Love Him Madly
An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison
By Judy Huddleston
Chicago Review Press Incorporated Copyright © 2013 Judy Huddleston
All rights reserved.
Identifying marks?" the nurse asked.
"Do you have any identifying marks?'
"Oh ..." I touched my face. "These indentations here, by my nose — from chicken pox. And this shiny spot on my forehead from a rock."
"Don't you have any birthmarks, any scars?" Her full lips pursed in and down.
"I have this." I held up my wrist. The meticulous series of crosshatches formed a maroon Y over blue veins. The nurse smiled sympathetically and wrote, "Distinguished by light freckles, hair worn in bangs." I put my arm back on the table and looked away.
"The doctor said you were pretty," she said, glancing across the admitting room toward the former hippie who had interviewed me earlier. We'd been at the same love-ins at Elysian Park.
"Really? Can I see?" Smiling, the nurse nodded and pushed the paper toward me in a conspiratorial gesture. "Oh, he did. That was nice." I shrugged.
"Don't you think you're pretty?" she probed.
"I used to be ... when I was young, I guess."
"It says here you're in your twenties."
"Not for me," I said, beginning to regret acting civil and sane. I had, after all, just been admitted to a mental hospital. I glanced at the skinny red second hand of the institutional clock. The plastic dome covering the black numbered hours was no longer transparent but chipped, scarred, and grayed with age. I looked down at my wrists and neatly typed plastic bracelet stating my new identity. It was 1975; I'd just become an inmate of Ward 4-A.
* * *
The soft rubber soles of the nurse's shoes made sure, gliding contact with the worn linoleum floor; the squeaky noise echoed down the still corridor. We walked past rows of rooms — some open, some shut, each with a sliding window encased in the upper third of the door. The windows were the same scuffed, translucent plastic as the dome of the clock had been. Stopping at the glassed-in nurse's station, she went inside; around the corner, patients huddled in robes before a television set.
"God, of all the things to do!" I blurted out.
"You mean the TV?" she asked, sounding defensive. "Anyone can watch TV whenever they want. Some people can't sleep well, you know."
"But that stuff puts people here. What if everyone just gets sicker?"
"Were you a model or something?"
"Who said that?"
"I worked as a model, but I wasn't one. I was an artist."
"Here's your daily schedule," the nurse said, pointing to the wall. Green felt-tip pen divided an orange construction-paper clock into neat sections. Each day followed the same plan: wake-up, medication, breakfast, group therapy, occupational therapy, lunch, individual therapy, rest, recreational therapy, dinner, medication, sleep.
"Don't you want to get in bed?" she asked. "You must be tired."
"I guess," I said, too exhausted to know.
I followed her to an empty room, watched her stack my inspected possessions on the top shelf of a metal locker, and crawled obediently into the small white bed. Pressing my head against the cool pillow, I ran my fingers over the nubby tufts of the chenille bedspread. I felt a sense of peace. After years of fighting, I'd finally admitted what I feared most — that I was hopelessly flawed, defeated, and helpless. ... I wouldn't have to worry about my life anymore; I had an orange chart with felt-tip rules to follow. Every morning a nurse would peer through my scuffed window, glide noiselessly to my bed, and slip a glass thermometer from her silver tray into my mouth. Finally safe, as if I were in the heart of a lion, I slept.
Somebody to Love
It was night. Garnished in bright silk, satin, and feathers, people drifted through the warm December darkness. Alone in my car, I felt soothed and intoxicated by vodka and expectations. Laughter wafted like pale-colored smoke, and the hopeful energy sank into me. The contagious spirit made this concert by the Doors at the Shrine feel unique; it was time to get up my nerve and go backstage. My imperious attitude and embroidered clothes — a cross between a rich Russian and a biblical peasant in pants — led the doorman to believe I was a performer due onstage. Guilty at my deception, proud of the accomplishment, and saddened by how easily people are fooled by appearances, I walked inside.
As I drunkenly surveyed the auditorium, a woman onstage sang "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." Weaving in and out of the crowd, I searched for a familiar face, though I was there only for Jim. I collided with Ronnie Krieger, the guitarist's brother, who was buying Cokes for the band. He seemed edgy until he saw I was, as usual, stoned on something, mysteriously giving me a reason for being there.
Soon we stood in the crowded dressing room, where I consumed enough grass and alcohol to numb myself against the uncomfortable banter of people appraising each other in a party that refused to begin. Anticipation etched the faces around me like mirrors; I wanted to hide. Finally, the door swung open, and Jim, looking the sulky dark angel, arrived. During this moment of total silence, the room paused, feeling his mood out for direction, waiting to see if he was willing to direct.
I donned a face of stony boredom, believing it allowed me to study Jim. While he talked, joked, and poured on the charm, he seemed to be searching for something. I didn't move a muscle or speak. In the middle of a conversation with a blond Englishman, Jim looked over at me and winked. It was very conspiratorial, as if we were sharing a great secret. I half smiled, not sure what I was being let in on. With a sudden rush, the band hurried off to perform. I trailed behind in a nervous stupor, finally sitting with Ronnie and Bill Siddons, the manager, by the stage.
