When a Third World Came West
By A Third World C... on June 20, 2011
Blog Directory Overview: When a Third World Came West When I was 22 and at a therapy session with my doctor, he told me that I should write down in a journal what I had been through in the previous year. I had waged a battle between chaos and my level-headedness and the latter had won out. The doldrums of my common sense had finally taken over and left my sail through various exploits stationary, after a hectic ride of me chasing the eye of a stormy guy. I dismissed the therapist because I was dismissing friends and people and my mom and dad left and right. I had dropped out of college to follow a Muslim drifter, ran away, gotten married to him and gotten pregnant, all within the course of five months. When ‘Sam’, the stormy guy, was deported for being an FBI suspect during the 9-11 attacks, I had to pull myself up and move on by working tons of hours at a minimum wage job and twisting my head on straight so that I could sign up for night classes at a local college. Five years later as a teacher inBaltimorecity with a bank account and money to spare, my repaired relationship with my mom and dad prompted them to invite me on a trip toNorway,Sweden, andDenmark. After I spilled water all over the disposable camera I’d bought off the street from a merchandise vendor, I decided instead to record my trip by writing in a journal about the tall paned windows that adorned the canals for which I’d look back at and want to remember. I started scribbling on blue and white napkins at cocktail hour and wound up writing a 34 typed written journal of some of the best vacation days I’d had. When the writing was over, I wanted more. So I started up a recollection of what happened to me four years earlier, during a time when I put my parents for a spin, when I ran so fast towards fun that I’d have to, like clean up crews on probation, go back to sweep up the mess that I had made and to say sorry to the friends and parents with whom I’d affected. When I dropped out of college, got married too young, and prevented a pregnancy from happening, I was desperate to get in touch with other girls who had been in my situation. When, however, I’d gone to Barnes and Noble I found separate books on each of the issues that I went through, but none of which directly addressed all that I needed. These days I can get on websites like Planned Parenthood and chime in with my two cents about how to heal from having to make a choice about a child. But I wanted to write more, so I wrote a story, on top of teaching seniors at my high school, about my experience with Sam. I couldn’t do anything about the books that weren’t on the shelf when I needed comforting to feel that I wasn’t alone in what I’d gone through, but I can do something for girls who have gone through one or more of the experiences that I talk about in my story. I want to get my tale out there so that I can be the hand on the shoulder that no one book was for me. Segment 1: When a Third World Came West The night I met Sam, which is when this story starts, I had been partying a lot with my friends, letting loose, dancing and just not caring in general. This was pretty typical of me. I had just come home for summer vacation from a small private school in North Carolina. There were tons of schools up there which reveled in sororities and fraternities and I didn’t like those, but I really liked to have a good time. I liked, looking at hot guys, and losing myself as the night wore on. It was so much fun for the most part. But, I didn’t know where I was headed for, and I guess that made my family feel kind of queasy about me and my sense of direction. I really didn’t think from one moment to the next, nor did I connect my previous behaviors with their present consequences, which weren’t always good. Like grades. I was fascinated with programs like the Liberal Arts Forum, which brought speakers to present at our school. I spoke for Gloria Steinem right after she got married and spoke out in our gym. I could write a great short story high, in our new Belk Library and I was usually right on when I criticized my creative writing teachers about the poems they’d read at a reading the night before. I got through okay. But I was wild, I was searching and searching for something exciting and a lot of times I found it at the Lighthouse (a bar), or at the West End (another bar). But my GPA wasn’t alright., I wasn’t ambitious about getting even B’s in my classes and I wasn’t thinking towards the future about how that would affect graduate school. I was living from one party to the next and I guess that’s how I met Sam. In this first segment of my story I head to my friend Robbie’s house and meet them out at a bar covered in red velvet where some guy was trying to sell birth control as ecstasy. Hope you enjoy… I had just heard the sound of the double front doors shutting against the heavy rubber catch, with my parents out the door and with me riffling through my closet to find something to wear. Whenever they left and whenever I could hear the door close, the garage door open and the car back out to leave, I got a surge of energy at the thought of being able to run out through the living room and down the short step making an echo through the Mexican style tiled floors to the glass entertainment stand where I could turn on the radio. With the thought of music on the way I got ahead of myself, opened the full length mirrored closet doors that my mom had chosen for her closet as well as mine and began going through my clothes, pulling back the packed shirts and hangars stretched from blouses that were too heavy and searched through pants stubbornly with their cheap metal hangars to look for something to where to Robbie’s. I pulled passed more shirts and this dress and those pair of pants until I was drawn in by the look of a velvet almond colored tank that was scrunched up and down the middle to look like a braid. I took the hangar out of my closet, plopped the tank on my bed and went through my closet five more times until I found a thin Indian cotton skirt with brown and white little petals all through it. I set that down too next to the top and ran out, through the living room and down the Mexican tile steps to the stereo to turn the music to a song that set me in a trance, louder, aware of the two elderly couples that lived on either side of us, turning my back on my thinking twice for loud music, because weren’t they almost deaf at this age? Just as I was passing the couch I heard my cell phone ring, realizing that I was probably late and that I hadn’t eaten dinner. I thought about skipping it since the music was on and I was wound up, excited to see Robbie and the four guys I’d met last time at his house in addition to the tons of other people who seemed to show up randomly to drink and mix on his dusty wooden floor, to lean their shoulders on the wall next to his cluttered kitchen. A half and hour later and dressed and in my parent’s 1989 Volvo, I was tilting my rear view mirror to glimpse at my makeup and sighed at the disproportionate ringlets in my hair. I’d cut it a few weeks before the summer started because the girl I'd paid to chop it, cut one side shorter than the other and watching it too many times in the mirror while scrubbing my teeth, I thought one snip could fix it. I took matters into my own hands. My best-friend at school saw my haircut one day and said something about it, wanting to cut it up to my chin. A snip here, another there and before I’d known it my hair was short, short, short. Though now it had grown to the bony clavicle blade that stuck out of my thin chest and I knew that if I kept starring at it in the mirror that I'd bump into the end of some grumpy middle aged man’s car. I backed out of my driveway and drove passed my parents silver two-door Celica and was on my way to