Blue Country #6
Lets all go to the market.
I see Kevin, walking from the Burger King bathroom, but I don’t say hi. His hands are wet and he’s carrying a handkerchief with all these deep brown stains on it, waving it around for a minute before sticking it back in his pocket. He looks like he’s been doing something very tiring, and I see him sneeze and it’s bloody. I know he doesn’t see me, because he doesn’t turn towards me and give me a slow, toothy smile. The scratch marks on his neck and arms are pronounced but practically un-noticeable, his leather jacket zipped up halfway, the sleeves rolled up. His sunglasses, cheap off the rack aviators, hang backwards off his neck.
I watch as he gets in his car and I see four garbage bags, piled in the back, tied up with yellow string, barely staying inside, and theres at least fourteen air fresheners hanging off his rear view and the girl that was apparently waiting for him in the car is smelling one of them, smiling when she see’s him. He lights a cigarette, gives a thumbs up sign and starts the car, driving away too fast.
I order a burger, eat half of it, throw the rest to the birds, call Jill, but she’s not picking up. I take a ketchup holder, fill it with Kool-aid, sip it up in one small gulp, look at the sun for a while and go home.
Driving on Lord Nathan Street, I ask Stephanie what she thinks she’ll do with her future and she says she doesn’t know. “Maybe become a drug addict.” She says, waving away a fly.
“That’s not very original.” I reply, throwing my pack of Marlboros out the window vowing to never smoke again.
“Original is over rated anyway.” She answers, then seeing what I did with the cigarettes she adds, “Jesus, overkill much?”
“Nasty habit.” I say, and I’m yawning from the sun and the tedium. I’ve had this conversation before.
“At least it’s easy.” She says, catching my yawn.
“Maybe…” I start to say that maybe it shouldn’t be easy all the time, but I stop, not seeing any progress that will be made in this conversation by uttering it out loud.
“Yeah, maybe.” She echoes. “Did you know Gretch is stripping now? Did you hear about that?” She asks, not noting that a change of topic has taken place. “God nothing ever happens here.”
“Yeah well Gretch has a cocaine habit that like supports most of Columbia’s economy.” I answer. “Gretch is a fucked up slut.”
“Oh my god, Hannah whatever.”
“She has HPV.” I say. “She got it from some fucking guy she fucked.”
“Obviously.” Stephanie says, bored, writing something in the fog on her window.
I turn onto Queen’s Cross and we see a guy walking, holding a sign that says, “Will work for money.” And we both think, duh, but we don’t stop or yell at him or anything.
“Jesus, somebody is going to murder that guy.” Stephanie says, and I shrug and nod.
“It’s all just somebody’s weird fantasy anyway.” She says and I don’t understand what she means, but I still don’t say anything until we get to her house and the only thing I say then is “Call me.”
Eating lunch at Samates New York Deli with Peter, Marc and Kevin, we’re splitting a chicken and pineapple pizza, drinking various sodas. I’ve got an orange soda, which doesn’t really measure up to its juice counterpart, but is still pretty good. Kevin is talking about something to do with some guy named Josh Kerry, or Josh Kenny, who, I guess, ran for president in the last election, and apparently “Would be a thousand times better than Dubya.” I’m chewing absent mindedly on a very pineapple heavy slice and smiling at things that don’t make me particularly happy, and laughing at things that aren’t terribly funny. I’m fairly sure that Peter is stoned. His eyes are hidden behind some truly gigantic aviator sunglasses, so I can’t be sure, but he’s grinning like he stole something and he’s eaten about half the pizza, so if he’s trying to be, I don’t know…inconspicuous, he’s failing. I have a rock in my shoe.
“Joe, how often do you and Hannah fuck?” Peter asks me this question.
“Not enough.” I say dryly, and Marc cracks up.
“You’re the man, Joe.” Peter says.
Kevin turns to me; his slight goatee beginnings have a speck of sauce sticking to various places. “ Hannah was saying that all you ever want to do is have sex.”
Marc raises an eyebrow “He’s not having sex now.”
Peter, who’s sitting next to me, starts groaning and making animal sounds, rolling his eyes back in his head.
“Apparently Peter’s having a seizure.” I say flicking a toothpick at his head.
