gee thanks

The dream was long and weighty. He was there with something one could call courage although I didn’t consider it so. He was wearing sunglasses on top of his nerd-style glasses, and together, they looked like some gnarly, Dame Edna old lady style of eyeglasses. He was calling me baby, but that wasn’t particularly peculiar. But yes, oh Jesus yes, he was singing Spinal Tap. “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight.”

It wasn’t sexy. But it was silly. It was something he might have actually done in real life, although I was never around if and when it happened.

But it made me think of him. And, feeling rather detached from Drew and the others, the thoughts were sweet and satisfying. There I was all over again, on my back in heady green grasses, his kisses intoxicating me. He certainly didn’t feel a state away.

I woke up, alone, with a hangover from hash and Mickeys malt liquor. I noticed my smart wardrobe; an oversized Rolling Stones t-shirt and grandma panties. I only had myself to blame. “What the hell am I doing?”

I said it again and again.

I was right about Sonia. Only a couple of weeks later and there she was again, sitting at the bar, in the midst of a typical Friday night rush, half past ten or so. I spotted her tattered jeans right away, paid special attention to the bulge of flesh that spilled from a particular hole on her lower thigh.

“Goldschlager?” I asked, grinning, setting a shot glass in front of her.

“Not today,” she said, laughing. “I’m ready to try something new.”

“Alright, some experimentation! Well, you want a shot or a cocktail?”

“Don’t matter. I just don’t want a pussy drink.”

I thought about that for a minute. Although many could very well argue that Goldschlager, a cinnamon-flavored liqueur could be categorized as a pussy drink, she did have a few shots that night, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

“Yes ma’am.” I wanted to give her simple, but strong and tasty, but that was subjective. I didn’t think she would go for bourbon. I didn’t want to underestimate her either. So I made her a Long Island iced tea. She watched me, wide-eyed, as I carefully poured all the different alcohols into the tall glass.

“You trying to kill me or what?”

I laughed. “Maybe.”

She gave me a stern look, something I hadn’t expected. “Right on,” she said, and gulped it down fervently.

I focused on her; let my eyes take in all of Sonia and all of her disproportionate characteristics. She seemed almost foreign, some flavor of ignorant or another. Perhaps she was young, but her eyes didn’t tell me that. She was ugly in an interesting, almost musical way. It was not normal for women.

It was only then that I wondered if she contained any depth, if this perverse love/hate relationship I had going in my own apocalyptic brain had any merit to it at all. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Avoiding people.” She was looking me in the eye, and in all her vulgarity, I could have kissed her.

Instantly my mind ricocheted back to last year, how I could hardly stand the thought of being around the elders with their pregnant words and their overwhelming expectations, my brain heady with the idea of consequences for not continuing my education, finding a more proper venue for my “talents” as they would say.

I envisioned my mother, sounding Jewish although she was not; “Why don’t you just become a teacher already? You have so much patience.”

Patience wasn’t something I learned in college, it was something that spilled over me, over most, through disappointment throughout my formidable years. It was the hair in my hairbrush. Nothing more.

And it was true that I longed for someone, another lonely soul to inhabit my universe, someone that wasn’t worldly, someone that didn’t have it all figured out, not a Vincent type that pretended he was lost when he really wasn’t.

Dirty clothes and speeches couldn’t conceal those kinds of things. You could see it in their eyes, like politicians. That’s why it was all so much easier back then, less of a clean fight but more of a victory.

I nodded, the grin growing hot across my face, obtuse in design only. “Sonia, darling… how do you feel about Vegas?”

She had never been.

Sonia seemed to warm up to me rather quickly over her string of Long Islands, and came home with me that night after my shift. She had a thing for Stanley Kubrick and didn’t own a television, so we had a bit of a marathon starting with A Clockwork Orange.

I fell asleep with a bottle of dark rum in between my thighs and woke to the sun shining through the miniblinds and her, wide-eyed, fixated on Sue Lyon’s form behind fuzzy glass.

“Did you not sleep?” I asked, rubbing my head. There was one Bud Light bottle on her side of the table.

“I don’t really sleep much.” It had only now just dawned on me that she could be high on other things, which could explain her newfound interest in alcohol. But I’ve never been one to sugarcoat.

“Are you a tweaker, Sonia?”

She covered her mouth and laughed and laughed. It made me feel younger. I laughed too.

And I didn’t know her mother nor did she know the car I drove, but I was adamant about our trip together. Neither of us wanted to be around for the holiday and that was going to be an easy sell with the boss, since we were slower than usual and he was looking to cut hours anywhere he could.

Half of me thought it was going to be a fight to do this, with my family and hers, but by my mother’s reaction, it was obvious I was just the black sheep now, the one that was expected to bolt at any chance of a holiday gathering. And as much as I didn’t appreciate having a reputation, I was relieved that the start of my journey wasn’t going to be a difficult task.

Sonia had also informed me that her parents had just recently bought her a new car for her birthday and that she would rather make the trip in her car, another nice surprise. My car was okay and all, but all the way to Vegas and back would definitely do some damage.