Robbie’s, fifteen minutes away. Once there, I pulled into a driveway made up of rocks mulch, overgrown grass and ferns, pulled my gears into park, and got out. I walked too fast in the humidity, trying to overcompensate for my bulky heeled espadrilles. I pierced my raisin lipstick as I walked up the cement steps and onto the portico to Robbie's door. A woman I’d never seen before, a medium-height flashy, Columbian looking thirty-year old dressed in a skirt that fell just above bulky calves, smiled and opened the door. She had on a lot of eye make-up, though I thought I had just eyed that because she looked like she had been more patient with the mascara wand or eyebrow tweezers and eye shadow shades than I. I walked through the door and through the living room where I plopped onto the white couch where I’d sat on Bobby’s lap a few times before, watching his favorite re-runs that made me want to haggle with him for the remote. I could hear his voice passed the dining room and through the saloon style white plantation shutter wooden doors where he was in his kitchen doing the illegal things he liked. Bobby came out a few minutes later from the cupboard doors looking like a misfit in a mountain town bar meant for rustic westerners, with a roommate that I recognized and his roommate’s girlfriend who had wet long blond hair from a shower. The roommate’s girlfriend came to sit beside me, wearing a thin blue and pink skirt with a wavy paisley scrawl across it, smiling sincerely. “We just got to wait for a few more people. It’s only 9 o’clock,” She’d said. “Tracy, come here, sit down," Bobby barked. I squirmed a bit, smiled, looked down, pushing my back into Robbie’s couch pillows. He was like this, shouting out thoughts he had in front of everyone, embarrassing anyone that he'd singled out in particular. An hour later and with five or more people coming through the entrance to the house, sighing and wanting more pink, blue and green flashing lights or something shining down their rhythm through beating sounds. All of us seemed hungry for wanting to be around people so the four of us including me, got into Bobby’s two-door 1993 mustang and pulled out for entertainment. Segment 2: When a Third World Came West I don’t remember why, but I wanted to try stuff in college. I felt like there wasn’t a real boundary or a thick line between crossing over to try stuff and being scared. I felt like nothing would happen to me if I just tried something. Maybe it was the wave I felt when Robbie started giving me GHB. He was a chiropractor and he told me he was basically a doctor. He knew, he said, about health and what someone should or shouldn’t do, how many doses. And, he said when I was getting too into it or wanting it too much, that that’s when he would cut me off. He always said that. And besides, nothing did happen with it. It wasn’t until I was at a Passover sader sitting across the table from a doctor who’d been going on and on for five minutes about the teens he saw who’d almost died from it so many times. I guess I got lucky. In this segment, I was meeting Robbie downtown in a club that had just opened, the Red Velvet. Clubs were always opening and closing there and this one had just been built up. After parking the car and, listening to Robbie shouting about the lyrics on 92.3, I decided to walk toward the club. Robbie, his roommate, and his roommate’s girlfriend went to the 7-11 to get cigarettes, water to mix the GHB with and some Gatorade. Did I want anything? “No,” I’d said. I’d stopped eating so much after I’d taken up smoking; just something to do with my hands, which were always touching things or tapping on tables, fidgeting. I walked up a block and past the courthouse where my dad worked and to where I put out of my head about what he’d say if he knew about me being here, in this way, with these people, doing these things. I walked past a club,Cairo. Passed a few mailbox slots, a cigar shop where the owner got shot, killed, whose case my father tried. I got to the club after walking past another two or three stores then turned left into it. Their was a wooden bar with chunky wooden eaves at its corners and a red velour curtain blocking a doorway towards the back. Bar stools surrounded the bartender in a square shaped u, above which, wine glasses, champagne flutes, pint glasses, and beer mugs hung as upside down bats from a wooden ceiling that was serving as a shelf. I saw a few people at the back end of the bar and walked down towards it seeing two couches, one to the left and one to the right hand side of the room, a red fake Turkish carpet in between separating them. There was a guy in the corner holding a glass and talking to a girl who was sitting on the edge of a black, lacquered in-table. I went up to the guy in the black button down shirt, the bartender, got out a twenty from my brown change purse, ordered a drink, looking back at the guy I had just seen. After taking a quick sip from my straw I knew I didn’t have tons of time before I’d spot my friends walking in through the door. I walked past some stools and up to the start of where the fake Turkish rug was, thinking of what I’d say when I got up to the man with curly hair. He was sipping his straw, the girl who had been talking to him gone, maybe to the bathroom. He was looking around the room in a way that made him look alone. “Hi,” I said. The man nodded politely and said ‘hi’ back to me. Without an introduction or a question about how he liked the bar or maybe “How’s the drink,” I whispered to him, “I’m waiting for my friend to get here, but I can’t find him anywhere. I promised him forty for just two. Can you believe he stood me up?” The man looked awkwardly down at the ice in his glass tumbler. I looked towards the red velour curtain covering the doorway and knew his girlfriend would be back at anytime. I had to think up an excuse in case she figured me to be some hussy sizing up her boyfriend. But no girl returned. I said something more. “You know anybody,” I said, taking a sip of my drink. He didn’t make eye contact with me, but he said, “You really shouldn’t be going up to people asking them for pills.” “I know. I know. Do you know anyone though?” I asked. “Yea, I guess.” He put down his drink and turned around looking towards the red velour curtain from which his girlfriend disappeared. He put his drink down on a napkin on the table and got up. He went down this small empty hallway on the opposite side of the bar, parallel to where his girlfriend, friend, or whatever she was, went to the restroom. There was a curtain serving as a door to the door less entryway that we’d passed through and a door at the opposite end of the hall. Other than a couple of boxes and some red paint tested on the wall, the room was empty. I looked around from side to side and watched what he was going to do next. He just pulled out some packs of pills in a tinfoil wrapper. Most of it had been split open, with a knife maybe, to get them out. I thought twice about paying him for them. I didn’t wanna go crazy. But I didn’t have to take them if I didn’t want to. I was here; I might as well give him the money. I could change my mind about taking them later. Segment 3: When a Third World Came West When I was at college I lived with a handful of roommates who’d done ecstasy on a regular basis while I stayed in my room smoking, and getting high off my own stuff, to Kate Bush and the closest thing that came to alternative on the radio stations. In this particular year of college I’d scratched out in my options for a roommate the opposite of what I’d done before. I asked for someone who didn’t care if their room was a wreck, who smoked, who stayed up late, and who was friendly. But I wound up becoming more of a recluse for it all in the end. I really couldn’t stand to be around my roommate, Kim, and I started going off campus more and more to drink at the