Pink Pussycat Boutique; Where Weird Turns Pro

This place looks weird. Let’s go in.

I noticed her as soon as she entered the store.  Sex on two legs.  A real burner.  Very high-class.  Heels, black stockings, short skirt, tight turtle, and a mink coat.  That, and the gold jewelry, told me she was take-no-prisoners Park Avenue mercenary.  She had the looks and the body that easily molded men to her will.  Her whim was your command.  She was a destroyer.  She would eat you alive, and you were going to eagerly pay for the privilege.  With fat chunks of your soul.

She started towards me.  Oh shit.

It was my first night working at The Pink Pussycat Boutique sex shop, and this sexual villainess was going to be my first customer.  Please help me, God.

She put a box on the counter in front of me.  It was a vibrator.  The box said it was called “The Orgasmatron,” and from the looks of the way it was repacked, it had been used.

I  tranced for a second or three trying to take this situation in.  She began talking.

“I’d like to return this and exchange it for a new one,” she said.

“Wha-wha why?…I mean, what is the matter of the problem, of the item, of what’s wrong…with it?”

“It burned out on me the first time I used it.”  She was very matter of fact.

The room started to spin.  Holy holy!  Am I really hearing this?  She was totally serious, and so openly acknowledging that her wantonness had burned-out a vibrator.  Not just any battery tube job, but an actual AC plug-in, drug store quality body buzzer.  You know the kind, sold as a “massager” that “relieves sore muscles.”  It was The Orgasmatron, the only vibrator we sold with a satisfaction guarantee.  And, this woman was clearly not satisfied.

She is a destroyer, I thought, and not just of men, but machines as well.

She wore out the best one we sold.  What chance would a mere mortal have?  She probably needs something with a water-cooled two-stroke engine.  Now I was having a full-on dizzy spell.  The blood seemed to have rushed from my brain, to somewhere else.  Who knows?  But this was all too much for me.

Here’s my first customer and it’s some smoking hot tigress returning a used sex toy that she “burned out” the first time she “used it.”  The victim was laying dead on the counter in front of me.  Is this really happening?   How does stuff like this happen to me?  Why does weird always seem to hunt me down?

I looked at her, then the broken vibrator.  I knew I needed to be professional, and that I wasn’t supposed to picture what that whole episode must have been like.  But I have a very good imagination.  Too good sometimes.  And, it’s resistant to any kind of restraint.  Tell me not to picture the Burning of Rome, and now that’s all I can picture.

But this wasn’t the Burning of Rome.  This was the torching of The Orgasmatron.

Steady old boy.  Get a grip.   Literally, grip the fucking counter and don’t fall over.  I looked back up at her.  My throat was too dry to talk.  I finally managed a croak.

“I don’t know if I can do this.  I need to get my manager.”

She crossed her arms and gave me a cold stare.   I went to find Ray.

I got the job during one of my wandering job hunts that winter.  I would put on a suit and tie and walk around Manhattan looking for help wanted signs. I would act like I was just passing by, saw the sign, and decided to pop in.  I budgeted two dollars a day during these forays.  It was a dollar for the subway from Queens.  If I jumped the turnstile going into the city, I could have a slice of pizza that day.  If I chickened-out, I usually still wound up having the slice of pizza, then had to jump the gate to get back to Queens.  Those were great days.

I was freezing my ass off wandering around in The Village when I saw the little neon orange sign.  It was in the window of a sex shop I had been in with an old friend, Pat Decker, years before.  I was visiting the city and we met up and walked around.  She took me inside this very place.

It was different from the Times Square sleaze shops that catered to the furtive raincoat crowd.  This was a hip modern place, the clientele varying from NYU students out for a laugh, to couples looking to spice up their hump life, to wide-eyed tourists from Oklahoma.  Earl no doubt making mental notes for the dungeon basement project back home.

It somehow didn’t seem so sleazy, so dirty.  I mean it was still alright, but different.  They played rock music and the place was wildly decorated.  Most of the sales clerks were tasty little trollops decked out in full ’80’s So Not Like a Virgin attire.  The place was upbeat.  The vibe was playful.  (Pun not intended)

Anyway, it didn’t seem like too bad a place to work.  Sure your still doing retail, but at least here, while your selling some woman edible underwear, it was going to be easier to start up an interesting conversation.

Besides, it was bound to be weird, and if there was one thing I was always on the look-out for, it was weird.

I got an application, bullshitted it out, right there in the store, and gave it back to them.  The manager said they’d call me.  I jumped the turnstile like Jesse Owens back to Queens, and then celebrated with four 40 oz bottles of malt liquor on an empty stomach.  You have to stay positive.

They did call a few days later to come in for the interview.  This time I had to jump over down and back.  No pizza either.  My portfolio was getting thin.  I needed this job and did my best to make a good impression.  I ironed my shirt using the side of a hot toaster and even skipped my morning beer.  Success requires sacrifice sometimes.

I got there on time.  A woman took me to a back office.  They had already done a little homework and actually called all the friends and family I had listed as previous employers.  Most had been forewarned, except my mom, who later told me about the call.  At first she didn’t know what the fuck they were asking about, but she sussed it out pretty quick and played along.

“Yes, he is a very good boy…as an employee.  What is this job for?”

“The Pink Pussycat Boutique Sex Shop.”

“Oh, I see.”

Yeah, that was awesome.  As far as I know, no one has ever called my references before or since.  It made sense that this place would be the only one, and that it would be to my mom.

I got the job and was told to show up that night at 8pm.  The shift was until 2am.   Okay, that was my prime drinking time.  What about a day shift?  No?  Just this or nothing.  Without this job there would be no drinking time anyway, the eating time had already fallen by the wayside.  So once more over the turnstile that night.

I showed up in dress slacks, and a freshly toastered shirt and tie.  The manager came up to me right away to tell me he had a problem.  The small, stud earring I had in was too much.  I thought he was kidding.  “It’s unacceptable,” he said.  As I took it out, I looked down in the sales case and saw a butt-plug that you pump up to expand.  “Yeah, can’t risk offending the customers,” I said, and put the earring in my shirt pocket.

He told one of the bimbos working that night to train me.  This one was a piece of work.  A masterpiece of unbridled harlotry.  Almost, and I emphasize almost, too much. Leather hip boots, torn fishnets, a hairband for a skirt, bare navel, black lace bra with matching sheer lacy vest, a silver crucifix hanging sacrilegiously in her ample cleavage, both wrists covered to the elbows with silver bracelets and bangles…and…lots of stud earrings, in both ears and one nostril.  Hey, what the fuck?

She showed me the register, and how to process credit card transactions.  I tried to pay attention and not stare at The Son of God hanging on the Cross.  And when I did, tried only to think about Him and what He went through.

Then she took me around the store and gave me a run down on the inventory.  Besides all the basic vibrators, dildos, blow-up dolls, glow-in-the-dark condoms, dong thongs, furry handcuffs, glitter penis paint, steel spiked leather panties, cinnamon-flavored butt butter and expandable ass corks, there was some weird stuff, too.

“What the fuck is that?” I asked.

