incredibly loud and extremely drunk

Any time one starts drinking before noon, the time-space continuum goes into an odd state of expedited flux. The passage of hours starts normally but the intermittent seconds composing that passage of time become increasingly shortened with each new round of spirits ordered and imbibed.

The level of flirtation between me and Shelly was also increasing in direct proportion to the volume of our conversation, which was being amplified by the string of whiskey and vodka drinks making their way to our table. Our laughter was increasing in occurrence and decibel. It’s amazing how amusing booze can make the world sparkle. Shelly then left her seat to put her long, sexy body next to mine on the bench seat against the window. Our thighs were touching and we had begun the play of hands emphasizing points on hands and arms, with each emphasis lingering a little longer. We were two magnets, being pulled into one another at a snail’s pace by a force we were unable to contest.

I could see a wayward glance from other patrons who were either eavesdropping on our conversation that fluctuated between the conspiratorial whispers of two people bound to become lovers and the full-frontal flirtatious laughing of two people enjoying the afternoon. I was leaning into Shelly’s ear, telling her about the time Ike brought hookers into my house, when two things occurred. The first was a lone man was seated next to us and the second was the phone in my bag that was sitting between us and the newly seated man began to ring.

Normally, I shy away from ostentation but on a rare occasion something pimpalicious catches my eye and I add it to my personal quiver. My phone is just such a thing. I have a gold handset – a YUBZ gold handset that attaches to my mobile. It is by far the most pimp thing I own. When I reached into my bag to retrieve my phone and pulled out the handset, Shelly began snorting with laughter and immediately cupped her hand over her mouth. Her snort however, was heard round the bar.

Her snort made me laugh as well and in the midst of my laughter I didn’t even check to see who was calling me. I just answered it to find Ike on the other end.

“Yo, sport, where you at?”

“Oh – hey Ike. I’m just out writing.”

I looked over at Shelly and raised one eyebrow to which she responded by making an astonished face of her own.

“It sounds kind of loud for writing, sport. You in a bar?”

“Yeah, Ike, I’m at a bar and I’m with a beautiful young lady who I need to get back to immediately.”

“Right, where are you guys? I’ll join you”

“Not going to happen buddy – entertain yourself.”

There was a pregnant silence on the other end.

“Fine, sport, be a dick. I am just going to head to Easy Street for their bloody mary bar. See ya later.”

Before I could interject he had hung up the phone. I thought about calling him back immediately and telling him not to come here but that would have only made his resolution to come here all the firmer. At least by not letting him know we were here, he might end up changing his mind.

I was staring at the screen on my phone mindlessly when Shelly asked me if everything was okay. I smiled and told her it was fine but that we might have company at some point.

Then the guy next to me asked if he could see my phone. I looked at him for the first time and realized it was Lenny Kravitz.

I immediately said sure and I disconnected the handset from the phone and went to hand him my iPhone but he stopped me.

“No, brother, I mean the handset.”

I laughed and handed over my pimpalicious gold handset.

“Where did you get this?”

“I ordered it online from YUBZ.”

Lenny looked at up at me,”From where?”

“It’s called YUBZ – like Why you busy – but it Y, U, B, Z.”

“Oh. Very cool, man, very cool.”

He then handed me my phone back and thanked me. I smiled at him and put it away. When I looked back toward Shelly, she kissed me softly on the lips. She was a fantastic kisser with lips that felt like they melted into mine.

I had just sort of met Lenny Kravitz and then made out with a beautiful woman so I really wasn’t upset when Ike came walking up to our table.

Advertisements

break fast, break hard

I ran through all the things I might say to Shelly that could either account for or contribute to the reason I left Los Angeles. I speak of LA the way a man might speak of a beautiful woman he loved once in his past. It is that tenderness and longing that cut through any attempts I make to mask the fact that I am a fish out of water.

I looked down and noticed I was unconsciously playing with my glass, spinning it slowly with my fingers. My gaze brought Shelly’s down to the glass as well and then she looked up at me again with her explosively mischievous smile.

“Oh my god! You’re really uncomfortable discussing how you got here! Now I am really intrigued.”

Fantastic. I have managed to pique her curiosity on a topic I wasn’t even yet comfortable discussing with myself. How do I talk to an extremely sexy stranger about the misgivings, the wildness, the desperation and the Caligula style overindulgences that drove me away from my home? I obviously didn’t fully have my own head around it.

I took a deep breath and laughed to myself. “Look, leaving LA was really hard to do but I was drowning under a sea of shit of my own making. I had surrounded myself with drama and gotten involved with a bunch of people and a bunch of things that really mired me in a gray world of blah. I sometimes choose my friends poorly and…”

I was about to expound upon the idea of choosing poorly when a different server, not Heidi, came over to refill our water glasses. Out of a habit bred from my tendency to have salacious and surreptitious conversations, I often pause when wait staff approaches the table. I looked up this time to see the girl I had been talking to last night when I decided to bail and leave her and her friend with Ike. She smiled at Shelly as she refilled her glass and then looked at me. I had my eyes on lockdown, hoping she wouldn’t recognize me. Hope is a shitty thing.

