Her Tongue is History, Her Body a Mystery by Max Barrie

Text by Max Barrie

            This is gonna be a fun story to squeeze…

            My life gets better everyday… because everyday it gets closer to being over.

            And I have an Ab-Fab setup… so why am I constantly twisted up like a bag full of pretzels?  My brilliant parents love me and still bankroll The “Maxccident.”  I have a genius younger sister who continues to raise me via SMS text.  I have friends… HAD friends.  They’re all gone now.  Dead or grown-up or missing.  I’ve had two girlfriends in my life… they both married doctors oddly enough— one still believes I’m a homosexual.  She never really explains.  Maybe she found my bodybuilding mags?!  I kid.  But she suspects I’m closeted.  And believe me… if you saw her - and I told you I broke it off - you might think I craved the ol’ calzone too.  I’ve never made love to a better looking woman than the one who took my virginity at 19… this girl robbed me of my wasted youth on a brown leather sofa.  It was all downhill from there.

            I was once hanging out with a very famous Playboy Playmate and her husband in Sherman Oaks around 2002.  This was before Playboy got dressed and Hugh Hefner legitimately became a bowl of oatmeal.  Anyway, this Playmate’s husband was talking to me about internet porn… and jerkin’ off.  I was in SHOCK because his wife was the hottest woman EVER— what’s this clown doing WWW-ing pussy?  Eventually I would know the truth about people… and certainty says— everybody gets burnt out on everybody.  More so guys growing tired of girls from what I’ve seen.  And that’s a sad fact.  This couple eventually divorced… Que Sera, Sera… the future was mine to see.

            And while I’m not letting women off the hook, I believe in many ways they are more evolved creatures than us.  If you have a penis and you want to build a life with a woman you “love,” you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself— “Am I ready to be better than my biology?  Do I LOVE this person enough to go against my nature from this day forward?”  I’m not really sure what women need to say to themselves in the mirror before they settle up.  I’m not a woman… so I won’t comment.  Being a man has not been pleasant… to say the least.  But from my perspective, there is no greater challenge than being female.  If you “survive” life as a man, in the next life God might give you a vagina.  “You are ready my son, here comes the sideways slice-a-roo.”

            I’m lonely… a lot of us are.  I’m a lonely tortured car-less Beverly Hills toad.  And I miss booze… it was always there… my white knight grinning from across the room.  I can’t say the same about life or people… or Madison Grendel.

            Nobody had seen Maddy at the rehab I had recently checked into.  She was a ghost then and she’s a ghost to this day.  At the time, she was sleeping off a meth binge.  I think it had been nearly six months that she was shooting the snappy stuff into her veins.  LATER THAT YEAR at an Omakase lunch, a mentor of mine said— any person who injects meth into their body truly hates themselves to the very core.  A lot suddenly came clear.  Madison Grendel hated herself and she wanted to leave earth… and I don’t mean in a rocketship.  But like in 1989’s Batman… The Joker created Batman long before Keaton dropped Nicholson into that vat of acid.  A small town and a strict family in Arizona had created Maddy, long before the trouble started.  A product of her environment… aren’t we all.

            One night I was sitting in the living room of this rehab watching shit TV.  This was before Netflix and Hulu muscled their way in.  Suddenly, a tall, thin, black-haired Japanimation character crept into the room in her bare feet.  She was so thin, that she almost didn’t exist— like a shadow.  I watched this 20-something girl grab snacks from the nearby kitchen like she hadn’t eaten since Tuesday.  She probably hadn’t.  She was wearing earbuds to avoid any possible communication.  I didn’t know then, but music marinating her mind would become her signature style.  I would eventually learn that she was so twisted and so tortured, songs temporarily kept her from the darkness.  In moments she disappeared down the hall with her goodies and I didn’t see her again for a couple more days.  When I asked a rehab tech about the mysterious junkie, he told me her name was Maddy.

            Maddy’s hair hung down to her lower back… and she wore clothes that concealed every inch of her body.  Mostly long sleeve shirts and hoodies and sweat pants.  She was on holiday from a hell I couldn’t possibly imagine.  Madison had big beautiful almond shaped eyes and was very soft-spoken, but rarely spoke at all.  She mostly listened to her music, doodled on scratch paper and chain smoked cigarettes.  She would go back and forth between Marlboro Reds and Camel Lights, but never said why.

