If the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" shacked up with any coke-addled 60's rock-band biography, then had a little bookish child, it would resemble something like "Klonopin Lunch." This raunchy, good-girl-gone-bad temptress of a title is Jessica Dorfman Jones's memoir of her intentional fall from grace. Blessed with a booming job and a stable marriage, Jones still felt constricted by a life that lost its edgier luster. The solution finally arrives in the form of a guitar teacher described as a "Jewish Vinnie Barbarino." The first lessons were simple chord structures. Then the lessons became much, much lewder. Dorfman Jones, in her early thirties, rocked and rolled her way into sex and drugs, then came out on the other side with a heavy hangover and a surprising dose of self-realization. A guilty pleasure of a memoir if ever there was one, "Klonopin Lunch" is an amphetamine rush of a read.
Chapter 1: ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?
And so it was that, by the time I was on the doorstep of thirty, I was in a job I’d grown to hate and had been married for four steady, if plodding, years to my college boyfriend Andrew. Sweet, predictable Andrew, who loved nothing more than a night spent at home reading quietly and turning in early. I tried my best to be equally content with his vision of a cozy and homely pas-de-deux, but inevitably would wind up running screaming into the night to party, usually with my gay pals, until dawn. Andrew thought these outbursts of mine were amusing and they barely registered with him as he flicked through the latest Grisham novel before turning in for the night. The job I’d grown to detest was a high level position at a dotcom that, like so many others of its ilk, had managed to burn through close to one hundred million dollars in just over two years without actually producing anything. The New York Silicon Alley era had been fun while it lasted, but it was drawing to an obvious close and I was bored. Gone were the days of three-hour steak lunches at Les Halles, the week-long sales meetings in Vegas, and exorbitant expense accounts. Everyone had basically just stopped working; instead of the hustle and bustle we had all experienced in the early days, going to work now consisted of sitting at your desk and waiting for the phone to ring. That ring had become the inevitable death knell from Human Resources announcing that the gravy train had dried up. I occasionally considered going back to work as a lawyer, but I had hated law school, took several attempts to pass the bar, had worked for sadists, and the day I left that world was one of the happiest of my life. I detested the legal profession and it seemed the feeling was mutual. So there I sat, sliding into thirty, in a boring and mildly geriatric marriage, with an unused law degree and soon to be unemployed. I was dissatisfied with my job, my life, and when I allowed myself to admit it, with a marriage that had become as predictable as my morning oatmeal. I vaguely knew I had no one else but myself to answer to for all this, but had no clue what to do about it.
I shared an office at beenz.com with an old friend, the very person who had roped me into this job in the first place. Brynne was the head of web development and I was the director of business development and we shared an office mostly because nobody else liked playing Jerky Boys tapes at top volume as much as we did. Brynne was also struggling with what her next steps in life would be, and like me marveled daily that she’d made it to thirty and hadn’t yet figured out who or what she wanted to be when she grew up. So there we were, young but feeling old in our newfound adulthood, and filled to the brim with the tedium being heaped upon us daily at the office.
On a lazy Thursday in January filled with web surfing and vending machine abuse, we were both killing time by reading Salon.com to each other from our laptops, nestled deep inside the beanbags our company had thoughtfully provided in lieu of desk chairs. Why were we forced to sit in oversized hackey-sacks instead of the awesome Aeron chairs that every other dotcommer used? Because our company was called beenz.com.
“I can’t take this anymore. We have to do something so we don’t go insane. What should we do?” Brynne made this pronouncement from the depths of her vinyl cocoon.
“Go for a drink?”
That had become my answer to just about everything. Brynne was unimpressed. “No, I don’t mean that. I mean, we don’t have anything to do. Let’s take up a hobby. Some activity that we would never do under normal circumstances. Let’s just go nuts!”
Going nuts seemed like a fine idea, but I had long ago lost any sense of what that really meant. Back in college, that might have meant staying out all night every night at drag clubs and doing Ecstasy. Now it meant buying the Deluxe Edition of Scrabble for a rousing weekend at home.
“Sure, let’s go nuts. But how? I rolled out of my beanbag and onto the floor, which still smelled slightly of stale beer from last week’s intra-office beer-pong tournament. Staring up at the acoustic tile, I said “Well, I always thought it might be fun to learn how to play mah-jongg.”