“Holy fuckers, it’s you – Mr. Houdini! Where did you go last night?”

I had to look up now. “I went home. I just hit that wall.”

“Well, good for you. I hope your friend Ike hits a wall too, hard. Tell him to go fuck himself for me, ok? Do you guys need anything else.”

It was actually slightly bone chilling to hear the vitriol brewing inside her when she talked about Ike and then have it tabled completely when she asked if we needed anything else.

“I will, uh, I’ll let him know.”

I locked my eyes back on my glass but could feel both Shelly’s gaze and her smile burning into my forehead. We were locked into a mortal game of chicken, each waiting for the other to flinch or give. I decided to own up.

“Yeah, so that was weird and awkward. I left her at the bar last night with my buddy Ike. I tried to leave Ike in LA but he’s sort of like herpes and tends to pop up all the time.”

“Are you telling me you have herpes, Jackson?”

I looked up and she was on the verge of convulsing with laughter.

“No, but I do have a disease called Ike that I cannot seem to cure.”

Right as I said that my phone, which was in my front shirt pocket, began to vibrate. I had received a flurry of text messages. I pulled out my phone and looked at the screen. It was Alex. He had been laid off from his job and had four months of severance. He had already packed his car and was heading my way to crash for a while.

Two of the reasons for which I left LA in search of respite were now going to be living with me. I put my phone down, face down, on the table and breathed a giant sigh, slouching back in my seat and closing my eyes. I could hear the worry in Shelly’s voice the moment she opened her lips.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything has come complete fucking full circle. That was another friend. He is on his way to my place from LA right now. I have baggage – big baggage.”

Shelly’s eyes twinkled at me slightly. “I have a thing for guys with baggage. You could be trouble, Mister.”

“Shelly, how do you feel about getting completely shit-faced during the day with a strange man you just met?”

“As long as you promise not to be too strange, I think it is a great fucking idea.”

I raised a hand in the air to get Heidi’s attention and made the circle motion that often translates into another round. I then picked up my whiskey, gave Shelly a quick clink on her glass and tipped the bottom of my glass to the sky, letting it all slide down my gullet.

“Whatever twisted thing is wrong with you, Jackson Panic, I think I like it. However, if we’re getting drunk then I’m not doing it on wine. I’ll be right back.”

With that, she walked over to Heidi who was already at the bar register, ringing us in another round. They had a quick exchange and Shelly began to walk back to me. I studied the elegant grace with which she carried herself and then marveled at the fact that I always tend to drown my troubles in women. Ironic then that most of my troubles start with women. It’s my own vicious cycle.

Shelly sat down and took another sip of her wine. “What will we be drinking to today?”

I thought about it for a nanosecond and then replied, “Today we drink to forgetting yesterday.”

Heidi then arrived with our drinks and we toasted to forgetting and then began day drinking, like a couple of professionals.

easy writer

I put away my laptop and gathered up my power cord. Shelly walked outside and was wrapping herself in a scarf and gloves while I got all my shit together. The power cord, of course, was not being cooperative and so I ended up jamming it into a pocket and hurriedly grabbing my jacket, throwing on a one sleeve while leaving the rest of the coat dangling as I walked to the door.

What was my rush? Why was I hurrying? In a more honest moment I would say that my heart had been broken for the first time in any sort of recent memory and I perhaps was hoping for some respite from my own thoughts. I found memories of the girl everywhere I looked, like ghosts haunting me as I walked around town, and maybe Shelly was a means to exorcise some of them. In my more typical bravo-laden moments I would merely dismiss such questions as self-explanatory given the way Shelly had approached me.

They say the best liars actually convince themselves of their own prevarications. The physiological process of the brain would function identically if one were recalling an entirely contrived story as if one were tapping into an actual memory. Moreover, the more one told a particular lie, the more solid the synaptic connection would be, thus cementing a memory out of a fabrication. Despite all of this, I couldn’t convince myself of any truth other than the actual one. Shelly offered the potential of a momentary lapse of pain in what had been dark days.

And there is a dark days arc coming in which I will gladly recount for you the ways in which a man tries to pry himself from the grim clamps of melancholy, but once again, I defer to a later time.

For now, I happily joined in step with Shelly on the short walk to Easy Street. We chatted a bit about the town and where she lived and I pointed out to her where I lived and then we descended the steps to bar area below the restaurant. They had a fire blazing inside and there were a few scattered families, mostly looking like people in town on holiday for the snow and the ski.

