No new movies or television shows for a while? How about binging a new book, my new book, the Silver Year! Yes the day is finally here after a long eight years. For those of you who know me, especially those who’ve known me since this journey began eight years ago, it will be immediately apparent this is a story inspired by my life. I can’t deny that. However, although inspired by my life, this story is far separated from the original sources of inspiration and is truly a 100% fictional story. This in no way expresses my true feelings about any such persons in my actual life. Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortableness of this was one of my biggest hesitations about releasing this book to the world. But since the theme of my book is the Buddhist principle of enlightenment through suffering, this is me becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, a message I think we could all use right now. But I also hope you can learn, love, but most of all laugh at this message too. While this message is free of charge, it did take me eight years of work, so if you’re enjoying this message and think it’s worth a fee, you can pay one of your choosing here. If you’d prefer to have a printed copy, you can buy one here for $15 (only $2 goes to me). Thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart. Until next time, stay curious my friends!
P.S. I prefer to go into a book as a tabula rasa, but if you insist on knowing what you’re getting yourself into, you can find a synopsis here.
There it was, that cross. It haunted Walter’s Tuesday afternoon like the empty drink that sat beside him. “Nothing lasts forever, even my mother fuckin’ birthday,” he drunkenly sang to the tune of “November Rain” on his front porch while picking his backpacker guitar. It felt fitting as he imagined Slash kicking down the door of the old Catholic church across the street from him, wielding a guitar in a grand solo like the “November Rain” music video. Reality, however, was less dramatic: the door opened peaceably and a wedding procession filed out while that t-shaped shadow kept creeping ominously closer.
The bride’s wedding dress was a luminous white against her dark Hispanic skin. Her hands were tucked under a bouquet of red roses, her figure shaded in an aura of fragile purity. It was her last still frame of innocence and the crowd excitedly snapped away to capture it.
As she edged the sidewalk, her face met Walter’s eyes, and she smiled at him. The crimson lips were flared like the rose petals above her hips; a rich river of black hair rounded her face like a stone, the smooth curves advertising an age of still-budding beauty. The shadow of the cross affixed to the top of the church then at last touched his feet, and for a pregnant moment they were alone in that shadow. From his polluted perspective, she looked like a slave on an auctioning block.
“Mon Amour,” he whimpered as she cast the bouquet to the crowd behind her. She then smiled again, turned and abandoned him. His heart only further crumbled as “Amour” then stepped into a limousine with a groom twice her age and size.
As the car honked goodbye, Walter waved to them with a dumb smile and tears on his cheeks. He’d been left alone with his madness for too long and now it was beginning to devour him.
The day began as almost all days began with a banana and peanut butter bagel sandwich called “The Elvis” at the Sit Stay Café, half a block north of his home. There the previous night’s scribblings were deciphered into a more legible and cohesive being, but there was still nothing of meaning. He’d lifted every stone within himself in search of a story and thought a bag of mushrooms might find some he’d missed, however, the only stones and stories found never should’ve been lifted or put on paper. Drugs, depression, and desperation can reveal a person’s sickest perversions, and he was very sick. Around eleven, the first wedding began, and by four, he’d fallen in love with three brides and wished he’d been carried off in one Hearse. The day was February 14, 2012. It was his twenty-fifth birthday—and of course Valentine’s Day—and he was miserably alone.
Walter had a simple home in Huntington Beach, California within earshot of ocean waves on the city’s best and most historic intersection in his opinion: Tenth and Orange. Within a few blocks were his favorite restaurant, bar, and café; catty-corner from him, the houses of the city’s first mayor and judge, and directly across from him, a hundred-year-old Catholic church whose attendees always seemed oblivious to the singing lunatic across the street. Families, college students, vagrants, and billionaires lived harmoniously around him, and more bicycles and surfboards fed past his porch than cars along with year-round posies of half-naked people so long as the sun was out. There were Sunday drum circles by the pier, Tuesday night street fairs, and the largest Fourth of July parade west of the Mississippi. Huntington was a beach city, tourist destination, and small town swaddled into one.