Brynne gagged on a mouthful of Skittles. “What are you? Ninety?! Next stop orthopedic shoes! Vomit. Next idea.”
“Jesus, ok, fine. What do you think we should do?”
Brynne remained silent as she carefully rearranged the beanie babies on her desk into even more lewd positions. “I think that we need to get our groove on.”
I dug deep and really tried to conjure up an image of what getting my groove on would look like. Try as I might, all I had to work with was a blank wall of fuzzy white static glowing like a broken TV set in my mind’s eye. Shit. I had no clue. My life was so fucking lame.
Brynne lowered the boom. She had already cooked up the perfect plan. Brynnie explained that there was a guitar store across the street from her place in the Village, and that the guys who sold guitars there also gave lessons. She had popped in a few days earlier, sussed the scene out, and was happy to report that lessons were affordable and readily available. The store had enough guys working there to make it possible to basically call up any time for next day service. Before I could fully process what she was talking about, Brynne called right then and there from our office and booked lessons for both of us from the same guy. Hers would be the following Wednesday and mine would the day after that. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but the speed with which Brynne was changing our routine was making me uneasy. It wasn’t much, but the little foxhole of ennui that I had dug for myself was, well, mine. I had grown to rely on my discomfort zone to steer me through my days, and losing it seemed just as scary as staying put.
From that moment on, all Brynne could talk about was the guitar lessons. I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea of doing something new, and if I was really ready to change up my familiar if uncomfortable routine. So while Brynne prattled on, I concentrated on embracing the unknown. Slowly, my anxiety loosened its grip and excitement about our project, as well as possibly rediscovering some of my teenage audacity, crept in. I had to admit that Brynne was onto something, as we hadn’t even learned a C chord yet but the spell of ennui and lassitude that had held us in its grip for the previous year was breaking down.
Wednesday night rolled around and Brynne headed off to her lesson, while I hurried home to have one of my Martha Stewart OCD meltdowns of all night bread baking. I baked bread for two reasons: the manual labor helped to keep me calm and focused, and it allowed me to indulge my need to always go the extra mile, be perfect, and do everything right all the time. Generally, the bread baking was a good thing. It was certainly easier for my husband to live with than my cleaning obsession of the year before.
I was halfway through the second kneading and my dear, sweet and patient husband was watching Celebrity Deathmatch on MTV in the other room. A few words about my husband Andrew. He was an absolute saint. Since our freshman year of college he had been my biggest cheerleader and best friend on the planet. No one was funnier, smarter or more understanding of all the weird neurotic bullshit that I could manufacture than him. True, sometimes I did crazy stuff just to get a rise out of him because he was always so very good and so very kind and so very understanding. Which could be so very boring.
Just as I was checking to see if my dough was doing well with its second rise, the phone rang. It had to be Brynne! Thank God, something to distract me from worrying about whether or not my sourdough was rising properly. I wiped my hands off on my apron and grabbed the phone off the counter. “How was it? Was it awesome? Did you have the most fun ever? Can you rock? More to the point, do you think I’ll be able to?”
There was a pause on the other line. Which was weird. I was expecting a torrent of crazed excitement to flow through the receiver and knock me back against the wall of the kitchen. But no. There was a big, hanging, flabby pause. And then Brynne said the one thing I didn’t expect her to say in a zillion years.
“I think you should cancel your lesson tomorrow.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Seriously, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to take lessons from this guy.”
I replied slowly, trying not to sound hysterical. “Why? Are you ok? Did he do something to you? What happened?”
“Oh please, no nothing like that. I liked him and he can definitely teach. It’s just that, well, I don’t think he’s right for you. I think we should just call someone else from the store to teach us.”
Her obfuscation was driving me off the deep end. “Brynnie, what’s the deal?”
She finally blurted it out. “Dude. He’s totally cute. He’s a major flirt and a total, obvious sex machine. Complete with winking, tight pants, shooting finger guns, big blue eyes, the whole nine yards. He’s going to seriously dig you and you’re going to think he’s totally insanely delicious. There. I said it. Not a good idea.”
Let me interject here to say that there had been an episode about a year earlier when I had enjoyed an unconsummated but still notably hot and heavy flirtation with a friend of a friend who had recently moved to the city. Nothing serious had happened but the pull toward the guy had been nearly irresistible. I’d been proud of my ability to keep all zippers zipped and everyone had remained unschtupped. I had turned down temptation before; why on earth would she think it would be a problem now?
