/Whois - Chapter 13 - Bars, Cars & the Death of a Princess

 

Most of the time, I have no difficulty falling to sleep. Place head on pillow, close eyes, stick one foot out of covers for temperature control and drop into a state of comatose unconsciousness. If I'm sick, I can sleep for days...literally...and wake up ravenous, but feeling a lot better. I sleep until I'm no longer tired. If I stay up late...I sleep later, and vice versa. This is simply how my body behaves and I've come to terms with it. There is, however, one exception to this rule...the "ohmygod if I don't get up now I'll miss something important" feeling that can rip me from slumber faster than a bucket of cold water. So it was the first morning of the meet weekend. I was wide awake at dawn, lying in the bed of an unfamiliar room while Jerry snored loudly at my side.

Quietly I slipped from beneath the covers and padded quietly across the room to the door, eased it open and slipped out. I nearly collided with Kimbrr in the hallway...

"Coffee?" she mumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"Mmph," I grunted back and together we shuffled downstairs to the kitchen.

We sat in comfortable comraderie, blowing the steam from our mugs of concentrated caffeine and lit up our first cigarettes of the day. Occasionally, there were surreptitious looks across the small table at each other. Kimbrr was tall...like me. Her hair was a tangled mess from sleeping...like mine was. I would never in this lifetime label her a dainty work of feminine grace...but then again, I couldn't hold that title either. I'm pretty sure that she could find nothing threatening about me either.

"Love the teddy bears," I commented.

"Shut up about my teddy bears," she stated.

And that was pretty much all it took. The person that I'd known in chat was sitting beside me, not quite the mental image I'd held for so long...but after a half hour or so, I couldn't remember what that image had been.

"So...what's on tap for today?" I inquired.

Kimbrr had it all planned out. I had to smile as she laid out the arrangements. Kali and I often joked that Kimbrr was "The General" and loved nothing more than to order the rest of us around as if we were her troops. It wasn't meant to be offensive; it was just Kimbrr's natural tendency to lead. We tolerated it, not because we needed to be led, but because it made Kimbrr feel good to be needed.

First, Kali and Iva would arrive at approximately 0900 hours. We would have breakfast and proceed to Niagara Falls. At approximately 1200 hours, we would converge on a bar that had been designated as the meet spot and proceed to have fun for...well as long as there was fun to be had.

Sounded like a good plan to me.

Looking at the clock, I realized I should at least make myself presentable for the arrival of Kali and Iva. It was while I was wrestling with my unruly curls in the downstairs bathroom that I heard the sounds of a commotion in the living room...

"Where is she? Where is Sno? Snoooooo...come out, come out wherever you are!"

I'd recognize that husky female voice anywhere. Kali was here!! Wielding a brush in my hand and looking like a deranged serial killer, my hair sticking out in a hundred different directions, I scrambled from the bathroom and into the living room.

My first thought was..."oh my god...she has perfect hair." What came out of my mouth was...

"KALI!!!!!"

...and we embraced as if we were friends that had not seen each other in a millennia.

Once we had finished doing that chicken speak that women do when they are both trying to talk at the same time, I paused and noticed the man standing a little awkwardly behind her.

"Iva?"

He smiled broadly at me..."Hiya Sno."

Iva was tall. At 5'10" I'm not a shorty, but I had to crane my neck up to look at him.

"Wow...you are tall."

"Guess it's a good thing I didn't REALLY sit on your lap then, huh?"

Other than the whole "perfect hair" thing...Kali, Kimbrr and I could have been sisters. It was uncanny how much we physically had in common. Kimbrr had spent the previous evening in their company, so I was the one that had to play a bit of catch up.

I finished my hair quickly, solving the problem by giving up and tossing it into a pony tail. We gathered in the kitchen, talking and laughing as we whipped up a quick breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast.

"Oh...Sno, before I forget...Iva brought something for you from Australia," Kali said in a rather suspiciously innocent fashion.

I looked at Iva...and then at Kali...not missing the little conspiratorial smirk that passed between them.

"Uh...what did you bring, Iva?"

"Why Sno...I brought you that delicacy of all delicacies to try...vegemite!"

