Saturday, May 28, 2005

Minuard Foundation 1: Genesis

In the summer of 1996 I was living alone in a little one bedroom apartment in Crackville, which I told you about in the Robert Johnson story. For those of you too lazy to go back and read that sucker, my home in Crackville was a fourplex apartment building across the street from two larger apartment buildings, all three of which were on the verge of collapse. To make matters worse, there was a near-constant maisma of burning chemicals that only years later did I learn was the smell of crack being smoked. The only redeeming qualities the place had were that you never knew what was going to happen, and the Royal Food Mart across the alley.

That summer was good. I was living alone, without a girlfriend for the first time in about 3 years, and just enjoying the freedom of doing whatever I wanted. I had money, I had a car, and I had a home brewing kit. I was, I felt, a man to be reckoned.

In late July, a friend of mine came back to the city. His name was Bob, and he was actually a friend of Jim's, and stayed with Jim despite working for me as a mechanic. This worked out really well for me in every sense: a friend to hang out and eat lunch with, but not one to take up space in my little apartment. Times were even better.

However, my mind never stops thinking about weird shit...especially when it comes to getting people to stop and ponder their own lives for a second.

So it was that on my way home from work one evening, I noticed, for the hundredth time, a billboard on the side of the highway. For some reason, I began to think about advertising, and specifically billboards: how effective were billboards in getting people to think about thing? How was this measured? What, given the option, would I put on a billboard?

Well, I thought, that's a no brainer. I'd put Jim's big ugly face on a billboard.

"That's pretty interesting, self," I returned, "but how would you judge people's reaction to that?"

"Why, I'd have to put my phone number up there," my inner dialogue continued.

"Can we afford this?" I muttered to myself, pulling into the driveway.

Probably not, I thought, although I did some thinking about how I might be able to get a discount for hanging the thing myself. By the time I hit the shower, though, I'd forgotten all about it.

A few days went by, and I found myself eating lunch with Bob in a greasy subway shop near work. We were both somewhat bored, and spent the time idly trying to remember or imagine people's middle names. The topic then naturally changed to the one person who hated his own middle name with a passion evinced in very few of his other obsessions, specifically, Jim. His middle name is Minuard, and woe betide the close friend or relative that divulged that name to anyone else--especially a female anyone else. Only a couple of his friends knew the name, and he lived in mortal terror of anyone else finding out. We had, each and every one, been sworn to secrecy at one point or another--in fact, the only reason I had found out was because my middle name is pretty close to his, at least inasmuch as it's weird and starts with the letter "M." I always thought this was a rather juvenile concern, deep down, but was content to let it go--there are far worse insecurites out there, I've found...but as we sat amongst the chip bags and sandwich wrappers of our erstwhile luncheon, I remembered my billboard idea. Since Bob knows a little bit about everything, I decided to ask him what he thought about costs and procedures for getting a billboard manufactured, and how we'd hang it. He ruminated for a bit, which was his custom, and said: "well, a billboard's going to be expensive, any way you look at it. And you've only got it for a month."

We fell into another period of lethargy. Bob appeared to be studying the cracks in the sneezeguard over the salad bar.

"But you know what," he drawled, leaning across the yellow formica towards me, "any idiot can make a flyer."

I sat back, stunned with the possibilities. Within seconds, I knew it was going to happen. I got home that evening and quickly dug up an unflattering picture of Jim. In it, he had hair (a truly horrifying sight at the best of times), was wearing glasses, and appeared to be quite intoxicated. I say that because he appeared to be confused by the camera-his mouth was slightly agape, his head was tilted back, and his right hand appeared to be reaching towards the lens, for all the world like a small child or primate meeting a camera for the first time. Where this picture came from I cannot imagine, but it suited my plans perfectly. I sat down the following day and began to play.

The result was a half page flyer. The right half was Jim reaching plaintively towards the reader, the left half I wrote in the style of a classified advertisement. "FREE TO GOOD HOME," its headline read, "MINUARD."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Growing Up Weird 1: Before I Was Weird

This'll be the story of one of the easiest decisions of my life: the one to drop college (flying in the face of my mother, every school administrator, and most of my friends) and say goodbye to a pretty nice chunk of money, scholarship-wise.

