HARKONNENDOG

Bookmark me or the Baron will pull my heart plug thingy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another CLOWN excerpt:

Chapter 29.

And then I called Kelly‘s cell phone. Kelly is the dude, everybody knows a person like this, who is always up for a party. They come in different variety’s: Lonely, Desperate (for a woman or a man), Cokehead, Xhead, et cetera. Kelly was the alcoholic variety. After the big earthquake I got drunk at his earthquake party. When he got fired I got drunk at his ‘I got fired’ party. When he got another job he threw a Kelly got a new job party. When he broke his pinky by slamming a car door on his hand, (it happens) he threw his “I’m a dumb ass party.” (Which was the best of them all because he re-enacted it for us on his other hand and sprained that one.)

“Hey, Kelly. It’s Clown.”

“Clown! Hey buddy, I was just going to call you to catch up with you. How you doing?”

Kelly was ‘just about to call’ everybody who called him.

“I’m good.” I didn’t want to say ‘I’m depressed and I’ll feel like hell if I don’t get drunk.’ I figured it wasn’t necessary.

“Alright! Hey, I was thinking about getting some drinks tonight at 1st Ave. What do you think?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“I don’t know, man. I’m a little short.” This next part is kind of- well, I’m not proud of it. I never had the money to go drinking, he always did. Every time I called him it was because I wanted to go clubbing or drinking and I always needed him to pay to do it. He never let me down, not once, even though I know he knew what was going on. All the always-up-for-a-party people are ridiculously lonely and I took advantage of Kelly. Anyway, like I said, this is honest.

“That’s okay bro, I’ll cover ya’!”

“Yeah?”

“Sure!”

“I don’t know when I’ll be able to pay you back, man.”

“Don’t worry about it, bro! I’m up and you’re down, and someday you’ll be up and I’ll be down, and then you can buy me drinks.” I figured Kelly’s down would involve detox and A.A. meetings. But he was right, I’d buy him all the coffee he could handle.

“Okay. Thanx, Kelly.”

“Where are you now?”

“I’m getting off work. I’m by the SAM.”

“I’m actually at 1st Ave. right now, buddy. I was actually thinking about having a few MORE drinks here. Get your ass down here!” Kelly is almost always at 1st Ave., that’s his bar. Which would be kind of crazy considering it is expensive as hell, except that Kelly is second generation rich. First generation rich has the money but wouldn’t spend it, second generation has the money and doesn’t think twice about spending it.

“Alright, bro,” I said. “Thanx,”

“Shut the fuck up and get DOWN HERE!”

“Okay.” I hung up and laughed. Kelly, for all that he is an alky flake, is maybe the most consistent person on the planet. Always up for a party, always as full of cheer as he is of shit.

First Ave. is a nice French restaurant with a beautiful bar right near the entrance. The bar itself is large enough for a dozen people and surfaced in burnished bronze. Bronze is easily scratched, even by the bottom of a martini glass or the texture of a roughly used rag. Light reflects up off of thousands of bronze swirls to play over people’s faces, dark hardwoods, and bottle after bottle of good, expensive liquor. First Ave. isn’t a drinker’s bar, it is a bar for people who know how to drink.

Before I started drinking with Kelly I drank Bud Lights or Red Bull and Vodkas if I was being social, and Wild Turkey shots if I preferred the active oblivion of drinker‘s nirvana. Kelly converted me into a Pilsner, Grey Goose Martini, and Maker’s Mark man.

When I walked in he was already scaring the women.

“Clown!” Kelly always yells and laughs abnormally loudly when he is drunk, which is almost always. I don’t know how his voicebox handles it. “Nancy this is my good friend Clown! But don’t let the name fool ya’!” Along with the voice comes the laugh. It is louder than the voice, and it belongs in a Kung-Fu movie. It sounds like this:

“HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”

It really does. Five separate, individually triumphant, booming HAs, one after the other, evenly spaced, nearly identical except for the last, which is a tad more triumphant than the rest.

“HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”

It is Kelly’s version of a ‘barbaric yawlp,’ a declaration of existence and self-love and independence and stuff like that. It is funny as hell.

“HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”

“Hi,” I said. I held out my hand.

Nancy was tall, in her mid-twenties, and plain. Dirty blonde. Too skinny, too pale (especially to be wearing a black business suit), too tired looking, and too above it all. I disliked her immediately. Her shake was limp and her skin was cold. She pulled her lips back in a lazy attempt at a half-ass smile.

