Sunday, March 20, 2005

Diana and Joe 3: Innocent Treachery/The Bet

At the end of August, the golden summer came crashing down. Bob moved out, Jim moved out (in the middle of the night, no less), and I had to break down and go back to my job (for most of the summer, we'd been living off of LSD profits, Taco Mayo tacos, and whatever we could find in the fridge). This final bit was the death knell, really--everyone else could stay up all night, but I had to be at work early in the morning, and worked til late, so I began to secede from the social scene.

This wasn't so bad, actually--I've found there are times in my life when I'll ingest prodigious amounts of illicit substances, act crazy, and generate fodder for these pages. At some point, however, that urge wears off, and I feel the craving for a bit more...structure (or at least a bit of a paycheck).

But the result, most mornings, was that I would wake up in my bed to find Joe crawling into his--or nobody in the house at all, since they had the decency to not tempt me while I was trying to re-adjust to Asian garment worker hours. Most of the parties moved over to Waynerd's place, which was a tiny, tiny efficiency (literally, a living room/bathroom/kitchen) about a dozen blocks away.

So it was that I awakened one day and found the purple head of Joe, face in his hands, elbows on knees, shaking back and forth in the early Tuesday morning sunlight. This was a man plainly in the grip of some sort of Trouble. And, despite my well documented misanthropy before 10am, I had the compassion to ask "hey, Joe, what's the matter?"

His head stopped, and without looking up, he muttered, "I fucked Diana last night. Shit, what am I gonna do now?"

The problem, of course, hies back to one of the other things I've been talking about here and on Seeing in the Dark: casual sex is NEVER equally casual for both partners. And given Jessie's belief that sex is The Ultimate Price You Pay For Love, you can understand ol' boy's feeling that maybe he'd stuck his foot in a bear trap. Because despite Diana's more casual feelings on sex, we had all seen the googly eyes, and been afraid for him.

Well, shit, I thought, I guess I can be a little late for work. I have got to hear this--because Joe was a clever quarry, and I didn't think Diana (hey, classical scholars, don't miss the Roman allusions here) would be able to bring him down.

Turns out the afternoon had begun like many others, with a case of cheap beer and some kind bud on the front porch. Waynerd was present, and had arranged to meet Diana and Jessie there as well. Upon arrival, and the exhaustion of beer, the four moved to Waynerd's place, the girls stopping off to get another case or two of beer. As I said, they were good girls.

Now, for some reason, Joe had been playing a lot of cards recently, teaching us how to play hearts. He was the "King of Hearts," I think he said, and was apparently pretty good--definitely better than me, but I have little attention span for that sort of thing. Anyway, his hearts playing was filled with reminiscences about his time in jail, which he'd apparently spent, uh, learning how to play hearts. Now, Joe wasn't OLD enough to have spent much time in jail, but still, it seemed like a pretty simple game at the time. And, from painful experience, I knew how focused jail life could be. Without books, all you can do is brush your teeth and pray, and I'm not much for prayer.

So as the beer was being processed in the livers of the card players, Joe and Waynerd took a commanding lead over the two girls. In fact, they won the first three or four games handily. They stopped to smoke pot (neither girl smoked, so it was all the boys on this), then began again. The girls, mysteriously, spanked the shit out of the boys. They played again--same result. Joe's manhood was being impunged, of course, even moreso once Jessie revealed that she'd learned to play hearts with her grandmother, visiting her on weekends.

More dope was smoked, more beers were drank. The case of beer closer to the boys was empty, so they started in on the girl's case, which wasn't nearly as empty (pay attention, bubba--that was a Clue). Everyone was all giggly now, and the girls upped the ante a bit:

"OK, we want to bet! If you guys win this next game, you can sleep with us. If WE win, you have to wash our cars, over at Jefe's house, naked!"

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not sure if Joe realized what he was up against at this point or not. He gave no indication at the time-and I can't say for sure that I would either, after that intake of beer and (especially) pot. But perhaps, now that I sit and write this, he did--and played the next game with the desperation of a man who knows he's doomed, and doomed implicitly by his own friend and partner, Waynerd.

Because you and I know Waynerd, and this is the guy who'd cut you off at the ankles for $2.50. After six weeks of chasing after Jessie, he would have sold his own mother to the communists for just a sniff of her panties, if you'll pardon the mental picture.

And so it was that Joe fought a mighty battle of hearts, standing against two nubile young females (one with a screechy laugh) and his own best friend. He battled, but as we know, couldn't lose. The girls had beat him to the bottom.

Triumphant, Waynerd's eyes lit up as he eyed his prize. Joe slunk off to the bathroom, which probably only made it worse. The anticipation, you know.

By the time Joe returned, Waynerd and Jessie were already in the bed, making out like fools, and Diana was batting her eyelashes and unbuttoning her blouse.

He ran.

He ran downstairs, got in the LTD, fired up the Bass Cannon, and pulled out his pipe. Smoking, he contemplated what had gone wrong, and why his dashlights didn't work. He contemplated whether he should actually go through with it, and the ramifications of both courses of action. Waynerd got in the car beside him, in boxers.

We both know what Waynerd's thoughts were on the matter. "Dude, she won't sleep with ME unless YOU sleep with DIANA. (puff) Come on, man, come on! A bet's a bet! You can't do this to me, man, it's not FAIR. Come on, you'll hurt her feelings, dude. I mean, it's all over now, anyway (puff)--she'll never overcome a humiliation like this, if you don't go through with it, and we'll lose all our girl crew. Come on, man, oh, here, this is cashed."

So, in the end, Joe trudged back up the stairs, in front of a prancing Waynerd, and entered the kitchen, where Diana had a blanket or two laid down over the bacon fat- and Doc Marten dirt-laden carpet.

There, we leave our characters, as they do what neither you nor I want to know more about.

Brought low by treachery and his own ego, boys and girls.

Joe didn't see Diana for another year and a half or so--whenever she would come in, or he would know she was coming, he'd flee--if necessary, by a back window or door. He moved out of my house shortly thereafter, never to return (but leaving me his bed, which was comfortable stacked with mine.

The girls, for their part, continued to come around for the rest of the year. Jessie got The Phone Call from Waynerd, resulting in a weird trip to the Old Downtown, where Waynerd told her, next to a campfire built in the lee of an old school bus-turned-apartment, that he had sex warts, and she might want to get checked out. Diana showed up at my place fairly regularly, until a very strange night spent driving around town probing my defenses about whether I was attracted to her. Nope. Ah well, at least I got a hot shower out of the deal.


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