That's when I met Dave and Dave. Well, I'd already met Dave-1. He was my next-door neighbor's boyfriend, who had moved in. He was an intense guy with a douchey goatee and weird energy. I wasn't sure I liked him, but I liked Darcie, so I gave him a pass. Shortly after Dave-1 moved in, Dave-2 moved in. He and Dave-1 were best friends since preschool, and I honestly never quite knew why they were friends. Dave-2 was a deadhead of a sort, more of a deadhead wannabe, who did a lot of drugs, fucked a lot of girls, and found himself immensely charming. Dave-2 found a job at the local Damon's restaurant -- a place that specialized in large platters of meat and cheap beer and large-screen TVs for sports. Also, bar trivia.
Dave-2 got me a job there as well, even though I'd never waited tables before in my life. This was around the end of June, just as my funding was running out in the linguistics lab, and just as I was starting to wonder just what in the hell I was going to do. I don't remember being panicked, though -- I was calmly certain that everything would work out.
Did I mention that I'd recently started Celexa -- then, a relatively new SSRI -- and that I was manic at this particular time? I was the strongest, smartest, most capable person in the world. I didn't need sleep, or food, or really anything that ordinary mortals needed. I took my nutrition from the air, especially that air I inhaled through the filters of my Camels. I dozed a few hours in the wee hours of the morning, when nothing but infomercials was on TV.
Some small voice of rationality told me I needed a job, though, so when Dave-2 explained that he could get me a job waiting tables at Damon's, I thought, why not? I could use some extra cash until I figure out what I'm going to do. Dave-1 got on there as a cook, and Jim, another friend of theirs from Indiana, showed up as well, as a bartender. Damon's was (maybe still is) a franchise operation, and a new company had recently taken over the franchises in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and Jay, the district manager, was doing some serious reorganization of the restaurants that were performing very poorly.
This included the restaurant in Asheville, in the edge of the mountains of North Carolina. The former GM of the Asheville store had been caught embezzling money, the morale was beyond terrible, it was hemorrhaging money and merchandise. There was one manager left and a couple of assistant managers who -- by all accounts -- just wanted their paychecks and free access to the liquor.
Jay hired Dave-1 to train as kitchen manager, Dave-2 as general manager, and Jim as bar manager. After I'd waited tables for a few weeks and proved to have some propensity for the job, Jay offered me a position as assistant manager and bookkeeper. I talked it over with my therapy group, but I'd already made up my mind -- I was going. Dreams upon my back, illusions of a brand new start and all that. My therapist was appalled. She told me -- in no uncertain terms, and with that vague sarcasm that tinged her every remark to me -- that I was making a huge mistake. The other crazy people in the group agreed with her, and we made plans for my separation from the group. I was just pleased that I was never again going to have to say to someone, "When you __, I feel [glad, sad, mad, scared]." I wanted a broader range of emotions, like "annoyed" and "frustrated" and "stoned," and I was certain that I'd find that in the mountains.
I spent a year there. I often drank from morning to night. I regularly blacked out and I had a brief affair with a man more than twice my age (he was proud that he convinced a lesbian half his age to sleep with him -- I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was just bored). I stopped smoking pot, and upped my cigarette intake. I hired people. I fired people. I learned that I was a terrible restaurant manager -- I was unwilling or unable to yell at people, so I'd go behind them in the night after closing and clean as best I could, where my employees had not.
Jim quit after less than a week and headed back to Indiana. Dave-2 got caught having sex with another employee on the banquet room table and was fired a few months later. Dave-1 became general manager, and every day, he screamed at me that I did a terrible job. After the screaming, we'd all go out for drinks and he'd tell me how important I was to him, and how he loved me like a sister. I started sleeping with Alejandro, the undocumented kitchen worker who was in love with me, and we started de facto living together. I drank even more.
And I started to miss the person I'd been before I'd taken this shitty $8/hour job (plus whatever tips I could scam), before I'd moved into the drafty single-wide, before I'd let myself drift with whatever tide was there, before I'd thought I could actually start over. I went to my CD collection, and I dug out all my old Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge and Tori Amos albums. When "Nashville" would come up, I'd scream it: "Asheville, did you give me half a chance," and "Asheville, you forgot the human race."
Almost a year after I moved, I gave enough free drinks to the local U-Haul manager to get a $50 one-way truck rental in return. I called my brothers, who came to help me pack up my belongings -- including Alejandro -- and we caravanned back east, to the last place I'd known who I was, before grad school, before my evil ex, before Asheville. The place where I'd listened to the Indigo Girls unironically and wore flannel shirts and had dreams of great things and optimism that I could reach them. I went home, and started over, but not with a clean slate. I never let myself forget that year. I never let myself forget just how many mistakes I made, or how low I could allow myself to fall. I've never forgotten that I never want to dislike myself that much ever again.
|< Brief music notes | small town woes >|