“Ball Parachute,” she said.  She took it out of the case and handed it to me.  It was a small leather poncho that snapped around the scrotum.  It had clips to which you would attach the deep-sea fishing weights that were sold separately.  According to the package illustration, this was “to stretch, stretch, streeeeeetch your balls!”  There was a drawing of a person’s balls hanging down to his knees.  Okay, too weird.  Really this time.  Too.  And not the good kind.

“Well that’s handy,” I said, “Now you don’t have to improvise with fishing line and a cinder block.”

She just nodded.  This job is going to be seriously weird.  I hoped I could rise to the challenge.

The box shows wear and tear.

Now, I was seeing spots and trying to put one foot in front of the other to walk over to Ray.  I told him about the sexy rich lady breaking her Orgasmatron.  He sighed and came over.

“So what’s the problem?” he asked blandly.  She explained again.  Burned out.  First time.  Used it.  Not in enough detail, but Ray got the gist.

“How long did you use it for?”

Can NOT believe he asked her.  Right on, Ray.  Good fact-finding for the final report.

“I don’t know!”  She was irritated.  “Forty-five minutes or so.”

My knees buckled a bit.

“Lady, that’s too long!” he says, “These things got small motors.  They’re gonna burn-up if you use ’em that long.”   Ray was all business.  Just telling her like it is.  Telling her what the deal is with these masturbation machines and their motors.  Not a hint of prurient excitement in his voice.

Meanwhile, she had her arms crossed and was looking up at the ceiling.  She didn’t want to hear any of his bullshit excuses.   I was reaching weird overload, but not exactly running for safety.  I did some math.

Let’s see…45 minutes of Orgasmatron time = an estimated 3.5 actual man hours of banging, and that’s no time off for whiz and smoke breaks.  That’s almost a Gone With the Wind’s worth of sustained, focused, hammer time.  I once managed to keep it going through Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard twice over, but that, at let’s say, 20 minutes per album side, an hour and 20 minutes, was still way short of getting someone like her to the summit.  Hell, that’s barely out of base camp.  Could it even be done?  I was getting all Sir Edmund Hillary.

“I have an idea,” I found myself interjecting, “What if you bought a second one and switched off?  You could be letting one cool off while the other one was working.”

It seemed like a common sense solution to me, and an up-sell to boot, but they both looked at me like I was the most depraved sick-fuck pervert they’d ever seen.  I didn’t get it.  It was the stud earring thing again.  How am I the one that’s totally out-of-bounds?  Especially with everything going on around me.

“Can I please just get another one so I can get out of here!”

“Go get her another one,” Ray said, “and put this in the back.”  He handed me the box with the dead Orgasmatron.  I went to the back room and set it down on a shelf. Good-bye, brave soldier.   I picked up a new box.  “You have no idea what you’re in for,”  I told it, and brought it out to The Sexecutioner.  I gave her the box.

What do you say?  Enjoy?  Good luck?  Let me know how this one does?   I settled for “Here it is.”  She grabbed it, spun on her spiked heel and was heading for the door before I could write down my phone number.  As she was leaving, I could see she was wearing the stockings with the line up the back.  I winced.  Of course she would be.  Just to drive it all in a little harder.

I felt very weird.  Almost too.

After that whole scene, dealing with the rest of the customers was easy.  I confidently sold a short-haired German hausfrau tourist a strap-on with a very large attachment.  How can I describe the size?  (And this is not hyperbole, this is an accurate size estimate) One of the largest Summer Sausage Beef Sticks Hickory Farms sells.

Man oh man.  Someone was going to wind up on the receiving end of that thing, and it wasn’t a sexy thought.  When you start doing crazy shit like that, it’s gone from a little spicy fun to just trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records.

One lady came up to me, again a normal housewife type, and told me she wanted to buy her husband a cock ring, but she didn’t know what size to get?  So she’s asking me?  I said, “Well I sure don’t know either, but I suggest getting the very smallest, that way if it doesn’t fit, he’ll feel really proud.”  She thought that was a great idea, and bought a wedding ring sized one.  Bang.  Making sales.  Getting the hang of this shit.

Sold some edible underwear to some chubby Puerto Rican Girls.   A breast milk pump to an Asian business man.  A  ball parachute to a couple of mustachioed motorcycle enthusiasts, who bought extra fishing weights.   No doubt trying to set some sort of world record.

I talked a lady out of trying to send a vibrating fake vagina contraption to her soldier husband overseas.  “Someone will find it, and he’ll never live it down,” I told her, “They’ll give him a bad nickname.  He can go at it the old-fashioned way and be alright.”  Just looking out for the troops.

I sold a dildo to a couple that looked like some friends of my parents.  Size 14 stilettos to a burly construction worker.

I also sold a Orgasmatron to a couple of lipstick lesbians.  Get this.  They asked me if they could get a penis attachment for it.  I ask Ray and he pointed to one.  Sold separately.  I rang up The ‘Tron and sold separately penis attachment, and didn’t say the thirty or forty smart-ass remarks that were going through my head.  Being very professional.

Body paints to them, and some butt beads to her.  Latex hot pants for him, and a whip for his wife.  I was racking up the sales, but it was all taking a toll.  I was awash in crazy images.

The subway got me home at 3:30 that morning.  I was poisoned to the gills with weird.  I woke up my girlfriend.

“I need you to help me out a little.”

“How was work?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.

“I’ll show you.”

I was done before you could finish playing “Motherless Children.”

Afterwards I sat up drinking a beer.  “I think I need to put in my notice,” I told her, “This gig is going to make me too weird…and getting home this late sucks ass too.”

“We’ll manage,” she said, and rolled over to sleep.  I sat up for a while drinking a beer, thinking about all the crazy shit that was probably going on right then in the city.  It boggles the mind.  And really, who am I to judge any of it?  It sure makes it an interesting world.  I got up to get another beer.  I snapped the cap, tilted the bottle and opened my throat.  To weird!

For all your deep-sea fishing needs.

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Setting My Reality Dial to Normal

I remember listening to this woman share at a meeting.  She said she wanted to be normal, but that she didn’t know what “normal” was, besides a setting on a clothes dryer.  Everyone laughed.  I went home that night and looked at my dryer.  I’ll be damned.  There’s all kinds of settings.  I never noticed that shit before.  High Heat, Damp Dry, Less Dry, Cool Down, Tumble Press, Dry High Heat, and No Heat Fluff.

It didn’t have Normal.  That setting was on the washing machine, not the dryer.  Wow.  Poor chick.  She only knew one thing about normal and it was wrong.

Anyway, she’s dead.  I can’t remember if it was suicide or drinking herself to death. (Like there’s a difference)  Maybe she found out what normal was, and just couldn’t handle it.  Normal can be tough.  Especially when normal is not your preferred M.O.  It wasn’t mine.

For me, normal meant boring, and boring wasn’t something I ever wanted to take the Nestea Plunge into.  Since getting sober eight years ago, I’m still easing myself into it, slowly, like into a bath that’s too hot.  The quads burning, sack hanging in the steam, inch by inch.

