Private Magazine

Tag: wine

Please, Stand By

Christmas Eve 2020

It hasn’t been 24 hours yet so it’s still ok for me to be fuming because once midnight hits and the ghost of Jacob Marley arrives in my boudoir along with the ghosts of however many other ex fling-a-boo’s, I have to be ready.  Prepared.  Armed to the teeth. 

It’s been four months since Jason’s been, you know… In the ground.   I haven’t gone out on any dates.

(Going to the biker campground with Schmitty in his carbon-monoxide steeped pick-up does not count as a date, even though I drove that hunk of junk into the compound past county sheriffs desperately trying some artful and hilarious diversion tactics, because Schmitty was scared due to his expired registration, and the “HOGOROSA CANCELLED” sign flashing on the Thruway.  But then Schmitty abandoned me for biker crank, and I was left cold and alone in my freezing tent, which I dubbed “Camp X Ray,” and screamed into the soulless air: “I’m alone! I’m abandoned! I’m alone and abandoned!”  until an LL Bean-catalog older guy built me a campfire).

I’ve unplugged from Jason’s cronies.  I’ve found solace in solitude.  

That is, until Rusty, my ex-boyfriend from the grindcore band, reappeared back into my life. Again. 

It’s not what you think.  His bandmate diedOf Covid.  So of course I went to the memorial at Lombardo Funeral Home, stood around with Rusty and The Growler (swoon), and some other guy who happened to be there in a satanic/celestial printed mask and somewhat of a Tony Hawk: Pro Skater vibe about him that I couldn’t quite trace. 

The very next day, I already had a friend request from him, and why I actually clicked it and looked at his profile I really couldn’t tell you, other than I remembered him from the night before.  I never saw him with his mask off, reader.  But I was physically attracted… a modern phenomenon indeed. 

“Are you the same guy from [Redacted]’s Memorial last nite?” I send via Messenger. 

“Yes,” Dan says, a totally easy to remember name, thank God. “I was going to message you and say you looked familiar, like we had totally met before, maybe at the Mohawk…”

So of course I tell him about my DJ gig,  the “Mid-Life Crisis Happy Hour.” 

“I have, like, a page that you can, you know. Like.” 

“Oh that’s awesome, yeah, I would love to get together sometime,” Dan says. And he sends me his phone number.  Old Skool. 

And I go into detail about how I’m suffering corneal infiltration from the ill-fitting contact lens in my left eye, that I look like Quasimodo, but giddily declare that I just need a week with my Rx drops and then I’d love to. 

“Either on Friday, totally we can go to Canal Club 52,  I know the bartender, but might have something to attend to, but if not, on sunday we could do the ny beer project so I could get us a reservation on sunday,” Dan is texting me like a werewolf who hasn’t had sex in awhile. “After six.”

“Yes, dinner would be lovely,” I return the favor, electronically, vaguely, with a few romance-tinged emojis to punctuate the declaration, “I miss going out to dinner.” 

And then the sentence that was to be the nail in my coffin, dear reader. 

“Either night would be fine with me.”

So up until then, of course we do the usual texting all-the-time thing, and I engage in some harmless Facebook stalking.  Turns out, Dan’s street nickname is actually “Chopper” Dan since he builds custom motorcycles, and looks to have a pretty huge group of biker homies, and without his mask on he looks pretty good, although way older than me.  But I’m into his ‘look.’ I hate to admit this but he definitely looks like an older version of Billy. (Billy! Shout out to Billy, who’s probably reading this right now. How the hell are YOU holding up?)

So on that fateful Sunday night, a mild, star-filled night brewing with potential, I uncharacteristically allow Chopper Dan to pick me up.  But only because, in a strange twist, Dan lives in my neighborhood, across the street from Jason’s grave and on the next street over from Schmitty himself. And we are heading all the way out to Lockport.  

When Dan texts me that he’s “here,” I find him at my front door.  Yep, old skool. 

“Hey there,” I say.  His hair is slicked back and he’s definitely, sniff sniff, wearing cologne.  I climb into his giant truck clad in a leather minidress with vertical zipper, opaque stockings and my chunky platform boots with the grommets. 

“It’s so crazy how we were in the same movie,” I tell him.  Yes, not only did I get a hot date following the Metal Memorial of Rusty’s bandmate, I was cast in the role of “Lucifer’s Secretary” by the guy with the webzine!  Apparently I have the look they needed, not to mention a job at a law firm.  And last minute, Dan was asked to be an extra because his friend owns the bar where they filmed earlier that day! “A total coincidence to be sure.”

So we cruise up to Lockport, and I’m totally at ease. I mean, all of l these coincidences must mean Dan and I are meant to be. 

“So, what else did you do today?”  I remember Dan said he’d be free “after six,” so I figured he was with his son, who is a teen, and I figured they were out and about doing “manly things.”

“Oh, hm, nothing really.” 

We arrive at the restaurant, and finally Dan shuts off the Godsmack emanating from the speaker (wtf?) that I’ve chosen to ignore. And it turns out to be a pretty decent evening. Perhaps this was due to the 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants, making dates conveniently short these days, and infusing them with an easy vibe of having zero expectations whatsoever.   So far…Over our shared appetizer of boom boom shrimp, Dan admitted something shocking.  Something I reached out to my gal pal Robin, who just moved back to LA, about.

“He told me…Well, he told me he’s never read a book.”

“WTF DUDE.”

“I mean, he said the last book he finished was Dr. Seuss in childhood…”

“RUN.”

“He’s got to be fucking with me,” I’m staring up at the cracks on the ceiling of my room. 

“Don’t sell yourself short!”

And I knew right then and there, Dan would become the subject of an eventual blog.  Since he would never read it and all.  But in less than a week’s time…well, even I was surprised by the quick expiration date. 

The next day as I’m exiting the good old Main Court Building and trudging towards my car, Dan and I have fallen into a little texting tete-a-tete about you know, this and that.  Being Monday and the fact I’m fatigued from being out the previous night, I figure tonight will be a night for chillin’ solo, putting my room back together, which is in shambles…All the usual post-weekend stuff. 

“Hey, want to watch the CKY livestream with me next week?” I ask him, more to gauge his interest, and see whether or not I scared him. 

“CKY, I’m not familiar with them, i guess it would depend on what I had going on that day,” he says. “I was thinking of driving around Hamburg and checking out the light display at the Fairgrounds today or tomorrow, would you be interested?”

Shambles be damned! I guess Dan is smitten. 

“I’d love to,” I reply, “But I really need to track down a picture frame for my boss’s gift.  We are exchanging Wednesday.”

“well, I have some things to pick up for myself.  I’ll go with you. We can go to Hobby Lobby. I have a coupon.” 

“Hobby Lobby? Don’t they, like, have something against birth control?”

“Oh, geez, I don’t know anything about that.”

“Yeah pretty sure it was a scandal, uh, I swear I’m not a radical…Um, sure, I guess we can go there.” 

Yep, the old two-days-in a row means pretty soon I’ll be walking down the aisle like Stephanie Seymour towards Axl in the “November Rain” video, I mean…is there a better confirmation that he’s, like, totally into you than the infamous Two Days in a Row?

As we are about to enter The Dockside, conveniently located on the Erie/Niagara County borderline, post-Hobby Lobby, I link my arm around Dan’s.  We walk several steps… Then I take it away.  Just checking to see if we have…chemistry. 

We decide to split the poutine, and Dan orders me a pinot, along with his drink of choice…sweet n’ spicy sangria.  What?  He is comfortable with his masculinity, okay. And he has a reliable vehicle, so I will never have to be “DD” again! 

“Did you once have red hair?”  Dan shows me a picture of my Albright Knox ID from 2012 from my Facebook page.  “Is that your natural color?”

