Archive: March 2005

(8 entries)

Thursday, March 3, 2005


I know I’ve been long in threatening you with the details: I was in Racine for Christmas. It was the first time in a while that either my mother or sister had invited me back. I had no particular reason to want to go, but I had one particular reason to do it anyway: it was a good excuse to avoid the holidays with Erica, which she seemed to be hinting at, but which seemed too intense for me right at the moment. I pretended not to pick up on it, and god knows where she went for Christmas.

Not that life, on another hand, was carefree with the old family. After getting settled in my motherís guest room, I conned the car keys out of her, just like the old days, under pretense of picking up her groceries. So it was only an hour or two in the familial glow before I was out on the road again.

I don’t really like to drive. It makes me nervous. It’s too big a responsibility. But driving the car into town felt as liberating as driving a car is supposed to feel, especially when you are sixteen and escaping the parental view, as I now was again. I made the drive into Racine proper and parked for a while by the park by the lake, reflecting on how Lake Michigan was sort of like the East River, except instead of floating mob hits it contained mostly bits of Canada. All the bars were different from when I was a kid, or most of them, and anyway, you had to think differently when you were drinking in the town where your mother knew people. I wasn’t sure how it was done. I had never had a public, legal drink in the town where I grew up.

I headed up Wisconsin Avenue to see what my options were. I needed someplace reasonably similar to a dark, honest bar where I could take a few moments to figure out how I was going to get through these next days. Mostly I saw laundromats, video stores, and other businesses that, while perhaps necessary to the local community, were unwelcome distractions that I clocked off interminably. Then I saw a storefront with a Miller High Life sign glowing like a secret handshake. My car slowed. In front of the bar was parked a small, lime green pickup truck. On the door of the pickup truck was a carefully-crafted decal of the same truck. It was depicted leaping from an explosion of fire. This was the first time I had seen a truck celebrated in this way: on the truck. I wanted to park near that truck, and I did. When I walked around it, I saw that the opposite door had a different scene (in which the truck careened down a rocky pass, heading towards a deer, which has only just begun to be aware of its situation), and that these both were only introductory to the final and possibly greatest image of the triptych, applied to the truck’s hood. Here the truck was featured at its most heroic, bursting through a wall of stone and aimed, much like the real truck, right at you. The fact that the owner of this illustrated truck was probably drinking in the bar made me want to drink in that bar. I went in.


by Jack, 11:27 AM | Link | Comments (0) | More from Drinking

Friday, March 4, 2005

Menacing reunion

The room was long and dark, like the three-day vacation ahead of me. I approached the bar cautiously and with respect. I didn’t want to blow this. I needed them more than they needed me. There weren’t many people in the bar. I was on the lookout for someone in attire featuring heroic truck imagery. But if he was there, he was undercover. The bartender and I converged at the center of the bar. He was about to ask me what I wanted to buy from him. “I like that truck out front,” I said to him, maybe too desperately.

“What truck?” he asked, wiping a glass.

I turned to look out the dim window. You couldn’t see the truck. I stepped back a few paces and leaned. You couldn’t see it from inside. “This green truck parked out front, I thought maybe it was somebody’s from here.”

“I’ve never seen it.”

“It’s parked outside, I guess to the left. To the left when you—”

He was squinting at me. “Hey, do I know you?”

The few other patrons, grizzled daytime drinkers, eyed me. “I don’t think so,” I told the guy. “I haven’t been in town for years.”

“But you’re from here?”


“You look familiar.”

“Well, I’m from here….tell you what, let me have a whiskey and ginger ale.” We had finally gotten around to that. He indicated that that sounded reasonable and went off, wiping that glass, which he then filled with ice, whiskey, and ginger ale. It got a little red straw and was placed in front of me, where I already had money ready, which he exchanged for less money. I left it on the bar, like I used to do in New York before some homeless guy shoved it into his mouth and ran off.

After some more cross-talk, it became clear that the bartender remembered me from high school (we had both gone to Park). He capped this with, “Yeah. I remember you, but I guess we didn’t really know each other. You knew a lot of people, though.”

The awkwardness of this vaguely menacing reunion had left me without a drink in my glass. I said, “Well, let’s have another drink. Let me buy you one.”

He looked at the clock behind him. It was early to be drinking. But we were already here. “All right,” he said. He mixed another drink for me in my glass. He poured himself a shot of tequila, which bartenders often drink, for some reason. We held our glasses up in the air, then drank from them. I just sipped mine, of course.

Abandoning further tact, I asked him, “You still keep in touch with any of the old gang?”

“‘The old gang’? Who is that?”

“I don’t know…people we went to high school with.”

“Well, sure. I see people. Mark Lund runs the laundromat next door. Sam Grady was in to watch the game the other day.” I had no idea who those people were, which he probably realized. “Oh yeah?” I said. “How about—”

“Girls?” he asked with a glint.

“Okay, yeah, how about some of the girls from those days.”

“I see a few of them now and then. I married one.”