It’s been a process.   Every day is a new adventure, a new discovery.  Finding out that there are appropriate settings for your laundry’s particular needs was a real eye-opener.  Paying attention to, and dealing with normal, boring, everyday stuff is still a challenge for me, but before, it was impossible.  So I try to be grateful for even getting a shot at it.  It could be much worse.

For years, my mom had a quote by Mary Jean Irion, magneted to the fridge.  It said, “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are…Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare perfect tomorrow.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in my pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return…”

Kind of a bummer as inspirational messages go.  Basically, let me be happy about taking out the trash with this painful ingrown toe nail today, because someday, when I’m watching my entire family burn to death, probably because I didn’t clean out the lint trap in the dryer, I’ll long for this moment.

My sister and I were raised under this philosophy.  My mom and dad spent WW2 in Europe, zig-zagging away from falling bombs, so they knew that serious shit does hit the fan.  It has, and as my mom comfortingly assured us, can very easily again.  Not only that, we were taught that if you ever bitch about being bored, something really bad will happen to punish you for being ungrateful.  An ax was always poised and ready to come down on any ingrate moping about in the doldrums.

The apocryphal tale in our family was that one hot summer afternoon back in 1968, my mom and dad were sitting around complaining about being bored.  The phone rang and it was my uncle calling to say he was being sent to Viet Nam.  Nobody was bored anymore.  “God will make you wish you were bored,” we were warned.

The message was clear.  Never be bored…or someone will get sent to Viet Nam.

I did what I could to never be bored.  I made sure to keep things lively.  If it meant burning down a tree house with paint thinner and a bottle rocket, so be it.  When I got older and began to drink, I took creating chaos to a new level.  Mine was a typical fast-track success story, young mischief-maker grows up to be a maniac menace to society.  It was my destiny.  I was a man on a mission.

Not only was I never going to be bored, but nobody around me was going to be either.  Not on my watch.  Scared for their safety maybe, but never ever bored.  Over the years, I saved a lot of people from being sent to fight the Viet Cong.

So while I was saving lives by drinking massive amounts of beer and wreaking havoc, I never experienced what a normal day even looked like.  When I got sober I was at a loss.  What was this thing I was supposed to cherish before the time came to start clawing at the ground while howling in grief?  What did a normal day even look like?

I mean, I had my own version of normal.  Spackling a bullet hole through the living room wall while drinking breakfast kind of normal.  Pushing a piss-soaked mattress off the roof of my car on to some parking lot at night became pretty normal.  By the third time I got robbed at gunpoint by Mexican police, even that started to seem normal.

One guy had me up against a wall while his partner held the gun on me.  I looked at it from the corner of my eye.  It looked like an old .38 revolver.  What cop still carries those?  That was Barney Fife’s gun.  He took out my wallet and pocketed the money.  Okay, it’s just this, I thought.  When I realized that he was just robbing me, and was not going to pat me down, I was relieved.  Elated actually.  Even out six hundred bucks, I was still getting off way easy.  I guess that says something about my lifestyle choices.  They weren’t normal, but the stuff that happened to me because of them, became so.

I took this shakedown in stride.  I even asked him if he could leave me with some cigarette money, which he did.  Good guy.  He gave me back my wallet, with a five, and told me to go back to where I came from.  I thanked him and his partner and said good night.  I crossed back over the border without further incident and was soon drinking myself angry over the business loss, in an cheap El Paso motel room.  Just like I had done the two previous times.  I never learned.  That was also normal.

One important thing I have learned since I’ve stopped drinking is that there’s this thing called a lint trap.  It slides out from the top of the dryer.  After you dry a bunch of clothes, I think every thirty or forty loads, you need to pull it out and clean off the sweater that’s grown on it.  You have to do that, or the whole house could burn down.  So you bet your ass I do it.  (When I don’t forget)  It’s all a part of taking care of business, baby.  It’s part of the new Marius, all sober and shit.

I can do the laundry now and not risk leaving me and my girlfriend homeless.  Pretty cool.

That is some deadly shit I’m handling.

For a while, I was a functional alcoholic, functional being rated on a generous curve afforded by how dysfunctional most alcoholics are.  Our functional is normal people’s totally-out-of-fucking control, but I managed to drink myself even past that point.  I became other drunk’s version of totally-out-of-fucking control.  Every alcoholic knows a fellow one who he thinks he’s better than.  “If I ever get that bad, I’ll quit,” they tell themselves, ” But I’m not there yet.”

Well,  I was that guy.  I was their “yet.”

It’s tough being other people’s warning.  Navigating your way through the world is difficult enough, but having to do it helplessly hammered out of your mind makes it especially tricky.  You’re eating a bowl of cereal accidentally made out of snail pellets, or desperately searching for nail polish to match the paint on your girlfriend’s car, or trying to make a storage shed feel more homey, or having to get out a certain smell from someone’s couch before they wake up and come downstairs.

That’s another blessing I’ve received.  Today I only use Fabreze when I want my clothes to smell extra fresh, and not to kill the odor of some humiliating accident.  Normal day allow me to realize what a treasure it is not to have the crotch of my pants smell like Fabreze and bong water before a job interview.

I don’t know.  I’ve just learned so much in sobriety.

For example, there’s two types of laundry softener.  One is liquid and the other comes in sheets.   The liquid one is used in the washing machine.  The dry sheets are used in the dryer.  The liquid one makes your laundry soft and fresh smelling.   The dry sheets don’t do anything, but nobody wants to admit it.  The problem is that there’s some specific time during the wash cycle that the liquid softener has to be poured in.  It’s a pain in the ass to pay attention to when that exactly is, so I don’t.  Instead, I use the sheets in the dryer that don’t do anything.

Mass-marketed placebo. They do nothing.

I know I still have room for growth.  Overcoming old behavior hasn’t been easy. When I opened my first sober checking account, they wanted a thumbprint for some shit, I don’t know what.  I inked up my thumb and gave it the full side to side roll across the paper like they make you do in booking.  The teller, a young hispanic kid, smiled.

“You don’t have to do it like that for this, bro,” he told me, “You just have to press straight down.”

“Oh, that’s the way I learned to do it.”

He nodded, typed up some more stuff, then handed me some temporary checks.  I felt like I was getting a diploma.  I remember shaking his hand and really thanking him.  I was so honored that he trusted me with all these blank checks.  He wiped off the ink from his hand and wished me luck.

I heard a guy say at a meeting that it was a big moment for him when his checking account didn’t close before the printed checks arrived.  That is a sweet moment. You’ve really arrived.  You’ve officially entered that strange and exotic world of financial responsibility.  He also said it was a big deal when the address on the checks actually matched the address he was living at.  Normal people take way too much for granted.

Initially, I drank for fun and excitement, as an escape from the mundane and ordinary.  I wound up exactly in that place the old buzz-kill Norma Jean Irion was talking about.  In trying to drink myself into that rare perfect tomorrow, I got a lot of hell on earth today, and found myself wishing for some nice, boring, ordinary normal.  That was the real siren song of sobriety for me.  Sure I wanted to feel better, but I was willing to settle for bleh.  Even bleh was better.

