Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
Beckee's apartment was a larger version of her high school dorm room. But not much larger. A queen sized bed, a computer desk, a couch, a living room table, a microwave, a stove, a refrigerator, a bathroom. Candles filled the small shelf that ran all the way around the walls of the apartment. There was also an enormous, half-melted maroon candle in the middle of the living room table. Were it not for the Mac and the microwave, I would have thought she didn't have electricity.
While I went into the bathroom to splash warm water on my face, and maybe slap myself until I woke up in my comfortable bed in Cranberry Lake, Beckee put The Verve's Urban Hymns CD on. "I'm sorry I'm so useless tonight. I just...I haven't slept much recently. I promise I'll be more sociable tomorrow."
"Well, make yourself comfortable." Beckee said. "You can either crash in the bed with me and Harry, or you can take the couch."
Uhhh. "I'll take the couch, thanks."
I woke up the next morning with Beckee's foot in my crotch. Apparently, my lap was a skank ottoman. "Harry's off at work. I've got to go to work in a couple of hours, too. Want to do lunch?"
I did. We headed to The Noodle Factory. Beckee quickly ordered an order of lobster ravioli and alfredo sauce, while I scanned the menu. I was debating between rotini with parmesan cheese or bowties in butter with carrots, when Beckee said "Just so you know, tonight my mom is throwing me a birthday party. Formal dress." Bowties in butter, it was.
After lunch, we headed back to her apartment. "I left a spare key on the table, so you can come and go as you please. But both Harry and I will be home by four, and you'd better be here waiting for us." Then she kissed me and left.
After I'd showered some of my Madison away, I grabbed my walkman, and put in one of the on the road mixes that I'd packed. I was barely out the door when the walkman stopped working. I went back into the apartment, grabbed some fresh batteries from my bag and...nothing. Stupid five year old walkman had finally bitten the dust. I threw it into the trash, and headed back out into the cold, without a soundtrack.
Music stores. Botiques. A restaurant that only served different types of noodles. Book stores. Music clubs. Comedy clubs. And in front of each of them were free copies of a magazine called The Onion. I fell in love with State Street fairly quickly. At three-thirty, I headed back to Beckee's apartment. The refrigerator door was open, and I could see unHarry's hand gripped around the top of the door. "Hey, Harry." I said.
"Oh, hey Adam." unHarry said, closing the refrigerator door. He was naked. "I was looking for a Rolling Rock, but it looks like Beckee drank them all this morning."
He was still naked. "Huh."
"Oh! I found a walkman in the trash. That was yours, right?"
Still naked. "Yea."
"I fixed it for you." He picked it up off the counter and tossed it to me. Still naked.
"Thanks." I said.
"Anytime." He walked toward me. Still naked. "It's just good to see you again." And he hugged me. Still naked. Still unhairy.
Then he bent over toward the bed, pulled a plastic bin from underneath, opened it, and pulled out a pair of black pants. "Beckee's mom is throwing a birthday party tonight, and she wants everyone to dress up. I think she mentioned telling you to pack a blazer, but if you didn't, you could borrow one of mine." He started to denaked.
"I, uhh. I brought my own. Thanks, though." And I put my good clothes on in the bathroom, like a normal person.
Beckee arrived home a few minutes later, already dressed in the same gown she'd worn to The Shat, and a pair of silver pumps. "Everyone ready?"
And we drove. And we drove. And there was snow and cows and ice and cold. And in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Beckee pulled into what looked like an abandoned VFW Hall. It was not abandoned. It was a VFW Hall. Inside, a bunch of middle aged men and women were line dancing to Tone Loc's "Wild Thing." There were three rather horrified looking girls, roughly my age, sitting in a corner, drinking PBRs.
"Beckeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" screeched one of the line dancers, breaking formation to run full speed in our direction. "Happy birthday!" It was Beckee's mom. And she couldn't be more shitfaced if she was wearing a toilet seat hat in a diarrhea factory. "Oh, wow, Alex! So glad you could make it. Hope you won't stand my daughter up like you did at the prom."
"His name is Adam, mom."
"Adam, Alex. whatever. So, Adam, have you fucked my daughter yet?"
unHarry grabbed my arm and led me toward the corner of horrified looking girls. "She's a bit plastered." He said.
I was devoid of a witty response.
"Adam, these beautiful young ladies are Rachel, Susan, and Simone. Beckee and I met them on a cruise last year."