He flinches, blocking the toothpick with his hand, “You just…give such amazing handjobs.” Kevin, cracking up practically spits out his pizza, which I notice he’s stuffing away like it’s about to be banned in the entire USA.
“Well, there’s no denying that.” I say
“Why would you admit that?” Kevin spits out still laughing.
“It’s written all over his face.” Marc says, and I actually let out a genuine laugh.
Kevin sneezes. “Bless you my son.” Marc says and Peter laughs a little out of the corner of his mouth.
“I’m pretty sick of her.” I admit.
“Hannah?” Peter asks.
“Why? She’s hot, she’s …got a pretty good personality.”
“I think so.”
“I guess… I’m just sick of her.”
“You’re the man Joe.”
Kevin pipes up “What about the girl who kissed you at…where was that?”
“Ben’s house.” Peter says.
I didn’t know anybody saw that, thought we were discreet, even though we weren’t trying to be at all, but for some reason I’m engaged here by the conversation tonight and instead of lying, saying that I don’t know what they’re talking about, I say that I’m not sure about Alison.
“Wait…Alison?” Peter says.
“Yeah, her names Alison.”
Kevin swallows and says, “She’s hot.”
“What about her anyway?”
“Just…I dunno, you know.”
“Anyway, Hannah’s…Hannah’s Hannah I guess.” I say, not sure exactly what my point is, but being as upfront as I can manage.
“Astute observation.” Marc says.
Later we’re driving around, I’m waiting for the Ecstasy to kick in, sitting in the shotgun seat, and Peter’s talking about this gay kid we know who apparently tried to give him a hand job two nights ago while they were drunk in somebody’s living room.
“What do you mean tried to give you a hand job? Either you come or you don’t, buddy.” Marc says.
“I mean he was attempting to stick his hands down my fucking pants, asshole.”
“Listen if you can’t get it up that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“…I’d be pretty ashamed.” I add.
“You’re all faggots.”
Kevin’s apparently taken offense to this, saying, “I didn’t say shit.”
Marc looks away from driving in a second to see Kevin in the rearview, “Why don’t you keep that up? That works for you.”
Peters laughing now saying “One step to a better you!”
Appreciating the art of making fun of Kevin, I join in the laughing, but secretly wishing I had more X, thinking of things to do tonight, realizing that I’m not going to return any of Hannah’s five phone messages, and wondering why not, but secretly knowing that the answer is “I just don’t want to.”
Later, were sitting in Peters house, his parents aren’t in town for a week or so, and we’re
drinking Keystone Lights, watching some movie his sister rented called “Big Lights, Big City.” Kevin’s talking on his phone for a few minutes before announcing that Hector, Axel Mighton, Axel Lester, Dina, Carly, Sarah and Francis are going to stop by, and though I’m slightly pissed that he’s invited people to Peters house without asking, Peter just shrugs and asks if they have any pot, so I don’t say anything.
They get here about 20 minutes later, all piling out of a red SUV. I look at them and I cannot help but notice that the boys are all blonde with short hair, all handsome and tan with white teeth. All the girls are brunette, pretty and upbeat. It turns out that they do have pot, and that they just “stopped at Cumby’s for some grape blunts.” Which Kevin affirms to them is “awesome.”
“Is it ok if Sarah stops by?” One of them, I think Dina asks.
“Isn’t…Sarah already here?” Peter asks, staring at the ceiling. I think he’s rolling pretty hard on the XTC, but so am I now.
“No, Sarah Fletcher.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
I go outside with Peter for a cigarette and we’re hyper from the X so we’re laughing, falling all over the place, playing with his garden hose spraying it all over the red SUV which I think belongs to one of the girls, but it could be one of the Axels’s. We’re spraying it from different angles getting the tires, the roof, the hood, the inside of the tires, everything we can get when we hear someone yelling, saying “What the fuck?” and footsteps coming towards us fast. It’s one of the blonde kids.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
I try to hold the hose, spraying wildly, behind my back, thinking that this is actually a pretty powerful hose and wondering about Peter’s excellent water pressure.
“The windows are open asshole!”
