Thursday, June 10, 2004

SATMATC 7: Worlds Collide

The girls got up, introduced themselves, and went back to sleep. Shea crashed out (I've never met a human being who slept more, except for maybe my ex girlfriend, or Dan), and I dragged out the old acoustic guitar I'd been trying to pick up for the last year. I'm left handed, and adamantly refused to restring it, but could never really find the time or the teacher to do anything useful. It wasn't a prop, exactly, but it was close enough to be academic. I rooted around in their fridge/liquor cabinet until I found something approaching whiskey (a bottle of tequila, if I remember right), and sat dicking with the guitar til someone finally woke up.

Those were lonely hours. I didn't want to sleep--like most other exciting times in my life, I didn't want to miss a second. I knew enough to appreciate alcohol's sopoforic properties, so I was trying to sleep, but in reality, I was staying up because I was petrified of my car being towed. The car had all the fucking drugs, as well as nearly everything I actually owned. Now that I get to counting, I had everything but six or eight work shirts, my stereo, my record collection, and that old XT computer. The car was by far the most important possession (except for a couple of limited edition Ozzy Osborn and "Return of the Living Dead" picture albums), for a number of reasons.

So I stayed up, and watched the car, and played with my beard (which I had to cut a few days after I got back--a gay man named Brandon kept cooing I looked like Brad Pitt, and wanting to touch it), and tried not to make unattractive gagging noises while slugging back that tequila. And I succeeded in that last one, brothers and sisters, by sheer force of will and general exhaustion.

Melissa was the first one up (a sign? I held my breath, but there was no way to tell), and we had a few minutes to talk before Shea heard a female voice and began stretching "in his sleep." He was a fine physical specimen, but I felt he was no match for me in the race we were about to run. He was certainly better looking than me, but he'd been cutting up elk carcasses on the North Slope for the past six or seven years. In other words, I had a charm advantage.

The morning's rather blotchy...I remember going to eat pizza at some typical college pizzeria, where my dislike of Melanie was cemented in place.

You see, here are some of my less attractive qualities:

I have an instinctive dislike of people who were born into privilege, and don't attempt to better themselves in the real world.
I have a downright dislike for people who are conspicious consumers.
I really, really dislike folks who agonize over the social ramifications of anything, but most especially who to be seen with.

Melanie was very much guilty of all three of these sins. She was also guilty of not maintaining the perfect body I'd wanted to kiss all over, two or three years ago. I'm not gonna lie to you, kids: I've dated ugly girls because I wanted to feel Not Shallow, and I dropped them because I just plain wasn't attracted to them. I tried, yo.

[For what it's worth, I eventually figured out that "attractive" isn't the sum of its parts. Bear with me--this is yet another tale of my misspent youth, after all.]

In this case, most of lunch was taken up by Melanie smoking menthol cigarettes, which were the latest thing, and talking to one of her other roommates about what frat boys she should have hooked up with. There was a lot of surreptitious glancing here, on everyone's part:

Melissa kept wincing at some particularly crude remark Melanie had made, and looking to gauge my reaction.

I would hear the same remark, and look over to see if Melissa was nodding in assent. I'd never quite catch her looking at me.

Melanie would often glance at me, in order to gauge my reaction to what she was saying. I don't know what she hoped to find: jocular agreement, jealousy, or lust. I don't know. She was too far gone into the realm of appearances for me to care, really. But I didn't want my Melissa to be poisoned by the same habit.

I was zonked. A half a bottle of tequila, a lot of hot pizza, and zero sleep was not a good combination. I crashed on the sofa, before dark. I did NOT make a fool of myself, though--and we got the car parked in a safe spot, before I fell over.

The next day was a bit of a blur as well. Melanie and Shea and I spent a lot of time smoking pot, but Melissa was working. I was hoping against hope that Shea and Melissa would imprint on each other and leave me alone, but there was some sort of wire crossing going on, most simply explained by the fact that Shea had imprinted on Melissa just as I had (although, since I saw her first...). Melanie seemed the type to like a shaved barrel chest...which I plainly do not possess.

But it was not to be. They spent the majority of the day in deep stoner talk, which was kind of funny because she wasn't much of a stoner, and he wasn't much of a talker. They did fine. When Melissa got home, we began preparations for a movie.

Now, the cynic in me says that these two young women were so uncomfortable that they wanted nothing more than to kill a couple of the limited hours we had together in darkness and quiet, thus avoiding our staring eyes and lewd banter.

The cynic in you probably says the same thing. Hell, it's probably true. But this isn't the story of me being shut down. This is the story of me being charming, and wooing the girl, and ultimately being swept away by fate before we could do what we so obviously wanted to do.

A kiss. That's all I wanted, a simple kiss. That, and maybe a warm bed, away from Shea's snoring.

The movie was called "Jennifer 8," and it was as terrible an early 90's thriller as you can imagine. "Jennifer 8" is the story of a murder detective who's on the case of a serial killer who kills blind girls. It's craftily done, because about 45 minutes into the movie I figured out it's the detective who's the killer, and started paying attention to every line in the script.

