Janice was holding the unlit bare light bulb with one hand and had her other arm stuck as far in the air as it could stick. The light was hanging from the high ceiling by a long, long and very frayed old cord. She was standing barefoot on a bright red vinyl kitchen chair and wearing a short black miniskirt and black pantyhose. She was as drunk as a young girl can get just before she does something even stupider, and she was passionately singing along with Janis Joplin on the stereo.
"Take it! Take another little piece of my heart!"
Her eyes were tightly closed. She was so much in synch with this song that when she got to the "BREAK IT" part, it was as if she was daring God himself to send a charge through that cheap fixture and light her up like a 90 pound firework.
Rusty and I were sitting on his old avocado green vinyl couch, quite taken aback by this sudden and unexpected talent show. Rusty was slumped down in his usual swayback position with the hash pipe in one hand and a lukewarm Carling Black Label in the other. As he passed me the pipe, he said, "This is like that fisting show. I just didn't know she had it in her."
"You mean 'fishing show,' don't you?"
"No. That fisting porn we saw last year. Don't you remember that 8 mm reel that Charley brought back from Viet Nam? Don't you remember me saying that 'I didn't think she had it in her' and then you made that crack about, 'Of course it's in her. You're looking at it, aren't you?' That made me chuckle. But your girl is into this song so much it's starting to scare me just a little. Where did this come from? I've never seen her like this."
The song ended and after a few seconds of hisses and pops "Turtle Blues" stared to play. Janice opened her eyes and looked directly at me with an intense and unsaid message. I quickly got up and shifted the needle back to the beginning of her song. She closed her eyes again and told me without telling me to go get her another beer.
Janice and Janis began anew.
"Didn't I make you feel . . . like you were the only man?"
Two weeks earlier, we had been sitting in her front room with sunlight pouring in through the high windows. I would pat the antique couch and watch to see how long the dust worlds which arose would exist in the shafts of light. I imagined the creation of solar systems and the evolution of millions of civilizations in the minute or two that the motes rode the living room winds. I was stoned. But that was pretty much true of every afternoon in that time and place.
Van Morrison was singing Beside You on the turntable. She sat on the antique rug reading a book about Chinese history. Her waist-length blonde hair was tied in a Chinese bun at the back of her head. The dust motes almost reached her left shoulder, but the chambers of light were just a few degrees off and civilizations perished, as far as I could tell, prior to their chance to find land on her alabaster planet. She was the whitest girl I've ever known. Years later, when she told me that she'd been raped by a black man in Washington, D.C., I wondered to myself if there was enough light in that situation for him to realize the contrast, the absolute incongruity, of what he was doing.
Later that afternoon, she showed me some black and white photographs which one of my rivals had taken recently. They were art photos back then, but now we would call them Lolita Porn. He had posed her to look as innocent as possible without her clothes, but it would have been hard to find any alternate view in his finder. She was flat chested like a boy. She was under five feet high. She was the Tiny Dancer, and only now, years later, can I imagine what it was like for her to look so, so far up whenever she talked to another human standing in front of her.
She was cooking some cabbage rolls for a midafteroon snack, as I wandered into her kitchen and slid her long dress down off her shoulders, standing behind her like a backseat cook. A burble of boiling oil jumped out and bit her in the middle of her chest. She became the littlest of little girls and I pulled an extra-large stem of aloe vera from a pot in her kitchen window and applied it every five minutes until it quit burning. Her dress off her shoulders. Me peeling back another section of the aloe leaf and circling it into her chest. We kissed and waltzed each other to the bedroom.
She had bought some cocaine which we were going to snort later that evening as we listened to some friends of ours have band practice a couple of blocks over. On our dance to the bedroom, we passed the bathroom where the cocaine was sitting on the back of the toilet. I said, "You've never shot this stuff, have you?" She said no. She cast her forehead to the ground as she said it, but kept her focus on me. "You want to try it?" I asked.
She took her dress off and was sitting on the toilet with the seat down in her underwear when I returned from the kitchen with a spoon and a needle. I knelt down before her, like a supplicant, and put the spoon on the side of the bathtub. She reached her arm out and showed me the softness lying on the other side of her right elbow. Her veins were as blue as her eyes, and both were looking at me with a desire so innocent that time and space folded and what we were doing became legal and just exactly right.
When it hit her, she gasped. As we all do; at least the first time. I wasted very little time in gasping myself. And then I picked her up off her toilet and carried her to the bedroom in my arms, like a Southern Gentleman will but like I've never done before or since.
There are moments in one's life where it all makes sense. We spent that afternoon on a bed with just a drop of blood on both our arms and watched each other have the most incredible sex anyone has ever had on this ball of dust in this shaft of light.
It was the fourth time the song had replayed and now she was stomping her feet on the chair so hard that it looked about to collapse when it got to the "Come on, come on, come on and . . . TAKE IT" part.
Rusty was beginning to get concerned now. She was going to fall and hurt herself or pull the light fixture out of the ceiling; something bad was going to happen before too long.
"I'll take her home after it's over this time," I said.
As the tune wound down, I went to the middle of the room and took the beer out of her hand. I put my arms around her tiny thighs and lifted her down to the floor. She seemed sad to give up her act, but she reached into my left pants pocket. There was still product in the envelope. She craned her neck upwards and smiled.
"You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good."