Once the season starts to kick in crowds grow and change. The laid back local vibe is supplanted with a boisterous gathering of people in town to hit the slopes. They ski and snowboard all day and then imbibe heavily at local watering holes. Easy Street isn’t as bad in terms of the noisy post-ski crowd, but it certainly had become louder over the last few weeks.

We found a place along the window that looked out to the patio. Snow storms had shut down any outdoor dining in most places but it was still nice to look out onto the patio and watch the fat snowflakes fall.

The waitress came around, a cute girl I had chatted up in the past, to take our order. She somehow remembered my name and I remembered her’s was Heidi, although we’d spoken only twice before. She commented on not seeing me for a while and I asked if she were still crashing with friends or had found a place. It’s odd how some details wedge themselves in folds of gray matter.

Shelly ordered a glass of red wine and I almost fell in line with her before succumbing to my desire for a stiff whiskey with one ice-cube. Cold days with snow and nothing really to do lend themselves to whiskey more than wine.

Right before Heidi returned with our drinks, Shelly gave me a mischievous look with a Cheshire cat grin blossoming across her lovely face. It evolved into smirk of sorts before she said anything.

“So why is Jackson Panic here in Park City?”

I paused and studied her visage before attempting to answer but right as my lips parted to speak, she expounded upon her initial inquiry.

“Allow me to rephrase – most people come to a town like this to get to the slopes but you don’t appear to me a man too concerned with snow sports. So, if you didn’t arrive here because you wanted to come to a ski town, what was it you were trying to get away from?”

It was a pointed question from someone who barely knew me. I had been kicking around a lot of different things when I decided to move from LA to Park City but hadn’t really considered whether any one of them were something I was running from. Was I trying to get away from something? Or someone?

leaving the big D

I looked to my left and to my right. The mysterious red-head was nowhere to be seen. I walked across the street, to the parking lot, and did a quick look around but she was not there either. She had disappeared between the time I had met her and the time I had paid my bill inside.

I crossed back over the street and peered into the bar.

peering inside the bar

Stephanie was now huddled up with her friend. For a moment, I thought of walking back in and trying to square things away with her. I already had a script playing in my head for what I might say but I lost the inspiration. Perhaps it was the night or being tired and perhaps it even had something to do with the magical red-head who flitted into and out of my life, but I gave up on chasing Stephanie. I gave up on the entire trajectory of the evening at that point.

It really wasn’t all that late, only midnight. We had begun so early that it felt as if days had passed since we’d started. Now, I found myself alone in Dallas outside a bar. Alex and Ike were somewhere else, nearby, but still somewhere else removed from me. We hadn’t heard from Ike in a while and who the fuck knows where he was at. I glanced one more time into the bar and then turned abruptly to my left and began walking.

I wasn’t entirely certain whether I was walking toward the hotel; I merely began walking.

Do you ever have a moment, like a seismic shift, in which the topography you thought you knew suddenly looks foreign and ominous? It’s as if you swivel your head left and right and nothing quite looks as it did just a few seconds prior. That was my moment as I was walking down the street but it had less to do with sidewalks and landmarks and everything to do with how I was looking at the world. Was it the margaritas or a day fueled by booze -maybe but not really. Something snapped between Stephanie and the red-head. My synapses began firing in different directions and my perception of my immediate world changed. I mentally wrapped up whatever I was doing up to that point and then something new began but it was so new I couldn’t tell what it was.

The ginger was a hard stop in my evening. I was entranced by her and she highlighted everything I was ignoring about what I was doing with Stephanie. It wasn’t love at first sight but it was a well-defined pause, a rest in the music. Somewhere within my chest some unidentifiable something had a moment of respite and took in a deep breath and it altered a course somehow.

  I wandered up the street and found a dive bar playing Rolling Stones songs from speakers mounted on the roof. I went in and found an empty seat at the dimly lit bar and gruff looking young guy with the makings of a ZZ Top beard came over and asked me for my order.

“What do you have that’s good?” I asked.

His gruff countenance went unchanged and he said, “It’s all good.”

I had a brief epiphany. He was right – everything seemed good. Everything felt ok. I smiled and ordered Shiner Bock on tap.

Everything was good. Everything is good.

The bartender returned and looked at me for a moment before saying anything. He still seemed comically unhappy but he muttered through his aggro-beard, “This round is on the red-head at the end of the bar.”

I looked up and there she was.

a drink, a phone and a divorcee

I looked around the table quickly and pondered telling the story but opted instead to say they would join us soon. We then discussed the game and the plans for the night. Our agenda consisted of a few more pitchers and then a bar later on that boasted giant fishbowl cocktails.

After about an hour of drinking and swapping stories, my mobile rang and it was Alex.

“Yo, Ike came out of the bathroom and passed out.”

“Wow – is he still alive?”