bars, meet a handful of interesting people, and get some relief and space. I liked experiences that made you think and that got your mind off of stuff that was too pressing. So when I went to the Red Velvet Bar with Robbie, I made sure that I brought extra money with me because it was just one of those nights where I wanted to let go or feel loose and not have my head pinned on things that were too much to bear or think about. I looked around at the corroded metal frames and mediocre paintings, the two walls, and back behind me to see if I could hear the shrieks of Robbie’s discontent beyond the door’s curtain. “Just one.” He bit at the metal foil with his teeth cursing the plastic that wouldn’t open by his nubby fingers. He teared at the package as one would react to their head screaming for an Advil, pushing away bottles of different prescriptions in the dark for the right one. He got one out and the tips of his tongue were spotted with blood, but he licked the end of his index finger anyway and put the pill on it so it would stick and not drop to the ground. “That’s twenty.” I opened the clasp on my purse while I was still sober, pulled away a twenty from a billfold I’d had since I was fifteen and thanked him before swallowing. He mumbled under his breath, standing there I thought, wondering where that girl had gone. Since I hadn’t been talkative during our introduction, the silence between us became awkward as I tried to pull up something to say after giving him the money. I started to hear a bunch of glasses, noise, the tuner on a radio going up some where to turn up the music. I figured the bartender would be in here soon or the busser, picking up extra bar cloths, lemons, cocktail napkins, or Tequila salt. I swallowed the pill and walked back through the curtain towards Robbie’s brood who had come in and who were sitting at the front of the entrance, by the window with the bar’s name printed in bronze, in hyped up Gunguh big lettering. I wanted to go to the bathroom, rinse my face with cold water, see if I felt anything, but Robbie got in the way, glancing at me and shouting out and waving me over from the opposite end, “Hey, where you been? Come here.” I waved back, called out, trying to keep my voice low, acting glad and surprised, faking it, to see him. Robbie shook his head and got distracted from a Mexican woman with a big purple hat and a sunhat chattering with his friend near him. When I first met him, Robbie was dancing in the middle of a stage at a club around the corner holding a fake cigarette that he’d made between his teeth. Twenty minutes after, I was sitting on his lap in a booth full of people just like tonight, drinking tequila shots and feeling connected with all his strangers. He pulled a red straw now, from his plastic cup and drank something that looked like ginger ale all the way straight down and got jumpy sliding past the crowd that had muddled the view of the bartender, who was now serving ten or fifteen new guests. I turned around and walked down the hall and left into the bathroom. By the time I’d sat down next to them Robbie he had had two drinks and was complaining loudly, probably for attention, about how this bar was overrated and how they charged seven dollars for Absolute where as a different club down the street, charged only five. I rolled my eyes in the other direction and ordered a beer that a nice looking guy with a white button down shirt had ordered, three stools away from me. Thirty minutes later and four more people showed up who knew Robbie’s friends. I didn’t really go out of my way to introduce myself or make myself known, and plus in addition, I hadn’t felt a thing. I got up passed the stool and fumbled trying not to bump into Robbie and his roommate. “Where ya going?” He asked. “Just to the machine,” I said. “To get some more cash out. I thought I had more but I didn’t. Be right back.” “I got cash. Besides, you just had a drink; stay.” “Uh I’m gonna need some for later…just in case.” I smiled at him and walked out towards the exit and into the muggy air. “We’ll be here,” I heard him shout. I hurried past the bar and walked out into the dark and down the curb step looking right for oncoming traffic. After a few cars passed by I headed for the other side of the street. Segment 4: When a Third World Came West I’ve always liked meeting new strangers, just like I enjoy ordering something I’ve never had before off a menu, in a language for which I can’t understand…cause it’s a surprise. When I looked back I was wondering if other people were like this too..if they were casual about walking up and making small talk with people that they didn’t know, or if they were curious about someone who had an accent, who smelled and looked from far away. But a lot of friends turned me down when I brought this up, I think maybe, because they were worried about me or maybe they didn’t want to get into the same rut as I was in. There was a man with one leg propped up against the mortar of a brick wall, stained with coca cola, gum, gum wrappers and the writing ‘SJ Sand’ that was fading away in black spray paint. I looked at him because he was looking at me and I didn’t know it then, but I needed glasses. He could have been someone I knew from high school, mad that I didn’t recognize him or friendly, decent enough to stop and say hello. He was smiling; I was watching my way in and out of traffic, keeping an eye on the red hand of the signal at the other side of the road, and at the same time listening to a beat up yellow VW honk and then stop next to a motorcycle who crossed the pedestrian red cross line. The white stick figure blinked three times on the walk signal so I hurried across, seeing how much traffic was across the street since I needed to cross it again to my different bank. I saw the guy still leaning, smiling at two girls with brown curly hair who passed him and who could be mistaken for either Latino twenty-year olds or promiscuous Jewish twenty-year olds. He said something to them and when he opened his mouth you could see that the gap between his two front teeth were an upside down V. The ATM was across the street and I walked past him looking for oncoming cars to the left and right, crossed it and went up to the ATM and thought about withdrawing more than twenty dollars. I had a feeling I was gonna keep needing to find my luck and that I was going to need maybe thirty to get a chance at talking to the guy with the curly hair who had made me feel lucky the first time. It had been forty minutes and I hadn’t felt a thing and the more drunk Robbie got the more set in his ways he would become and the less likely he’d be likely to let me share the stuff that he’d been making, when we got back to his kitchen. I walked past a line of people waiting behind me to get money out, crossed back over to the same corner by the bank and turned, ignoring the guy that had smiled at the two curly haired girls and who smoking now, in a blue and white cotton lookingCaribbeandress shirt. But I heard someone say “Hey….” A big muscled with a white button down business shirt said thank you to the man in front of him and walked up to the ATM to get money out. I turned around to see if the ‘hey’ was for me, and it was from the same guy with the V gap in his smile, in between his two front teeth. He had walked up to the corner to where the ATM was, ignoring three couples that were out together, who walked passed him and who were talking and carrying Styrofoam left-over’s in white plastic restaurant carry-out bags. He had a shy smile. I waved and said hi under my breath so that just I could hear it. He stood still, waiting, as if he were gonna ask me to get him some change from out of the ATM. I walked up when it was my turn and got out double what I needed and guarded the screen with my brown purse clasp, looking behind to check that they guy was more than a couple