And with that he produced something that looked like a tube of toothpaste. This was vegemite? He picked up a piece of toast that had just popped out of the toaster, cut it in half and proceeded to place a dab of brown goo on the corner of the triangle. Iva then offered it to me...

I took it from his hand and looked at it. Kali, Kimbrr and Iva held their breath...waiting. I didn't like that at all. There must be some sort of trick. I held out my hand for the tube and Iva gave it to me. Sure enough...it said vegemite on it, I just hadn't realized that vegemite looked like concentrated tree sap.

I lifted it to my lips and took a bite.

The reaction was instantaneous. My mouth rebelled completely...lips peeling back in horror, my tongue protruded trying to escape the taste and the gagging commenced. Kimbrr produced a glass of water, but with my eyes watering I just shook my head vehemently. I wanted this crap OFF my tongue...NOW! I didn't want to dilute it and wash it back IN.

I raced for the kitchen sink and turned the faucet on full blast...sticking my entire tongue under the deluge of water.

Meanwhile the three of them were howling with laughter, wiping their eyes and making rather indelicate snorting sounds.

"Oh my god! Sno! I'm dying here! *snort, snort, giggle* You should have seen your face...ohmygod...*snort,snort*..."

I stood there with my tongue dripping, waiting for my gag reflex to settle down...and I looked at the three of them.

"So...?" Iva said, being the first one to recover from his laughter.

"So...now I know what licking the bottom of the Dead Sea must taste like..."

Which started the laughter all over again...me included this time.

The bacon and eggs (I wasn't touching anymore toast) went a long way toward helping me to recover my taste buds and it wasn't long before all that was left of our meal were a few crumbs.

"By the way...where's Seagrams?" Kimbrr suddenly asked.

Oops.

I'd completely forgotten about my husband. While it seemed completely normal to me that he usually slept until after noon, I realized that he'd just missed breakfast and would miss a whole lot more if he didn't get his ass out of bed. How had he managed to sleep through all of our chatter anyway?

Guiltily, I went up the stairs and woke him up.

"You need to get up and get dressed. We'll be leaving shortly for Niagara Falls." I said as I nudged him into consciousness.

"What about breakfast? Don't they eat around here?"

"Uh...well we've been up for hours. You sort of missed breakfast."

Jerry could have grumbled and made a fuss over it, but for once he didn't. With an oh-well attitude, he was up and dressed in minutes. Perhaps this weekend wouldn't be so bad after all.

Jerry and Iva hit it off immediately. I really think that Kali had something to do with it, because Iva went out of his way to include Jerry in every conversation...making it a point to keep the subject a common one to everyone. As a result, the sight-seeing tour of Niagara Falls was a pleasure. While Kali, Kimbrr and I raced off to annoy a mountie and have our picture taken with him, Iva hung back with Jerry and commiserated with him on how uncontrollable the three of us were turning out to be.

"They're like the three muskateers...have you noticed? Only pure evil," commented Iva.

Jerry smiled and agreed wholeheartedly.

As we were trying to leave, Kali and Kimbrr somehow managed to get themselves handcuffed together to the steering wheel of Kimbrr's car. Iva shook his head and wormed his way in between the two of them, trying to disentangle them. They looked as if they were having great fun, laughing and making that typical snorting sound that I'd come to associate with a good time. It was a siren call to me...and I'd taken two steps toward the ruckus before Jerry's hand clasped my arm, restraining me.

"C'mon...we'll meet them at the bar."

It was hard...so hard, but I allowed Jerry to lead me away as I wistfully watched my friends wrestling on the front seat less than ten feet away from me. It wasn't fair...

The bar, as it turned out, was more of a restaurant...with wide open spaces for pool tables. It needed to be big, there were so many of us. The attendance was simply mind boggling and I spent a good hour or so shaking hands and hugging a lot of people that I knew but didn't know. Jerry felt very much at home, with a drink in one hand and a pool cue in the other...he was quite content. For a brief moment, I thought, "this is how it should be"...before I was dragged off to meet yet another arrival.

Kimbrr tapped me on the shoulder and once she had my attention she looked around furtively before whispering in my ear. "Some of us are going out to the car...want to join us? If you do...just come out...but be subtle. Subtle..okay?"

She nodded in the general direction of one of the chatters.