Sobriety turned out to be better than bleh.  I have learned that normal can be downright awesome, especially after experiencing many of the alternatives.

Oh, I also learned that if you leave your clothes in the dryer for too long after they’re done, they’ll get all wrinkled, but you can throw in a damp wash cloth into the load and dry them again and it will take out the wrinkles.   I would suggest 20 minutes on high dry heat.  You might still have to iron some things like dress shirts, but that’s normal.

If it could only be that easy.

Dirty Old Man; An Entirely Fictional Tale About the Future Written in Present Tense.

Aqualung, my friend.

I’m eighty years old and living in a hotel for men.  I’ve just finished half a can of cat food salad that I’ve made using the mayonnaise packets I stole from Arby’s.  I spread it on a some day old white bread and toast it using a coat hanger and candle.  If I knew I would live this long, I would’ve invested in something.  Like Arby’s.  Who would’ve thought those shit holes would still be around?  What a burn on me.

I look out the window and see a woman walking along the sidewalk in heels.  She’s not particularly attractive, but I feel a compulsion to run out and tell her that I love her.  I was hoping that when things stopped working down there the insanity up here would also stop.  Nope.  If anything, it seems to have gotten worse.  I knew this would happen.  I could see the writing on the wall, way, way, way back when.

Both of my grandfathers were still interested in women long after everyone wanted to imagine they weren’t.  “You really shouldn’t dig that kind of stuff anymore, Grandpa.  Actually, you shouldn’t have ever dug it.  You’re Grandpa.”

Now I’m sitting here looking out the window, perving on the passing parade, and grossing myself out.  I guess that’s justice.  My cat dances around and between my legs.  She’s hungry.  I could make a dirty joke here, but I’m eighty years old and not very sharp or funny anymore.  I give her the other half of the can.

“Easy Tallulah, this shit isn’t cheap.”  I look back up and the woman is gone.  There will be another one.  In the meantime, try to do a push-up.  I get on the floor and press my hands hard into the linoleum.  I manage to raise myself off the ground a few times and collapse.  That’s what my next girlfriend has to look forward to.  I get up in time to see another woman passing by.

She’s wearing an algae-green, poly blend pantsuit, accessorized smartly with a white fanny pack and matching orthopedic sandals.  She has a Moe haircut and cataract sunglasses.  Looks like she’s twenty years younger, and is probably out of my league.  Is it time to eat rat poison?  Not yet.

I remember sitting on the veranda with my grandfather in Queens.  It was an early summer evening and we were having some drinks.  We watched women come home from work.  He would make comments based on what he thought they were all about.  After 76 years on the planet, living among them, he could call some pretty good shots.

“Dis von gut in dah bed, but maybe killen you in dah vollet.”  He’d pretend to pull out his wallet and scatter bills.  I’d look over and think, “Yeah, a little high-maintenance, but he’s right, she does look like a kicker.”  The best was when he’d see one and just say “Vow!”  I’d turn and watch some creature clacking up the street, calves chiseled out of marble, hips swinging like lethal weapons, the bra barely able to contain the madness trying to bust out.

“No shit, Grandpa,” I’d say, “Vowee.”   You knew she would devastate your sanity, bleed your bank account white, set fire to your peace of mind with gasoline soaked rags and road flares.  And it would be so vorth it.  Our eyes would follow her as she pulsated past us.  Vow.

I would watch that grandfather trying to make time with the various women he’d meet.  He had this thing where he would click his heels and raise a St. Louis Arch of an eyebrow when taking their hand.  I remember being demoralized.  Shit, if even he hasn’t learned any better, after all these years, what hope do I have?  I am always going to be held captive by their sway, forever a slave to their fickle folly.

It was one of the few times in my eighty years that I was right.  About that, and that 3-D internet would revolutionize porn.

Evening was descending and the walls were starting to close in.  It was time to hit the streets and play the flaneur.

I put on my state-issued jacket that clearly identifies me as a recipient of government aid.  It has a big letter P, for parasite, emboldened in neon yellow on the back.  In case of emergency, I am the first to be recruited for forced labor, hazardous work duty, or organ harvest.  I am also not entitled to any emergency supplies or health care.

I’m just glad the jacket looks good on me.  Makes me kind of look like a bad-ass.  I did a little tailoring.  Took in the waist a little.

I pet Tallulah good-bye and close the door behind me.  Down the hall I nod to Bryce.  He looks loaded.  He’s been cheezing.  Ever since it was discovered that the government cheese food product was laced with sedative, the fiends found a way to distill it.  They call it “making fondue.”

The petroleum product is cooked down, leaving an amber-colored tar.  The tar is rolled into a bullet shape and inserted as a suppository.  Everybody knows cheese blocks you up.  Jamming it like that has serious repercussions.  I could hear him banging on the walls of the bathroom down the hall.  Poor sod.

I step outside, grateful to be sober, and regular.  My biggest high these days is watching Tallulah kill one of the mutant rats that gnaw through the walls.  I don’t eat them, but I can trade them in Chinatown for a cup of green tea, which I have with a cigarette butt that I’ve saved for the occasion.  I get a mild buzz.  That’s as wild as it gets.  That’s my big thrill.  Oh, and seeing something like this coming up the street here.  Hello, Vamprilla, lost your virgin sacrifice?

Lately, I’ve been finding myself enamored with these Ghoul Girls.  Pale as death, lips red from sucking out the blood of past boyfriends, arms tattooed with portraits of famous serial killers, the loaded syringe earrings, the human finger bone through the nose, the black latex boots with ice-pick heels.  My hope being that going to bed with a corpse wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for them, and that somehow I might have a chance.

That’s it.  I’m down to hoping I’ll meet a nice necrophiliac.  Pretty depressing.

I smile and arch an eyebrow.  She sneers.  Okay, maybe not that one.

I don’t know if this parasite parka helps.  She’s probably Republican.

My other grandfather had his own game with women.  When we were holding the wake for my grandmother, the funeral director came outside where I was having a nip from a flask.  I offered her a hit, but she said she didn’t want to smell like liquor that early in the day.  She was an old Lithuanian lady, so we got to talking about this and that, and she mentioned that she liked my late grandfather’s writing.  “He was very funny,” she told me, “But I didn’t like…the way he kissed.”  I got it.  I knew what she was referring to.

He was sort of an aggressive kisser.  He didn’t want to settle for the peck on the lips that you get, let’s say, after accepting an award, but would try to burn it in drive-in style, right there at the podium.  Wish I could say I don’t know the impulse, but damn.  He’d be there in the batter’s box swinging at anything, hoping for at least a dinger over the shortstop’s head, anything for a chance to beat one out safely at first.  I guess saying good-bye to an old lady funeral director is as good an opportunity as any.  Not like she was getting a lot of action either.

I stop outside my favorite thrift store.  It’s run by a woman named Stasha.  She’s a cougar and has made it clear she wants me, but she’s 86.  That five or six-year difference was nice before.  I always liked older women.  Generally, they had their shit together and knew a couple of extra tricks.  Somewhere along the line that changed.  I know today everybody is saying that eighty is the new forty, but eighty-six is still eighty-six.

