success is subjective

A policeman called me yesterday. The conversation lasted about an hour and a half, and by the time we were off the phone we both were laughing. It wasn’t a rape case; that was for certain. I felt vindicated and refreshed after hanging up, like he had validated my stance that no, I wasn’t a bad person, that I hadn’t let my best friend in the world get raped. That thought, although irrational, had eaten at me like vicious worms. It had now dissipated; water swirling down the drain.

Rabbit and I decided to celebrate. The pink satin went over my head for the second time, white taffeta billowing around my face and collecting around my waist and down my legs. Rabbit looked rather sharp in his ungodly green-colored suit, which was something to be said indeed. He was also wearing glasses; ‘a touch of the mature,’ he said with an unintelligible accent. I curtsied to him. He took my arm and downtown we went, deeming the evening the ‘drink a bar dry night.’

Of course we would never succeed. But we had high hopes.

Drew called me three times while I was out. I told him I was out with Rabbit, who Drew lovingly calls ‘Squirrel’ instead. I don’t know what to make of him anymore. I see him rarely, but he guilt trips me for it. I thought I had finally gotten the point—that he was too private, not available enough to try for anything even semi-serious, but the green monster reared its ugly head every once in a while. Especially in a likely case of him nursing a pint while watching a game at my bar, overhearing another man’s flirtations, enduring the myriad of nightly come-ons I never was adverse to.

One night he even dropped an empty beer bottle to the ground, claiming it was an accident. I got down on my knees and swept up the broken glass beneath him while he watched me, triumphant, from his stool. I could tell that he felt like he had ownership of me, that I had been his so long that now it would be impossible to be any other way with me. Most days I would give him free drinks and he would tip nicely. Some nights I would go home with him, watch a cheesy old horror movie, make out on the couch. Other nights he would stagger along home with me, and I would watch him sit in Vincent’s chair and strum his guitar while Man Ray would sit on the arm and mew in adoration. Some nights I would pick up my bass and play right along.

But it didn’t feel the same anymore and we both knew it. One night, a while back, I caught him doing meth in his bathroom. I didn’t know the extent of his addiction, if that’s what it was, but this far into whatever we had become, the thought process was not the same as it had been when it started. It was his life; that had been his point all along. He would do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, with whomever he wanted. He stressed this many times. I closed the door quietly behind me and said little for the rest of the evening. We danced that night. And I wondered if the man who danced so limberly and energetically with me then and other evenings were the same. I wondered if I knew him as well as I thought I had.

It wasn’t a pleasant thought. I swept it away.

Rabbit finally stole my phone from me. “He should just marry you.” It was a drunken statement; inappropriate and ill-advised.

“Who says I’m getting married?” I stood up, finished my Jim Beam and slammed the glass on the bar. “I’m never getting married!” To which the crowds cheered.

Rabbit was different. He seemed to believe in happy endings. And once upon a time, I might have felt the same. But things had changed; this was a new Jolie, a better Jolie, a smarter Jolie. Neither man nor woman would fuck me over ever again. I refused to give them the chance. Family, friend or foe.

We stepped outside so he could smoke a cigarette. He seemed distressed.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked. It sounded much bitchier than I intended.

He seemed to be smoking angrily, with purpose, intent. “Nothing.”

It wasn’t difficult to tell that he was lying. Men lied. It was ingrained in them somewhere. It was part of their DNA. Interestingly enough, until now, I believed that Rabbit was like Vincent in the way that I didn’t think less of him for the reasons I would think less of males in general. But at this moment, I hated him, so full of unprocessed angst, so naively excited to jump into a regrettable marriage, pretending that he wasn’t what I saw that he was.

It was in his eyes. He was miserable. He drank because he didn’t want to be. He was smoking to prove that he wasn’t. None of it made any sense to me. I craved the comfort of the warm stool that I had taken my absence of. I wanted Drew back; I wanted Johnny back. I wanted James to put his cold hands on my welcoming ears and chill me to the very bone. It would be my just deserts.

I thought of all the times Drew told me he didn’t need saving. One day, after plenty of vodka, I disclosed that I had quite a bit of difficulty saying goodbye to people. He walked out on me that day.

I thought of Camille, dressed up even in her home, playing the White Album, drinking wine, using a strand or pearls to beckon a lazy gray cat. Perhaps crying for Vincent, perhaps sleeping with someone much younger, more virile, to feel alive.

I wanted to feel alive. I thought the evening, in our formal clothes, would treat us well, that the drink would keep unpleasant thoughts at bay, that we would forget what worried us, perhaps peoplewatch, make friends or just talk shit. We were to play ungodly music, perhaps a Phil Collins song over and over and over again, until the bar were to kick us out and we would have to take to the streets, doubling over in laughter until we found another hole in the wall to drink from. But it was not to be.

I could tell he wanted to go home. It wasn’t terribly depressing, although mildly so. I had just reached the threshold of drunkenness and the night was clear and cool, perfect for drunks like us.

But the look spoke volumes of home and what that word truly meant to him. His fiancé, a warm bed with pressed sheets and snuggly blankets. A fire in the fireplace, the hum of the dishwasher, blue and white china in the cabinet. Iced tea and hummus a staple in the refrigerator. His and her magazines in the bathroom—Shape and Wired.

He scratched his stubble, biting his lip. “Come on, I’ll buy you one more drink.” We walked in and ordered two doubles. We didn’t say much; just let the brown liquid flow past our tongues and through the caverns of our throats. The burn, which was more than usual, felt good. Deserved.

“You really think you’ll never get married?” He seemed concerned, as if my answer would make or break his evening.

I shrugged. And for some reason, I thought of Johnny; wondered what he was doing, what kind of shy clumsy burlesque routine the pink girl might have mustered up on a day like today.

“Maybe I will,” I said softly, smiling. “Just for you.”

His eyes deserted mine and I had escaped.


1 Response to “success is subjective”

  1. April 28, 2008 at 4:53 am

    Does a lion tamer feel special, as we ooh and aaah while his head is in the mouth of the beast? No. I think he just doesn’t want the thing to sneeze.

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