“No, definitely not.” 

“Also, you had curly hair in a picture that I liked.”

“Curly? Where?”

He shows me a selfie, a recent profile picture.

“Oh that, those are beach waves.”

Dan might be insinuating how he wants me to wear my hair…

Nah.

I don’t know if it was the wine, or the simple luxury of going out to eat, inside, with a guy who owns a reliable vehicle – but either way I wasn’t phased by much. I was willing to overlook anything. Anything.

“Have you seen Monster Garage, with that guy Jesse James? I think he’s cool but he must be a total dick. I mean, divorced like, five times? Marrying Sandra Bullock? I mean, why? She’s really not sexy…He is clearly some kind of gold digger…” I continue to carry on about Jesse James for like, five minutes.

“Jesse James yeah, we hung out,”  Dan shows me a picture of them together with Jesse’s most recent ex-wife, the Paul Mitchell heiress. “They were down in Daytona for Bike Week.”

“No WAY!” Dan looks pleased with himself.  “Sorry, I mean I never met the guy. I’m sure he’s very nice in person.” 

“His porn star ex went totally psycho,” he says.  “Smashed everything.”

“Well – he probably drove her to it, let’s be honest.” 

As the night grows dangerously close to 10 p.m., closing time, Dan picks up the check.  I offered to pay last night, and he looked insulted and said, “You really think I’d invite you to dinner and want you to pay?”

“Um, no.” 

So this time I don’t offer.  We head to Dan’s truck.  

“Joint?” I hold it up under the passenger seat overhead light. Dan didn’t even see me roll it, as I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for being able to roll joints in the blink of an eye.

“What? Oh, I’ve never smoked weed in my life.”

“What.”

“Plus it would stink up my whole truck.”

And so, I leaned in and gave him a little kiss instead.  No tongue. It was quite chaste. I have an oral fixation, what can I say.

And so – alas!  This blog won’t conclude with Happily Ever After.  I mean, does it ever?

On Christmas Eve Eve, I would not have been opposed to one of Dan’s random invitations, since finally I didn’t have to work the next day, or all weekend.  But reader,  that didn’t happen.  I got a super long text at 4 p.m., sure, but…

“Hey i have been super busy all day,  i tried to get us a reservation but couldn’t so i will have to get back to you after the holidays.”  And then a smile face.

At first I was like, “ok, cool, do you watch true blood?” 

“A little,” he says, before ghosting me the rest of the night. 

Wow, really.  I have been placed on standby.

So I said, “I really don’t know why you need to get back to me…For what?”  I mean, he didn’t even know what I had planned that night, or any other.  He will probably pop up and ask me to help organize his garage, or something.  So I said, “You can just leave me alone.”  Dramatic, yes. “Have fun at Hobby Lobby.” Ok, so a tad immature.  But I feel like he was taunting me with that Hobby Lobby business. If anyone has a Planned Parenthood connection, I know someone who needs as much educational literature mailed to his house as possible.

Yes, like Janis Joplin once said, “I am a wild airplane…And have been placed on standby.”  Actually she never said that.  But that’s me alright, a renegade airplane, crashing and burning, or at least lost somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle.  And that’s ok.  Because in the end I can’t date someone who’s never read a book, or Playboy or Hustler for the articles, and who isn’t 420 friendly, I mean…Seems like kind of a bland existence. 

READER SURVEY:  WHAT ARE UR DATING DEAL BREAKERS? Send your answers to: factorygirl1987@gmail.com

Always a Side, Never a Bride

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Jeremy the wine clerk won me over for the simple fact that I can’t  “Just Say No” to a Gen X-er who looks like he fronted a 90’s band like Fuel or Bush.   In fact, Jeremy plays guitar.

I saw him working at the wine store last week and commented that I had never seen him before.  He has shaggy, surfer hair streaked with grey, like he just washed ashore from Oakland or Anaheim, along with a deep pack-a-day voice.

“Your sign says this is $4.99,” I blow dust from a mini-box of rosé and hand it to him. “But it’s labeled $3.99.”

“Well for you, young lady, it’s free.”

“Free?” Jeremy just looks at me with sensitive brown eyes that fall somewhere between “sad puppy dog” and “pit bull on cocaine.”

“Well don’t just give it to me. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“It’s totally fine,” he says.  “You should come back when you’re done at the library.”

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Yes, it’s true, I was on my way to the library that evening to complete my life coach assignment. But, like with the best experiences in life, I got sidetracked.  A romantic rendezvous with Jeremy had begun.  And it began rather strangely.

“I fucking love you!” Jeremy shouts in the middle of the store.  We’re alone; there’s no customers.

He grabs me and kisses me against a tall shelf stocked with gin.  Bottles clang together, almost crashing to the floor.  Suddenly, our moment is punctuated by a beep.  A customer enters.  We peer towards the door.

“We’re closed,” Jeremy says.

“Oh you are so silly,” says a sassy blonde lady.  “I just want my numbers.”

I turn towards a display.  “Miss?” Jeremy yells from the register.  I set down the bottle of Everclear I’d been inspecting. “You’re being disruptive.”

“Me?” I say.

“Oh, no she’s not, she’s fun,” says the sassy blonde lady, and she leaves the store.

Jeremy walks over to me.

“I love you,” he says.

The logical part of my brain knows this is all completely crazy, because I’ve known Jeremy approximately one week.  But I can’t help falling for him.  I seem to have this effect on men.

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Since he has blown my phone up with constant adoration,  I decide to meet up with Jeremy outside of the wine store, even though there’s one very obvious red flag.

“Are you married?” I asked right away.

“Oh, we all have our issues,” Jeremy had said, then began organizing mini bottles of Fireball while examining a New York Lottery scroll and tapping his foot.

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “Issues aren’t a problem. I  love issues.  But, you know, if you’re married…”

“Look,” Jeremy locks both my palms into his own. “I just want to keep talking to you.  If it means I have to give everything up, I will. There’s just so much wrong with me.  I need to talk to you more about everything.”

Jeremy, at that moment, looked positively pitiful, a twinge of Fireball on his breath.

“Ok, ok,” I backed out of the store.  “Jeez.”  I left that night unsure of my next move. But it only took a split second for me to realize – actually, I had already fallen for Jeremy, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.

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My Pontiac rolls onto the curb, practically, as Jeremy runs towards my passenger door while yanking up his shirt to expose his “abs,” for some unknown reason.  He’s apparently been hanging out by the stop sign.  He tumbles into the passenger seat with a half-empty bottle of Mountain Dew and cigarette dangling from his mouth, and I start to drive even though his door is still wide open. But Jeremy’s lit cigarette falls on his chest and sits there until I toss it out the window,

“Yo! Can you not, like, start on fire?”

But Jeremy’s already talking a mile a minute, ranting and raving about cigarettes he needs to buy and how he had a miserable day confined to the dreary liquor store aisles.

“It’s ok,” I put my hand on his knee.  “Anyway, I’m excited for the fiesta.”

Today is, after all, Cinco de Mayo, and there happens to be a legit taqueria right down the block. Jeremy and I pull into the packed lot, up against a white fence with a subtle mural design.   The sun is strong, and the bassline of a song blaring leads our way to the back patio, where two dudes are serving cool icy margaritas.  I get mine on the rocks, and tons of people are around, with a bumpin’ sound system to boot.  The speakers throb with masculine energy as Daddy Yankee turns to Sean Paul.

Shake that thing, Miss hunabunna get busy, don’t stop just swivy yeah bust in the groove just get crunked and get jiggy, yo sexy lady come wine wit’ us yeah.”

Jeremy already made best friends with the two guys serving drinks. They both have cursive neck tattoos of people’s names.  Jeremy waves his debit card in the air, and puts down our names for a table.