She was alright, otherwise.  An ancient, hippy free-spirit, she was at least somebody you could joke around with.

“Hello Maurice, how are you doing it today?” she giggles.

“Marius, and I’m doing it like I always do, when nobody is watching.”

She laughs and puts her hand on my arm.  Signal.  I feel uncomfortable, but don’t pull away.  Can’t hurt her feelings.

“Get any new books in?”

It’s one of the few places that still has them.   The libraries have been closed for decades.  They were considered a fatuous waste of tax payer dollars.  “Everything you need to know about life is on your screen,” we were told.  Nobody banned books.  People just lost the ability to concentrate on more words than were contained in a photo caption.  Books died off like Esperanto and bath houses.

“I just got in one of the classics, Betrayal, by Danielle Steel.”

“I’ll take it.”

“A little desperate for reading material?”

“Yeah, it’s been like jail lately, I’ll read anything to keep from staring at the walls.  I really can’t afford to be too picky these days.”

She smiles.  Oh shit.  Not what I meant.

‘”She’s not the worst,” she says, “Besides, a little romance never hurt anybody.”   She throws her shawl over her shoulder and gives me a wink that get’s stuck closed.  She turns around and walks back to get the book.  I could see her giving her ass a little extra kick with the strut, making the bangled belt around her gypsy skirt ring little bells.

She’s wrong there.  A little romance has hurt plenty of people.  Some guy holds the door open for some woman at Starbucks and three and a half months later he’s jumping off a bridge.

I can remember plenty of people I hurt.  The drunkenness, the cheating and whoring, all took a toll.  I could be a real selfish asshole.  Remind me to tell you about Valentine’s Day in Mexico some time.  Anyway, I’ve hurt some nice ladies in my day, women whose only crime was to see something in me.  That still feels bad.  Even now.

I’ve tried to be better.  You know, not take advantage.  Like with this one.  I don’t want to give her the total frost out.  She has feelings.  But, I also don’t want to lead her on.  I want to her to know she’s still a woman, but not give her any false hope.  It’s a razor’s edge.  Then again.  False hope these days is better than no hope.

She comes out with the book.  A paperback so swollen from water damage that it bulges like a football.

“That’ll be $400.  The silverfish between the pages are free,” she says.

I laugh.  Funny chick.  I pull out a grand and hand it to her.   She gives me the change.  $600 will buy me six more cans of cat food, and that will take me to the end of the month.  Then it’s back to the welfare office for a piss test, anal probe and mandatory blood donation to get my monthly $5,000 check.  Easy money.  I’m solid.

“That should keep you from staring at the walls for a while,” she says, handing me the book, “I hate thinking about you being so lonely.”

“Oh, uh, it’s not all that bad.  I have my cat.”

I regretted it the second it came out of my mouth.  She’s going to springboard from it.  Watch.  I could see her roll it over, and then come up with something.  Oh God.  Please, please, please don’t let her go there.  She’s 86 years old.

“Is that the only pussy you need?”

Oh Damn.  Now would be a great time to drop dead.  Just leave the body and go Eckankar.  No such luck.  Need a polite pivot here.

“Ya-ha!  Pretty much, ha-ha, these days.  I did a lot of nuclear clean-up during Earthquake Summer.  I’m not the man I used to be.”  I smiled.

“Oh, that’s not a problem.  There’s other things boys and girls can do for playtime.”

Manly P. Hall, this is awkward.

“I’m rebounding from a bad break-up.  She left me for a rodeo clown.  Still stings like a bitch.  I need some time alone to lick my wounds.”

That was a bad choice.  Lick my wounds?  Where is she going to go with that?

“I understand.”

She picks up a feather duster and starts to dust a dirty ashtray.  I hurt her feelings.  Damn it.  See?  It never ends.  I still haven’t learned how to do this.

“I’ll tell you what, next time I get a lonely spell I’ll call you, and you can come over and we can hang out.”

“Maybe we could play Scrabble?”

“Not that one, but something else, like a card game.”

“I’d love for you to show me your kitty,” she says.

“Mm.”

I wave good-bye and start for the door.  She calls out after me.

“You don’t have my number!”

I stop.  I was almost home free.  I smack my head.

“Oh, that’s right.  I’m going to need that to call you.  I can’t believe I forgot to ask for it.  Yes, very good then, write it down, and I will be calling you very soon, alright?  So don’t feel bad about yourself or sad about anything, okay?”

“Okay.  I won’t.”

She hands me her number and I step outside.   A light drizzle starts to come down.  It doesn’t smell too toxic.  The streets are deserted early tonight.  Where is everybody?  I didn’t hear any warning sirens.  Whatever.  Looks like it’s just me and the night sky.  I start back up the street and head home.  I hope Tallulah caught one tonight.  We both could use something.

Totally psyched about getting old.

Crazy From The Heat

A cool oasis from the urban heat.

I sat at the bar and listened to Rooney tell us about how he used his crutch to beat down a guy outside of the O.T.B. on Liberty Avenue.   He had recently fractured his ankle on the construction site he was pouring concrete at.  God gave him six weeks of summer vacation and he was making the most of it by drinking and gambling away the disability check at the off-track betting joint.  He told us he got into an argument outside with some guy about something.  The guy shoved Rooney and sent him on his ass.

We all shook our heads.  You don’t shove a cripple.  No.  And you don’t kick pregnant women.  Or, steal money from the blind.  Even we knew that.

“So I get up, take my crutch, and bring it down on this stupid fuck.  Vaboom!  And down he went,”  he grinned, “Almost rolled out into the traffic on Woodhaven.”

We roared in approval.   I held up my pint, “Well played, sir.”

The bartender put a beer down in front of him and knocked on the bar.  “I hope you took his head off, Rooney,” she said.

“Nah, I just hit him, right here in the neck bone,” he said, indicating with a chop.  That showed restraint, I thought, I’d probably head-hunt.  Rooney really was a nice guy.

“Then I kicked him in the face as he was trying to get up, but only once, because I had to hop on my bad foot to do it.  There was also a cop down the street, so I didn’t want to like murder the guy.  I have to be at my niece’s christening in New Jersey next week.”

“The clavicle” Jimmy Shannon said, “That’s the clavicle.”

“What-the-fuck ever, Jimmy!

“Finish the story, for chrissakes!”

“So the guy gets up and runs over to the cop standing across the street and starts to tell on me, you know?  He started the shit and then goes running to the cops when he gets his ass kicked!”  More shaking heads.  Dirty punk-ass cry-baby bitch snitch.

“Now the cop crosses the street with this guy, and I’m thinking ‘oh fuck!’ right?  The guy is screaming and crying about assault with a deadly weapon and how he already had a bad neck.  The cop holds up a hand to shut him up and tells him he saw the whole thing.  ‘You alright?’ he asks me.  ‘Yeah Officer, nothing but a bruised ass bone.’

“That’s the coccyx.”

Jimmy Shannon seemed to be proud about knowing all the bone names.  Good for him.  Anything that makes people feel better about themselves, I say.

