Archive for the 1 Category

If I didn’t know you like I do

Posted in 1 on April 12, 2012 by trevorgregg

Cowering inside from the freezing rain, I look through the window of the Domino’s while Chris argues with the slovenly hunchback cashier.  Behind the counter, two similarly wretched employees slice open and squeeze sacks of greasy orange goo into styrofoam bowls, which they slam into filthy microwaves.  After two minutes of high-powered radiation, the orange muck is removed and stirred and labeled as Macaroni And Cheese, though certainly neither of those words really describe the resulting concoction.

“She must have ordered it from another location.”  the cashier tells Chris.  His mouth hangs open after he’s done speaking like some loose wound in the middle his face, and he habitually shifts his weight from foot to foot.

“God dammit.  Well can we change it to delivery?”

“They won’t deliver to your neighborhood, it’s out of their range.”  He points vaguely to a map on the wall with various overlapping hand-drawn districts and geometric shapes.

“Fuck’s sake.  Just cancel it and redo it here, then.”

They argue and I go back out into the rain and sit in the car.  The buzzing, yellowed signs from the strip-mall businesses light up the muddy parking lot. Beyond the edge of their faint glare is blackness, with occasional headlights blurring in the dark.  I assume it’s all forest, beyond the edge of the light, but who the fuck knows, really. The rain is too thick and the air is too cold.

Chris climbs back in to the car and slams the door.

“So much hassle for fourteen bucks worth of pizza.”

He backs out of the parking lot past two shuttered coffee stands and a rusted Bronco with four flat tires and we lurch back on to the road.

————-

Back at the house, Peter is half-heartedly playing hide and go seek with the two girls.  He lumbers around pretending not to see their stumpy four-year-old legs sticking out from behind the curtains, narrating his frustration at how good they are at hiding.

“They’re behind the curtain you fucking idiot.” I stage whisper to him.  “How are you this bad at hide and go seek?”

The neighbor lady, mother of one of the girls, shoots me a dirty look.  She’s talking to Chris’ wife about something that happened at church, so I go downstairs to get another beer.  Paul’s watching TV, so I sit with him.  TV is Paul’s sanctuary, his home, and it’s fascinating to see the zen-like peace the chattering ESPN voices bring out in him.

We drink a few beers and wait for the possibly-never-coming pizza.  The women put the two kids and two babies to bed, amidst shrieking protests.  Both girls cry in such broken gasping voices that I can’t understand them, like they’re being whipped with extension cords instead of taken to bed.  “They’re excited you guys are here.” Chris tells me.  “Very wound up.”  When it finally arrives, the pizza is shitty.  We go to the bar around 8:30.

—————

Chris’ neighbor, a big bearded guy who looks like an extra from a Home Depot commercial, comes with us to the bar.  He does audio and video installs, typically commercial or high-end residential.  He tells us about what a good deal he can get us on a projection TV, about the high quality sound and theatre-style bass his latest 7.1 surround speakers put out.  We nod.

Washington State has these little ticket things, a type of lottery I guess, that you can buy in bars.  They look like pull-tabs, or RFID tags, and the bartender sells them to you in the same little baskets they use for tortilla chips or hotdogs.  A couple of fat, mid-fifties brunettes dock at the bar and work their way through about twenty bucks worth over the course of an hour.  They joke with the rowdy bartender, and are the textbook definition of Bothell Dive-Bar Regulars.

“See Paul I told you there’d be chicks here.”  Chris says, nodding to the fat women.  Paul shakes his head and watches college basketball on the small TV mounted above the dart board.  “Go work your game, bro.”  Chris says, pushing Paul half off of his stool towards the bar.  Paul ignores him.

The Audio Video Tech Neighbor asks me something, but I’m too zoned out to catch it.  I buy a basket of the pull tabs, and lose ten bucks to the Washington State Gambling Commission.

We leave around midnight, drunk, and the rain still hasn’t let up.

—————-

I sleep in an oversized sleeping bag on the living room floor, having lost the coin-toss for the couch.  I can hear the various electronic beeps and gurgles from Chris’ aquariums.

I turned thirty a couple of weeks ago and have been doing my best to forget about it.  Just another day.  Somebody told me that, if he’d lived, Kurt Cobain would have been 45 that same week.  Christ.  Laying in the dark, I tell myself that age is more mindset than fate.  I’ve got others beat – no house payments, no squalling kids.  No mountain of credit card debt.  No vicious, sneering wife.  I am ahead of the curve.  But at times it’s hard not to recognize each day, each late night for what it is: a death by degrees.

We had a party at our place, Quint and I, for our combined birthdays.  It went well – lots of people, strong Old Fashioneds, music.  A couple of holdouts were still up screaming along to Bohemian Rhapsody at five AM in the kitchen, which I’m sure my neighbors loved.  Vicky lost four consecutive rounds of Duchess, amateur that she is, and passed out under the coffee table.  Quint’s secret gypsy girlfriend even made a brief appearance, though that may have been a trick of the light.

I went out on the back porch with a couple guys to get out of the heat and the noise, briefly. “So how’s it feel to be thirty?”

“Fucking shitty, how do you think it feels?”  They laughed.

“Thirty is the new twenty.”