“Congratulations. Who was the lucky—”

“Patti Reineking, she was a sophomore when you were a senior.” I thought about the name but it didn’t ring any bells. She must not have been that hot.

“Well, congratulations,” I said again. “Do you ever talk to Sharon Houseman?”

He chuckled. “Sometimes. Yeah, I remember your big fling with her. Times have changed, you know.”

“Well, of course.” It was getting a little creepy. I wasn’t sure I wanted an embittered Racine bartender to be my unauthorized biographer.

He picked up my empty glass and went to refill it. “It’s not high school any more,” he cautioned me.

“I know. What about Aman—”

He chuckled again as he traded my glass for more money. “I was wondering when you’d ask me about her.”

Clearly if he was familiar with my “fling” with Sharon Houseman, he was an expert on my relationship with Amanda Granger. I had had others before her, but she was the first one I was proud of. Amanda had introduced me to the world; not to sex as an act but to sexuality as a part of life, rather than just something you need a dose of now and then. Not that we could be open about it in those days, of course. But that didn’t stop the bartender from giving me a dirty look as he poured himself another tequila, which I found out I was also paying for when he took more money from me.

“The fair Amanda,” he said. “You keep in touch with her?”

“No. Not for a long time. I think we talked in college on the phone.”

“She’s got a new phone number now,” he said.

“Well, I imagine so.”

“She’s not ‘Granger ‘any more.”

“She got married?”


“Everyone seems to have got married.”

“Basically.” He frowned and nodded again. “You thinking of getting in touch with Amanda?”

“I’m only in town a few days. I wasn’t planning on looking up anybody. You’re the one who brought up—”

He waved it away. “Say no more,” he said, and then the phone rang, and he went down the bar to answer it. I inspected the ice in my drinkless glass. Would one of my trusted bartenders in New York leave a guy without a drink when they weren’t even busy? I guess probably they would. I looked around at the other few guys in the bar. One was watching the television. One was watching his glass. The other guy was throwing darts. He looked like the type who probably had his own set. I watched the bartender on the phone. When he was done, he stood around shuffling bottles and adding up figures in a notebook. I tried in vain to get his attention without shouting out. He had cowed me. Eventually he came back over and handed me a napkin. “Go ahead, let’s see what happens.” On the napkin was Amanda’s name and her phone number. The bartender chuckled at me once again.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t like taking orders from this guy. I didn’t like the interest he took in my sordid past. I thought about Amanda, all those years ago, and I stepped over to the payphone. She was at home; she was not that surprised to hear from me; she was not that adverse to seeing me; I was invited over to her apartment, the address of which she freely gave. It sounded like her except more blasé. Reeling a bit, I collected my coat and said goodbye to the bartender, who chuckled. I swung by a supermarket and got most of what was on the list, secured the bags in the trunk, and found my way to the apartment of a woman who loved me once.


by Jack, 2:43 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from Amanda | More from Drinking & Women

Saturday, March 5, 2005

A ghost

Amanda met me at the door wearing a smirk which I instantly recognized. The rest of her was exactly the same also. It is amazing how people grow up, through agonizing circumstances, to become the same people they were before.

“Holy shit,” she announced. “It’s the ghost of Jack Task.”

“Clank, clank,” I said, rattling my chains.

She rushed to hug me and then we were inside her crappy apartment. It’s refreshing to be reminded that, despite their smugness, people who don’t live in Manhattan also have crappy apartments. They’re just cheaper.

Amanda led me into her living room, a distance of seven feet, and ten times she stole smiling glances at me over her shoulder. I was thinking about how hot she had been when we were in high school, and the grim reality that she was still hot now. That seemed unfair. Considering that my conversational skills had so far been displayed to her only with the word “clank”, which I had even repeated, I was thinking I had better bring it up a tone.

“Amanda,” I said definitively, “I wanted you then and I want you now.”

She laughed. “I’m glad we can be adult about this,” she said. “Some people, if they ran into an old flame, they’d feel old feelings.”

“We’re very mature. Also, the burden is not equal. I got ugly, so I think I’m safe from any undue attention. You are a fox. So it’s harder for me. But you got married. That’s a big step, for which I have respect.”

“It’s not such a big step. It’s what people do. In Racine, anyway. Sort of like in New York, you have trendy bars everyone has to go to in order to feel that they’re a productive member of society. We have families.”

I smiled at her pleasant put-down. “So, are you happy?”

“Sometimes. Same as when I wasn’t married, except now I have a husband.”

“And a kid.”

That makes me happy.”

“I hope so.”

“The kid is actually exciting. I didn’t think I could be excited by anything anymore. She’s exciting, but in a new kind of way. It’s thrilling just to look at someone and feel so much.”

“I’ll have to try it sometime. I’ve heard good things.”

“It’s not a diet cookbook. It’s human reproduction.”

“Like I say, I’ve heard mostly raves.”

“You’re an asshole. I’m just saying it’s really a different, new feeling to—”

“And I’m saying I agree—”

She said, “Let me introduce you. Come on.” She went into the bedroom. There was a big bed and a small crib. The crib had a baby in it. “This is Krista,” Amanda said, picking her up.

