Friday, October 15, 2010

Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

The driveway's full so I park on the front lawn, along the street. Quickly walking over icy grass, I see a familiar bush and pause. “Oh Man, that’s where I puked and thought I was going to die. Southern Comfort...more like Dixie Nightmare.”

It’s not a pleasant memory and the cold wind lashes my freshly shaved face, so I don’t loiter long. Walking up to the front door feels strange. We always went throught the garage and straight down to the basement.

“Proctor-man!” A couple of shouts followed by high-fives and hugs. The smiles are the same but the eyes have extra miles. There’s small talk and the first beer slides down quickly. “Hey, let’s have one down in the basement before we go.”

A majority of my wayward high school days were spent in the basement. My friend’s mom was easy going and let us hang there without supervision--she had raised three rambunctious boys on her own and by the time my buddy was seventeen, she had checked out. It was a burnout oasis.

As we descend into the musky grotto, half-baked memories come flooding back. A Grateful Dead poster remains at the bottom of the stairs and empty liquor bottles still line the top of the concrete foundation like dusty trophies. What filthy stories of subterranean debauchery they could tell. I notice a couple of Smirnoff bottles I had a hand in finishing. I feel proud and immediately ridiculous for feeling that way.

“Dude, no way, you slept with her too?!?”

JULIE’S A SLUT is spray painted on the concrete wall. The red paint is slightly faded, but her tarnished reputation remains--immortalized by a heartbroken teenage author. No wonder people burn books.

We shwill down our drinks and hop into the taxi for the hotel.

In the reception hall, the overhead flourescent lights are too bright and the band is too loud. The saxophone, yes a saxophone, is out of key and the line for the bar is ten people deep. Obviously I’m not the only one in need of liquid relief.

While fidgeting in my pocket for change, a voice calls my name. It’s Julie. “You look great. You haven’t changed at all,” she says. 

“You look amazing too. What are you up to?”

The girl with the scarlet tag is now a married mother of two and living as a housewife in Atlanta. She’s a God-fearing Christian and treasurer of her oldest daughter’s soccer team.

I want to go back to the basement and paint over her name. But I won’t.

I drift in and out of different biographies over the next couple hours…marriages, babies, jobs, rehab and death. Eventually the saxaphone plays its last off-key note and we all wander our separate ways again.

Arriving back at my front door, the key scratches around the lock a few times before sinking in. I head to the kitchen for a bourbon nightcap. It’s Johnny Walker Blue, not Southern Comfort, but mind wanders back to that naseous experience 10 years earlier and as I reach for the glass tumbler, it knocks off the counter. Tiny shards litter the kitchen floor.

“What the hell,” says my girlfriend, who's just appeared in the kitchen doorway. “That’s one of the nice glasses Anna got me from New York.”

“It’s only a glass,” I sneer. “It would have broke sooner or later.”

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