            Everybody in rehab has a roommate… at least they used to.  It was a common practice to keep people from isolating and to put more heads on beds— fill the joint up.  My roomie was a kid from Manhattan named Conner.  He was probably 19 or 20 at the time.  Anyway, he was immediately taken with the mystery that was Maddy— which was funny because I had assumed he was gay.  Something feminine about him.  Anyway, he started talking to her in free moments, and one night while I was elsewhere, they made out in our room.  Later, Conner found me outside smoking and his lip was bleeding.  Maddy had apparently bitten down a little too hard during their sesh.  But he didn’t give a shit, he was hooked— love at first bite.  After that it was like Maddy had rescued a Labradoodle… she couldn’t get rid of this kid.  But they both seemed pleased with each other’s company and I was pleased that they were pleased.

            In treatment addicts love to hook-up.  Everybody humps in life.  But you throw two dry drunks or sober druggies in a room and they’ll smoke each other, ya dig?  Most everyone who works in recovery or has time in sobriety frowns on sex in the beginning… I don’t.  I used to buy into the bullshit of— you’re either using a dick fix or a magical box as a binky— OR you’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  I was always told I needed to focus on myself, YET I was ALSO TOLD service work was important in sobriety to get me out of myself.  Blah, blah, blah… meanwhile it’s perfectly acceptable to be a pharmaceutical induced chain-smoking zombie.  That’s cool and won’t have any negative consequences.  My point is, people are going to find each other and bang each other… it’s in our nature.  And rebellious anti-authoritative personalities are gonna enjoy doing it that much more in a broom closet.  The whole game of hide-and-fuck is a high in itself.           

            That said, I couldn’t see what was happening to Conner… he was coming apart in Maddy’s hands like stale Play-Doh… day by day… bit by bit… piece by piece.  She didn’t do it for me, so I couldn’t yet understand.  In this life, tunnel vision and lack of insight are a double-barreled shotgun.  At the time neither she nor Conner were really on my radar.  He was a love sick kid and she was some mute popcorn hoe.  In our room at night, Connie would tell me how beautiful Madison was and how her big mouth and long tongue would swallow his lips during their dry hump sessions.  I found this mildly amusing and thought of a cow.  I also learned that Madison would occasionally play with his pecker, but her clothes never came off.  He had never seen the goods unwrapped.  I just assumed she was all scarred up from shooting drugs or that she had caught fire in a meth lab. 

            By the time Maddy left Los Angeles, I had never seen her without her clothes off either.

            Connie looked up to me.  I’m not sure why.  Admiring an older drunk in rehab seems like a step in the wrong direction.  But I was funny and friendly and we would talk shit, and I would make him laugh about sad truths in life— like waking up in the morning.  At the time there were probably fifteen patients total in the facility, and I made some lifelong fans during that stay.  This was my third time in drug rehab and fourth time is treatment. 

            I’m not bragging… believe me, nobody hates Max Barrie more than Max Barrie.  I’m not my taste.  But I often did well in these contained therapeutic environments, especially having been there before.  There was little pressure and lots of downtime— giving me the opportunity to find friends.  I’m often agreeable, empathetic, and usually giggling about something.  And during this particular stay, I wasn’t heavily medicated— which was always a personality plus.  For years the street drugs and booze weren’t the problem.  It was this crap that was prescribed to me by professional nudniks.  Creeps.  My “get well story” was an artist’s journey, but it was often handled like a science experiment.  I would however like to give a special shoutout to Ritalin, which helped me flip the switch on eleventh grade… until I started snorting it.  Feel the burn.

            I didn’t know it yet, but Maddy started to like me.  She began taking her earbuds out and talking to me.  And during group therapy she would say nice things about me.  She knew I was a writer and she showed me some of her journaling and scratch paper doodles… a few times she even wrote me three to four page letters detailing her day and the evil circus between her ears.  Conner didn’t seem to mind that Maddy had taken a liking to me.  He liked me just as much, if not more.  And the fact that he thought I was cool, probably fueled any tiny flame that she felt for me.  Women love noise.  I liked Madison too, but didn’t think about her sexually.  Not really.  Something about her spooked me… maybe the intravenous drug use?  But there was also a lack of emotion.