“Such a dumbass thing to say.  So blatantly untrue.”

“Well it’s not as bad as you expected, huh?  You’re here, people are over, having fun, you know.”

“I guess so.”

“Isn’t that what you expected?”

“I really have no idea what I expected.”  I say.  “But I don’t think it was this.”

We went back inside.

Laying on Chris’ floor my brain goes into its default mode – categorizing and listing tasks, all the kinds of various shit I need to do.  Responsibilities.  Shit for work.  Taxes.  The grocery store.  Oil change.  When there’s nothing else to think about, this is what I think about.

I lull myself to sleep with my own soul-crushing inanity.

——————

Nicky drops us off at the hotel in Seattle proper the next night, in Belltown.  No more kids and minivans.  Now we’re playing for keeps.  We push through the various business travelers, and Peter checks us in while I shake the rain off my jacket.  A girl in a hotel blazer asks how I’m doing.

“Fucking cold here.” I tell her.  She nods.

Upstairs, we break in to Chris’s home-made bourbon, which, though harsh, is a marked improvement over the paint-thinner he served us on our last visit.  At least this stuff is brown.

————-

We meet some of my SF friends, Sapo and others, at a classy Prohibition-style restaurant and bar near the water.  It’s a big place, and has some kind of movie theatre downstairs.  We sit at the bar.  Waiters in tuxedos escort women to and from the bathrooms.  Regina buys us a round of drinks.  I pick absently at the velvet bumper of the bar and listen to Jeff tell the story of his apartment fire.  I’ve heard it before, but it’s a good one.

If you can get past the cold, Seattle’s not so bad.  Metropolitan, even, at times.  The wind off the water, though… I can feel it through my jacket, two sweaters and long underwear.  It’s sharp, evil, alive.  Its cruelty is tangible.  Here in the bar we’re warm, and my fifteen shed layers hang on two different coatracks, but glancing at the black doors I know it’s out there, waiting.

I bitch for a while about all of the weddings I’m going to this summer.  Four and counting, I tell them.  It’s a plague.  Some people like weddings, Tara says.

I’m sure some people do.

We drink some more expensive drinks and toss our credit cards to the barman without a thought, carefree employed 30-somethings that we are.  We laugh loudly, and often, and wink at the over-dressed girls on their escorted trips to the bathroom.

———————

A kid in front of me, some ex-frat boy, falls face first into the gravel of the parking lot, scraping his cheek and arm.  He gets up quickly, flailing with the aggressive impatience of the inexperienced drinker.  He leans on the barbecue for support and immediately yanks his hand away as he’s burned.  I roll my eyes, but the disdain is masked by my three inches of wool armor.  His friends collect him and herd him down the sidewalk, blood running down his face.  I wonder briefly how cold it has to be for blood to freeze.  Chris and I wait for our 3 AM hotdogs.  Some girls walk by in miniskirts and we look more out of amazement than lechery.  I’ve got seventeen pounds of clothing on and I’m god damn freezing, and these girls are walking around in a napkin’s worth of sheer fabric and high heels.  It boggles the mind.

“Youancrechees?”

“What?”

“Creche?”

“The fuck is he saying?” I turn to Chris, too cold to deal with the guy’s thick, ethnically ambiguous accent.

“Cream cheese.”

“Cream cheese on a hot dog?  Fuck no I don’t want cream cheese on my hotdog.”

“It’s good man, you should try it.  It’s like the Seattle version of the danger dog.”

I hand the guy my three bucks and snatch the sausage away protectively.

“Fucking cream cheese on a hot dog.  No wonder your suicide rate’s so high.”

Peter and Paul wander up the street with their own dogs (they decided to get them from a ‘more sanitary-looking’ 3 AM hotdog stand, whatever that means) and we stand at the curb and watch as two bicycle cops taze a guy in a Gonzaga basketball jersey.  Just another night on the mean streets of Seattle.

A few blocks later, heading for the hotel, we pass Phoenix Jones and his entourage.  He’s in full regalia, body armor, mask, the whole bit, but his sidekicks look like the kind of subhuman nerds you see debating Battlestar Galactica on Youtube.  They wear hooded sweatshirts and masks they cut out of pillowcases.  Very low-rent.  Phoenix himself is impressive, but I thought he’d be taller.

I’m completely taken, of course.  I walk over to shake his hand, maybe get a photo.  How often do you see a super hero in person?

“That’s not Phoenix Jones.” Drunk Chris shouts.

Phoenix Jones and I both turn to look at him.

“Phoenix Jones is white.”

The whole group stares at us for an awkward minute in the whipping cold.

“Chris, you’re an idiot.” I announce.  Phoenix and his cronies push by us and continue down the sidewalk.  I’m shaking my head, disgraced.  “Phoenix fucking Jones is not white.”

We debate it all the way home before looking it up on a phone.  I’m right, on both counts, of course.  Phoenix Jones is black, and Chris is an idiot.

————

We leave Chris to his family and Seattle to its winter misery.  Paul and Peter and I drink one last over-priced Heineken at the airport bar while I wait for my flight.  It’s finally stopped raining.

“I’ll see you guys next year.”

I pick up my bag and head for the gate.