#15 Leaving Home: A Divorce Story [Part Two]

#15 Euclid Street, Santa Monica

Last week I posted the first part of this transition piece, the story of my first marriage, the tale that took me from my parents' home to my first place. Leaving Home: The Beginning is #15 of the On The Street Where I Live stories. You may want to read it before you read this. Here's the second installment.

Leaving Home: Part Two

He was tall and almost cool with aviators and a mustache that matched his shaggy golden brown hair. What made Phillip uncool was the way he had to shove those aviators up his slippery nose over and over, an act of uncoolness I could relate to all too well. The other thing that marked him as uncool was that he was full-time; a management trainee at Drug Star in Santa Monica. The rest of us that worked there, the young ones anyway, were part time. We were going to school, trying to be something else, trying to find a real place to start our careers. The drug store as a place to have a career? Definitely not cool. 

At first I thought Phillip was sort of dopey – was being the manager of a drug store really his goal in life?— and he had a weird laugh, like a horse's whinny. But he was persistent. He'd wander over to Cosmetics after Hetty and Joanie had gone home, and I was the only one left working in the department. 

"Need change?" he'd ask, watching me clean the glass shelves with a feather duster, straightening the rows of Revlon nail polish with a ruler. Cherries in the Snow. Fire and Ice. Love That Red. Suddenly self-conscious about the hem of my pink cosmetic smock resting just above the hemline of my mini-skirt, spotlighting its very micro-mini-ness, I'd straighten myself up too.

I'd check my register drawer, just to be sure. "Nope, I'm good, thanks."

"You have beautiful, ah, neck skin" he said one night, pointing to my throat.
"Neck skin?" 
God, what a weird thing to say. And yet, "beautiful"?
"Ah, the hollow of your throat? It's ah — the way it goes in? It's nice."
My hands fluttered to my throat, my fingers finding the little indentation, flattered, blushing. 
"Oh, thanks! I guess? No one's ever told me that before."
He stood smiling, looking satisfied, no intention of leaving.
"So, um, how do you like it here?" I leaned back against the counter, ready to listen.

Phillip had come from somewhere over the grade, out near Camarillo, or maybe it was Carpinteria. He'd been living with his mother and his mentally retarded brother. Their dad had left long ago. He didn't know a soul in Santa Monica, except for us, the employees of the small drug store chain where I worked, paying my own way through college. He'd just found an apartment a few blocks away on California, a one bedroom on the ground floor, where I found myself hanging out after work one Friday night with Chris and Julie, who worked in the pharmacy and a couple of the newer kids who worked the registers. It was a housewarming I guess. Chris brought a six-pack; I half wondered where it came from because he was underage, but Julie must have rung it up for him. One of the new employees, Wendy, brought cookies she'd made. Peanut butter. She was into witchcraft, or so she said. She looked it with her black matte dyed hair and skin so pale as though she never ventured out into the California sunshine. I thought she was just as odd as Phillip and I could tell she liked him. And hated me. Which was fine. I wasn't interested in Phillip anyway, the only reason I went was because I knew Chris was going to be there. Chris with his surfed out hair, jock-hard and compact body, but sweet and smart and surprisingly funny ways. 

Chris was too young for me, I knew that. He'd just started college while I only had a couple of semesters to go. But he didn't seem to care, and when he asked me out to a movie at the Aero, I said yes. And wondered why. What was I doing with this short, blond guy in the white turtleneck who looked like he stepped off the ski slopes on his way to a wrestling match? He wasn't my type. I felt foolish. As if being with him proved I couldn't get a date my own age. I could. Phillip. I got the feeling that the more Phillip saw Chris flirting with me, the more Phillip traipsed after me like a puppy. The same with Chris. For a couple of weeks it was addictive and heady; each of them trying to woo me, making me feel as desirable and dizzy-headed as Daisy in The Great Gatsby

They both had the same dismissive attitude about each other.

"Are you really going out with him?" Chris would corner me in the break room, as if Phillip were some sort of lower species.
"Isn't he a little young for you?" Phillip would ask with a sneer, unlocking the door to let me out after closing. Making sure I got across the street okay, watching until I disappeared up the stairs of the apartment building where I was living with my parents. Living at home was okay. It was convenient if nothing else since I worked right across the street. I didn't own a car, didn't drive. I took a bus to UCLA where I'd transferred after a couple of years at Santa Monica Community College. Or high school with ashtrays, as we used to say.

I told Chris he was too young for me and that I was too old for him. I told Phillip I didn't want anything serious right now. Chris was cool — "Are you sure? I thought we were having fun?"  and we gave each other a hug. 