To start with, I wasn't born here. My father was in the Army (yes, he served in Nam. No, he doesn't talk about it), so my childhood years were spent in a constant cycle of meeting new friends and never seeing them again, in places as far flung as Panama (technically, the Canal Zone), Denver, and West Germany (who remembers a divided Germany?). And here. My mom's family's from here, and Dad's specific branch of the service is here, so it was kind of natural that when pops got close to retirement, it was here we would return.

To make a long story short: I spent the first eleven years doing what every adolescent and young adult in Oklahoma dreams of doing, short of going to Prague, which Dad was help plan how to shell in the event the Reds made a move on Berlin. Then, once I was good and used to, say, hopping on the ubahn and riding downtown to watch the Glockenspiel chime 2:00 (or whatever), we moved back to Oklahoma, to a town that wasn't even big enough to have a stoplight in it.

Strike that. We weren't even LIVING in that town, we were eight miles outside of it--which, since it's home to a couple of oil refineries, wasn't all bad news. "Smell that money," Dad would always say when we drove through the sulfurous cloud hovering over the town.

So the isolation I got as a) an only child, b) a military brat moving to a different post every 2 years, and c) ending up in a remote corner of Oklahoma as I approached puberty was pretty damn intense. But I didn't know--I liked it. I liked being able to read for hours, or get lost in the woods for hours, without anyone holding me back or even talking to me. Mom and Dad were both working, and I spent a lot of time either by myself or at my grandmother's house, reading Lord of the Rings or old Louis L'Amour western novels, respectively.

I got my first BB gun, which I was never very successful with. I got my first dog, who was a lot of fun to have around during walks in the woods. My only friend was my cousin Michael, who I'd see every Sunday after they finished church.

You wanna hear Norman Rockwell, homies? You want to talk about old time fucking Okies? Homemade ice cream EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT, ALL SUMMER LONG, out in the front yard, with my grandmother and great aunts in gingham dresses and the old men in cowboy boots and overalls. Rocking chairs. Kids collecting grasshoppers (and, on a couple of memorable nights, a few fireflies) with their hands and the occasional sticker with their feet. I hate stickers. Whippoorwills and the weird, Mordor-like sunset-through-postoaks, when if you squinted your eyes just right it might have been a volcano instead of the sun. And always the same people.

I was scared of some of them, as a kid, and was uneasy around everyone but the old women, who doted on their long-lost grandchild or nephew or whatever. They talked funny, even the kids, and I didn't have much to say to any of them. Most evenings there was a feeling that everyone was playing a game I didn't understand, and never would. As soon as I was able, I quit going to these things, preferring to explore the country around our new house, the next hill away from my grandmother's place.

I was uncomfortable around the kids, as I grew into puberty. They were all five or six years younger than me, and I'd spent my life til then either with kids in the same grade, or without kids in general. They had shit on their faces, didn't talk very well (or at all-I had one cousin who didn't speak a coherent sentence til he was nearly eight years old), and the older ones had motivations that were just plain wrong. The girls had crushes on me. The boys whispered and laughed at me. I was a stranger.

And that was with my own damn family. I'll skip over high school, except for the pertinent bits--you all have your own stories you can just paste in there, right?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bobby The Pervert

I think Bobby came back to work during the first winter I worked here. He was about six foot four, and at the time probably weighed a hundred eighty pounds. Really skinny, with unkempt hair and perpetually dirty clothes. He always seemed to have dog hair on him, for some reason, although he hated animals. Bobby hated just about everything.

Except for sex. And talking about sex. Which was unfortunate for those of us who had to work with him, at least those who had any imagination whatsoever. I spent a lot of time smoking dope in those cold winter months, just trying to blot out the mental pictures he'd present.

He hated women, too, which I never really understood. Such a base, intense hatred that I often wondered how he and his wife stayed together...I guess hate sex is pretty potent stuff, and she hated him as much as he hated her. They seemed locked in a fight/fuck spiral of unsurpassed intensity.

