Love is the flower of life, and
blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked before it is
found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration. – D.H. Lawrence
On New Year’s Day, Sasha and I had a movie marathon, which included the romantic thinkers Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The movies dealt with attraction, idealism, timing, passion, “the one that got away” and second chances.
The next day, I was reading Classic Nasty by Jack Murnighan and came across a word I had never seen before: Weltschmerz.
It’s a term used to depict a kind of sentimental melancholy caused by
the feeling of having known perfect joy and then missing it
incessantly. Weltschmerz. Fabulous, isn’t it? Go ahead, say it out loud.
There are defining loves in everyone’s life, just as there are
defining moments. Sometimes the two are the same. You could have loved
and lost many times since, but you will never forget them. For me, that
relationship started as a failed attempt at a one-night stand.
I had just turned 22, broken up with my boyfriend in Palm Springs
and planned to move to Santa Cruz to attend the university there. With
my mom’s help, I hauled all my crap and my cat to a red-walled studio
in the middle of an old motel that was converted into a bunch of
by-the-sea bungalows on Beach Hill in Santa Cruz.
After a couple weeks, I secured a job, got adjusted to my new
surroundings, unpacked my last box and met the neighbors. But one
evening, I decided to let loose and check out the infamous nightclub
downtown called The Catalyst—the Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton were
I also decided I would drink a 40-ounce bottle of MGD in the parking
lot. And that I’d find some stranger to fool around with. It was sorta
like my declaration of independence, you know, only seedier.
He was sitting at the bar, next to the only empty seat in the place.
He had dark hair and was wearing a black leather jacket and glasses.
Naturally, we struck up a conversation. He told me he was visiting from
San Francisco, on a mid-week motorcycle ride with his pop. As I eased
into the confidence of knowing I had found my match for the evening, he
excused himself and left. I was hooked.
So we did the coy mating dance for a while but we did eventually end
up leaving the bar and making out on the beach in front of my new pad.
When we got to my place, I neglected to realize the importance of
shutting windows when you live in the middle of a bunch of other
people’s apartments. So my neighbors got to know me a little better.
He showed up the next day with a rose. And though our passionate
five-year stint was fraught with jealousy, cheating, financial
troubles, career changes, breakups, make-ups and our pit bull munching
on a trespasser’s foot, there are some things I just can’t seem to
Like, I loved wearing his jeans. They were always covered in paint
and grease, appropriately faded and a little too baggy. I loved the
smell of his hair—it always smelled vaguely like he washed it with a
bar of Irish Spring and then slicked it back with Brylcreem. I loved
the way he snored and how his hands twitched in his sleep. His hands
were rough, calloused and nails bitten down to the skin.
He had broad shoulders and strong arms—he wasn’t even six feet but
he walked tall and made me feel like a little lady. In fact, that’s
what he called me. That, or “She-Monster.” When he smiled, he would
squint his eyes and jut out his chin like he was Marlon Brando about to
make an offer you couldn’t refuse.
He and his father had a collection of vintage Italian bikes. He even
gave me one—a Moto Guzzi cruiser that he promised to fix up one day. He
taught me about Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and Charles
Bukowski. He made me listen to Tom Waits, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Mazzy
Star and Portishead. We watched foreign films and tons of kung fu
movies. He was an amateur photographer and took me to Robert
Mapplethorpe exhibits. He introduced me to Coop, Robert Williams and Juxtapoz magazine.
Of course, sex was an important aspect of our relationship and there
were a lot of firsts. He bought me my first toy—nipple clamps. He gave
me my first Cherry Poptart erotic comic book. He took me to my first
peep show at the Lusty Lady in North Beach, San Francisco. It was with
him that I first learned of S&M, B&D and other reindeer games.
But am I glamorizing this particular relationship? It certainly
wasn’t perfect; there was a reason we broke up. Am I doomed to
contemplate its demise as my first fantastic failure at love? Is it
absolutely necessary to compare all subsequent relationships to that
one, as flawed as it was? Or is it just part of my personality to be
forever longing for an ideal I can never hope to achieve?
It’s uncanny that one word could so easily sum me up. Weltschmerz…
And it’s German, too!
Samantha Campos would happily convert to Scientology if it would mean better cell phone reception in Haiku. MTW