But Phillip wouldn't give up. At night, when we both worked the two to ten shift, and the store was empty, he'd stand in the middle of the housewares aisle and find me in the overhead security mirror. "Please?" he'd mouth the words into the mirror, "please go out with me." 

Over Christmas break I went to Vegas with Julie and another girl, Patty, who did the bookkeeping. We'd gone to a work party and driving home, Patty said, "Let's go to Vegas. If we leave now, we'll be there by morning." 

Vegas? I'd been to Las Vegas with Laura for my 21st birthday the year before. We'd stayed at the Riviera, splurged on tickets to Frank Sinatra, seen Joey Heatherton and Sonny Bono sitting together at the coffee shop, and got picked up by a couple of high rollers. But we'd planned that trip for months. 

Go to Vegas just on a whim? I couldn't believe the word coming out of my mouth. Yes. Yes! 

We swung by my place, and I woke my parents up to let them know. "Drive safely" they mumbled, not nearly as surprised by me as I was. I might have been a little buzzed, but Patty, I assured them, was stone cold sober. 

We landed at the Horseshore Casino downtown before the sun was fully up, feeling cool and edgy after driving through the desert all night. 'Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure-'

And starving; the Bun Boy was closed when we passed through Baker, so we scarfed down some steak and eggs in the hotel coffee shop. And then we crashed. The next thing I knew hours had disappeared into the eternal, timeless Vegas vacuum; we were playing Keno and eating cheeseburgers when the sound of my name over the p.a. system broke through the onslaught of bells and whistles and change clattering in the surrounding slot machines. 

Simone Good. Telephone call for Simone Good. Just like in the movies. Like I was Joey Heatherton.

I was confused. Who would call me in Las Vegas? My parents didn't know what hotel we were staying at; I hadn't even known what hotel we'd be staying at. 

I didn't know what to do, how to even take a phone call. Was it really like the movies? Was someone going to bring the phone to the table, like in some old gangster flick?

"What do I do?" 

"Find a house phone" one of them said. 
"It's by the elevators" the other said. 

I picked it up nervously, still feeling like I was in a movie, but now it was Doris Day in some Alfred Hitchcock thriller, like it could only be bad news on the other end.


"Yes? This is she." 
"Thank God you're okay. I was really worried about you."

The voice on the other end of the line sounded familiar, almost like Phillip, but that didn't make any sense. Why would Phillip be calling me? How could Phillip be calling me?

"Phillip?! Phillip, is that you?"

"Yeah, it's me. Are you okay?"

I didn't understand. Was something wrong?

"Yes, something's wrong!" 

He said he'd been calling everywhere looking for me. All the hotels. I couldn't help it, it felt good that he'd gone to so much trouble.

"I can't believe you just took off for Vegas in the middle of the night."

I couldn't believe it either. It wasn't like me.

"You could have got in an accident! You could have been killed."

"Don't be ridiculous." I laughed. "I'm here, I'm fine. But I don't get it. How did you even find me?"

"I called your house this morning, and your parents told me you went to Vegas. I've called every effing hotel in town looking for you. I was really worried."

I couldn't say anything for a minute. He tracked me down in Las Vegas because he was worried about me? He'd called a bunch of hotels looking for me. For me! I couldnt help feeling flattered, bu't what was he so angry about? 

"Oh! Well that was really sweet of you. I'm sorry you were worried, but I'm fine. Thanks but really, I'm okay."

"You're okay? Well isn't that just great? I guess I can relax now, huh? Because I've been going nuts here. You guys were all shit-faced when you left here. I can't believe you'd do that. I was going to drive you home, remember? You said I could drive you home?"

"Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a minute! No one was 'shit-faced'. God! Besides, it's not up to you to make sure I'm okay. That's not your job." 

I did not remember telling him he could drive me home. Maybe I was wasted? 

"Can I help it if I care?"

"If you care? Look, I'm here, I'm fine. We're all fine. Thanks for checking on me Phillip, really but Julie and Patty are waiting for me so I'm going to go now, okay? I'm going to hang up."

"When are you coming home?"

"Excuse me?"

"When are you coming home?"

"When am I -? - um, you know Phillip, I really just don't know. Later. I don't know. But right now I've got to go. So long, okay."

And I hung up.

"That was Phillip," I told the girls back at the table. 

They looked at me, eyebrows raised. "Phillip?" In unison. 

"From work?" Julie asked. "Calling you here?"

I dug down into my purse, looking for my wallet, avoiding their eyes. "Yeah, Phillip." I put a twenty on the table. "Weird, huh? He wanted to know when I was coming home." 

Weird for sure. So why was I feeling so weirdly flattered?


Leaving Home: Part Three ...

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