“Hi, Krista,” I said. The baby looked at me like I was the craziest thing she had ever seen, but she didn’t have much experience, so I didn’t take it personally. Then her eyes drifted and her look didn’t change. Apparently everything just freaked her out.

Amanda put the baby back away and said, “You know, I used to look at you that way.”


“I’m talking about what I said. To just look at you and feel so much.”

“Oh, that. Please. What does that mean? We were kids. We didn’t know anything about each other. We didn’t even know who we were. Of course we were excited. Everything is a new experience when you’re stupid enough.”

Amanda frowned and led me back into the living room. It was sparsely furnished, as if they had just moved in, but I know they hadn’t. She said, “Maybe. But we weren’t anybody yet, that was the excitement, maybe. We could still be anything.”

“Yeah, you mean like when you pretended to be a naughty nurse and I was a soldier?”

We sat on the couch, which was, as in ideal Middle American residences, huge and vaguely chafing to the skin. The couch was the central focus of the home, because you could sit on it while eating dip. She said, “Shut up. Don’t ruin my secret memories.”

“I was there. They are also my—”

“In my memories, you were nicer. I remember it that we were nice to each other. Don’t make me doubt that by acting like a dick now.”

“Come on. We were phonies. I’m not saying it wasn’t exciting, that we didn’t like each other even, but we didn’t know what was going on. We were so stupid, and it disappointed us in each other, but pointing that out would have admitted it wasn’t perfect, and made us look like jerks.”

She jerked her head around like I’d hit her. Which I never did. “What the fuck are you talking about? Are you saying you wished nothing had happened with me? You come back here to say this shit? That’s not how it’s done. We’re supposed to swap old stories that we were bored with even at the time. You’re supposed to make me feel wistful, and like I’m still the girl I always was, and then go away.”

“Hey, no, I—I mean, c’mon, you know how I felt. You could tell my mind was blown. You were the sexiest thing in pom-poms. I was in a perpetual faint from the lack of blood in my head. If I hadn’t been such an egotist, I couldn’t have believed my luck.”

“Jack, you won the goddamn pussy lottery. Admit it.”

I looked at Amanda closely. It was hard to separate out the woman sitting in front of me, slightly straggly hair and unbecoming sweatsuit — some live for beauty, and some for convenience — from the sexpot I had ruined when we were children, with tits up around her chin. Nonetheless, she looked the same to me, if she’d only slip into something less comfortable. I found myself thinking that she must have just put that on after cheerleading practice, and was on her way home to shower, while I watched with binoculars.

I told her, “You know, I don’t remember your being this funny when you were a kid.”

“I got funnier. You went to New York. You missed it.”

“I’m sorry. You should have warned me.”

“Would you have stayed?”

“No. You had dumped me, anyway.”

“I didn’t dump you. No one even knew we were seeing each other.”

“But you stopped. You stopped seeing me.”

“That was later. I’m allowed that. But before. Admit it. Who was dirtier than me? Who would have done all that with you?”

I realized this was not a rhetorical question. “Nobody,” I said, omitting those who did.

“I know you’re lying. I’m sure others did something. But not like me. It was all wasted on you. You would have been happy for a girl to let you touch her at all. You thought that was already dirty. But I was dirtier.”

“No one is trying to deny that you were the best of all possible girlfriends, and also, if you’re still blaming me for Tracy Jorgensen, nothing happened with her. I’m just saying, now that I’m in my twilight years, I realize how stupid I am, and I don’t think I’ve ever been any different, and I know the stupid things stupid people can do, the stupidest of which is not admitting it was stupid.”

She looked at me for a while with a scowl. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, but just so long as you aren’t saying I wasn’t a hot lay, I don’t care. I think I was pretty damn good to you.”

“Always. You were perfect. You were a fantasy come true, three times a week. Is it rude to mention this?”

“It’d be rude to deny it.”

“Well, good, because I’m getting hard just thinking about it.”

“Don’t bother; I don’t have the uniform anymore. I couldn’t fit into it, anyway.”

“You probably could. It’s sort of awful that you look so good. Aren’t people supposed to get worse? I mean, you were fifteen years old. You were brand new. Look at me. I’m the walking wounded. How come you look better now?”

“I don’t know, because you had a long flight? Look at this, I have lines on my forehead.” She raised her eyebrows to put the line into sharper relief. She pulled at her scalp. “I have a grey hair.”

“Your grey hair is beautiful. Look, I’m not hitting on you, I’m just commenting on the phenomenon. I mean, tell me about the hot girls from high school. Who got fat? They all did, right?”


by Jack, 6:44 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Amanda | More from Women

Sunday, March 6, 2005

More ghosts

Amanda shifted on the sofa, pulling her legs up so I could see they weren’t fat, except I couldn’t, with the sweatpants. The ankles were thin. She had the arms rolled up as well, and the arms looked okay. “Let me think. Remember Sharon Houseman?”

“Yeah. Dancer. Acrobatic. H. O. T. T.”