“He seems fine but he is sleeping now. Text me the address you guys are at and I will join you.”

How Ike could manage to sleep after snorting an entire eight-ball was completely lost on me but as long as he was still alive and breathing, I didn’t really care. About twenty minutes later Alex arrived in a cab and the conversation at the table resorted back to the game, the day and what the plans for the rest of the evening were. We ordered another pitcher of margaritas and put on our big boy pants. This party was going to be one of those we wouldn’t remember.

It did occur to me to ask whether Alex had left Ike instructions as to where we were going to be and what the plan was. Alex said he had left a note and included each of our mobile numbers. This wasn’t the first time we had left Ike somewhere alone. In fact, each of us had been left behind for one reason or another and so this wasn’t necessarily something outside the bounds of normalcy for us. We each had a bit of the cockroach in us. Some people, with a more teleo-functional concept of the world, might say that kismet had brought us together but as you age it becomes easier to find the people who share an affinity for everlasting nights. This wasn’t really a matter of fate or even chance in our group; it was merely the product of social behavior that’s easily identifiable by others with similar interests.

So went boldly forth with the remainder of our night. We stayed on the makeshift patio, ordering pitcher after pitcher of margaritas until the night was a soft moving blur of stars and crisp night air – where jokes passed with hearty laughs and toasts and cheers were made on behalf of everything. We entered the slippery world of smiles given freely and people who had just met, talking like old friends. Our universe was exploding into a tequila infused, nighttime magical realm and everyone at the table was along for the ride.

We eventually closed our tab and walked down the street to the place famous for its fishbowl cocktails. We still had not heard a peep from Ike. I assumed things were fine but Alex felt compelled to call and check on him repeatedly and each time bore a look of slight concern on his face. Again, I was sure he was fine. We were all fine.

We found the place with the fishbowls and immediately ordered three for our group. Each bowl arrived decorated with plastic fish sitting around the rim and a grouping of long straws in the middle. Ours were blue and red in color and everyone took a straw and began to sip. The rest of the evening would be fueled by Kool-aid looking cocktails and we would all have slightly blue tongues.

The night was quickly sliding into an oblivious fast forward of party antics.  Conversations became bogged down with the staccato of drunken attention spans and lapses of memory and then blurred together in a soggy mess. We made a critical decision to hit up one more nearby bar. Alex texted Ike the new location and we walked off down the street.

We actually had a few blocks walk and it gave some time to breathe fresh air and clear the head slightly. I was nearly at that tipping point where the inexorable blackness of a Mr. Hyde formation would start creeping upon me but the break in the flow of drinks and the cool night air exorcised those demons and I began to feel somewhat in control again by the time we reached the new spot.

It was nothing more than a trendy restaurant with a long bar that turned into a hotspot at night, but the scene looked good. I stayed outside the doors with Alex for a few more minutes while the rest of our party walked in. Alex wanted to give Ike another ring just to make sure he was ok. Ike still wasn’t answering. We shrugged at one another after Alex left yet another voice mail and I opened the door for him. I could see a mild haze in his eyes, indicating that the night was wearing on both of us.

Bird and his crew had saddled up to the bar about midway up. As I walked in, I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it from my pocket expecting to see Ike’s name on the ID but it was from a name I had changed at some point to ‘Do Not Answer,’ which meant it was likely an ex-girlfriend of some sort and I had made the sagacious decision at some previous point to rename her, and nameless others, with a moniker that was more instruction than identifier.

As I was putting my phone back into my pocket, I felt a soft hand on mine and very sexy voice purr at me, “Ooh, nice phone. May I see it?”

I looked up toward the body and face attached to the hand that was gently placed on mine. The hand belonged to a savagely beautiful brunette with long hair and a bright-colored, low-cut blouse that accentuated her chest. She had small pursed lips that were already locked into a smile and brownish green eyes that were fixed on mine. I gladly relented my phone into her delicate palm.

“Is that the best you can do?”

She was looking at my phone but then broke back to my eyes and grinned a little wider. “I’m sorry – how do you mean?”

“I mean, if you want to hit on me, asking to see my phone seems a little odd – don’t you think? I feel like you could have done better.”

She was about to reply when another girl, with shorter light brown hair and a square mannish jaw leaned in front of her and interrupted.

“Dude, she just got a divorce. She needs to get laid but has been out of the game for a long time.”

The intruding girl said the last part with the unmistakable closed-eyed clumsiness of a very drunk woman. I could see the brunette feverishly blushing behind her and decided to do away with the intruder and end the blushing. I placed my hand lightly on the shoulder of the intruder and softly pushed her back to her original spot to the brunette’s right. I then smiled at the girl holding my phone.

“Well, then – you simply should have said that. That would have been more than enough to stop me in my tracks.”