Rooney picked up his beer and took a hit.  “The cop looks at me and asks ‘Do you want to press charges?’  He’s asking me this!”  We all laughed.  “So I ask him, “Well Officer, it depends on if you would rather be inside an air-conditioned office doing paper work,’  You know, give him the option of getting off the street, right?”

Very decent.  Rooney was like that.  Always thinking about the other guy.

“The cop thinks it over.  ‘I really hate paperwork’ he says.  Okay then, we both decide to let the guy go,” Rooney cracked up, “You see, I work with law enforcement now.”

“Cleaning up the streets with your crutch!” someone yelled.

“Using a weapon is a crutch, Rooney!”

“What’s the other guy doing during all this?” I asked.

“Oh he’s going nuts. ‘I’m the one who got hurt!’ he’s screaming.  The cop finally tells him he should shut the fuck up, and be glad he’s not going to jail. ‘You don’t shove a cripple!’ he tells him.”

That’s right.  Or kick the blind.  Or steal from pregnant women.  Even I knew that.  Too bad the cop hated paperwork so bad.  Still a pretty good ending.  New York cops are probably the most alright ones of the ones I’ve had to deal with, which has been sort of a trail mix variety.  I’ve never been arrested by a New York cop, and that goes a long way in my book.

“Cheers Rooney!” Big Joe said, raising his bottle of Bud.

“And cheers to New York’s finest!” I added.  We all clicked glasses.  Rooney set the crutches down by the bar and walked to the back to make a phone call.

It was eleven thirty in the morning, and the day was starting off with a bang.  I was sitting at the corner of the bar with Jimmy Shannon and Big Joe from Kokomo.  It was 98 degrees and 99 percent humidity outside.  Those kind of numbers turn New York City into a big sweaty armpit–a rashy irritated one.  People get crazy in that kind of heat.

When it gets that hot in Dixie they just lay around and melt into the lawn furniture.  Southern torpor is thick as molasses in Manassas.  In New York, people are more active.  They go Dog Day Afternoon Pacino bat shit.  This one was one of those Son of Sam summers.  The wine bottles were getting thrown across tenement rooms.  People were going to start killing each other soon.  Somebody was going to pay for this misery.

I was in a cool, dark tavern, with a tap of Guinness only five feet away from me.  I could look out at that city burning to death from behind darkened smokey glass.

Joe was sucking on a bottle of Budweiser and working on the crossword.  Jimmy was working on his second vodka grapefruit and reading the sports page. (The Mets were imploding again.)  Tommy O. was throwing darts.  The jukebox was off.  So was the sound to CNN.  It was quiet and peaceful.  Just the hum of the air-conditioner, the wail of sirens, the constant honking of traffic, and the thunder of the passing J train outside.  Otherwise, very New Age spa.

Why isn’t everyone doing this?  Why isn’t all of New York trying to get in here, to get away from itself?  This is like a life raft of sanity.  This is about as civilized civilization gets.  Especially New York City civilization.

I was in New York because my friend Dave got a job producing an album, he was going to be in the city recording, but he wanted me to hang out and do the degenerate rock thing.  He was also going to introduce me to some woman editor for Spin magazine.  Dave had deflowered her back in Texas so we both figured that was enough bona fides for me to show her some of my work.  It sounded like just like the savvy career move I needed.  I bought the airline tickets.  Non-refundable, of course.

The producing gig fell through the next day.  There would be no interview with the ex-virgin from Spin either.  I was on my own.  In New York City, all by myself for ten days, with absolutely nothing to do.  Maybe I can find some adventure anyway?

I drove down to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, and got on a plane.  Maybe I was drinking.  I do know that I didn’t care so much about dying in a fiery crash after I’ve had a cocktail or so.  I don’t remember being too scared about dying in a fiery crash that trip, so it’s possible I had a drink…or so.

It was an uneventful flight regardless, except for pissing off the woman next to me with a comment about her sensible shoes.  I told her she must be either a nurse or a lunch lady and pointed to them.  “Neither!” she says and then doesn’t say a word to me the rest of the flight.  Okay by me.  I kept having the flight attendant hand me beers under her nose, just to show her the rejection was driving me to drink.  Like I would ever want her after seeing her in those shoes.

I walked out of the terminal and straight into a hot, wet sponge.  “Oh yeah… this,” I remembered.  Molten air.  I took the taxi to my late grandparent’s house.  There were still renters on the two floors above.  Their place downstairs was vacant, but still had some furniture it in.  Not like I had any use for it.  I threw the suitcase in, and closed the door.  I had some place I had to be.  Biddy Mulligan’s.  Nice working-class neighborhood Irish bar, filled with friendly people having friendly fist fights.  Air-conditioned for your supreme comfort.

I had already made some friends there over the course of flying back home over the years.  I’d get a nice hero’s return welcome, and feel right at home.  If you know anything about me, you can surmise that it took a certain type of environment for me to feel at home in.  This was that kind of environment.  Gotta get out of the heat and into something cool and refreshing.  Lemonade!  That cool refreshing drink.

It’s a jungle out there, lads.

I was now on day four of what would turn out to be an epic drinking saga, a heroic struggle of Man versus Himself drunk, what the popular media would call a bender.  I’d sleep in my grandparent’s basement because it was cooler.  I’d come to in the morning around ten, drink a Budweiser, take a shower, get dressed, walk down to the pizza place and buy a slice.  I’d eat it, and head straight for the bar by eleven.  I’d drink until four, go home take a nap.  Get up, Budweiser, shower, dress, pizza, and be back on a stool by seven.  I’d drink until three or four, then go home to the basement.

I did this for ten days straight.  Not easy to do.  I owe it all to New York pizza.  That little jog along the Trail of Tears, remains my all-time record.  One I proudly recall at meetings.  Not so much at job interviews.

It was so fucking hot that summer, I wasn’t up for sight-seeing.  I had lived in New York.  I had been all around the place and had witnessed a lot of interesting things.  I loved it, but I didn’t feel much like pissing my pants on a blacked-out subway train again to see it this time.  Instead, I would sit in a cool dark place and let New York City come to me, one amazingly insane character at time.  Each one just a little nuttier from the heat.

That afternoon, I was talking to this guy, who kind of looked like an even more blown-out George Kennedy.  He tells me he just got a job with a new company.  He repairs elevators, and this company is great, he says.  The supervisor is really reasonable, he says, and that he told him that if he drinks on the job, to drink vodka, so the clients won’t smell it on him.  (I swear this is true)  Even my drunk ass got pissed.  First off, that vodka not smelling thing is bullshit.  Secondly, he’s repairing elevators for God’s sake, not broken tampon dispensers in public bathrooms.

“Did I connect everything back?  Ah, fuck it, it’ll be fine.  Just sweep these leftover parts in to my toolbox and close this bitch up.  Gotta make it to McGill’s before it get’s too packed.  Better take the stairs down.”

Ever since then, I haven’t been able to enter an elevator without thinking about him, and hopefully you won’t either.  “Otis?  Is that the name of the company? Like Otis the drunk?”

Anyway, as we’re talking, this other guy sits down next to me.  He taps me on the shoulder.  I turn and look at him.  He’s a skinny little guy in a white cabby hat, salt and pepper couscous duster on his lip.  I had seen him around before.  He was something weird, like a Moldavian gypsy.