“Right. She’s big now.”

“She was a dancer. She was athletic!”

“At sixteen she was athletic,” she said. “Now she sits behind a desk. Um, who else. Penny Trainer.”

“Oh my god. Penny?”

“She got heavy.”

“Oh my god.”

“You didn’t—was there something between you?”

“I think there was,,” I said thoughtfully. “Oh my god, she had this little upturned nose. It would look bad on a fat person.”

“Yeah, now it’s got burst blood vessels.”

“Wow, wow, wow. I can’t even believe I remember these people, and now you’re saying they’ve gone.”

“Asshole. They’re fat, not dead. Maybe they’re happier this way?”

“Maybe, but a piece of me dies every time a hot girl gains a hundred pounds,” I said. “Why is it that you look even better now? I didn’t think that’d be possible.”

“Stop saying that. C’mon, I don’t. I was such a tight little number then.”

“Well, I think you’ve improved, but maybe it’s just I’m no longer sexually attracted to fifteen-year-olds. Okay, I’m afraid to ask, because she would never talk to me. Maybe that’s why I liked her. But not snobby, she just didn’t like anybody. We even went to the same college the first year, but by the time I got up the courage to give her another try, she had dropped out. What about Sue Ellen Palowski?”

“Actually, uh, I forgot you didn’t know. Sue Ellen is dead.”

“Oh my god. Was she sick?”

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it. Yeah, well, apparently she couldn’t handle school, she was always sort of moody, right? She eventually moved to Chicago and was working on her drawing, or something, she was starting to have success as an artist, she always drew. Or paintings maybe. She started to sell them, and she was starting to feel better about her life. I actually talked to her, we were friends, you know, a little. I didn’t know you had a thing for her. Maybe I wouldn’t have been her friend, so I’m glad I didn’t know. I talked to her one day and she actually sounded happy. This was maybe five years ago. A week later she was hit by a bus.”

“A bus?”

“Crossing the street.”

“Holy shit. Sue Ellen. I had no idea.”

“Yeah. I guess, though, she was always so unhappy, so she went out while she was happy.”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it. You could also say that she died very young, for no reason.”

Another black look from her. She said, “Think whatever you want. You can’t change it.”

“I’ll go back to looking both ways on the street. And so much for my erection.”

“Sorry. Probably better that way. I’m a married woman.”

“And yet, as your ruination, as the man who led you astray, I feel we will always be linked. In a groinal way.” This is what passes for light banter. I wanted to have sex with her, but I also wanted to joke about it.

She shrugged. “Feel that way if you want, it doesn’t matter. I think I was the one who led you astray. Just because you thought you were hot shit? I mean, you hadn’t even gotten off with anyone. I chose you.

No one except the clerk at the bookstore. And then two girls my age around the time Amanda dumped me because she thought I was cheating on her, which I held against her. A detail for another time, such as never. “Thanks for the send-off,” I said.

“I think I was pretty damn nice to you. Do you deny that?”

“Of course not. You were too good for me.”

“Obviously. You were a sixteen-year-old jerk.”

“Yeah. But you were a cheerleader. It was meant to be.”

“Yeah. That was the worst part. I may have been dirty, and hot, but you definitely didn’t rate a cheerleader.”

“For your good tricks, I mean works, in this world, you’ll be rewarded in the next,” I reminded her.

“So where are you staying tonight?” She put her hand on my leg.

I looked at it. “You mean I can’t stay here?”

Her hand moved further, but she said, “Hell no. I’m up and down fifty times because of the little screaming angel. Anyway, it’s so nice to sleep alone for a change. Men are always in the way.”

“I’m well-behaved. Interesting that we’ve never slept next to each other. Do you think maybe that means something? We had sex in hidden places, and went home to our separate beds. That’s mostly what I have done since.”

“Yeah, me too. I mean, before shacking up and all that.” The hand was on my crotch now, but not touching it. Hovering.

“What are you doing?”

“Who? Nothing. Am I touching you? Who’s doing anything?”

“Okay. I guess I have no evidence.” I may not be the swiftest, but she seemed to be suggesting a kind of “understanding” which involved fucking. The old neighborhood. “But you’re a married woman,” I reminded her, because I am generally looking for ways to avoid sex with people who seem to like me.

“Yeah, but as you may recall, I knew you before I knew him.”

“I also seem to recall from our youth that you didn’t believe in sex before marriage. Isn’t that why you stopped screwing me?”

“But now I am married, and I hardly believe in it at all. Anyway, I was just a kid; what did I know?”

“Well, that’s what I—oh, you’re making fun of me. You can’t seduce a guy while you’re—”

She was smiling, and she raised herself up and sat in my lap, Las Vegas-style.

“Now this time, you are touching me for sure.”

“No, it’s just our clothes. I’m a million miles away.” She rocked back thoughtfully. Jeans pressed against sweatpants as in a fairy tale.

“It doesn’t feel that way. It feels different.”

Rocking thoughtfully, she said, “I can’t believe you’re really here.”

“It’s been a long time, Amanda.”

