…I’m back from NYC and it was everything I thought it would be. Tons of laughter and friend time. Both readings went exceptionally well and I even read better than normal.The only hard part is missing everyone so much, plus feeling behind on everything. But I’ll catch up. Just wait and see.
…Thanks for coming back.
…Here’s the third chapter of MY LONG UNCERTAIN SEARCH FOR MYSELF:
Friday, March 14, 2014
It’s noon on a Tuesday and already the liquor store is packed.
I ask a man wearing a hunter’s tartan shirt, “What’s the deal? Why’s it so busy?”
He looks at me, then walks away without a word, as if I’ve offended him, as if I’m foul-smelling.
The clerk at the counter wears a turban. He seems annoyed but has beautiful skin, shiny, too, the color of maple syrup.
My cart is filled with five gallons of gin and loads of tonic. When I ask if they sell limes, Turban Head flares his nostrils and says, “This isn’t a grocery store.”
I feel like punching him. I feel like strangling him with his turban and watching that pretty skin of his turn blue, then purple, but there’s a woman in line behind me whose Chihuahua keeps trying to hump my leg.
“Really, lady? Can’t you get your damn dog fixed?”
“Fix yourself,” she says, not doing anything about the filthy mongrel.
When Turban Head flashes me a grin, I flip him off.
My next stop is a convenience store where I buy cigarettes. I haven’t smoked since high school. I open the pack and light up as soon as I exit the place. It’s the same as if I’ve shoved a blow torch down my throat and no matter how subtly I inhale, I end up hacking.
Around the corner, on the curb by a dumpster, two teenagers are singing a Dylan song, “Blowin’ In The Wind,” the guy strumming a guitar.
They notice me but don’t say anything. The girl is blonde and pale and her partner has dreadlocks coiled all over his head like hydras made out of yarn.
When they’re finished, the girl asks if they can hitch a ride. I tell them I’m not going their way. They ask how I know. I say because I don’t know where I’m going. The guy says, “That’s cool. We’re just floating, too.”
“My car’s loaded with stuff.”
The guy tugs at his shirt. “Look at us, man, we’re skinny.”
They are. A pair of ragamuffins.
“All right,” I say. “If you can fit, you’re in.”
I’ve got the gin on the front seat. The trunk and back seat are loaded with shit I don’t really remember buying, and I only took it because I’m never going back to the lake house again.
“No sweat, man,” the guy says. He lifts up the sacks of gin, sits down, pats his lap and has his girl sit on him.
“I think that’s maybe illegal,” I say.
“Lighten up,” the guy says. “I’m Buddy. This is Lana.”
They keep singing in the car, going through Dylan’s early protest catalog. I’ve been driving for half an hour when I remember the guy’s guitar. “Where is it?” I ask.
“Left it,” Buddy says.
“You left it back there?”
“It wasn’t mine anyway, plus it’s a piece of crap.”
Near Seattle, a torrent begins, but they don’t stop singing. Now it’s “Hurricane.”
I wonder how they know such old songs. I wonder where their parents are and what the hell they’re doing, but I don’t ask because learning too much about people has only caused me trouble. But it feels good to have company, even if they’re more strange than strangers.
It’s night by the time I reach the Idaho border and I’m beat, so I pull over at Trail’s End Motor Lodge.
Buddy says, “Hey, man, you mind if we crash with you? Just for tonight. We’ll sleep on the floor.”
When I tell them that sounds like a bad idea, Buddy pulls out a blunt as large as a cigar. “We could party,” he says.
In the room, I go through half a gallon of gin like it’s a scorching day and I’m drinking lemonade. Buddy and Lana are blitzed, sitting with their backs against the wall. Buddy keeps tracing patterns on Lana’s face, then marveling over his designs, as if his fingertips are leaving paint, which has me thinking their pot must be laced with something.
He tells her she’s beautiful. He compares her to springtime, a wild fawn. He goes on and on. Lana stares back at him, her eyes wet. She unbuttons his shirt, helps him off with his jeans.
“Hey,” I say. “No way.”
Lana pulls her ratty sweater off. She’s braless. In the time it takes me to polish off my glass, she’s naked and they’re both entwined, rubbing as if trying to light a fire with their flesh. I think about throwing a bottle against the wall to make them snap out of it. I think about Virginia and how different it felt with her, me wanting nothing than to please her.
I watch Buddy and Lana writhe and slide. I listen to them whimper and whisper. I tell myself this is just a movie I’m watching, that I’m merely a spectator, that all this is as right as rain.