“How romantic,” I hug Jeremy tight.  We wander to the very back of the enclosed patio space.  “Gasolina” blares and the sun beats down on us as powerfully as Rhonda Rowsey in a metallic bodysuit.  All is calm. Jeremy’s chain-smoking and chain-talking in my ear about how beautiful I am, and how he’s going to make me his wife.  There’s only one problem…

“Friends for right now,” I try to catch Jeremy’s eye contact, but his eyes ping around the room. That’s when I spot them – smack in the center of the patio lies the only table, and it’s occupied with a gaggle of my high school frenemies, and their significant others too!

“Oh wow, hey guys,” I tip-toe nervously up to their table. Nobody takes off their sunglasses, or smiles, or says anything at all.  “This is Jeremy. We’re on a date.” My face contorts into a mortified grin.

“Jeremy,” I take Jeremy’s hand in an effort to quell his manic energy. “These are some of my friends from high school.”

Jeremy runs up to Karey, who up until that moment remained totally stoic and unamused behind classic Oakley shades.

“So you can tell me all there is to know,” Jeremy rasps in her ear with a puff of rancid Marb smoke.  “Ha ha ha.”

“Ugh!” I turn my back on the mortifying display before me and wait for it to be over. At least I have an icy cool margarita on the rocks to calm my nerves.

“Come on, like, let’s go over here,” I yank Jeremy away from the hateful table of frenemies.  I pull him away, back under the awning next to the makeshift bar area. All is calm, all is still, as Jeremy replaces all my margaritas and chain-smokes in my ear and the sun refuses to stop shining…All is fine, until Jeremy gets agitated and spots a really cute Spanish one-year-old with a distinct resemblance to Sonny Bono.

“Hey, she said he’s fucked up,” Jeremy yells at the kid’s mom, who had been chilling and caught totally unawares. She stares at him in confusion and annoyance.

“What are you talking about,” I interject,  “I didn’t say that!  He’s making it up.”  I plead with the mom. But she already totally realized that Jeremy is an idiot.

“Yeah, she said why does he have to be so fucked up,”  Jeremy says, pointing at the kid, and I’m wondering,  Is Jeremy seriously trying to start a fight right now –  with a baby?

“Come on,” I pull Jeremy away from yet another person. “Calm down.”

Luckily the kid’s father –  also with an intimidating neck tattoo –  shows up.  Jeremy’s face suddenly shifts to Mr. Charming and he backs away with a wink and a smile.

“Were you seriously trying to start a fight – with a baby?”

But Jeremy doesn’t answer, just changes the subject to how amazing I am, how he wants to go to Costa Rica with me, but not yet, first he has to consider leaving his Old Lady.

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“Hey,” Jeremy’s raspy voice is on the other end of the line.  This is his third phone call to me today.  It’s after ten,  meaning the liquor store is closed. Tonight, I decided not to meet up with Jeremy, for once, to practice “self care” and all that.

“What’s up?” I say.  It sucks that Jeremy has me under his spell, and worse yet, I think he knows it.

“I just wanted to tell you  – ” Jeremy must be home by now, or close to it.

“I wanted to tell you I love – “ All of a sudden, Jeremy trails off and then his whisper turns into confident bravado. “ Dude, I wanted to tell you.  You got the job dude, at the liquor store!”

“What?”

“I have to go,” Jeremy whispers and hangs up the phone.  He must have been taking out the trash.

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I’m walking over to the corner beer emporium to visit Jeremy.  Come to find out – his full time gig is at the beer store where I worked over a decade ago.  And yes, caustic angry Seth, with the personality of a bottle of bleach, is still the manager.  Granted, it was my college summer job, not somewhere I would expect a mid-40’s, self-proclaimed Casanova to be working.  But we all have our issues.

“No loitering,” Seth growls, coming down the microbrew aisle. He’s the same as always, minus all the hair once growing on his head.  Stress.   I lean over Jeremy’s flimsy beer sampling booth and don’t pay attention to party pooper Seth trying to shit all over our parade.  We are in love.  I’ve got leather shorts on, it’s a hot Saturday afternoon, and I just stopped in for a 24 ounce can of Seagrams’ “Jamaican Me Crazy.”  But Jeremy is stuck inside this rat hole serving up samples of Genesee “Bock.”

“Can I taste your Bock?” I say to Jeremy.

Jeremy hands over a little foamy cup.

“I love the taste of your Bock.”  I slowly pull an ice cube from Jeremy’s bucket, and hold it out to his lips.

But before I can even trail it pornographically across his mouth, Jeremy suddenly chomps on it with his front teeth like a ferocious beaver .  He chews up the ice cube, crunching and cackling like a bipolar witch.  He smiles his wide grin and wrinkles crinkle at the corners of his eyes –  but are they from smiling all the time, or just from one too many Marb Reds?

Maybe both, I think.  He’s perfect. 

Plastered on all the walls and windows of the store are the names of customers who have donated their change to Parkinson’s Disease. Apparently many didn’t want to actually fill in their own names, so Jeremy took the liberty of scribbling “I love Annie” and “Jeremy Loves Annie” on these heart-shaped pieces of paper hanging all over the store.

“What’s up with that address you texted me?” I say.

When I was about to walk down here, Jeremy was texting me as usual and he randomly sent me the address of a house the next street over from his.  He wouldn’t explain why.

“This dude that’s in here all the time,” Jeremy says without a moment’s hesitation, “He’s having a house party and I thought it might be a good place for us to meet later.”

“Heck yeah! I am so in.”

“But nothing’s set in stone,” says Jeremy.  He is grinning from ear to ear.

“Okay.  Let me know.”

Seth glares while using his trademark Solo cup spittoon; spit-soaked tobacco drips from his slackened jaw.

“Ok Seth, I’ll take my Jamaican me Crazy and go make myself crazy somewhere else,” I say to him, and then to Jeremy,  “See ya later.”   I blow Jeremy a kiss, and I’m out of there.  I’m not even worried about Jeremy coming through with the party.  Of course we are going to meet up later.  We always do!

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But around 6:00 p.m., Jeremy totally goes silent.  I don’t blow up his phone or anything, at first, but at 10 I call him three times in a row.  Because honestly, Jeremy is always the one blowing up my phone, and now we supposedly have plans at a neighbor’s sketchy bungalow, and you ghost me?

Not to mention, I totally could have stayed at my homegirl’s Porch Fest birthday bash. I didn’t have to drive back to the ‘hood to meet Jeremy.  It makes no sense.

“You are clearly a LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  is what I write.  “LIAR x100000000000000000000000000000000.”

And when Jeremy doesn’t answer that, I toss and turn all night, chugging leftover “Jamaican Me Crazy” to numb the pain. But the sugar only makes me more wired, so finally I just turn on all my lights and blare all my 80’s hair metal vinyl.

Then, my phone starts ringing  – at six in the morning. Is he for real.  At this point I’m  too bleary-eyed and stupefied to care.  I am obviously trying to get some beauty rest. I bury my head in pillows, blankets, everything, but my phone keeps ringing and ringing and doesn’t stop.  Jeremy calls me ten times in a row.

And by morning, with the sun coming up over both our houses, and me with completely disturbing blood shot eyes, my homegirl Stephanie and I had planned to do a gossip n’ brunch at Bread Hive. Thank God, because I need charcoal water and rosé, stat, and a distraction from all of this drama.

I have a text from Jeremy before I even pull up to Bread Hive.

“I need to see you. Now,” it reads.

Ha! Like really, I’m obviously not available. 

“I have plans with my  friend. I will be back in a few hours,” I reply.

Jeremy is SO controlling.

“Fine,” he says. “Meet at the park.”