“What are you drinking?” Kelly yelled into my ear.

It was only 5:20.

“Beer.”

“Mark!” Kelly yelled out. Mark was grinning at Kelly from three feet away across the bar. Nancy, Kelly and I were the only three people at the bar.

“Yes, Kelly?”

“A Pilsner for my buddy!”

I’d met Mark a few times and liked him a lot. I reached over the bar and shook his hand.

Chapter 30. Drunk

Mark’s a bartender. I mean he’s not some guy behind the bar. He’s bonafide. He’s a master of his trade, and it is one of the old and damn good ones. I don’t give the same amount of credit to all trades. I don’t give hardly any to lawyers. I give a hell of a lot to bartenders. They put up with drunken asses with a smile, defuse tension with a look, and say no to more drunken, begging women in a week, than an ordinary mortal says no or yes to in a lifetime. Bartenders rock. The guys behind the bars are dicks. You can tell the difference almost immediately, there are hundreds of signs.

Good bartenders use ice picks, bad ones use pre-crushed ice. I mean the ice doesn’t even stay in the drink, it is just to cool the glass or the shaker, but a good bartender will still eschew pre-crushed ice. A good bartender treats every worthy drink the way a geisha treats a tea ceremony: there’s a right and beautiful way to make a drink that has nothing to do with how much the drink costs; or whether or not the guy drinking it is too close to gakking to know the difference. Good bartenders are rare and wonderful. Mark is one such bartender.

He said: “Pilsner?”

I nodded and he poured it. A good bartender will put a little head on a beer too, so you get the flavor. Some bartenders worry that customers that don’t know anything about beer will be upset, thinking they’re getting screwed out of a tenth of a glass of beer. A good bartender has principles and will educate those people (even if they don’t want to be educated, he’ll convince them so gracefully that they neither know they’ve been chided nor resent it.)

He gave me a Pilsner and I decided to call Tamai before I started really drinking.

She wasn’t home so I said:

“Hey Tamai. Got my first beer here, drinking to ya’. Bummed you‘re not here. Hope Rebekah’s okay. I’ll give you a call later.”

I was bummed so I downed that beer pretty quick. Kelly was hitting on some girl who had just walked in and was waiting for her date to show up. Kelly’s technique, which he’s explained to me several times, boils down to this:

1. Act Like (his term) The Room’s Alpha Male: This involves the HA HA HA HA HA laughter, talking about how you’ll slap guys around if they’re not cool to the girl, and bragging about how many problems you have because you’re making so much money in business.

2. Approach Medium, Pretty, and Beautiful Women: Hanging with the mediums makes the prettys jealous, and hanging with prettys makes the beautifuls jealous.

3. Ask a girl for her number as long as she’ll keep talking to you and eventually the girl will wear down.

I don’t much care for his system, but credit where it is due, it works. But I think it works for the following two reasons:

1. He approaches every girl that walks into the bar. Eventually one that came to the bar fighting horrible loneliness or feeling fantastic horniness will walk in and say yes.

2. He keeps buying them drinks while he talks to them. They want the drinks and they like it that a guy is buying them drinks, and, hey, the drunker they get the better he looks.

But I also think some of the women say yes just because they are idiots and buy all the lies he sells. When Corrina and I were going out all these women used to look at me differently. The fact that Corrina was with me seemed to make them feel attracted to me. I asked Corrina about this and she said that, for a lot of women, a man with a sexy women on his arm is more attractive than a better looking man with nobody.

Women. Go figure. If an ugly women walked into a bar with a good looking guy I would NOT think the woman was pretty. I’d think the guy had bad taste or no nerve... duh. Just one more way in which women are... well, let’s say different, instead of some of the other words that come to my mind.

Kelly is the guy I was talking about earlier when I mentioned how some guys take girls home and then brag about how they glued their eyes shut or “triple dipped” ’em, in case you haven’t figured it out.

I watched Kelly until the girl’s date came in. He apologized, (not Kelly to the guy, Kelly just sort of stepped away, the date-guy to the girl for being late) and she said it was cool but that she didn’t feel like staying at 1st Ave. He said okay and they left. Then she ran back in to grab her cigarettes, which I guess she left on purpose, because she gave Kelly a business card.

The moment she was outside half the guys in the bar (that means one other guy and Kelly himself, the other half that didn’t cheer being Mark and I) cheered Kelly.