feet away. I looked to the road in front and saw that all of the traffic had gone and when I got my cash, collected my card, I turned to the guy and told him I hoped he’d have a good night. He stepped down from the curb, following me somewhat while I crossed to get back to the side where the Bank of America building was again, so I could cross and hurry back to Robbie at the bar. “Heya, wait…wait up…” Segment 5: When a Third World Came West Part of me is just reaching out half the time to shows, music venues, and towns were I can be completely aimless and unknown. Does anyone else felt the same…? Not that I want to completely reinvent myself or start new, that’s not totally it. But when I get into new bands or new music or new stories, I can’t bring these up right away with my friends. Most of them I’ve had for a while, and we’re bonded by teaching stories or students who won’t listen. I fell into this group by virtue of me grading till 9pm, passing out after, and basically not having a life. That’s why I can relate to the way I was, way back when, meeting a stranger like Sam and made me feel like I could choose any topic for conversation and determine right of the bat, if he was someone I’d hang out with or not. If he was interesting. Does anyone else feel this way? “Wait. Wait…,” The guy said, inhaling cigarette smoke through the gold ring around an unfiltered Camel cigarette. It was humid out, but there were some breezes every now and then to blow the Bank of America flags around on their staffs, though the air was still muggy and made this guy’s black hair stick to the top of his forehead. He’d looked like he’d been doing a lot of walking. He asked me to do more of it with him. “Walk this way,” He said, pointing towards a pizza place. There were a lot of people milling around, dressed up in nice jeans, smelling of cologne, walking in crowds of pretty blond girls, with music and noise all round them, probably coming from the mangled white Christmas lights that bordered the big room in the Barbeque Bar. The street lights were twelve feet high, bright, covering chunks of the sidewalk and making any erroneous moves, obvious. I looked at the guy in front of me, with the cotton Caribbean blue shirt now sticking to him because of the mugginess, smoking his Camel and thought it twice over but said ‘sure’ eventually. I walked next to him down the sidewalk now littered with more gum and cigarette butts and turned my head a few times to look over towards the Red Velvet to see if Bobby had come out pissed and angry looking for me. But the doorway was now crowded with guys and girls and a doorman, trying to be let in, and trying to scan the people that pushed their twenty-something friends in front of them, over for ID’s. I turned towards the guy next to me. “What’s your name?” “Sam.” He took a puff of his cigarette then watched a girl in a green hiked up skirt pass him, smiling. I took out a cigarette, empty of a carton that I’d stuffed in my pocket change purse and lifted it up to the light as we walked to see if it had been broken in all the commotion of me running back and forth to the bank. “What’s yours?” He asked. I looked at him taking in more puffs of his cigarette and wondered how he could do that without worrying about his breathing. I was always hurried when I smoked, thinking of how it’d effect my running the next day, or of how long the smell would stay on me and linger, when I got home at nights to see my parents. “Tracy.” I said. There was only a little crack in the cigarette and so I asked him for a light and he sucked in his cigarette and got me to light mine from his. After a few puffs I felt high and looked left and right to the place for which I thought he had pointed. Segment 6: When a Third World Came West We walked further down the road, against crowds of girls wearing more short, tight dresses, plastic white, bangle bracelets, and blond hair that frizzed because of the humidity. Everyone was dressing loose tonight because the weather had broke from the night before, the rain had stopped, and it was the first day when it wasn't storming. Sam veered right into a pizza place that was one row long, packed with people elbowing their way into shoving dollar bills towards two men behind a spit valve that covered half crusts of pizza pies. It looked good. I followed Sam and I went into my brown pocket purse, sifting around for a cigarette since I wanted to spend my cash back with the guy with curly hair at the Red Velvet, and not here. I put the unlit cigarette to my mouth and searched around for Sam who'd disappeared. I saw him in the back, behind the counter and the register asking a busy worker for something. Two minutes later and he was pushing passed a girl with a red cropped shirt pasted to her chest and long fake purple nails trying to make up her mind out loud about which slice of pizza she wanted. When he was finally threw and out the door with a red backpack, I put my cigarette in my mouth waiting for a light from him. "Where are you from?" I asked. "Italy." "Italy?" I inhaled my cigarette and looked at more swarms of the crowded clubbers coming our way and thought about when I trekked with my roommate Jenn up and down the coast. “You did?” He asked. “We went all over the place from Milan to Rome, Florence, everywhere." He handed me a lighter. I felt myself slowing down, stalling as he and I got closer to the Red Velvet. I had to make up my mind about what I was gonna say, if I was gonna invite him over or if I was gonna say goodbye. I inhaled more smoke, I could smell it on my fingers and in my hair and kicked some stones on the sidewalk and told Sam that I had to meet my friends across the street at the Red Velvet. "You wanna come across the street with me? You'll like my friends. They're all from different places too. Virginia will love it that you're from Italy." I blew out smoke to the side of me. "She loves foreign guys." He looked around and I realized I'd make him uncomfortable. I kept looking back at the club looking for Robbie. Sam kicked some stones too and started walking across the street, watching down the one-way for cars. We came in and I couldn’t see Robbie for all the girls and people hovered around him. I wasn’t even sure if it was him. It was about 10:30 and the bar by now was more crowded with only some bar stools at the far end near the back of the wooden counter next to the window. I thought twice about saying hi to Robbie because it had been on my mind to search for the guy with the curly hair so I could give him the money I got out from the bank machine. I thought I saw him where I left him, over by the curtained doorway. “ Here, you wanna sit down?” I patted a stool near the window and said to Sam that I had to be right back cause I had to pee. I put out my cigarette in a blue ashtray filled with nin butts and ordered two Budweisers before I left, trying to keep my voice down so that Robbie wouldn't recognize it. I spotted my guy, sitting down talking next to another guy on a couch some space between them, the girl he was talking to earlier standing near the corner and talking to a girl with brown, short cropped hair in a yellow turtleneck. Odd for Florida. I stayed staring at the curly haired guy from a safe distance. He looked up from the conversation with his friend and set his drink down on the table. He got up and followed me through the same hallway in the back, behind the door less entryway through the curtain that we’d gone through before. I turned to see Sam looking the other way and quickly disappeared behind it. Segment 7: When a Third World Came West I fumbled through my clasp purse, my cigarettes littered all over the place in it and I looked through grounds of tiny tar for my twenty which was stashed in a ripped open zipper pocket, in it's brown pouch. The guy was texting on his wireless and looking to the back of him where a