I've seen the first hour and a half of "Jennifer 8" four times. The second time was with Wayne and Janiece (bless her black little heart), third and fourth were either at parties or with girls. Heaven knows I've tried to watch the whole thing, but I've still never actually seen the outcome. Maybe, when I'm sixty (or 33, or in any event at the end of my lifespan), I'll see the last few minutes, and it WON'T be the cop, and I'll realize I've spent my whole life being a smartass and living a GODDAMN LIE. But until then, I'll poke fun at the flick.

Or not. The important thing to remember is that if you squinted hard enough, you could maybe imagine I was going on a double date of sorts...while if you didn't squint just right, but did indeed squint, it would look like two guys vying for the attentions of a lovely young girl, while her friend stood around none too politely and waited to beat the ass of the guy who lost out, and then tried to cozy up to her.

Of course, if you didn't squint, and instead looked at this foursome under the mercury vapor lamps in the mall parking lot, you might have seen two girls uncomfortable with their situation, and two guys vying to be gentlemanly while stepping off paces like Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood in "For a Few Dollars More."

But again, the story's much more pleasant if you think about it in terms of a missed connection, instead of an unwanted and clumsy advance.

So we jostled, and I think I managed to buy both girls' popcorn and soda (because at the last second I felt sorry for Melanie, thus dooming us to NOT taking the tollroad the next day), and then it was down the darkened aisle to our seats.

Never, to my mind, has a more subtle and vicious race been run. Imagine the Kentucky Derby crossed with an episode of "I, Claudius," and you've got something approaching the Machiavellian antics Shea and I got up to, just to sit next to Melissa.

As you know, there are 24 possible permutations of four people sitting together. If I were Neal Stephenson, I'd graph that shit for you, but I'm not...and most of the patterns didn't interest me. My preferred seating arrangement (from aisle seat inward) was: Melissa, me, Shea, Melanie. This would a) keep Melissa away from Shea, close to me, and b) Melanie out of visual range in case some hand holding started happening.

What we wound up with was a happy medium for me (and I hope for Melissa): Shea, me, Melissa, and Melanie. I know, it's like oil and water, boy/girlwise, but the important two people to me were in contact...but I never dared touch her hand. She made it available, but I'm shy, and I'm not sure it was really made available, or she just liked to be within striking distance of the popcorn.

So we watched the movie. It sucked, and I was tired, and both Shea and Melanie were grumbling and being subtly unpleasant...and suddenly, halfway through the movie, our shoulders touched. We were SLUMPING the same way--towards each other!

I can't remember much of the movie from that point on, except for a lot of creeping NW coast lighting and blind gimmicks, because I was engaged in shoulder sex with Melissa. It might have lasted forever. But at the climax of the movie, just as I was about to steel myself and take her hand....just as I was preparing to actually reach for her hand [and don't any of you fuckers try and tell me you haven't agonized like this]...

The movie was winding up: the detective had gotten a mysterious tip, and had gone off to find the blind girl, and left a message for his partner, who later got shot (in the snow, no less) by the killer. The detective finds his partner, lots of flashbacks ensue, and just as things were coming to a resolution (both onscreen and w/r/t our respective ulnas), the lights came on.

A chorus of awwwws and booos filled the house, as a guy in a red usher uniform (which matched the carpet, I felt, but I was in no mood to be kind at this point) stepped to the front of the theater. He said the words that have followed me to this day, in some form or another. The reason I've never seen the end of that oh-so-forgettable movie:

Ladies and gentlemen, there's been a bomb threat. The movie theater must be evacuated. We'll be issuing tickets for tomorrow night's showing at the door.

By the time the next showing went on, we were on the verge of being strip searched by US Customs agents.

We walked, dejected, back to the car. Melissa and I walked together, shoulders touching, or nearly touching. We drove, in near silence, back to the house--the only sound was Shea rolling a joint in the back seat (in the dark-he was good).

Once we arrived, I crawled onto my futon and stretched out. The girls crowded on a loveseat, and Shea piled onto his couch (since he was big and tall, he commandeered the only piece of furniture big enough for his frame, which was fine with me--I liked him, even after all this). Another big spliff was rolled, and I considered doling out some of the acid, but didn't feel we had time. Shea began to snore....

Shea wasn't really a rival for Melissa's affections. Melanie's presence, and social graces, were obstacles to her affections. And after a bit of ignoring her, coupled with maybe a couple of dirty glances on my part, Melanie departed for bed.

I felt bad, kids. I mean, I have a soul, and I genuinely like the people that I want to sleep with, even if I no longer want to sleep with them. Melanie had poured her heart out to me over the last few years (in a couple of letters, granted, but they were important letters), and I felt bad about running her off. But I'd been patient, hoping she'd see the writing on the wall, and hoping she'd care enough to do the right thing. Ultimately she did, and left the two of us talking in the radiance of a single lamp.


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