She still looked embarrassed and was sheepishly handing me back my phone, seemingly resigned to letting me go on my way when I decided to change the topic.

“Ok, this wasn’t really fair – I showed you mine. Now you should show me yours. Go ahead, where’s your phone?”

The brunette laughed and began to dig through her purse. As she did I caught the eye of the bartender and ordered her another martini and placed an order for a Grey Goose up martini myself, with two olives.

She smiled at me appreciatively when I placed the order and then thrust her iPhone into my hand. I gave it a cursory once over and handed it right back.

She looked surprised, “I thought you wanted to see my phone.”

“Not really, I just wanted to talk to you. I’m Jackson.”

I extended my hand to her once again and she placed her delicate hand inside my grip.

“Hi, I’m Stephanie.”

“Pleased to meet you Stephanie. So what should we talk about now?”

She began to laugh and blushed again. Over her shoulder I could see Alex looking my way and raising his eyebrows. I was going to be detained for a while – that was clear to everyone around.

the first morning after a really long night

After downing Biondetta’s cocktail the world went black. The next thing I knew I was clutching the porcelain toilet, giving to the sewers everything I had taken in and there was a black cat purring near my leg. Whatever it was Biondetta gave me sent me spiraling into the abyss and I came out of it on a bathroom floor.

The man outside the stall calling me señor had walked off and returned with another man, who wasn’t quite as pleasant as he had been.

“Sir, you need to get out of the stall.”

“Okay, one minute.”

“Sir, you need to stand up and leave now.”

“Fine. Fuck! Hang on.”

The guy kept knocking on the door until I stood up and opened the stall. There was an older Latino man standing next to a guy about my age, dressed in slacks and a polo shirt with a scowl on his face.

“Sir, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

His eyes narrowed in on me.

“How did you get in here?”

The black cat that had been keeping me company hissed at the man in khaki slacks and a red polo shirt. I assumed he was the manager since he was dressed in that distinctly dipshit middle manager kind of way. Neither the cat nor I liked him and his khaki pants very much.

“I came in with a girl. We’re leaving now.”

The manager guy moved to cut me off.

“What girl? And where did that cat come from?”

“Jesus man – let me by. There is a girl outside waiting for me and we’ll be leaving now. I have no fucking idea where this cat came from but I’m pretty sure having a cat is not up to code. I’m sorry I got sick in your bathroom but I’m leaving now.”

“Sir, there is no girl outside. The place is empty and that’s not our cat. We are just now opening. How did you get in here? Did you sleep here last night?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. I hadn’t slept since the nap I took on Captain Alvaro’s boat after banging Desi. I needed sleep and water badly and I didn’t need to deal with some self-important manager in bad khaki pants who was standing between me and getting some rest.

“Look guy – I have no idea what’s going on. I just want to leave.”

He looked me over closely for a few more seconds and then he stepped aside and let me pass. When I opened the bathroom door, the morning light that came pouring in gave me a moments pause. Shit, did I sleep in the men’s room? I didn’t even know where I was. By the looks of the decor and the tables I was in some kind of Mexican cantina. I was hoping I was still on the island and not across the border in some crime-ridden town. Where was Biondetta and how the hell did it get to be morning? Those were the first two questions in a long list my feeble brain was compiling.

I staggered out of the cantina and onto the even brighter street that seemed overly ready to embrace a new day. The cantina was just off the makeshift beach on the island. The sun was coming up and people were already dressed and wandering around. People who, unlike me didn’t smell of piss and vomit and whose clothes looked fresh and clean. I started walking toward the dock, hoping I could catch a water taxi and get back to our boat.

As I was walking over to where I had seen the water taxi before I bumped into Ike and the rodent boys.

“There he is! There’s our sport! Told you we’d find him boys!”

Ike came over to me with his standard bigger than life smile and gave me a solid hug.

“We were worried about you sport. You kind of went AWOL on us. No big deal but let us know where you’re headed next time.”

“Sorry about that brother. I ran into Biondetta and she whisked me away and I woke up this morning in a cantina on the men’s room floor.”

Ike started laughing and the rodent boys joined in from behind.

“Who is Biondetta sport? Did you pick up some girl while you were wandering the island last night.”

“Biondetta – the one I should have made a move on instead of sleeping with Desi.”

“Whoa! You got laid last night? How did that happen? You were a complete mess!”

Ike was feigning surprise but he seemed very genuine. I was too tired for his games and wanted a cold drink of water, a cup of coffee and some sleep.

“Whatever Ike. Did you stay with Cindy last night?”

“Cindy? Ok, do you know something I don’t?”

I was growing exasperated.

“Cindy! The girl we followed and the girl you hooked up with on Alvaro’s boat? Cindy! Christ dude – I am too tired for this right now.”

Ike broke into peals of laughter and then he slapped me on the back.