busser came through a swinging door that slammed behind him, bringing in clean glasses in a black plastic tray, with sweat streaming down the sides of his forehead from the steam from the dishwasher, I supposed. "Can I have another one?" I handed the guy with curly hair another twenty. Holding his cell phone and reading a text with one hand, he dug out from his right pocket the same gnarled pack of foil and handed it to me. "Just take one," He instructed, using both hands now to type back to the other person on a black AT&T phone and leaning now against the side of the hallway wall. I wondered what type of girls he liked, if they were more edgy or quiet, I banked on quiet, and wondered how far away I was from being his type . I got it out, swallowed it quick, handed it back to him, said 'thanks', and opened the red velour curtainagain, back to the bar elbowing my way through more throngs of people talking over each other and meeting up with friends. The bar was packed with people and with the lights dimmed, I couldn't recognize the faces of the guys and girls in front of me. I tried to look towards my right to see if Sam was still where I'd left him, or if he was clinking glasses with one of the curly haired girls in black skimpy tights and black tube tops and who'd smiled at him a little easily, that we'd passed earlier. In addition, I was keeping my eye out for Robbie, whose former seat was flanked by groups of guys in button down shirts, and girls following each other towards the back of the club, towards the bathrooms I supposed, with martini and tumbler cocktail glasses, filled with Cosmos, gin, and vermouth it looked like, in their hands. My brown heels were sticking to the black wooden floor from the drinks that people kept spilling when they bumped into one another, trying to get napkins from the bar, or to get up to the counter to pay off a tab, and I had to watch the floor now for puddles of drying liquor to dodge, to keep from slipping in the shoes of mine that were now wet. Sam was checking out every which way of the bar, finishing the Budweiser I'd gotten him, and now picking up mine, swallowing from the bottle big gulps, his eyes narrowing when he squinted to see a soccer player run down a field in Manchester, on a TV . "Where'd you go," He asked. "Hey, that's mine, " I pulled my bottle from his grip a little hard and sipped any remaining feelings that the pill hadn't been swallowed, in my throat, looking around anxiously for Robbie to my right. He was gone, I was pretty sure and I didn't bother to pick out my cell phone from the broken cigarettes and grounds of tar in my clasp purse, so I relaxed, found a narrow space between a rowdy guy yelling at the TV screen on the wall, and Sam, and leaned my head back to see if I felt anything yet. I closed my eyes and said, “Oh, well. Back there? Oh, well I was just looking for the bathroom and I thought it was that way and this guy said it was this way and he showed me where it was." “The bathrooms are over there,” He said. I opened my eyes for a minute and looked to see where he was pointing. There was a separate hallway from which a girl stood wearing pink stockings and a yellow dress, next to her friend who had curly hair and who was wearing a yellow thick head band that I would never wear, next to her. There were other groups of guys and girls passing through and by her. I asked, "So where'd you live in Italy?" I took another big sip from my beer bottle and held it up to the ceiling, seeing if I could get it close enough to light so I could see how much I had left. Segment 8: When a Third World Came West We stayed and talked for awhile and I watched people walk by outside the window, able to drowned out the R & B music that was playing so loudly towards the right end of the room, with girls in short dresses gridning with guys in sweating button downs, their shirts now nearly wet by now. I turned to Sam and tried to make some small talk, but he said he couldn't hear me. He just kept putting a plastic cup of empty beer that someone had left, up to a silver beer tap next to Yeungling, lemons, cherries, limes in a black tray, and next to used hand rags that had brown beer stains on them. My beer was gone by now and I wanted more but the people crowding the bar made it hard to get the bartender's attention and I wasn't one for yelling and demanding him to come my way. I thought about my car and the speeding ticket that must be there, I sipped the last of the beer in my bottle and remembered that you had to pay a fee for a ticket by the yellow box building with buttons that asked you to put in your space number. I didn't do that. I was too bent on meeting someone and checking out hot guys and getting drugs that I'd skipped away past the instructions without taking note of them or of where my car would go if it was towed. About an hour later and after I’d searched the bar for Bobby, I hoped to run up to him and leave Sam momentarily, wanting to be able to balance a rendezvous with both. I told Sam I was going outside to smoke a cigarette, but while stopping by some guy with a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from whom to get a light, I was also checking out both sides of the street, listening to the sounds of a siren on a red EMT medic truck, puffing in this Camel ultra light, and looking towards the Barbeque Bar for any signs of the red checkered pants that Robbie had dared to wear. He was the weirdest kind of chiropractor I had ever met. Ashes blew all over the bottom part of my Indian skirt. I thought of the time or two when Robbie had made me come over to his office off Edgewater Drive, near or next to or five blocks away from Bishop Moore, and I'd walked through kids and parents in his waiting room and made out with him in the room behind his adjustment table. I was pretty sure that most of the women out there had been schemed into believing he could fix their posture because he had at one time or another hooked up with them. I came back into the bar and sat down next to Sam, smelling of smoke and laying my brown clasp purse next to his plastic beer glass, asking him if he'd gotten something to drink while I was gone. I had no way of getting back to Robbie’s house and I really could only find it from mine during the day when it was light. I didn’t really know the way back to it from downtown in the dark. Sam fingered my chin and yelled over the music, “What’s wrong? What’s the matter with you?” “I can’t find my friends,” I said, looking to both sides of the room and out the doorway, through the window. I need to get back to my friend’s house to get my car. The bar’s closing soon. I thought for a second. Maybe I'll take a taxi. Yeah let's do that. You wanna do that? You wanna take a taxi with me?” I asked. I searched for something to chew on, picked up a cherry from the black tray of condiment fruit, sucked on it from side to sides of my cheeks. I said, “I don’t want to go alone.” He thought for a second, he patted the back of his jeans and his pockets for cigarettes found them and put one up to his mouth. He took out a lighter before I told him that he wasn't allowed to smoke in here. “Yeah, sure. Why not,” He said it in a tone that sounded like he was being made to go or pulled along. I paid my tab, walked slowly out of the bar so that I could keep pace with him behind me, crossed over the curb and crossed the street and walked back to the corner of where the Bank of America building was. I walked up to the ATM machine to grab forty more dollars and waited as he caught up with me and turned around to try and hail a cab from Central . One came about five minutes later, we got in, and I glanced around at Sam smiling, as the cab pulled away and went in the direction of the interstate. I asked the driver to get off at the Princeton exit, but he didn't hear me and he looked like he was about to pass it. I turned