Sunday, February 1, 2015
You knew I wouldn't go, of course. There are adventures and then there are. . . things not worth investing in. It is personal, of course, and not a judgment on others. I simply felt better once I had decided not to go. The dizziness and cloudiness I'd been experiencing all day was gone. Boom! Relief.
I know I am disappointing you, though. The stories that would have come out of that meeting might have been interesting. And we all know, I'm just the guy to tell them.
Some of you will be saying, "Yea, he talks a big game. . . ."
If I were married and sick of my wife, I might have gone. . . maybe. I doubt it. But I am not married nor even involved, and my romantic heart desires pretty things and impossible love. I've never been a dumpster diver. I can't even pull a girl out of a bar.
So. . . having said that, last night I shot with the blind girl. And you see, I was already in love with her before I picked her up. How could I not be? Here is someone who suffers in life, who works at a call center answering people's technical computer questions all day long, a girl who has to take a bus to work and take the bus back, a girl who has to walk to the grocery store or to the drug store, a girl who has more health issues than just her eyes, a girl who at twenty-six has a medical history. And her eyes can be fixed. She simply can't afford it. You tell me, then. . . how do I not fall in love?
It is special love, I know, conditional and temporary, but it is full blown and whole hearted at the time. Don't think for a moment it is a practical love with the two of us sharing a home and suffering through one another's daily miseries. No, no, it is nothing of the sort. It is just a large and overwhelming emotion that wraps me up and makes me weak with compassion and admiration.
But I jump ahead. I need to start with the morning when the swingers wrote to ask if I was coming that night. I wasn't certain, I told them, it depended on my evening shoot. Perhaps it was the dilemma that was making me ill, but I lacked focus and verve. I took a walk thinking that would make me better. And it did a bit. And then I went to the gym and did a simple, easy workout (I tweaked my back two days ago and can't do most of my usual movements) that was over quickly. A shower and remembering I'd only had coffee and two tangerines all day. It was mid-afternoon and it seemed my computer and iPhone were broken. I was getting nothing, no messages, no texts, no visits to the blog. I'd been cut off, set adrift. . . perhaps it was cosmic retribution for thinking of going to a swingers party. I didn't know.
I decided to get the great barbecue at the little hipster place. It was another perfect day and people were out enjoying themselves, not where they lived, but in my little hometown. It has become a sort of mecca now for those who live behind gates in large, Stepford-style communities where strip malls full of chain restaurants with faux-decoration and Disney-style accommodations are all that are offered within easy driving distance. It is a mecca for them and for the others, too, who have picked up a newspaper and looked at the Style or Entertainment sections and have read about all the rich wonders of a trip down bricked streets overhung with oak trees, etc. All the cruise ships had docked on this brilliant Saturday afternoon.
Even at the hipster joint. When I pulled up, there was a line around the building and not a place to park for blocks and blocks. What to do? I was weak with hunger and a spiritual malaise that might have a more physical cause than I wanted to admit. Fuck it. I squeezed into an illegal parking spot and walked up to join the line. A cute girl who was working the outside tables came over and looked me in the eyes in a way that made me squirm. She welcomed me to the restaurant, but the welcoming was confusing me. I'd never been welcomed to this little hipster place before, but there she was with a rag in her hand, standing and smiling. Is it always this busy, I asked stupidly, completely disoriented and nervous. She launched into some long explanation that I couldn't follow, but at the end I heard her ask me if I minded eating inside at the bar. Oh, no, I said, I'm just that kind of guy. Come on, she said, and she took me in past the long, long line. Here, she said, and she handed me a menu. I'm sure I looked like I'd been hit on top of the head, and I stupidly grinned as she disappeared.
Just then, my phone began to work again. Seemingly, it was only a gender-block as all the texts coming in were from guys. I texted a friend the story of the cute girl seating me at the bar. He generously wrote back that it was like being kind to her grandfather. My friends, I decided, were all envious creeps who did not want me to be happy or in love.
I chatted with the other people at the bar and got a huge sandwich with smoked pork chunks smothered in slaw, and I decided to have a beer which they served in a mason jar. The couple next to me had just come from the winery behind the hipster restaurant (they said they smelled it and couldn't resist) and they wanted wine, so the little waitress (she was small--I'm not simply being a pig eating a pork sandwich) tried without much luck getting the cork out of the bottle. It's like parallel parking with everyone watching and yelling out advice, isn't it? Want some help? She gave a crooked smile like I was a pig eating a pork sandwich and with as much force as she could muster, she worked the lever of the corkscrew breaking the cork leaving a little stub in the bottle. She laughed and handed the bottle over with a sweet smirk. Pop! The owner who was working behind the bar said I was going to have to start bussing tables, too.
As I finished my sandwich and beer and handed over the cash, I saw that the people I'd been standing behind in line were just getting through the door. I looked at the waitress and gave her a fist bump. You really hooked me up, I said. Alright, she said. O.K. What else was there to say.
