I roamed the side streets, feeling exhausted and beaten. I needed to sit down. I needed food. I headed for Dirty’s, on the other side of the park. You didn’t dare call it “Dirty’s”, and you didn’t dare curse in front of the wait-staff, or you’d be out on your ass in a heartbeat. I slumped down on a stool and a cop slid in right next to me.
I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and pressed my face into my hands. I dozed off waiting for my order. The sound of the plate hitting the counter woke me. The waitress said nothing and set the check down with it. I fumbled through my hash and eggs, head hung low.
I paid and left.
The streets were empty. I shuffled down the sidewalk slowly, hands in my pockets, under the glow of the street lamps. I was so exhausted my knees began to shake. I sat down on the curb and took a deep breath.
. . . and woke up flat on my back with a strange woman staring down at me. She was holding coffee and a bagel, and asked me if I was alright. Realizing that I had passed out on the street, I fumbled for my pockets, checking for my wallet and my knives. Still there.
“Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” she asked.
“No . . . I’m good. Thanks . . . “
I pushed myself to my feet and brushed myself off. The sun was up. The streets were full of noise, and people rushing to work. I cut back through the park and headed for my car. A homeless drunk was sleeping on a bench as I passed.
My phone began to buzz. Willy Pete. I ignored it.
I spotted him as I reached the parking lot. He was walking toward me. He hadn’t slept. I reached my car before he did and slammed the door. When he realized I was ignoring him he flew into a rage. He marched over to the driver side window and leveled his finger at me, shouting through the glass. I looked up at him as I turned the engine over.
“Don’t you walk away from me! Don’t you fucking walk away from me!”
I didn’t say a word and turned the volume on my stereo up. Fear Factory. I shifted into first and rolled away.
I got a few nasty phone calls, but I never returned them. I had a lot of cleaning up to do. Fortune struck and I landed another job. The hours were better. The pay was better. Things were looking up.
I was fucking some blonde girl from my old job. She gave lousy head, was passably cute, and I knew she would get clingy quick. There was a big street fair going on the next Saturday and she asked me to go. I was injured in training that week – multiple kicks to the leg – but I limped along at her side.
We browsed the street vendors while drunks and assholes walked by with open containers. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was not in the mood. We stepped into a shop I had been in before and there, behind the counter, was the redhead. She acknowledged me, but I didn’t stay long.
I took the blonde back to her apartment. We watched a movie, fucked, and I left. I didn’t call for a few days.
The next week I put out a blanket message on MySpace: Who wants to go on a Summer-Ender-Bender this weekend?
I got a message from the redhead. We had been e-mailing back and forth – I apologized about Willy Pete – and she asked if the blonde was my girlfriend. I told her that she wasn’t, and we made plans to meet up that Saturday. She was very playful. Sarcastic and fiery. The longer we talked, the more I liked her.
She offered to let me stay at her place that night. On her couch. I shot her a look, but accepted. It was closer than home. We closed out the bar and walked to her building. Standing in the foyer I realized it was a one-family, and she owned it. I was looking into the living room and she took my hand and lead me upstairs.
“I’m not really going to make you sleep on the couch. You’d better behave yourself, though . . . “
We didn’t have sex that night. Or the next morning. We slept in late and watched TV. We talked. We spent the whole day just like that, lying in bed together. I never made a move. I tried to kiss her, once, but as I leaned in she jammed her fingers in my ribs and tickled me.
Our Mormon fun only ended when she realized her friends were on their way over. They all went bowling together on Sundays. They were all standing outside when we stepped out of the apartment. They had seen us together the night before. They all looked at me, smirking to one another.
We did our walk of shame and I watched her drive away.