He sidled up to me:

“Yup. You seen that, dawg.”

I shook my head with mock admiration. I hadn’t cheered for him, but hell, he did get the number.

“She was pretty hot,” I said.

“Yup. But she’d look BETTER WITH MY DICK IN HER MOUTH! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!.”

Mark said:

“Kelly, cool it. It is a little early to be yelling about your dick being in women’s mouths. The restaurant is still open.”

Kelly: “Oh, my bad, dawg.”

I downed the rest of my drink. When I feel bad about using and being two faced with Kelly I think about how he uses and is two faced with women. “Mark,” I said, “I would like a Maker’s on ice, another Pilsner back, and a dozen oyster shots. If you please.” That’s about 40 bucks at 1st Ave.

“Okay,” Mark said. “You want to start a tab?”

“Kelly” I said, “can you hook a brother up? I heard you telling that girl you made some big deals this week. Spread the wealth.”

Kelly: “Of course, dawg. Anything you want, all night long.”

“I’m going to get messed up tonight, Kelly. Oblivous. Just FYI.”

“ME TOO! HA! HA! HA! HA HA!”

Chapter 31. Kelly.

I got the drinks and the food and started getting drunk. It didn’t take long to get there. Used to be I’d get a little drunk and be, like-

“Alright now I’m ready to DRINK.”

And I’d drink ‘till I was asleep, puking, or some nasty mix of the two. Such over over-indulgence is frowned upon at 1st Ave., and now I get drunk enough to be, like-

“Alright, now I’m ready to drink. But I won’t. I’ll enjoy this high.”

And I do. Really things are so much more fun that way, you know?

But not getting oblivious-idiot drunk has its own dangers. When you’re wasted you’re yourself but you’re different enough from yourself that you notice different things. Non-drunk me might see a nice looking woman, but notice her ring, and so not take the time to appreciate her. Drunk me wouldn’t notice the ring and so would appreciate her. Drunk or sober I wouldn’t do a married woman if I knew she was married, I mean I’m still basically the same person. But, drunk, I see her differently.

So I’m looking at Kelly as the night goes by, and he’s running his game on men and women, just trying to make himself look good all night, and all the stuff I usually remember I forget. And Kelly became the nastiest thing to me. Sober, I’d bitched at him and made fun of him but he was a friend so I never thought about why. But, drunk, I saw everything. Every moment of Kelly’s day is spent selling an image of himself.

And it’s a good thing I wasn’t too drunk, because you know how when you want to work something complicated out you tell it to a friend? You think aloud to get it clear? I wasn’t drunk enough to do that. I almost did it, using Mark. But I realized how mean it would have been, so I had a dialogue with myself.

Me:

Pay attention dude; this is a big deal. It is one thing to sell who you are. We all do it. We all want to be liked so we try to let people know who we are, hoping they’ll like us. Not Kelly. Kelly hates himself, so he sells something he ISN’T because he wants to be liked. Ya’ dig?

Other Me:

(Raises his right eyebrow.)

Me:

Well, okay, maybe it isn’t that uncommon, and maybe we all do it a little bit. I mean we all put our best foot forward. The thing is, at some point, a decent person shows the truth because that’s who they are and why would you want someone to like someone you’re not who they think is you? I mean what’s the profit on it?

Other Me:

(No real reaction at all.)

Me:

He doesn’t even think it is wrong when he knows he’s lying. He’s talked himself into it to the point where he thinks lying is a form of magnanimity. He thinks that, if you think it is important to tell the truth, you’re anal, so lying actually shows you’re a good person because it means you’re not petty!!! And he thinks we all, like, all lie so much, that if you consistently lie then you’re being more honest because you are consistent so people never believe you, whereas a person who only lies once in a while can convince someone a lie is the truth!

Other Me:

Easy now... Don’t forget to breathe.

Me:

(Deep breath.) So an honest man is petty and deceitful but a liar is generous and honest! Don’t you see it!?!?

Other Me:

Keep it coming, this might be Epic worthy if you work on it.

Me:

Okay. But then here’s the kicker. Here’s the sick part. Kelly sells it to himself. That’s why he’s drunk all the time, because otherwise he can’t maintain the illusion. You see? You see how fucked up that is?

Other Me:

Okay, that’s all good. But--- wait, you’re pretty much done, right?

Me:

Yeah, man.

Other Me:

Okay, don’t take this personal or nothin, but, if you’re going to sit there and think this kind of shit about him maybe you shouldn’t be drinking his money up.