“Did you miss me?” she asked.

“Now I know I did,” I said, and we moved to kiss each other at the same moment, just like when I was sixteen and didn’t know not to be romantic all the time. Then she said, “Don’t think of Sue Ellen Palowski,” which I had been from the first moment we had discussed her. How did Amanda get so smart? Were all the girls smarter now? Was I the only one who was still an idiot? Maybe they were always smart, but they didn’t mention it until now. But I stopped thinking of Sue Ellen Palowski, because Amanda was hotter. And, not counting that she was not buried in the ground, she was dirtier.


by Jack, 4:54 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Amanda | More from Women

Monday, March 7, 2005

The sex genius meets the intimacy junkie

Probably just from the shock of how it felt the same after an entire lifetime, we stopped kissing almost immediately. Amanda opened her eyes wide and they looked the same as I could now remember them. It was not an experience I had ever thought about in advance: to be holding someone you had lusted after, that you selfishly had sex with before any other human had the chance to, when you were only an unformed lump, a child, and now you were a formed lump, an idiot, who lived somewhere he chose to instead of where his parents did. She had always been a sort of personal hero to me, because she had had sex with me. Which she seemed to be willing, expecting, to do again. It was almost too much to take. It was like standing on a street corner and having Ray Charles ask you to help him cross. Who could resist taking the arm of a genius?

“You’re shaking,” she said. She was shaking, too, but I didn’t say so. I thought about a lot of things to say, but I said, “You are incredible.” She was grinning like a crazy person.

“Did you ever think you would be doing this again?” She said “again”. It was going all the way. It seemed wrong, and that was amazing. “No,” I said, and in a moment of weakness, “Why did I ever let you go?”

“Because you were an asshole,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“I’m not. Who wants to be with an asshole? But you’d better kiss me now. Make it last this time.”

When I was sixteen, Amanda was a girl who was dumb enough to like me, and I punished her for it by making her have sex with me as often as could be managed around her cheerleading schedule. That fact blinded me. I don’t think I really thought about her as a person. There were lots of people in the world. Her uniqueness was she put out, a lot, and that was all I needed to know. Later in life I wondered why that had been, and if there was some psychological deficiency that had caused it. She became even less of a person to me. She was part of a social ill: Middle Western teens whose fathers don’t love them, or something.

Now she was letting me get away with murder all over again. But in the new context, the situation seemed so weird it couldn’t have the same motivation. It wasn’t because she was weak. It was because she was inscrutable. It was because she was an amazing, complex person. You could tell that just by looking in her face while she grinded up against you. I noticed her for the first time, and even though she was doing basically the same shit, this time I respected her for it. Or maybe, since I was sixteen, I had changed my opinion about what to think if a girl liked me: I was now ready to accept it, or almost. And all this was going through my head as we kissed, but I couldn’t tell her any of it. My philosophizing about women is somehow never of the type you can tell to women.

She gripped my hair and pulled my head back. “What do you want to do?” she whispered. “Are we really doing this?”

“I don’t know,” I said, and slipped a hand under her blouse, in the back. She froze. I touched her back tentatively. She groaned in a manner completely disproportionate to the touch. We were doomed. I said, “I feel like we have to.”

“That’s not good,” she said, “because that’s how I feel.”

Instead of saying, “Wouldn’t your husband prefer we didn’t?” I said, “Are you going to regret it?” It got to the same place.

“The funny thing is,” she said, “I really can’t imagine that.” So much for the husband, father, and good provider.

“You know, it seems even dirtier. To be with the same person after so long.”

“I know,” she said, as if I had discovered the central mystery of the problem, and she thought only she had.

I looked down at her whole body there in my lap. I really didn’t know where to start. If I started, then it would have to eventually end. That didn’t sound good. Like a kid with a bag of cookies: he wants to eat them all and save them. It was so hard to feel anything with girls, because of your brains. I think maybe Amanda and I, since our connection was primeval, were bypassing the brain. That was the discovery of the millennium. The best drugs I ever had was her sitting there on my lap, both of us in our clothes. That may sound innocent and childish, but we never stayed clothed that long when we were kids.

“You’ve got the dopiest look on your face,” she said. “I hope I don’t look like that.”

“I just want to prolong the beautiful agony of sitting here.”

“I think I’d rather you just slipped inside me for a while,” Amanda said, and then looked at me, shocked. “Such language from a cheerleader.”

“An ex-cheerleader,” I reminded her, “you can’t even fit into the uniform.”

“I’ll bet I still could,” she pouted.

“I hope we won’t find out. I think I’d have a heart attack.”

She giggled at me suddenly, then she laughed. This went on for a moment and I waited it out. Then she kissed me and said, “You were so funny. How you sort of were crazy about my breasts, but you didn’t want to let on about it. In the end, I think you had a better relationship with them than with me.”

“You’ll note I am trying very hard not to give that impression now.”

“I did notice you seemed to have forgotten where they were.”

“How are they? Do you still have them?”

“Somewhere around here, must have.”

“I shudder to even think.”

“Do you admit that you were a fool for my tits?”