“Ok Brynne, I appreciate your concern, but I don’t think there’s any danger here. He’s just some dude who’s going to remind me what the circle of fifths is and teach me how to bang out three chords and the truth. No problemo here.”
“It’s the banging I’m worried about.”
* * *
The next day passed with the usual insanity of firings and recriminations at work. I got in a little before noon and Brynnie was already there, working on her resume and chatting with a bunch of her programming minions. They worshipped her (as well they should). When I walked into our office she gave me the hairy eyeball and dismissed her coterie of flunkies so we could pull our beanbags together and have a good gossip. Brynne refreshed her Cassandra-like warnings, but they continued to fall on deaf ears. We made feeble attempts at doing our jobs and by four-thirty I was on my way downtown to prepare for my guitar lesson.
“Preparing” meant getting home in time to change into jeans and a T-shirt, picking up some beer, calling Andrew at the office to say “hi” before one of his rare nights out with the other IRS attorneys on his team, and relaxing for just a few minutes before the big event. None of that happened. The second I got into the apartment, the doorman buzzed to say that Gideon was on his way up. Gideon? Oddly, I hadn’t even thought of the teacher having a name until that moment. Brynne and I had referred to him exclusively as Guitar Boy. In a a rush, I threw my coat on the bed, tossed the beer in the fridge and reached for the doorknob just as the doorbell gave its querulous little cough of a ring.
I opened the door.
For some reason, probably all the build up and drama that Brynne had concocted for what I assumed was her own entertainment, I became instantly flustered when the door swung open. I felt disoriented and anxious for no discernable reason. I couldn’t look the guy in the face. I was totally derailed, which never ever happens to me. I’m an extrovert. I’m the one who usually can’t stop talking. But there I was, mute and shuffling in my own doorway.
As I forced myself to drag my gaze upward to look Guitar Boy in the face, I took in a pair of scuffed motorcycle boots and a worn out pair of light brown corduroys that had bald patches in a few places and frayed hems. They could not have been tighter. There was no way. This guy had to lube up to get into his pants, because I could see clear as day that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. At. All. He had one of those skinny boy bodies — Not all heroin-strung-out looking, but it definitely begged the question of whether or not food was part of his lifestyle choice. Tight body. Tight pants. Giant belt buckle. Of course. It was brass and looked old and kind of’70’s-ish but God help me if it registered because I was already on to the perfectly draped and soft Led Zeppelin concert T and faded denim jacket. I would have laughed out loud at this extra from Dazed and Confused if it hadn’t all been just so raw. And hot. By the time I got to his face I knew I was dead. Crooked smile, perfect teeth but a little yellowed from the Marlboros I could see poking out of the jacket pocket. Pale skin and the bluest blue eyes I had ever seen, ice blue. Thick black lashes. A long, aquiline nose with a sculpted tip and a very slight bump at the bridge that immediately identified him as being a member of my tribe. And black hair in a perfect, parted down the middle ‘70’s dude flip. He was ridiculous. It was like a Jewish Vinnie Barbarino or Chachi Arcola had landed on my doorstep. But it didn’t matter, because what was even more ridiculous was that Brynne had been right. Of course she was right. She knew me like the back of her hand.
This guy was sex. Not sexy. Actual sex. For the first time in my life I understood what pheromones were all about. I fully appreciated what it meant to smell sex emanating from another person; not the remains of a sexual encounter but the indisputable chemicals that flowed out of his pores and made my stomach lurch and my palms clammy. It was the first time in easily ten years that I felt that inexorable urge to lunge at another person and lick them. Anywhere on his body, I didn’t care where. An eyebrow would have sufficed. I knew I was blushing because I could actually feel the roots of my hair burst into flames. I still hadn’t said anything and we’d been on my doorstep for an interminable and silent ten seconds or so.
Gideon brought us back to earth with a wink and a gravelly, “Can I come in?”
Yes baby. You can come in.
And in that split second I knew two things: I was going to sleep with this guy and my marriage was over. I wasn’t capable of acknowledging the first truth for about three months, and the second and much more horrible truth took about eighteen more months to take roost. But in hindsight, which we all know is the best and cruelest perspective you can have, I knew it all in that moment. The door to my world of being the hostess with the mostest slammed shut, and my days as a coke-snorting, skinny-jean wearing, wild-sex-having, babe began.
I was ready to rock.