Jim wasn't as loose as usual, perhaps recuperating from nearly falling off the stage the night before. Without that wild loss of control, he wasn't as convincing. His cries to tear down societal myths and taboos sounded guarded; no blurred, sweet smiles were passed to the other players. There was so little magic, I felt disappointed as the show came to an end. Soon everyone disbanded for home, and Jim mysteriously disappeared.
I collapsed into myself, purposeless as I walked to my car. I was really tired of trying to make him fall in love with me by pretending not to care, as if it were only by coincidence that my acid-induced ramblings had taken me backstage the past eleven months. My slickly incoherent version of a dumb blonde was wearing thin. I'd just finished high school six months before, but I was already exhausted from maintaining the stance of a pretty girl gone crazy from living in Newport Beach.
Reaching my car, I wanted to throw up or die. I sank down in the seat and rested my head against the steering wheel. The night filled with harsh droning as cars and people left the Shrine in a steady stream. The world grew silent and empty as I gazed across the vacant parking lot and contemplated the tedious job of driving back to my grandmother's place in Hollywood.
I heard footsteps and stifled laughter. My eyes refocused, and Jim filtered into view. Tall and deliberate, he walked alone, trying to look dignified — an impossibility while being followed by a group of giggling girls. They kept falling out of line and tugging at each other as he pretended not to notice. When he opened his car door, one girl jumped in the front seat, and another climbed on his lap and kissed him. Then a third traded places with the first.
The door slammed, Jim's car lurched into motion, and just as quickly, I followed him out of the parking lot. We drove down two dark blocks at a ridiculously slow pace until another car veered between us: another carload of girls. I tried to keep a discreet distance. He picked up speed, spun around a corner, and then slowed to a stop a few feet before the freeway entrance. Too late, I realized this was a trap, and I was caught.
Jim climbed out of his car, strolled leisurely down the ramp and chatted with the girls ahead of me. He glanced back at me with open amusement. It was hard to look aloof in these circumstances, but I tried. I studied the Felix the Cat Tire Store illuminating the corner with purple neon and frantically imagined I was an insomniac housewife pricing tires. I wasn't there for him; I wasn't one of those girls.
Slowly, elegantly, Jim stalked back to my car. Leaning over, he cast a sarcastic, what's-your-story look, shaking his head as if he'd caught me ruining my reputation. I glared back speechlessly.
"Are you following me?" he asked.
"I want to talk to you," I said in my most serious voice. I was in love with his soul; this was supposed to be a spiritual union, for God's sake.
"Aren't you going with Ronnie?" he asked skeptically.
"No. We're just friends. I mean, it's platonic."
"I asked, and everyone said you were going with him," he persisted. "At least that's what he thinks."
"Well, I'm not, at all." This was starting to seem too ordinary.
"That's different then," Jim said soothingly. "Why didn't you tell me? I'm living alone now, so why don't you come over?" His incredibly intimate, husky voice was aimed right at my ear. "I'm staying at a motel," he said, bending farther into the car. He'd obviously forgotten my line about wanting to talk.
"All right," I said.
"Just follow me. I can get rid of them — don't worry." He gave me a last, unneeded, seductive look and walked back to his car, this time ignoring the carload of girls. Watching him stride away like a great conquering lion, I wanted to start all over again. I'd thought I was going to conquer him, but he'd turned it around backward.
Even worse was my sense of anticlimax. The moon hadn't fallen from the sky; the earth hadn't cracked open. His songs happened in Egyptian deserts, Greek temples, moonlit roads leading to eternity. I was just following him over the Harbor Freeway to Hollywood. Pretty disappointing for two cosmic soul mates meeting again in the flesh.
Not only was I still in everyday reality, but I'd been caught in some kind of cops-and-robbers escapade. The carload of girls swerved manically from lane to lane, chasing Jim in bumper-to-bumper loops across the freeway. He pulled over to the side again, and a girl jumped out of his car. After she climbed back in the car with her friends, the parade launched on. As we finally pulled off the freeway onto Santa Monica Boulevard, a fire engine roared by. Jim stopped, his arm flung leisurely out the window as if he was watching the afternoon races. A few blocks later, the procession pulled into a liquor store parking lot. I leaned back my head, closed my eyes, and sighed.
"Don't fall asleep. We're almost there," Jim purred as he walked past me into the store. I turned to glare meaningfully at the girls. Surprisingly, their motor started up, and they disappeared into the night. Jim came out of the liquor store with his brown bag, apparently failed to notice his faithful fans had departed, and leaned into me, whispering, "It'll only be a few minutes now."
I wasn't that sure I wanted to do this anymore, but the voice inside warned I'd better or be sorry someday. We drove up a steep entrance under a bright neon arrow announcing the Alta Cieñega Motel in blue and red flashes. It was typically Californian, trying to give the illusion it was Spanish; withering green vines climbed around the rickety white lattices.