He’s right. The windows are open and the inside of the car is probably soaked, he’s screaming, saying that the interior’s going to be all fucked up, how it’s his mom’s car, and that if it rusts we’re going to have to pay for it, and I realize that the blonde kids planned this. They set us up.
I’m pissed now, I’m really angry and I’m pushing him, knocking him to the ground, now I’m punching him, in the eye and the mouth and blood is starting to run out his nose. I’m screaming, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” and Peter, who hasn’t realized that the whole thing was a set up, that they planned all of this, is pulling me off of him now, holding me back telling me to calm down, but he’s still fucked up and confused, not listening to me when I tell him “They set us up! They’re fucking…devious!” and the blond kid is telling me that I’m crazy “You’re a fucking psycho!” he says.
Later Marcs driving me home, after everyone’s left, which wasn’t long after, and he asks me if I’m ok, and even though I’m still pissed off that they would go through all that effort just to fuck with us, just to be dicks, I sigh and I tell him that I’m fine.
I’m tense now though, the anxiety freezing my nerves, killing any desire I have to sleep, but I want to get into my bed anyway, and when Marc drops me off I go upstairs and skip the shower even though I’m covered with dirt and sweat and a little of the blonde kids blood is on my sleeve. I don’t take off my shirt I just climb into bed and sit under the covers.
The walls that enclose my every nerve are steel and unassailable, I don’t want to knock them down, or pacify the jaws that snap at my conscience, I feel lonely and weak but strong enough to stare at the sky and watch the clouds drift closer and closer to Earth. They’re solid and jagged coming nearer and nearer to my open eye but I don’t flinch, I don’t give in to it. People can talk to me and mouth their words, turning thoughts into matter catapulting them into my eardrums, but they will bounce off into the mud, not sticking or making sense in any way. It’s not odd, it’s not frightening or maddening anymore, but I cannot move. The walls are strong. They won’t fall down.
(There would have been a graphic violent scene here but I had to cut it. A homeless guy gets murdered. That's all you really need to know. Reading it over I really should be ashamed of myself.)
I wake up with a thick skull, and a clogged mind, still reeling from last night. I’m dried out from the adrenalin I used and strung out from the drugs. I’m grasping at the straws of memories that remain, knocking them away with my clumsy probing thoughts. I feel wronged in some way, like somebody did something but all I remember is being pissed off at a golden retriever or something. Blond hair sticks out, a spraying hose, being driven home by a saint, these are the images I collect but they don’t make sense, so I try and forget about it for now and I turn on the TV.
I flip around until I get to a movie that I saw a few minutes of once on some really boring afternoon maybe five or six months ago. It’s about a loveable old rapist who lives in Appalachia and his adventures with a failing hog farm. I want to cheer for the actor who really gives the performance of a lifetime. There are some pretty tear-jerking scenes, and some genuine humor, the kind that makes you feel good and cleanses the soul. I’m feeling refreshed as the ending credits roll and I get up and I select a pair of fresh blue jeans from my dresser and I put them on with no underwear. I worry for a second about my dick getting caught in the zipper but I’m careful as I pull them up, maneuvering around the balls and making sure not to catch any hair, expertly controlling the movements in my hand, elegant but crisp and firm. I come out of the experience wiser, and unscathed.
Breakfast is Kellogg’s cornflakes with little sliced bananas arranged around the bowl in some pattern I dreamed up while I was pouring my orange juice, which I take a satisfying sip from now. The frost around the glass that I’ve been storing in the door compartment of the refrigerator feels like heavens cool light against the palm of my hand, the effect pulling me farther away from sleepiness.
I feel pretty good. Every synapse knows that I should feel like warmed over jelly under a 300 pound weight, but I feel like I have silver wings. The cool outside air is calling to me and I walk through the screen door onto the sunny wooden porch. Looking out into the neighborhood I see Mr. Brawn sitting under a gazebo eating something from a bowl but instead of flicking him off because he can’t reach me, I present my self in friendship and wave my hand at him like a Turkey dancing a joyous Electric Slide. I don’t think his old eyes can perceive me, but it wouldn’t matter if they could because the only thing he would see would be a kid who needs to shave waving from a distance, not the shining golden warrior that I feel I am on this morning.