The afternoon was gorgeous and would soon be fading. I had about an hour before I had to pick up the blind model, and with the pork and bread and slaw and french fries sitting high in my stomach and the mason jar of beer in my blood, I decided to try to take a short nap. That is when the femme-lock was removed from my phone. I took off my clothes and pointed my belly toward the fan, and closed my eyes just as the phone rang. It was the model making sure I was coming at four. Yes, I said, I can't wait. It will be fun. I closed my eyes and began to drift when the iPad with the bluetooth speaker pinged. Everyone was on the Boulevard and wanted me to know. All the girls of a certain age with names like Brittany and Lyndsey, Ashley and Hailey and Maddison were out and taking selfies. I'm on the Boulevard, the texts would say. So is everyone else, I'd reply. That's because the weather is epic. It was a true statement. I was tired and sick and muddled, I thought, and I'm going to pick up a blind girl and go inside. I wondered about the wisdom of that, and I thought about the party that night to which I had yet to commit. A world of contrasts, I thought. It is human to choose.
She didn't live far from my little town, just on the outskirts where two busy highways intersected, just beyond that in a big collection of apartment buildings built like townhouses all painted light brown with dark brown trim, four apartments to a building, two up, two down, all alike going on and on with numbers on the side and arrows showing how the numbers ran. I pulled up to one with the correct number and sat for a minute waiting. I was a few minutes early. As I sat, I watched the blocks of apartments and the rows of cars remembering when I knew people who lived in such places, friends who worked in gas stations and convenience stores, three or four sharing a place, trying to make rent, often unable to afford a car or unable to afford insurance or unable to afford the repair that would make it run, cars with used or recapped tires. After a bit, I went to the door and knocked. A boy with long hair answered and said simply she's in the bathroom. She'll be right out. And then he closed the door. O.K. He was a slender, good looking boy with that visiage that said he was bored with life as he knew it, a life that was sucking all the vitality out of him. I went back to the car to wait, and I saw him step out onto the little screened porch to smoke a cigarette. He was talking to someone inside about the video game they were playing. Cigarettes and video games. The air was dead and quiet. People walked from their apartments to their cars. After ten minutes or so, she walked outside, and I saw she was arguing with her boy. He didn't tell me you were out here, she said. It was pretty much what I had guessed. Oh, she said to the boy, get the wedding dress. His mouth turned down and he closed the door. In a minute, he came back with a gorgeous vintage dress she had bought at a carport sale for two dollars. Oh, we'll have fun with that, I said. Now. . . tell me about yourself.
She was a Puerto Rican who had grown up in New York. Her father had died when she was four. She had no brothers or sisters. Watching her come out the door, I had wondered about the profundity of my decision. She stumbled about on her high heels obviously having trouble seeing. She wore cat eye glasses that were broken and taped and sat at a thirty degree angle on her face. She had big teeth and lots of gum and a kinda sorta lateral lisp. But she was a talker. How blind are you, I asked. I can't see anything without my glasses, she said. With them, I can't read that sign. It was a speed limit sign, and as we pulled up even with it, she said, now I can. But I wouldn't feel comfortable operating a big machine and putting people in danger, she said. Wise, I said. You are obviously a girl of good judgement. What happened to your eyes. I got pencil lead in my eye when I was seven. They can do an operation where they freeze one part of my retina and heat the other part, but I can't afford it. Like other young models who work and are faced with medical insurance choices, she began her dissertation on Obamacare and how some states don't recognize it and the changes in Medicaid, etc. She knew much more about this than any analyst I'd heard explain it on television. I've listened to many people who have to use it explain it now, and all I know is that what they are doing to people who need medical help is a true and horrible crime.
Does your boy have a car, I asked? He lost his license a few years ago. It was my fault. It was stupid. He was driving and he was holding my pipe and my weed, and when they pulled him over they found it and he said it was his. He got six months probation and lost his license. He can get it back now, but we are still in debt for the legal bills and everything we had to pay to the state. That's why my phone keeps getting turned off. I have to make sure we get that paid off and that we pay the rent. We just moved into this place two weeks ago. We were renting a room from a couple in their fifties and we thought they were nice, but I kept smelling something that smelled like weed and melting plastic, and I told my boyfriend that was some rank shit. It turned out they were smoking crack, so we moved out right away. I can't be around that shit any more. I'm not doing anything that gets me into trouble. I already messed up and he is paying for it. So neither of you have been able to drive for the last five years, I asked? No, she said. They took the bus everywhere. This new place is great because it only takes fifty minutes to get to work. Where we were before, it took an hour and a half and I had to walk thirty minutes to get to the bus stop.
She and her boyfriend had been together for five years. They both tried going to school, but things always got fucked up. They both worked with computers. She could see computer screens fine, she said. I looked at the tape on her broken glasses. The left lens was scratched all to hell. She kept talking. It was a defense against the world, I thought, as was her boyfriend's sullenness. There is a center, and there is a margin. There must be a theorem explaining it. It is inevitable and unacceptable. It just is.
And now I must skip ahead, for when she slipped into that old dress, when she began putting on her makeup mere inches from the mirror, when she began to move her hips and shoulders this way and that so utterly fantastically, everything transformed. Without her glasses, she couldn't see. She just was. You will see. You will see what I mean.
Of course I fall in love. Life is nothing but a heartbreak.
There was plenty of time to go to the party after the shoot. More than enough time. But I was done with stories and adventures that were real for the day. A little food, a little whiskey, a Xanax, and bed. That was just the thing to end such a day. What can a fellow do? It just goes on and on and on.
Posted by cafe selavy at 10:00 AM