“Man, I don’t know what party you ended up at but I should be pissed you didn’t drag me along. It sounds like it was a blast.”

He stood in front of me, smiling and looking me in the eye but gave nothing away. He was waiting for me to say something else. Now my confidence was waning. Yesterday had been a long day and the clouds hadn’t completely cleared out of my brain. I needed some kind of reality check because a weird panic was creeping up on me.

“What did we do last night Ike?”

“Ha, sport you were a trip last night! I have never seen you let loose like that before – like a mad man. We talked to those girls on the boat next to us – that crazy chick in the white and she suggested the bar we went to last night, the one with the suit of armor. Ring a bell?”

Bell no, but maybe a chime.

“Okay, Cindy – that’s her. Then we all went to that party and then the bar? Am I forgetting something? I feel like I blacked out at some point.”

Ike furrowed his brow and kind of chuckled but there was a slight look of concern in his face.

“You, me and the boys went, Jax. That girl wasn’t all that great and we moved on to more fertile soil. Do you remember the round of shots you ordered at the bar? We started with tequila and just kept going. You don’t look good, sport. You feeling alright?”

I didn’t remember shots at the bar. I didn’t remember a suit of armor and I didn’t remember hanging out with the rodent boys. What I did remember was Desi, Biondetta, Cindy and Captain Alvaro and champagne and magic brownies. I remembered crazy, drugged up sex and lots music and dancing. I remembered the captain’s cigarettes, Biondetta’s legs and Desi’s lips. I remembered bowls of grass and glasses of white wine and eating mussels. I remembered littering – there was a lot of littering.

I stood in front of Ike waiting for him to crack. I was waiting for a punchline. The punchline never came. Finally he spoke up again.

“Hey man – let’s get you back to the boat and get you some fluids and some rest.”

We walked over to our dinghy and headed back out into the harbor toward our boat. I began replaying as much as I could remember in my head. Was Ike just fucking with me? Was it some hallucination from residual bits of memory floating around in the sea of narcotics and booze I had ingested? It couldn’t be – it was far too elaborate. I didn’t say anything else until we got back to our boat. While the boys started tying up the dinghy and raising the anchor, I walked toward the cabin and went below. I wanted to change shirts and find some Gatorade. My head was pounding as was my pulse.

I pulled a clean shirt from my bag and took off my soaked one. As I did I felt a flash of pain in my shoulder. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. It was a bite mark – Desi’s bite mark. I raced up the steps and onto the deck to show Ike.

“Ike! See – look. This is from Desi, Cindy’s friend. She bit me while we were having sex.”

Ike started laughing again and walked toward me.

“Yep, that’s a bite. You should clean that thing. You definitely had a better time than we did. Tell us next time you find such a great party, bastard.”

He then walked away and to the rear of the boat to help the hamster with the anchor. We were about to set off. It didn’t make any sense why Ike would insist he didn’t remember the day before or how he could possibly be as together as he was at this point. I was in shambles. I rubbed my shoulder to confirm it was there and the pain tingled again in my flesh. Desi had definitely bitten me. I was sure this was some kind of elaborate prank the boys were pulling and we would meet up with Alavaro and his crew again somewhere either on the way or back in Marina del Rey.

We didn’t. We sailed all the way home without anyone mentioning The Melmoth or what happened on it. They talked about a couple of bars, none of which I remembered but no one said anything about stuff I recalled . I went below and napped for 30 minutes and when I woke up we were pulling back into the Marina.

We docked, cleaned out the boat, returned the keys to the rental center and then we all went our separate ways. I walked into my apartment and threw my bag down on the floor and I crashed on the sofa. I ordered a pepperoni and sausage pizza from Dagwood’s and sat around, mired in my hangover. Around 8pm I decided to take a shower. I walked to my bathroom and started the water and then took off my shirt. I immediately looked at my shoulder in the mirror.

Yep, still there – a bite mark from Desi. I stared at it for a long time and then I removed my board shorts. I felt something in the pocket and so I unzipped it and pulled out a business card. It was a white card made of nice material with raised black ink on it. It merely read Captain Alvaro, Man of Leisure and there was an image of a little black cat next to his name.

I flipped the card over and in very elegant handwriting was a short note:

Jackson, we will meet again very soon.

-A

I stood in my bathroom staring at the card, flipping it over and over for a few minutes. No one was talking about Alvaro and the girls. No one mentioned him. If the boys were pulling a fast one then they were doing a damn good job of not giving anything away. I walked back to my living room and picked up the phone and dialed Ike.

“Yo!”

“Ike – level with me now because this shit is getting out of hand. What happened yesterday?”

“Sport – I told you everything. We partied on the boat and then went ashore and went barhopping. That was it. Man, you got really twisted huh?”

“So no Cindy, Desi or Alvaro?”

“Dude…no.”