My phone is ringing and I answer it without looking saying, “Hello” in a clear and even voice, cheerful and unafraid. It’s Hannah, which strikes me as being pretty fucking annoying. It completely kills the mood. Now I’m super pissed off and I want to throw a brick up in the air and wait for it to come down and crush my skull. I’m not sure how far I can actually throw a solid brick but if I could throw it all the way to Hannah’s house, I’d hurl it at her neck.
“Hi Babe, how ya doing?” I say to her and I’m taking deep, deep breaths powerfully pumping air in trying to get high from the oxygen to numb the pain of hearing her horrifying bile dripping voice.
“Good. I had the best breakfast this morning Joe.”
“Nice.” I say, knowing that what she’s saying is a filthy lie, because the breakfast I prepared for myself this morning was artistic in it’s simplicity but unequaled by any paltry bullshit breakfast she could come up with. “What was it?”
“Hash and Egg’s with grape fruit and orange juice. Stephanie made it and it was so good. How jealous are you?”
“I’m pretty jealous that sounds fantastic.” I’m not jealous; that sounds like it was a terrible breakfast. It’s completely hackneyed and over done. Except for the orange juice theres not a single thing on the entire main part of dish that I would ever eat.
“Well, I just called to say I love you.”
“I love you too.” Maybe a little.
I’m driving towards Taco bell because I got a sudden craving for a Gordita Combo Meal, when I get another craving to talk to Alison properly, not like the last time where I only managed to invade her personal phone space, so I take my phone out of the cup holder next to me and I find her number, which is still listed under the name Amy. I press call and she answers on the fourth ring, “Hello?”
“Alison?” I say.
“Yeah. Who is this?” She sounds a little tired, maybe a little strung out and the smallness of her voice is endearing over the muffle of the phone.
“Joe. From Ben’s house…like maybe three weeks ago? Remember…”
A momentary silence, exquisitely brief in its duration, goes by before she says, “Oh my god, Joe. How are you?” I can hear that she’s smiling, feel her good vibes through the cell-phone… um…lines.
“I’m fantastic, how are you?” I say.
“I’ve been pretty good.” She says mellowly. “Keeping busy right?”
“Hey, why don’t we see a movie next Friday?” I say.
She laughs excitedly and I’m smiling big.
“Yeah. Sure that sounds fun.”
We work out the details, what movie we’re going to see (The Bike Messenger) and she sounds sexy and fresh when she says goodbye.
Life is good but could be better; this is the life of luxury.
I’m thinking of her body moving to a beat pushing against my stomache, I think of her shoulders and the smoothness of her skin, how her lips felt on my teeth, her dreadlocked hair, refreshingly clean. I’m thinking of her voice as I drive down the highway towards the mall. Sometimes she’ll laugh for no reason at all.
I bet she sleeps with a smile.
“Oh my god, I could just about stand to live there if they would just build a god damn Archery range.” Marc is saying. The words “Blink and it will all be gone” are scrawled in black magic marker on the wall of the bus that were taking up to Vermont to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “I mean you heard about that girl, Gretchen I think, who got the HPV virus, right? Christ who gives a fuck? That other chick, Kristin who always wears a fucking engagement ring for Christ’s sake, she tells me about this and I can’t fucking listen to it. I just don’t even have the Patience, Rhodes. She shouldn’t be fucking every thing with a pair of balls if she doesn’t want her cunt to rot off.” Marc sits back in his seat, slouching, and a pair of headphones blasting some techno hanging off his neck.
“It’s not my job to give a shit. Kristin says to me, fucking I swear to Christ, she asks me if I would care if it was my wife that I was giving it to. Just because I told her that I would still have sex with Gretchen because men can’t get the virus, and she tells me that we carry the fucking thing. What is hard to understand about someone not giving a flying shit? It’s like the homeless guy they found all fucked up with the money scattered around him. Oh my god what a tragedy, but you know what? He was a fucking bum. Everyone knows he was a fucking bum, and now he’s a dead fucking bum. Am I supposed to… feel something here? It’s not like I knew him, it’s not like anybody cared when he was alive. Remember that other homeless guy that they found inside a horse barn all mashed to pieces? And now people are saying it’s a spree or something, that somebody’s murdering these people. Now they’re figuring this out? What are we supposed to do… look for the killer? Waste of time.”