Soon enough, the day was upon us. We got on the road while the sky was still purple.

If I had known I was going to be going to be having to put up with about 8 hours of weed clouds and pop-punk, I might have just decided to take my car after all. It was relentless. Her Ipod Nano hung awkwardly alongside my face as it was plugged into an fm transmitter at a station we could only get successfully that high in the air. And whereas I do enjoy listening to music while I drive, I generally enjoy conversation also. And this trip was very little of that.

I couldn’t believe how much pot this girl had on her. It looked like she had brought an ounce when she opened the glove compartment and smiled. “Road trip!”

I wondered if I had made the right decision about all this, if my spontaneous attitude was ill-fitted for this debacle. She had really seemed like someone I could possibly connect to, but I was honestly struggling. And it was true, I often struggled with people, trying to squeeze some kind of commentary in between their long-winded, pretentious speeches about their little jobs or big dreams. Though most people I didn’t give the opportunity to disappoint me. I had to wade through the oceans of women in big boots and men in sandals in jeans, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band concertgoers, the beginning of a new age and the agonizing end of another.

I almost felt like this was worse than that.

The high pitched voices, the heavy, dry drums, the 3 same power chords. They were defying the emo kids, although they might have been worse than that, too.

About halfway through, when we stopped at McDonalds (gag!) I had to say something. My head was throbbing, and my mind was completely blank. I could honestly say it was impossible to think while the noise continued. “Can we take a break on the music for a bit?”

She was shoveling fries into her mouth. “Oh yeah,” she laughed. “Sorry about that. I was just in the moment, you know.”

Apparently, it had been a very long moment.

She went on. “It’s just, those bands, they’re amazing, they’re so inspiring. They make me feel like I can just do anything.”

I nodded, looked around, sipped on my Coke. “Oh yeah.” I could tell she wanted me to say something about the music, some sort of gratitude for the opening of my mind. Well she was out of her fucking mind. I just hoped that the remaining four hours wouldn’t drive me to suicide.

I slept. She started to nudge me when we were getting close. “What’s the exit?” It took me a minute to compose myself and read the Mapquest directions.

He didn’t live in a very nice neighborhood. It was kind of a glorified ghetto, actually, but I was sure the rent was cheap, and Billy wasn’t picky. He was probably one of the only people I knew that could live on the streets. He probably wouldn’t even mind living in his car, a big, boaty ’65 Cadillac.

We stepped out of the car into the wicked heat and stretched our legs.

It’s interesting what you don’t remember about a person until you are reminded, in the flesh. Upon sight, I said his name with a breath like cotton candy, the threads dancing on my tongue, melting, lingering. “Billy.”

He had these dull, gray eyes that looked sort of painted on, like a cheap porcelain doll whose makers did not splurge on glass orbs for the likeness. I would call them uninteresting if I could try to convince myself I was uninterested.

Physically, he hadn’t changed much. He was slender, of average height, but with a deliberate slouch that made him look shorter than he was. He walked slowly and carefully, as if he was wearing shoelaces that were untied. I remember bringing him out once, in high school, my bright eyed and bushy tailed friends much too young and closed minded for his taste, deeming him ‘permastoned.’ Perhaps he was. I don’t remember minding much.

That had been one of the best summers of my life, that sweet sixteenth. Driving around in that old Cadillac with the top down, drinking shitty beer and bum wine, chasing the stars. It felt like I was gone for weeks at a time.

He would sneak me into the Cardiff Lounge, back when it was not ridden with colored lights and DJs, when it opened at 6am and if you went in there at noon you’d know everyone. There were old men that held their scotch and old ladies that couldn’t handle their wine. And sometimes there was music, when people didn’t converse amongst themselves. It was there that I discovered the deliciousness of Guinness and black and tans. We would drink and drink and never eat, malnourishing ourselves to deliriousness.

We would nap and cuddle in his waterbed until the sun disappeared and I had to return home to my otherwise boring teenage existence. My mother would smell beer and cigarettes on me and scream and cry, then go through my things, looking for condoms and drugs. She would apologize when the report card came.

And everything was grand until they weren’t, the age difference mattering more by passing of time, as it always seems to. He was 21, five years my senior, and I wasn’t ready for all the things a mature relationship entailed. I worshipped many parts of him, just not the way he desired and probably was accustomed to.

But it was true; I was terrified of the cock. The thing had always looked unearthly, a pink serpent with utmost purpose. It bolted in and out of my hands and mouth too quickly, too violently. I was worried about my tender flesh being broken. I didn’t know how appealing that could be.

“Tough love, kid,” he had said, giving me a quick kiss goodbye on the forehead (a bit of a cliché move but it was remembered). He got into his car and slammed the door and I turned around so I wouldn’t have to watch him drive away. I was dramatic then, insult added to injury, weeping for weeks. I was sure that I would never love anyone again like I loved Billy.

And sure, I had seen him now and again since then; a crowded New Year’s Eve party, one of his band’s shows at my coffee shop, a doozy of a double blind date, and my graduation. But for the most part, he had disappeared.

