Meeting Your Past

This is a true story.

I was nineteen and dating that guy from Michigan.  I think I called him “Mark” in the story, but if you remember him, he was sort of hip, especially compared to me. We were out one night in a popular nightspot, the sort of place I’d have never gone on my own.

The place is big. It’s too big for me. I work in a tiny old man’s bar, so it’s a totally new land but I do like to tour and see and be places I’ve never been before, so I take in the scene.

We come in through the huge poolroom in back. It’s five times as large as the bar I work in. I’ve had two or three glasses of wine, which is one or two more than I can handle so when we weave though the tables dogging pool cues, I really weave. The music is loud.

We get to the main part of the bar and now the music is throbbing, and the light is dim. Parts of the room are black lit. It looks as big as half a football field in there, with several rectangle shaped bars scattered, and a large dance floor. Mark grabs my hand and we navigate through the people. The band is in between sets, so Jim Morrison wails.

“Come on baby light my fire
Try to set the night on fire..”

I smile because Mark likes the Doors and I know he’s happy tonight. I’m happy too, just a little flushed. The whole set up makes an indelible impression on me because I know I’m Mowgli but I think I’m undercover as some cool chick because I’m with Mark who is totally, totally hip. I think this is what it must be like if you’re a real city girl and stuff.

We take a seat at the bar. I turn on the stool to face Mark and this is when I see him on the corner across the bar. Oh fuck. I catch my breath, because it’s him for sure. I instantly feel my stomach in my throat. Fuckin’ wine. Why did I drink it? I turn further around on my stool so the man doesn’t see me and Mark asks me what I want to drink.

I don’t answer so he puts his hand on the small of my back and asks again.

“Er… Water. I just need some water right now.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am. Um… I just see…” I lean in towards him. “Look. See that guy over there? The one at the corner with the light hair that’s thin?” I cock my head, but slowly. I lean my head to indicate the direction. “In the checks.”

He looks over “Yeah.”

“He’s… That’s someone I know. Um. I don’t know what to do. Well I guess I’d better buy him a drink.”

“You know him?”


“Is he an old boyfriend?”


“Do you want to go talk to him? I’ll wait here…”

“No. No I don’t want to talk to him.”

“It’s okay, Elsa. If you want to go talk to the man, it won’t bother me.”

I stop and think, but it takes a nanosecond. “I can’t do that.” I take a deep breath. “Really, I owe that guy. I just want to buy him a drink, then let’s leave.”


“I think I should send him a drink over and then I’d like to go.”

“Is he a friend of yours? Let’s just go talk to him.”

“Uh, uh. No.”

I call the bartender over and ask him to set the guy up. Mark offers his money, but I shake my head and get my purse. “I want to do this. I owe him, I said.” I want to bolt, but I stick to my stool and watch the bartender serve the guy a shot and a beer, then turn and point to me to indicate where the drinks came from.

Our eyes meet and I can’t tell if he recognizes me. I sort of hope not. That’d be best. It’s just a drink from a stranger. This is what I think as he signals me over with his finger and I shake my head, no. He points to his chest, then to Mark and I, to ask if he should come over to where we are and I slowly shake my head, while I can feel myself start to tear. He looks at me curiously and I look straight back at him before I swallow and turn to Mark. “Okay, let’s go. Please. I have to go.”

“We just got here. Elsa, what’s going on? Who is that?”

“I’m sorry.” My face is burning hot, so I get up off the stool to make a beeline for the door. I see the guy shake his head when I stand. He mouths, “Elsa, no,” at me, which literally makes me feel like I’m dying. He motions me over again, and I feel my jaw tighten which is funny since I can’t even feel my face. I know I suck, but I just can’t do it. I can’t go talk to him because I can’t even breathe.

Somehow I get my feet under me, and I head towards the door. Mark comes with and I feel the guy’s eyes on my back as we leave through the front entrance.

Outside, I burst into tears and Mark consoles me. This is the story, I didn’t tell him that night:


It’s four years prior. I’m fifteen and I’m homeless but they don’t call it that yet. There is no homeless population. There are no homeless shelters. I just don’t live anywhere, that’s all and it’s late.

It’s 11:00, which is late if you’re a sheltered kid from the desert. I’m sitting in bar because there is nowhere else to be. Sit in the bar, sit in a parking lot, sit on a curb, sit on a park bench. I don’t know what else to do. I haven’t it figured it out yet. I’m trying. I’m trying to figure out how to get us off the street but so far, no good ideas and we’re not doing so well.