Me:

Well . . . Okay, fuck you. I don’t need you anymore ‘cause I’m not going to worry about it anymore. Buh-bye.

Other Me:

Are you going to keep dri---

Me:

BUH-BYE...

That was it. I wanted to drink so I stopped thinking about it.

I think about that now and I think it was pretty dangerous. I figured Kelly was an ass so it was okay for me to use him. And maybe, metaphysically or whatever, it was. But from a selfish perspective I was only hurting myself. I was saying Kelly is an asshole so I’m not an asshole if I’m being an asshole to him. It doesn’t fly. If I’m being an asshole, (of the user variety, in this case) I’m being as asshole, right? That’s the trouble with hanging out with people you don’t admire because you can get stuff from them. Pretty soon what you’re getting from them is their personality. Anyway, the way things worked out I don’t think it mattered.

Chapter 32. Jeff and Joe.

I called Tamai again, to get my mind going in another direction, but she didn’t answer again. I was already pretty drunk so I just said:

“WHASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUPPP??????” and hung up.

Then I called back and said “That was me, Clown.”

Then I called back and said “ Just F.Y.I.”

Then I started to call back but realized that was as cool as I was going to get phone message wise, so I put the phone away.

It was weird that she wasn’t home. It was just after ten o’clock. I wondered for a second if maybe her kids were really sick and considered calling her back to express that but vetoed the idea. Then Jeff and Joe walked in. Jeff is my fratboy friend. He’s Kelly’s friend, actually, or at least we met through Kelly, but I dig him ‘cause he’s funny. His last name is Cwacklefugen. Seriously. He goes about 5 foot 6 inches, 150 pounds soaking wet. Imagine Charlie Brown grown up and with a perverted but great sense of humor. That’s Kwak, as his fratboy friends call him.

Joe is about 6 foot 3, 260 pounds, solid. He’s my pro football friend, well, actually, I met him through Kwak, but I dig him too. He used to play linebacker for the Seahawks. Joe grew up in Compton, California, and Kwak grew up in some suburb I don’t know the name of, but if I did it wouldn’t matter. It was just a white boy Northwest suburb, which is like saying it was a white boy white boy suburb. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying you can’t get much farther from Compton, California than WhiteboyGate, Washington.

They’re a weird combination. Big and small, short and tall, black and white. Then when they start talking you see it. It is all about the humor.

“Clown!” Jeff says. “Whatssup, slice, haven’t seen ya’.”

Joe says, “Hey Clown, how’ya doin’?”

“Good, good.”

Jeff: “Yo Marky-Mark!” Mark smiles and spreads his arms open. “Yeah,” Jeff says, “see if you can call The Funky Bunch over, and, uh, oh yeah, beers for the boys.”

Mark starts pouring and Jeff slams me on the shoulder. Little Jeff’s super physical, and he‘s a drunk-puncher, likes to punch your shoulder when he‘s drunk, whereas Joe doesn’t touch, ever. Once Jeff punched Joe’s shoulder like five times and finally Joe flicked his ear. Jeff jumped around in a circle yelling “ow! holy shit! that hurts like hell! ow!” and such for like a minute. But it didn’t cure him of drunk-punching permanently.

Jeff to me: “What you been up to, bitch?”

“I don’t know, man, writing.”

Jeff to Joe: “You know this fag writes poetry?”

Joe: “Nah. He does?”

Me to Jeff: “Fag?”

Jeff to me: “Yeah. You write poetry, right?” And he and Joe crack up. I know, it isn’t funny. But they both crack up.

Jeff: “No, seriously. That’s like his life. Writing poetry.”

Long pause . . . and then Jeff and Joe just bust out laughter again. The absurdity of my life’s choice amuses them.

Jeff: “No, man. I respect that. Follow your dream, right? Most people give up on their dreams when they’re still kids and shit, right? That reminds me . . . Did you blow bubble’s when you were a kid?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Jeff: “Yeah, well, he got back in town last week, he wants your new number.”

And they both die laughing, again. They went to some U.W. fraternity together. I guess that’s what people at these fraternities do, is develop an appreciation for this type of humor. Then, I guess they grow out of it.

Usually.

Chapter 33. Priest.

You never expect to see a priest in a bar, but First Ave. has a semi-regular priest. He’s 35, but a really young 35. Smooth skin from the clean living, I guess. I don’t know his name, I just always thought of him as Priest. He told me his name a few times but I never remembered it. I’d avoid him because I didn’t want to go “Hey- man...” to a priest.