            Maddy seemed sad right before it was my time to leave.  She shared about it in group.  I was kind of touched, listening to her talk.  I didn’t know that she had felt that much of a connection with me.  Maddy had another ten days left, but would remain in LA for aftercare and sober living.  By this time, she had started to transform a little.  She had gained some weight from all the junk food… there was color in her face, and layers to her skin.  One day she visited a hair salon… and when she came back, that’s when my troubles started.

            She had short black hair, down to her chin now… and with those big windows and full lips… she looked like a “1990 Demi Moore,” but hotter.  Four weeks earlier she was a paper thin pale-faced junkie with bad skin.  Her body even looked better.  The right stuff popped out, everything else stayed in like it was supposed to.  She reminded me of a broken rose.  At last I saw the lovely.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."   —Confucius                                                                                         

            Like most men, I usually know if I want HER within seconds of meeting HER.  But with Maddy, I had to wait a month.  And Conner, I didn’t care.  I did care for him, but I was more interested in myself… and now even more interested in Madison.

            I checked out of the rehab and rented a private room at a sober living.  It was basically a three thousand dollar a month closet, but it was all mine.  I soon started getting calls from an unknown number.  When I finally decided to answer, it turned out to be Madison calling.  She wanted to know where I was living and what I was up to.  Then I started running into her at our outpatient program.  She would also phone me more frequently.

"I used to think that ready money made a man, and I wanted to stick out my green prick whenever and wherever possible.  In Hell-A, if you have cash, people smile when they see you.  But they’re disingenuous little devils.  A man is made in the storm of life, once he stops doing childish things and starts helping others. "

            Just like in a book, Maddy was from a screwy strict Catholic family.  And after spending enough time with her, my best guess is she also had a genius level IQ.  She once mentioned in passing that she had been accepted to Harvard, but went to a state school because of a boy she followed… and this boy eventually broke her heart.  She wasn’t street meat off the sidewalk grill… Maddy was well read, well educated and even played the piano like Beethoven.  I mean it was creepy to see this punk chick in a hoodie go at it like a concert pianist.  Bit by bit, piece by piece… some of her story surfaced.

            Her state school sweetheart dumped her sophomore year, and after a long battle with depression, Maddy dropped out.  She was in so much distress, she couldn’t really focus on her studies.  So like all great alcoholics and addicts in training, she said “fuck it.”

—to her strict family

—to her formal education

—to religion, which she never bought into anyway.

            Her parents stopped communicating with her and she started using now and again.  A few pills, some weed, a little blow.  All in the name of a good time and passing the time.  And I empathize.  If you get under the covers with booze and dope, they will eventually turn on you, but unlike a boyfriend or an unforgiving family, a substance will never turn it’s back on you.  And that my friends is the drug rub.  So Maddy started playing around… but more of an opportunist than an addict - at this point - she began selling to pay her way, and to afford the bad habits she enjoyed.  Everyone loves a pretty girl… and one who’s HOLDING trumps a bitch on the runway any day of the week.

            In order to sell more, she became tight with some very bad people and started bringing in real money.  She had contacts in Texas, Arizona, and across the border.  I know what you’re thinking— is this girl for real?  Is Max Barrie full of shit?  And who the hell is Max Barrie?  Honestly, I can’t effectively answer any of those questions.  I’m telling you my version of things and what Maddy conveyed to me during the time that I knew her.  But she could’ve been taking me for a ride, entertaining me, spinning stories that never were.  According to her, she started selling heroin.  She lived alone in an apartment with 3 handguns, 1 shotgun, and a safe full of drugs, just like in the movies.  She even had a pit bull.  And for a few years her life was moving, but never moving forward.  Money kept coming in… but eventually she had to pay the fiddler.

            Any possible tall tales aside,  I knew for a fact that Maddy would meet with a team of attorneys regularly, and I also listened to a few threatening voicemails she got from old “co-workers” back home.  She finally changed her number.

