This is how you celebrate the end of a comeback tour, not how you should. Three days of performing left me drained. I hadn't an ounce of energy left for grocery shopping and cooking. A big Chicken Guy sandwich and a bottle of Nobilo as the final text reviews poured in. Day Three of the Revenge Tour was. . . well. . . surprising.
After a dull performance on Day Two, I was less than thrilled to pick myself up and do it all again. I had truly forgotten how exhausting a day away from home can be. Don't worry, though. It isn't for most people, I don't think, just those of us who have become homeboy/housebound in the years of declension. I'm sure, Dear Reader, you'll be fine. Indeed, C.C. has never stopped. Q is on constant vacation. Travis goes all the time.
It is simply me and my ilk.
Reluctantly, I got myself together for my one o'clock appointment. No monkey suit this time. Shorts, my one new cowboy hiker button up from REI, and the pair of Chuck's Sky told me to buy. I threw a t-shirt and my flops in the car to change into for Part II which was at a bar.
I was late, of course, in leaving the house, but that it usual and would be expected by the factory crowd. And, indeed, when I got to the factory building where I thought the party was, I couldn't find it. The party. How do you not find a party? I searched three of the four floors before I gave up. I stopped and asked befuddled people, "Where's the party?" They looked at me like I was an idiot. But one girl DID run out of her office as I was about to descend the stairs and shouted, "I like your shoes!" You think I kid. I was flabbergasted. I should have asked her what she thought of cargo shorts, which, of course, I had not worn.
I gave up. I had left my phone in the car and was heading back to look up the invitation. I hardly ever have my phone. Other people seem to always have theirs. Where do they put it? If I carried mine, I'd lose it three days out of four.
On the way to the car, I saw someone who should have been at the party already.
"Where in the hell is the party?" I asked her. It was on the one floor I had not checked.
I walked in and got an immediate ovation. Nice. I could work the room. Could. And would. And did. But the room was big. I sat down. The room would have to come to me. My friend, the bruja in training came over to sit with me. I asked her about concoctions, then about spells. Did she do spells? With a gleam in her eye and a slight grin, she nodded. "Maybe."
"Can you remove a spell? I think I have had some bad ju-ju cast upon me."
She knew what I was talking about. But she also knows I am an unbeliever, so. . . . Still, we talked about poppy seeds, somniferum, specifically. She has made me one vile of poppy juice before. She is my friend.
An artist I have helped out before stopped by. He is a painter of some repute. He asked me if I was still making photographs. I explained I had given up the studio. He had been there in the past. I had done some favors for him there before. What he really wanted to know is how much I would charge him to make photo reproductions of his paintings. I tried quickly to do this once. It is not a thing to be done quickly. The lighting has to be perfectly flat. The camera plane has to be perfectly level with the artwork or the image will be distorted. He told me that the woman who usually does it for him has gotten too busy. What would my rate be? He knows me. I did portraits of him for one of his museum shows before. I charged him nothing since he is a colleague.
"Reproduction work is not really my gig. Let me try to do it first and see. If it sucks, you don't want to feel the need to give me money."
I need to find out what his other photographer was charging. I won't do it for free anymore.
When we were done, one of "our group," a pretty woman I know but not intimately, leaned against me and with warm breath whispered in my ear, "I'm getting a divorce. You know that, right?"
"How would I know that? I didn't even know you were married."
The second part of that was a joke, of course. I knew she was married, though I've never met her husband.
Her breath was very warm. She said we'd talk later.
The retirement speeches were mercifully brief. People were anxious to move to the bar. Some, anyway. That factory group that always does. I told them I would meet them there, but first I had something to do. I wanted to see the art gallery.
I'll make a long story short, though I know I could make it scintillating. It turns out I am the new photography prof. I agreed. . . tentatively. There are details to work out, but yea . . . they want me on my terms. There are advantages other than the money.
I got to the bar late. The crowd was spread out among the outdoor tables. Always a dilemma. I would have to choose. As I walked up, a woman with long blonde hair, tight jeans, and boots looked me up and down, drilled me with her eyes, smiled and said "Hello." I stumbled a bit. Did I know her? Was she from the factory, some department I didn't know? I smiled and helloed her back. When I got to the bar, I asked my friend, "Who is that woman?"
"I don't know," she said. "I think she is a rep."
That made some sense. A salesperson smile. Still. . . .
I sat at the outside bar. That is where I planted myself. I didn't move. My former secretary came over and sat with me. She is attractive and half the people believe we had an affair. They are wrong. She loves me deeply, but not that way. I've seen her through some very rough times, and there is a connection. People came, people chatted. My newly divorced friend stopped by. Everyone wanted to give her drunken advice. I told her they were all full of shit.