I didn’t know why I never liked him. He’s always got a nice smile, he never seemed judgmental or anything. He came in one night and Kelly started schmoozing him like Kelly does everybody, and next thing you know Kelly was going to Priests’ church’s Sunday picnics and Priest was coming to First Ave. for a couple of glasses of vino and the occasional port. He’s cool, I guess. I just don’t get it. Shouldn’t he be full of God’s love? Why would he be in a bar? I only go drinking when I’m dead inside. If Priest gets dead inside what’s that tell you?

So I started thinking about killing him. Again, don’t ask me how it actually happens. I don’t know the trigger. I just started thinking about how it would be a lesser sin to kill a priest because you almost know he’s going to heaven. Which is kind of weird. It tossed everything upside down. Suddenly it was better for me to kill a good person rather than a bad one.

If I killed a bad one I’d be hurrying them to hell, and even stopping them from maybe changing their ways, whereas if I killed a good one then I’d be hurrying them to heaven, and maybe stopping them from becoming evil and going to hell. And if you think of it that way it’s just a damn good thing to murder good people. And then, I guess I was pretty drunk, I started thinking that the Romans that starved the lions so they’d eat the Christians in the Coliseum were the BEST people. I mean if you kill a good person they go to heaven, but if you give a bunch of people a chance to recant their belief in God and THEN kill them for saying no, you make saints. So the lion keepers, or, I guess the Roman governors, were actually the best people ever.

Part of me felt this was crazy talk, so when I noticed Priest had come in I decided to ask him about it. Kelly was hitting on some woman and nobody there really talks to him except Kelly, so he was just sitting alone on a barstool, with his elbows on the bar and a glass of white wine cupped in both hands. I walked up to him and clapped him on the shoulder. “Hey- man...” I said.

I sat down next to him. “Hi, Clown,” he said. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Lemme ask ya’, no offense?” I raised my eyebrows.

He smiled. “Okay.”

“Do you think a priest’s life is worth more than other peoples’?”

“No, Clown. Do you?”

“I mean to God. Not to me.”

“No. I don’t think God values my life more than other peoples’ lives, Clown. Do you think God does?”

“I don’t know. But, I mean, there’s got to be a scale right? Not like a weight scale.” I spread my arms wide until I whacked some lady walking out right across her breasts with the back of my hand. I looked over and said “Oh shit.” She was with a big, mean looking man.

Before she could even say anything Priest goes:

“I’m so sorry. We were having a theological discussion and my friend was just using his hands to express something. I hope you’ll excuse us.”

Situation diffused. The big, mean looking man gave me a little look and they walked out.

“Thanks, Priest,” I said. And then I was like ‘Oh, shit, I called Priest Priest out loud.’

“Okay.”

“Right. Right right right. I didn’t mean to-”

“What were you going to say?”

“What?”

“About a scale?”

“Oh!” I put my hands out but Priest, deftly is the only word I can think of, grabbed both of them and pushed one so it went up and the other down, rather than sideways. I said, “Okay, cool. This works better anyway. So a good man’s here,” I said, and held my right hand above my head. “And a bad one‘s here, well, no, a bad one’s like in the basement, okay? So that kind of scale, not a bathroom scale, right?”

“All right.” He took a sip of his wine.

“So if we’re equally good people, just for example, you and I, aren’t you still way more likely to get to heaven?”

I was drunk. Like I keep saying, I’m not trying to look good here. I’m just telling you what happened as I remember it. The way I remember it, I was an idiot. More so than usual.

“You’re saying God likes me more because I do his work?”

“Yeah.”

“As opposed to a person who is equally holy in all other ways, but does not seek to bring others to God?”

“Yeah. Fucking- excuse me, I’m sorry, but fucking exactly. Thank you.”

“I want you to imagine your scale stretches from the center of the earth to the moon, all right?”

“Yeah.” I was nodding. I was into it.

“Now look at my finger nail.”

“Okay.”

“Not even that much, Clown. There’s not even that much difference. If there’s any difference at all. The scale is so massive that, if there is a difference, it really isn’t worth thinking about.”

I took a really deep breath and tried to absorb what he’d said. I couldn’t, my mind went blank. I nodded. I didn’t want to look stupid. I kind of understood that what he’d said was very important to me, but I could not compute it. It wouldn’t work. If Priest had waited another minute maybe things would have turned out differently. He waited, I’d guess for a full thirty seconds or so, which is a very long time to wait in the middle of a conversation, but it wasn’t long enough.