It also had crime, seedy citizens, and plenty of assholes, but that only added to its charm in Walter’s eyes. It wasn’t as pristine and out of touch with reality as so many Orange County coastal communities were. It had attitude, authenticity, and just the right amount of gravel in its gut to stay grounded.
After the last wedding of the day, he began cleaning up the empty beer bottles and snubbed-out joints festering his porch from his birthday celebration with himself that began the night before. It started innocently enough with a few marijuana joints and a full bottle of merlot. But after discovering the shrooms he’d stashed away in the back of the liquor cabinet for a special occasion, he decided to eat them all being as there were no more special occasions.
The rest of the evening was then spent in nudity, surrounded by candles, Jim Morrison spoken-word poetry, and crumbled up pieces of his manic thoughts. Other than this, his two-bedroom cottage was empty except for a camping cot, a patio chair, and a portable stereo. All his furniture had been sold, and anything remaining was in his grandmother’s garage awaiting his arrival. Tomorrow he was handing in the keys.
Feeling the onset of a headache, Walter set out on his regular walk to flush it, a stroll down Orange to Main Street to the end of the pier. He was going to miss his walk. It had been midwife to many ideas and decisions, including his recent one to become a writer, however, he hadn’t told anyone yet. No one would understand and most likely no one would be happy. Not even he was happy. But writer is not a vocation most people choose; it’s an incurable affliction, only made worse by the tragedies of life.
ENDEAVOR RENTAL CAR LAX AIRPORT RETURN LOT, CHRISTMAS DAY 2010
Walter hated Christmas. It was why he didn’t mind spending the first eight hours of it on graveyard shift isolated from the world in his unheated green, glass and metal booth, just large enough for him and a backed, barstool chair. Filled with unwelcoming florescent light, it burned like a ghostly lighthouse on the black bitumen plane supporting a sea of sleeping rental cars. He had also managed to sneak in his backpacker guitar as he would be free to fondle her most of the evening undisturbed. No one was returning a rental car on Christmas, especially not at the ungodly hour of three a.m.
There was something holy to him about being in a place normally inhabited with noise and people. The holiday rush had already come and gone and was now at their transient homes with their transient families or with their intoxicants to forget their families or tucked into bed with Santa Clause and Christmas morning presents in their head.
Walter only had depression in his head. Not because he was depressed beyond his normal draping, but because it was the subject of his new, half-created song. While depression had often been motivator, this was its first time as subject.
“Yesterday I felt like I could do anything…” he softly sang into his booth, its flimsy, metallic materials shaking with the perfect tinny reverb. “But today I’m just struggling not to kill myself. But if tomorrow I feel like I, I could do anything, it only would be to escape, escape this hell, without you baby blue.”
This was as far as he’d gotten in articulating his feelings perfectly. Even in expressing his flaws, he wouldn’t allow anything other than perfect. Nothing was immune to his perfectionism, which was why it was also catalyst, trigger, and savior of his melancholic schisms.
“Nice singing,” a female voice scared Walter out of his head and back into his body, however, it was too late to save the former as it bashed against the back of his glass and metal capsule. He had had his chair leaned back and the unexpected voice sent just enough of a tremor to tip it backwards.
“I’m so sorry!” the female voice said, then bent down to meet him. Folded over himself and wedged between the chair and the backside of his booth, Walter’s crotch blocked his view of the voice’s owner. The chair was then carefully pulled away and his legs unfolded, revealing the kindest face he’d ever seen. Even in the harsh light of his booth, it shone softly, reminding him of the church girls of his youth. The full contours of her plush lips and cheeks embellished this glow and drew him into her button nose, so lovely he wanted to lick it. Her deep set eyes and long, wavy hair were earthy brown, accented by her pastel pink business coat and dress.