She would drive him to work every day, in a big ol' mid-eighties model boat of a car. You could hear them fighting (every morning, without fail) before he opened the car door. From inside the shop you'd hear the car motor, then faintly the two of them screaming at each other. Then an abrupt increase in screaming volume as he exited the car, and finally a door slamming and tire squealing as he started another day at work.

"Filthy fucking cunt," he'd say as he clocked in.

During the day we'd hear stories about how stupid she was, and how much she liked to be fucked, and (if we were especially lucky) how she let him put it in her ass the night before. One memory I'll never get rid of is how we stood in a cold, cold north wind, taking down Christmas lights, listening to Bobby talk about how his wife gave him a rim job. "Rim it, you bitch," he'd mutter, to no one in particular, winding holiday lights around his dirty sleeve.

The only time I saw him genuinely happy, I think, is one day in the early spring. There was no fight that morning, at least as far as I could hear, and Bobby came in with a spring in his step. "I finally got that fuckin' bitch to agree to a threesome," he announced to the room, "now I just gotta find the right hooker." I was actually kind of happy for him.

He left shortly thereafter, and I didn't see him til the following fall, when he pulled up in a lawn truck and told me he'd give me fifty bucks to look the other way while he stole equipment off my rig. Which was a mistake. Fifty bucks isn't nearly enough to listen to my boss rage and whine about how he's getting fucked at every corner.

Bobby also told me that at nights, he was running a phone sex line with his wife and three or four strippers. They had decided, he intimated, that they wouldn't be happy "unless they were working in the sexual industry." Once again, I was disturbed to find myself happy he'd found his niche.

Ten years later, that is, last month, he called out of the blue, looking for work. He's a couple of years older than me, so I wasn't surprised at all to find him balding and overweight. He seemed cleaner, though, so we hired him back on temporarily to do light duty stuff like watering.

Bobby was divorced, and his two kids (oh yeah, I forgot about the kids in the backseat for those arguments) and ex wife now lived in Tulsa. She apparently had gotten hooked on meth, ran off with a dealer, and had only recently returned to Tulsa with the kids. Bobby had been working selling cars, but couldn't find new work in that field because he hadn't brought back a "demo" car after he'd quit his last job. "Embezzlement," that's called, and dealerships apparently don't like to see that on your record.

He'd been married twice since then, but "hated both those stinking cunts" just as much, or more, than the first one.

I tell you, the anger and hatred rolled off him in waves.

Upon getting his first paycheck, he borrowed my car to go to Chino's, a little bodega down the street that cashes our paychecks. They stay open late, whereas our banks close at six, so the guys can get their money with no problem. I've known Chino for a long damn time, and never heard anything bad about him from any of our guys, either.

But they wouldn't cash Bobby's check. I'm not sure why, he wouldn't tell me, but he DID tell me that he "cussed them gooks like you wouldn't believe," which didn't really make me very happy. He hated "them gooks" even more than "Meskins," apparently because Asians didn't buy as many cars from him during his tenure as car dealer. I gave him ten bucks and told him to pay me when he could, and to PLEASE stay out of Chino's.

A couple of nights later, he told me he had a date with "this stupid bitch I used to fuck, who's a paranoid schizophrenic."

As you can imagine, I was doing everything in my power to get someone else to give him rides back to his hotel room, which he hated because it was "a fag hotel." And, from what I can see, there appear to be a lot of rather dubious looking men standing in doorways, so maybe he's right.

This paranoid schizoid apparently roller skated everywhere she went, because "the government wouldn't let her drive." This was later revised when she gave him some taxi coupons, which are apparently paid for by the state. Nice. "She's crazy," said Bobby, "but they're all crazy, and she fucks like crazy too."

[By the way, I'm offended by all this language as well, which is why I'm being careful to put it in quotes.]

Monday he came in during the evening and told me he'd been kicked out of Chino's store. Apparently he'd made a big enough scene to get that part of the surveillance tape rewatched, and Chino wasn't having any part of this dude abusing his family. I wish I'd have been there to see it--Chino's about five foot nothing, and Bobby's six four. Chino apparently hollered "Hey! You name Bobby?! You get out! Never come back!" while shaking a finger as close to Bobby's face as he could get it.