"It's upstairs," he said, nodding in the room's direction. Our footsteps echoed over the concrete as we climbed the stairs silently. Jim opened the door.
Once we were inside, I retreated into adolescence, dumbstruck as I stared at the bed. It was practically all the room was — a bed. I perched on the only chair, unable to recall my important reasons for being there. I couldn't say, "I never do these things"; he'd know how inexperienced I am. I couldn't say, "I'm a future famous artist, not just another girl"; he'd think I was nuts. My mind ranted in noisy desperation until I thought, He's the man; he should do something.
Jim drank his beer and contemplated the dusty curtains. I felt I was intruding or interrupting his thoughts, but my presence in the room slowly dawned on him. He put down his beer, walked over to me, and lightly placed his hands on my shoulders. Looking into my face, his eyes invited me to stand; his hands, moving to my waist, commanded it. I stood.
I wasn't exactly expecting a shot of beer in my mouth when he first kissed me. I almost choked, wondered if he wanted it back, and managed to swallow without coming up for a loud gulp of air. I even found this romantic; he was, after all, innovative. I'd just need more beer to soothe my nerves. ... We regarded each other steadily, and he smiled shyly. After I finished off the bottle, we kissed again. His arms tightening around me, Jim pulled me closer, lifting me in a kind of unrushed passion.
Slightly more dramatic, he bent me back into a near swoon, pulling on my hair. It might've been OK if it had been my own hair, not a 100 percent human hair fall (the sixties precursor to hair extensions). The long blonde mass hung limply in his hand. I waited for him to start laughing or pointing, but he didn't. He acted as if everyone had two layers of hair; either that, or he wasn't interested in minor details. He just kept going. Reassured, I threw off my blouse in a gesture of bravery. Then I fell back on the bed and stared up at him.
Jim was onstage again, conscious of every movement. Undressing luxuriously, pausing every few seconds, he was beautiful to watch. Standing above me, his eyes holding mine intently, he slid the infamous black leather pants slowly down his pale, smooth skin. He moved softly down beside me. I lay there, mute and amazed.
Playful, he indulged in a tug-of-war game with my clothes. Once I was undressed, he rolled into a ball by my feet, examining my toes and ankles like a three-year-old discovering human anatomy. He did know the direct route up my legs, though, and his mood changed fluidly until he was moving slowly inside me, a sensual scientist searching and finding the right slants and curves. Keeping a quality of unhurried passion, he was lovely, mastering each sensation.
It was so easy, so perfect; it was like dreaming. I liked his back; it was smooth and solid. And I liked the way his shoulder blades veered out like wings, how fine and moist his skin felt. Touching him was like meeting who he really was, and I liked him more. It was much easier than talking. Surprised that he was what I expected, I assured myself that this really was Jim, his body next to mine. I slipped into drowsiness and then rose to wakefulness again. I had to call my grandmother; she'd worry I was lying dead somewhere if I didn't.
"I have to make a phone call," I said reluctantly, jolting Jim back to reality.
"You'll have to go outside. There's not a phone in here," he said.
"That's all right." I felt relieved that he wouldn't hear me.
"Well, you'll have to put some clothes on then," he informed me. "I mean, I don't care, but they would. ... It's probably cold out there, too."
"I know," I said, wondering if he thought I was without a brain. I threw on a combination of my clothes and his.
"If you can't stay, we'll get together another time soon." He sounded wistful and slightly hurt, but the casualness of his words stung. I had no intention of leaving, but I didn't want to explain that. Confused, I walked outside and made the call. I shivered as I lied to my grandmother Rosalie about staying with a friend, but my story was cheerfully accepted.
"Well?" Jim's voice sounded slightly anxious when I returned.
"Good," he said, half draping himself over me. Allowing himself a contented sigh, his breathing became deep, and without even the preface of a yawn, he fell fast asleep.
I lay wide awake, my mind racing. I had at least wanted to ask a few questions about his writing. ... I pouted for a while, but without an audience it was useless. Finally, with dawn encroaching, I let myself fall asleep.
Break On Through
In the morning, Jim and I woke to the steady honking and hissing of traffic. Scared he wouldn't respond to me, I turned away nervously. He reached over, touched me, and without words, we made love. It seemed too automatic, and I felt hurt he wasn't talking, though I myself wouldn't speak. I was afraid it would seem too forward — of all the logic — I was naked in bed being shy.
Afterward, Jim stayed silent. He picked up a book, The Origins and History of Consciousness, and propped up our pillows. It was nonverbally understood we were going to sit up and read. At least, he was going to. My mind was too muddled to understand a complete sentence. The book was complex, full of complicated diagrams, illustrations, and endless annotations. I secretly just skimmed the captions and studied the pictures, pretending we were looking at sophisticated funny pages. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Love Him Madly by Judy Huddleston. Copyright © 2013 Judy Huddleston. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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