Well, maybe Mary is, but I’m not. I feel sick. I’m sick and tired and very raw. I’m dirty too and on this night I feel especially weak. Part of it is because I’m alone. Mary’s off doing something with someone so I’m on my own and I don’t like it. This is why I came in the bar. I want some company and I find it.

I talk to this or that person. I talk to whoever is handy, as hours pass and people come and go. I watch the clock. They stop serving liquor at one, but they stay open until three. That’s why I’m there. I can stay inside through half the night, though it’s embarrassing because the later it gets the more obvious it is that I have nowhere to go which is something I work to conceal. People like me quite a bit but I’m pretty sure they’d feel differently if they knew I had no home.

Two gay men own the bar. They’re a couple. They like me but I know I’m pushing the limit of their tolerance. I’m exploiting their kindness because they make no money off me. They know I’m underage, so I don’t drink in their bar. I just hang out.

People buy me orange juice now and then, and I used to bus the tables for them, until they asked me to stop when they realized it was illegal for me to touch the liquor glasses even if they were mostly empty. They’re new to the bar business and learning as they go. They’ve told me I’m good for business, because of my chatting with people, but you know. I figure this only goes so far when you’re a homeless kid on the verge of overstaying your welcome.

So on this night, I’m faded. I wasn’t on the street very long in the scheme of things, but long enough to suffer effects of exposure and sleep deprivation and supreme hunger and I was near the peak of this experience when I met the guy.

He was about twenty three and he sat next to me at the bar. Generally I was very friendly. I would and could start a conversation with anyone but I felt so tired and repulsive on this night, I was thinking to take a pass. Sigh. Do I really have the energy to talk to this person?

It takes confidence to talk to strangers, even false confidence and I realize I’m run out of both, so fuck it. I just sit with a glass of water but he starts talking to me. I have no idea what he says because I was probably falling asleep while he was talking, but he was definitely talking. I couldn’t get many words together to respond and hold a conversation which believe me, was strange because, come on. I can talk. But I couldn’t talk to this guy and I don’t know exactly why. I was trying. I tried to converse but I must have been blinking out and then he said, “Let’s go.”

Well I heard him say that, but I’m not a whore. I don’t leave bars with men. I’d been offered money for sex more times than I could begin to count in an endless array of scenarios, but I’d never sold my body and would very clearly die before I ever would and this was just a pure fact. There are two things I’m not going to do. I’m not going home and I’m not going to sell my body. I’ll lay in front of a fuckin’ train, first so I defer and you know me. I’m sure I’m candid about it. Something like “No, I’m not going to fuck you.”

He shakes his head and puts his arm through mine. “Come on. Come with me. You need some sleep.”

“Huh? Where are you taking me?”

“Where do you think? I’m taking you to get some sleep.”

I stare.

“I’m just going to take you to my house. You can sleep in my bed. I’m not going to bother you. I just want you to get some sleep. You look half dead. You need some sleep. You aren’t going to make it. You look like you’re dying.”

I stare and he looks across the bar at the owners. “I’m “XXXX XXXXXX. Write it down. And write down my address. He pulls his wallet from his back pocket, flips it open on the bar. Copy my address. That’s where I’m taking her.”

The gay men stare.

“She’ll be safe. I’ll keep her safe.”

Sure enough one of the owners copies the address, then returns the wallet.

The guy picks me off the stool. “Come on. Can you walk?”


“Barely. Hold my arm. I’m going to help you.”

I look over at the gay men. They’re like father figures to me and they nod. I have “permission”. Someone is actually intervening here. Someone is going to help me and I’m so grateful I almost start to sob.

I leave the bar with this guy crying by the time we get to his truck. He takes me around to the passenger side and helps me in. I wonder if I should say something, but I can’t think of anything so I keep quiet and I wonder.

I wonder what he’s going to do because if he does something I don’t want him too, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop him. I can barely stay awake. “Fuck”, I think. It’s like being on top a mountain. I’m here now and got to come down one way or the other. “Walk or roll”, I think, before I lose my thinking. Then I think nothing, because anything else is too demanding.

We don’t go far and we don’t talk much on the way. He lives behind the miniature golf course. He lives in a unique apartment through a gate and up some stairs, but inside?

It’s beautiful. It’s “decorated”. Not rich, but definitely a man with style and above all the place is cozy. He has his arm around my waist, helping me. He guides me into his bedroom, which is spotless. The centerpiece is this glorious bed. I’d never seen such a nice bed in my life. I’m tired, but I process this much. It’s the best bedroom I’ve ever seen in my life. It had a real comforter for starters and I’d never seen one of those.