Yet, I can’t help but want the 411 about last night. What WAS that about?

It’s not like I don’t comprehend that Jeremy is psychotic.

“He sounds…terrible,” Stephanie says while waiting in line. “I can’t really think of anything good about him.”

“I know!” I shriek. I always feel bad for anyone having brunch in my vicinity.  My conversations aren’t 100% family-friendly and veer into the absurd.  I have to give Stephanie credit; she definitely listens with an open mind.

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Poetry by Jeremy*

 I listen to a couple of “our” songs on my drive over to the park – “Your Love is My Drug” by Ke$ha; “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” by Ariana Grande. .Of course we are meeting at our spot, the swings, where our true love was revealed that second day we hung out.

For some reason Jeremy has  the audacity to ask me to pick him up a pack of smokes.  He’ll  “pay me back.”

“I’m at Draino’s,” Jeremy texts.

Ew, Draino’s? I hang in my fair share of rowdy saloons and dumpy taverns, but being spotted at Draino’s is the lowest of the low, not even Charlie Sheen on a week-long bender would be caught dead in there!

It used to be called something else, and I went there once when I was nineteen and got a Swedish Fish shot with no ID after my shift at the beer store with the twins who worked there and had crushes on me, and then the owner’s brother started showing me naked pictures on his flip phone – barf!

Draino’s is an alcoholic old guy scene which recently dealt with an outbreak of Hepatitis C and where a local politician got arrested after allegedly running his wife off the road –  not exactly the romance I had in mind for my Sunday in the sun.

But… I’m willing to lower my standards.

“And don’t worry about the cigs, a bunch of people gave me some,” Jeremy continues.

I wasn’t going to anyways. I toss my phone into the backseat, along with my dignity. Draino’s it is.

I walk into Draino’s, which is totally empty except for some lunatic squawking like a methed-up seagull and squished against some poor, sad looking old guy in a Hawaiian shirt.

“HAR HAR HAR,” Jeremy laughs at his own joke, which typically make no sense.

“Um, hi.” I say.  But at first, Jeremy doesn’t even notice me.

“Oh, HAAAAAAAIIIII,” Jeremy slurs out.  His complexion has the grey pallor of someone who stayed up all night performing sexual favors for crack cocaine; he’s sippin’ on what looks like a 50% vodka, 50% tomato combination, with his liter of Mountain Dew nearby.

“Is this your woman?” asks the sad looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt.

“No, I’m nobody’s woman!,” I declare.

Nothing for her,” Jeremy says.  “HAR HAR HAR.”

The bleach blonde bartender has sympathetic eyes and hands me a pinot grigio that I apparently ordered telepathically.  Jeremy’s tab here has been going since 1998.  We grab our drinks and shuffle onto the front patio. Or at least, Jeremy is shuffling in some oversized loafers halfway hanging off his feet.

“I ran out in my gardening shoes,” Jeremy flops onto the patio chair.  “I slept in the park.”

“Slept?” I say.  “In the park?”

Cars zoom by, and across the street, the town park stares back at us with a vast, empty, void-like stare.

“Why?”

“Look, honey, I said times were going to get rough,” Jeremy looks at me with pleading, puppy dog eyes. “I need you to hang in there with me.”

“Am I not hanging? Hello.”

Jeremy leans so far back on the flimsy furniture, he might just fall right off the chair. He’s puffing on a cig, happy as a clam.  We enjoy a short, comfortable silence, a moment of calm in a sea of chaos.

Then I ask –

“So, um, the park? Why’d you sleep there.”

Jeremy exhales a pre-emphysema-esque sigh of despair, and begins to unravel a barely-believable saga spurned on by the fact I called him at 10 p.m. Apparently, his old lady began “laying into him” and smacked him around, so he ran off and slept in the park since six in the morning.

“What about the party?” I ask.

Jeremy continues to chain smoke and shake his head.

“I didn’t even go.”

I embrace this new level of absurdity.  I’m ride-or-die for guys who deal wine. Jeremy and I head into Dollar General for provisions to take to the park. We find some beach towels and I grab a Vitamin Water; Jeremy still is doing the Dew and going for broke.

“$7.42,” says the stoic girl.  Her pin says “manager on duty.”

“Why d’you have to be so mean?” Jeremy leans over the swipe card machine and leers in her ear.

“I can make you cry if you want,” she says, unimpressed.

Jeremy counts out a few tattered bills, and we leave the store. We cozy up under a tree. R&B music thumps from a shelter.

“Can I have a sip?”  I unscrew the Dew and gulp some down, and choke.

“Don’t drink that!” Jeremy takes the bottle away. “It’s vodka.”

“Whoa.”  I wash it down with Vitamin Water.

All is calm.  Stability is reached once again – for the present moment anyway.  Later, Jeremy will have to return to his wretched old lady.

Sidechick6

I’m speeding on my bike through the dimly-lit streets, with nothing except the cool breeze in my hair and lustful fantasies on my mind.  Jeremy is closing up the liquor store.  This is what my life has become – late night, 10 p.m. hangouts with my “man.”   This past month we’ve become something of an item:  there’s the signs commemorating our love at the beer store; Jeremy’s loud proclamations in Draino’s; we’re even familiar “Same Side Sitters” at the Walden Applebee’s.  And one night, he walked me and my bike home, under a theatrical spotlight cast by a full moon.

“I love you Annie,” Jeremy stood at the end of my driveway, and shouted at the top of his lungs. “I love you!”

We are often at the swings, or the slide, or engaged in some other whimsical activity.

“I’m willing to give everything up – my life is so messed up,” Jeremy said, swirling a small bottle of Fireball around in his hand. “You just have to show me that you’ll do anything for me – you have to move in.”

“But how can I move in, if you’re still married?”  I’m making a true attempt at getting Jeremy to understand logic. “The space is occupied.”

Apparently a year ago, according to Jeremy, he was separated from his wife.  Another girlfriend lived with him.  But allegedly, this girlfriend made out with another guy at her work Christmas party in front of Jeremy.  So he kicked her out. His Old Lady moved back in the same day, according to Jeremy .

“I’m not going to be like that,” I said. “You have to choose me and me alone.”

I can tell Jeremy is burying himself in lies.  Now, according to him, his Old Lady knows nothing about us, even though he first said they were on the outs and “roommates,” and each did their own thing.  But yet, she goes through his phone, and he gets “punished.”

“Why would she go through your phone if she doesn’t care and you’re not together?” I said.

“She loves me, she pays all the bills, she just doesn’t do stuff for me anymore and doesn’t do things that I want her to do,,” Jeremy said.  “I’m telling you I will give everything up.  You just have to trust me.”

Of course,  it’s impossible to trust a man like Jeremy.

SC13

Then, Memorial Day weekend, Jeremy asks a kid at the beer store to cover his shift so we can be together and have a picnic on the beach.

“I was supposed to work from nine to six,” he says. “So just meet me at nine at the store.”

“We can’t go at like, ten or eleven?” I ask casually.

“YOU ARE SPOILED,”  all of a sudden, Jeremy snaps. He starts yelling at the top of his lungs, even though he’s on his continuous work smoke break.   “SPOILED LITTLE BITCH GIRL, WHINE AND BITCH, THAT’S ALL BOTH OF YOU DO, YOU AND HER, PLANS ARE OFF, GO FIND SOMEBODY ELSE – “ Jeremy starts coughing and hacking and I don’t even respond to any of this.

“Fine. Bye,” I say.

“BYE.”

And I hang up the phone, and immediately feel better for not having to deal with Jeremy anymore, his constant need for attention and having to go to the wine store at ten when I’d much rather do my skin care routine.