“I admit nothing.”

“Then I won’t reintroduce you.”

“But, c’mon, such old friends as—”

At that moment, the baby let out such a shriek from the next room, I jumped. It was the new claimant of tits asserting herself, I guess. Amanda looked at her watch. “I’d better feed her. Then she’ll probably sleep for a few hours. That’ll be good.”

I cooly dropped, “Should I help you get the bottle ready? I’m good at boiling water.”

She cocked her eyebrow. “No bottle. Straight from the crate.”

“Hmmm,” I said, observing my fingernails. “Do what you have to do.”


by Jack, 11:58 AM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Amanda | More from Women

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Two girls drinking

Amanda smirked and climbed off of me slowly. She began to whistle, which I didn’t remember she could do. She wandered around the room for a few seconds, straightening pillows. All while the baby cried. Then she disappeared into the bedroom, leaving the door open as it scratched on the carpet. I heard her make baby conversation and then the screaming turned off like a switch. “That’s a good girl,” Amanda drawled at a distance. “Yes, you are, a good thirsty girl.”

I put my head back and stared at her cracking Racine ceiling. I folded my hands on my chest and shut my eyes. “Everything all right in there?” I called out after a while.

After a while she called back, “Chugging along. Will you bring me a beer?”

This struck terror into my heart. Amanda drinking a beer. While baby Krista drank Amanda. Like everything else at that moment, it was wrong. I approached the kitchenette. The refrigerator was a nexus of life’s disappointing details. I looked at the attached pathetic snapshot of Amanda, tiny baby, and probable husband, in an outdoor context. He was balding and had the distinct beginnings of jowls. He looked older than her, but maybe wasn’t. Worst of all, he was wearing a polo shirt. At least it was no one I knew. The baby was staring at the ground.

Under the photo was a calendar with pediatric appointments slashing across dates. I closed my eyes and watched the refrigerator’s innocent surface populate with report cards, finger paints, and amusingly-shaped magnets. I opened the refrigerator door and stood there letting the cool air bathe my face. There were jumbles of plastic baby bottles in there, color-coded and ready to be packed, rolling up against a microwave-safe container of half-eaten Kraft Dinner, that icon of the apartment-dweller who has lost all self-respect. It reminded me of home. I got out a bottle of beer. I considered smashing it and slitting my wrists. I found and opener and opened it instead.

I went into the bedroom, holding the beer ahead of me with the other hand over my eyes. “Want me to throw it to you?”

“How about bring it to me, and with your eyes open so you don’t knock into shit.”

“I feel that this is a private moment between Madonna and child.”

“Well,” she said, “as a recovering Lutheran I can tell you we’re already sinners so you might as well sit down.” I peeked through my fingers. “Can I have my beer?” she asked. I took the hand away from my face and hesitated. I took a good look at her sitting there with her blissed-out daughter. “Give me a second,” I said, “let’s see how it works without props first.”

She was that vision of contemporary motherhood: sweatshirt over the feeding bra, clunky glasses because there’s no time for contacts in the morning. Apparently she wore them for baby-range vision. The sweatshirt was rolled up under her chin and that left aileron had to flap up as sure as the sun would eventually stop rising; probably, at the rate things were going, tomorrow. “Do you know what I’ve been doing since we last saw each other?” I asked her.

She looked like she was about to say something sharp, then simply shook her head. I pressed on.

“Thinking about, searching for, and looking at tits.”

She chortled. “I’ll bet.”

“And I don’t want to swell your head like you’ve swelled your tits, but I hope you realize the significance of your tits.”

She sighed, and so did her tits. “Yeah, well, that’s why boys like me, I guess.”

I stood there nodding at the wisdom of that.

She said, “How about can I have my fucking beer?”

I approached them carefully. “Sit down here,” she said, patting the bed beside her. Her other side. I sat down, handed her the beer. “You’re not having one?” she asked. I shook my head numbly. She toasted me. She hoisted the beer to her mouth, her head back. I looked at Krista’s wild expression. I moved back a bit to see them both better. “This is nuts,” I said out loud.

She wiped her mouth and handed me back the beer, which I set on the nightstand. “Answer this question yes or no,” she said. “Are you a perv?”

I considered that. “Well,” I began.

“I’m taking that as a yes. Okay. Hold on. Ouch.” She shifted Krista a bit in her arm. “Do you want to try some?”

“That’s nuts. Anyway, I don’t want to intrude.”

“C’mon, try it, sometimes I drink it myself.” She pushed up the other side of her bra. “You’ll grow up to be healthy. I mean, physically.” She grinned at me. I considered her face. She didn’t have a dirty expression, for once. She just wanted to share something she knew would interest me, like cutting out a newspaper article headlined “My tits”.

“Let me just say that I am not doing this,” I said, and bent down to complete the symmetry that Krista had started. Amanda put her arm around me, patting. “What a good boy,” she said. It tasted familiar.


by Jack, 5:18 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Amanda | More from Drinking & Women

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Is there life after high school?