to look at Sam and Sam yelled to the driver one last loud time and the driver made a signal that he'd heard us, turned left from there onto Edgewater Drive. I could remember how to get from Bobby’s house from there. Segment 9: When a Third World Came West I looked out my window trying not to stare at Sam and watched things I didn’t really care to see, like some trash dumps near a gravelly road and a torn up fence, and some tiny houses with car ports filled with ripped black trash bags and beaten up old cars. About ten minutes later the driver asked something that I couldn't hear under his grovelly breath and I thought I heard "Where to”. I checked out the lake out my window, making out old benches and leaning palm fronses from the trees hanging all darkened near the edge. I looked all around out through the windshield at passing restaurants, bikers, closed dark stores for something that would jog my memory since Sam looked restless, checking out all sides of the cab, out all the windows, looking behind him at cars and people. It felt like the driver was driving in circles and I kept watching the meter go up and up so at considering the lake a good distance from anything, I looked at Sam and then asked the guy to drop us off somewhere near a parking lot by the water. I paid him one of the last twenties I had, got out, felt a wet stain on the back of my dress where I must have sat in beer spilled on the stool back from the Red Velvet, waited for Sam to crawl out my side from my door and asked him if he’d wait with me awhile until I got hold of my friends (Robbie). “Sure, why not.” He said. Agreeable. He was still acting like this whole thing was just a chain of events, the flow of the natural things to do tongith. Where was he from? We got out and I walked towards the edge of the lake feeling like there were lights on all around us, pulld out a cigarete from my purse, and puffed up towards the blaring lights that were lit from the basketball arena from across the interstate and from the several orange ones that followed around the cement walkway that went around all the water. I began to feel that whatever form of ecstasy I had taken at the bar had not hit me in the slightest like Bobby’s stuff did. I was disappointed about spending, dropping forty dollars for it. I turned and saw Sam kicking stones or lose roots of the tree next to us, popping out from dried grass, from lack of rain, and dialed up Robbie on my flip phone. My sandals were wet from the water that was seeping through the sand near where I walked and I slipped them off and kept my feet in the marsh while I waited for someone to pick up on the other end of the dialtone. I reached no one and walked towards Sam. He grabbed me, kissed me, shoved his tongue in my throat and I knew, felt, that I would be raped. Except he stopped after a minute, reaching in to grab some of cigarettes out of his front pockets, he lit one with a lighter, and walked along unaffected, as he had before. I picked up my phone from out of my purse and flipped it open, scrolling down to Robbie’s cell number again. He answered after about three rings, yelling at a person who was driving with him (it sounded like a girl) about leaning their seats back because he had an area light in his backseat that he needed to replace in his office tomorrow. “What!” He screamed into the phone. I knew he would be testy. I hung up the phone and looked at Sam thinking up something to say when Robbie called back. He called back and I said, "I couldn’t find you anywhere. I was all alone in the bar. I didn’t know where you guys went. Where are you?" Segment 10: When a Third World Came West I could hear the sound of his gears grinding and also I listened for a minute to the traffic around him, heard someone say Bumby and then heard cars zooming past other cars, the sounds some made when they were going faster than others and hitting their brakes too hard at busy intersections. It felt like he had more than one person on the line, that he was managing more than one conversation at once and he sounded like he didn’t have his voice on the receiver, that he was answering questions from someone sitting in the front seat. “Where are you,” I asked, watching Sam checking out the park and walking further uphill towards the street that wound around the lake where one or two cars were slowly going by. “I got into a taxi and I tried to come find you back at your house, but I didn’t make it all the way because I didn’t know my way back in the dark and so I stopped here at the park, by the lake.” I walked up my side of the hill in the grass until I got up to the main street and then I walked towards a half-lit street sign which normally I would have studied more if I wasn’t pressed for time, because it had hanging moss waving from some large green trees on the other side of the street. But then I looked for a street sign that looked half bent, from maybe a car hitting the pole or from the branches that swiped it during a thunderstorm and then I saw Douglas on it and I said “Douglas. (into the phone) We’re onDouglas. You know where that is,” I asked. “The lake? What the hell?” He said. After a short pause and some mumbling to the person next to him he said, “Whatever.” and “We’ll be there.” and “Don’t move.” “One more thing,” I whispered. I walked more up the street, the sand and pebbles from the grass where I’d walked in the soles of my flip flops now, making me work harder at keeping my balance since they were wet and I also watched Sam walking back downhill now from where he was, and I waved to him from where I was, but I thought the look I’d gotten from him didn’t mean he’d seen me. I said into the phone, “I promised a-friend-of-a-friend that I’d give him a ride home. He’s waiting with me by the lake, so don’t be surprised. We both need to hop in.” I waited for that to register with Robbie. Twenty minutes later Robbie was there at the lake, his music loud from the inside and both of his windows completely down on either side of his grayish green sedan. The same Philippine-Hispanic woman who had greeted me originally at the door tonight of Robbie’s house, the one who’d had a hand for putting on mascara so well, was beside him, getting out now of the passenger seat, a sign for me to come around, and get in. I called for Sam, who was a distance away from me, down towards the water now doing something near the edge and I saw something splash and once he got up to where I was I walked around without really saying more than hello and adjusted the front seat back so that Sam and I could have room to sit behind it. I saw Sam come around my way by the window and I heard him say something under his breath or something I couldn’t hear to the lady before climbing in beside me where we sat more closely than we had all night. There were some sweaters on the floor and the backseat was mixed with the smell of Robbie’s strong, cheap drugstore cologne, cigarettes, the smell of rain (I don’t know why), and sweat. My legs were peeled to the leather and I looked over at Sam who was chewing on the nail of his thumb and looking out at the window, while Robbie threw a cigarette down outside and climbed in with the Hispanic woman into their seats, turning the turnstile up to Muddy Waters and revving his accelerator hard, making stones fly up past the small slit in the backseat window. Segment 11: When a Third World Came West The next morning I was sipping coffee next to my step-dad trying to keep my out on my dog who was pulling at the ankle of the pool man pulling the sluggish chlorine rod up and down in between mildewed dead and dying leaves. The coffee burned my tongue and I was watching my step-dad fold and re-fold the Sports section of the newspaper. I wondered if two Advil would make me forget what I did last night: sneaking that complete stranger Sam through my bedroom window at 2.am, giving him my