self-imposed exile mingled with banishment. My friends, who at this point started to feel pretty bad about their roles in Jerod's cheating, tried to come back into my life, but I was afraid of being too needy and my trust had been shattered. I had to put some distance between myself and my friends to sort out who was genuine and who was being slowly cast out of Jarod's posse. Jarod and his buddies had their come-uppance, losing pretty much all their toys because they had not foreseen the decline in the market and didn't bother to save, and the party was over. The real estate market was in the toilet, and the company I worked for was laying everyone off. I had also come to realize that Pacific Beach was no longer cool when I became the one standing on the porch in my pajamas bellowing at the neighbor girls to shut the f*ck up because I had to work the next day. I made the decision to move to Arizona.
This was a growing process for me, and looking back, I realize that I needed this to happen so I could become comfortable with being alone. Eventually the dust settled, I made my move, Jarod moved on with his life, and my good friends came back to me. Even Sandy, who had moved to New York City with her now husband, asked me once years later on a visit "do you remember that guy, Jerod? Do you ever hear from him?" I wanted to scream "you mean my FIANCE? The one you used for your fun and in the process almost ruined my life?!?!" He was just a blip on her radar. I let it rest. Rest in peace.