At some point between sleep and wakening, hung-over dinner and drunken breakfast, all hell broke loose. My Felicity look-alike work friend and escort to a smarmy Christmas Party had discovered my best friend and lover and they were having an all-out pitched battle. I hated to break it to Felicity, but this was just the sort of thing that Bob (let’s just call her that, OK?) ate like a starving Russian model at an all you can eat sashimi bar. I had been awake for about fifteen minutes, going through mail, making some phone calls to verify that all the charges had been actually dropped and it wasn’t some joke by my Grandfather’s youngest brother, who also happened to be the judge, magistrate, lawyer, contracts negotiator and person in charge of just about everything in the small town near where I grew up.
Sabrina (aka Felicity) was explaining loudly that she was decidedly NOT happy to find me with my arm around another girl, as we were rehashing our last few months apart while finishing the handle of Vodka and a handful of happy pills with court papers scattered around us like confetti. We were just talking about how fun it would be to go to Italy together (she insisted that she knew just where to go, who to see and how to live there) after a stopover in coal country for me to stock away a few grand to trade for euros. Sabrina had picked a truly horrendous time to come and see why I hadn’t been at work.
Bob decided that this was an argument best won in the nude. She dropped the blanket away, placed one leg strategically over the other, threw her shoulders back, tossed her six-hundred blonde mane into a trashy, sexy, perfect mess, checked her toenails and drained her last martini. Neat. Straight, actually, if you didn’t look hard for the Percocet’s swimming around in the bottom like someone’s spunk that was just too lazy to try anything else. She called Rocky to her. He went obediently enough, but with a bit of reluctance, as though he too were tired of the whole thing already. I know I was.
“Who loves me?” Bob slipped into her best Valley Girl accent like a well-worn favorite sweater. Her blue eyes pinned me to the wall and I wanted to be anywhere else. On a deserted island maybe. With a reverse osmosis water filtration system. Sabrina was dead white and shaking like a leaf. She knew the battle was over. Bob had flown in from LA and her Land Rover was parked at the top of the steps as if she owned the place, which I suppose she did. Her parents did, at least, which is the only way that I could have afforded to live here. Despite the crime rate, desert sand street and proximity to the interstate, it was still a hipster street and market values were skyrocketing. Sabrina, oddly enough, was now mad at me. “You’re a pile of shit! You know that, right? To think….I hired you!”
The gate at the top of the stairs, which were inlaid with tiny stones and hand fired brick from the courtyard below us, slammed, hard. Bob, her most pressing battle won with her opponent fleeing down the street rolled onto her stomach and stretched her toes towards her head. Her crazy icy eyes pinned me to the wall like a specimen in an Entomology Museum.
“Want to do something fun?” I nodded, all the fun gone from my immediate future. I was relatively certain I’d just lost my job as a cook, and I was even more certain that my days with the USGS and NASA were numbered. They had stopped feeding me datasets that could be solved and could only be tagged for further research. That meant my publications had dried up, which meant, at least to smallish community of people who study fracture mechanics on other planets, that I no longer truly existed.
I shrugged. “Sure!” Is there really another answer to that question? She was dressing, if you could call it that, in a white sheer number that would likely land me in jail by the end of the night. Assault and battery, maybe. She really enjoyed starting fights and acting her part as the dazed and confused damsel in distress as my luckless opponent and I battered each other senseless. I had grown somewhat used to it, down to taping my fingers when we went out, just in case. My only real wish is that she would choose someone more my size to start shit with.
The night was as I expected, mostly. I don’t remember much. We met a model friend of hers at the airport, dressed just as explicitly as Bob. We were driven downtown in front of Casino Casino. I felt sorry for the washed up guy sobbing on the street and bought him dinner at a steakhouse. Bob and Company enjoyed it until he started vomiting and begging for a drink. Then they declared it was gross and too real and left to find a drug dealer, I suppose.
I stood in the cold desert air, desperately searching the horizon for stars. I couldn’t see any. I wander into the Silver Legacy and shivered as refrigerated air, reeking of retirement, booze and sadness washed over me like a tangible thing, like a jungle snake watching me with unblinking eyes as I stumbled closer to its lair, lost and frightened.
I ignored the feeling, tossed the last pill out of my pocket into an abandoned gin and tonic and swallowed all of it, unflinching.
It was a fabulous evening, I suppose. I awoke sometime later on my flattened air mattress just as Rocky came in through his gate. The high desert air was cold again, without a trace of humidity. I sat outside on the steps and numbly poured coffee from my neighbors French Press into my old cup. I didn’t argue when he added a splash of whiskey. We sipped our redeyes and watched the sun come up. The two models were still passed out in the remains of the air mattress. I reminded myself to throw that thing away and get a real bed someday.
The heavy oak door creaked open and Bob stumbled out in an old sweatshirt of mine. She didn’t look nearly as good as the night before. I could see the beginnings of age at the corners of her eyes and mouth and her spray on tan was fading rapidly into a jaundiced yellow.
She covered her face with my sleeves and stumbled into my arms. “Promise to never leave me again. Please?” How could I agree with anything else? I did promise and she settled into a comfortable warm mess on my lap and smiled sleepily at me. “We had fun last night, right?”
Her teeth were smeared with lipstick. Like blood, maybe. Mine? I watched the sun finish rising and drained my cup.
I was leaving Reno. That was for sure.