Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chapter 17 (28,119 words out of 50,000)

17.

I’m at Cynthia’s party. I don’t know what I’m drinking. I think Berlin’s playing. It’s the usual turnout. Some judge. Some chef. Pedro the gardener. Cynthia’s laugh is so fake. It cuts through the crowd and slices through my fucking head. I’m eating the crab chowder – it tastes like shit. You never eat soup at a party, only the fucking hacks do that. Soup eaters are easy prey. I’m eating the crab chowder. Saltine crackers are making me thirsty, this drink is doing nothing. Cynthia’s husband is refilling the shrimp-avocado-mousse dip, the first thing I realize is that there are no chips. Pita. Celery. Carrot sticks. I eat my crab chowder. Agatha’s over by the stereo that’s probably playing Berlin. She’s talking to Jimmy. He’s a accountant. He did my taxes last year. I should get him again this year. I haven’t talked to him in a while. Every time Agatha meets my gaze she smiles and waves. It’s all the same.

I’m at the DMV, Agatha is waiting with me. It’s hot in here. The fans aren’t on. AC is busted. Sweating. There’s this black woman behind me. She’s being loud, obviously. Screaming at her five kids. Complaining about the wait. Looking at her number and sighing. She’s on the cell-phone with her “boo”. Her “baby-daddy”. She’s talking about the wait. About how she’s been here for hours. Her corns are acting up. It smells in here. There’s a terrorist working the counter. She had Popeye’s for lunch. She needs to get her hair done tonight. One of her five kids keeps kicking my chair. I want to turn around. Agatha puts her hand on my knee. My number is up. The black woman tells her boo she’s been here longer than this white boy. Longer than me. I consider letting her skip me. Agatha pulls me to the counter. I renew my registration. The clerk tells me I can do this online. He asks me if I knew that. I didn’t know. Agatha looks at me and smiles. It’s all the same.

I’m just kind of standing. Someone’s talking to me about the President, I don’t think he likes her. I have no idea who it is. He’s everyone else at this party. I’m out of touch. No he’s talking about baseball. He’s a Yankees fan. Yankees won last night. I missed the game, I tell him. I haven’t been to a game in weeks. David stopped inviting me. Or I stopped suggesting it. I forget how it used to work. I’ve been out of it too long. Agatha is talking to someone else now. She looks at me. She raises a finger to her head. She pulls the trigger. She sticks her tongue out. She tilts her head. It’s all the same.

I’m on the phone with my mom. My mom asks me if she should bring anything Thursday. I ask Agatha if my mom should bring something Thursday. Agatha tells me my mom doesn’t have to bring anything on Thursday. I tell my mom she doesn’t have to bring anything on Thursday. My mom asks if Agatha likes Cranberry Sauce. I ask Agatha if she likes Cranberry Sauce. She raises a finger to her head. She pulls the trigger. She sticks her tongue out. She tilts her head. It’s all the same.

I don’t know where the guy who hated the President went. I’m standing alone. I’m not smiling. Agatha notices. She mouths, “Is everything OK.” I smile and point to my drink. She rolls her eyes. I’m drunk. It’s all the same.

We’re out at dinner. I think it’s Outback Steakhouse. The food is making me sick. I haven’t had Kobe steak in weeks. I don’t know the waiter. I don’t know the chef. Agatha asks me if everything’s OK. I point to my drink. She rolls her eyes. I’m drunk. It’s all the same.

I’m at Cynthia’s party.

I’m at the zoo. We’re looking at Monkeys. She talks to them. We’re looking at polar bears. She leans against my arm. We’re looking at elephants. I tell her my mom loves elephants. I tell her we used to have these decorative elephants, wood carved. Her father got them when he was in Africa during the war. She asks where they are now. I tell her I don’t know. It’s all the same.

I’m at Cynthia’s party.

I’m at church. I haven’t been at church since Confirmation. Agatha wants to go. She wants to feel God again. She wants me to find Him. We’re on our knees. We’re standing up. We’re on our knees. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. I assume he says the word. I assume I’m healed. I receive the Eucharist. The father. The Son. The Holy Spirit. I’m kneeling. I’m praying for an out. I’m praying for death. I’m praying for a sign. I don’t know what happened. The Eucharist slowly melts. It tastes like cardboard. I don’t feel healed. I assume God heard me. I assume he laughed.