ONE WEEK LATER

I’m alone in my room and it’s the middle of the night, and I’m doing what I like to do at least one night a week, that is stay up and blare music and write my innermost thoughts. But then, when the moon is full, sometimes I feel lonely and wind up looking at all my ex’s and frenemey’s Instagrams and toss and turn and wonder what’s up with everybody.  That’s how I wound up texting Jeremy.  It only takes a second for the carefully constructed house of cards to fall…

“I just want to let you know, that I thought about things and I forgive you,” is what I send. It’s eleven, and Jeremy’s prone to passing out early, so I don’t expect him to reply, maybe ever.

“I’m bringing you lunch tomorrow!” he says.

And thus began Part II of our torrid affair, when Jeremy became more passionate-slash-obsessive than ever.

SideChick12

Jeremy started taking the Genesee bus downtown every day to bring me lunch. The first day, it was so romantic, Jeremy even sent me a selfie from the bus stop. We sat out in Lafayette Square, on the statue where I always sit, and Jeremy hovered over me with two pepperoni slices from Gino’s and a Lipton iced tea.

“Just hang in there with me,” Jeremy said, dabbing at my face with a napkin when it didn’t have to be dabbed. “Times are going to get tough.”

“What are you talking about,” I looked around at the manic seagulls surrounding me. “My life is fine.”

After a week straight of two pepperoni slices and an iced tea, and being dabbed when I didn’t need to be dabbed, Jeremy started wearing on my nerves.

On Friday, I come outside to find Jeremy standing in the middle of the sidewalk playing his acoustic guitar and yelping some kind of melody.

I want to know, Can we get clean againnnnnnnnnnn,” Jeremy wails. He fits in on Main and Court perfectly.

“Wow, Jeremy,” I head towards him. “This. Is. So….Nice!”

I have to pay my parking at the underground parking office, since I always wait until the day it’s due,  and the whole walk down Court Street and around the corner, Jeremy follows behind me with his guitar and makes loud comments about my ass.

I swear, I don’t even know this guy,” is the look I give to people passing by, in a helpless “damsel in distress” kind of way, even though I know how to handle this.  Jeremy keeps singing all the way up to the parking office door. I ring the bell, and the girl comes out to take my check with Jeremy still carrying on with his off-kilter melody.

Whoaoaoawhoaohwhoahohohawhoaa,”  his voice has had better days.

I lead him into the elevator and the whole way upstairs and on the walk through the Main Place Mall, onto the street corner and crossing over towards the CVS and through the revolving door into my building and up the stairs and almost into the elevator, Jeremy continues to wail.

“Look. You could ride up with me, but there’s an important meeting going on,” I say.  The unaffected, snowy-haired security guy with tatted-up arms keeps watch.  Jeremy takes a selfie with him, and gives me a smooch which tastes like cigarettes and vodka.  I hop in the elevator and get back to work.

Trojan

Later that day, we are in Draino’s again.  Jeremy dropped his happy-go-lucky songbird demeanor from earlier and replaced it with a much more sour disposition.

“He told me he loved me. Should I believe him?” I ask a sexy urban chick reminiscent of young Lil Kim next to me.

“Yeah!” she exclaims.

Jeremy’s forehead drips with sweat, and he barely touches his vodka-and-tomato.

“HAR….HAR….”

I walk away to the jukebox and accidentally cut in front of a dude with a shaved head who already put money in.

“Oops, sorry,” I say.  “But can you play Poison?”

“Yeah, sure honey,” he says. He’s about Jeremy’s age but I don’t think he’s trying to flirt. I sit next to Jeremy again, back at the bar,  and take my hoodie half-off so my shoulders are exposed in a silky camisole.

“ZIP YOUR HOODIE UP,” Jeremy snaps.   “ALL THE WAY UP!” He fiercely zips it up himself and pulls the hood over my head and tightens the strings until I resemble Kenny from South Park.

“It’s hot in here!” I say and try to break free.

The guy with the shaved head is next to me, staring Jeremy down, and I’m all but certain a fight will break out.

“RAAAAAWWWWRRR,” Jeremy erupts like a pissed off caveman, hops up off his barstool and rushes across the room. He throws his battered arms around a thick blonde lady who resembles Honey Boo Boo’s mom, with a crazy, cracked out smile of her own, and the two of them slow dance at warp speed like a record on fast-forward, immersed in some kind of psychobilly samba on speed.

I turn to Lil Kim and, with tears in my eyes, sadly state, “He’s being an asshole.”

“Jeremy!”  She yells to him, over “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” now blaring, “Come here and talk to your woman!”

Jeremy feebly reappears.

“NO,” he says, then stomps outside clutching a cigarette.

I rush after him, into the cool still night, and stare at him in utter confusion.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

All Jeremy does is stare back with a blank, empty stare, puffing away on yet another Marb.  I grab my 12-speed Huffy that had been chilling against the beat up side of the bar, push off from the curb and take off, quickly and powerfully, the cool night air whipping around me as I descend the bridge and swerve through the silent streets.  Behind me, I hear Jeremy emit his trademark  “MMMMEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHH”, which sounds like a herd of dying sheep bleating at the moon, fading away into the darkness behind me.

The Slut Diaries: Part I

Melrose

There’s playing with fire and getting burned, and then there’s dousing yourself in lighter fluid and going full-on Richard Pryor. Ever since the emotionally-abusive cycle with Billy ended, after he spazzed off on me in a jealous rage and things went totally caput, I’ve propelled myself into a Sluttylicious Spree of epic proportions, with party favors included.

March 10:

Kurt’s on my list of guys to bone.  Actually, he’s on the list of guys I have boned. But is he in the friend zone, or is it possible to re-light a match?

We had our blink-of-an-eye fling, sure.  But it wasn’t my fault it ended.  Kurt suddenly got a girlfriend and banished me from his apartment downstairs.  I wasn’t allowed to hang with his roommates or homeboys, not when he was there anyway.  Honestly, I like Kurt – we go back, way back.  We’re in the friend zone.

This drunken date of ours was slated to happen for, I don’t know, months. Kurt just bought a house in our old college town, a spacious relic on a winding road. So we went on a date to the Italian joint. I drove down; it was a snowy afternoon and the town was empty. Where did everybody go?

Kurt’s truck rumbled up his driveway. “Come on,” he said. “We’re going to the liquor store.”

“What are you, some kind of raging alcoholic?” I said.

“We used to live in the same house,” Kurt said with a grin. “You know I’m a raging alcoholic.”

Yeah, true. We did almost burn the place down once or twice.

Kurt handed me his debit card and I ran across the wine mart parking lot.  Back at the house, we situated ourselves inside Kurt’s rustic den.  I put on John Denver and rolled a joint. The place had been owned by an “old man”  who had been a “hoarder,” according to Kurt, and one with an obvious affection for the wilderness. He left behind in the den two giant walls of books. Their musty jackets loomed over Kurt and I.  Kurt gave me one he said reminded him of me.

“Here, this is it,” he said.  “Mistress to an Age.”

Schnapps

Kurt swilled Evan Williams and I downed wine.  The homespun haze put us in a daze, completely under its spell, until we remembered the Italian joint closed at eight. So we caroused our way downtown, and succumbed to total drunkenness at the Italian joint. It was there I felt the psilocybin kick in. Maybe I shouldn’t have mixed alcohol with a mushroom in the den. My ravioli became something of a muse. We discussed our common Libertarian ideals and emotional instability.  Kurt ordered an excessively-huge carafe of cabernet.  Back at the house, my face was numb but I pressed it against Kurt’s anyway and we started making out in the kitchen.

MARCH 11:

Kurt inexplicably woke up at 6:00 a.m. today, even though it’s Sunday, by turning on his light and saying casually that he “had to go to work.”