After I finished laughing, I asked him if he'd hooked up with the P.S. woman. "Naw," he said, "my fucking mother flew my wife in from Houston for the weekend, fucking bitch. So I had to fuck her instead. Filthy little beasts, with their kitty litter and tampons."

The next morning, we got orders for Child Support garnishments for him. And for something like that, there's nothing I can do. He was less than pleased, as you can imagine, but didn't let loose of any new or creative epithets, which might have been a sign of how pissed off he was.

He got over it, temporarily, because the next morning he was more inclined to tell me about the "date" he'd gotten from the "phone lines in the back of the Gazette," the local weekly alternative paper which apparently has a whole section devoted to "massages" and "phone chat." Not surprisingly, this is the first place Bobby goes when reading the paper, but he hadn't been having very much success. Both of the girls that had called him smoked rock, and apparently he'd had enough of that years ago. No word on whether they actually used the phrase "I'll suck yo dick for twenty dollars," but it's something I like to think still occurs.

After the second weeks' garnishment, Bobby couldn't stand it anymore. The "fags" were getting to him, he couldn't get no pussy, and he wasn't making no money. So on Friday, he packed up his porn and headed to the train station, after getting as much of a draw from us as he could. We'll probably never hear from him again.

What amazes me about him is how much like an addict he is about sex. He hates and fears women, but keeps going back, and keeps doing more and more dangerous things (frankly, there's no way in hell I'd tell a crackhead my hotel room, whatever her motives. I have another story about that, just ask) to get his fix. Never mind dignity--I'm not sure he ever had any of that to begin with. Never mind his kids (he's moving back to Texas, where he can send them child support at his own pace)--and never mind the IRS, which he's been dodging since the early 90's at least.

I used to think that everyone eventually woke up and realized you can't get away with it forever. Credit card debt doesn't evaporate. Taxes don't go away, and children grow up to hate your guts. Meth makes your teeth fall out, and acid gives you flashbacks. You can't beat it, folks, it's gonna happen to you, too. But Bobby's going to fight it to the end, cursing everyone in this world that isn't "on his side," and secretly hating everyone that is.

Monday, May 23, 2005


This is the entire text of an email I just got from a total stranger:

Call out Gouranga be happy!!!
Gouranga Gouranga Gouranga ....
That which brings the highest happiness!!

Sounds like I need to get some of this stuff, huh?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Butterscotch Woman

This will be one long post--I don't feel like there's enough here to warrant multiple posts, but I'm bored.

I've been in college off and on (mostly off) for fourteen years now, I guess. I've suffered from a pretty schizoid academic career, though, so not only am I squarely in the middle of the grade scale, I'm also not anywhere close to getting a degree in anything. This is due to my unwillingness to commit to any sort of thing that might be termed a "career," and my love of...things less practical. I've essentially taken lots of history courses and lots of math/chemistry courses, before I realized that I really do hate chemistry. I love math, but it's not terribly practical either, and I find it hard to concentrate on that stuff when I'm working here.

But back then, I was in a chemistry class. It met at night, and one of the people in the class was a woman in her mid-thirties (how close are we to that?), named Mona. Mona had a fit body but a rather rough looking face, far older than the age she presented to me. And, before I get people opining about the beauty standard, I'm only bringing this up because she was very obviously lusting after me.

No, really, that used to happen to me.

Stop it.

But I was 21 or 22, and she was kinda rough lookin' and way older than me, and I just wasn't interested. So the semester progressed, with me trying to stay away from her during breaks and lab periods, and her trying to corner me at those same times.

Finally, after a night of drinking Cuervo 1800 with a couple of guys from work, I was too tired to dodge. She sneaked up behind me as I was telling someone else the story of the evening before (which involved a woman named Ursula, and is probably more interesting than the one I'm telling you), and after getting my attention and batting her eyes a bit (do you really think that works, ladies?), she put on her pout and asked "how come you didn't invite ME to drink tequila with you?"

I wound up giving her my phone number, mainly because class was about to start and I wanted to get to my desk and get this over with, and forgot all about it.