He goes:

“Do you know what grace is?”

And that was it. Suddenly I figured out why I didn’t like him. It was because I kept on expecting him to try to sell me his product. And he just had. I dismissed everything he’d said to me. I nodded and smiled, but for me he was just a car salesman. I said:

“Hey, man, I’ve gotta use the bathroom.”

He smiled and said “Okay.”

Walking to the bathroom I decided Priest was just like Kelly. They were both always selling. I mean if you talked to Kelly you never talked to him because he was a person trying to sell you Kelly. You never talked to the real person, only to the salesman. Every word he said was calculated to make you like him. And I figured it was the same with Priest. You don’t ever stop being a priest, right? I mean you can’t put it down, like a miner puts his helmet down, after a hard day. So every word he said to me was calculated to save my soul or whatever. What a dick.

(I know I’m not supposed to be making excuses and stuff, but, I was drunk. Still, that’s what I thought, so that’s what I thought.)

When I came back out Priest was talking to Kelly and Jeff. He was telling some joke about The Pope. I can’t remember the actual joke, all I remember is that he said “JP3.”

“What’s JP3?” I asked.

Kelly and Jeff and Joe looked at me like I was an idiot.

“John Paul the Third,” Priest says. Which cracked me up. Even the priests in Seattle have to be cool. Why had I even bothered to ask this dude anything?

Priest turned to me after a few minutes and handed me a card. “That’s my personal number, Clown. If you want to talk some more please call me. Anytime.”

“Okay.” I said it like I was surprised, like nothing was wrong in my life. Why would I want to call?

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah. I just, you know, it is something I’m working on for The Epic.”

“Oh. Alright. Anyway, call anytime. Anytime.” He shook my hand and said goodbye to everybody and left. I checked my watch. It was 11:00. That was an important time for me because the last buses to the U district from downtown stopped running around midnight. I had three choices.

A.. stay and drink and crash at Kelly’s, or

B. stay and drop twenty dollars for a cab at 2:00 a.m. when the place shut down, or

C. leave and get a bus for home.

I decided to call Tamai.

She answered this time, but it was weird.

“Hey,” I sad.

“Hey.”

“How you doing?”

“Fine. It is eleven o’clock.”

“Oh.”

“My kids are sleeping.”

“Are they okay?”

“Yes. Goodbye.”

Click.

If you’ve heard that particular click you know how much it hurt. It said I had messed up big time, that a petty thing like calling her late was a reason for her to be a bitch to me. Which meant she didn’t care for me nearly as much as I thought she had, which meant I was an asshole and an idiot for hoping for so much. I’d miscalculated and now I’d have to feel a lot of pain for it.

I said aloud: “Fuck. I fucking hate myself. No. I hate women. Mark! My brother!”

“What can I get you?” Mark asked.

“I’m going to get drunk drunk drunk. Cool?”

“You driving?”

“Nope.”

“You crashing at Kelly’s?”

“Kelly?!?” I yelled.

“YO!”

“Can I crash at your place?”

“YEAH! BUT I WON’T FUCK YA’! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!”

“Cool,” Mark said. “What’ll you have?”

“I don’t want to pass out, though,” I said.

“Red Bull and Vodka? Caffeine’ll keep you awake, Vodka will keep you drunk?”

I thought that this was a trick question. Drunks are always sure they’re catching people being crafty. I responded to his gambit with one of my ow.

“I don’t want vodka. How ‘bout Makers?”

Mark frowned down at me. There was no way he was going to put Red Bull in with Maker’s Mark.

“Okay,” I said. “How about just some Red Bull. And a glass of Maker‘s Mark after?”

Mark looked at me, thought about it, and nodded. “Can do.” He filled a glass with ice and Red Bull and handed it to me. “Here you go, cowboy.”

I yelled “Misogyny!” and downed the glass.

Chapter 34. Female.

“You like that?” Mark asked.

“It was cold. It’s okay.”

“Well, it’ll keep you up for sure.” He leaned over the bar and emptied a last gulp from the can into my glass. I swished the glass and drank again. I said: “Makers Mark?”

He looked at me, and then I guess he decided to really get me drunk. Here’s what happened next, as well as I can remember.