“Are you for real,” I turned over. Embarrassingly enough, bootleg big booby smut still emanated on mute from his TV. Kurt put it on as we were making out after dinner.

“I have my period, sorry,” I said. “Goodnight.” And I turned over.

“Oh come on,” Kurt said.

“I can see now that I’m not your type,” I said. “I’m not a big booby uggo downloaded from LimeWire.”

“I don’t have a type!”

Yeah, of course I know men don’t have types…How else do you explain Tiger Woods?

“Shhh,” I said. “I need to get some shut eye.”

At some point thereafter, we both passed out. Dead, and still in the friend zone thanks to that carafe of wine. Either way, in the morning light, I kept repeating to Kurt that I needed shut eye, until he shouted “Shut up!!!!” and clomped outside in his work boots. I heard his truck back down the gravel driveway.

I slept for a couple more hours, smoked some weed, folded Kurt’s laundry, and then began to plot our next adventure  – for some time, Kurt and I have discussed joining the swingers club in town, and going there as a “couple,” actually…

March 23:

Let’s see, “Scotty” from The Third Hole re-emerged, in the strangest of ways. Turns out, he broke up with his fiancé. We made plans to go out to dinner, after I wound up at The Third Hole last Saturday and Scotty and I made plans while in a drunken, coked-out stupor. But nonetheless, we made plans to go out to dinner in the Falls.

But I guess he has a child and was to have custody of him for the evening or something like that? How do these things work? Anyway, a few days before, Scotty said we’d have to postpone. So I asked Mick if he wanted to go out instead. He’s always down to go out to dinner, even at the last minute.

“Let’s go to Mother’s,” I said, and I figured I would just guzzle pinot grigio to make the night more enjoyable.  Since when have I ever needed an excuse to get drunk? Mick is like 50 years old. But right before, while I was getting ready to go, Scotty texted me and said his son went to the movies with friends, and he was headed to The Third Hole after all!

Great. Now I’m stuck going to dinner with Mick, when I could be having a much more stimulating night with Scotty. Hmmmm.

Mick picked me up at 6:00, which is MAD EARLY, and especially bizarre since we were going to Mother’s and they serve dinner until 2:00 a.m.

“Why are we going out so early?” I put my sunglasses on.  “It’s still light out.”

I turned the radio dial to the pop station.

“Oh sure, change the channel,” Mick said sarcastically as “It Ain’t Me” by Selena Gomez emanated from the speaker. “Who’s going to walk you through the dark side of the morning…” I said, not nearly stoned enough. “La la la, it ain’t meeeeee.”

“Oh my God, please, can we just have a quiet evening,” Mick droned.

“Sheesh” I said while trying to take a selfie. “The lighting is really bad in here.”

“Complain, complain, complain,” Mick said monotonously, and I knew right then it would be an annoying evening.

Or would it?

When we got to Mother’s, it was totally empty.  We sat in the far dark corner by the bathroom.

“It’s so early I’m not even hungry yet,” I said, thinking maybe I shouldn’t have popped an Adderall and 15-day herbal cleanse that I had lying around from Feel Rite, but so what? I was only trying to have a pleasant evening.

“Cannot believe we have a prune mixed with a banana for a president – I mean what the serious fuck?” I said, looking at Mick but he has the personality of a dial tone, and his face didn’t even move. “This scandal with Facebook using our information and pandering to the GOP? Of course they did, and he knew how stupid everybody really is and how to manipulate them emotionally.  We impeached Clinton for getting a BJ – but we are going to allow our civil liberties to get ass raped?

I watched Mick pour steak sauce all over a bloody piece of meat until I felt about ready to puke.

“I stand up for sex workers!” I grabbed a knife. “And freedom of speech! Does the Cheeto with Easter grass for hair, does he really know how to even read the Constitution?”

Mick sat there, detached.

“Who are you talking about?” he said.

“Ugh!” I said. “Do you want to go to the Goth store after this? There’s a party at nine.”

“No, I do not want to go to the garth store,” Mick said. “What is so great about the garth store? If you want to live that lifestyle -”

“Yes, I DO want to live that lifestyle,” I stood up and tossed my cloth napkin aside. “You are insulting my community. Just meet me at Q.”

I walked down the block to Q., and after Mick paid the bill and everything he came in after me. I wonder if he realized it’s a gay bar, with all the subtle rainbow accents? Mick is totally square nowadays.

“Look,” he said, sitting down. “I think after this we should both part ways, you should just go back with Billy, both of you don’t care about anybody but yourselves -”

“Wow, really?” I got upset and walked outside again. That was a low blow, even from Mick. I dialed Scotty’s number not sure if he would be available, but he answered on the first ring.

“If I took an Uber to The Falls,” I said while walking towards Delaware Ave. “Could you drive me home later, or like, tomorrow?”

“Yeah sure,” he said. I could hear The Third Hole background noise. And that’s exactly what I did. I rolled down the car window as we approached the saloon, and smelled smoke in the air. A house fire was just being extinguished.

Harbor Inn

MARCH 31:

I’ve wanted to do nothing all day except day drink and listen to Danity Kane. Why the fuck is it still snowing? Luckily, Troy*, my platonic homebody from the past, re-emerged. We met up at a sushi joint right after my hair appointment, so I looked pretty bossed-up if you know what I’m sayin’.

But I wasn’t trying to seduce or flirt with Troy. I wasn’t sure what was going on in his love life.

We were day drinking in the Hertel jurisdiction, D-District, where it all began, back when I lived in a minuscule attic studio more suitable for three blind mice and Troy was still legally married.

But wait – is Troy still legally married? Who knows, who cares.  Either way, we watched a drunken Camilla Parker Bowles-look alike chug Michelob after Michelob at MT Pockets. We started gyrating to “Boys” by Britney Spears at Gecko’s.  Somewhere along the line, I thought maybe Troy and I were going to make out.

Little did I realize, we would soon be making out in a full-blown PDA episode inside Gecko’s! And afterwards, we staggered into the Video Liquidators theater. Apparently I’m a regular, but they really do have the best selection of slutty lingerie. Anyway, no one else was there, which was weird since it was a Saturday and we found ourselves alone. First I peed in the ladies room, which is painted a dusty rose hue.

We wandered to the back of the store.

SHoes

What happens in the Video Liquidators theatre stays in the VIdeo Liquidators theatre, if you know what I mean.

But we emerged from its dark, sticky depths still in the friend zone for the most part.

APRIL 1:

“Do you want to become a mouthpiece of your generation?” I say to Pete, in front of the giant window of Just Vino that looks out upon Main St.  I’ve found myself on an actual date with someone I know, but not very well.

“I like your blog,” he says. “I had no idea you were so talented.”

Sure, you say that now… But what about after one is about you???

“It would be okay, actually,” Pete said. “That would be cool. Just change my name. Or don’t.”

APRIL 13:

I’m driving home from work, a.k.a smoking a jay and circling the block, wondering about how I’ll ever feel normal in relationships again.  But did I ever? I’m not exactly “normal.”

I’m chasing the dragon of actually caring. I feel numb to the earth. I’m waiting for The Feeling to sneak up on me again, like heroin probably does, but I’ve never done heroin.

Wait – who’s that? Chasing the dragon, right, that is until I see the guy taking out his trash – t-shirt, beard, tattoos – he looks to be moving old carpets and junk.  It looks like maybe he’s moving in…and just on the next block over too…Hmmm…

 

The Sex Drive

friskywhiskey

“Never speak to me again,” I hiss through gritted teeth in the Crabapple’s parking lot. “Because you are immature and insincere.” I hang up my cell, hang up on Dan and his stupid voicemail message –  “I don’t know why you called this number, but you did.” I send a hectic text – “I never wanna see u again! :(”

I stand in the middle of the parking lot, alone and abandoned. Dan and I were supposed to go to my downstairs neighbor Michael’s show at Nietszche’s. But when I arrived at Crabapple’s (of all places) to pick him up on my way home, he was drunk and stoned and went to “close his tab.” He rushed off and left me with his friends. Twenty minutes passed. I checked my phone; I had a text from Dan which said “I had to go.” He ran off down the street.  But why?