She called me the following weekend. For some reason I had money, and had spent a chunk of it on good Franziskaner beer and a new Burroughs book. I remember I was lying on the couch with my shirt off, because it was one of the first warm afternoons of the year, and I wanted to enjoy it. The phone rang, I put down my beer and book, and answered. It was Mona.

She wanted me to come to her place and drink tequila. I didn't really want to drink tequila, but I wasn't getting out of it that easy--she had red wine as well. After a bit of...discussion...I agreed to meet her at her place.

And that's the thing, boys and girls, the secret to getting what you want out of ol' Jefe: pester me. I really am the laziest person in the world, and I try to make everyone happy. Thus, I'm too sluggish to argue long, and I'm too polite to get off the phone abruptly. This gets me into plenty of trouble, especially when you couple these traits with, oh, a six pack of dunkel weisse.

Oh, and I'm also subject to flattery, and this woman was going through a hell of a lot of effort to get me over there. And there was the whole sex thing, too--back then, even drunken sex was better than no sex at all. So I'm a slut. Sue me.

I arrived at a small house in what I'd think of as a "family neighborhood," and grabbed my green bag full of beer (with the side pocket fulla rubbers). Mona met me at the door, and I smelled problem #1: children.

I can't help it--when I smell that mixture of diapers and vomit, it's like a synesthetic piercing scream in my brain. The critters may be completely asleep somewhere, but the smell does me in every time. Ah well. I was here.

Mona's roommate was another single mom, it turned out, who also didn't do a very good job of hiding the fact she wouldn't mind plunging her hands in my hair and riding like the wind.

Which, come on, it's sort of weird to get all worked up about freakin' hair, isn't it? And it's not like I'm the only guy on the block with long hair, either, especially given these ladies ages. Long hair was cool back then--hell, mullets were in when these girls were my age. Dunno. Perhaps they were getting their own egos stroked.

Roommate took her kid and left for the evening, Mona put her tyke to bed, and we started drinking. It seems like there might have been dinner involved as well, but I certainly didn't eat much of it.

We drank the six beers I brought, and she broke out the wine. It was german in origin, which I don't particularly care for, but it was free and it was wet, and she was doing the pouring. We talked for what seemed forever, and I noticed pretty quickly what was going on.

She was trying to get me trashed, yo!

Her eyes wandered from my face to my glass, and back to my face and then to my glass--and when I'd reached the halfway point on the glass, she'd refill it. HER glass remained nearly untouched. I didn't mind. If I was going to sleep with this broad, I needed all the wine I could get.

I finished all her wine. She darted into the kitchen and came back out with...Buttershots.

I've never particularly cared for butterscotch flavoring, mostly because if you have butterscotch flavoring, you can't have chocolate flavoring. But she poured me a shot, and then another, and then she kissed me, and it wasn't bad if I closed my eyes. We brought the bottle back to the couch, and she took down my hair.

The next thing I know, I'm on the couch, under a blanket. My feet were all tangled up in my pants, because my boots were still on, and my shirt wasn't anywhere around. The room was spinning, still, and I could smell that fucking butterscotch smell mixed with the odor of children and burnt toast. I've never been so hungover in my life. I kept my eyes closed and began to work on getting my pants pulled back up without making too much noise.

After a time, I heard the telltale rustling of a diaper. I stopped dead, but I could tell it was too late. I opened my eyes to slits, which nearly killed me, and saw the little kid from the night before. His fingers and face were red, his eyes focused on my face, and he was wearing nothing but a saggy diaper. He took another couple of steps forward, and said "I want kool aid."

Now, merely thinking for me was akin to grinding bits of glass into my own brain, much less talking. And walking? Sheeyit. So I just lay there, waiting for the kid to go away.

After a bit, Mona came in. She was humming a happy little tune, and had a plate of greasy home fries and bacon for me. She plopped down on the couch next to me and dragged the kid up on her lap, still humming away.

I opened my eyes. She was looking at me like I'd invented the polio vaccine. I closed my eyes again, reached under the blanket, and jerked my pants back up.

What does one SAY in a situation like that? "Hey, uh, did know..." is what I started to croak out, but looking at her face, I didn't have the heart. It didn't really matter anyway--she was in love, and she had a two year old in her lap.