“Well, now I feel special,” Amanda said. “I’m at capacity. That’s never happened before. Tom would never dare.” The poor man’s name. That was breaking the rules. I didn’t want to know about this guy.

I gently let go. “I have drank of the waters of life,” I said. “Thank you for curing my considerable ailments.”

“Yeah. Whatever. That was pretty fucked up. I can’t believe you really did that.”

“Well, remember,” I said, “I did it once before.”

“It’s sort of pathetic. You are obsessed with breasts.”

“Me? What about her?” I thumbed at baby Krista. “And, hey, it was your idea.”

“Just to kill time. I think she’ll sleep now.” She bustled around the crib, trying to entice a baby who thought everything looked crazy that it was okay to close her eyes for a while. She left her flaps up at first, then she tugged everything back into place. Then she turned to me and said, “Okay, now we’re really going to do fucked-up shit.” She giggled. “No, just kidding. We’re only going to do ordinary shit.” She came into my arms.

“Like what?”

“Don’t worry, it will involve your dick.”

“I feel relieved. Will you be there too?”


“Oh, good. I feel we’ve grown close.”

“Naturally.” She kissed me and walked me back against the bed. She shoved a little and I sat down with a bounce. “Hold on, let me do something else fucked up. It’s so great that everything with you is fucked up. I am having a ball.” She rushed out of the room.

Astute or breast-obsessed readers may recall my high school memories of Amanda, which laid the foundation for a lifetime of vaguely understanding women, when I didn’t think about it too much. She had made a play for me one afternoon in a shed near the football field, with courage found in the fact that her family was leaving town shortly.

But as it turned out, Amanda did not move away. Her father’s transfer fell through or something. It seemed clear that her aggressive move on me had been at least partially based on the fact she wouldn’t have to see me again. That not being the case in the end, she made another gutsy move. She saw me again. We became, to our own surprise, lovers. In secret, like Romeo and Juliet, except a little older. You didn’t go around talking about who you were screwing in Racine, not if you wanted to keep doing it. We figured we were the only people who knew how it was done, and we guarded the gift jealously, except for me, who tried to con the vaguest acquaintance into the sack.

And now, a decade further on, as I sat in suspense on Amanda’s sordid marriage bed, she slipped back into the doorway and breathily said, “Hi, Jack,” and if I wanted her way back then, and then wanted her later, then I definitely wanted her now. She slunk into the room wearing exactly the same clothes she had left with, but in a new persona, a sort of anti-idealized version of her fifteen-year-old All-American Tramp. “I think you’re pretty fucking hot,” she said, swaggering back to the doorway. Then she looked shocked. “Look! What’s that!” She pointed behind my head. I didn’t turn to look. Like lightning she pulled off her sweatshirt and threw it at my feet. She had switched the baby bra for some more traditional lacy number. With her face a pouty parody of the best fucks of our lives, she danced a little jig up to me, then a few steps back, then landed across my lap in the throes of premature passion.

“Take me, oh take me now,” she whinnied.

“That isn’t what you said,” I snapped at her.

“Whatever, I was thinking it. And you know what you were thinking?” She sat up in my lap and ran rude hands all over my chest. “Grabby grab grab,” she explained.

“Clank, clank,” I reminded her. “Our meeting was a miracle,” I said, supporting her shoulders as she leaned back a bit, “because up until that time, I had never—ever—” I unhooked her bra for the last time, one-handed as usual. “—done that.”

“And you did it so well! Never?”

“Not even practice on store mannequins.”

She whistled. “You’re a natural. A prodigy!”

I slowly helped her off with the holy garment. “Is there a reason your bra is wet?”

She giggled again. She had never had this much fun with me when we were kids. “It was drying in the bathroom. I didn’t want to give it away if you saw me take one from my drawer. Get this clammy thing off me.”

It went far away and she said, “Just don’t forget about the rest of me.” It’s stupid to like breasts, but it’s not my fault. Apparently there is some reason. “Women think men act like babies when there are breasts around,” I said, “but isn’t that what breasts are for?”

“Yeah, but you’re not babies.”

“So put ‘em away, then. I don’t care. I’m over it.”

“You lie. Didn’t you just pledge some kind of undying admiration? The best ones ever? That’s much more than I ever got out of you, as a whole person.”

“Amanda, we had a problem. You are an amazing person, but you’ve got amazing tits, and I can only take things one at a time.”

“Yeah, I know. With great tits comes great responsibility. Well, you’re real deep. Why do you have all your clothes on?”

“Because that’s how it happened.”

“Yeah, but I also put my clothes back on, if I recall, and we’re changing that part too.”

“You know,” I reflected, “I don’t think I’ve ever talked this much to someone about fucking her.”

“That’s because we never talked, Jack. I thought it might be a new position for us. Talking.”

“Is that in the Kama Sutra? The name isn’t as evocative as most of them.”

“Talking Dog. I don’t know. Stop looking at my tits.”

“Stop having giant naked tits and maybe I will.”

“They’re not giant.”

“You’re right. They’re normal. The rest of the world is small.”