"He's RCMP...and while I like him, and he's our friend...I'd rather just be safe, k?"

I nodded...tempted...but looking over at Jerry, I thought perhaps I shouldn't. So I loitered in the bar and waited a bit longer than necessary before slinking out the door and tapping on the window of Kimbrr's car. With a muffled cough, the door opened and great big billowing clouds of smoke engulfed the entire vehicle.

"Yup...that's subtle alright, Kimbrr" I remarked before sliding in amongst the giggling occupants.

The day waned into night and ever so slowly people began to reluctantly say goodbye. Some of us would be attending the private barbecue at PG's house the following day...while others simply were not invited. There is a hierarchy...even in a chat world. Kali and Iva would be spending the night in the bed that Jerry and I had taken the previous night and while Kimbrr extended us her hospitality and the freedom to make use of whatever furniture we wanted in her home, we were contemplating a hotel room.

"Oh no! You simply can't do that...you have to stay with us, sno? Please?"

I looked over at the rather florid-faced and large woman that had a death grip on my arm. On her face was the kind of expression that always made me uncomfortable...as if I pooped flowers and the sun rose and set on my command.

"Uh..." I looked around for a savior while my mind tried to think of a compassionate way to escape.

"I won't take no for an answer...and my husband insists too...don't you honey...and my little girl is just dying to meet the infamous snobird, why she would be just THRILLED to have you stay with us. Please sno...don't say no. We'll have fun I promise...please?"

Inwardly I groaned because I'm such a sucker and to say no would sound heartless...which went totally against my self-image.

"Sure, GG...Seagrams and I would love to stay with you."

"You will?! I mean...oh that's wonderful...do you want to go now? I'll have my husband get the van and we can go right now if you want. I know! We'll take you to our favorite place. You are going to LOVE it...do you play trivia?"

And with that she ran off to get her husband while I wandered over to Seagrams to give him our change in itinerary. As luck would have it, Kimbrr, Kali and Iva were with him so I didn't have to explain more than once.

"Sno...you have my phone number...if you need rescuing, just call. Or even better, you can get on the computer and send out an S.O.S." Kimbrr said while laughing at my predicament.

"I'm sure we'll be fine...I mean, how bad could it possibly be?" I said without conviction.

Oh...it was bad alright.

Jerry and I followed, GG and her husband, Minuteman, to their favorite bar. Jerry had no complaints about this...bars are never an issue. Without taking a breath, GG kept up a running patter of conversation as she grabbed my hand and dragged me over to a table surrounded by comfortable chairs. Above us, a screen displayed an ongoing trivia game.

"This is what I love best...I can sit here for hours and play trivia. I'm really, really good at it...just to warn you. Nobody can beat me here. Okay, okay...let me show you how to do it. Here's your control and you read the question and then pick an answer...and after everyone has answered it lets you know if you are right. After about five questions or so, it'll show your score...and everyone else's in the bar that's playing...that's how I know I'm good..see...so you got it?"

I blinked. "I think so."

"Okay...now...okay here's the first question...'What is...' oh...you already answered it. Never mind...wow...and you got it right...pretty good. See...you got the hang of it right off the bat...and here's the next question..."When do..."...you are a pretty fast answerer aren't you...but you have to be careful and read the whole question before you ans...oh...you got that one right too...."

There was no way that GG could have known I'd been to the "Andrea School of Narcissism" as I've previously mentioned and considered myself a fountain of useless knowledge. I will admit that a part of me was actually enjoying GG's discomfort though, with sadistic glee. Payback for her incessant prattling if you will.

My attention however was caught by a television off to the side and I allowed my trivia expertise to slip as I tried to comprehend what I was seeing.

"Ha! You missed one Sno...Sno?"

GG looked up to see what had come between us.

"Oh my god..."she said. And that was it...for once she was speechless.

The news was slow to unfold, but the bar that scrolled beneath with updates was unmistakable in its grimness. Princess Di was dead, dying or horribly maimed in some automobile accident...depending on who was doing the reporting at the time.