I left shortly thereafter, never to return again. She gave me her phone number, and called me a couple of more times on her own, but every time I heard her voice, or thought about her face, I was overwhelmed by the remembered smell of butterscotch.

And that's why, to this day, I don't drink anything containing butterscotch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Stripper and Acid 11: Treachery

It was cold on the balcony, but I had on a rather ridiculous oiled canvas coat I'd been gifted by Sketchy Bill, so I was all right. Nadine snuggled right up inside it, and for a time we talked quietly and watched the lights of the city pulse gently with our heartbeats. I tried not to think about all the ones that were winking out, since it was 3am, nor did I allow myself to think about just exactly how high up we were. One of the good things about ecstasy is how easily you can live in the moment.

And it was one of those moments, finally. Our arms around each other, her head on my chest, I felt like I could stand there all night, just smelling her hair (faint scent of sandalwood) and feeling her thumb and forefinger rub the side of my spine. After a few minutes, I realized what we were saying wasn't even that important--we were both focused on the body rushes from the E, which can sometimes be set off by the vibration of someone's diaphragm next to yours, if you're very close. And we were, at last, very close. I'm sure the picture sounds mad: two people holding each other close, murmuring gibberish and getting blissed out looks on their faces...wait, that's pretty much every Cary Grant movie ever made...scratch that.

But we were happy, and although I couldn't feel my feet, I knew she would help me remain upright. We talked, and touched each other, and felt the vibrations coming from somewhere in our respective chest cavities. We were content.

Kevin came out on the balcony and talked for a bit in a rather worried voice about what was going on inside. I nodded reassuringly, and he went back inside.

I could feel a warm spot on my chest where her breath met my skin through the shirt.

Kevin came out again, substantially more agitated, and made it clear to me that things were really happening inside-Big Boy was getting angry that neither of the strippers were doing stripper things, and Shanna had made a couple of phone calls to people she wouldn't divulge. Kevin's music selection hadn't gone over very well, and in general the natives were getting restless. I nodded, looking him right in the eye so he could understand how interested I was, until he gave up and went back inside again.

I noted that her breath, the cold, or the drugs had made my right nipple hard. I pondered this for a bit, until our reverie (five minutes? two hours?) was shattered by Shanna's piercing voice. She was pawing at the curtains, looking for a way out onto the balcony.

By the time she was out there with us, we'd managed to extricate ourselves from each other's clothing to the extent that Nadine could face and talk to Shanna, who wasn't crying but appeared pretty scared.

Shanna: "Nadine, I'm worried about those guys, and I'm tired and I want to go home. I called your aunt, she's going to come pick us up!"

Nadine: "What?! I can't leave! I've taken ecstasy with Jefe!"

Shanna: "We HAVE to leave. I want to go home--it's late, and this party sucks!"

Nadine: "I can't leave. You go, leave me here with Jefe."

Shanna: "No! You have to come too! Those guys are really mad in there, and they're running out of beer..."

and here's where, in a very small part of my black, wizened little heart muscle, I'll always have a place for Nadine:

"Well, he has to go with us, then."

Shanna kind of eyeballed me, then looked back at her and said "Bobby's not going to like that."

She started getting that walleyed look again, and I suddenly remembered where I was:

my first thought was how impulsive "jumpers" are. People who survive suicide attempts often say they felt completely normal fifteen minutes before the incident, but felt a strange (and very strong) compulsion to do themselves in, in a relatively short span of time.

I looked down, and the results weren't pleasant.

We weren't nearly as high up as I thought we were, but still, the drop would most likely kill Shanna if she jumped. And all of a sudden, I was sure she was going to jump. All night long she'd been acting impulsively, I thought, and she was convinced she was on a drug that made people crazy.

And if she jumped, I was totally fucked. Break my plate, mama, I won't be home for dinner again. turn her attention to this, if it wasn't already there, might precipitate something that could have been avoided.

A dilemma. Should I tackle her? This was guaranteed to send her over the edge, mentally--she'd been assaulted (in her mind) several times that night already, and I had the feeling I was the only one she came anywhere close to trusting.