“Well, it’s cheating, because babies make for big ones. But they are naked.” And she started to get me naked too, laughing the whole time. “You’re so cute. You look terrible. What happened to you? What’s all this flab? It’s so adorable.”

“That’s because you’re used to babies now. I’m a late-bloomer. I got my baby fat at twenty-five.”

“You look so terrible. I love it.” She kissed me again and again. “That makes this whole thing even more tragic.”

“Tragic? Are you saying we aren’t going to be together forever?”

“Of course we will, honey, in some ways, just don’t ever call me again.” And then we stopped talking for a while. Except one part at which she said, “Remember this?” so faintly that I wasn’t sure I hadn’t thought it in my own head. With memories and memorized fantasies flooding into current events, I couldn’t swear to what was really happening. She left the light on, but she looked the same. More sure of herself, of course. But most of that had been when she was talking so much. I wonder how we both got to become so talky over the years. But behind the phony pasteboard mask was a real pasteboard mask. When she shut up she was acting like she felt something, and she probably did, even if it had nothing to do with me, just my ghost. When the entire process of sexual self-destruction was over, she was crying, and so was the baby. Amanda ran to quiet her, all the while sobbing herself, and then crawled up against me and bawled for twenty minutes. I didn’t know what to do so I counted twenty minutes and held her alternately tight and very tight. Then Amanda said, “Well. We still got it.”


by Jack, 8:06 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Amanda | More from Drinking & Women

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A valediction

I coughed and said, “Yeah.”

“Water under the bridge, Jack.”

I said, “Yeah.”

“I thought it would be more fun. I mean, I wouldn’t call that ‘fun’.”

“It scared me, Amanda, really.”

She nodded slowly. “Did you ever think of me, all these years?”

“Yes. More than probably anybody.”

“Are you for real?”

I said, “Yeah.”

“But you never loved me, then, did you?”

“What did I know? I was a stupid kid.”

She said, “Yeah, that’s what you keep saying.”

I thought for a moment. Her ragged breathing knocked against me. I stared at the ceiling. “But you wanna know a secret?”

She pushed herself up against me. “Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

“It’s not bad. What the hell did you think I was gonna say?”

She settled back down. “I don’t know, but be careful.”

I gathered her in again and said, “I love you now, anyway.”

“Jesus!” She smacked at me and sat up. “I knew you were going to say that. That is so manipulative. It’s goddamn unfair to say that! Jesus, Jack!”

I was genuinely surprised. “What do you mean, manipulative? If you say that to a girl to get her into bed, okay, but afterwards, it’s like a, I don’t know, a valediction—”

She was standing up now, gesturing all over the place. “You’re just a piece of shit. You don’t come back to someone ten years later and say evil shit like that.”

“What’s evil? It’s—”

“What’s evil! The whole thing is evil, because it even sounded real. I think I deserve better than that, Jack. You broke the first rule of sleeping with ex-girlfriends. Keep it on a professional level. What the hell are they teaching you out in so-called New York?”

“I’m sorry, Amanda, I really didn’t think you—”

“Well, you’d better go. You can’t stay here anyway. I’ve got to get up early. I’m sorry. I mean, I was going to make you leave anyway. But you’d better go.”

I gathered up my heap of clothes and dressed mournfully in the bathroom while I listened to her starting a different kind of crying, which seemed more desperate. I guess because now she didn’t even have me on her side. When I went back in, dressed, she had on a silk robe and she was staring at her baby. I waved goodbye to the sleeping baby and Amanda gave me a carefully conciliatory hug. She even kissed me a kiss drenched in Our Last Time Together. “This was pretty sad,” she said. “I’m not sure you should have come.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Should I call you in ten years?”

She didn’t smile. “No.”

“I don’t know what to say to you that isn’t stupid.”

“Stop using the word ‘stupid’ all the time to describe us, how about that.”

“I’m sorry, Amanda, I’m just an idiot.”

“Great. I fucked an idiot. You’d better go.”

“I just hate leaving you like this.”

“Maybe you should stick around until Tom comes home. Maybe we could all get some closure that way, after he beats the shit out of you.”

I shrugged. “Okay. I’m sorry. Did it end like this ten years ago? I feel like we had our whole relationship over again in five hours.”

“No, it was worse ten years ago, because I cared about you. I’m going to have to say goodnight now. Krista will be getting up soon and I need to catch some sleep.” She walked me to the door, smiled tiredly, no hug or kiss, and I went. Fortunately, neither of us had once mentioned holiday cheer; that would have made it even worse, the heartfelt “Get out of my life” closed by the automatic “Merry Christmas”.

It wasn’t even that late, maybe ten o’clock. I had never been kicked out of an apartment, post-intercourse, at this time of evening before. I drove back the familiar miles and I let myself in my mother’s house with the hidden key she still kept there. I snuck upstairs and met her suddenly on the landing. “Look who decided to show up,” she said, and sailed into her room with a door that didn’t slam, but left no doubt.

by Jack, 5:30 PM | Link | Comments (7) | More from Amanda | More from Women

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