He seemed only mildly surprised upon our arrival, though I hadn’t mentioned we were coming. He was clad in a worn white t-shirt and dark jeans. I noted that he was barefoot, which I found odd. I heard Coltrane playing faintly, coming from deep within the apartment. The overwhelming stench of cigarette smoke was imminent and I braced myself.

“I know you live alone now,” was the comment I made after he opened the screen door. It didn’t seem particularly impressive, which wasn’t quite normal for me. I was used to the fantastic approaches I’d specialized in. And for Billy, a dramatic number seemed at the very least, called for.

“You look well,” he said, motioning us in, casting a doubtful eye over the relic I had brought with me on my journey.

“Billy, Sonia. Sonia, Billy.” There were no hands that shook or touched, barely glances thrown. I was wondering if Sonia was quietly agonizing over the size of her legs, the birthmarks that dotted her neckline like a Dalmatian, the curious color she had speckled her eyes with that morning.

All I could do was hope that he was then, as amazing as he had ever been, and not in all those ways women deem slobbish, undeserving men. I had always put him on a pedestal and was worried that my romanticism went back further than I thought it did.

He wasn’t Drew, with a few cool quips and recycled dirty jokes. And he wasn’t Johnny or Rabbit, fickle and weak, both emasculated and turned on by dumb, domineering females.

It was Billy; Ween and Ginsberg and David Lynch. He was everything anyone of my or any proper mindset could and eventually would fall for, if only to say it was a dream, a horrible, splendid dream. He was some kind of game show, a twisted, torturous game show where all you would leave with was your pride.

I remembered watching Blue Velvet, crying when Dennis Hopper was screaming and hitting Isabella Rossalini. “No, no,” he had said, batting away at my tissue, “this isn’t the sad part.”

He was the kind of person you wished would kill you, when you were all tired of the charade, just for the story to be told.

I watched her thighs move like two hefty loaves of bread across his living room and make a thick, warm noise upon the meeting of them to the leather couch that had made its presence in the very middle of the room. Where there would normally be a television, a turntable stood, with various speakers littered around it of different sizes, shapes, and qualities. It looked like he had robbed a store.

I gave him a wet, noisy kiss on his cheek. “Happy fucking Thanksgiving, Billy. What the hell do you have to drink?”

“Oh hell, Jo. Tell me how you really feel.” It was one of his many jokes, the popular response to everything, using it where it would never fit.

The “Jo” struck me though, like an arrow in the chest, like when my mother said it. I wanted to tell him he never called me Jo, because he didn’t. Maybe my guest made him feel like he could construe alternate realities, because she was part of one herself.

“I feel like a drink!” I laughed, and he followed after. I hoped this wouldn’t be harder than I already anticipated that it would be.

He set a six pack of Stella Artois on the table. For me, it was tasty, but disappointing. Maybe he hadn’t remembered the voracity with which I consumed alcohol or with which alcohol consumed me.

But it was all his fault and I was there to remind him.

“Have you gone soft in your old age?” I said, nastily, spiting him.

The thing about Billy was that there was no fire inside. And I would often push the envelope to see if I could ever instill any. But it appeared that he was, at the very least, flame-resistant.

“No, not really, but I don’t spend a lot of time drinking at home by myself.” His stance wasn’t unreasonable. There was no last call in Las Vegas. And booze was cheap, like everything else.

“Well then, should we hit the streets?” His smile was answer enough. He threw on a black and white western-style shirt and shoes.

As we walked, Sonia’s breathing became labored.

“So, uh, how are we going to handle the sleeping arrangements?” Sonia was the one to ask, which was odd. I didn’t really care if we were going to have to sleep on the floor or in the yard, or in his car. We were going to be so wasted at the end of the night we would be lucky to have a place to lie down.

Billy stopped for a moment and scratched his head. “Well, I’ve got the studio… there’s a futon in there.” But his gaze lingered on me and I wondered if I was going to be sleeping in there as well.

“Oh,” she responded quickly, satisfied.

Suddenly, my mind shot back to 2000, sideways in the back of the Cadillac, my breasts pulsing against a red racerback tank. We were nursing 40s of MGD, and his hands were cold against my flesh. “Wanna cuddle?”

Soon enough his tongue was in my mouth and my nipples were screaming.

I broke away from my memories and stumbled into the bright lights of the strip. He spoke again. “Alright, since you ladies have never been here, I’ll go along with you for awhile here. But I don’t want to be here all night.’

It was his way. I didn’t mind. I was happy to be away from home, away from the stigma of family and people I intentionally avoided all year long.

Sonia looked at me and smiled. I was thankful.


2 Responses to “gee thanks”

  1. 1 B-Town
    January 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Remember that time we visited Billy at Streetlight and I was too shy to talk to him, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I went back an hour later and bought that damn 5-foot-long Black Sabbath poster? After a couple months, that eyesore went out to the garage, and there it stayed for many years until my mum had the good sense to throw it away.

  2. January 23, 2009 at 4:31 am

    The breath of fresh air returns. I’ve missed reading you, lady.

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