Should I yell for Kevin? That might tip her off, and wouldn't really help the situation when he got out there.

So in probably one of the most calculated goofy moves in my life, I grabbed the edges of my coat and enfolded both of them in a big, safe hug. I kissed Shanna on the top of the head, said "hey, everything's gonna be fine," and carefully moved the whole lot of us through the door.

Inside, people were arguing. Nadine's aunt was there, a rather leathery middle aged woman who was arguing with Big Boy, smoking a cigarette, and fishing another out of a red plastic cigarette case when we entered. Kevin was close to the door, with his boombox and a suspicious bulge in his jacket, giving me the "lets go" signal as subtly as he could. Shanna barged in and began yelling at Big Boy alongside the aunt: "Bobby, you can't go with us."

"Why not," shot back Big Boy, "HE'S going with you!"

"NO HE'S NOT," shouted the women.

My heart dropped, then rose a little bit when Nadine whispered "follow us."

A typical drunken argument ensued, where all parties held positions until someone out logic-ed them, then retreated to another, then back to the first when that became untenable. I checked the cooler, but didn't see any beer, so I edged my way around the room and finally made my goodbyes to the pissed off crowd at large. We were out of there.

Kevin and I took the elevator down to the lobby, and waited. No girls. We waited some more. No girls, but a suspicious security guard began to walk in our direction. Kevin flipped out the room key, and the guy aborted, but could still tell something was wrong. We wondered if they'd taken the other elevator down.

Of course, we missed them when we were checking the other elevator. Upon our return, we were just in time to see Aunt's hand, still clutching the cigarette case, closing one of the lobby doors. By the time we made it there, Big Boy was right behind us, hollering, and security wasn't far behind him. We left posthaste, but couldn't tell which way they'd gone. We ran to Kevin's car, followed closely by Bobby, who was yelling at us to give him a ride. This was absolutely impossible, because Kevin's car only had two seats, and I was finally catching on to the fact that Bobby was Nadine's boyfriend. Kevin squealed the tires leaving the parking place, narrowly avoiding hotel security, and we made a circuit of the parking garage. No moving cars.

I wanted to make another circuit, but Kevin said that Bobby was scuffling with security back there, so he pointed the car towards my house.

I was crushed. I knew I'd never see her again--my heart physically pained me, and I slumped so far over in the seat Kevin reached over to make sure the door was locked. We didn't say anything for some time--just tried to come to grips with what had happened, and listened to the thump of the windshield wipers. Finally, Kevin said "hey, I'm sorry about that. Who were those guys?"

"I dunno, man, just some assholes out for a good time."

"Who was the girl?"

"Nobody, I guess. Someone I met tonight."

"Someone you liked?"

"Yeah, but I didn't get her number. We took that E together."

"That really sucks, man. Well, here. I stole their beer."

We rode the rest of the way home in silence, sipping beer from cans and watching the lights change color on the roads.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Strippers and Acid 10: The Balcony

I'm not sure how long we stood there, waiting for something to happen. I was having a hard time trying to ignore Big Boy's glare AND reminding myself the spiders coming out of the wallpaper weren't really spiders at all. I know that I had a small stack of beer cans on the plastic counter by my hand, though, when Shanna burst through the door, screeching and holding her knee. There was blood on her hands.

She was followed immediately by what seemed to me to be a snarling horde of baseball caps and shaved necks waving beer cans and whooping it up. Shanna was almost crying, and rocked back and forth on the floor like a little girl, blonde hair in her face. Nadine followed, and knelt at her side.

Liking to portray myself as a compassionate guy, I did the same.

The cut was superficial--in fact, it was no longer bleeding at all. The bigger problem was Shanna's complete loss of sanity, and the fact that my new football buddies were all staring at me like I was to blame. Well, half of them were, including Big Boy. The other half were rooting through the cooler.

Shanna was still convinced she'd been dosed, and wouldn't come out of the corner. This put me in a rather awkward position, for a lot of reasons.

