Yes I say angels to describe people in events in my life that have had profound shifts as I was going over a cliff. People who just by the grace …of something, were better than many…to a stranger. I try to emulate these people every day.
I wanted to highlight one or two extraordinary strangers…the unexpected ones…
In Los Angeles I had troubles after I had worked on a few films in production. I wasn’t sure where I should go or do. I did not have the skills to understand the basics of rent and food etc. I took on a job at minimum wage (I think it was 4.25 at the time) at a video store. Quickly I could not pay my rent. At the same time I found myself in a personal paradigm shift as I was finally brave enough (and far away from home enough) to deal with being gay. Long before I found myself making some very bad choices. My roommate at the time started to ask me to get out. My car was repossessed, I did not have the money to eat and pay for student loans…and at that time student loans still won out. I chose to spend my nights hiding until the wee hours of the morning trying to find a way out of this mess.
On occasion I would go home with someone or sleep on a park bench to avoid going home. I did not have anyone to turn to and made excuses to my parents as to why they could not reach me by phone. I could not reveal to anyone how bad it was until one day when I came home to find all of my things dumped on the sidewalk.
One cold wet night at the end of this period I remembered that the apartment below ours was being repainted and left open to air out the smell. I had already known that my roommate had changed the locks. The building is one of those classic old apartment buildings on Crescent Heights with a large iron gate and a fountained open courtyard. After I waited until I knew no one would be around to see, I climbed between the Bougainvillea and over the 10 foot gate…and walked up the open stairwell to find the abandoned apartment. When I walked in it still smelled of paint as I had thought. I walked to one of the back bedrooms and laid down on the floor to sleep. Before sunrise I got up and went to wash up at the sinks at the video store before anyone would notice. The painters continued there painting for a few more days.
I knew that it would be a few days before someone moved in or they finished so for the next couple of nights I repeated this. Climbed the fence, mounted the stairs, found the door open and laid down… …and fell asleep.
On the third night a voice woke me.
“Hello? Who’s there?”
I abruptly jumped to my feet to see a thin woman in her forties standing in the silhouette of a distant light. She had moved into the apartment that day.
So imagine this.. You are a single woman, lying in your new upscale apartment in Los Angeles and are woken up to someone moving through it at 2am. You are brave enough to walk down the hall to investigate and see (for all intensive purposes as young as I was) a man. Lying on the floor of your bedroom… instead of immediately calling the police. She says “Hello?”
and the man springs to his feet. Approaching her.
Apologizing faster than his mouth can move. What would you do?
Well, this woman said…
“It’s okay, It’s Okay”
I got out enough of an explanation about getting kicked out of my apartment out and here this woman said… “It’s okay, It’s okay. Go back to sleep. I’ll wake you in the morning”
..and asked if I needed a pillow, before going back to her bedroom.
I laid back down believing…no, knowing that the police would be there any moment…and my life would be over as I knew it. But that never happened.
In the morning, I woke to the smell of breakfast. I got up off the floor and walked into the kitchen where she had a plate waiting for me. She asked if I was okay and I asked her the same. She chuckled, she explained how she had just gone through a terrible divorce and “how stupid she was for leaving the door open”. I thought at that statement… for the rest of my life this woman has given me two gifts. a second chance…and a bar to live up to.
When I finished breakfast I left thanking her again profusely never to see her again. Only I see her every day. She is angel #1 in my list. For the next few months I will write about 2-12.