While I could understand the iconic value of Diana to the Canadians who still recognized the monarchy of Britain to a certain extent, she also had a place in my own heart. I remembered watching the fairy tale wedding when I was still an impressionable teenager and thinking that it was wonderful that there were still such things as finding a Prince Charming. As I grew older and more cynical, my heart always went out to the doe-eyed woman who must have believed the same thing...but found out she'd kissed a prince and ended up with a big-eared toad instead.

While this news did not directly impact my existence, it still managed to put a damper on the evening...so we decided to call it a night and head for GG's home.

"Oh...no," I said as we entered the parking lot. I looked up and hoped that the outside of the building was no indication of the condition on the inside. Have you ever seen the television sit-com "Good Times"? Remember the tenement that the family lived in? I think the opening shots were taken at this place...

GG exited the family van and tapped on the window. Slowly I rolled it down, hoping that she was going to tell us that she was hopelessly lost trying to find her own home and that they were turning around.

"Just park anywhere...and then hop into the van. Residents park underground and my husband has made all the arrangements for your vehicle to be in the parking lot so nobody will disturb it. They're really good about towing vehicles that don't belong here...so it's safe as a bank...don't worry about a thing."

Jerry pulled the Barneymobile into an open parking space and we transferred what we would need for the night into the van. I pushed aside candy wrappers, toys and tried not to look down at the trash encroaching on my feet as I slid the door shut.

The elevator reeked of things I didn't want to name as we rode up.

"We're on the top floor...sort of like a penthouse. Wait until you see the view!" GG exclaimed. Obviously she was unaware of the god awful stench having grown accustomed to it. I kept my fingers crossed...praying that the odor was limited to the lift.

"Here we are...home!" GG cried as she flung open the door and a munchkin leaped from nowhere and attached itself to her. The child was adorable...pigtails, freckles and a smile that made you want to smile back. "Look what I brought you sweetie...it's snobird!" And with that the little girl flew from her mother's arms and latched onto me as if I was Barbie come to life.

What can I say...I melted.

I met the dog...a rather stinky little sheltie that added its unique smell to the scent of the apartment. It wasn't quite as bad as the elevator...but it would still take some getting used to. Between the child on my lap and the dog drooling happily at my side, I definitely felt more than welcome.

I tried to ignore the looks that Jerry was giving me. There was a "how could you have gotten us into this mess?" accusation somewhere in his eyes.

We were given the pull-out couch to sleep on. Now, I've slept on these things before and while not exactly a Serta mattress...sleep can be had if one is really tired. This particular couch however was an instrument of torture. There were lumps where there shouldn't be, gaping holes between springs that occasionally swallowed parts of your body...and the smell was beyond belief. I wasn't so sure that the source of the smell was the couch though since every time I woke up, the first thing I saw was the gaping maw and tongue of the family pooch. It could have been a case of bad doggy breath.

I woke up more exhausted than I had been when I fell asleep. On the rare occasion when that happens, I'm downright churlish and will wholeheartedly embrace the idea that misery not only loves company, it thrives on it. The sky had barely begun to lighten when I extricated myself from the couch-trap. Jerry was snoring, somehow having managed to find a comfortable position. It seemed a perfect time to enjoy the fine view I'd been told about and have a cigarette. I walked across the room to the what appeared to be the back door which led out onto a tiny balcony.

There are just some things that you cannot prepare yourself for...and feeling a cold nasty squishing sensation between my toes was one of them. With trepidation I looked down. It was dog poop...on newspaper...placed carefully on an orange plastic cafeteria tray. Now I understood why GG had dismissed my concern about taking the dog for a walk before bed with a wave of her hand and told me that it was taken care of....they had a dog that pooped on a tray, of course. The fact that this tray was between the back door and the kitchen table didn't seem to faze them in the least.

I hobbled over to the kitchen, keeping my toes in the air as much as possible so as not to track dog crap through their apartment and in a movement that would make any contortionist proud, proceeded to immerse my foot in the sink, negotiating the pile of dirty dishes that looked like they had been there for some time. With that accomplished...I still wanted to see this amazing view...and I needed a smoke more than ever.

The balcony clung to the building precariously and while the view was sort of nice, there was no way I was going to entrust my entire bodyweight to it. Therefore, I stood half in and half out of the apartment as I enjoyed my morning cigarette. It didn't take long for me to come to the conclusion that I had to get us the hell out of here...as soon as possible.

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