Four hours ago it would never have occurred to me that these guys would actually attack this girl, but after watching their cavalier attitude towards her safety and comfort, I had my doubts. The pigs began to assume a distinctly vulpine cast, as they sat around watching her sob into my chest. Nadine's hand was stroking her hair, and occasionally my shoulder. It made it difficult to concentrate.

Furthermore, I didn't want to be stuck babysitting a squeaker. I wanted to be off romancing Nadine, which was complicated by the fact that the only room we could be alone in was the freakin' bathroom.

Last, I didn't know any of these guys, and for some reason at least one of them harbored some pretty good animosity towards me for some reason. Perhaps he could tell I wasn't impressed with the whole crew, or maybe he just didn't like longhairs, but I had a feeling he wasn't going to stand by and watch me cart off half the strippers he'd gone out of his way to procure for this debacle. Also, these were kids who didn't have any particular reason to like me: if things got out of hand, they'd roll on me so fast they'd get rug burns--and that's without anyone bringing up the letters L, S and D.

Thus, my own antisocial nature got the best of me again. If I'd just been able to sit around and eat jello shots with these yahoos back in the tittie bar, none of this would be happening.

While all this was percolating as best it could through the paisley shimmer covering my brain, I was looking around for Kevin. Kevin was NOT in the room, which was evident pretty quickly, but I knew he wouldn't deliberately abandon me, especially in my particular state of mind. I was at a loss, but was distracted by a cool hand on my neck. Ah, Nadine. She whispered in my ear: "Shanna will be fine, let's go to the bathroom."

Sure enough, Shanna was basically asleep in the crook of my arm.

We carefully extricated me from her hair and limp body, and perched her (slumped her, actually) into a chair in the corner. I muttered something about checking on the Bachelor, and slipped, eellike, into the depths of the next room.

No Kevin. Shit. I began to worry, but Nadine had my hand and pulled me into the bathroom.

"How much acid WAS that?" she asked, as I tried not to bury my face in her hair and inhale (still too early for that). "A lot," I said, "probably fifteen hits."

"Wow, are you sure you want to do this?"

"Do what?" I asked, less than wittily.

She gave me a funny look, and said "the ex, silly. You still have it, right?"

Oh yeah, the ecstasy. Fuck yeah. I broke it out, bit it in half, and gave her the part that wasn't in my mouth. What a relief--it'd been in my freezer forever.

She took my beer and washed it down, then hopped up on the counter and looked me in the eye. "So what do you do, Jeff?"

Jesus Christ, I thought, we're going to make SMALL TALK in here? It hadn't occurred to me that we hadn't had a second alone since that walk across the front yard, so many hours before. My soul, already pretty well blown apart by the acid, seemed to physically yearn for that sunset and gentle hand.

But as the man says, "any port in a storm," so I sat on the toilet lid and chatted with her for a bit. Conversation abruptly stopped when I mentioned something to the effect that I didn't expect on Saturday morning I'd be taking ecstasy with a stripper in a tiny bathroom in a hotel suite.

"I'm NOT a stripper!"

"Uh, pardon me?"

"I'm not some fucking prostitute, you asshole! I'm a dancer! I'm just doing this to pay my way through school!"

This seemed to me to be splitting hairs (dancer/stripper, not dancer/prostitute), but I felt the first rush of MDMA setting in, which gave me the confidence to swoop into the conversation saver: "oh really? what are you in school for?"

[Writing this, the hairs are standing up on the backs of my arms as I think about how absolutely banal and fatuous all that sounds, but hey, it worked.]

Her gaze softened, then jerked to the left as someone pounded on the door. I almost fell off the toilet seat, and my first thought was that the beating was about to commence.

Incidentally, it's really tiring to keep going from peaceful/soft/romantic settings to loud, obnoxious settings where bloodletting always seems imminent. But I digress.

Turns out the door knocker was Kevin, who had just left to get his stereo. He also seemed nervous about the jocks in the next room, and advised me to stay away from Nadine.

"Fuck that," I thought, "Nadine's the only reason I'm still HERE."

She held me back as Keith started back down the hallway, then nodded to the curtains. "Let's go out there. Maybe they won't find us."

The balcony. The last place, I remembered, I wanted myself to be.