Picture it, Las Vegas, October 20, 2006.
My dad, Ed, and I are driving across country for my big move back to LA. I had been in Boston since 2001 and it seemed like the right time to get back to my left coast homies. My condo was rented out for the next year - so that was covered - and Dad is alway up for a long drive. My cat, Myles (pictured at the front page of my blog .... flying from my house to the one next door), is riding shotgun (this is a pun that will later be far more understandable) with us and happily staying at the shadiest Motel 6s we can find. Money saving is the key, which is what leads to my next brilliant idea.
In 1995, shortly after the former Mrs. Michael N
oel and I split - again a very topsy turvy time for me emotionally, I met a man named Don. Don was in the Navy and although I had just met him, I was instantly attached. I loved him. I couldn't live without him. In retrospect, I was acting like a 14 year old who was having my first puppy love. But in reality I was a 26 year old who was allowing himself to follow his heart for the first time. They say when you fall in love for the first time, into real love, you fall hard. That is just what I did.
Don and I were together for a total of almost 5 years. The relationship was not ideal by any stretch, but for me at the time, it was what I needed. Towards the end of our time together, Don was showing signs of who he really was. Fractures in his personality and his propensity for self-destructive behavior had me a little worried. After we had gotten into an altercation and he had thrown me into a wall 4 or 5 times where I smashed my head repeatedly, I decided making my exit would be next. Which I did -
I moved in with my dear friend in La Canada. This place was my heaven and my friend was my angel. Don, on the other hand had other things in mind. Rather than belabor the story and over detail it, which doesn't really serve my purpose right now, I will say this. He was high on crystal meth and was hiding in the bushes watching me sleep. Creep-o-rama I know. When my parents got wind of this, they gently reminded me that this kind of behavior was a clear indication that I was perhaps in some danger. My step father is not someone who has even a little tendency for drama, so when he told me that he was in fear for my life, I packed and left for home the next day. Literally.
This is a bit of a fast forward - so follow along with my train of thought. During the 5 years between my leaving for Boston and my eventual return, Don had gone through many phases of crazy, weird and bad. We lost touch for several years - but I always knew someone who knew him and kept tabs silently.
Before my drive across this corn belted country with my dad and kitty, I had checked in with Don and found that he was in Las Vegas and by all accounts, had straightened his life out. This was, of course, great news and although I knew there was a part of him that still made me nervous, the thought of seeing someone familiar and not sleeping on a crap hotel bed seemed like a better option. So, on day 4 of our trip, we pulled into Vegas and stayed the night with Don. Cat and all - he looked good. Fat, but healthy and his apartment was nice. "Good for him" I remember thinking. I also remember a very unsettling feeling by being around him, but since I had my dad with me, I ignored it. Parents give you superpowers... did you know that?
The day after our sleep over, we awoke to a glorious day. Dad and I met another friend who was in Vegas for a wedding at Denny's for breakfast. Who doesn't love Moons Over My Hammy? Don stayed behind. Said he had some running around to do, oh yeah... and he had to go to the bank.
Breakfast was great and we headed back to Don's place to pick him up for some sight seeing. Hoover Dam here we come. Is there really an elevator that takes you down to the bottom? I never did get that far...
As friend and dad and I were walking down the stairs from the apartment and heading over to my red truck, I noticed that there were several police cruisers pulling into the lot where we were. Another one, another one, a helicopter and some more. It seemed like something big was going down and it was close. Closer than I thought, but when a situation like this unfolds around you and you are not the type of person that has police contact, other than a crossing guard or highway speed trap, things can be blurry.
The next thing I knew there were cops all around us. Yes, guns drawn, "Stay right there" kind of shit. Suddenly we are smack dab in the middle of a CSI taping, or maybe Ashton Kucher is here punking us. None of it made sense, so on we went, down this slippery slope of what-the-fuck?
It turns out that Don has a burgundy truck, as do I. It is parked next to mine and seems to be of great interest to the police people. One cop has a contraption that is making beeping noises. Like a geiger counter, and he is pointing it at my Honda. It is beeping faster, but when he points it at Don's Chevy pick-up, it goes off the charts. "Bingo" he says. We still have no idea what is going on.
Once the questions start coming in, "who's truck is this, where are you going, where are you coming from" you can imagine... I just say as much of the truth as I can spit out as fast as I can. I am in no position to be protecting Don at this point and all I can do is blurt out as fast as I can, "thatismyfriendstruckhelivesrightthereinapartment2025hisnameisdonthatishistruck" Heads spin to see Don walking down the stairs, oblivious to all the commotion. He looks at me, sees the cops all around me and gives me the sign like "I'm not here"- Um, not so fast buddy. I point and say to the armed folks in my immediate area "that's him" - and he runs back into his apartment.
Eight hours later, once I had held court with FBI negotiators, Las Vegas Police people, and several other people with whom I had never intended on meeting, we found out that Don had robbed 4 banks over the last few months and that they had been waiting for him to make his next move. The bank that he robbed was 3 blocks away from his house and the money he was given this time has a tracking device in it. "This is not going to end well" thought I. I have never been more right in my life.
Don was found dead of a self inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He had shot himself soon after he closed the door behind him. It had been his plan all along had he been caught. He never told me this - but I knew him well enough to know that, at least. I received a text message from him about 5 minutes into the ordeal. "I am sorry I ruined your trip, please forgive me" His last thought. His last words. In a text messsage. So sad, really.
Although this was clearly the worse day of my life - by far - and an obvious excellent excuse to start smoking again after a year, my biggest worry throughout the 13 hours in total we were held away from getting our things - was Myles. No one could tell me if he was in there and since there was a dead body in the house, we weren't allowed in. Clearly a cat is the least of anyones concerns, except mine, and I was a little less than apologetic about asking. One has to wonder if the cops were considering shooting me, just so they didn't have to hear about my missing feline another time.
It wasn't until about 8pm that the Coroner and all 25 homicide detectives cleared the scene and told us we could get our things. The scene was not good and I was extremely spent by this hour. "Did someone find my cat?" was all I could cry. I must have been the most pathetic thing anyone had ever seen. "He is in his cage, Michael and seems to be fine" . I don't know if Don put him in there before he killed himself or if someone found him under a bed or what. All I know is that he is fine - I know, we can all breath again.
Don died almost 3 years ago and it has taken me a long time to forgive him. His choice to end his life was his and I can't even imagine coming to a decision like that. It is sad and truly tragic. My dad brushes it off, "He was a sick man" and my friend barely had met him, so I had to kind of deal by myself.
I stayed in LA for almost a year but really never got over the shock of what happened. I have been back in Boston since September of '07 and feel like I have finally recovered. It has not been easy - but every day it gets better.
I feel a little lighter.......