——————————

redsolocup

A month has passed. It has been a month without a peep from Dan, a month devoid of an apology or explanation. I lay alone in my bungalow, attempting an early night’s slumber.

My phone ring-a-dings, announcing the arrival of a late night text. Maybe it’s a sext. It’s from Dan.

“I am not a monster.”

Ignoring the text, I turn over and close my eyes. My phone dings again.

“I’m not a harmful person.”

I turn over on my other side, put a pillow over my face. My phone dings once more.

“Can I bring you food?”

I toss and turn and pull the sheets around my body. Another text arrives.

“I’m outside your apartment.”

Bolting upright in my loft bed, I nearly knock myself out on the slanted roof ceiling. Climbing down the ladder, I rush into my bathroom and peer out the window. Sure enough, I see some fool clamoring out of a Liberty Cab. It’s Dan, hair in a wild explosion around his head, shoes dragging across the pavement in drunken irreverence.

“I missed the way you smell.”

“Well, it’s been a month…What was that whole disappearance about, anyway?”

“I double booked,” Dan says, clomping down my basement steps. I situate myself upon a bar stool. Dan removes a marijuana stash from his pants. “Friends came from out of town, but we had plans too. I got overwhelmed.”

“Why didn’t you call me and apologize?”

“You said to never speak to you again.”

“When a girl says that, it means you should apologize.”

It all becomes water under the bridge. We make out upon the moldy washer-dryer unit while a silverfish watches.

————————–

100_3659

Another year or so has passed. Dan and I have grown into true friends. This sometimes veers into FWB territory. I now see Dan with a sense of maturity. There’s a gentlemanly aura in his eyes.

He has taken on the role of proprietor at a new Cheektowaga speakeasy, and has seen it grow into success.  Recently, Dan bought a school bus. It’s one of those half-sized white buses. He painted it with the logo of his bar and is the DD/chauffer to his friends.

I yearn to take a joyride on Dan’s bus. Dreaming of the bus, I fantasize about the bus at night. I’m staring out my window and remembering that night that Dan showed up in a Liberty Cab. I wish he would show up in his bus.

—————————–

I’m walking down Elmwood when I learn that Dan is headed my way. It is a warm Sunday morning, with the sun sending down the perfect brunch-friendly rays. We decide to fetch bloody marys.

I wait for Dan outside. He rolls up in a giant black truck. Not his own white Toyota, or the beloved bus.

“My car battery died last night,” Dan calls down from the towering truck. “I borrowed John’s truck.”

I climb up the passenger side and give Dan a smile.

“So where should we go to brunch? Bloody marys…”

“Well, it would be cool to go someplace around here, but John needs his truck by 6, so I was thinking we could go someplace in Cheektowaga, get my car jump-started first, or else we’ll have to leave here at a certain time.”

“Oh, yeah, let’s get out of here for a while. I’m so sick of the same-old same-old.”

We go a reasonable 55 miles per hour down the 33. I blast Metallica.

“Why the heck are you going so slow?”

“I’m never in a rush to get anywhere.”

We pull up the gravel driveway of the speakeasy and spot Dan’s petite white Toyota, depressingly dead by the dumpster. Dan whips out the jumper cables.

“Will you show me how to jump start a car?” I ask.  Dan adheres the clamps to some parts under the hood.

“Now, when these are attached,” he says. “It means they’re live. They will spark.”

“Oooohh, sparks.”

The cars create a medley of vroooooms and sputterings and smolderings. Dan’s car comes alive, and we climb inside. We travel a meandering route of side streets I’ve managed to never go down, even though I’m from this town and lived in it for 20 years.

“What the fuck is this street, Floral Ave.? Isn’t it a dead end?”

“No, far from it,” Dan says. Sure enough, it turns out to be a shortcut to the gas station. While driving down Floral Ave., Dan extends a fancy pipe full of weed my way. I take a hit.

“Well, you could at least wait for that  guy to cross the street.”

“Oops, my bad!”

Dan takes a hit himself.

“Well, you could at least wait to be out of eyesight from that woman gardening,” I say.

After getting some gas, we head to Otto’s.

ottos

Otto’s has been located on  the same Cheektowaga corner my entire life, a stone’s throw from the house I grew up in. Up until today, I’ve only crossed the threshold of Otto’s once, five years ago. It turned out to be an Italian restaurant, with a bar in the back. Dan tells me that they have the best bloody marys in town. Their flickering marquee declares the Patio to be Open.

We head through the bar, get two bloodys, and go out to the patio. We wait for Dan’s friend Ben to arrive.

Ben shows up in a red muscle shirt with an older guy in tow. The older guy is scrawny and weathered-looking. He says his name is Bob. He sits at the end of our table. I’m baked, and keep my sunglasses on even though we managed to find the least-sunny patio in this hemisphere.

“Who’s working at the speakeasy tonight?” Ben asks.

“I think Kimberly Wieners is bartending,” Dan answers.

Wieners?” I exclaim.

“You’d like Kimberly Wieners,” Dan says.

“She doesn’t look like a wiener,” Bob speaks for the first time.

“Well, I’ve never seen one, so whatever.” I roll my eyes.

“I could put mine on the table if you want – ”

“No, thanks. It was a joke, obviously.”

I move my plastic lawn chair close to Dan.

“Oh, I need to drive John to his truck at the speakeasy,” Dan says suddenly.

“I’ll come with you -” I say, getting up.

“No, stay here,” Dan says. “John is operating on two hours sleep. We don’t need to shock him awake with more people than necessary.”

I’m left alone with Ben and Bob. It’s cooled down and I’m chilly. We head inside; there might be some rap music emanating from the bar. I just finished the bloody mary. It was good.

“Car bombs!” Ben yells. A round of car bombs manifests.

“I haven’t had a car bomb since college, wow, I feel old.” I take a sip, but put it back down.

“Shots!” Bob yells. The young bartender pours shots of Jaeger. I decline. It’s all going on Bob’s tab.

“Do you think I can just have some wine? It’s really all I drink.”

“Ooooh, fancy-prancy!” Bob turns to me, points a finger in my face. “I’ll buy you shots, but I ain’t buyin’ you no wine.”

He ends up buying me a pinot grigio anyway.

100_4040

“Hey, wear your hair down,” Bob says to the bartender.

“Um, wow, just because you gave her a dollar tip, you think you can dictate how she wears her hair? You’re a prick.”

“You’re crazy, you’re fucked up,” Bob responds, pack of Senecas rising out his breast pocket. I take a large swallow of wine.

“So you’re a wine drinker?” Ben asks calmly.

“Yeah, it agrees with me, and it’s good for you in small doses I guess.”

“Nah, dude, a glass of wine a day is like one cigarette a day,” Bob ignorantly declares.

“What? No, wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol.”

An argument ensues and only rises in intensity between Bob and I, despite the fact he continues buying me drinks and bumming me cigs. He refuses to acknowledge the medical journal article that I pull up on my phone. I’m about to pull my hair out. Dan returns and sits down next to me.

“Thank God,” I throw my arms around him.

“She’s crazy, dude.'”

“He’s a dick.” I say.

“You better be careful,” Dan says, “She might write about you on her blog.”

Bob looks truly scared for a second, then brushes it off.