“Are you okay?” she asked, her left hand reaching to the back of his head with a diamond wedding ring so protruding it nearly clawed his eye.
“Yes,” Walter replied. “Luckily this shack isn’t well-built and the walls are deceptively lenient.”
“Well, there’s nothing deceptive about this bump on the back of your head,” she said rubbing it. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he said smiling and unable to blink. “If it’s anyone but myself, I’m very forgiving.”
She looked at him curiously. “That’s a strange thing to say to a stranger,” she said. “It’s also very brave.”
“Not brave,” he said, “I just have a bad habit of being overly honest in situations I shouldn’t.”
She smiled and it further melted Walter. It had the gentle quality of both the caring mother and the caring lover he’d always longed for but never had.
“Bad habits are in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “I think it’s admirable.”
“But you’ve never been a victim of my bad habit,” he said and smiled back at her. “Are you new here?” He realized she was probably his coworker here to lunch him. No one else around his age in formal business attire, a requirement of Endeavor, had reason to be there. His coworkers came and went so much and there were so many, an unfamiliar—although not always unwelcoming—face was nothing new.
“Yes, it’s my third day,” she said.
“What a shitty time to be called to the ETP,” Walter said. The “Executive Training Program”, or ETP, was what Endeavor called the four-month hazing period at their LAX airport branch. A term at the airport was required by all new executive-trainees in the greater Los Angeles area in their first six months, and was where they became acclimated to working ever-shifting ten hour shifts five to six days a week on the holiday schedule of a Jehovah’s Witness.
“I know, they never give you any warning beforehand,” she said. “Needless to say, my fiancé wasn’t happy. He told me to quit over it, but he’s been telling me to quit since I started. But where else am I supposed to find a job right now? This one was hard enough to get. Secretly, though, I don’t mind. I’ve never been a fan of Christmas. When you hate most of your family, it’s not a pleasant holiday.”
Walter smiled again. “That’s a brave thing to tell a stranger,” he said.
“Hi. My name is Amber,” she said shaking his hand firmly as he still sat. “Amber Evans-soon-to-be-Sinclair.” She then helped him to his feet.
“Hi. My name is Walter,” he said shaking her hand again. “Walter Huxley.”
“Walter. That was my late grandfather’s name, one of the few family members I love.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot. Not too many Walters under sixty.” Walter was again rewarded with a smile.
“What were you singing before I interrupted?” she asked.
“A song I’m working on.”
“Oh...” she said her eyes shifting to the side. “You must be the guy in the band.”
“So, you’ve already heard about me then?” It had been happening a lot with the new people lately and Walter wasn’t sure how he felt about it yet.
“It’s mostly about your band’s shows and what a party they are,” Amber said. “Although a few women have had some choice words.”
“None of them bad I hope?”
“Not exactly,” she said raising her eyebrows, “but I wouldn’t call them flattering to a woman who has a fiancé.”
“Well...” he said raising his eyebrows back at her, “I don’t intend to flatter women with fiancés.”
“Just former sorority girls who don’t mind you’re sleeping with them all simultaneously?”
Walter cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I’m always safe,” he said. “We’re just trying to find a little fun in this hellhole.”
“I’m not judging you,” she said.
“Sure doesn’t feel that way.”
Now Amber became uncomfortable and looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Anyway, I’m here to lunch you.”
“Hard to call it a lunch at three o’clock in the morning,” Walter said. “I’m not even hungry.”
“What are you going to do then?”
“Continue working on my song, but in that car out there,” he said pointing to a large SUV.
“What’s the name of the song?” she asked.
“It doesn’t have one yet. Just a verse and a chorus.”
“Can I hear it?”
“I don’t know,” he said looking away. “It’s not a happy song.”
“It didn’t sound unhappy. It sort of cheered me up in fact. Not that I was sad exactly, but my mood’s always more vulnerable in the winter.”
“You must’ve not heard the words then, because the song is about my depression.”