ex-boyfriend's computer network t-shirt to sleep in, staying up most of the night to see that no one heard him snore. He'd given me his number and I'd favorited him already in my contacts. I scrolled down on my phone while I chewed on my cornflakes and after I grabbed my orange from the breakfast table, I walked out the hallway with the brown lacquered tile and called him from outside the doorway, by the mailbox. We exchanged some conversation about last night, I kicked some stones out by the yard near our pink flamingo metal garden deco, and I asked him if he wanted to meet up sometime. Down a busy intersection and reading from my anthology of Shakespeare plays while driving, later, Sam buzzed down the interstate in my white Camry heading towards the LaQuinta Inn off I-Drive. That's where he was staying. There was one girl, two guys and today they would be at Disney World. I stepped into his motel sometime later, after he'd used the sink and the small bar soap he unwrapped to wash and clean his face. At some point we got undressed and we slept together under the bedspread, spilling an ashtray with finished cigarettes that we didn't catch, onto the soiled heavy carpet floor. I got on my ballerina tube top, had my underwear on and carried the ashtray or what was left of it to the bathroom and shook it on the edge of the plastic trashcan until I got rid of most of it. I heard Sam say something from the bedroom and I heard a door click shut. Those people must be home early. At first I stepped into the bathtub to guard myself behind the shower curtain but then I thought I should face the music and I came out and stared at a blond haired girl with too much eye makeup and two skinny white guys with hair gel probably pasting their flat hair short hair down. She made some gestures towards Sam and got angry with me and told him to get out and said he couldn't stay here anymore. We gathered his stuff and I carried his dopp kit for him while he struggled to get his duffle bag past one of the guys holding the door open for him. I didn't look behind at the girl and the guy as I walked down the steps to my car. I turned to him when he walked down behind me and said, "Do you need a place to stay?" Segment 12: When a Third World Came West I was sitting on the lid of the toilet seat that both my brother and I shared in our adjoining bathroom with the wooden door that led out to the pool deck. Scott was on the other line listening to me bemoan the fact that Sam had gone up on a trip to Georgia and that I wasn’t sure if he was still on board for coming with us, David and I, up to North Carolina to my school where Elon: “Fighting Christians” was. Ugh. Hoorah. I had kept my balance thus far with my right foot on the side of my left leg, painting my toenails blue but then I heard someone scream and remembered that the Hollingshead’s kids Lisa and Molly were over swimming in our pool and I heard splashing and I heard the dog whining by the grill and smelled from the cracks in the upper part of the door’s glass that Jim was cooking salmon on the grill. My stomach rumbled. I looked across at the yellow shower curtain with the bathtub ring forming on its bottom and said to myself that I’d bring in the Tilex next time I took a shower. “I just don’t know now,” I said to Scott. I finished painting my fourth toe. David knocked on the bathroom door. “Just a sec,” I yelled. “What do you think?” I wanted Scott to hurry up and give me an opinion. “I’m sure he’ll come back on time. When are you leaving?” I sighed. “Wednesday. I have to move into the house so I have a lot of unpacking to do plus I have to get a bed. I don’t know where I’ll get a bed. Wish you could come with us. I think we’re going the round about way, up the mountains.” “Yeah I’ll have to visit sometime. You should be safe. Have you told your parents your taking him?” “No. I don’t even know how I’m gonna get around David. I’m gonna just say he’s a friend of a friend from school who lives around there and ask him to help us drive.” Sam got back a few days later. He called me from the Greyhound station before nine and my brother and I drove over to pick him up. He rubbed my back from the backseat the whole way home, didn’t say much, and when we got past Minnehaha Park he looked at the one-stories to the right of the neighborhood street that was around the corner from the streets that intersected my road. I saw his black duffle bag unzipped in the back grey bucket seat with his black buttoned organizer sticking out above his white v-neck undershirts. The humidity came in from my passenger window and the hairs at the top, above my eyebrows started to curl under the heat that had made the top of my forehead wet. A trans song started playing on the radio and David turned it down to tell me if I’d heard that a friend of his was moving back in on Seneca and I thought I’d heard it from a friend of mine who lived two fifteen minutes away, by my old high school but I thought it’d be nice to grab a beer with him, play pool, talk about old times, high school, teachers, classes. “We’re leaving Wednesday Sam, you coming?” I didn’t look back to see his expression. The median from where David had stopped to turn left from Horatio was dark and hard to see and I could see the red lights coming closer from some cars as he waited, and David felt safe to make a left and listen to what Sam said. “Sure….sure. Why not?” Segment 13: When a Third World Came West It was a long drive and seemed like it more every moment. Sam was watching the roads curve up around the Blue Ridge Parkway and I got hungry when I saw a small wooden porch that looked out at the outcrop of the mountain ridge below (a restaurant, stop-in, or deli). David was driving and I'd heard his playlist two times by now and Sam caught on to "Black Betty" and wouldn't stop asking to hear it over and over again. I rubbed my eyes and looked in the rearview (Sam and I were in the back and I don't why) and my circles looked deeper and blacker but they always looked like that and I rolled down my window and felt the engine have trouble pulling up the drive and thought David should think twice about putting the gears into third. We got onto the campus sometime after one and after I'd piled all my stuff into our room and seen the mattress just lying by itself I searched around for the sheets I hadn't bought and figured we'd get some tomorrow. I thought I'd remembered a sleeping bag and got it out of a duffle bag I'd found in the corner of the room, went out into the living room, gave it to David and noticed that we had blue carpeting. We hadn't called the electric company so everything was pitch black dark and I walked onto the linoleum tile in my black sports shoes, and opened the refrigerator so that I could get a better look at what color (honey/walnut) that the cabinets were. I could see a screen door that opened out onto a wooden deck and a small window that held a view of it and the yard in front of the Science building and lacrosse field, and felt so , so lucky. There was a blue curodory couch already in the living room that Skye must have brought and another yellowish-brown one facing towards two windows and a small stereo set. We had piles of things to get from the car and one of them was my stereo set that was better than Skye's in the back somewhere in the truck. I was too tired to move. My legs and hips ached and I walked into the bathroom while David and Sam were busy carrying in loads from the car and I got into the tub with a clear plastic shower curtain and took a cold shower. When I got out I grabbed for Skye's used towel, wrapped myself in it and came out the door of the bathroom which led down the hallway to the washer and dryer. I'd wash his towel tomorrow. I could see more duffle bags, my stereo, David's suitcase, a suitcase of mine, notebooks, a backpack and boxes of plates from where I stood in the