            Both in different sober livings, I picked her up one night and took her out to a birthday party in Hollywood.  The bouncer wouldn’t let us in at first because I was wearing sweatpants.  Never mind that they were seven-hundred dollar sweatpants from Maxfield.  So I did the unthinkable… I told the gatekeeper who I was and who was celebrating their birthday that night.  A few minutes later we got in.  After the party, Maddy and I went to see some awful horror movie in Century City.  Like we were in 7th grade, I took her hand during a spooky Scooby-Doo moment.  We kissed.  I finally understood what Conner had been talking about.  Her mouth was the Batcave and her tongue nearly took me down.  I didn’t mention anything that night, but I would eventually call her on it.  Still, she would always refuse to display her big pink taster.  I asked to see it many times.

            Like Conner, I gradually started to become infatuated with Maddy.  Part of it was that she soon became hard to reach, which is always exciting.  Speaking of Conner, he found out I was fooling around with Maddy.  He asked me why I would do something like that?  He thought we were friends.  I felt bad, we were friends… sort of, but isn’t this how friends treat each other?  It was how most “friends” had always treated me… as an afterthought.  Conner soon flew back to New York.  I heard he relapsed, but I can’t be sure.  He changed his number and wasn’t on Facebook.  Anyway, fuck him.  No, fuck you, Max.  I’m sorry I hurt you, Connie.  Women have always been so few and far between that when one gave the go-ahead, I didn’t think about anything or anyone else.

            I had some funds at the time… maybe my sweatpants gave it away?  I had been working before I landed in treatment, and had recently inherited six figures.  So I was spending a lot, acting like a big shot.  I used to think that ready money made a man, and I wanted to stick out my green prick whenever and wherever possible.  In Hell-A, if you have cash, people smile when they see you.  But they’re disingenuous little devils.  A man is made in the storm of life, once he stops doing childish things and starts helping others.  If you’re lucky enough to strike gold, like I did at birth, be very careful, but be generous.  If you’re blowing money left and right to feed your fickle beasts, you’re missing the point.

            I took Maddy to Nobu for dinner, as well a handful of other pricey establishments.  I bought her a birthday necklace at Chrome Hearts.  She even got a little emotional, saying she couldn’t remember the last time anyone bought her anything.  We both lived in sober livings, so I wasn’t allowed to play with her ass indoors.  There was a lot of making-out in my car.  Up front in a donut shop parking lot… in the backseat, parked along PCH.  I kept trying to toss it in, but she would never get undressed.  I still hadn’t slept with her yet.  Now don’t I look silly?  Thats my specialty.  A lot of embracing one another and intense drama and even a couple mediocre blow-jobs.  But that about summed it up.

            I eventually got us a suite at The Beverly Hills Hotel and we ordered room service and crawled under the covers to watch a movie.  Surely, this would be a thigh opening experience for her.  But she refused to get undressed… and sometimes when I touched her, she would tremble.  Because I’m an asshole, I cracked jokes about her having a cock that she didn’t want me to find… that’s when she told me a horror story.

            Last year she was robbed, beat-up and BRUTALLY SEXUALLY ASSAULTED by two guys she knew back home.  I can still hear her say those three words to me— “Brutally Sexually Assaulted.”  And even though I didn’t have CSI evidence, I believed her.  Talking about it, Maddy looked like her insides had been kicked out through her stomach.  She wouldn’t say much more… other than she knew the two guys who robbed and raped her, and she didn’t call the police because of the line of work she was in.  She also mentioned that since it happened she couldn’t get undressed without having a panic attack.  So showers were quick, mirrors were covered, and sex was difficult to say the least.

            After the attack, Madison’s addiction really took hold.  “Casual” became “tragical.”  She started regularly smoking meth, didn’t sleep for days, even got sloppy with work… eventually she started shooting the drugs.  All pookie and no cliche makes Jack a dull boy.  This went on for months.  Maddy was originally only trying to cope, but eventually it became a kamikaze mission.  She canceled her insurance, stopped paying bills, gave away belongings… like when Nick Cage’s character went to Vegas.  But before her credits could roll, the DEA knocked on her door with a number of charges.  Possession, distribution, trafficking, you name it.  However, the authorities told her it could all be a bad dream if she helped them.  That’s when Maddy lawyered up, flew out to Cali, and landed in rehab with me.