Amber’s pink-shadowed eyelids flexed open, the whites of her eyes looking like headlights of an oncoming car.
“I’m sorry,” Walter said, “my bad habit again.”
“Don’t apologize. I wish I was brave enough to be so open.”
“Because you also suffer from depression?”
Amber gasped and closed her eyes, then reopened them out of sight.
“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Just vulnerable isn’t a word most people use to describe their mood.”
“You’re awfully perceptive Mister Huxley,” she said, “but that’s not something I think we should be discussing. However, I’d still like to hear your song.”
Walter then began playing, and somehow by the end of the first chorus, a perfect second verse magically came to him from phrases he’d been plying over all night.
“And today I woke up thinking you, you were my everything,” he sang. “But by tomorrow I know you’ll be somebody else. And I know it’s just me, me and my imagining, that you and only you can save me from myself. All of you, baby blue.”
The booth became noticeably warmer by the time he finished, the windows fogged by the thickening air.
“I thought you only had one verse?” Amber asked just above a whisper.
“I thought I did too,” he replied. “But now I have two.”
ONE MONTH LATER
“Pucker your lips as if you’re going to give a baby’s belly a raspberry kiss and blow while humming like this, bebebebebebeee… Now hum the scales with me…”
“Bebebebebebebebe . . . bebebebebebebebe . . . beb—” Walter’s phone vibrated in his pocket. A text from an unnamed number.
Are you in your car right now?
Yes, he texted back.
Be there in two minutes. I can’t see you after the show, so I want to see you now.
He still had an hour before he needed to be onstage so he put his vocal warmup CD on pause, a CD that had not left his car changer since his first and only vocal teacher had given him it three years earlier. Despite his band’s once-a-month gig at the Hollywood House of Blues providing a green room, before he had green rooms, he only had his car, and his car was still the only place that could calm his preshow jitters and where he could practice his preshow rituals uninterrupted. But for her, anything could wait. He switched the stereo to the auxiliary channel, then scrolled through his iPod to Neil Young’s On The Beach, their favorite album to have fun to.
She soon appeared out of the clusters of cars around him in the parking garage, a few blocks away from the venue. He was careful to park on the basement floor, somewhere not too obvious but not too suspicious, not too crowded, but also not too empty. He wanted his 2002 unwashed, plain-gray Prius to look even more inconspicuous than it already was.
“See The Sky About to Rain” was playing as she opened his passenger side door.
“Ah, you queued up my favorite song,” she said as she sat in the seat and closed the door.
“Only because the sky is about to rain,” he said.
“I know. Hopefully I’m not walking back in it.”
Their lips then went at each other’s. Walter reached over her waist and grabbed the side seat adjustment, leaning her back while his body floated over the center console, landing softly upon hers. He wanted to hide their actions below the window line.
“I don’t think we’re going to have time for a full meal tonight,” she said. “I’ve got to go back soon.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “This is enough.”
“Enough to get you off?”
“If I focus hard enough, maybe.” He smiled.
“Here,” she said and pushed him up and back into his seat, leaning his seat back as he’d leaned hers. “Were you doing your raspberries?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but I put them on pause for you.”
“Don’t do that. I want you…” she undid his pants, pulled them and his underwear to his knees, then firmly squeezed the base of his penis, “…and your vocal cords to be relaxed and ready for the show . . . Let’s start the song over and we can raspberry it through.”
They began raspberrying together—she performing while also sliding up and down his shaft, but a minute in they were laughing so hard they could no longer focus.
“I’ll just finish you with my hand,” Amber said. “The key to a good BJ is the handwork anyway.”
As she did and as they kissed, Walter couldn’t help but think what a blessing and curse she was. He’d never been happier, yet never felt more ashamed. The one person he could finally share his body and darkness with was practically a married woman, but she was the only woman who did not shy away when he showed her his black dog since she had one of her own.
