She was beautiful. Sleek features and big, expressive eyes under a river of red hair. A black corset licked at her breasts popping, rising as honey does from its crosshatch from beneath her unbuttoned shirt. Hips that could birth nations. The kind of soft you want to dive into, wrap yourself around, and suffocate yourself with. The kind of sweet pale you find in the liquid of people's eyes when they stretch their attentions away from this earth. Every simultaneous facet of her physical being overlapped in a treacherous matrix of sensate pleasure. Colorful. Alive. She was irresistibly gorgeous. She was irrecoverably drunk.
And I was still in love with her. Two years back she claimed to some degree the same for me. Dropping hints and talking in lush metaphor. Pouting when I would leave the room. Comments under her breath meant for me to hear. Leaving the door open so that I would find her. One year later I asked her out. After that, all hints and metaphor were silenced. Her mouth moved no more for me. Comments under her breath were not meant for me to hear. Every door was closed. Shut tight. Forgotten.
Black leather wrapped up my legs and met a grey wool sweater and scarf. Everything about me felt or looked colorless and opaque, like those plastic rings that connect a six-pack of cola and choke seagulls. I felt conspicuous and vague. However, I only mean this in the visual sense: like if I weren't there, the colors in the photographs would be sharper and more vivid. I was the avenging angel of bland; the color vacuum.
Beyond that, my reigning characteristic was severe intoxication. The party was tremendous. Drunk people everywhere. Birthday cake. Custom drinks. Music. Talent. Cleavage. Heartfelt talks and handshakes. This was not my going away party, but it felt like it.
The bartender took a liking to her. We've known him for years now. He has a rugged, comical, vaguely threatening nature and she finds it complimentary to her own. After he served her enough shots of southern comfort and kamikazes, she was rubbing his shaved head and he was touching her every chance he got. Friendly, of course. Like friends. Of course.
She popped out a knife and started playing with it in the kitchen. He took it away from her. In the scuffle, I grabbed his cigarettes for no particular reason. Not like I was going to smoke them. I just wanted to take something from him. Like David Mamet writes in House of Games:
MIKE: Listen to me, because there's lots of things
in the world, and there's many sides to each of us:
good blood, bad blood, and somehow all those parts
have got to speak. The burden of responsibility's
just become too great.
FORD: Yes. It is.
MIKE: I know it is. I read this somewhere:
if you're fired from your job, take something,
take a pencil, something, to assert yourself,
take something from life.
She was supine, coy and covert. He was on top of her. A struggle of wills in a shoddy disguise. She would exclaim "give me my knife back!" and he would refuse but you know deep inside neither cares at all about the knife. They were flirting heavily and each inches away from the other's face. Her eyes were even more open than usual, glazed with the thrill of the hunt. I couldn't stand to look into his eyes. His eyes were taking in from the precise angle and distance everything I had wanted so fiercely to see for two years.
I looked away for a moment, and realized my fist was clenched.
He eventually moved to the couch, knife in hand. He was babbling something about how people shouldn't cut themselves, but do. It could have been a tremendously symbolic conversation but at this point the blood burning in my mind cut off any appreciation for intoxicated rhetoric. Do you know what jealousy is? It is this. The electrostatic hum of unfulfilled desire sparking with the interference of dejected failure in comparison. Never mind that she lost interest in me a year before. All I could see and feel and hear and breathe and hate was how he was engaging with her in the tactile, sensory exchanges I had longed for from the start.
I stood up.
He finished his babble and then to make his point he cut his own flesh apart. This drew the skeptical drunken attention of everyone who remained at the party. A clear slice, like a papercut times one hundred. It was dark, deep red and it trickled down his arm.
She came up to him without missing a beat and latched onto the wound with her mouth. The same mouth I wanted latched onto mine for two years. Feeding from her trough of the macabre she sat looking up at him, drunkenly lapping from his veins.
There are images in this life that burn themselves into the firmware of your mind. These are the images that stand out from all the mundane or the mediocre or the routine and become the frame of reference for your world. Evocative memories that never go away. This is one such thing.
I was already standing but could not look at it any longer. The entire fiber of my being shook and I wanted to be anywhere but standing there in my friend's apartment looking at the host of my sincerest fantasies sucking the blood out of a bartender. I packed up my stuff. She said "I think we scared the boys." I said "We're leaving." That last part is funny because I've never been more alone.
I could barely make it out the door. I was too drunk to shut the door. I've had enough of doors.
I sat in my car for a moment. I wanted to be far away. I wanted to suck up all the color of the world and spit it out at both of them. I cannot describe to you the failing sense of self: sorrow for all failed dreams and anger at those who can pick it up where I got dropped.
My roommate knocked on my window and suggested that someone sober drive us home. He told me to wait one minute. One thousand one. One thousand two.
He was almost out of sight. One thousand thirteen. One thousand fourteen.
I unclenched my fist and turned the key. One thousand seventeen. I gripped the wheels. One thousand eighteen. My roommate turned around to look at me. One thousand nineteen.
One thousand twenty.
When you're playing Frequency for PS2, you can press down, up, up, down, down, up, up, down to make the playing field extra fuzzy and tracer-streaky. Everything feels like it's coming too fast and too slow all at once. You overcorrect your motions to account for your distorted point of view. And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is pretty much what drunk driving is like.
I took the quieter roads home, weaving through an occasional intersection. Happily, Las Vegas's urban layout is very much like the lines of a Go board and so I could take any number of lefts and rights before finding my home street. All the while I was incredulous at my own unabashed disregard for self-preservation. The drunken version of adrenaline took over, which is arguably a better navigator than blind drunken jealous rage.
Last night I drove drunk. At every step of the way I was nagging myself not to do it but at the same time intrigued by the novelty of the experience. This same principle has governed most of my one night stands, as well.
I was three quarters of the way home and felt a terrible need to stop and collect myself. I stopped -- of all places -- at a bar. The jealousy and rage came back right about then, and so I stopped in for two or three (it was last night, but I can't remember) Pyramid Hefeweizens. It dulled the anger. People were calling my cell phone but I only managed to answer once and sound incoherent. At least by that, they must have gathered that I was still alive.
I sat in my car some time after that, curled up against the two front seats of my coupe. The cell phone stopped ringing. Everyone must have gone to bed. I sat up, turned the key, gripped the wheel, and headed for home. I was dulled and broken and too infuriated to even feel fury. I tried not to think of her eyes gazing up at our bartender, her anterior sucker leeched onto his dramatic wound of self-infliction. Her body spilling out of her corset. The cheap feel to it all. The scent of my decaying dreams. But this is now etched into my mind as a burning reminder of what it took to drive me over the edge into the realm where all self-preservation is compromised in the name of wrath: a knife, some alcohol, and a little homegrown vampirism.
While this certainly sounds like a true story, it is safer to say that it was based on someone else's experiences. Someone who is no longer around to verify or deny this. Therefore, enjoy it as you perceive it to be.