“And no Biondetta.”

I mostly muttered that last bit to myself. I hung up the phone and went back to the bathroom to look at my shoulder again. I then stood there staring at the card. I had no clue what had happened but somewhere along the way my reality broke away from Ike’s. I believed him that this wasn’t a prank but that only left open alternatives that crossed way over the line of the fantastic or believable. Something happened and I had a scar and a card to prove it, or at least support the idea.

The card still sits on my dresser. I think I saw Biondetta again not too long ago but I can’t be certain. I scan the faces in crowds at times, looking for…well, just looking. The one thing that is certain, when I do encounter those people again, and I believe I will, there is going to be some explaining on their part. Who the hell are they and what the hell happened and why am I the only one who seems to remember anything? Those are the first things coming out of my mouth. Oh, and another thing, next time I am going for Biondetta with forceAlvaro and Desi be damned.

when kisses turn dangerous

I have a terrible habit of starting a story that turns into a story-within-a-story and ends up dragging on forever. It’s like the limbo in Inception without the crumbling buildings and old Japanese men. So yeah, I still have to finish up what happened when I jumped into the dinghy with Ike and we motored over to the boat with the girls dancing in bikinis. I will get to that, but this past weekend made me think of my worst / best first date ever.

It all started on my birthday several years ago. I’m not terribly ambitious so I only have one birthday a year. I had taken the day off from work. No one should ever have to work on their birthday, much less sit in a claustrophobic cubicle and pretend to be doing something.

The morning began with my grabbing a cup of coffee at Peet’s on Main Street and walking over to the beach. My cell rang while I was sitting in the sand and the caller ID read MoneyClip. MoneyClip was not his god-given name, as that would have been a fucking terrible example of parental discretion, but instead was the nickname he picked up somewhere after college. We had been roommates at the university together and from the start the kid was pretty much money at whatever he did. He was a goddamn brilliant writer and when he paddled out for a surf he was the best in the lineup every time.

“Good morning Mr. MoneyClip.”

“Yo dude, happy birthday. Wanna grab lunch today?”

“Yeah, let’s. How about something simple like O’Brien’s?”

“Done.”

We always kept our conversations brief. O’Brien’s is a local watering hole that serves up tasty pub food. A buddy of mine works there and writes a hilarious blog about life behind the bar, which I linked to above, and so it tends to be the place where we congregate. I walked into the place around 1pm and it was empty except for a really pretty and very petite bartender who I had never seen before.

I saddled up to the bar and ordered a Harp. With the bar being empty, the bartender, Sami, and I began to chat. Sami was another aspiring actress. Her real name was Samantha but her persona, the sort of hot girl next door who loves to be outdoors and likes to drink beer, was better suited by the moniker Sami. I liked her instantly.

MoneyClip came striding in a few seconds later, decked out in a sports coat over an old t-shirt that read Thunderbird Hotel. At some point in life he had achieved a level of cool to the extent he could walk into a darkly lit room from the outdoors and never remove his sunglasses and you wouldn’t think it strange. He walked over to me and gave me a man-hug, a hybrid of a hug and a backslap in which your torsos never touch. Once again he wished me happy birthday. Sami was standing right behind us and overheard his birthday wishes and insisted immediately we do a round of shots on the house.

Here’s another Jackson Panic law: When a beautiful woman offers you a shot, you take it, regardless of what is in it.  Remember this because it is going to be very important later on.

The three of us did a shot of Jameson together and toasted my birthday. I love bartenders who do a shot with you. Nothing brings people together like pure alcohol consumed rapidly. The bar remained fairly empty throughout lunch and so Sami hung around taking part in our conversation. Her effortless smile and utter lack of pretension combined with two Harps and a shot of Jameson made me think Sami was just about the most perfect woman in the world.

When we left O’Brien’s I told Sami I would see her again. She told me she expected me to come back soon and I felt like her smile indicated that she actually hoped more than expected. My birthday was already packed with promise. It’s funny to think back on it now and realize I asked out her co-worker before I ever asked her out…but I am getting ahead of myself.

MoneyClip had to swing back by his office and I decided to run over to the Third Street Promenade to see about using the gift card my parents had sent me. We made plans to meet back up at O’Brien’s for happy hour and spend the rest of the night celebrating. I sent out a text message to the usual suspects letting them know they were invited to join us for a little informal birthday celebration that evening. I hoped Sami would still be working when we returned but realized I hadn’t asked her before I left.

When I did return to the bar, I was disappointed to see that Sami was gone and someone else was now tending the bar. I did a quick once over around the room and saw MoneyClip, Ike and my long-lost friend Waylon sitting in a booth off to the left.