He gives me a glass of ice and bourbon, about half as full as normal. He says, “Okay, here we go. You’ve got Makers Mark in there. That’s smooth. Lot of caramel and sugar flavor there. Your drink, and I like that too.”

And I drink it down. It is wonderful. I order another.

“You ever tried Knob Creek?” he asks.

“‘Zit good?”

“My favorite.”

“Knob Creek Manhattan then!”

I don’t like it as much. It isn’t as sweet, nor as smooth. I comment. He says:

“Okay, here we go.” And he pours me like a half a shot of bourbon in a shot glass, “That’s Makers Mark. Again, a great brand. Now this,” and he pours me like half a shot of bourbon in another shot glass- “is Knob Creek. Knob Creek is my favorite. Made by the same people who make JB. Try that.”

I taste the Makers. Very smooth and sweet. Just a little piece of heaven that has been concentrated so much it is sin. I like it. Then I try the Knob Creek. And Knob Creek has more bite. A little bit of hell in a glass, but concocted so it is heavenly. I really don’t like it as much. I like the Makers Mark.

And then he says “Okay, and now we’re going to another level. We’re going to the highest rung on the ladder.” He hands me another half full shot glass. “That’s a barrel bourbon.”

“Uh huh?”

“Bourbons are cut with water to make them a hundred proof. That’s 132 proof. Try.”

It was ridiculous. It was tastier than the Makers and burned more than the Knob Creek. It was incredible. I felt like I was drinking the sweat off God’s brow. I was drunk.

The thing about those caffeine drinks is you can’t pass out. You can’t. No matter how drunk you are.

A trio came in: one guy, one cute girl, one big girl. I saw and assessed the situation: Third wheel lonely. Less attractive than her best friend jealous. Past midnight on Saturday, lonely. There were only two things that could happen. When I approached she’d either be a bitch to look good in front of her friends or she’d take me home to feel good about herself and look good to her friends. But the approach would decide it.

They sat down with the Pretty Girl in the middle, so that she would either have to talk to her man or her girl friend. Then Pretty Girl kind of angled herself away from her girl friend. He’d be getting the attention tonight so this was a true third wheel situation. She turned my way and I took a sip of my drink, met her eyes and smiled. She did a little double take thing and sort of smiled as she looked away.

I moved down the bar and sat next to her. She acted like she didn’t notice.

I said, “Hi.”

“Hi.”

“You know what’s nice about being drunk?”

“What?”

“You still feel the same way about things, but because you’re drunk you’re not afraid to say how you feel.”

I can’t express how difficult this was to get out. The extraordinary concentration. The mental fatigue I fought off. When you’re drunk or stoned time either goes faster or slower than normal, and time was going so slow while I said that sentence that I could barely remember what I was trying to say from one word to the next. It actually came out all right, though.

“Oh, yeah?” She says.

“Yeah. Take you. You walk in here, and I see you, but ordinarily I wouldn’t say what I think about you, you know?”

At this her friend turns around. She’s been listening in. And her friend’s boyfriend, a hippie looking skinny dude, looks at me uneasily. She, her friend, and her friend’s boyfriend all think I’m going to say she’s fat. I say:

“I think you’re fucking money. I think you’re beautiful. I could never tell you if I wasn’t drunk, but I can still see you even though I’m drunk, you know? That‘s the beauty of it.”

She‘s thinking . . . thinking . . . her friends are watching, and finally she says: “That was a bad line.”

“No- what’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Don’t do that, okay? Don’t be all cool with me. Don’t reject me so I can’t do it to you. If you do that we both lose. I’m being honest with you.”

“All right.”

“I’m being sincere.”

“Okay.”

I introduced myself to her friends then, and then I called Kelly over. I told Kelly I was going to buy them drinks and he, of course, insisted on getting everybody’s drinks. I acted surprised.

I asked Mark for another barrel bourbon, on ice, but a double, and decided I was pretty much in. From that point forward I would just keep my mouth shut, not stretch it for a while. I drank and talked to the girl. Mostly I listened to her and her friends. After a certain point I leaned in and whispered “you’re beautiful,” and kissed her. I could barely keep my eyes open. She could’ve just let me kiss her mouth, like not returned it, or turned away, but she kissed me back. She rose up into me.

I don’t remember much after that, except the actual sex. It was rough, unsatisfying. I couldn’t finish because I was so drunk, and after a while she was just wishing I’d get off her. She waited until I came, though, which was nice.

3 Comments:

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