“Go ahead – write it! Just make sure you spell my name right. Bob Zielinski. Z-I-E-L…”

After a while of getting nowhere, we leave Buzzkill Bob getting Skittles from the quarter machine.

candy

Ben, Dan, and I embark on a short, tipsy stroll to the speakeasy. We are on busy Union Road in broad daylight.

“Please, guys, can we walk down a side street?” I’m power walking ahead. “I do not need my parents to drive by and text me asking why I’m walking down Union Road in the middle of the day with two guys. My mother will question what I’m doing with my life. I do not need it right now!”

We get to the speakeasy. The bartender, Wieners, keeps the wine coming. I load the jukebox with Britney Spears and Trina. I’m smearing on  a lipstick overdose and dancing around the bar. Dan appears to be having an awkward convo with the other bartender; it seems like they used to date or something.

Stumbling up to Dan, I’m ready to get my bus ride on.

“Let’s role play Forrest Gump and Jenny on the bus,” I say in an intoxicated whisper. “I’m fatigued, let’s go!”

Dan is still mid-conversation. He hands me the keys to the bus. I wander out of the bar, locate the bus, stumble aboard, and lay down sideways on a seat.

After a little bit, Dan gets on the bus. I left the keys in the door. We sit down side by side.

“You don’t hate me?” Dan asks.

“Hate you? Why would I hate you?”

“I always mess up.”

“Nonsense. You are great. The bus is great. Everything’s fine.”

condoms

Dan starts the ignition and we pull out of the parking lot. We cruise back to the city.

 

(Dan and Michael were introduced in my first story “Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent,” so read that first if you haven’t!)

 

Travis’s Face

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The time is ten years ago. My short-shorts clad self is pedaling frantically on a Huffy. I have gone in pursuit of a cigarette.

The city is looking mildly pleasant today, I think to myself. I’m home for the summer from college, back to my parent’s abode. A hostage situation is going on down the block, and a SWAT team has closed off the street. Mr. Jenkins from the East Side is pushing a pilfered shopping cart full of cans to Consumer’s Beverage. The rattling glass bottles create music in the air, like wind chimes.

And then – I get a whiff of those familiar fumes. Someone is smoking nearby! I ride up to the skinny, 5′ 4” dude in cargo shorts puffing away in front of Consumer’s.

“Hey – can I bum a cigarette?”

“Yeah, sure,” he replies, removing a Marb Light. “I’m Travis.”

We begin to chat. Travis has  half-closed stoner eyes and a receding hairline. His Molson Canadian t-shirt hangs off his scrawny physique. I learn that he is 24 (old enough to buy booze!) and lives nearby (in his own apartment!)

“Do you need a job?” Travis asks, exhaling a final plume. “We’re hiring here.”

Well, yeah, I guess I do…. Just something for the summer until I return to school. But this Travis fellow could just be the cherry on top.

———————————

coors

I am given a navy blue Consumer’s tee, and a name tag. My boss, Seth, is a 30-something lamebrain who hates black people and girls.  He mostly sits in his office, which overlooks his dominion. When people come in with a rattling cart full of empties, he shouts “fuckin’ scumbags!” and pops in a juicy wad of Skoal.

I’ve come to know the regulars, including Janelle, who lives next door. One time she begged me to blow in the breath allyzer installed in her car, so she could leave for work. She also has Seth and/or Travis deliver Mike’s Hard Lemonade and cigarettes to her house. Travis was gone for an hour one time, and returned saying she “took off all her clothes and started reenacting soap operas.”

That story gives me a mild pang of jealousy. Why doesn’t Travis ever do anything romantic, like take me anywhere to eat? Our after-work  “romance” has consisted of me going to his house to smoke pot and watch Roseanne. Despite my flirtatious efforts and the shortest of shorts, which even made Seth shake his head in dismay, Travis falls flat. He is usually slumped over the counter, chewing on chips.

“So, Travis, what are we doing tonight?” I flutter by, tossing my hair. He looks up – a chip crumb is stuck to his lip.

“Let’s go to Bill’s and play beer pong,” he says.

That has become the plan for tonight.  I’m upstairs in my bedroom getting ready when I hear the familiar sound of Travis’s car. It has a broken muffler or something, and it’s so loud you can hear it coming a mile away.

“Oh, he’s here, your man,” my mom says, rolling her eyes. Travis beeps his horn. My mother always said to never go out with a guy who beeps his horn.”

“Oh, whatever!” I say. “I’ll be back later! Late. So don’t bother waiting up.”

We go to our co-worker Bill’s house. Bill is a decent looking 25-year-old with manners, and I think he has a crush on me. But I’m more interested in Travis, for whatever reason. I’m wearing a shredded-up denim mini skirt and white tank top. Forgot to put a bra on. After a few rounds of beer pong, I’m three sheets to the wind and have tossed all regard for getting home safely to the wayside.

The three of us go sit on Bill’s porch and stare off into the dark night. Travis pops some pills from a prescription bottle. The two of us decide to leave, and go back to Travis’s house, muffler vroooom-ing all the way.

Travis has a pitbull named Max, who starts barking as we creep up to Travis’s second floor apartment. We have to creep, because Travis lives above his mom and her boyfriend. His mom’s boyfriend usually stands in the front yard with no shirt on. He makes me mildly uncomfortable.

“Yay!!!!” I squeal, taking my shirt off and whipping it around my head. “Woo!”

“Calm down…calm down…Daddy’s tired,” Travis mumbles, schlepping across the kitchen floor to his cupboard full of E-Z-Mac.

We both pass out on the couch in the middle of a Cops marathon, and wake up to Seth’s gruff voice on Travis’s answering machine.

“Hey, fucks,” he says. “Ann’s parents are looking for her. So if she’s there, you might want to call them.” Click.

Just then, I hear someone rapping on the front door. Travis jumps up, and peers through the blinds suspiciously. I hear my mom and dad shouting “Annie!” from below.

“Oh God, my fricken parents showed up?” I say.

Travis has decided to hide in the corner, behind a stack of Maxims as tall as him. I slip into my flip-flops, knowing full well that I reek of multiple Labatts.

“They called the cops – they called the cops! They called the cops?” Travis is walking in circles like a maniac. I peer out the window. A police car is parked down the street.

“No, they didn’t, a cop car is just coincidentally parked on your street – there is always a cop parked on your street, hello!”

But I am not getting through to Travis. Does he feel I am deserting him? I don’t want him to dump me… The whole time I’m collecting my belongings, Travis is silent.

Once I get home, I plop my weary body down at the kitchen table with dry toast and a Vitamin Water.

“You don’t even have a bra on!” my mom says. For the first time, I see the time. The clock tells me it’s only 8 a.m.

I finish the toast and go back to bed.

—————————————

The next day at work, Travis gives me shocking news.

“Your dad was here, and he called me a drifter,” Travis says.What the hell is a drifter?”

“Someone who wanders around, aimlessly,” I say.

“Fuck that. Fuck this. I’m moving to Colorado with Max,” he says.

And he did. The next week, he is gone, with cash that he stole from Consumer’s through bottle return fraud. I am completely torn apart inside, tearing up all my issues of Cosmo with the sex tips I’ll no longer need.

“Why???????” I yell. “I cannot go on!”

I’m in my bedroom blaring Britney Spears “Toxic,” drinking a bottle of Steel Reserve. Bill had to get it for me at work. He seemed concerned.

“Life is meaningless!” I say. “Meaningless as fuck.”

I’ve finished all 24 Steely ounces of beer and have moved on to my parent’s boxed merlot. In my frenzy, I consume a giant cup, wishing there was a bottomless fountain of everlasting liquor. Lying face down on my bed, vomit rises up in my throat and I throw up all over my white comforter. It’s nothing but an ocean of red wine all over my white comforter – and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like Travis’s face.

bret