Stunts Like This
Stunts Like This
No more booze. No more pot. No more nothing. Gets in the way, keeps the memories buried under all that gauze and pond scum. That’s what my head’s full of, used battle dressing and pond scum.
Have to clear my head. No more nothing.
Keep running. Running is good. Not just for the legs and the heart and the lungs. More I run, more I remember. If I run fast enough, maybe the gauze and the muck will leak out of my ears.
Here are the pieces, best I can fit them together. Last time I saw my Paula.
Zero the Dials
Monday night show in a club too shitty to call a dive. What was it called? The walls. All the no-talent, post-metalcore bands in the world couldn’t hide the dinginess of the walls there with all their stupid-ass scratchy font stickers and fliers. Floor so sticky, felt like walking in a slaughterhouse, and I worked a year in one to pay for my Eldorado with the blood of ten thousand chickens, so I know what I’m saying.
But the place was packed. On a Monday? Paula said their shows always were.
“Music better be good,” I say.
“They’re pretty decent!” she says, all reassuring me, except the way she says it, I get that same feeling I got earlier, like she’s trying to sell me something she knows I’ll regret buying once I give it a shake and hear loose shit rattling around in it. Which is weird, because wasn’t it her idea to come out here tonight in the first place? She’s been on my case for two weeks to see these guys. OK, fine. I’m here. Now they’re just “pretty decent”?
So she isn’t here for the music after all. Must know someone in the band, I guess. I’d been there before, showing up to some guy’s lame gig for morale support. Clap clap, that was real cool, good job, bro. Nah, I didn’t notice any fuck-ups at all. That kind of thing. I ask her to remind me how she knows these guys, but the house music is blaring--why the fuck do we need loud music between sets? Nobody’s dancing and people want to talk. She can’t understand me over the noise. Pretty sure I yelled loud enough. Nevermind.
We’re waiting off to one side, me with my back to a post, Paula in front of me, leaning back so I can put an arm around her from behind and rest my chin on her head. Feels nice, like that. I watch the roadies or the stage crew or whoever-the-fuck swap the opening act’s gear for the headliner’s. Good gear, too. Way good. Way expensive. The big, shiny shit you see in catalogues and shake your head over. I never heard of these guys in my life, not once. Somebody in the band has a rich daddy, guaranteed. Assholes. Playing with someone else’s money, then singing about politics and suffering like they have any authority on the subjects.
“Zero the Dials”, they’re called? Never heard of them. Sound like a bunch of preening hipsters, if you asked me. Fuck if I care, though. I have good things going on. Had. I am--was-- starting a new job on Friday building a theater at a private school up north, and that’s respectable money while it lasts, and I have Paula in one arm, open and gentle Paula, Paula who loves me even though I make her a starving poet’s girlfriend, Paula, my Brazilian Pardo with the delicate brown skin, hazel eyes in almond shapes, and hair sun-dappled even in dim rooms. And I have a beer in one hand that looks like too much foamy piss in too small a cup, but it tastes alright. For a minute, all is right in the world. Was.
Zero the Dials, or whatever-the-fuck, are taking forever. No surprise, there. I amuse myself calling them Zero the Douches and Zero the Queeros, and other dumbass puns, which earns me a couple of elbows to the kidneys from Paula, but she throws a few laughs in the mix, too, so it’s well worth the pain. Her laughter. It could cure my migraines, if I ever got any--it’s that soothing to me. I take inventory of the hipster ratio in the audience tonight. Pretty high, but what can you do these days? It’s an epidemic. I tell her as much, but she ignores me, or can’t hear me. She does that nod people do when they’re tired of straining to make out conversation in a noisy club and just give your mumble some approval. And her eyes are roaming around. I can’t quite see them from where I’m standing behind her, but I see her eyelashes flickering. Restless glances. She looks excited. Nervous? I should have caught on then.
One or two hipsters meet my eye, and I make them look away with my patented the-fuck-you-looking-at stare. Paula doesn’t notice it. She hates when I pick fights with the hipsters, even if they picked one with me first. If I were honest--and when am I ever honest with anyone but her?--I’d have to say she kind of is one herself, in her own way. But not deep down where it counts. Deep down she’s real. Not even that far down, either.
I usually lose the story, here. Memories all jumbled and coated in that pond scum. Whatever those assholes did to me, it clings. Forget you ever met us.
Empty cup. I left her for a minute.
I have no more beer, just an empty plastic cup in my hand, and that’s the worst, because what the hell do you do with an empty cup and no trash can in sight? Can’t drop it. Paula hates that. So I hold it like an idiot until my urge to take a leak and buy us a new round overcomes my desire to stand there with my girl in my arms. I kiss her curly, fuzzy head and say I’ll be right back. I don’t think she hears me. I walk off to find the john and a waste bin, but I look back just before she’s out of sight. It’s a habit I had in any public place with her. Look back before you’re gone, scope out the scene. Best way to know which d-bag is eying your girl while you’re not there. Maybe it makes me an asshole, but if I’d done more of it that night, she’d still be here. I'd have noticed the signs.
Losing the thread again. Run, run, run. Remember.
I don’t remember if anyone was checking her out, but I remember her looking around, searching for someone. So what, right? She’s outgoing, people like her. We can’t take ten steps without running into someone she knows from somewhere, men and women. Probably she thinks she’ll find a friend. Big deal. Except that it was a big deal, because I see her eyes. From halfway across the club, I see her eyes twitching around, all nervous and needy. Hungry eyes. It’s the look tweakers get when they know they’re coming down for a hard landing, a real bad landing, a crash landing in a remote jungle crawling with neon snakes and bug-infested swamps, and there’s nothing to bring them back up until their dealer returns their calls.
Shit. If Paula was on anything, I’d know. I can recognize the signs from ten miles back, and she didn’t have any before tonight. Just distracted a lot, lately, and that ain’t a sign, right? Yeah, dumb-ass, it is. It was a goddamn sign, and you missed it.
Always gets jumbled at this part. Have to run faster, baste my brain in endorphins like its a turkey. Think. Think. Think.
I’m walking away. Maybe I’m walking back. I’ve got beer--I’m walking back. I’m pushing through a crowd of kids in hoodies. I can’t put it out of my mind, the way she looked. Those eyes of hers. Or was I clueless? Am I just remembering myself all bothered and upset when really I didn’t have half a clue and was thinking about how good it feels to have an empty bladder and two full cups of beer? No, I picked up on something. My hackles are raised. Paula, Paula, Paula. What’s the deal, Paula? I didn’t want to be that guy, that jealous guy, blowing every little thing up until it’s a Thing. We hardly ever fight, but when we do, it’s about that--my jealousy, or what she calls it, my “mood”. I promised to tone it down some, and I meant it. But that night, in my gauzy memories, I’m toning it back up. Sometimes you don’t make something a Thing. Sometimes it already is one. Bullshit of one type or another is going on, guaranteed.
Is this when I saw them? Forget you ever met us.
The blonde and her two square-jawed playboy friends. Forget you ever met us.( ContinuedCollapse )