            I started to have nightmares and daymares about the guys who attacked Madison.  I replayed a brutal assault in my mind that I knew nothing about, over and over… I pictured horrible evil Pulp Fictiony things.  Whatever images you conjure up while you’re reading this are sufficient, as mine certainly were for me.

            I started to lose myself, and only think and breathe about Madison… rescuing her and avenging her horrible attack, then the two of us running away together.  I soon told her I loved her and she told me the same.  And in some warped and twisted reality, we probably did love each other.  It just wasn’t the kind of love that came with a white picket fence or stood the test of time.  And then she’d disappear more often, or not return my messages… so I’d break things off… and then she’d come back crying and give me head… and we’d start over just as soon as I finished.  When Maddy was around I would only think about her leaving, and when she wasn’t around I would wonder where she was.  During the worst of it, nothing helped.  I was stone cold sober and emotionally invested in the wind.  It was a lot like being on drugs.

            Anger, shame and selfishness gripped me in it’s tiny claw.  I was furious with those two guys who raped Maddy.  I also was angry at her for “letting it happen???”  I was upset that I couldn’t fuck her because what did that say about me?  And then I piled on the shame for thinking such selfish disgusting thoughts… and what did THAT say about me?!  If I could have shot fireballs out of my eyes, this would’ve been the time.  Also, fuck the DEA for arresting her.  Fuck the lawyers who were billing her.  Fuck the recovery community for making us sneak around.  Fuck Conner for being a butt pirate and relapsing. 

            Wherever I pointed my finger, it didn’t really matter.  There were always three pointing back.  Oh, ok, maybe this is why the recovery community frowns on newly sober people dating?

            When the new year arrived, Maddy and I had officially stopped getting together.  And that’s when I melted into a pile of clothes and slime.  I thought about suicide and I even thought about homicide… however anything I thunk was in bed.  I could barely get up to take a leak.  My version of a Porta-Potty was some of those red plastic keg cups on my dresser.  I rarely left my sober living, but when I did come up for air, I’d get horribly paranoid.  I would think I saw Madison nearby or that her car was following me, or that my friends were fucking her… or not fucking her?  I’m not sure what’s worse.

            You go to rehab to stop drinking and using drugs… at least I did.  Pretty much everything else is none of anybody’s business as long as I’m not hurting myself or someone else.  You could certainly make the argument that Maddy and I were hurting one another.  Because even though we grew into each other, we were the last thing each other needed.  But whether the sobriety scene put their guns in the ground or not, this relationshit happened… and so will others.

            The best advice I got in the middle of all this was from a certain compassionate witness who always wore a hat.  He had seen it all and been through it all.  And he didn’t talk at me, he sat and listened to what I had to say.  And when I finished, he paused… then spoke, “I’m not Nostradamus and can’t predict the future, buddy.  Any Rehab and Juliet romance will either work or it won’t… this may be a good thing OR it may not.”  And that was all.  There was no judgement… so I could hear him… and because I could hear him, I could digest.  He then explained how common rape and trauma were… he threw out frightening statistics and said that many female victims knew the men who assaulted them.

            My very first girlfriend I met in a drug rehab.  She’s the one who took my virginity at 19.  We were together for nearly three years.

            The only difference between rape and murder is— with rape, the victim bleeds out over a lifetime.  Madison went back to Arizona and I never saw her or spoke to her again.  At some point we texted… maybe a year later… and I learned she had a legitimate day job and had relapsed again on meth.  Don’t know what happened with her legal problems.  She wouldn’t say. 

            I burned a kid who looked up to me and soon after I became a caricature of him.  With time, I snapped out of my love sick craziness and it morphed into something else… I also started fucking Alexis— a tiny tattooed grunge girl who lived in my sober living.  She granted me vagina access, and was great at sucking cock and even better at swallowing, if that’s possible?  The antidote really is the poison.

Max Barrie is a writer and artist currently based in Los Angeles. The son of screenwriters, Michael Barrie and Sally Robinson, Max was born and raised in Beverly Hills, California. With acerbic wit and self deprecating humor, Max documents his life growing up in the shallow, superficial depths of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood machine. In his multiple part autobiographical series, entitled A Trendy Tragedy, Max will explore his bouts with addiction, prostitution and his search for identity in a landscape that is rife with temptation and false ideals.