Joe is sitting in front of us, sleeping. Marc rolls up his sleeve, showing his arm off, the muscle bulging, defined to the point of being cartoonish.
“What about the people who actually do things? The people who work for a fucking living? Jesus, me for instance. I can actually be of some use, I have skills, I’m smart, I can talk to people, and I don’t beg people for their fucking nickels. I won’t work for food. If they found me hacked to bits in some alleyway, they would probably have a vigil or something, but nobody would raise any issues about society. A fucking bum gets what was inevitably coming to him anyway, and suddenly we’re all uncaring, unfeeling monsters. All of the sudden there’s something wrong with society, but what’s wrong is that if I get fucking murdered tomorrow, people will still care more about some fucking piece-of-shit-bum.”
“Easy, man.” I say, biting down on a coffee stir I picked up at the last rest stop. “You’re like… bugging me a little.”
“Rhodes, spare me Allright man. You know I’m fucking right.”
“It’s just like, not an issue with me dude.” I answer, wondering how much longer this trip is going to be.
“If people would just stop talking about that fucking kid who OD’d I might be able to fucking stand living in that place.” Marc says, lazily rolling up his pant leg.
“Just give it another month man.” I say. “Jesus, how fucking tense are you?”
“Pretty tense.” He admits. “Pretty sick of a lot of shit. People keep telling me about this kid and how young he was, and obviously the kid was fucking young. We’re all young, we’re all on drugs all the time, and yeah some of us die. Little Lukey didn’t have an idea that a fist full of Oxycontin would kill him and that’s why he’s dead. It’s not my fucking fault, I, for god’s sake, do not want to hear about it.”
“It was methadone man. Little Lukey took a fistful of methadone.”
“Don’t start Rhodes just do not fucking start.” He says, then looks at me and adds, “Sorry dude, fucking coke. Paranoid.”
Marc sits for a minute not saying anything, and for a second I think he’s trying to sleep but he pulls out his own marker and crosses out a piece of French graffiti written next to him and writes “Fuck the Eiffel tower,” above it.
“Would you speed up a little Abdul?” He shouts to the bus driver, this Middle Eastern guy wearing a peach colored collared shirt. His mustache makes him look like a skinny walrus. “I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you can get us there within the hour.” The bus goes noticeably faster for a minute before slowing back down to the regular speed and the Middle Eastern guy rolls his eyes in the mirror.
“Fuck you asshole. Fucking smartass sand nigger.” Marc says, not looking at anything.
“I just want to get to Vermont in one piece ok, dude?” I say, “Allright?”
“Whatever.” Marc says. “Wake Joe up. No… never mind.”
We get there and we see the concert and it’s pretty good, but we leave towards the end and the bus ride home is long and boring.
The mall is crowded today. There are kids walking around in groups everywhere, faux-gangsters, metal heads, preps, more gangsters, girls with shirts that say, “Fuck me”.
In Spencer’s theres dumb shit that I don’t want, but buy anyway. I walk through American Eagle but I don’t look like a prospective buyer, so none of the perfect looking sales people bother me. Abercrombie and Fitch has two models in front trying to get people to come in; a girl who looks like she’d rather be somewhere else, and a guy who looks like he’s enjoying himself. I see a blonde girl in a white tee shirt looking longingly at the guy, who isn’t wearing a shirt, and mouthing the word “wow” at a woman who’s probably her mother.
A pretty Jewish girl pulls me aside by the hand and asks me if I’ve ever been to the Dead Sea. I tell her no, and she tells me in a foreign accent that I can’t quite place that she’s from Israel and that she has a hand treatment for sale that is better than any other. She rubs something that feels like sand into my palm and I have to admit that it does feel good. She’s wearing a very low cut black summer dress thing with polka dots. I predictably don’t buy the soap, but theres nothing she could have done, outside of blowing me, that could have persuaded me to do so, so I walk away thinking she’s a pretty good saleswoman and that hiring her was definitely a good choice by whoever is selling the stuff.
My earlier euphoria is gone.