“Eeelcahtric vindows no goot!” he says, and shakes his head.

“Yeah okay,” I say, and turn back to the alcoholic elevator repairman.  Again the tap on the shoulder.  I turned back.  He’s holding an imaginary steering wheel.

“In dah car, eelecahtric vindows no goot!”

” Whatever,” I tell him, and go back to talking to Ray.  One more time, the tap.

What the fuck?  “Okay, so vhy eelecahtric vindows in dah car no goot?” I ask him.

“Ah, because if dah car go into dah vahter…” he made his hand dive down, “…eelecahtric vindow no worken.”  He smiled, pleased with himself.  Like he had figured out a secret deficit to a beloved favorite, like cupcakes cause cancer, or prayer actually pisses God off.

Technically he was right though.  If a car submerged into water, the electrical system would short out, and you couldn’t get the windows down.  You would drown and die.

“Well that would suck alright,” I told him, “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

I felt the tap again.  “Yes? Something else?”

“In dah car, electric vindow no goot, because in dah vahter no worken,” he repeated.

“I got that, buddy, and I pretty much don’t give a shit,” I clarified.

This time I didn’t turn back fully because I sensed another tap coming.  I waited.  There it was.

“Is this something about electric windows?” I asked him.  He nodded yes.  “Is it about how they are the most wonderful invention of all time?”  He shook his head.  No?

“Eelecahtric vindow no goot!”

Dear God, I’m stuck in an Abbott and Costello routine.  How does a person get so crazy?  Did somebody do this bit on him?  I spoke slowly and deliberately.

“I learned something new today, my friend.  I learned that in spite of any ease that comes from using an index finger instead of having to crank a handle, the electric window is a death sentence.  That in the very likely event of driving my car into a lake. pond or ocean, I would pay for my luxurious laziness…with my life.  Thanks to you, I have this knowledge, and will now use it to save my miserable life.  Thank you, very much.”

“No-no!” he says, “No goooot!”

“I give up.”  I turned away.  If I get another tap I’m just going to belt him.  Teach him that talking about electric windows is no goot.

Tap-tap.  I didn’t turn.  Tap-tap.  Tap-tap………….tap-tap.

“Do you want to fucking die!” I screamed, but when I turned around this time.  He didn’t say a word.  He was slowly raising his hand up, indicating a rising water level while mimicking the panic of a person about to drown.  He did it in that over-the-top silent movie style, and it was so comical, so Cantaflas, that I un-cocked my fist and started laughing so hard I was helpless.  I instantly went from thinking of him as an irritating nut-job to some sort of comic angel sent to brighten my day.  I put my arm around his shoulders.

“You know what I think, my friend? I think eelecahtric vindows no goot. ”

He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  I bought him a drink.  I even took his picture.  I wanted to remember my encounter with him.  It was my first small lesson on how a change of perspective made a difference in what I experienced.  Even in my drunken mire, a spark was struck.  The ground and the wood were too wet for anything to really catch, but I was being shown something.

Wisdom will track you down.  Nobody can hide forever.  It will find you in some of the worst places, too.  People have seen the light from the backs of cop cars, laying in hospital beds, jail cells, or on the dirty bathroom floor of a Mexican whorehouse.   It will find your ass.  You will wise up, or die a miserable death.   The longer you reject its promptings, the more insistent the taps on the shoulder become, and sometimes those taps come in the form a crutch crushing your clavicle.

Or, they could come from a delightful creature, with your only job being to pay attention and appreciate the wonder and joy it brings.  That seems better than eating shoe and sidewalk outside the O.T.B.  An easier softer way.  Unfortunately my lessons were still going to be learned the hard way, and a real haymaker was winding up, waiting for me to come home.  But that is another story.  Keep it cool this summer, kids.

Not big on electric windows.

On-line Loverboy Roy, Part 2.

I love sunsets, too.

I guess she was attractive enough, like if you were just getting out of prison or something.  But, I wasn’t the one just getting out of prison.  I don’t know how to put this delicately.  I don’t want to come off as insensitive, but she just wasn’t a good-looking woman.

Ladies, you must agree that there are men out there that are not physically attractive to you.  I’m sure that if you carefully studied them from a safe distance, and searched deep in your heart, you’d find a beautiful human inside.   But I’m also sure that the thought of getting naked with them…would still make you want to vomit.

So let’s not pretend this game doesn’t work both ways.

Anyway, all I can say is she took a damn good driver’s license photo.  Who does that?  That’s the picture she used for her profile.  I studied it and deduced it was some from some kind of ID, but didn’t think more of it.  I was just relieved that she looked okay.  Cute even.  I also thought, “Hey, if this is her driver’s license photo, then she looks even better in real life.”

What I should’ve been thinking was, “Hey, what kind of person only has their ID photo to use in their profile?”  Oh, I don’t know, like a newly released convict?  Maybe.  Let’s see.

This would be my second and last date via cyber-whoredom.  Having just gotten sober, I found myself paralyzed around women.  Not just internally, like always, but with my motor skills.  I couldn’t make my feet walk over to the part of the room where the object of my desire was located.  Desire is a powerful motivator and when it’s thwarted, it’s late breaking news.  For me, at least.  It’s also a king-sized drag.

I’d go to bars and just stand around drinking oceans of club soda.  I was frozen in fear.  I had lost my ability to charmingly convince a women to give me a try.  To see if I would destroy her life or not.  I had no game.

Did I drink away my game?  Did I even have any to begin with?  Was it all bottled game?

Beer made dancing through the complicated quadrille of courtship so much easier.  Do you need to undress the hostess while her guests wait for dinner?  Got just the thing.  Beer made me bold, and bold makes things happen.

“Using the front porch swing like a Bangkok love basket with Thelma Lou, while her folks listen to Jack Benny on the radio is going to require some Moxie, young man.  Try Sots, delicious whole-grain, yeast soda.  It’ll put the giddy-up back in your gallop.”

Indeed.  I needed a bucket of liquid oats in my feed bag to get trotting again, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I needed help.  Desperate times call for commensurate measures.  Computer dating seemed appropriately desperate, but not without advantages.

You could weed out thousands of bummers by making your profile so insanely honest that only the hippest of chicks would reply.  The easily terrified would be scared off.  Whoever was left would be a woman so battle-hardened by life’s weirdness that a guy like myself could relax and be himself.  That was the idea, at least.

My first nibble was an ex-porn starlet that ended the evening with a peck on the cheek and a fraternal pat on the back.  The next bite on the line was a woman named Lana.  I looked over her profile.

Lana.  Sexy name.  Rhymes with “I wanna.”   Might be a fortuitous sign.  What else?  Likes sunsets, long walks on the beach, romantic evenings by the fire.  I guess I can put up with that…for a while at least.  I did some volume calculations with her weight and height.  Adding some size for number padding, I estimated that she wasn’t going to be petite.  Nothing wrong with that.  I wasn’t averse to spanking a full fanny around the ballpark.