hallway. I turned and went back into my room, saw Sam who was going through his dark bag, picking it up and throwing it into our small white closet, and I knelt down on the floor to unzip the back I'd brought, slip on a thin pink skirt and top, some underwear, my black shoe string flip flops, and say "yes" to Sam when he asked at 10:30 if I was ready to go out. Segment 14: When a Third World Came West I said goodbye to Sam four days later and left out the front door and walked down the sidewalk up towards the student union to walk behind it where my linguistics class was. I'd left him my car to go searching around for different jobs but he didn't say when he was gonna be back and I periodically reached into my brown knitted sack purse to feel for my vibrating phone because I thought maybe he'd need help getting on I-95 or the beltway or maneuvering around Graham which had some delis and restaurants he might consider. After I'd confirmed that there were no missed calls I continued up the sidewalk pavement ramp and glanced at the oblong green fountain with the Phoenix bronzed statue flaring it's wings in the middle of the water, in front of the administration building. Three years ago I'd switched schools come home for awhile, written letters back to my roommates and friends in Boone suggesting we keep and touch but that I wouldn't be coming back, then transferred from the small school adjacent to Grandfather mountain and saddled in between the Bible belt and hippies that didn't take baths, to follow my boyfriend Benny to this school. But we'd broken up since then and now I got the bug in me to get up and go again, enroll in a different place maybe Miami or someplace for where Sam had more fun or perked his eyes up to, where he felt at home. I'd started rocking my legs, fidgeting with my purple beaded star of David necklace at the dinner table when the other night for example, I served him hot potato soup and salad. He seemed restless, acting like he was on a break at intermission getting ready for the fireworks and death defying acrobatics that I had no idea or means of how to display. Since there were slim pickings at school and only a handful of students were here in the summer and none of the really fun ones, there really wasn't much to do with him other than play pool at the West End or drink with the scruffy bearded locals at the Lighthouse. On Tuesday night we walked up there to the Lighthouse, passing the garage look-alike apartments where some bohemian girl with bronzed bangle earrings that I always starred at in my American literature class and I got to hang with, lived. The inside of the bar smelled of a cement basement and the conversation two men were having echoed everywhere except by the three younger guys in sunglasses underneath the bright light bulb playing 8-ball at the top heavy pool table in the back . We sat down in the middle of the bar, Sam and I, I bought us some beers and then asked what was up with his story. He said he'd gone around the country so far and that this was his next stop. His favorite place on looking back was Santa Cruz because there were the waves and he liked to surf, there were parties on cliff's hillsides, pretty much everyone had weed there and those that didn't got it from people who shared it. I sipped more from the lip of my bottle staring at the grey cracks in the wall next to a poster of the three Greensborough bands jamming here next Thursday. Around the corner was Sammio's and I was getting hungry. I tried not to think of the hunger in the pit of my stomach but I don't think it was from food. I had cliffs I hadn't seen before, hippies that I wanted to meet, ecstasy I wanted to get high off of, and a happier Sam that I wanted to make out with. North Carolina was not where it was at. Segment 15: When a Third World Came West After my linguistics class I walked up the cement path past the Biology lab where I worked on Fridays cleaning out fruit flies from plastic tubes frozen with blue ice, to our house on North O'Kelly Avenue. I stopped in front of the parking spot to see an empty lot where my white car used to be. Sam still had it and he didn't have a cell phone so I couldn't call him and ask him how far away he was or if he was gone or if he had left with my car, or if he was leaving forever. What should I do? I sat up on the top steps of our small white clapboard one story houses' front porch deck, where the two wooden dressers I'd bought wholesale from Hickory were sitting on newspaper. I'd spray painted them white and there were drips above the handles on the top drawers, and some in the middle. For the most part it looked like a professional job and I took out a cigarette from my brown sack bag and lit it with a nearby lighter that I'd found with the grey-white striped wrapper peeled off half-way. I smoked I puffed and I put out my cigarette later under a sagebrush bush near the deck open to the slit in the foundation under our house. I walked up and down our parking lot, I walked back up to our stairs. I couldn't bring myself to go inside. With my brown sack purse still strung over my neck, by my side, I kept walking walking past my house down Haggard Avenue, past the Belk Library, past the fountain which I'd passed before and up to the red stoplight where I crossed the street to student police. I sat in this woman's brown carpeted office, rocking my tan but now sun burnt legs on top of my other one, surveying her room for pictures, looking for people I might know on a photograph collage of Elon students up on a cork board by some certificates against her laminate wall. I rocked some more, kept my arms folded to myself and watched her continue to fill out the information I gave her on a pink slip of paper. She understood; this had happened apparently in scenarios before. Before turning right out of the building I looked left towards the apartment building where Kim used to live, and I put on my sunglasses remembering when I'd crossed the street after spending the night at her house to snatch pot from a feeder plant in her boyfriend Jeremy's house. I walked and walked looking for more people I could talk to, peering into the rolled down windows of the cars driving past me. I didn't care who I saw I just wanted to meet someone and talk. I got up to the biology lab, remembered that my boss Catherine wouldn't be back for another week and then I got up to my parking lot and saw my white car in one of the parking space in front of our house. I felt so guilty. I wanted to take all I'd said to the policewoman back. Sam saw me standing outside from inside the house, knocking on the window and pointing that he'd come out. We smoked some Camels on our steps, he told me that the lady liked him at some bbq sandwich cafe and that she'd given him a job after she'd shared a sweet tea and smokes with him outside on a picnic table. I was picturing a blond large lady with fake gold hoop earrings who laughed too loud and who could double as a sweet nurse by night. But if it got him paid, if he helped with the rent than I was all for it. I sucked in a puff, put out my cigarette again by my bush in front of the foundation of our house, and got up to get the keys to tell Sam I needed to go to the library to check my email. Sam said he wanted to go. He got my keys out of my hand and jumped in the front seat so I jumped in the passenger side and rolled down my window. After he sped up to the library, screeching into the parking lot, he missed the look on my face after I eyed the police lady I'd just chatted with in the security office. She stepped out wrote stuff on a pink slip then handed it to Sam. After he balled it up and threw it on the ground the policewoman ran up arrested him, and put her siren and lights on turning right outside the lot, and leaving me leaning against my white car wanting to hide.
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