Amber’s depression was beyond the comprehension of her fiancé Greg. So, since she couldn’t share it with him, she began sharing it with Walter. But the danger of such shared secrets is the inevitability of them growing into larger, less concealable ones.
“Oops,” Amber noticed Walter was going and swooped down to swallow the seeds of her sowing. He moaned and bit his lips while his hips arched as her mouth and hands worked to get every drip. She then rested her head on his lap with one eye looking up at him and half a smile.
“Thank you,” Walter said. “Mind if we just lay down in the backseat together for a few songs now?”
“I can’t,” Amber said. “I left Greg back at the venue with his friends. I said I needed to get some tampons.”
“You brought him?”
“How couldn’t I have? Plus, he’s a big Guns N’ Roses fan.”
Walter shook his head then raised it above the window line. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said after a while, then brought his head back down. “I just wish I didn’t always have to meet you like you’re some kind of hooker. I just wish... I wish we could have a real date together.”
“Walter,” she said going back to her seat, “you know that wish can’t come true. This has to stay just fun.”
“I know, but this is becoming more than just fun for me. I… I think I’m falling in love with you.”
Amber became mute, her facial muscles tensed in-place as if someone had pressed her pause button.
“Amber?” Walter said. “Amber?” He caressed her cheek, but she remained paused. “Amber!”
“What?!” she then came back to life.
“You just froze like someone turned an off-switch.”
“I what? . . . You what? You… you love me?”
“Never mind,” he said watching her wandering eyes. “I think something’s wrong. I’m taking you to a hospital.”
Amber brought her head up woozily as Walter adjusted her seat to catch it with the headrest. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then stayed still for about fifteen seconds. When her eyes reopened, they had a new sobriety.
“No, it’s not possible,” she said. “I haven’t had one in over ten years.”
“You haven’t had what in over ten years?” he asked.
“A staring spell. I used to have them as a kid, but I grew out of it . . . I need to go.”
“No, I’m taking you to the hospital,” he said.
“No, you are not!” she shouted. “I’ll be fine. And even if I did need to go, that’s my fiancé’s responsibility, not yours.” She put her fist to her mouth and began gnawing the knuckle of her thumb, a nervous tick Walter was just becoming aware of. “Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“But you did,” he said softly.
Amber put the fist down and looked away as tears began streaming over her cheeks. “Fuck, my mascara,” she said. “Do you have any tissues?”
“There’s some napkins in the glove compartment.”
She slid open his sun visor mirror and began dabbing her eyes to stop the flow of black tears. “We can’t keep doing this,” she said to her reflection. She then clicked the cover closed, opened the door and left.
Onstage with his guitar, Walter looked out to the crowd he was tasked with entertaining. It used to be a lot more scarce during their originals set, but in the band’s last two years of playing, it was now nearly as full as their covers set.
His band, Perfect Crime, started solely as a Guns N’ Roses tribute, and because they weren’t middle-aged men like the six other Guns N’ Roses tributes in the Los Angeles area, they quickly became the go-to reincarnation in absence of the real thing, which was not Axl’s cut-rate version. Walter, however, soon realized he could turn this counterfeited notoriety into real notoriety if their original music—which in all but name was his music—became the opener. So while he performed with a guitar during the first set, by second set it was passed over to whoever their Izzy Stradlin was at the time (they never could keep a consistent one) and he became a singing stripper.
But tonight he could care less about the crowd. Right now all he cared about was Amber. During his lifeless performances of the first two songs, he’d been scanning every corner of the venue for her, but it was obvious she wasn’t there.
“Um...” Walter said to the already unenthused crowd, “this next song is a new one.”
“No Walter!” his bassist Brian “Squids” Squibbs said from the side. “We are dying right now and that song will kill us. Skip it. Let’s do Minerva.”
“No Squids. I need this song right now. It’s the only thing that will save this set.”
“I’m not playing it,” Squids said.
“Fine,” Walter said. “Then get the fuck off stage. This is my music and its mine to kill, not yours.”