The problem is this here, this part-time job thing she listed, selling Mary Kay cosmetics.  Those women are crazy.  Trust me.  Sure they’re great in bed, but you pay for it with your sanity.  What meager remnants of mine remained, I guarded jealously.  Part-time, too.  Means she’ll be around.   Cut into the napping schedule.  Well, we’ll deal with that chestnut when it gets too hot.

I called her.  She picked up on the second ring.

“Hello, Lana?”

“Uh-huh?  Hold on…Randy, if you don’t shut the fuck up right now, I’m going to come up there and beat your face in!  Okay, I’m back.”

“Hi, my name is Marius, and I am the guy from on my profile you answered to by sending something to my e-mail which I answered you from, from.”

“Yeah yeah, hey, how’s it going?”

“Okay, well, nothing I guess.  I mean good.”

Silence descended.  A vast, eternal one.  Pyramids were built and crumbled.  Civilizations rose and collapsed.  The distance between planets grew.

“So what’s up?” she volunteered.

“That’s funny, that’s what I was going to ask you? Ah-Hahahahahahahahahaha!”

“What?  What’s funny?”

“I don’t know.  So you like sunsets?”

Not the scintillating repartee of a Noel Coward bedroom comedy, and it would grind down from there.  I remember having the stupidest conversations of my life with that woman.  Not all her fault, either.  I was still scrambled and remedial myself.  Her being brick thick just anchored the dialogue to a muddy playing field.  She would underhand pitch me a rotting grapefruit and I would splat that bitch out into the cheap seats.

I think we had two conversations on the phone before our date.  They were just chock full o’ red flags, but I’m newly sober.  What are red flags?  I just learned what red stands for and don’t know yet what it means when it’s attached to a flag.

I was just happy to get through the conversation.  When she told me she just got out of prison for interstate transportation of drugs, I thought, “Good, she can’t give me too much shit about my past.”  Some of the best relationships start there.  We decided to meet at a restaurant.

“That way you don’t have to worry about me raping and killing you,” I assured her.

“Okay.”

On Saturday night I did that thing where you spray the cologne in the air and walk through it.  Walk through it and any nervousness.  Without drinking.  I can do this.  I’ve lived through much, much worse than a bad date and rejection.  And what else is life but a torture rack to endure until blessed oblivion?

I finished my pep self-talk and walked into the restaurant.  “Are you Morris?” someone asked.  I looked over.  It was a woman.

And then I saw her face.

Holy shit!  The smile did it.  Not a sexy Lauren Hutton front gap, but a multiplicity of them, scattered as though from repeated BB gun accidents.  Pellet gun, actually.  She looked like a jammer from the old Roller Derby on channel 13.  A Los Angeles T-Bird, but with a face someone carved in a pumpkin contest at Trader Joe’s.

She also still had a little prison smell behind the ears.  They get a look after doing a few years that doesn’t shower off easy.  I could see her spitting sunflower seeds while she walked the track in her utility CDC windbreaker.  She was not bull-dikey enough to be a shot-caller or yard boss,  but could be a unit soldier or shower hatchet.  The other women wouldn’t try stealing her Ramen soups, that’s for sure.

While I do admire a woman who can protect her locker of canteen goods from the other convicts, it’s not much of a sexual turn-on either.

Fuck.

You know you could have offered to meet her at a coffee place.  That’s a place where a lot of raping and killing doesn’t happen on dates, too.  You’d only be out a cup of coffee, but no, your male ego wanted to impress.  Unfortunately, that fucker isn’t going to pick up the check.  Or be anywhere around when you try to parachute out of this flaming dirigible.

She had the lobster, of course.  I hamburgered her in passive protest.   As she told me about the third restraining order she’s ever had to file, I scrutinized her.  How many beers would this take?  We’re probably talking thirty to forty, and by then…well…ain’t nothing gonna happen.  She was out of beer range.  Sober?  Not a chance.  Or as much chance as me making out with my dad.

She yammered on and on but my brain couldn’t pay attention.  It had to come up with an escape plan.  Too early to fake a seizure.  Someone needs to die.  Not a family member, but like a co-worker or neighbor.  Tell her I need to go and ID the body.  Please, someone call me.  Where are all the telemarketers when you need them?

One good thing, though.  I stopped being nervous about the date not going well.

“I put on a lot of weight in prison,” she announced, while the waiter poured her some more wine, “They feed you nothing but starches.”

That doesn’t bother me.”

“Thanks. I’m glad to hear that.”

“Yep.”  I can eat starches all day.

Over dinner she told me about her bust.  She said she was working for a woman who asked her to take a trailer full of furniture to Indiana.

Oh boy.  NEVER take furniture to Indiana.  My buddies Scott and Richie told me about that.  Cops are hip to that one.

She said she got pulled over and right away they call in the dogs to sniff the trailer.   I nodded.  They saw the furniture.

She claimed she really didn’t know the drugs were in there.  I kind of believed her.  Why should she bullshit me at this point?  It took her a long time to convince the feds she didn’t know.  Eventually, they gave her a deal.  Wear a wire and get the receiver to come out and pick up the trailer.  After the sting she would also have to testify against them and the woman that sent her.

She said she was scared to death, but did it.  The G-men got to polish their buttons over the bust and convictions, but screwed her anyway.  She got three more years than the deal they agreed on.

“That’s dirty,” I said, and picked up a french fry, “Feds always want to get their money’s worth.”

It was a depressing conversation, and I noted with chagrin that the more wine she drank the more flirtatious she became.

I was getting antsy for the check.  How much longer, O Lord, will You leave me tied to this stake,?  The ravens have pecked out the flesh from between my ribs, letting the hot wind whistle through in mockery.  I am humbled by Your might.  I tremble at the thunder of Your wrath.  I beseech Thy mercy.

The waiter finally came and set the check tray down.  I paid the bill with singles the stripper’s at my work had tipped me out with.  Quite a grip of them.  The folder bulged when I handed it back to him.  As I did, I realized I didn’t have an excuse ready for if she wanted to come back to my place.  I was so busy beseeching that I forgot to come up with a plug-puller.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  It’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday night!   Where are you supposed to be instead?

Okay, now is the time for a seizure.  Do it right here in the restaurant.  You can’t be shy.  You have to sell it.  Knock over a table.  It will be a little awkward but you’ll be home free before you know it.  Do it.  Let it rip.

“I’d like to come over to your place and hang out,” she said.

“Like tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Uh…sure.”  I watched myself say it while hovering just above my body.

If she gets into my apartment, not only will she know where I live, but will probably rape and kill me, all the time.  She only works part-time.  I know how this works.  First you try to let them down easy and say nice things about them, then you switch to why you are too terrible a person to deserve such a goddess, but as soon as they sniff out it’s a shove-off the tears turn on.  The next thing you know, you’re engaged.  It starts out as break-up speech and winds up being a marriage proposal–just to stop the crying.  Or in this case, the stabbing.

As we got up from the table, she wobbled a bit.

“Whoa, that wine kicked my ass!  I hope you don’t plan on taking advantage of me.”  She winked and gave me a big Halloween smile.

Oh God.  Here we go.  I grabbed the tablecloth with both fists and started shaking.