Waylon was an interesting guy. He was born and raised in Venice by parents who loved country music and so they named him Waylon, after Waylon Jennings. The guy was always wearing a shirt and tie, skinny tie at that, no matter what was going on and he wouldn’t be caught dead in shorts. He had a greased back hairstyle straight out of the 1950’s and drove a white, convertible 1976 Cadillac El Dorado around town. Apparently he had a day job but wouldn’t tell any of us where he worked. He lived on a boat in the Marina and I once described him as the person I would call if I ever needed to dispose of a body. That was the perfect description of Waylon. Just looking at the cast of characters composing our entourage, I knew I was in trouble. It would be a good trouble but it would still be trouble.

Our waitress was another girl I had not seen before. She had wavy black hair and ice blue eyes that almost seemed to glow from across the bar. She walked around playfully flaunting her Hollywood Rubensesque figure, which was just curvier than the average skinny LA gal. Ike motioned for her to come to our table and she smiled back at us. Two beautiful women at our local hangout – it was already quite a birthday.

When she walked up, Ike stood and introduced her to me.

“Rachel this is Jackson. Jackson, Rachel.”

Her smile highlighted the dimples in her cheeks and caused her blue eyes to radiate sparkles.

“You must be the birthday boy. How about I get you a shot?”

I reached out and took her hand in mine, “I will only do a shot if the lady does one with me.”

She demurely refused, “I probably shouldn’t.”

“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.”

Rachel giggled and asked the table what we were having. Ike ordered Jagerbombs and right then and there I knew we were in for a long night. Rachel disappeared to get our drinks and I sat down with the boys.

We spent a few minutes discussing the noticeable increase in the number of beautiful women working in our favorite pub. This isn’t to say that the staff wasn’t already full of pretty faces but the new ones were pretty exciting. One of the symptoms of the Peter Pan complex is that new is always slightly intoxicating and I felt I was double-fisting with the Sami-Rachel combo.

Rachel returned quickly with five shots and four chasers. She placed glasses in front of each of us and then surreptitiously glanced to her right and her left. We did a quick toast and the boys all dropped our Jager into our Red Bull glasses and drank while Rachel shot her Jager straight. It was one hell of a way to kick off the night.

At this point we went into wash, rinse and repeat mode. The only changes were the increased animation in the conversation and the occasional beer ordered to cut through the haze of Jagermeister and Red Bull. Rachel was joining us with a shot every round and the festive spirit of the night was ballooning into the warm glow of mutual adoration for everyone involved. Even Waylon was openly smiling, something he generally deemed too square to do. We were having a great time.

On our second shot, MoneyClip looked at Rachel and suggested she give me a birthday kiss. She blushed slightly but offered me a quick peck to the lips. This also began to fall into the cycle and each round of drinks brought on a kiss that lasted a second longer than the previous one. Somewhere around 1am, with the bar packed full of people and our table stuffed safely from the view of bar management, or so we thought, Rachel’s string of Jager shots turned the innocent peck with which we started into an open-mouth kiss of drunken passion. My comrades sat idly by as Rachel and I chased our shots with quick games of tonsil hockey. Then she would clear our glasses and go see about other tables.

After one of Rachel’s passion shots, our table was visited by the bar manager, who had a supercilious smugness to him that was ill-suited for a bar manager. He asked us whether Rachel had been drinking at our table, to which we all replied she had not. Our drunken confirmation of her abstinence was not entirely convincing though and right after last call a dejected and tipsy Rachel came and sat down at our table.

“Well gentlemen, looks like I just lost my job.”

We were all shocked. I, being the one with the most obvious vested interest in the situation, spoke up.

“You got fired? Why?”

“They said I was not supposed to be drinking on the job. That and they saw me making out with you.”

“Oh fuck. I am so sorry. I will go talk to the manager and see if I can change his mind.”

She smiled at me again, almost coquettishly and squeezed my hand.

“You’re a doll but I don’t need to be saved so get off your white horse.”

I looked at her sitting next to us. She was probably at most 23 and here she was putting on a brave face for some guys she just met. Sure, she had put her tongue in my mouth but we still didn’t really know each other. I felt awful and blamed myself entirely for her getting fired.

“I am so sorry Rachel. This is my fault.”

“No, it’s mine but it’s okay. I had been thinking of quitting anyway. You can however make it up to me.”

I brightened at the idea of being able to do something for her.

“Absolutely! Name it.”

She gave me that dimpled smile again.

“Take me out to dinner tomorrow.”

Another obvious commandment from the book of Jackson Panic: If a beautiful woman asks you to take her to dinner, assuming you’re single, you say yes. Should you do anything a beautiful woman asks you to do? No, absolutely not and we’ll get to that soon enough.

So, my birthday was officially over but I was already rolling into the next day with a dinner date with a beautiful woman who had sparkling blue eyes and soft, warm lips. Was the universe finally doing me a favor?

In a word, no…but we’ll get to that.