"Hi." I said. "Good to meet you."
And then unHarry was gone, back in the direction of Beckee and her mother. "PBR?" Simone asked.
We sat in silence for a few seconds.
"What am I doing here?" I asked the floor.
Rachel answered. "Be glad you missed the country karaoke."
"You're the other guy that Beckee dated in high school, right?" Simone asked.
Simone took a long sip of her PBR. "So, are you here of your own free will or did Beckee have to trick you into flying out here?"
"She does this all the time." Susan said. "Every month or so, she and Harry get bored of dating each other, and one of them invites some friend, or some stranger they met somewhere to stay with them, and then they try and get them drunk and take advantage of them."
Simone sighed. "Look, if you need to get away, you can give us a call, and we'll help you out." And she handed me a business card. "This guy named Alex came in September, and couldn't deal with them, so we picked him up while they were at work, and he spent the rest of the week with us."
"You know," Rachel said, "I still can't get used to how cold it gets here. I'm from Maine, you know. And, yea, it gets cold there, but not like this." And then we were discussing the difference between Wisconsin winters and Northeastern winters. How Rachel and Susan had devoted most of their Spring Break cruise trying to avoid this aggressively annoying girl who, on the basis that they were all from the same state, had decided they would be best friends for the duration of the cruise, and possibly life. Simone had felt sorry for Beckee, and decided to be her pity friend. Her well of pity was rapidly depleting, however. I needed another drink. Several more drinks. An ocean of Bacardi 151.
Beckee and her mother cut through the line dancers in our direction. "I'm sorry your pansy ass friends can't take a joke." She said to Beckee. Then, she turned to me. "Alex...Adam...whatever...you know I was kidding about the fucking my daughter thing, right?"
"Of course." I said, folding the business card in my pocket.
She snorted. "See. I told you he knew. Satisfied?" And she walked away.
"Alex?" I asked Simone.
"What about him?"
"Tall, goofy looking kid with a blond fro?" I was picturing unHarry's high school roommate
"Sounds about right." Simone said.
"What the fuck is going on here?"
At some point during the party, unHarry disappeared. I was too drunk to keep track of him. That, and Rachel had taken me out into the parking lot and shared a joint with me. "Remember," she'd said, "if you need to get away, just call us. No pressure. We're not like Beckee's other weird friends. We don't want to sleep with you or anything. You just seem like you're a little out of your element, and we want to help you out." And then we were back in the VFW with the spinning karaoke spotlights. I was dancing. Beckee's fucked her yet mother smiling disco ball. Some fat old man was grabbing Susan's ass. PBR slap. The floor was enhanced gravity. Splayed out against the wall. Beckee falling into my skank ottoman. Roll of Rachel eyes. And then we're in the jeep. Front seat. Cows. Snow. Ice. Fields. "Where's Harry?"
"He met some guy. They're probably out fucking in the back of the guy's Corolla or something."
Naked unHarry splayed out in the snow, walkman grunting suburban hymns, rolling of discoball eyes. "Guy? Harry and a guy? I thought you two..."
"Please. You're the only one of my exes who didn't turn out to be a fucken closet case homo."
Eyes spinning floating ass of pleasure. My spine, a creased business card. "I'm soooo confused."
And then we were in her apartment. Her on her bed. Me on the couch. The Smashing Pumpkins playing The Aeroplane Flies High Looks Left Turns Right. I was watching the candle burn gravity. Through her apartment's only window, I saw a parade of all the naked men I'd ever seen. And then she kissed me. And then my shirt was off. And then my tongue was on her left nipple. And then my hands were on unHarry's ass. But he wasn't there. Beckee's ass. And then she was on top of me, licking all the way down, and my pants were off. The Verve was singing The Drugs Don't Work. And tongue and lips and sweaty hands and PBR discoball floating ass of karaoke splayed out against the wall burning urban hymns. "Are you finished?" She asked. Had we started? My hands were spotlights moving up and down the dance floor of her body. Nipple. Face. Belly button. Leg. Maxi pad. Maxi pad? Hallelujah menstrual cycle. "I know. The timing sucks." She said. "I know how much you wanted this. I've been waiting for you to make your move, but you're still the same too slow, too nice guy you were in high school. I'll be ready for the hard stuff," she grabbed my not very hard place, "in a couple of days. Trust me, it will be worth the wait."
Twelve days. I had twelve days before my flight home.