He flips on a lamp on the nightstand. The light is low. “You can sleep here. I’ll sleep on the couch.” He points to a door, “There a bathroom through there if you want to take a shower, but if I were you, I’d wait until the morning. He reaches over and moves a piece of my hair off my face. “You don’t look so good.”

I don’t answer except a tear falls. I have no idea the last time I slept and I feel completely overwhelmed and at his mercy because of it.

“Okay. I’m just going grab what I need for the morning. I have to go to work early and you’ll probably still be sleeping, so I’ll be gone when you wake up.”

I stare.

“You can stay here for awhile. A week or so if you need and then you’ll have to figure something else. I’ll help you anyway I can.” Holding some clothes, he looks around. “Okay. I think you can find anything you need. Help yourself to whatever. You can sleep in your clothes if you’re worried about me but you don’t have to be. If you want, there are some t-shirts in the middle drawer there, so help yourself.”

I nod and another tear appears that he reaches over to wipe with his thumb. “Good night, Elsa.”

“Good night.” I stutter because I’m surprised. I don’t remember telling him my name and I didn’t really expect him to leave me alone, but he does. The door clicks shut and I look around and almost whoop for joy. A bed! I’m actually going to sleep in a bed. I feel my knees buckle.

I slip off my rubber thongs and my pants and get in the bed with my shirt and underwear on. I can’t believe how the sheets feel on my legs and I don’t remember anything more until the early morning when the door opens and I wake up and roll over off my stomach. It’s so warm I can’t believe it. I can’t believe people actually live this comfortably and that I’m in this guy’s bed. It’s crazy. It’s completely insane.

“Sorry,” he whispers, when he sees I’ve woken up. The light is dim and I think the whole situation is surreal. “I forgot something in here that I need, and I wanted to leave you some money too in case you took off. I don’t have much. I can give you more later, but I have to go to the bank.”

I raise up in the bed to protest and he says, “No. Don’t get up. I’ll just leave what I have on the dresser.”

I lay back down and he sets something on the dresser. “There’s something else for you too. If you’re leaving take it, but don’t tear the place up, okay?”

I shake my head and he comes to the side of the bed. He leans over and kisses me on the forehead. He’s very tender. “I used to be where you are.” He does that hair thing again. He moves my hair off my face and tells me that I’m beautiful.

I can’t believe that. I think he’s nuts but I’m in the guy’s bed so I’m not going to protest.

He squeezes my hand before he leaves and says some more stuff. I don’t know what. He says I’ll be all right, or I look better after a night’s sleep or something. He tells me where the towels are, then he leaves and I’m glad when does. I’m relieved, because, crap! I’ve got to get out of here!

That’s what I think.

I leap from the bed. There’s thirteen dollars on the dresser and 3 joints. I can’t take his money and I don’t smoke pot. There is note written to me as well, but I can’t remember what it says. I think it was a poem, actually.

I put on my pants, then decide to take part of the money. I take the three dollar bills and one of the joints to give to Mary. There is cup full of pens so I turn the note over and write “Thank you” because I have Libra. I pull the covers back up on the bed and look around the room before I leave. I won’t be back, so I want to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. And I want to remember this too even though I better get going quick. Someday I’ll have a bedroom, I think. Maybe. I really don’t know if I’ll ever see another bedroom this nice, though and I want to remember it. I want to remember I was here.

I go out the front door, down the steps, through the gate and the golf course already wondering if any of this was even real. Whether it was or not, I liked that guy but Jesus, talk about embarrassing. I feel ashamed. I’m so ashamed someone had to help me, and I leave hoping it never gets this bad again.

Walking to the street to hitchhike away, I remember his green truck. It’s dark green and I make a mental note to keep an eye out for it. I plan to avoid him like the plague. Nothing is more embarrassing than having someone take you to their house because they’re afraid you’re going to die if they don’t.

I think that, and I shiver. I don’t like being vulnerable. It’s not my plan. Damn that was a nice bed.

I wonder when I can go back in the bar. The gay men know I don’t live anywhere now so how I can look them in the eye? It’s embarrassing. I decide not to go back until I live somewhere. I’ll go back and see them when I have my problems solved so they don’t have to worry about me.

I have to admit, that guy was right. I did need some sleep. I feel a lot better now, and it’s a sort of warm day. Warmer than it’s been so that’s good. Standing on the side of the road with my thumb out, I do what I always do. I brainstorm. I know there is a way out of this and I know I’m going to find it. I’m just sure.

The end

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