Acid Heroes

April 17, 2010

Peggy Sue, Part 2: Living life like a dream

Filed under: Random Archives — Ace Backwords @ 6:37 pm
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Originally published December 11, 2002

Peggy Sue slipped in and out of my life for the next couple of years. She’d be in between places and I’d let her sleep on my couch. We’d lay there in the dark, her on the couch, me on my big brass bed, and babble on for hours. Neither of us was in love with each other, so there was a casual, comfort level between us.

Then, around 1984 — that fabled year — she hooked up with this little weasel Harry; “Dirty Harry” she called him. He was a young guy with this malevolent air about him; one of those vicious, little, mean guys who you could see the violence in their eyes. He had that look like, if he could get away with it, he’d enjoy sticking a knife in your guts and laughing while you bled to death. Just one of those guys. It was only his innate cowardliness that kept his weasel madness in check. But Peggy Sue was turned on by him on some level; his aggressive male testosterone or something; you know how that is with some chicks. And Peggy was kind of the classic victim. She was this milk-fed honey, the vestal virgin, the sacrificial lamb. She was a big, dumb nut. That’s what she was. But with a certain sweetness and girlish loveliness when she wasn’t shrieking hysterically. She was the Nice Girl who was drawn to the Bad Boy. So her and Dirty Harry were a marriage made in Hell. She had slipped in with a bad crowd. It’s so easy to do on the streets. They’d been staying at this welfare hotel down the street until they both got kicked out.

One night she showed up at my door in typical hysterics. Guys were always trying to rape her. “Scary monsters” were always menacing her. Like I said, she had dyslexia, she spoke in this gobble-dee-gook which I couldn’t begin to capture in writing. “Ace, I’m being stalked by Dirty Harry and this rock’n’roll band, Ugly Stick! And they’re part of this big gang of Art Pirates that want to steal my poetry! It’s horrible! Scary monsters and super creeps! It’s been like a nightmare!” She was very distraught. I’d learned with Peggy Sue not to listen to the words but just pay attention to her emotional state. That was the part that was real.

“Where are your glasses?” I asked.

“Dirty Harry kept punching me in the face! Finally he broke them! I’ve been getting these headaches.”

So I gave her a blanket and let her sleep on the couch. Our relationship had evolved to this sex-less, brother-and-sister kind of thing. Which is the level I related to best with women. Sex was so touchy with me, so explosive, I couldn’t handle it. So we’d lay there in the dark talking and she’d calm down and get sweet and start to coo. I liked her. Well, I liked some parts of her.

So she had been sleeping on my couch for about two weeks. Then, this one fateful night I had plans to go over to Mary’s. Peggy Sue had plans to go off somewhere with Dirty Harry. “But don’t bring that guy up here! Don’t ever bring anybody else up here!” I said.  He was the kind of guy who would rifle through your shit. I was nuts enough to entrust Peggy Sue with my key… At any rate, my date with Mary didn’t pan out so I came home early. I’m lying in bed and I hear the key in the door and I hear two people out in the hallway. It’s Peggy Sue and Dirty Harry! She probably figured I would be out for the night so she was sneaking back in with her weasely-ass boyfriend to get high and fuck in my apartment while I’m away. So I’m outraged. Here I had trusted the bitch, not asking anything from her except that she keep her lowlife friends out of my place. But the second my back is turned! So I jump up, open the door, and there the two of them are. Peggy is struggling to get the key in the keyhole.

“I thought I told you not to let anyone else come up here!” I yelled.

I forget what Peggy Sue said, if anything. I kind of slammed the door in her face. Good riddance. I heard sort of a “thump” sound in the hallway, but thought nothing of it. I paced around in my apartment, checked my face in the bathroom mirror (I looked macho and cool — what a fool I was). A couple minutes later I noticed that they were still out there in the hallway; I could hear them talking. I swung the door open a second time:  “I thought I told you to leave!”  I said to her. She was sitting there in the hallway, slumped over. Dirty Harry was sort of standing over her, pacing back and forth. I shut the door again, thinking that was the end of it.

About 15 minutes later, the manager knocked on my door. “Ace, your friend is downstairs in the lobby. You had better check on her.”

“Okay,” I said.

“You shouldn’t let people like that into the building,” he said.

Downstairs, Peggy Sue had made it to the front steps. She was lying there on her side. Harry had sort of dragged her/carried her that far. It was obvious she was out of it. I figured she was out to lunch on drugs. She and Harry liked to shoot up speedballs — heroin and speed combos. I yelled at Dirty Harry to get lost, and picked up Peggy Sue and carried her back up the stairs and into my apartment. Plopped her down on the couch. “Are you okay?” I asked. She kind of nodded her head. I didn’t know anything about shooting drugs. I figured maybe she just needed to sleep it off. She was definitely out of it; moving funny. Several times during the next couple hours I kept asking her, “Do you want me to call the ambulance?” And she’d nod her head no. Peggy was difficult to communicate with in the best of times. So who knows what she’s going through at a time like this. Finally, after a couple of hours of this, I noticed she had peed all over herself, peed all over my couch. So I could tell whatever this was, she wasn’t sleeping it off. She kept nodding her head not to call the ambulance. But when I tried to help her out of her wet pants I noticed she could barely move. And I noticed a hypodermic needle sticking out of her back-pocket. Finally, I called 9-11. Next thing I knew the ambulance people were tromping through my living room doing their thing. They took Peggy Sue off to the hospital.

It turned out she had had a stroke. Half her body was paralyzed. It would remain that way for the rest of her life. I visited her many times in the hospital. Tried to will the life back into her half-dead body. But it was like Peggy Sue had gone from being a little girl to an old woman over-night.

A week after it happened, somebody snuck into the building and slashed up the couch in the hotel lobby with a knife.  Probably Dirty Harry.  After a couple months, Peggy was released from the hospital. She hobbled around with a cane. She called herself “Quasimodo” because of how she looked when she dragged her half-dead body all over town. She eventually moved down to San Diego. Every now and then, to this day, I get a frantic phone message from her. She’s in a Women’s Shelter. She loves me. She wants to move back to Berkeley.

Somehow I felt it was my fault. Like the sheer psychic force of me yelling at her in the doorway and slamming the door shut was what triggered the stroke. For all I know, she had the stroke before she even got to my place, and that’s why she was coming back in the first place. I’ll never know. And I’ll never get the answer from Peggy. She would just talk in gobble-dee-gook when I tried to press her on the details that led up to that moment. At least she never blamed me. In fact, she credited me with saving her life by calling the ambulance. But somehow, in my mind, it was my fault. She was a fragile little porcelain doll, Peggy Sue, and I had played with her too roughly, and she had broken.  Shattered. And the pieces could not be put back together.

And maybe it was my fault. All my relationships with women were cursed after that point. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. So I guess it ended for me there that night in that doorway. Just like it had ended for Peggy Sue. Neither of us would ever be the same.





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