I’m at Cynthia’s party. Chris walks up to me. I never followed up. I never partied with the models. I never saw his penthouse apartment. I never fucked the woman he wasn’t man enough to fuck. I pray for an out. I don’t feel healed. I assume God heard me. I assume he laughed. It’s all the same.

I’m at work. There’s a big meting in Atlanta. They need to work the whole week they’re there. Meetings and meetings and more meetings. Marketing and networking. David, Bob, David and Eric don’t need me for this one. I’m to sit it out. They need to score this contract. They won’t be having any fun. They’ll be working twelve hours a day. When they win the contract. When they come down for the kick-off. That’s when we’ll party. I call Agatha. I tell her I’m not going to Atlanta. She says we can stay home. She says we can rent a movie. I pray that I don’t have to go. I pray that David, Bob, David and Eric change their minds. I pray that I’m going to Atlanta. I’m praying they decided to party. They haven’t changed their mind yet. They leave Monday. I assume God heard. I assume he laughed. It’s all the same.

Chris asks me about Agatha. He heard we’re together. He tells me she’s a tiger. I look at him. I ask him what he’s talking about. He laughs. He tells me I know. He tells me last time, at Cynthia’s party, he took her back to his place. He tells me that she was crazy, she was a great ride, one of the best fucks he ever had. He winks at me and he smiles and he nudges me and he asks me if I agree, if Agatha’s wild for me too. He thinks he’s my friend, he thinks he’s one of the fucking guys – he thinks that this is fucking football camp and we’re in the locker room swapping stories – he thinks this is fucking high-school all over again and he’s wearing a leather jacket and making cat calls at the school’s resident slut and he expects me to back him up.

I’m at Cynthia’s party. My fist is pressed against Chris’ face and time has paused, I feel the meat of his cheek fold, I feel his teeth scraping my knuckle, I feel the spittle on my hand, I hear the crack of his jaw, I see the capillary burst. Time speeds up a little and my second fist flies, I feel the nose crack, I feel the ridges of the bone, I feel the cartilage spread out – it’s like mush – it’s folding beneath the pressure of my clenched fist, it presses on, it passes the nose, I feel his eye socket, I don’t think I’ve ever felt an eye socket and I’m surprised how fucking underwhelming the experience is. Chris falls back, he’s clutching his bleeding nose, he’s cursing but I can’t hear a word he’s fucking saying, I don’t even care – the people around me are screaming, they’re running away from me like I was a fucking nuclear bomb, they’re tripping over each other, pushing each other down – Pedro the gardener isn’t running, he wants to see a good fight, this is the best fucking party of Cynthia’s he’s ever been to – for the first time I realize his name probably isn’t even Pedro, that’s his stage name, he know people want a Latino gardener named Pedro, I realize he’s getting work with that name, I realize that he’s outsmarting Cynthia and it makes me fucking smile. Chris is running away, there’s a trail of blood following him, everybody’s scrambling from me as if I’m unloading with a gun on the audience, these fucking pansies – these fucking faggots have had someone like me protecting them for so goddamn long that they forgot what adversity looked like – they forgot what it was like to be in the middle of the shit storm, they forgot what it was like to have blood on their hands and scrapes on your skin from punching bone. I look at Pedro and he’s fucking beaming, he toasts his beer towards me and I salute him – I gave that to you, Pedro. Agatha is coming over, she’s giving me the benefit of the doubt, she’s not afraid of me, she looks like she cares, she thinks something happened – I tell her I’m sorry, I tell her I had a couple of drinks, I tell her Chris was saying some horrible stuff about her and I lost control – I apologize again and again and again – Cynthia is coming over to us, asking me what just happened – Agatha talks for me, she tells Cynthia it’s fine, she tells her Chris was being a jerk, Cynthia asks where Chris was and I tell her he ran off – Cynthia asks me if I need anything, Agatha says we should just go home. We’re walking out of Cynthia’s apartment and Agatha is turned on, I can smell it off of her, her pussy is sopping west, she’s wilder than she’s ever been, I pray to God, I thank him, I assume he hears me.

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