“I was already on my way,” Squids said turning off his amp and unplugging his bass. The other bandmates didn’t try to stop him as onstage spats between him and Walter happened regularly and Squids always eventually rejoined them a song or two later.
“Um...” Walter said again to the unenthused and now also confused crowd. “I guess without further ado, here’s ‘Baby Blue Part 2’ . . . Y-yesterday I felt like I c-c-could d-do anything, b-but, but today I’m just str... str... kill myself—or shit. I’m sorry. Let’s start over.”
But when the band did, he couldn’t sing a single syllable and he sure as hell couldn’t get in a wig and perform as a singing stripper after this. So he left, going out the backstage door, then back into the safety of his car.
Walter began driving, driving just to be driving. Not a heavy but not a light rain began falling, his wipers wiping across the coppery street lights and glowing green signs of Sunset, Santa Monica, and eventually PCH. He stayed on PCH, driving south with nothing but 100.3 The Sound quietly on the airwaves.
I’ll drive to midnight, he thought looking at the blue-green digital clock on his dashboard display reading ten-fifty-six. But when the clock reached its destination, time continued to flow south until just a little before one when Tom Petty’s "You Don't Know How It Feels" came on. Being a station staple, he thought nothing of it until the line of the song it was named after cut into him. His eyes began to moist. He grimaced and cleared them, but they only grew more saturated, rapidly overspilling onto his cheeks.
No longer able to see, Walter pulled alongside a parking meter on the side of the road just inside Huntington Beach city limits. There he surrendered to sobbing. It was the first time he’d let himself since he could remember. As a child, he’d learned to hold in his tears, but now he was repaying for those lost years.
He opened the door still crying and stepped into a heavy rain. He ran from the car over a large grassy knoll, over a beach bike path, and then onto the sand, where he continued running until he reached a lifeguard tower. He hoisted himself onto the empty turret’s slippery, plastic banks and tucked under its rattling eves. Facing the dark ocean and tempestuous sky, he began taking deep breaths, his lungs moving with the crush of the ocean waves. The rain then lightened and he allowed himself a smile. He was still mostly unhappy, but he found peace with it. But again, he was interrupted by his cellphone.
“Oh my God it’s Amber,” Walter said recognizing her unrecognized number. “Hello? . . . Hello? . . . Amber can you hear me?” the call then ended.
His phone screen, having been unshielded from the rain and his soaked pockets, then immobilized and shut off. He failed to resuscitate it, but accepted it was a good sign she was trying to call him. Again his heart had hope.
After driving to his home in Torrance which was also his grandmother’s home, having done this to his cellphone before, he made a bowl of dry rice and dunked it and its battery in, hoping for the best in the morning.
When morning came, it came with success as his phone powered up as normal. There was a voicemail notification from the unrecognized number. He pressed play. First, he heard only crying, then a threatening male voice.
“Who is he?” the voice said. “Tell me who he is!”
“A-a-a friend from work,” Amber’s voice said, “that’s all.”
“What’s his name?”
“Why does it matter?”
“It matters because you went to see him when you were supposed to be getting tampons, but you’re obviously not even on your period.”
“I started earlier, b-but it was just light so I took it out before we got home. I swear.”
“Amber tell me who he is!”
“Walter, the singer of the band. I was just wishing him luck, that’s all. I swear it’s the truth.”
“Then why wouldn’t you tell me?”
“Because I knew you’d react like this. You react this way with every male friend I have—or had.”
“Have you slept with him?”
“What? No. Never. Our wedding is three months away Greg.”
“Amber, I’ll ask you again. Have you slept with him?” There was a silence, then: “You have? I want you to tell him because he can’t hear you nodding.” Another silence. “Tell him Amber! Tell him who’s been fucking my fiancée . . . Say it you fucking slut!”
“Walter! I fucked Walter Huxley! Okay?”
“Thank you.” Then call then ended.