"Don't listen to them. Nobody knows anything. Getting divorced is terrible, I know. Are you going to date? Are you going to use a dating app? Don't use a dating app. But only date very young boys. Tell them up front that they have one month, that you want to have fun. If you are each happy at the end of a month, you have the option to re-up. But don't commit. Just use them up. They will like it and it will be good for them."
"Have you really never asked a woman out on a date?"
"Not the first one. It is well known."
I didn't tell her I turned most date offers down.
"Incredible insecurity, maybe. You've been married, so you might have forgotten. But what percent of date proposals do women accept? It isn't high. What am I supposed to do, raise my hand and ask if it is my turn? No thanks. I try to avoid rejection."
I was looking at her legs. Good god, they were beautiful. She wore a top with straps. Her arms were strong, not an untoward ounce on them. She will have no trouble getting asked out. None. Zippo. I thought about that, how many bad dates there would be. Who wants to date? Dating is awful. I tried it once. It was torture. You know nothing about one another, so you play twenty questions. Some of the answers are off. You may not like the way the other person laughs. You try, though. You make allowances. If you are a woman, you know the score, I think, to use a tired cliche. Are you curious enough to sleep with him? You see the desirous gleam in his eye. Maybe. You order another drink. The next day, you don't want to remember the night before. He'll call. You won't answer. He'll leave a message. You will call back using the voice of a formal stranger. You make excuses. Not this week. God, you are soooo busy. Yes, you say, you'll let him know.
What I don't tell her is that I am an emo, that all I want to do is snuggle with my own true love. I don't tell her that, and she refuses to believe that I am shy. Oh, I say, I'm a wallflower. She says no, she knows me. I am confident. I am bold. I want to say thank you, I'll be performing here the rest of the week. What I do tell her is that all of that is an act. She wobbles on her lovely heels. Someone has her by the arm. I look at my secretary who is grinning.
"Would you want to date her?" she asks.
I laugh. "What do you mean by 'date'?"
She laughs, too.
I am told a secret, something that, if it happens, will shake up the factory dynamics. I can't say, but it could resonate for me, too. A woman comes to confide to me about her life, her husband. They sleep in separate bedrooms now. Another of my friends has gotten divorced and tells me she has a new boyfriend. I've not been part of this for so very, very long. I'd forgotten what people are like when they are drinking. My buddy tells me that the pretty Asian woman I was asking about said she wanted to talk to me, but I would have to go sit with her.
"Is that her baby?"
"No. She's a nanny."
I don't know whether to believe him or not.
The clock moves slowly but steadily. The drinks seem to be going down more quickly. I've always had two rules about these kind of meetups. Never drink too much around the people you work with, and never be the last one at the party. It was past dinner time. I was leaning toward the car.
"You haven't seen my new Jeep," my secretary said. "You want to see my new Jeep?"
I began to say my goodbyes. It always takes awhile. My secretary stayed by my side, walked me away. Sure as shitting, tongues would wag. She was looking hot in her torn jeans. A fellow who she might have had an affair with ran up to say goodbye.
White Jeep. I looked at the tires. "Do you know how much these will cost you to replace? You'll be asking your daddy. . . . "
"Oh, he had to help me buy this. It was seventy grand!"
I already knew she didn't buy this on her secretary salary. I hope my old Xterra keeps running. How do people afford to buy new cars? I'm fretting over the prices of electric bikes.
We hugged and told each other, "I love you." It is true in a safe way. I miss that.
Three miles down the road I got a text. I smiled. I told Siri to text back that I was driving.
"Drive safe. Let me know when you get home."
I was grinning. The show was over, and I was drained. When I got home, I would sit down and eat my chicken sandwich. I would drink as much wine as I wanted. The cat would be there. I would feed her and we would talk. When that was done and the sky was darkening, I would tell her goodnight and pour a scotch. Then I would text. There would be more than I expected.
"You never even said hi."
"Uh. . . did you?"
"I couldn’t get through the hoards of people! I was trying to wink at you all day,"
The phone would ring. It would be a woman. I would talk to her as I tried to respond to the text that were streaming in.
"You need to take more chances. You'd have more fun."
Yea, yea, yea. I was overstimulated, overexcited. The curvy smoothness of those legs, the warmth of whispered things. I was a photography prof. WTF? Nothing would come of any of it, I was sure. I know the world, the way things go. But goddamn. . . it had been something.
I was worn to the bone. There was one more thing. Tomorrow I had my beauty appointment. It would be Cinco de Mayo. My little Russian Jew texted that we would have to share a margarita.
I woke too early this morning. I was remembering things. The tour. Today would seem empty. I would surely feel lonely. I didn't expect any more texts this day. The mania was over, I thought, for everyone.
But yesterday had been something. It sure was fun.